Isle Royale, August 2011

Day 6



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We were awakened this morning by the buzzing of the seaplane as it descended for a landing in Washington Harbor at 8:30 a.m. I opened my eyes and looked out the front of the shelter and noticed thick, gray clouds draped over the horizon and the rest of the landscape. The forest was calm and quiet and everything seemed at peace. Several minutes later the seaplane fired up its engine and the whine grew louder as it made its takeoff run through the harbor. It eventually lifted off, flew straight down the length of Washington Creek and right over the top of us. I had hoped to get a glimpse of the plane as it flew past but it was too high and the clouds too thick and low to see it. The sound gradually faded away leaving the entire forest in silence, just as if it had never been here.

Several minutes later it began to rain. A general lazy mood marked the start of the day, even the forest seemed indolent. We lay in our sleeping bags bouncing back and forth between lite sleep and consciousness until 10:00 a.m. It was definitely an easy-going start to the day. The sun was nowhere to be seen, and from the looks of it, probably wouldn't make much of an appearance, if at all. We spent time watching videos on Mike's cell phone, calculating how many miles we hiked so far and then roughly converted those miles to the number of steps we had taken. Basically, we did a lot of nothing.

At 10:45 a.m. is was still very gloomy and appeared as though the rain could let loose at any time. We decided not to make the trek out to Huginnin Cove and instead, cooked some fettuccini for lunch and headed out to find something to occupy our abundance of free time. We grabbed an informational pamphlet at the ranger station and embarked on a leisurely stroll down the one-mile interpretive trail behind the building, stopping at each numbered point of interest along the way to read the description printed in the brochure. A lite mist had now permeated the air, and although it technically wasn't raining, we nonetheless became more and more wet as we walked along. Upon our return we found Ranger Lucas sitting on the balcony with a handful of visitors who had come over on the Sea Hunter for a day trip from Grand Portage. He was already part way through his presentation on the island's mining era, but we stopped to listen anyway. All the previous presentations had been excellent and this was no different. Lucas was a natural storyteller and also was quite the comedian. He definitely had a knack for making an otherwise potentially boring history lesson exciting and informative.

We returned to the shelter, retrieved our fishing poles and made the .3-mile walk back to the Windigo dock. Another hour of serious angling produced nothing, as had almost come to be expected at this point. This was really becoming frustrating! The weather didn't brighten our moods either since it had been gloomy, cool and damp the entire time. The moisture-laden air could not hold off all day and eventually let loose with a lite rain shower, so we took shelter inside the ranger station where we once again perused the books and displays.

We ran into Gary and Deb on our way back to the shelter. Gary said they'd left for Huginnin Cove early this morning and were back at Washington Creek by 3:30 p.m. Deb said it had been misty for them on their hike out but they didn't get soaked. They said it was the most scenic place they had seen so far on their trip. That got me to thinking that maybe we should have just gone for it this morning. If we left everything behind except for water bottles, the trip would have been quick and easy, and if we got rained on, we would still have a dry shelter and dry clothes waiting for us when we returned. Oh well, too late now, we'll just have to save it for another trip. We spoke with them for several minutes before heading back to make dinner.

We heard rumors today that the seaplane may not make a second stop at the island due to the extremely poor visibility. As it turned out, the seaplane never showed up. The cloud cover was too low and too thick for the pilot to make a safe landing and subsequent take-off. As a result, a group of hikers and a solo hiker missed their trip home and had to spend another night on the island. It probably wasn't a big deal except for the solo hiker. We had run into him yesterday while we were out and about. Turns out, he somehow developed a blister under the nail on his big toe. Even the thought of it sounded excruciatingly painful! He apparently received some medical attention from one of the rangers, but he was still very sore, and any walking obviously caused a lot of pain. Well, he was one of the people who were supposed to leave on the seaplane. He'd packed up all his gear and hobbled down to the dock with his backpack only to be told that the plane had been grounded. Unfortunately, for him, that meant he had to make the painful walk all the way back to his shelter, which he soon discovered, had been scooped up by someone else. As we were eating dinner, he was in the process of looking for a free shelter where he could weather the night and nurse his ailing foot. We offered to let him stay at our shelter if he didn't find a vacant one. He never came back and we later learned that Gary and Deb had offered to take him in.

The new day had brought with it several additional people. We hadn't met them yet, at least not in person, but their presence in camp was plainly evident to any person or animal with even half-functioning ears. They had taken up residence in shelter #6, two shelters away from us. As we ate dinner we listened to the loud cries, whining and tantrums of a couple young kids who had arrived earlier in the day with their father. We tried to block them out, but the ruckus emanating from their site completely overpowered the evening calm of the forest. Ugh!

We rounded off our day with one last trip down to the ranger station where we planned to listen to Ranger Lucas' lecture / slideshow regarding some of the well-known shipwrecks that lie submerged in the frigid water and scattered around the island's perimeter. We arrived about 15-20 minutes early and ran into several other hikers with whom we swapped trail stories and experiences from our hikes before going inside for the show.

It had been a long day of doing both everything, and, really nothing, so when we crossed the threshold of our shelter at 9:15 p.m. we agreed that there was nothing else we cared to do. We put away a few stray items and crawled into our sleeping bags by 10:00 p.m. The forecast posted outside the ranger station indicated that the temperature had reached a high of 63 degrees today and predicted an overnight low of 59 degrees. Tomorrow's forecast called for a 20% chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon and easy-to-handle waves of one to three feet for our trip back to Grand Portage. All in all, despite the less-than-perfect weather, we had just finished another enjoyable chapter of our island experience.

Final count for the day: Numerous dragonflies, a gray jay, a mom and baby merganser, two loons and quite a few more red squirrels.

Miles Covered Today: 2.8
Total Trip Miles: 36.4

Day 7


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