Isle Royale, September 2001

Day 2

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I woke up at 6:40 a.m. and put on my hiking boots. The sun had just risen above the horizon and its brilliant, orange rays were now flooding the area. The air was calm and the temperature was about 50-55 degrees, perfect conditions for hiking. There wasn't much signal strength up here but I managed to make a quick call home on my cell phone to say goodbye to the kids before they went to school. It was now almost 7:00 a.m. and time to get the gear down to the dock. Since the Voyager II was going to circumnavigate the island, dropping off people at various locations, the gear was sorted by destination and then loaded onto the boat. The first gear to be loaded were the ones destined for Rock Harbor, followed by the gear for McCargo Cove and finally by the items going to Windigo. There were approximately 30-35 people who were going over to Isle Royale. From the conversations we heard it appeared that the largest group of passengers was going to Rock Harbor to hike or stay at the lodge. The next largest group was starting their trip at Windigo and was going to kayak to various points. There were only a couple backpackers in the Windigo group. The last group, the ones heading to McCargo Cove, consisted of only four people, me, Ken and two other men.

After the gear was packed in the boat, we showed our reservations and boarded the Voyager II. Just after we unhooked the lines and began to back out of the harbor, I heard the captain tell his partner to, "Hook up again!" and the boat went back toward the dock. When I looked over the bow I could see a man backing his truck up to the dock with his canoe and supplies. A short time later the crew had the late person on the boat and we were on our way.

We left Grand Portage at 8:10 a.m. and arrived at Windigo at 10:30 a.m. The ride was very pleasant with little or no waves, plenty of sun and a gentle breeze, much unlike our first trip in 1999. On the way to the island I overheard an interesting conversation of the woman sitting in front of me. She was explaining to another passenger that she used to live on Isle Royale a long time ago and she was going back to Rock Harbor to visit places she hadn't seen in many years. When we arrived at Windigo we all stepped off the boat and listened to NPS Ranger Valerie Bowen explain the routine, leave no trace orientation speech. After the speech a representative from each hiking group accompanied Valerie to the store/ranger station to provide her with their group's itinerary. Valerie explained that the building was only three years old and was built as a replacement for the previous ranger station which was desperately in need of repair and renovation. The new log cabin-style building has a bright, fresh look inside. It has books and other items for sale, chairs and benches for evening lectures by the rangers, a beautiful stuffed wolf and a moose skeleton. Another intriguing item on display is the pair of locked moose antlers. A pair of males had managed to get their antlers entangled and locked together during a fight. Unable to separate themselves, they eventually died together. They were discovered sometime later and the antlers brought back for display.

After providing our expected hiking route it was time to get back on the boat. The next time the boat stopped at a dock it was 1:30 pm and we were at McCargo Cove. The boat was docked just long enough for the four of us to get off and for the crew to hand us our backpacks. We set our backpacks on a picnic table at one of the campsites, ate a quick snack, filtered some water and were on the trail by 2:10 pm. Approximately .8 of a mile into the hike we walked down a side trail which lead to the remnants of the Minong Mine. At the end of the trail was a deep hole which went straight down into the ground and was surrounded by a log fence to keep people from falling in. Next to this pit was a large hole that was accessible by a steep slope. A few careful steps and we were at the bottom of the large opening. It was refreshingly cool at the bottom and to our left we could see light reflecting off the surface of a shallow pool of water. We discovered that the light was coming from the fenced-off pit we had just passed. To our right the underground cavern opened up to the valley we had just seen from the trail above. In the short tunnel leading out into the valley were the remains of an old section of railroad track. We walked around the Minong Mine area and over several large piles of rock tailings left behind by miners from long ago. The crushed rock seemed to go on forever; as soon as we got to the top of one large mound we could see another right next to it. We snapped a couple pictures and headed back to the main trail. Somehow we managed to get turned around, but after consulting the topo map and the compass we made our way back onto the trail.

From here we began the trail's well-known up and down route over the rocky terrain of the Minong Ridge. We also became re-acquainted with the rock cairns which we had become so familiar with during our first trip to the island. About one mile after passing the Minong Mine we came to a clearing atop one of the hills and were provided with a spectacular view of Otter Lake. The sun was shining brightly in the blue, cloudless sky above and it enhanced the colors of the blue water in the lake below and the green in the trees and foliage surrounding the lake. We could see the whole lake from our vantage point at the east end of the lake. It was a spectacular site. We looked hard for moose grazing along the shore below but did not find any.

The trail left ridge and dropped down into a swampy area. As we discovered, many more times over the next couple days, when the Minong Ridge Trail made a descent, we should be prepared for a steep hike back to the top of the ridge a short time later. When the trail finally peaked at the top of the ridge again we realized that we were now at the west end of Otter Lake. For the next several miles we followed the trail along its many ups and downs. Along the way we passed through many forested areas of Birch and Aspen trees.

We eventually arrived at Todd Harbor, tired and a little sore after several hours of hiking. A quick look through the camp area revealed only one shelter, already occupied, and several campsites. Campsite #4 offered a clear, level location for the tent, a picnic table under a couple large pine trees, and a great view of the harbor a short distance away. The first order of business was to set up the tent. Next, it was time for a trip to the harbor to filter water and wipe off the sweat and dirt with a cold washcloth. Dinner consisted of beef stew, bagels and fettuccini followed by a pop tart and cold Lake Superior water for dessert. It's funny how combinations of food, which normally don't sound very appealing, can taste so good after a long day on the trail. The sunset over the harbor was awesome and the temperature was comfortable after the sun dipped below the horizon. We relaxed for a while, played a few games of cards and I wrote about today's experiences in my journal. I crawled into my sleeping bag around 11:00 p.m. -- it felt good to finally lie down and sleep.

Miles covered today: 6.9
Total trip miles: 6.9

Day 3

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:23 AM