Isle Royale, May 2003

Day 4

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Woke up at 8:00 a.m., ventured out of the shelter and actually saw the sun rising out in the east. The temperature was brisk, probably in the mid 40's, but I knew the chill would eventually burn away as the day progressed. It was not cloudy so this was a great sign. I had some oatmeal and hot tea for breakfast and then packed the few small things we had left out from last night. We went down to the pier one last time to top off our water containers and were on the trail by 10:00 a.m. The Island Mine Trail closely followed the contour of the bay, normally only yards from the water's edge. At one point we saw the pelvis and spine of a dead moose on the edge of the trail and what appeared to be a large leg bone a short distance from there. The trail headed away from the bay via a long planked walkway until we arrived at the bridge across the Big Siskiwit River. I've heard this was a great location to watch for moose in the evening but we had not been so lucky due to the rain. After crossing the bridge we walked back toward the bay on another long, planked walkway and followed the shore until we came upon Senter Point. The remains of an old powder house were supposed to be located somewhere on the point. The powder house was used to store explosives when the island was being mined for copper during the mid to late 1800's. We decided to leave the backpacks by the trail while we looked for the old building. We eventually found it a short distance east of the trail. The building no longer had a roof, portions of the old brick walls had collapsed and the iron doorframe was lying against the north wall near the doorway. We took a few pictures and were on our way once again.

Between Senter Point and the Island Mine Trail the path crossed through some swampy areas and portions of trail covered by fist-sized rocks. I found the rocks to quite aggravating to walk on because they were always shifting under my feet and I had to take extra care so as not to twist my ankles. The Island Mine Trail eventually took us east along the north shore of Siskiwit Bay until it abruptly made a left turn and headed north. The first several hundred yards of the trail were very mucky and slow going. After the mud ended we were faced with a trail composed of rocks and exposed tree roots, all the while the trail kept us hiking uphill. Before we could reach the Island Mine campsites, our location for lunch, we would have to ascend through 560 feet in elevation, from 640 feet near Siskiwit Bay to 1200 feet near the Island Mines. Although it was still pretty cool I was becoming very hot and had to stop so I could take off my fleece shirt. We looked for the remains of the Island Mine Cemetery along the west side of the trail but never found it.

The next major landmarks were the Island Mines, which dated back to the 1870's. Just off the east side of the trail we saw some large piles of slag and stopped to check them out, however, the only things here were...large piles of slag. A short distance up the trail from here was more piles of crushed rock. We climbed to the top and discovered an old steam engine abandoned amongst the trees and slag piles. It was interesting to see a piece of the island's history up close and we spent some time taking pictures of the engine and its surroundings.

From here the trail went past an old water well and then over a small stream via another plank bridge. The trail became very interesting at this point because the terrain again changed into a rocky, root covered composition as we continued the uphill hike toward Island Mine. The trail went uphill and then steeply downhill via two separate switchbacks. I was glad we were doing this hike in a counterclockwise direction or else we would have been dealing with a lot of very strenuous uphill hiking through these steep switchbacks. By 2:00 p.m. we crossed a small stream with the aid of a few half-submerged rocks, headed up another hill and then found ourselves at the Island Mine campsites.

After taking a quick look around the area I was glad that we stayed in the shelter an extra day. There were no shelters here, there were no nice views because it was on top of a hill with nothing but trees all around and the wind blew right through the site so we would have been cold and wet yesterday and through the night. This campsite also is the only one on the island that is not by a body of water such as a lake, cove or bay. The mosquitoes were very active at this site and I had to apply some DEET before eating lunch. Lunch consisted of tortillas, block cheese, salami sticks, gray poupon mustard and some Gatorade. After lunch we returned to the small stream and topped off the water bottles before completing the last leg of today's hike.

By 2:30 p.m. we were again under way. Just outside of the campsite we came across something we hadn't seen yet during this trip...other people. A single hiker and a father & son duo were coming from the opposite direction. We stopped to talk for a while and learned that the father and son were here until Tuesday as part of a two-week trek around the island. For the next .4 mile we made an ascent to the Greenstone Ridge. As we reached the Greenstone the tree composition changed to mostly maples interspersed with a few cedar trees. From here most of the trail was downhill and easy-going. We kept seeing moose tracks and droppings but no moose. Then, approximately 1½-2 miles down the Greenstone we noticed a bull moose foraging for food in the shallow water near a beaver dam. Then, roughly two miles from the end of the trail we came across a calf and its mother about 75-100 feet off the trail. Unfortunately they saw or heard us first and began to retreat to a 'safer' location deeper into the woods.

At approximately 5:30 p.m. we arrived at Washington Creek and to my surprise only one site was occupied. Shelter #1 at the west end was unoccupied so we claimed it and began to unpack. This was the same shelter we stayed at in 2001 and it brought back a few memories of that trip, especially the 12.6 mile hike through the cold, soaking rain. After unpacking and setting up our site we walked over to the ranger station. The rangers post updated weather forecasts outside the door and there is a weather radio that hikers can listen to for the most up-to-date information concerning the weather and marine forecasts. The weather sheet posted by the door indicated the high temperature for today was 60-62 degrees and the low tonight was going to be 33-36 degrees; looked like we were in for another cold night.

When we returned to the shelter we cooked spaghetti noodles and rehydrated the spaghetti sauce, complete with mushrooms and hamburger. The dehydrated sauce looked like a lumpy, maroon-colored fruit rollup before it went into the pot but it turned out to be very tasty especially after a long day of hiking, nobody would have known it had been dehydrated. We also finished off the salami sticks and block cheese and topped it off with some Gatorade and a pop tart. By now the sun was behind the trees and the chilly night air was quickly settling into the area. I cleaned up with a washcloth and some cold water from Washington Creek, changed into some clean, warm clothes and climbed into my sleeping bag. While I was lying in my sleeping bag writing in my journal I heard a low-pitched 'moaning' and something splashing in the river. I got out of the tent and saw a single bull moose walking down the middle of the river right next to our campsite. It looked like he was just out for a leisurely evening stroll down the river. It was dusk now and a picture probably wouldn't turn out but I attempted to take one anyway. I ended up walking down the path, paralleling the moose as it walked down the river to where the river emptied into Washington Harbor. At this point the moose walked off into the woods. I returned to camp and finally went to sleep around 10:50 p.m.

Final count for today: five people, four moose (two bulls, one mother, one calf), numerous ducks, birds and squirrels.

Miles covered today: 11.0
Total trip miles: 31.7

Day 5

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