Isle Royale, May 2007

Day 3

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There were a couple times overnight when I briefly woke up to the sound of falling rain and wind whipping through the trees. When I awoke for the day at 7:45 a.m. I stepped out of the tent and was immediately confronted by a breeze blowing through camp and the sound of wind traveling through the treetops over distant ridges. Even though it was windy it wasn't too cold - probably about 50 degrees. As I walked down to the lake I took note of the bleak, mostly cloudy sky punctuated by only a couple small patches of blue where there were breaks in the clouds.

We ate a quick breakfast, filtered water, packed our gear and were on the trail by 9:45 a.m. By the time we left, the clouds had begun to break up and the sun was already doing a fine job of burning off the chill that hung in the air. We could hear the other group down at the east end of the camp so we knew they hadn't hiked out yet. It didn't take long to build up a lot of heat and sweat on the hike back to the top of the ridge. In reality, it didn't take us much longer to hike up to the ridge than it did for us to hike down to the campsites yesterday. We wanted to make good time for this long day so we took only a couple two to three minutes rest stops and just powered our way to the top. By 11:05 a.m. we had made it back to the Greenstone Ridge. We backtracked .3 mile to Mt. Franklin for a short break, to enjoy the view and to cool down before continuing to Lookout Louise.

It was easy to tell that the Greenstone Ridge doesn't see much traffic east of the Lane Cove junction. Much of the trail was barely visible because it was surrounded on both sides by trees, plants and ground cover that often grew very close to the trail. The trail itself was straight, fairly level, easy-going and even though it traversed the often-stony ridge there were very few sections of exposed rock. The temperature probably reached 70-75 degrees today and the sun-baked ridge didn't offer much shade. As the day wore on I could feel the heat radiating off of my face and we looked forward to small shaded portions of trail to stop for quick breaks.

As time wore on we discussed the notion that we must be getting close to Lookout Louise. Then, out of nowhere, a signpost appeared. We didn't even have to get close enough to read it. We immediately knew that we had somehow miscalculated and we were not as far along as we had thought. The signpost marked the junction for the portage from Duncan Bay to Tobin Harbor. Somehow we both failed to realize that we had not yet passed the portage so we still had another 1.5 miles before we arrived at Lookout Louise. We eventually arrived at the signpost that directed us north toward the lookout. The last .1 mile was all uphill but was well worth the effort. The trail spur topped out at a rocky overlook with gorgeous views for miles to the west, north and east. After an extended break we grabbed the packs and headed south toward Monument Rock.

Before we knew it a tall chunk of rock materialized out of the thick tree cover and towered above us. It was rather odd to see this giant monolith out here in the middle of nowhere. We took off our backpacks and explored the area around this strange landmark. I clawed my way through the thick ground cover and downed trees until I reached the base of Monument Rock. I figured it would probably be a long time before I ever saw this site again so I chose to see how far up I was able to climb. I slowly scaled the side of the rock by making slow, deliberate moves because I did not want to have a bad fall way out here. I guess the smart thing would have been not to climb it at all but I just had to see what the view looked like. I probably made it about 1/3 of the way up the side of the rocky face before that little voice inside my head became very loud and finally convinced me that the risk outweighed the reward. However, from where I stood I had a nice view especially considering that I was looking over the tops of a few trees below me.

We had not passed by any rivers or lakes today and were now completely out of water. This made us realize that the east end of the island would not be a good choice in the middle of the summer without some serious planning regarding water supply and consumption. We left our backpacks near Monument Rock and hiked the rest of the .9 mile to the shore of Tobin Harbor near Hidden Lake to refill our bottles. Just past Monument Rock was a section of trail flanked on both sides by large boulders that we had to weave between on our way down to the water. As we were walking along the south shore of Hidden Lake we saw an otter swimming just off the shore. It appeared that it didn't really appreciate our presence near its home because it kept snorting at us as it swam back and forth just a few feet from land's edge. After we filled our bottles from Tobin Harbor we went back to Monument Rock and discussed where we were going to spend the night. We initially had planned to stay at this end of the island, however, a couple things seemed to be working against us and at the last minute we chose to hike back toward the portage for the night. Two main issues governed our final decision. First, backcountry camping is limited by the rule mandating that backpackers set up camp at least mile from any trail. This seemed to present us with very few areas in which to camp because the area was very hilly and not suitable for setting up a tent. Second, we were required to stay away from loon habitats. At the orientation we were provided with a map of the island that contained shaded areas indicating where loons were likely to be mating and nesting. Any shaded area was strictly off-limits to backcountry camping. Between the poor terrain and the loon nesting areas we were not left with very many places to stay and we thought we would have better odds back near the portage.

When we reached the portage we located a place to set up the tent and walked down to the water to clean up and cook. The small access area at the shore consisted of a mix of small rocks and medium-sized boulders. It wasn't the most comfortable or convenient place to sit or cook but we made the best of it. For dinner we had a Chicken Teriyaki meal that was absolutely incredible. Afterward, I sat on a rock and enjoyed the nice view of Duncan Bay as the sun set and the cool air swept into the area. By 8:10 p.m. it began to really cloud up and become cool so I hiked back up the rocky trail to the tent. The portage is about .2 mile from the water's edge to the top of the ridge and is strewn with many rocks and boulders. It's a pretty steep ascent and fairly strenuous even without a backpack; I couldn't help wondering what it would be like with a pack and a canoe.

Today had been pretty warm and we put on a couple more miles than usual but, overall, it had been a good day. The bugs were only bad for a short time on our way out of Lane Cove and here at our campsite. One thing I happened to notice today is that black flies are pretty much only a problem when I stopped walking but, the mosquitoes could keep up with me even when I had a good pace going. I was only the victim of a couple bites today so I felt pretty fortunate. The other interesting thing I noticed was the amount of dandelions and ants at the east end of the island. Whenever we stopped for a break we would periodically have to brush numerous ants off our backpacks, shoes and sometimes our backs. Also, the dandelions seemed to be far more plentiful here than anywhere else I have seen them on the island.

Final count for the day: Two Common Goldeneyes, an otter at Hidden Lake and a Common Merganser near the portage at Duncan Bay.

Miles Covered Today: 11.4
Total Trip Miles: 26.3

Day 4

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:26 AM