I had a real good night’s sleep at Lane Cove. The lapping of wavelets made for a soothing background and there were no moosely incursions into my dreamland. I fixed a couple of packets of oatmeal for breakfast and had a cup of coffee as well, just because I wanted to. Other than the chatter and antics of squirrels I saw and heard no wildlife as I got my camp packed away. I discovered another piece of inadvertent litter – someone had lost a short section of paracord. I tied it onto my pack. It’s really gratifying to go to a place that has almost no litter so I wanted to remove what I found, no matter how it got there. My collection efforts totaled up at the paracord, a piece of dental floss collected at Lake Richie, a corner piece of a Clifbar wrapper found near Windigo and the FroggToggs found between Huginnin and the Minong junction. Everything but the paracord was already disposed of in one way or another. The paracord could be my LNT souvenir. I snapped a couple of quick pictures of the ultra smooth water and scenery and headed out.
The trail from the Greenstone down to Lane Cove has switchbacks. That makes it unique on Isle Royale. No other trail section has enough sudden elevation change to need more than one or two tiny switchbacks. This trail has several long ones. Maybe that’s why people think that it’s tough. It isn’t. I left camp about 9:15. By 10:30 I was standing on the Greenstone ridge trail. I didn’t have to stop to rest a single time. Gimpy ankle and all I just kept a slow steady pace and it was shockingly easy. I took a short moment to savor the feeling of conquering the climb so handily and then began to descend the south side of the ridge. I would not see the north side of the island again on this trip.
Upon crossing the Greenstone, the trail I was following changed names from Lane Cove Trail to Mount Franklin Trail. As I followed its gradual path downwards I passed first a pair and then a single hiker who were on their way outward bound. After about 1.5 more miles I came to a junction and hung a left to follow Tobin Harbor Trail. Tobin Harbor is long and narrow (about 5 miles long, yet narrow enough that you can see detail on the opposite shore, which gradually gets further away as one presses eastward). The trail follows along right beside the water for most of the 3 mile length that I followed it until I came to Rock Harbor.
The area was pretty deserted. First, I went down to the dock area where I saw a couple of park employees working busily on season end tasks. No rangers around. The dockside office was closed for the season and had been emptied out of merchandise; sheets were hung over shelves and counters. The sun was out and the weather was very pleasant so I just sat around for a bit and savored it. Then I strolled over to the campsite area.
As I followed the gravel pathway to the campsite, I passed the ranger station, ranger quarters and the closed-for-the-season bathroom, laundry, and shower facility.
The camp area was also empty of people. I poked around a couple of the shelters and then unslung my pack and claimed shelter #2 by dint of sitting down at the picnic table outside of it and kicking up my feet for a short break. Then I dug around in my pack and found my electronics bag. After stashing my pack inside the screen enclosed shelter I took the Newtrent down to the dockside ranger office and plugged it up to charge. Since there was absolutely no one around I left it there. I may have mentioned this before, but in case you missed it, here’s a hiker fact for you: most hikers won’t steal stuff. All moral and ethical standards aside, nobody wants to add to their pack weight.
I headed back up towards the campsite area and was stopped short by the sight of a fox just sniffing and snorting around in the grass outside the ranger station. I snapped a couple of pics of the semi-tame little beast and then finished my short trek.
It was sort of lunch time so I decided to do that. I was still a bit couscous rich so I got out the stove and boiled some water for a hot meal. Shortly after my stove was lit, guess who showed up? Hungry fox. He approached the picnic table several times from different directions, never hostile and with obvious caution tempered by the thought of an easy meal. I gently shooed him (it was a he) away and poured the now-boiling water into my gallon freezer bag of couscous. After waiting the requisite 10 minutes I cracked open my freezer bag and started to chow down. And guess who was back? He sauntered through the campsite four different times while I ate. He never did the ‘Oh-I-am-starving-please-feed-me-and-save-my-life,-oh-great-one’ that domestic dogs are known so well for pulling off. This was more of a ‘I-just-want-to-be-sure-this-campsite-remains-clean-so-I-patrol-regularly’ sort of saunter. I studiously ignored his overtures and ate my lunch. Then I secured my pack inside the shelter and took all my trash down to the dock and placed it in the dumpster there. It being end-of-season and all, there was no reason not to – this was going to be the last dumpster leaving the island and it was going to be 1/3 full at best. No trash for you, Mr. Fox. I checked the Newtrent – still not charged. It had been pretty dead.
Back at the shelter I hung up my clothesline and did some laundry. There is a single faucet of potable water at the edge of the campsite and I was getting water there for my washing. Chlorinated, but no filtering required. Good enough for laundry. I drank the water in my bladder – Lake Superior tastes better than the chlorinated stuff.
Mid-afternoon a few more people showed up. Gary, whom I’d met at the trail junction two days prior, wound up in shelter #3 beside me. A pair of guys who I later learned were Tom and Joe had moved into shelter #1 on the other side of me. Joe had fallen and broken his nose on the Tobin Harbor trail earlier in the day. Nothing in sight to trip on according to his recounting of the event and yet – broken nose. Hey, we all have those moments. I tend to like the company of people who don’t seek a thousand excuses for a fuck-up. Joe owned his nose-shattering trip by frankly admitting that he wasn’t paying close attention to his feet despite knowing better and,’Wham! That rock just smacked me right in the nose!’ The nose in question was swollen quite a bit and looked painful. You’re on an island several hours away from the nearest town, there’s no boat even coming by today, and you break your nose. What do you do? If you’re a tough old bird from Jersey, you suck it up and try to have a good time anyway. Joe had a DeLorme Inreach, and I got to look it over. Pretty cool unit. The InReach has real-time two-way satellite text messaging. And GPS. And emergency feature similar to the Spot. The subscription fees aren’t that heavy, either. And plans include unlimited usage of the 40ish preloaded text messages. All in all, I find it to be pretty impressive.
Around 5PM I fetched the mostly charged Newtrent from dockside, plugged my mostly dead phone up to it, twitched the very touchy cable a dozen times to get the phone to start charging and left it inside the shelter to do its thing while I cooked dinner (last of the couscous), took down my dry clothing, and generally puttered about for an hour or so. Then I set up my bedding all by myself in this shelter that would hold 8 people and settled down to read myself to sleep.