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.
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.
I did spot both moose and wolf scat several times along the trail and kept my eyes open, but no luck. Just poop.
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.
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.
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.