Isle Royale, May 2005

Day 5

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Our fifth day on the island began much the same way as the last two days, with clear skies and a nice breeze. We crawled out of the tent around 8:30 a.m. and the bugs were immediately on us as if they had been lying in wait for this very moment all night. Did I mention this place had been the worst campsite so far in terms of the bugs? Maybe that's what the small sign along the trail meant went it said "Lake Richie. Population 2.5 million". We packed up some of our gear and went down to the lake to fish. We didn't get anything in front of our site so we worked our way down the shore past the group sites. One of my casts was met with a bite from a pike, but I didn't set the hook in time and it swam away. Ken, however, managed to catch a 23-24" pike a short time later.

We returned to camp, ate some oatmeal and were on the trail by 10:50 a.m. The sun was pretty warm but the clouds had begun to move in and helped keep the direct rays of the sun from cooking us. The vegetation was still fairly close to the trail and we again encountered quite a few downed trees. About one mile into the hike we passed a guy coming out of Chippewa Harbor. He said there were only two men still in camp when he left so we were sure to end up with one of the four shelters on our last night. He also revealed some of the best news of all - there were no bugs at Chippewa Harbor and he had heard wolves howling in the middle of the night! He said one of the guys at Chippewa Harbor had been hiking between West Chickenbone and Hatchet Lake and happened to see a wolf sitting in the middle of the trail scratching like a dog.

The spruce and cedar trees remained plentiful along this stretch of the Indian Portage Trail and the pine needles on the ground provided additional miles of soft trail to walk on. The bugs seemed to intensify the farther we hiked and roughly two miles into the day the mosquitoes were so bad that we were forced to stop hiking for a couple minutes to dig the DEET out of the backpacks and to put on the headnets.

After six or seven (I lost count) long, planked walkways and a couple significant climbs, we arrived at Chippewa Harbor. The campsite pretty much appeared out of nowhere as we arrived at the top of the last rocky hill. There are two shelters right at the end of the trail on a very large rock outcropping and two more at the other end where the outcropping slopes down toward the dock in the harbor. As soon as we walked into the campsite we were greeted by a nice breeze, probably a good ten degrees cooler than the air temperature on the trail, and boy was it refreshing. Even better than that, there were no bugs!

A single hiker named, Bob (from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota), occupied the first shelter. We introduced ourselves and spoke for a few minutes before walking down to claim our shelter and unpack. Bob was a great guy to talk with which was a good thing, because little did we know, we were going to be have a lot of time to just sit around and talk. Another single hiker already occupied the shelter closest to the dock so we took the shelter next to it. By 12:50 p.m. we had unpacked our gear and were ready to check out the local sites.

Before we left on this trip I had read about a rocky bluff just past the group sites that provided a great view of the harbor and Lake Superior and was only a short hike away. We walked east past the last group site until we saw a well-worn path that headed north up a hill. The path was easy to follow at first, but the farther we walked, the harder the path was to follow. Eventually, the worn path faded away until all we had to rely on were rock cairns left behind by previous hikers. The cairns blended in so well with the surrounding terrain that we missed one or two and were forced to blaze our own way to the top. Our persistence, however, was rewarded with a spectacular view that overlooked practically the entire harbor in front of us and to the west and the frigid, open void of Lake Superior to the east. A few awestruck moments and a couple pictures later we began the trek back down the bluff. Once again, we lost our bearings and were left wandering around the dense wooded area at the bottom of the hill. Fortunately, you can't stay lost very long on an island - just look for the water and head in that direction. Come to find out, we were off course by only a few yards, but the thick tree cover prevented us from recognizing previously seen landmarks. On the way back to the campsite we walked past the old "schoolhouse" (it's actually an old resort cabin) that I had also read about on a website. One account called it a schoolhouse while another claimed it was just an old building that was used for storage. Inside the partially decayed building were a couple old benches/seats and the remains of what appeared to be a small heating stove. The building is only a couple yards from the shore but unless you know where it is and are intently looking for it you would probably miss it.

After our excursion into the pretty much unmapped areas east of the campsite we turned our attention to Lake Mason a mere .6 mile from the shelter. When we arrived at the lake we realized we forgot to bring the fishing poles. Even though it appeared to be shallow and we could only access the very northwestern corner of the lake, it would still have been worth the effort, especially since it probably is not fished very often. There wasn't much to see here except a bleached-white, gnawed-up piece of bone laying on the rock near the shore. We figured the bone must have come from a moose because it looked too large to be from anything else. From here we walked back to camp and took another trip to the top of the bluff. We managed to get a weak cell signal so we made quick calls home to say hello. It was now becoming quite buggy up here so we walked back down to the shelter.

At 7:00 p.m. we emptied some dehydrated hamburger and taco seasoning into a pot and began to cook dinner. We put the meat into tortilla wraps, added packs of taco sauce and shredded cheddar cheese and were soon dining on tacos in the middle of the great outdoors. We must have been very hungry because we managed to polish off an entire pound of taco meat, a one-pound bag of cheddar cheese and an entire package of Raspberry Crumble (Mountain House® again, what else!) for dessert.

After dinner we walked down to the dock and fished. We were on the dock for only a short time because the wind was blowing so hard into the harbor from out on Lake Superior that to describe the temperature as cold would be an understatement. We met up with Bob again and talked for a while before returning to the shelter. The wind remained constant after we left the dock and by the time we were winding down for the night we had become quite cold. The wind had managed to shift direction and it was now blowing directly into the shelter. We put pieces of Tyvek® in front of the screened area and held them in place with our hiking poles to prevent the wind from blowing directly across our sleeping bags. The rain began to fall as we finished off the night with some hot tea and from the way it looked, we were in for a long cold night. As I lay in my sleeping bag at 11:00 p.m., engulfed in complete darkness, I realized that the chance of hearing any howling wolves was probably close to zero because the whistling wind and the constant drone of rain would definitely drown out the wolves.

Final count for the day: A couple fellow hikers, one pike, many more mosquitoes and a few Cormorants flying over the water in the harbor.

Miles Covered Today: 4.3
Total Trip Miles: 35.5

Day 6

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