Isle Royale, May 2007

Day 1

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After a long, 12-hour journey north we arrived at Copper Harbor and were blessed with bright, clear skies. We took a drive to the top of Brockway Mountain for a couple photos only to discover that the black flies and mosquitoes were out in force. It was also very windy and cold at the top so we didn't stay outside for long. We eventually made our way back down and with nothing else to do, we ended up at the boat ramp on Lake Fanny Hooe. Although it was cold enough to see our breath we enjoyed standing in the parking lot talking about the upcoming week of hiking. By now the sun was long gone and darkness had completely enveloped the area. The still-clear skies now displayed thousands of tiny dots of lights, periodically animated by a passing satellite hundreds of miles overhead. Out of nowhere the coffin-like silence was shattered by a pack of coyotes howling somewhere out in the forest on the other side of the lake. We finally had enough of the cold night air and drove back to the Isle Royale Queen parking lot and attempted to sleep. Sleeping in the car turned out to be a rather uncomfortable endeavor as the temperature hovered in the low to mid thirties, just like the weather forecast had predicted.

We were awake by 7:00 a.m. and had our gear sitting on the dock at 7:30 a.m. There were a lot of new sites since the last time we were here in 1999. The boat was new, the dock and surrounding area had been rebuilt and was lined with new cement and brick pavers and the office/shop had been renovated. It all looked very nice. By 8:05 a.m. all the passengers had boarded, gear was stowed away and we were heading down the Harbor toward the cold, open waters of Lake Superior. Captain Ben addressed everyone in a cheery voice and told us the trip should be pretty easy as the waves were only four to five feet. I settled into a seat, got comfortable and fell asleep for most of the ride. We made good time and arrived at the island around 11:45 a.m. As we were approaching Rock Harbor Captain Ben's voice came across the P.A. system again. He told us the current temperature at Isle Royale was the same as the surface temperature of the lake - 38 degrees. He said there was a chance of thunderstorms today but tomorrow was supposed to be in the 70's.

The air was cold and damp and the sky was overcast and gloomy as I stepped off the boat and walked toward the ranger center with the other 21 passengers. Ranger Karena Schmidt greeted us and asked that we step inside for the obligatory Leave No Trace speech. During the orientation she told us that people have been seeing more wolves on the trail and around several of the camp sites. She said one of the volunteers actually saw two wolves over the last three days near the Daisy Farm campsites. That sounded good to me! A picture of a wolf would be the ultimate photo op and probably the highlight of our hike; I'd be keeping my fingers crossed! Karena continued by saying water levels were down a considerable amount this year and that meant very dry vegetation. As such, fires, even at sites with fire rings, were strictly prohibited. She concluded her speech by telling us there were already 200 other hikers on the island.

As Ken registered our itinerary with Ranger Karena I headed back to the boat and retrieved our packs. When Ken exited the ranger center he realized I forgot the fuel for the stove. The stove and extra fuel had been in our backpacks prior to the boat trip, however, regulations state that fuel containers must be stored separately from the gear for safety reasons. I went back and retrieved the stove and fuel which were sitting away from the area where all the backpacks had been lined up. With that near tragedy averted we were ready to begin our hike.

We started down the Rock Harbor Trail at 12:15 a.m. just minutes after the clouds let loose with the rain. It wasn't a torrential downpour but it was enough to pull out the rain gear. Fortunately, it only rained a short time so we were able to hike most of the way without precipitation. As we hiked down the trail in layers of clothing, raingear and waterproof pack covers I felt as though I had been transported back in time. This was very reminiscent of our first hike here eight years ago - cold, overcast and rainy. It wasn't long before the trail itself brought back some old memories of the slippery, water-covered rock outcroppings, exposed tree roots choking the trail and lots of small and medium sized rocks embedded in the dirt. We stopped for a short time to explore the Suzy's Cave landmark before resuming our trek toward Daisy Farm. We came across a nice outcropping at Three Mile where we took off our packs and ate a sandwich for lunch. While we were sitting there, a single hiker and a husband and wife passed by. I recognized them from our boat ride over. A short time later a 15-year old boy appeared, followed a few minutes later by his father. They too had been on our boat. When they left Rock Harbor they followed the Tobin Harbor Trail west to the Mount Franklin Trail and then down to the Rock Harbor Trail. We learned that their day was almost over as they had planned to continue east and spend the night at Three Mile. After speaking with them for a while we discovered that they live not far from both of us. What a small world.

We continued west on the Rock Harbor trail taking only a couple five-minute breaks along the way and didn't see anyone else until we stopped at Daisy Farm around 4:30 p.m. As we approached the Daisy Farm sites I could see one person fishing from the dock but, other than that the area was devoid of human beings from what I could tell. We claimed shelter #12 as our home for the remainder of this damp, chilly afternoon and cold night. The shelter was set back in the trees a short distance from the trail which provided a nice windbreak, however, there was enough clearance for us to see Rock Harbor from the inside. A closer look revealed that someone had moved the picnic table inside the shelter. Sitting, eating and relaxing is always a little more convenient with the table inside as opposed to being outside in the wind and the elements. I swept out the shelter, took off my backpack and boots, unpacked my sleeping pad and sleeping bag and sat down for a few minutes. It was cold enough for me to see my breath but amazingly I was still comfortable. About 15 minutes after we arrived at Daisy Farm it began to rain - we had obviously reached the shelter just in time. I laid down to rest for a few minutes but the pitter-patter of rain, waves breaking on the shore and the cry of a lone seagull turned my intended catnap into a 60-minute slumber. As I awoke I saw a father, mother and daughter (from our boat) hike by in the rain and figured they must be stopping here for the night as well. The rain subsided a few minutes later as a faintly glowing, orange-colored orb desperately attempted to break free from the suffocating cloud cover. It was amazing how much that little bit of sunshine managed to warm the air to a somewhat comfortable level even though it was behind the clouds. However, much to our dismay, the clouds won this battle and the cold, damp chill quickly slithered back into Daisy Farm. It had been an odd day comfort-wise. The air was chilly and damp and my nose and fingers were cold but, my body was hot and sweaty. Prior to our trip the weather had been what I considered to be unseasonably warm for Isle Royale so I figured the bugs would carry us away. Oddly enough, the pesky, winged, biting creatures were virtually non-existent so there was no need for DEET or bug nets. The chill in the air and the constant breeze probably helped quite a bit as well.

We started dinner around 8:00 p.m. and quickly consumed the tasty beef stroganoff meal. I downed a pop tart and some hot chocolate for dessert and then we walked around the campsite and down to the dock. Our post-dinner excursion didn't last long though, because Mother Nature's icy fingers began to tighten even more around the Daisy Farm area. The sunless sky, 36-38 degree temperatures and 15-20 mph winds made for very chilly conditions. The only other people we saw were in two separate shelters closer down by the dock so we pretty much had Daisy Farm to ourselves. We worked our way through the wind back to our shelter. It was just as cold inside our shelter as it was outside, only there was no wind so we fired up the camp stove to warm our hands and ward off the cold. We sat at the picnic table taking turns warming our hands over the small flame while we talked about the day's hike and what we could expect tomorrow. It may not sound like fun but it was a nice way to end the day. Before I went to bed I wrote in my journal for a short time only to realize that it was more of a task than I thought it would be. The temperature was so cold that my pen would periodically lose its ink flow. To make it work again required me to rub the pen vigorously between my hands as if I was an indigenous person attempting to start a fire with a fire drill. Crazy! It was about 9:45 p.m. and I had finally had enough so I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep.

Final count for the day: No moose or wolves but one rabbit, several small birds, a small woodpecker and two Common Goldeneyes in Rock Harbor.

Miles Covered Today: 8.0
Total Trip Miles: 8.0

Day 2

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:26 AM