Isle Royale Travelog

Journal - Day 2

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Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Since we showered the night before we didn't have to do that when getting ready. The sky was clear and the sunrise was wonderful. We ran the stuff we weren't taking with us out to the truck and started over to docks with our packs. On our way, we met one of the Isle Royale Queen captains who asked us to move the truck back a few rows in the long-term parking lot.
Sunrise over Copper Harbor
Sunrise over Copper Harbor
Waiting to board the Isle Royale Queen III
Waiting to board the
Isle Royale Queen III
While doing so, Mark ran up to a convenience store and picked up a cinnamon roll (huge!) and some coffee (for him) and OJ (for me). We sat on the benches by the docks, checked in, and waited to board.
We were among the first of the people waiting at the dock, and for a bit we wondered how many people would actually be riding over with us. Our question was soon answered as more and more groups started to show up. There was a wide variety of people heading over to the island: some couples our age who were obviously heading over to go backpacking, some older couples who had luggage and were likely staying at the Lodge for their entire visit, and there were some larger families (5+ people) who were probably staying at the Lodge's Housekeeping cabins, as they had entirely too much stuff (bags, coolers, etc.) to be carrying it around on the island. We were impressed by the diversity of the Isle Royale travellers.
charting the itinerary
Charting the itinerary
We took the Dramamine earlier in the day, so there were no worries of motion sickness. We napped on and off on the ride over, though Mark took some time to work on our tentative itinerary for our time on the island.
All hikers must turn in an itinerary to the Ranger Station before they set out on the trail. You aren't required to hold to it, but if you vary from it, they want you to record that on your permit. This allows them to track the traffic, and plan for future needs at the campgrounds on the island. About an hour before we got to the island, the concessionary on the boat started collecting the passengers' daily user fees for the island. The fee is $4.00 per person, per day (and the per day is for every calendar day you are there, not how many 24-hour periods.) Since we were arriving on Tuesday, and would be there through Saturday, that was 5 days each, which came to $40 total for the two of us.
As we got closer to the island, the waves got a little bigger, around 5-footers the captain announced over the PA. We were both very happy we took the Dramamine; while I generally don't suffer from motion sickness, Mark does, and neither of us wanted to take the risk of NOT enjoying the trip over because of illness. Waves on Lake Superior
Five foot waves on Lake Superior
Isle Royale in the distance
Isle Royale in the distance
We went out on deck as we got closer to the island -- simply amazing. Over on the southwest side of the island were some plumes of smoke rising from the forest that we could see from offshore; the park ranger later explained that the small fire was caused by a lightning strike and that it was under control.
As we came closer to the island, we could see many of the smaller islands that make up the archipelago of Isle Royale. There are actually hundreds of small islands that surround the larger Isle Royale (proper). An island of the Isle Royale Archipelago
One of the many islands that form the archipelago of Isle Royale
Rock Harbor Lodge
Rock Harbor Lodge
We were also able to see the Rock Harbor Lodge as we came in closer to the island. This is where we would be staying on our last night on the island. Their "Backpackers Delight" is highly recommended: after however-many nights out on the trail, it feels great to have a hot shower and a fresh lake trout dinner in their dining hall.
When we disembarked, we got our packs and fuel, then went to the 10-minute-required orientation. After that, we chose our tentative itinerary based on the one Mark had worked up on the boat (Three Mile --> Daisy Farm --> Lane Cove --> Rock Harbor), wrote it down on the small permit/itinerary form the ranger handed out at the orientation, clipped the permit/itinerary to Mark's backpack, then hit the trail. At the head of Rock Harbor Trail
At the head of the Rock Harbor Trail
Pipsissewa, also known as striped wintergreen Pipsissewa (striped wintergreen) along the Rock Harbor trail
Bluebells along the Rock Harbor trail Bluebells along the trail
The trail from Rock Harbor was rugged but beautiful. There were wild flowers all along the trail: bluebells, pipsissewa ("striped wintergreen") and bunchberries. The weather was beautiful, in the low 70's, sunny, with bright blue skies. There was a slight breeze coming off the lake which was refreshing, especially when we were each carrying packs that weighed around 40 lbs.
At one point along the trail, we came to a very neat sight: a good sized pine tree (10"-12" in diameter) growing out of a crack in a huge boulder. Nature can continually amaze..! A tree growing out of a rock along the trail
A pine growing out of a crack in a boulder
Suzy's Cave
Suzy's Cave
We stopped at Suzy's Cave for a few minutes, to take a look at the cave and to take a rest. We were more than halfway to Three Mile campground, and we had been keeping a good pace.
The trail from Rock Harbor to Threemile campground can be quite challenging at times for a beginner. There are a number of spots where one has to climb up small spans of rock (most of which have had "steps" cut into them) and many sections of the trail have tree roots criss-crossing the path that the hiker has to negotiate. It's hard work sometimes, but it felt so good to be out there in the fresh air, and sun. I don't know that I would want to be hiking this trail in the rain; some of the rocks were hard to walk on when they were dry -- I couldn't imagine how hard it would be when they were wet.
A three-sided shelter at Threemile campground
A three-sided shelter at the campground.
When we reached Three Mile, the first shelter was available so we took it (the shelters are first-come-first-serve). The forecast for the night called for rain, so we thought we might as well take advantage of a spot to keep our gear dry. The forecast for Wednesday called for a 40-70% chance of rain (Canadian vs. American forecasts) and we wanted to at least start the day out dry.
The shelters are very nice; they are enclosed on three sides, and screened on the fourth, with a swinging screen door. The shelters are built up off the ground, too, so sleeping on the floor is not too cold. Inside, there are a number of railings that you can hang clothes and other items on, should you need to dry something. Nearby the shelter we were in was one of the campgrounds' pit toilets. Most of the campgrounds on the island have these "modern conveniences" which will help to reduce the hikers' impact on the island.
Interior shot of three-sided shelter The interior of an Isle Royale shelter
One of Threemile campground's
"privy's"
A pit toilet at Threemile campground
For dinner we had Mountain House lasagna in a bag (good!) and the wine (Saintsbury 1999 Pinot Noir) that our friend Paula gave us -- an excellent way to end the day. I may have to grab one of the Power Bars for dessert later!
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Isle Royale Travelog
Conceived and developed by Alexandra Van Doren and Carol Whittaker
Photographs by Alexandra Van Doren
Text by Carol Whittaker and Alexandra Van Doren