Isle Royale, May 1999

Day 2

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We awoke on Tuesday to a big surprise -- it was 11:50 am! We had hoped to already be on the trail by this time, but I guess the lack of sleep on the way to Copper Harbor, followed by the 7 mile hike to Daisy Farm left us a bit more tired than we had expected. The temperature was a brisk 50 degrees and the sky was still overcast but we were thankful that it was not raining. We had oatmeal for breakfast, packed up our gear and were on the trail by 1:00 pm. Our plan for today was to hike the approximately 9 miles to West Chickenbone where we intended to stop for the night. I felt the Rock Harbor Trail between Daisy Farm and Moskey Basin was a bit more strenuous than the section of trail we had hiked the previous day. It seemed there were more ups and downs and more rock outcroppings than we had encountered on Monday, but it was far from being a difficult hike. One of the interesting things we observed today was the trail markers. There were a few rock outcroppings that were rather large. Since people are hiking over giant sheets of rock there is no such thing as worn down vegetation to mark the trail. We discovered that someone had taken several small rocks and neatly stacked them on top of one another to form a small pyramid. If we wanted to stay on the trail we had to look for the next stack of rocks somewhere in front of us. Sometimes they were difficult to find until we were almost on top of them because they had a tendency to blend in with the rock outcroppings.

When we arrived at the junction of the Rock Harbor and Lake Richie trails we took the short .2 mile hike to the Moskey Basin campsite. Just before entering the campsite there is a small river which flows into Moskey Basin and is crossed by a plank bridge. We decided this was a good place lose our backpacks while we took short rest and replenished our water supply. I walked along the marshy area beside the river and got as close as I could to the west end of Moskey Basin. It was a beautiful sight even though it was overcast and dreary. I took a picture looking east into the basin, but the picture doesn't do justice to what I saw in person, and that is what I found to be true with most of the pictures we took. The camera is able to record the way the scene looks, but it just can't leave you with the same impressions and feelings as when they're experienced in person.

After re-filling our water bottles we continued our hike westward until we came to Lake Richie. We had now hiked almost six miles since leaving Daisy Farm and thought this would be an excellent time to stop for lunch. We found a spot along the trail where we could sit on some dry rocks while we ate. We had a nice unobstructed view of Lake Richie and enjoyed the peaceful and quiet surroundings during our lunch. During lunch we met one of the guys who came over with us on the boat and spoke with him for a while. His name was Glen, he lived in Chicago and he was here by himself. He mentioned that he had taken some time off work and had traveled around the U.S. over the last year and hiked some of the more popular, well-known national parks. He said Isle Royale was probably going to be one of his personal favorites for several reasons. He said Isle Royale was much less crowded than the other parks he had visited and it was naturally more rugged and unchanged by humans than others simply because it is an island and the number of visitors can be regulated to a certain extent. But he said his favorite thing about Isle Royale was the scenery. He said the views were much better than in other national parks because at Isle Royale the trails take you through higher elevations and allow you to see far greater distances while trails in other parks simply go through a forest or valley and do not take you up high enough for a good view.

After lunch we continued on the last three and a half miles of trail which eventually brought us to the West Chickenbone campsite. Up to this point in our trip we had seen a lot of moose droppings, but no moose. At one point on the Rock Harbor trail we had seen a leg bone and hoof of a moose. The two bones were still connected to each other but we did not see any other parts of a moose so we figured the bones must have been left there by a wolf. I had really hoped to see a wolf during this trip, but the closest we came was a few footprints in the mud. We saw the footprints on the Indian Portage trail near Lake LeSage. The tracks followed the trail for a short distance and then disappeared into the trees and re-emerged a short time later on the trail. Our last day on the island, right before our return boat trip, I had a chance to speak with one of the rangers at the information center. He said it wasn't unusual for visitors to not see a wolf during their stay at Isle Royale. In fact, he said there are people who have worked here for 10-15 years and have never seen a wolf. He said the wolves tend to stay away from people as much as possible. The ranger went on to explain that Isle Royale's wolf population was at 25 this year. He said the population consisted of one pair at the west end of the island and a lone wolf residing east of them. A larger pack which had just had six cubs lived near Lake Richie and Chickenbone Lake, and the other large pack lived at the east end of the island.

The trail between Lake Richie and Chickenbone Lake seemed a bit more level than the previous trails and we arrived at the Chickenbone campsite in what seemed to be a short amount of time. We picked out site #4, set up the tent and unpacked supplies. After hanging out some wet clothes we took our fishing poles down to the lake to do some fishing. I had one good bite, but the fish managed to get away. Ken was able to hook a 17" walleye and that turned out to be our only catch during the entire trip. We fished for about an hour before returning to camp to cook dinner. The first close encounter we had with some wildlife was when we walked back to our campsite and scared away a chipmunk. It discovered a bag of trail mix which had inadvertently been left on a tree stump. The animal had gnawed a small hole in the side and was busy extracting his free meal. After dinner we sat around, played cards and talked. We were surprised to see that the sky didn't get completely black until approximately 11:30 pm, and figured this must have been because we were so far north.

We did not have any rain today after we woke up, but the sky was cloudy and overcast all day. Finally, while we were fishing the clouds broke and we actually had our first look at a bright, blue sky. The sun was low in the horizon and reflected off the ripples in the water making it look like small stars dancing on the surface of the lake -- it was a great sight! We took a picture of the lake before the clouds broke and then took another one the following morning. It is amazing just how much better the landscape looks when the sun is shining. Earlier in the day we talked to a couple trail workers who were clearing trees which had fallen on the trial and they said the forecast for the next several days was predicting clearing conditions and an increase in temperature. This was the kind of news we had been waiting for.

Miles covered today: 9.5
Total trip miles: 16.8

Day 3

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:21 AM