The Grand Portage National Monument is an interesting place itself. It celebrates the history of the Grand Portage which is an 8-1/2 mile portage that the Indians and fur traders used for hundreds of years prior to the late 1800’s to travel from the Lake Superior through the Canadian Shield lakes of northern Minnesota and southern Canada through to the west. The portage itself provides a way around the three waterfalls on the Pigeon River which forms the border between Minnesota and Canada in that area.
On to the trip in question. Isle Royale is the largest island in Lake Superior which is the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the world. The island itself is 45 miles long by 9 miles wide and is one of the few National Parks in the system that close for the winter. It closes due to the extreme winter conditions. It is also reputed to be the least visited National Park in the system due to it’s remote location.
Ferry services run to Isle Royale from Grand Portage, MN, Houghton, MI and Copper Harbor, MI. These ferry services service the primary landings on the island if which there are about a dozen.
Having hiked the west portion of the island in the past, this year’s trek jumped off from McCargoe Cove and would take us to the northeast end of the island at Rock Harbor. So this past Saturday morning my buddy and I along with about thirty other hikers boarded the MV Voyageur II out of Grand Portage for a five hour crossing to our starting point at McCargoe Cove.
After two hours and dropping off hikers at the Park’s entry point at Windigo Harbor, we continued on to the north another three hours to our stop at McCargoe.
Not long after leaving the Windigo Harbor the ferry encountered a boat in distress with four people aboard. The captain ended up rigging the ferry for towing and we towed this boat for almost three hours to get it close to home.
Not arriving until 2:30 pm at our landing we had only planned to hike 3 miles to our first camp at East Chickenbone Lake. Neither of us had been to East Chickenbone prior to this and were a little unhappy with what we saw. The campsite was high on a ridge above the lake and with way too much sun. We quickly adjusted our plans and moved on to the Lake Richie campground which was another five miles down the trail. Eight miles on day one with the heaviest packs of the trip in the heat of the afternoon is a rigorous warm-up ! We got into our camp at Lake Richie about dinner time. Set up camp, eat, crash…
Day two was to take us a total of about eight miles again from Lake Richie through a morning stop at the landing at Moskey Basin to our second night camp at Daisy Farm. We prefer to hike early morning and got into Daisy Farm about lunch time. Some of the park’s larger campsites feature shelters called Adirondacks that are a nice alternative to the tent. We would end up using Adirondack’s at Daisy Farm and the final night at Rock Harbor.
The afternoon at Daisy Farm was spent beachcombing, rock hunting and getting sunburnt.
Day three was the final leg into the Park’s headquarters and eastern most facility at Rock Harbor. A little over eight miles, we again left early and arrived in Rock Harbor shortly before lunch. The first order of business after three days in the backcountry is a SHOWER. I ran into this character (Red Fox) between the shower and my camp in Rock Harbor. I think he has been a little domesticated from how close he let me get.
The Rock Harbor facility has a park hotel, restaurant and large marina facility all run the by the National Park Service. Lots of folks take the ferries up from Michigan to stay in the hotel and just day hike the area.
After setting up camp and recuperating, we took a four mile day hike out to Scoville Point which is on the eastern most tip of the Rock Harbor peninsula
Lots of water between here and southeastern Ontario
After a restful evening in Rock Harbor where we enjoyed food that hadn’t been freeze dried and real coffee we boarded the Voyageur II Tuesday morning for the 77 mile, seven hour crossing back to Grand Portage. It’s a scenic voyage and again we were blessed with calm seas. This crossing can be a stomach churner when the wind gets up. In the early part of the trip one gets the opportunity to see the Rick Harbor lighthouse (circa late 1800’s) now sitting idle.
After the Rock Harbor light and around Saginaw Point we head for big water pic
The next old style navigation point is the Isle Royale lighthouse also now standing idle as a monument to the past. I had the binoc’s on something else and missed a picture of this. Rounding the southwestern tip of the island prior to a stop in Windigo we see the Rock of Ages lighthouse in the distance. These old lighthouses are majestic pieces of history and need to be restored.
After a quick passenger stop at Windigo the ferry heads west for the last 22 miles to Grand Portage and we encounter our first rough weather of the four days. We drove right through a squall line in the last half hour. Just enough to wash the boat well.
All told we hiked 28 miles over three days and again saw a small portion of Lake Superior and another component of Isle Royale. If you’re a backpacker, really want to get off the beaten path and can tolerate mosquitoes, this is a destination you should consider.
Sorry resizing kind of butchered the map...