Isle Royale National Park
May 2010

Day 4

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The sky was mostly overcast and the temperature was probably in the low 40's when I woke up around 8:20 a.m. The sun was making a valiant effort to dominate the skyline and burn away the brisk morning air, but every break it had was short-lived because it was quickly swallowed up by another blanket of gray clouds. On the way to filter water I realized that the couple next to us had already left. Ken said he heard them leave early again this morning. We ate breakfast, packed up and were hiking by 10:15 a.m.

We walked the beach until we reached the Big Siskiwit River and then jumped back on the trail to make our way across the bridge. Siskiwit Bay is partially divided by a small protrusion of land called Senter Point that juts out into the water about half way between the camp sites and the Island Mine Trail. I noticed that the beach area between the shelter and Senter Point was composed of fine gravel and rock, but north of the point the beach was comprised of fist-sized rocks. It seemed odd that these two areas, only separated by a small spit of land, could be so different in appearance and composition.

I began the day in a fleece top due to the cool, overcast weather but ended up shedding the warm outer layer just before we reached Senter Point because the temperature was beginning to warm up. By the time we reached the Island Mine Trail the clouds had completely dissipated and the sun was shining brightly overhead. It was glaringly obvious that there would be no need for any cold weather clothing today. Right after we made the turn onto the Island Mine Trail the ground became soft and mucky, the breeze failed to reach us due to the close proximity of the trees along the trail and we really began to sweat. We took numerous 30-second breaks along the way to hydrate and cool down. We'd brought along a GPS unit and were going to make an attempt to locate the Island Mine cemetery which is supposedly just a short walk off the trail, however, our minds became preoccupied with the hike itself and by the time we thought to look for the cemetery we were already about a half mile past it and not in the mood to turn around and look for it under the blazing sun.

By the time we reached Island Mine we were pretty wiped out from the heat but, the mosquitoes were rather pesky here so we didn't linger for long. We left our packs near the tent sites and retraced our steps back downhill to a small stream that proved to be the only source of water in the immediate area. We topped off our bottles, ate a granola bar, downed some Gatorade and pushed on. We reached the junction with the Greenstone Ridge not long after departing Island Mine. It was a nice psychological boost to reach this point because we knew that the "worst" part of the day, the uphill hiking in direct sun, was behind us. From here on out it was all downhill and the trail was wider and more shaded. There wasn't much to see along this stretch except a bunch of trees but, overall it was a pleasant experience.

We reached the Washington Creek shelters at 4:45 p.m. and our tired feet rejoiced knowing they would not have to carry us any further. The place was pretty much deserted so we had our choice of almost any shelter. While we were checking out the various sites we heard a couple loud squawking noises near the river. Looking out to the west we watched as two sandhill cranes [Link 1, Link 2, Link 3] took flight and disappeared behind the trees across the river from where we were standing. Shelter #9 piqued our interest so we tied the NPS permit tag (issued at registration) to the door handle and began unpacking. Our shelter was pretty well surrounded by trees so I figured it would get dark sooner and the temperature would drop quicker than what it had last night. The next order of business was to locate something to curb our raging appetites and hold us over until dinner. One of our favorite trail snacks fit the bill - tortilla shells, salami sticks, cheddar cheese and Dijon mustard.

After my grumbling stomach was quieted I took a walk over to the water spigot and wiped away the day's dirt and sweat with a cold washcloth. I also rinsed and wrung out my t-shirt a few times. Back at the campsite I found a few golden slivers of sunshine still making their way through the trees and hung my shirt over a branch to hopefully dry out before the sun completely disappeared. I then laid down to rest for a couple minutes but ended up falling asleep for over an hour...I guess I was more tired than I realized.

After dinner we walked west down the trail from our shelter to check out the remaining campsites. On the way back Ken said he was going to head over to the spigot to top off the water bottles he was carrying. I figured it would be a good time for me to do the same so I told him to wait for me. I left Ken standing behind the shelter and ran inside to grab my bottles. I no sooner entered the shelter when I heard Ken yell, "Brian!" My name was followed immediately by a couple loud thuds and crashes. I quickly ran back outside not knowing what to expect and found Ken standing behind the shelter with a shocked expression on his face.

Ken said, "Did you see that?!" I replied, "No. What?" He said, "I was almost run over by a moose!" Out of amazement and just to clarify what I thought I had heard I again asked, "What?" Ken continued, "I was just standing here on the planks looking at the clouds out to the east. I heard something in the woods and thought it was you. I looked over to the west just in time to see a full-grown moose running through the woods. It was running straight toward me at full speed! By the time I noticed what was going on it was only about 20 feet away from me. I didn't have time to do anything except yell at it. When I yelled, it made an abrupt 90 degree turn and ran south through the woods behind our shelter. If I hadn't yelled at it then I'm sure it would have run right into me because I don't think it noticed me standing here." That was definitely the craziest moose experience we've ever had!

By 9:55 p.m. the sun was gone and transition between evening and night was well underway. Daytime sounds had given way to croaking frogs and chirping crickets and the warmth of the sun had bowed to the cool night air. We brewed up a couple steaming mugs of tea and ate a couple snacks before going to bed around 11:00 p.m.. At some point during the night the zipper on my sleeping bag opened up a bit and I was awakened around 1:15 a.m. by a cold face and chest. After a bit of contemplation I decided to brave the cold and ventured out of the shelter. There were a seemingly endless number of glittering lights scattered across the charcoal-black expanse over my head. I stood there for a minute or two, gawking at the sights above me and feeling much more insignificant after realizing that I am just a microscopic speck on God's immense canvas of creation.

Final count for the day: No people on the trail (but shelter #7 was occupied when we arrived), quite a few seagulls, several mergansers, two cranes, "Mario" the speed-demon moose and millions of stars.

Miles Covered Today: 10.9
Total Trip Miles: 31.2

Day 5

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:27 AM