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Isle Royale National Park 8/1-8/5

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
A colleague and I left Minneapolis Friday for the 330 mile drive north to the end of Minnesota along what is called the North Shore. This is the north shore of Lake Superior and Minnesota “ends” at the Grand Portage National Monument. Our objective was a four day backpacking expedition on Isle Royale which is a large island in the northwest quadrant of Lake Superior.

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...
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post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 
Leaving Grand Portage, the Voyageur II and heading north-east
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post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Voyageur II stopping to offload backpackers at Windigo
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post #4 of 20
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Voyageur II rigged for towing distressed mariners...
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post #5 of 20
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camp One at Lake Richie
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post #6 of 20
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isle Royale Adirondack
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post #7 of 20
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Camp Two - Daisy Farm Area
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post #8 of 20
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Isle Royale Red Fox
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post #9 of 20
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Rock Harbor with the Copper Harbor Ferry (Queen IV) ready to make the return crossing
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post #10 of 20
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Scoville Point
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post #11 of 20
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Rock Harbor Lighthouse
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post #12 of 20
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Rock of Ages Lighthouse. Sorry for the small pic, it's a ways out there.
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post #13 of 20
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Blue water headed back west and the squall line...
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post #14 of 20
Great report. Looks fun.

When I was younger, I did a lot of canoe trips to the Quetico and Boundary Waters and I always wanted to visit Isle Royale.

A couple of questions:

1. Is the moose/wolf thing still going on? There used to be a lot of studies into the populations of those two mammals. As the moose population rose, the wolves would increase to the point where all the wolves ended up eating most of the moose. Then the wolf population would drop way off and the moose numbers would come back. It seems I read a few years ago that the wolves were really distressed there.

2. Did you do any fishing at all? I can't remember if some of those interior lakes have fish.

3. How bad - really - were the mosquitoes? It seems like August would be toward the tail end of mosquito season, but maybe not.

Thanks again,
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
The moose thing is still going on. The population of moose in Minnesota is trending down but the population on Isle Royale is strong. At the mandatory Ranger's briefing the other day they told us that the island currently holds 23 timber wolves. I've seen moose out there before and never seen a wolf. Saw neither this trip.

You can fish on both the inland lakes (mostly northern and panfish) and in the bays of Superior (mostly coaster brook trout). I fished two inland lakes but I didn't put much effort into it.

You're right. Normally the mosquitoes are way down by this time of year. But with a long, early, wet spring this year everything is running a couple weeks behind. Many of the wild berries on the east end of the island weren't even ripe yet...



Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post
Great report. Looks fun.

When I was younger, I did a lot of canoe trips to the Quetico and Boundary Waters and I always wanted to visit Isle Royale.

A couple of questions:

1. Is the moose/wolf thing still going on? There used to be a lot of studies into the populations of those two mammals. As the moose population rose, the wolves would increase to the point where all the wolves ended up eating most of the moose. Then the wolf population would drop way off and the moose numbers would come back. It seems I read a few years ago that the wolves were really distressed there.

2. Did you do any fishing at all? I can't remember if some of those interior lakes have fish.

3. How bad - really - were the mosquitoes? It seems like August would be toward the tail end of mosquito season, but maybe not.

Thanks again,
post #16 of 20
Its been years since I've been up there. Thanks for the reminder of just how beautiful it is.
post #17 of 20

Isle Royale

Great trip update. I did a solo 4-day excursion on Isle Royale about 20 years ago (before marriage/kids). I began on the other side of the island and first camped at Feldman (sp?) Lake. Lots of moose, but did not see or hear any wolves. Beautiful scenery and I rarely encountered anyone except for the beginning/end. That boat ride gets frigid with the air flowing off of 40 degree water!
post #18 of 20
Nice report, nice to see those photos. I hiked Isle Royale a couple of times a couple of decades ago -- and the great-great-great-great-great-granddaddy of that same red fox snatched a bag of trail mix from my campsite in broad daylight.
post #19 of 20
Thanks for the photos. I did canoe trips into the Quetico and Boundary Waters when i lived in Minnesota but never managed the trip to Isle Royale.
Grand Portage is, I think one of the most interesting places in North America, not the place itself so much but the history that revolves about it. The Canadian West and much of North america was explored by the fur brigades that passed thru there on their way West. Alexander Mckenzie first reached the Pacific with one of those brigades, saveral years before Lewis and Clark. Grand Portage was the rendezvous point where canoe brigades from Montreal met each year and exchanged goods and furs with the fur brigades coming down from Lake Athabaska and points West. This canoe route stretched from Montreal to trading posts all over the north and western areas of Canada and extending down into what is now the United States. When I was there the park had on display a replica of one of the thirty something foot birchbark North Canoes that were used in the trade. Those used on the Montreal leg of the route were often forty feet long.
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregmerz View Post


Lots of water between here and southNorth eastern Ontario

 

 

I think you are either referring to NW Ontario, or NE Ontario....NE would have the most water from where you stood to land, NW would be the closer of the two.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeastern_Ontario

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwestern_Ontario

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