Isle Royale, May 2003

Day 2

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On Thursday I woke up briefly at 5:40 a.m. and saw that the sun was already beginning to rise. I fell back to sleep and woke up for the day at 7:00 a.m. I walked down to the lake just as an otter poked its head up through the water about 20 feet from shore. The lake was like a sheet of glass and was covered by thick fog a short distance from shore. The temperature was quite cool for just a t-shirt, probably low to mid 40's, so I put on my fleece top. Ken wanted to get a picture of the lake just as a lure broke the surface of the water so I retrieved my fishing pole and tossed the lure out. To my surprise I was again fighting with a pike; one cast, one fish, it was crazy!

After fishing it was time for breakfast. I tried to keep warm by sitting in the sun while I ate my oatmeal and drank some tea. Just as we were finishing breakfast Ken pointed toward the trail near our campsite. There, in the brush, across the trail from us, was the same moose with small velvet antlers that we had seen last night. It was only about 30 feet off the trail so I slowly wandered over with my camera. As I got closer I noticed another bull moose about 50 feet away from the first. I snapped a few pictures and then left them alone to eat.

Ken was a site or two away, fishing, when I got back so I sat down by the lake to relax. All of a sudden I heard something slicing through the air. My first thought was that it sounded like a fighter plane flying just over the treetops. I had never seen or heard a plane that close before over Isle Royale. As I looked up I noticed where the sound was coming from; it was a bird. The bird was moving very quickly and flew over the trees right next to me. Before I knew it the bird was halfway across the lake to the north of me where it landed in the water. Ken yelled down to me, "Did you see that bird? It sounded like a jet when it flew by me!" It spent some time in the water diving for fish. It would dive below the surface and disappear from sight for several seconds before resurfacing. Then it was back in the air where it covered the remainder of the lake to the north in no time at all. After we returned home Ken searched the Internet and identified the bird as a Common Goldeneye. One of the bird's trademarks is the "slicing" sound it makes while in flight.

Before we continued on to Siskiwit Bay we took a side trip over to Rainbow Cove. We had read about this place on some message boards and everyone left comments saying it was definitely worth the extra 1.6 mile round trip hike. On the way down the Rainbow Cove Trail we saw a bull moose standing by a group of trees in the distance. It had apparently heard us coming. It walked toward the trail and poked its head around a birch tree and looked down the trail at us for a while. It eventually wandered off into the woods so we continued on our way and arrived at Rainbow Cove a short time later.

Rainbow Cove is a large, open cove on the southwest corner of the island. Small red pebbles cover the entire beach and the Rock of Ages lighthouse is visible to the northwest about six miles away. It was a great site and well worth the additional travel time. The sun was shining brightly, the water was gently lapping on the rocky shore and the morning chill was beginning to burn away. Pine, cedar and birch trees encompassed the cove, and small scrub trees and tall grass covered the area along the trail just outside the cove. I laid down on the beach and soaked up the gentle breeze and the sun; it was very relaxing. The red rocks are so small it was almost like being on a beanbag. I heard a tapping noise behind me and turned around to find a Pileated Woodpecker up high in one of the trees. There was also a formation of geese that flew over the cove while we were there. We headed back to the campsite around 11:20 a.m. and saw another moose along the way. We dismantled the tent, filtered more of the red water and were on the Feldtmann Ridge Trail by 12:15 p.m.

The trail was fairly level and easy-going for roughly the first 1½ miles. The most strenuous part of the hike this far was now in front of us; we had to make a steep 240-foot climb to the top of the Feldtmann Ridge. There was a small clearing at the top that provided an awesome panoramic view for miles in all directions. We were high above the forest we had just hiked through and were now at the east end of Feldtmann Lake. After the initial climb the trail resumed its mostly level nature with only a few more ascents and descents. By 3:00 p.m. we completed one more uphill trek and had arrived at the ranger tower. The ranger tower was almost halfway between Feldtmann Lake and Siskiwit Bay and the predetermined location for lunch. I unzipped the lower half of my hiking pants, hung my shirt over a tree to dry out and unlaced my hiking boots before climbing the ranger tower. The views from the ridge were great but the ranger tower allowed me to see even farther into the distance. I could see Feldtmann Lake to the west, Siskiwit Bay and Lake Halloran to the east and many other ridges, landforms and features all around. With the strong wind blowing it didn't take long to cool down. For lunch we ate bagels with peanut butter, granola bars and water.

By 3:30 p.m. we were again on our way. The trail immediately began to make a slow descent and we were only a short distance from the tower before the strong wind was merely an occasional, gentle breeze. Strangely, I noticed that the moose tracks and droppings were almost non-existent after we passed the ranger tower. We came across the remains of the previous ranger tower about ½ mile east of the current tower. The cement footings were still in place, however, the old wooden frame and structure had been torn down and was lying in a large pile on the ground waiting to succumb to the elements. From this point the trail began to descend even more until we were back in the trees and walking on soft ground. For about two to three miles we walked through grassy fields, swampy areas and large stands of birch trees. This would have been another picturesque portion of trail to take our time on if it hadn't been for the mosquitoes. We were mercilessly hunted down and attacked by swarms of these evil, blood-sucking, winged creatures for about the last hour of our hike. We were very hot and the breeze was virtually non-existent, but we did not bother to slow down. Whenever we did stop for a breather it was only for a brief 30-60 seconds because the mosquitoes were so intense. Even though we really picked up the pace on this last portion of trail, and were constantly swatting at them, we were still being bitten by 2-3 mosquitoes at a time. And, as if the mosquitoes weren't bad enough, we also had to be very careful of our footing. The trail was quite narrow and we had to walk almost heel-to-toe so we wouldn't lose our balance on the raised edges of the path, which was covered by nearly chest-high grass.

By 6:00 p.m. the ground turned back into red dirt and rocks and I looked up to discover that we were entering the Siskiwit Bay camp area. Jim Dufresne's book, a must-have for every visitor, refers to Siskiwit Bay as the 'Riviera of Isle Royale' and I would have to agree with the description. The large bay is surrounded by red rock and pebbles, similar to those at Rainbow Cove, and by pine trees beyond the beach. The brightly shining sun really enhanced the beauty of the area by bringing out deep, rich colors in the trees and the pebble beach. To the south of the trail are the individual and group campsites and the shelters. To the north is the beach area, a cement dock for boaters to tie off on and a rocky breakwater to protect the dock. We quickly checked out the campsites/shelters and again determined that we were the only people here. We chose shelter #5 which was straight out from the beach. It provided a nice view of the bay, but also had a couple big trees in front of it to block the cold north wind if it kicked up. The shelter had a picnic table inside and another outside the door. The table inside later proved to be a nice thing to have. We hadn't been in the shelter for more than 10 minutes when the sun suddenly disappeared. We looked outside only to see thick, dark clouds quickly rolling into the area from the west; our timing for getting to Siskiwit Bay couldn't have been better. Not knowing when the rain may begin to fall we decided to take care of the important jobs first before relaxing. We filtered enough water for drinking and dinner and then returned to the bay to wash up. Water in Lake Superior at this time of year is normally 35-40 degrees, however, getting the sweat and dirt washed off outweighed the thought of bathing in ice water. I waded in up to my thighs, rinsed off with a washcloth and water and then dunked my head under. Boy, was that water cold! By the time I got out my feet were numb and my scalp felt like a block of ice, but at least I was clean.

When I got back to the shelter we made beef stroganoff and green beans for dinner. After some hot chocolate and a pop tart we went down to the bay to do some fishing. I didn't have any luck but Ken managed to catch a 33-34 inch lake trout while casting off the end of the breakwater. We finally had to call it a day and retreat to the shelter when the rain began to fall. It had cooled off substantially by now and since there were no other people at the campsite we set up the tent inside the shelter to provide some extra warmth; it was definitely going to be cold tonight. Insulated by several layers of clothes, I sat at the picnic table with my candle lantern and notepad and wrote about the day's sights and experiences while listening to the symphony of pattering rain on the trees, chirping crickets in the woods and the lonely sound of a distant owl. Today had been another great day minus the killer mosquitoes. It was quite an odd feeling having not seen a single person since we hit the trail at the Windigo ranger station. The solitude finally set in and I felt like we were the only people on the island. I finally went to sleep around midnight.

Final count for the day: zero people, four moose, one 'jet bird', one otter, one rabbit, one pike, one lake trout and two formations of Canadian geese.

Miles covered today: 11.9
Total trip miles: 20.7

Day 3

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