Isle Royale, May 2003

Day 1

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We left from Ken's house at 8:30 a.m. Except for gas and a quick meal at Taco Bell we drove straight through to Grand Portage and arrived at midnight (1:00 a.m. Eastern). We had no trouble finding the boat dock this time because they put up a bigger sign that was much easier to see in the middle of the night. We found a parking space in the upper lot and then walked down to dock. It was pretty cool and breezy but it felt good to stretch my legs after the long ride. The boat would not be leaving for Isle Royale until 8:00 a.m. but we had to be at the dock by 7:30 a.m. to present our reservations and have our gear loaded. It was still several hours before we had to be at the dock so we went back to the car to get some sleep.

I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and began to make last minute preparations. There was a steady, light rain falling and it was quite cool. I put on my hiking boots, dug out my raincoat and ate a very light snack. We were one of the first passengers on the boat so I was able to find a prime seating location for the two hour trip to Isle Royale. The boat left promptly at 8:00 a.m. and I quickly fell asleep to the constant drone of the engine. The next thing I remember was hearing Ken say, "We're in Washington Harbor." It was hard to believe that we were only minutes away from the Windigo boat dock; it had only been 1½ hours, 30 minutes quicker than expected. The trip had been very smooth because Lake Superior's water was very calm, almost like glass. After the gear had been removed from the boat a park ranger reviewed the standard leave no trace rules with everyone before we walked up to the ranger station to register. The ranger said today's forecast called for rain but it was due to clear up in the afternoon and tomorrow was supposed to be mostly sunny.

The goal for this trip was to slow down the hiking pace from that of previous trips. With a quick pace we tend to miss nice scenery and wildlife because we do not take as much time to look around. With this in mind, we took our time eating pre-trail sandwiches, filling our water containers at the faucet and checking out the books and displays in the ranger station.

By 12:00 we were on the Feldtmann Lake Trail and were heading south. For the first mile or so we had a constant, mostly unhindered view of Beaver Island, Washington Harbor and the treeline on the opposite side. The view was nice but would have been even better had we not had the gloomy sky overhead. Most of the Feldtmann Lake Trail was level and easy-going with only a couple ascents and descents. The only exception was a gradual 200-foot increase in elevation between the shoreline of Washington Harbor and Grace Creek. We crossed Grace Creek via a plank bridge shortly after we descended this first 'climb' of the trip. Most of the trail from here to Feldtmann Lake was through forests of birch, aspen, pine and cedar trees or open, grassy areas. The temperature was cool and we had to deal with a light off and on drizzle for most of the hike. At one point the rain became pretty heavy and we had to stop to put on our pack covers, but the heavy rain only lasted a short time. There wasn't much wildlife moving about except for an occasional bird. At one point we did see two moose quite a ways out in front of us, however, they appeared to be very skittish and the closer we got, the farther they wandered into the woods until they were eventually out of site.

We arrived at Feldtmann Lake around 5:30 p.m. The weather forecast appeared to be pretty accurate so far, the precipitation had stopped a short time before we came to the campsites and the sky had cleared a bit. My new hiking boots managed to keep my feet warm and dry, but the lower halves of my pants were wet from brushing against the waterlogged vegetation that often was very close to the trail. We walked past every campsite to locate the best one and quickly discovered that we had the entire area to ourselves. We had not seen any other hikers on the trail today and there was nobody at any of the campsites. We set up camp at site #2 and then sat down for a much-deserved rest. Feldtmann Lake is a beautiful lake roughly 1½ miles long and ½ mile wide and is surrounded by dense forest as far as I could see. Our site was situated only 30 or so feet from the shore just on the other side of a small line of trees. There was a lot of red soil and rock in this area. Even the filtered water had a reddish cast to it, although it didn't taste any different than the water we've had on previous trips. The only minor annoyance we had to deal with, other than the rain, were the mosquitoes around the campsite, however, they were not too bad and eventually disappeared as the evening wore on.

Ken said he was going to lie down for a while so I decided to walk around and check out the area around the campsites. We saw a lot of moose tracks and droppings during the day especially as we got closer to Feldtmann Lake so I made sure to take my camera in case I came across one. As I walked toward the group sites I heard some gentle splashing in the water close to the shoreline in front of me. As I approached a small clearing I observed a large, dark object in the water. I stopped and watched as a moose walked out of the water. I was going to wait for it to hit the clearing and then take a picture, but it must have seen me because it turned around, went back into the lake and began to run north. I attempted to keep up with it, but the moose eventually left the water and quickly escaped into the dense tree cover. With my picture opportunity gone I returned to camp.

We both had managed to fit collapsible fishing poles in our backpacks so we decided get them out and see what we could catch. I pulled out a spoon I had not used before. One side was painted orange, green and yellow with black markings and the other side was highly polished chrome. I walked over to the clearing at our campsite and on the second cast I felt something strike the lure hard and quick. The tip of the pole arched down toward the surface of the water as the fish attempted to swim away. As I reeled in the line I discovered that there was a nice-sized pike attached to my lure. When I got the fish off the lure we measured the length at approximately 25". Over the next two hours we worked our way down the shoreline toward the group sites, casting the lures in every direction. When we finally stopped for dinner we both had managed to catch six pike; my largest was roughly 30" long. During the time I was fishing at our campsite I looked up to see another moose wandering through campsite #1. It was only about 60 to 70 feet away from me. It walked down into the lake and began to stroll along the shoreline looking for vegetation to pull out of the lake and eat. It seemed to be oblivious to the fact that we were throwing lures into the lake only a short distance away. What a cool site! This trip had definitely started off the right way.

Dinner was next on the agenda. This year Ken had dehydrated several meals for the trip. He had made chili, spaghetti sauce and taco meat at home and ran them through the food dehydrator. The cool temperature settling across the area made the chili sound like a good plan for dinner. We boiled some water and let it simmer with the chunk of dried out chili. Other than adding a bit too much water, the chili was excellent. By now it was 10:20 p.m. and it was almost dark. I finished off dinner with a pop tart and some honey-lemon tea, took care of a few things around the campsite and then crawled into my sleeping bag. I started to write in my journal but was too exhausted; I woke up a short time later with the pen still in my hand and a line across my notepad.

Final count for the day: zero people, three moose, 12 pike (six each), one awesome lake and the haunting call of several loons.

Miles covered today: 8.8
Total trip miles: 8.8

Day 2

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:24 AM