Isle Royale, August 2011

Day 5



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Yesterday's section of trail apparently wiped me out more than I realized because I didn't wake up until 9:45 a.m. I asked Mike how he felt and he said the blister on his foot was still there and his back was pretty sore. A quick look at his back revealed a large red patch across his shoulders and numerous bumps. Our decision was made - we would stay here for the day instead of making the trek out to the cove. Huginnin Cove is my second favorite spot on the island and I had really wanted Mike to experience it, but this trip was supposed to be fun, not a Bataan-like march. The weather forecast predicted clear skies and a high of 70-71 degrees inland and 63-65 degrees along the shore. If we were taking a zero day then this forecast was the perfect elixir to aid in his recovery.

We ate a leisurely breakfast, cleaned up the shelter and ventured out for a relaxing morning of fishing. The angling commenced back at the Windigo dock where we fished hard for over an hour. Each lure was used twice, casts were made in every direction possible and we fished from the end of the dock and off both sides but caught nothing. To take our mind off of the terrible fishing experience we walked over to the pavilion to relax in the shade. As we sat talking, a single female hiked in, followed by Gary, Steve, Ron and Edna, whom we had met at Siskiwit Bay. We talked with the five newcomers for a while and were soon joined by the dad and his daughters and a single female hiker from Ohio. Finally, to round off our impromptu gathering, the husband and wife we met at the moose presentation the night before paddled up in their canoe and took up a seat at one of the picnic tables with us.

As we sat around sharing stories, Grace walked over and asked if anyone was interested in listening to last night's corollary presentation - Isle Royale wolves. The second-year park volunteer, originally from the Chicago area, had a captive audience for the next 30 or so minutes. When it was all said and done each of us walked away a little more educated. Afterward, Grace answered a question posed by someone in the group. There were 12 employees here at the Windigo side of the island which included maintenance workers, volunteers, a paid, full-time ranger and one sworn law enforcement ranger.

Enough education, it was time to fish again. This time we walked the short distance over to the seaplane dock. Same story as before - tried every lure, casted from every possible point on the dock and again, nothing! This was getting old. While we were at the dock we saw the Voyageur II arrive. It picked up the dad and his girls and dropped off six to eight new visitors. To ease away the fishless-induced depression and to satisfy our craving for some good ol' junk food we walked over to the camp store located atop the hill behind the ranger station where we snacked on a Kit Kat and a Hershey bar. It was now 2:00 p.m. and the day was quickly moving along so we returned to the shelter for some Velveeta shells and cheese for lunch.

Afterward we made our way back to the ranger station and looked at the displays and leafed through the various books for sale. That was followed by another fishing excursion which included the same three docks. If you've been paying attention, you know how this narrative goes: tried all the lures twice, tried every possible casting direction and, once again, no fish. We were beginning to think there was a conspiracy at work here. Well, at least it wasn't a total wildlife washout because we did see a mother merganser and four chicks. They apparently were taking advantage of the great weather and spent a lot of time swimming and diving in the water near the end of the dock as we sat and observed. Just as we were calling it quits and packing up our tackle, Gary and Deb walked past and struck up a conversation. They were staying at shelter #14 and had decided to take a day of rest from hiking as well. They planned to make Huginnin Cove a day trip tomorrow.

We were back at the shelter around 6:00 p.m. and started our Chicken Teriyaki and rice dinner by 6:40 p.m. I left Mike to tend to dinner while I went to top off our water bottles at the spigot, where I once again ran into Gary and Deb. They were quickly becoming good, backcountry friends. Deb must have taken pity on Mike's ailments because when she saw me she pulled out a whole pad of moleskin, handed it to me and said, "Here ya go. Go cover up your son's blisters." We talked for a few minutes and then parted ways for our respective dinners, agreeing that we would see each other again at tonight's presentation. With dinner behind us I sent Mike over to Gary and Deb's shelter to thank them for the moleskin and to return the unused portion while I cleaned up.

There was a decent gathering of people at the ranger station, several of whom we had seen the previous night. Katie, a park volunteer from Illinois, gave a PowerPoint presentation covering the island's historical business, resort and mining eras. She had assembled a significant number of photos taken at various times throughout the island's history. Several slides had "then and now" images side-by-side so we could see both time periods at once. The history lesson was very informative and provided us with much to talk about during the rest of the trip. We were back at our shelter at 9:00 p.m. and had some mocha mousse pie for dessert to round out the evening. We contemplated making a day hike out to Huginnin Cove in the morning, but chose to wait until daylight to see what the weather would bring because the forecast was looking sketchy.

Despite having not caught any fish, we still had a great day. The weather was textbook perfect, we learned some interesting new facts about the island and its history, and we enjoyed nice conversations with fellow hikers. Actually, the conversation with a single hiker one shelter down from us, I would prefer not to have heard. He mentioned that during his stay at East Chickenbone there were a couple guys who were catching a lot of pike. Figures!

Before going to bed I made one last trip down to the water spigot to fill our bottles for the morning. Unfortunately, I had left my headlamp in the "on" position and pretty much drained the battery. The light it gave off was only suitable for close-up work, like writing, so I left it behind. I stepped out of the shelter and into the darkness. The walk through the forest was both thrilling and creepy at the same time. The thick blanket of clouds completely masked the moon and stars, making it much darker than it had been the previous few nights. I walked slowly down the path careful to "feel" every step so as not to trip over an unseen tree root or rock. And while my eyes were essentially deprived of stimulus my ears were inundated by a barrage of sounds; a strong breeze whistling through the treetops, rustling leaves and tree limbs creaking eerily as they rubbed together.

I went to bed around 9:45 p.m. but was still awake 45 minutes later. My mind was apparently not capable of shutting down because it was still busy processing the thoughts, images, sounds and smells of the day gone by. I also kept hearing something small scurrying across the screened portion at the front of our shelter. Curiosity finally got the better of me and I stood absolutely still by the screen waiting for the unknown creature to reappear. About two minutes later the scurrying sounds started up again and whatever was making them stopped directly in front of my face. I turned the dial on my headlamp thus sending the remaining few microwatts of energy to its red LED and pointed the faint, diffuse glow outward into the darkness. About four inches away, separated only by a thin layer of screen, were two beady eyes, large ears and a long tail. It was a small field mouse. We stared at each other for a few seconds and then it scampered away, never to be seen or heard from again.

I eventually fell asleep but awoke around 1:30 a.m. The breeze was gone, the air was very still and the only sound I heard was the pitter patter of a gentle rain hitting the leaves and the roof of the shelter.

Final count for the day: One mother merganser and four chicks, numerous people, one awesome forecast, a field mouse and at least 12 or 13 pike (caught vicariously, of course, through the storytelling of another hiker).

Miles Covered Today: 1.8
Total Trip Miles: 33.6

Day 6


This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:28 AM