Isle Royale National Park
May 2010

Day 2

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The first blinding rays of light hit my squinting eyes at 6:30 a.m. Stepping out of the car I had no way of knowing that this morning's postcard-like weather would set the tone for the rest of the week. The bluebird sky was beaming with sunshine, the air was crisp and cool and there was not even the slightest hint of a breeze. We made final checks of our gear and wandered down to the dock. To my surprise, there were only nine people heading over to the island, including us.

By 7:25 a.m. the gear had been loaded, everyone was on board and we were officially on our way to Isle Royale. The captain addressed everyone via the p.a. and said the ride was going to be exceptionally nice as the waves were calm to two feet. Ken and I stood outside on the rear deck and spoke with Matt, the Voyager II's deckhand. We had a good conversation and learned that the ship had undergone some extensive work prior to the start of the 2010 season. Matt said the owner was able to get a killer deal on two slightly-used, great-condition engines and Allison transmissions, the engines had been mounted on custom polypropylene mounts to help reduce vibration, the shiny, diamond plate steel engine covers were brand new, there was noise-reducing material added to the engine compartment and the old side doors had been replaced with new metal doors. Matt said the engines were more efficient and allowed the ship to move about one mph quicker.

Lake Superior's surface was as smooth as glass and the trip was quick and uneventful. We tied off at the Windigo dock at roughly 10:15 a.m. and were met by Ranger Lucas who led us up to the visitor center for the required backcountry ethics/LNT review. We made sure we were the last ones to register because we had a few questions regarding our proposed route. After looking at a zoomed-in Google aerial map, Ken figured we may be able to hike along the shoreline from Rainbow Cove to the area directly south of Lake Halloran. From there we would travel cross-country to the lake to fish and eventually continue north where we would intersect the Feldtmann Ridge Trail that would take us the rest of the way to Siskiwit Bay. Ranger Lucas said he had spent several seasons at the east end of the island but, this was his first year at the west end and, as a result, he was not very familiar with the route we presented. After spending a few minutes discussing our plans he brought up a couple valid points that caused us to change our minds and "play it safe" by sticking to the trail. We said goodbye to Ranger Lucas, filled our water bottles at the spigot near the dock and ate a sandwich before we hit the trail at 11:45 a.m.

We weren't too far down the Feldtmann Trail when we encountered two guys hiking toward Windigo. We spoke with them for a couple minutes and discovered that they were heading to Washington Creek and had passed a husband and wife duo a ways back. They said we would probably see them when we stopped for the night because they were also heading to Feldtmann Lake.

The trail was pretty easy-going and within a short time we were traversing a short climb to a ridge. The ridge overlooked a valley to the east and what I believe was Grace Harbor to the southwest. The temperature had warmed by a few degrees and there was now a pleasant breeze blowing through the scenic landscape around us. We stopped for lunch around 2:50 p.m. and found a large downed tree about 50 feet off the trail. We sat our packs on the tree and used the remaining free space as both a table and a seat. We ate some trail mix and the remaining sandwiches we had packed and were back on our way by 3:15 p.m.

Most of the trail was level and easy-going today, but after lunch my shoulders and feet began to feel a bit sore. I attributed the annoyance to the common "first-day aches" which are almost a given for me after not having shouldered a pack or worn boots for as long as I had. We reached Feldtmann Lake around 4:30 p.m. and discovered that site #2 was occupied; it was the husband and wife we had been told about earlier in the day. Even though we were ready to rid ourselves of our backpacks, we wandered past every site before finally settling in at site #4. The site was large and open and even after setting up the tent we still had plenty of room to cook, eat and spread out. It also had a nice view of the lake.

After everything was unpacked and set up we took our fishing poles over to the lake to fish for some pike. For over an hour we fished all of the easily accessible shoreline near the campsites with negative results. Three times I saw a pike swim past my lure not far from shore and three times I felt a half-hearted bite at the lure, but nothing even remotely good enough to keep the fish on the hook and bring it ashore. Ken fished the shoreline down toward site #2 and then around the southwest corner of the lake but never had a bite. While he was fishing he spoke with the male from site #2. The couple had come to the island on a floatplane. Tomorrow morning they would hike to Siskiwit Bay and from there they would make their way over to Rock Harbor. Ken learned that they too had stayed at Feldtmann Lake in the past and had caught quite a few pike just as we had several years ago. This time, however, they spent quite a while casting various lures into the lake only to have the fish elude them as well. Although we were disappointed at not having caught any fish, we were relieved to know that we weren't the only ones who were unsuccessful today.

Back at the campsite it was pleasantly warm in the sun and cool in the shade. I could sense from the current conditions that it would probably be pretty darn cold overnight. I sat on a log for a while in the sun and wrote in my journal until we started cooking at 7:15 p.m. We had chicken Fettuccini Alfredo for dinner along with a granola bar and a hot beverage. We tried fishing again after dinner but didn't even get a bite. As the evening wore on I stood down by the lake and watched a family of three goldeneyes fly patterns around the west end of Feldtmann Lake. After a short flight their typical choppy, whistling sound would cease and I would hear muted splashes in the distance as the birds touched down in the water, their small bodies creating ever-growing concentric rings on the previously glass-like surface of the lake. This took place several times before the birds finally flew out of sight over a line of trees at the edge of the lake. After the birds were gone the only sound I heard was a chipmunk periodically scurrying around in the brush near our tent - it gave a new definition to the word quiet. The sun eventually disappeared behind the trees to the west, and even though it had not yet officially set, the temperature dropped quickly. By 9:00 p.m. my hands and feet were cold so I moved into the tent, crawled into my sleeping bag and reviewed my topo map for tomorrow's section of trail.

By now I was becoming rather tired and sleep came quickly, ushered in by the relaxing sounds of nature - a nearby songbird, a fish jumping in the lake ("Where were you earlier in the day?", I wondered.) and the haunting chatter of a couple loons echoing across the lake.

Final count for the day: Two common goldeneyes and one merganser swimming in Washington Harbor, a group of cormorants, two squirrels, two moose antlers and lots of droppings (but no moose themselves) and a grand total of four people.

Miles Covered Today: 8.5
Total Trip Miles: 8.5

Day 3

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