Archives for the month of: September, 2014

As I slept in my tent at West Chickenbone it rained off and on all night.  Still raining at 7 this morning. This is a situation many outdoor recreationists hate to encounter. What to do when inclement weather threatens the scheduled activities? I made the decision: Gonna pack up wet and do this thing anyway. Yay me.

Having made the call I started making motions to bring my decision to reality. I skipped the process of cooking breakfast and chewed some jerky instead. This was some jerky I had made the week before the trip and I was glad to have it along. Easy to eat while on the move, lightweight, tasty, filling and full of protein; perfect trail food.

Packing up camp in the rain is a bit different from fair weather packing. Everything needs to be stowed in the pack except rain gear and the tent/ground sheet prior to getting the pack out of the tent. I reached this point fairly quickly and began wiping down the tent, inside first, then out.

I want to mention something here. Condensation. It happens. Not everyone understands this. When you breathe moist air out all night long inside your tent the moisture from your breath will many times condense on the tent walls and ceiling. Which is no big deal as long as you wipe it off. Unless it rains. When raindrops start hitting the outside of the tent and there is condensation on the inside then some of the condensation gets knocked loose. And falls. Usually on my face. Viola, it’s raining inside the tent.

This didn’t happen to me on this morning. But I have seen enough people who believe they own leaky tents when the tent is fine that I felt it should be mentioned.

So I wiped down the tent, inside and out. I use a shammy cloth for this. Specifically, it’s a piece of a Sham-wow Jess ordered and we cut up for tent and kitchen shammies. Soaks up water fantastic and wrings out easily. Takes a while to get completely dry though. So we will hang it up after use to air out as long as possible. Many a day it has been carried strapped outside a backpack all day long. Even in a light rain it gets a little dryer. I hung it on a tree branch while I tackled the task of putting the now-slightly-less-wet-tent into its stuff sack.

I got the tent and ground cloth successfully stowed and in their appropriate spots on my pack. As I turned to get the shammy I was startled to see it moving – away! Chattering with mad glee the red squirrel that I’d refused to share my dinner with the night before held my shammy hostage high in an evergreen tree. Fir, I believe. As I watched helplessly my shammy was hauled up into thicker foliage and vanished from sight entirely. That little bastard squirrel stole my shammy!

I stood there in damp outrage, contemplating various methods of squirrelicide but actually doing nothing more than peering about from different angles trying to spot my precious lost shammy. After a good ten minutes of not locating it, or the now silent thief, I admitted the ugly truth. I was bested. There was nothing I could reasonably do about this situation. And I didn’t WANT to get unreasonable about it. I wanted to hike and see this marvelous island, even if it did harbor thieving squirrels.

I shouldered the burden of my loss and began putting on the rest of my gear – while I still had it. I was on the trail by 8:00.

For this trip I had considered bringing my Frogg Toggs rainsuit but opted at the last minute to bring my backpacker’s poncho instead. It’s just like a regular poncho with a longer tail section so when you manage to get it on over your pack it hangs to about where a normal poncho would. The reason behind this decision is sweat. When you’re backpacking you tend to be under enough exertion that you can turn most most rain gear into a swestbox in short order. So with rainsuits the choice is often whether you prefer to be soaked with cold eain or hot sweat. Dry – that ain’t happening. Hence, I opted for the poncho. Lots of airflow and some protection from the rain. I should have brought train pants or at least gaiters, but hindsight is 20/20.

I set off up the trail with the knowledge that I had a short day. Since I had eaten into today’s planned miles yesterday by pushing on to Chickenbone I only need to hike 7.9 miles apong the Greenstone to be in camp at Hatchet Lake.

The Greenstone Ridge is the backbone of Isle Royale. The trail that runs along it is 42 miles long and offers great views. It is often forested and the highest point is only around 1400 ft above sea level (800 ft above Lake Superior). It is not a tough trail.
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It was a bit tough on this rainy day, though. In many places, sometimes for a mile or more, water laden vegetation was leaning into the trail. It didn’t take long before my legs were wet to mid-thigh and my shirt sleeves were wet to the elbows. Feeling my feet squelch in my shoes with every step for mile after mile – that sucked the fun right out of the day.
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I did spot both moose and wolf scat several times along the trail and kept my eyes open, but no luck. Just poop.
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The rain wasn’t heavy and it stopped and restarted several times before finally being blown away by a southerly breeze around 11:00.

Around 11:30 I arrived at the turnoff to Hatchet Lake. I found myself reluctant to trek the .3 miles down to the camp for lunch. And since I was already pretty darn wet I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to be done for the day at lunchtime. What’s worse than walking around wet all day? Sitting in a tent being wet, thinking that if you were hiking you’d be warmer.

I had a lunch of tuna in sunflower oil on tortillas sitting out on tge rocks by the turnoff while I pondered what to do. Before I ate I removed my socks and wrung them out and laid them on rocks in the weak sun. I also pulled the liners from my shoes so they would dry a bit as well.

My decision: I can sit in a wet tent anywhere. Time to hike.

Halfway between Hatchet Lake and Lake Desor lies Ishpeming Point. There is a metal observation tower here and the ridge reaches 1377 ft in elevation. I have heard rumors that at high spots on the Greenstone you can sometimes get cell service so I gave it a try. Sending a text or making a phone call to Jessica would be pretty awesome about now. You can’t climb the tower so I went to the next highest spot and tried.

Pshaw. Fake service. Wavering between 1 and 4 bars with nary a spot of data. No text, no call. Hate you for your fake bars, Verizon. Hate hate hate.
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As I gave up on my cellphone antics a large Vee of geese flew over at high altitude. I counted somewhere around 70. Back to the trail.

A couple of hours later I arrived at South Lake Desor. Not late at all, around 4:00. However, it gets dark early in the terrain of the lake bowls in the island’s interior at this time of year. I barely had time to dry my tent before the sun vanished below the ridge.
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By the time I set up camp and cooked dinner (Couscous) the sun had vanished. I crawled into my tent in the early twilight and happily changed into a set of completely dry clothing. The wet stuff I left on my “clothesline” to dry as much as possible overnight.

Not sure if it was from the terrain, my shoes or just not being as young as I used to be but I was having some pain in the bones of tarsal area of my right foot and had a few twinges in my right ankle as well (old injury). No worries, though. I was now a whole day ahead of the itinerary schedule that I gave the park service. I could afford a twinge or two.

The park service advises that you hang your food bag while in camp to avoid losing food to the critters that populate the island. However, the trees available to hang from really suck. The tree limb options suck so badly that I felt my food would be in greater danger suspended from the twigs available than if I just didn’t hang it. I could just see a squirrel party in my mind. There are no bears on the island – I slept with my food bag in the tent. So my food hanging paracord became a clothesline when needed.

My campsite was plagued with TWO demonic red squirrels who regularly darted across the site and chattered at me. No longer in possession of a tent shammy, I was reduced to using my kitchen shammy as a tent shammy and doing without a kitchen shammy. Wiser in the way of these beasts than I once was I slept with it in the tent, where I could better defend it.

Leaving Daisy Farm was pretty relaxed. The biggest issue I encountered during my stay was thst upon unpacking I could not locate my hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is a MUST when you don’t want to wind up with food poisoning. After checking everywhere a galf dozen times I concluded that I must have left it out the last time I repacked my hygiene/first aid bag. I looked and looked and looked and it was nowhere to be found.
(When I got home I found it on the bottom shelf under the bags at our front counter. How it got there is a mystery to me.)
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My itinerary destination for the day was Lake Richie but I felt good and was pretty sure when I woke up that I would be going further. A couple of packets of oatmeal later I was feeling even better and got my gear stowed into my pack pretty easily despite still having a very full pack – so full that my 3L water bladder was strapped on the outside of the back.

Moskey Basin was my first stop. It’s only about .2 miles off the trail to go there and I arrived about 11:00 to take an early lunch. There is a large pier complete with a picnic table for dining over the water. The breeze was very light and the sun was just present enough to be pleasantly warming without causing me to sweat any. I opened a foil pack of chicken and wrapped it up with a couple of tortillas. Very tasty. The view from the pier made quite a good accompaniment for lunch.

The Moskey Basin site is situated at the end of a long bay but the water there is part of Lake Superior and very clear (and cold). During my travels about the island I was to discover that this is generally the case – the water is Superior is excellent and of beautiful clarity. The low temperature is one of the important contributors to this circumstance; the lake is an environment where biological decay takes a long time to occur. There are over half a dozen documented shipwreck sites around the perimeter of the island that are diveable, many from the 1920’s but as old as the 1880’s. The cold, near-sterile layers of water in the depths where most of the wrecks lie keep the ships preserved in nearly the same condition that they were in when they sunk. It’s said that the paint is still bright under a thin layer of algae. It’s unlikely that I will ever see this firsthand, though. That water is cold.
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With lunch done and tidied up I headed back to the main trail and thus towards Lake Richie. Lake Richie is one of the larger inland lakes on the island, though it is only a fraction of the size of Siskiwit Lake, the largest. The trail between Moskey and Richie is only 2.1 miles and not difficult so I found myself arriving on its shoreline in just an hour or so. The trail follows the shoreline for quite a distance, well over half a mile. It was here that I encountered my booth-mate from the ferry ride. He was dutifully casting away, ever seeking that elusive bite. At the time I asked, he was down 1 lure and had no luck with any bites. After lounging about a bit and chatting some I offered encouraging words and got back on trail so that I could end my day at the West Chickenbone Lake campsite. A large Vee of geese, maybe 70 to 80 had overflown while I was lying on my back on the rocks and I was hoping to see more, maybe on Chickenbone Lake. I do spot my first wolf scat along the trail though.
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Chickenbone Lake is somewhat L-shaped, and flows out into McCarhoe Cove. When I arrived I could distantly discern 4 pairs of white swans in the far distance across the waters. I arrived at the camp around 15:35, early enough to explore all the sites before choosing one. The campsites were nice but carried none of the amenities found at previous locations I had visited. No shelters, no picnic tables, none of that. Fine by me. Those things seemed pretty weird to me anyway, despite their obvious convenience.

Some previous inhabitant of the campsite I chose (there was no one else around, I was in site #4) had felt the table pinch, or was perhaps just of that very busy personality some people seem to be burdened with. A table of sorts had been constructed from birch logs, sticks and bark. I propped my feet up on it and evidenced my disdain by setting up my kitchen on the ground beside it.

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As I fired up my canister stove I noticed a good bit of squirrel chatter. Having been chattered at by many a squirrel I dismissed these noises, which persisted the entire time it took for water to boil and then for my Forever Young Mac n Cheese meal to rehydrate. However, the moment I cracked the seal on my now ready food, it was ON. Squirrel attack!

The initial sallies were innocent enough.
Enter squirrel, stage left, carrying pine cone.

Squirrel zips across campsite.

Exit squirrel, stage right, carrying pine cone.

Chattering emanates from bushes.

Repeat, from right to left.

Repeat entire cycle, only closer to the half-entranced, definitely amused Tom, who sits upon his birch log with spoon paused halfway to mouth.

Repeat entire cycle, only instead of heading into the bushes squirrel climbs onto the toe of my shoe and makes demanding chattering noises.

No longer amused, I treat him like one of our cats when they beg for food. Well, as close as I can without a water bottle handy. I shoo him off.

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At the end of my dinner I note that my phone battery is down to 40% so I will need to recharge the next day. I am carrying a 10,000 ma Newtrent battery backup for this purpose. I hope that it will be sufficient.

I settled into my tent early, well before dark and was reading using the Kindle app on my phone when a snowshoe hare (appropriately brown for the season) hopped from the woods right up into the tent vestibule and stared at me through the mesh screen for a good 10 seconds before moving away to nibble at campsite grass. The 10.2 miles hiked today had a strong effect; I was drowsy and did not move, much less try to snap a picture. I fell asleep very content.

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When you’re taking a ferry boat to an island you’ve never been to that’s 60 miles away and the boat may or may not leave port on time (or at all) due to weather and may or may not travel at the ideal speed, again usually involving weather then it’s typically considered prudent to plan for less than a full day’s mileage on your day of arrival.  Nobody wants to start out behind schedule, especially when that schedule necessarily includes being back at the designated location at the specified time in order to not miss the opportunity to get back on the boat when it’s time to go home.  Swim 60 miles?  No thanks.  Swim 60 miles in Lake Superior?   Not a chance.  My trip was planned to arrive on the 15th, and depart on the 26th.  The last trip of the season that the Isle Royale Queen IV had on the books for 2014 was for the 29th.  In other words I had one extra chance to catch the boat back if I missed my scheduled return date.  NOT something I wanted to even consider.

The point of all this rambling is that even though I am (or perhaps because I am) an experienced hiker I did not want to risk getting behind schedule.  So my itinerary was constructed with few enough miles each day that I should not get behind schedule such that I wouldn’t be able to recover and be back at the dock to meet the boat easily.

When the boat docked all passengers disembarked and we were promptly herded by park rangers into one of two groups: day visitors and overnight visitors.  Our group (overnight) was given a friendly but serious mandate regarding LNT (www.lnt.org) principles, instructions on how we needed to register and a stern warning about properly filtering all consumed water due to Echinococcus Granulosus.

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Echinodawho? Granudawha? 

It’s a moose tapeworm.  Normal life cycle of this parasite is a cyclical transfer between moose (secondary carrier) and wolves(primary carrier).  Wolf eats infected moose tissue.  Wolf becomes infected with intestinal tapeworms.  Wolf poops (boy, do they poop a lot) tapeworm eggs which can lay dormant for extended periods of time and are eventually ingested along with a mouthful of vegetation (or water) by a moose.  Moose develops cysts in its tissues, just waiting to be consumed by a wolf.  The circle of life.  If you’re a tapeworm of that particular genetic specialization.

The problem for humans is that these tapeworm eggs can and regularly do get washed into lakes and if a human ingests the eggs then we get cysts.  In fabulous places.  Usually the lungs or brain.  But possibly anywhere including places like your bones.  If detected before becoming fatal the cysts can be surgically removed.  OR you can filter your water.  Steripen?  Forget it.  May as well go lick a wolf’s butt because UV doesn’t kill the eggs.  Got yourself some chlorine or iodine?  Nuh-huh.  Gonna get cysts if you don’t filter.  Tapeworms gonna get ya.   Better filter.

After our death threats via wolf poop, we lined up in the dockside ranger office and registered our individual itineraries. When I finished giving the ranger my list of sites he declared that I would see more of the isle than he has in 3 years.  Yeah, I felt a warm tingle about that.

My registered itinerary declared my first campsite to be at Threemile, appropriately named because it is 3 miles from Rock Harbor.  (It’s fine with the park service if you don’t follow the itinerary but it sure helps them know where to look if you turn up missing).  I proceeded along the Rock Harbor trail, again, appropriately named since it runs along the shore of Rock Harbor (you may detect a subtle pattern here) and stopped about halfway to Threemile to take a brief side jaunt to see  Suzy’s Cave.   Suzy’s Cave is a sea cave which was formed by waves when Lake Superior water level was higher and is named for Suzy Tooker.  Her father owned nearby Tooker Island and while summering there she would often row over to play in the cave.  It’s a shallow cave and open all the way through.  I went around back and crawled out the front.  Thus having conquered Suzy’s Cave I proceeded towards Threemile.

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Arriving at Threemile still early in the day I took a short break.   I removed my shoes (only broken in a tiny bit since I got them new a week ago) and rubbed my feet.  Then I went and christened the privy, only to discover that many had been there before me.

Feeling refreshed I decided to move along.  I hitched my pack onto my back and proceeded to Daisy Farm.  Guess how it got named?   Lots of daisies supposedly grow there – I didn’t see any.  Guess June us probably the time to see them.  I found myself a tent site and got set up.  I was the unhappy recipient of light rain showers as I proceeded. 

I need to talk about the camping options at the sites for a bit.  Unless you obtain a backcountry permit you are expected to avail yourself of the established campsites around the isle. There are from 1 to 3 different camping options to choose from at the campsites.  At the most basic locations (inland, hard to bring in material) one may find only individual tent sites.  At the most developed locations one may find individual tent sites, group tent sites, and shelters.  Every shelter that I saw had a screen enclosure on the front to help keep vermin out.  All sites have a privy.  I found 3 different privies to be stocked with toilet paper – a huge luxury.  Any site that has shelters and many that do not also have picnic tables.  Again, a huge and very welcome luxury that I did not expect.  Almost every site has excellent access to a water source as well.

I looked at the shelters (several were empty and I estimated one would hold 6-8 campers and went to site 17 and set up my tent.  I had a picnic table but the site was quite secluded and quiet.   I was able, with small difficulty, to fill my water bladder from Lake Superior.   The lake is very clear and cold.  Tastes pretty good, too.  By 17:00 I was cooking dinner.  I had a Mt. House Beef Stew and it was pretty good.  I was settled in for bed by 18:30, which is when the daylight was fading fast.

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You may be asking why I chose to tent when there were open shelters.  Plain and simple, tenting is often more comfortable.   It’s always more private.  When the mercury falls and cold temps abide it’s a warmer option as well.  And I felt like putting up the tent.  I’d been through a dry run at home but if there were going to be unforseen issues regarding the tent now was the best time to discover and remedy them.

At the end of my first day the mileage tally stood at a paltry 7.2 miles.  I skipped lunch because the concessions were closed.  My feet kind of hurt a bit and felt like I might be at risk of blisters on a longer day.  The weather was mostly favorable.  The highs were mid 50’s with lows in low 40’s which is great for hiking.  The rain showers were only present long enough to be a mild inconvenience.   I saw several types of common wildlife, including garter snakes which I did not expect.   I did more miles than planned and my supper tasted good.  I was pretty happy. 

When you’re taking a ferry boat to an island you’ve never been to that’s 60 miles away and the boat may or may not leave port on time (or at all) due to weather and may or may not travel at the ideal speed, again usually involving weather then it’s typically considered prudent to plan for less than a full day’s mileage on your day of arrival.  Nobody wants to start out behind schedule, especially when that schedule necessarily includes being back at the designated location at the specified time in order to not miss the opportunity to get back on the boat when it’s time to go home.  Swim 60 miles?  No thanks.  Swim 60 miles in Lake Superior?   Not a chance.  My trip was planned to arrive on the 15th, and depart on the 26th.  The last trip of the season that the Isle Royale Queen IV had on the books for 2014 was for the 29th.  In other words I had one extra chance to catch the boat back if I missed my scheduled return date.  NOT something I wanted to even consider.

The point of all this rambling is that even though I am (or perhaps because I am) an experienced hiker I did not want to risk getting behind schedule.  So my itinerary was constructed with few enough miles each day that I should not get behind schedule such that I wouldn’t be able to recover and be back at the dock to meet the boat easily.

When the boat docked all passengers disembarked and we were promptly herded by park rangers into one of two groups: day visitors and overnight visitors.  Our group (overnight) was given a friendly but serious mandate regarding LNT (www.lnt.org) principles, instructions on how we needed to register and a stern warning about properly filtering all consumed water due to Echinococcus Granulosus.

image

Echinodawho? Granudawha?

It’s a moose tapeworm.  Normal life cycle of this parasite is a cyclical transfer between moose (secondary carrier) and wolves(primary carrier).  Wolf eats infected moose tissue.  Wolf becomes infected with intestinal tapeworms.  Wolf poops (boy, do they poop a lot) tapeworm eggs which can lay dormant for extended periods of time and are eventually ingested along with a mouthful of vegetation by a moose.  Moose develops cysts in its tissues, just waiting to be consumed by a wolf.

The problem for humans is that these tapeworm eggs can and regularly do get washed into lakes and if a human ingests the eggs then we get cysts.  In fabulous places.  Usually the lungs or brain.  But possibly anywhere including places like your bones.  If detected before becoming fatal the cysts xan be surgically removed.  OR you can filter your water.  Steripen?  Forget it.  May as well go lick a wolf’s butt because UV doesn’t kill the eggs.  Got yourself some chlorine or iodine?  Nuh-huh.  Gonna get cysts if you don’t filter.  Tapeworms gonna get ya.   Better filter.

After our death threats via wolf poop, we lined up in the ranger office and registered our individual itineraries. When I finished giving the ranger my list of sites he devkared that I would see more of the isle than he has in 3 years.  Yeah, I felt a warm tingle about that.

My registered itinerary declared my first campsite to be at Threemile, appropriately named because it is 3 miles from Rock Harbor.  (It’s fine with the park service if you don’t follow the itinerary but it sure helps them know where to look if you go missing).  I proceeded along the Rock Harbor trail, again, appropriately named since it runs along the shore of Rock Harbor (you may detect a subtle pattern here) and stopped about halfway to Threemile to take a brief side jaunt to see  Suzy’s Cave.   Suzy’s Cave is a sea cave which was formed by waves when Lake Superior water level was higher and is named for Suzy Tooker.  Her father owned nearby Tooker Island and whole summering there she would often row over to play in the cave.  It’s a shallow cave and open all the way through.  I went around back and crawled out the front.  Thus having conquered Suzy’s Cave I proceeded towards Threemile.

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Arriving at Threemile still early in the day I took a short break.   I removed my shoes (only broken in a tiny bit since I got them new a week ago) and rubbed my feet.  Then I went and christened the privy, only to discover that many had been there before me.

Feeling refreshed I decided to move along.  I hitched my pack onto my back and proceeded to Daisy Farm.  Guess how it got named?   Lots of daisies supposedly grow there – I didn’t see any.  I found myself a tent site and got set up.  I was the unhappy recipient of light rain showers as I proceeded.

I need to talk about the camping options at the sites for a bit.  There are from 1 to 3 different options at the campsites.  At the most basic locations (inland, hard to bring in material) one may find only individual tent sites.  At the most developed locations one may find individual tent sites, group tent sites, and shelters.  Every shelter I saw had a screen enclosure on the front to help keep vermin out.  All sites have a privy.  I found 3 different privies to be stocked with toilet paper – a huge luxury.  Any site that has shelters and many that do not also have picnic tables.  Again, a huge and very welcome luxury that I did not expect.

I looked at the shelters (several were empty and I estimated one would hold 6-8 campers and went to site 17 and set up my tent.  I had a picnic table but the site was quite secluded and quiet.   I was able, with small difficulty, to fill my water bladder from Lake Superior.   The lake is very clear and cold.  Tastes pretty good, too.  By 17:00 I was cooking dinner.  I had a Mt. House Beef Stew and it was pretty good.  I was settled in for bed by 18:30, which is when the daylight was fading fast.

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Itinerary campsite:  Three mile
Actual campsite:  Daisy Farm
Distance hiked:  7.2 miles approx.
Time started:  13:30 approx.
Time stopped:  16.05 exact
Weather:  alternating sunny and partly cloudy.   Several tiny rainshowers.  Cool, in the 50’s.
Breakfast:  Tamarack Inn diner
Lunch:  Nada
Dinner:  Mt.House Beef Stew

Wildlife:  Jay, unidentified duck, red squirrel, grey squirrel,  grouse, garter snake.

Issues:  feet hurt, also close to blisters, ankle hurting.  Concessions closed.  Missed 1 meal today.  Will miss 1 meal at Windigo.  Will miss 1 meal at Rock Harbor.  Sucks that there was no notice I found of this.  Really wanted a burger.  Tough to scoop water in bag.  Even where it isn’t rocky, it’s rocky.   Tent stakes took longer than expected.

Saw Suzy’s Cave.  Trail ran along coast in sight of water all the way today.  Alternated rocks and mud.  Boardwalk was in decent shape in places where it exists.

Tomorrow’s destination:  Lake Richie – 5.8 miles
Alternate:  West Chickenbone – 10.4

Need:  Not much water need.  Refill at opportunity.

I left home this morning at 2:15 and made it to Copper Harbor in about 3 hours.   Then I made a wrong turn and wasted a half hour driving out first one and then the other side of town trying to find the ferry.  There is no cell service.

However, Copper Harbor is reassuringly small and I am confident that I will discover the home of the Isle Royale Queen IV soon.  And I do.  There just isn’t that much town to hide behind and a pier does tend to be on the water.

After referring back to my directions I found the place and then located the Tamarack Inn where I ordered coffee, eggs, bacon and toast.  Hot coffee was fantastic as I was feeling chilled.  The jam served with the toast is clearly homemade as it is served in little open top containers.  It is strawberry, and scrumptious.  The paper table liner, whatever you call those things,  depicts the nature and rarity of bird’s eye maple.   With only two blocks to travel to the dock and a full belly I find myself looking forward to a nap on the ferry ride.

I park and have a decision making moment. I have in the past week called the concessionaire and lodge phone numbers at the island a half dozen times and never received an answer. I decide to not wear my civvies and change into my trail clothes. If anyone notices my briefly bare ass in the parking lot it passes without mention. I leave my blue jeans and other non-hiking clothes in the truck, not wanting to risk arriving on the island to a closed lodge and concessions. This entails
another worry: I have planned my meals with expectations of buying lunch today and lunch on the 7th day from the concessions at Rock Harbor and Windigo, respectively.

I shrug, lock up my truck and head for the pier. The sun is rising and I snap a pic with my phone.

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I can stand to miss a meal here and there and worrying will not affect the situation except to reduce my enjoyment.

I go into the store and am issued my tickets to the isle and back and am given a refund for parking fees.  Any days after your 3rd are free but if you tell the booking tool on the website an accurate number – it charges you for all days anyway.  A lot of refunds are issued this morning;  both people ahead of me receive one as well.   

We are all bidden to line up and pass our luggage to the crew for stowing, minus any white gas fuel.  Luggage xan and does include canoes and kayaks (for a price). Canister fuel does not need to be removed from luggage.  Great.  I hand over my pack and bite my tongue when I see it hoisted by a single shoulder strap.
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Capt. Ben is affable.  Marty and Mike are the mates, brave and sure.  The trip is ominously scheduled to be a 3 hour tour.   A 3 hour tour.

We depart the dock 20 min late.  Capt. Ben announces over the barely audible intercom that our estimate is now 3 hr 20 min for trip.  It is a 54 mile trip at the time of the announcement. 

I count around 60 people on board for trip and later hear that there are 62.  Go go gadget, math skills!  Kept my shoes on, too. There is a light NW wind.  I look up from the front deck and see an eagle soaring over the ship as we depart.  I do not sleep on the trip over.  Instead I talk to my booth-mate about the island and what we each plan to do there.  He is going fishing.  By trade he is an engineer and young enough that I mentally tag him as a kid even though he tells me that he and his wife plan to have a child in the next year or two.   We go over gear lists and I give him my thoughts about his selections, which sound perfectly adequate.  He is new to outdoor adventures but seems to have planned well for a beginner.   He overpacked, but then, who doesn’t at first?    I remind him several times that his goal is to have an enjoyable trip as I get the impression that he intends to catch tons of fish and measure his success in piscine poundage.

The ferry has snacks so I buy a bottle of water just in case there is nowhere to do so when we arrive.  A bottle is a wonderful tool to have.

I’ve hiked very little in the past year.  There have been many other challenges that have consumed my time so I haven’t missed it as much as I would have otherwise.   Which is not to say that I haven’t missed it – because I really have.  One down side of operating an outfitter shop is that you’re constantly meeting people who are about to embark on interesting journeys.  And I have got the itch BAD.

My initial plan was to go hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), which runs from Duluth, MN to Canada.  However, timing and events conspired against my plans – there simply was not enough time available for me to vanish for the time it would take to hike 300 miles.  So I reluctantly put away the set of 6 maps I ordered for the hike and set my sights elsewhere:  Isle Royale.

This has been on both our bucket lists for a couple of years now and I will owe InProgress an opportunity to do this trip at a later date but I have been very cool with her wanting to go do some stuff lately so I had some small credit built up in the ‘I wanna’ account.

I leave tomorrow.   Early.  Like 2:30AM early.  I will drive to Copper Harbor,  MI and board the Isle Royale Queen IV.  It’s a 100 foot long, aluminum hull, triple diesel engine beauty of a ferry.  I fully expect to be able to nap on the boat thanks to the warm enclosed cabin seating.  After I snap a few photos, of course. And here’s the photos:
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My preparations have felt haphazard and I would be a big fat liar if I didn’t admit to a lot of second guessing myself right now on the last day before the trip.  Am I taking too much food?  (Yes)  Do I have warm enough clothing?   (I am sure, yet unsure)  What will happen if I miss my food drop arrival in Windigo?  (It will be left on the dock for me)  

The biggest prep hurdle has been my pack.  I sent my old pack in for repair due to lots of field wear.  I missed the email from Osprey.  It went to my junk folder and I forgot to check.  So there it sat for a week, languishing.  And when I finally saw the message it said that they couldn’t bring my pack back up to their standards – so would I please  provide them with my 1st and 2nd choice of color as they were willing to send me a new pack under their Almighty Guarantee.   By the time I replied I knew that it was too late to get it back in time.  So I tried IP’s ULA pack.  It was great for her on the AT.  I like it, but it’s too short in the torso for me.  So my choice pack became the Klymit Motion 60.  It is a light pack at 2.7 pounds and has an air frame.  I’ve got all my stuff packed in it and am ready to roll out in 12 hours.