I woke up to cloudy skies and a stiff breeze coming off the lake. My washed clothing was pretty dry on the line so I got changed before cooking breakfast. I don’t remember if I have talked about cooking meals so this seems like about as good of a time as any to do so. When planning my meals I decided to adhere to a similar meal structure as what we used when hiking on the AT. Cold lunches and hot breakfasts and dinners. The hot meals consisted 100% of things that I could prepare by adding boiling water and waiting. To some folks that might sound bad or short on variety but it was pretty good to me. The one piece of advice I can offer regarding prepping meals like this is to go a bit short on the water and a bit long on the wait time. If packet directions say 2 cups of water and wait 8 minutes then I use 1 1/2 cups of water and wait 19 minutes before eating. The biggest advantage that these meals had for me over the AT hike is that there was no sharing – I ate two portions for most of my meals because of this. The calories were welcome.
This morning I ate a Mountain House Breakfast Scramble and it was pretty tasty. I was packed up and on the trail by 9:15.
My left foot was very sore in the flesh across the top of the top of the tarsal area behind the toes. Each time I lifted that foot just the weight of the shoe pressing down on the sore area nade me want to wince. My right ankle was still just as sore but no worse and definitely less painful. Here’s a truth. Sore body parts ho hand in hand with prolonged physical activity. Either you deal or you don’t. With much internal whining I dealt.
Shortly after leaving camp I spotted another apple tree at the edge of a clearing that once housed the headquarters of a lumber operation on the island. Then I saw a fox that darted quickly off the trail and into underbrush. No fox pic – I was way too slow.
The trail from Siskiwit Bay to Feldtmann Lake picks up and follows the Feldtmann ridge and makes for some pretty decent scenery in places. At the end of the summer it also makes for some VERY overgrown trail in other places. I could have been 10 feet from a moose and never have seen it. The trail was mainly evident in these places because it was the path of least resistance – and most trails on Isle Royale tend to go in the shortest path to their destination. Makes it a lot easier to know you’re still on the trail. You didn’t turn; the trail didn’t turn. You are still on the trail.
I did see a tiny little bit of falling water as I ascended Feldtmann Ridge. There is little flowing water on the island so the was notable.
Wolf scat and tracks were things I was seeing daily. I have a lot of pictures of poop on my phone. I assure you that I left most of the scat unrecorded. There are places where you have to play hopscotch to avoid it.
Since there’s no hunting of the moose and no collecting allowed it’s not uncommon to see where someone has found a shed and left it trailside. They are particularly common at the trail junctions.
As I made my way further West along the trail I kept my eyes open for a lookout tower. This would be about halfway along my planned miles for the day (10.2 to Feldtmann Lake) and where I intended to have lunch. I spotted a collapsed wooden structure and made a mental note to let National Geographic know it was time to update the map…
I kept moving and about 15 minutes later encountered the actual watch tower. It wasn’t much of a lunch spot mainly due to cloudy skies and a stiff westerly wind. I kept moving and had an Oatmeal, Raisin and Walnut Clifbar to keep my energy level up.
As I continued to progress westward the wind was blowing directly into my face very steadily. I spotted what was either a small hawk or a large falcon soaring above the grassy ridge more than once as I moved along. The wind, though mildly annoying due to its speed and persistence, turned out to be fortuitous.
Q: How do find a unique wolf?
A: U nique up on him!
Which is exactly what happened, though not through any active connivance on my part. The wind just happened to be perfectly directed and strong enough that my scent did not precede my presence. It was also causing a good bit of noise as it ruffled the acres of tall grass on the ridge. So the sounds of my footsteps apparently passed unnoticed.
The first thing that I spotted was a weird motion in the grass. I actually took a couple of more steps trying to see what it was, if anything before I saw it again and experienced that moment of uncertainty while my brain tried to definitely categorize the shape and motion into certainty and my heart sped up with the hope that this would be one of those rare sightings that you hear about but don’t expect to actually experience yourself. I whipped out my phone as quietly as I could. The activity in the pictures is identical to what drew my attention. See if you can spot it.
And now, since it’s so hard to spot in the pics, even for me, here’s what drew my eye:
I watched for a good twenty seconds/years. It was a small wolf, but definitely a wolf. The muzzle was broader than I expected and the coloring was not grey at all. This guy was reddish-brown.
The reason for the odd head-bobbing motion that got my attention was that he was eating berries. I snapped photos as fast as my phone would and then did the right thing: scared the wolf away. It’s important that wildlife remains wild, especially in sanctuaries such as this. Encounters with humans, no matter how innocently they occur, should not be encouraged. I raised my trekking poles high and yelled at the top of my lungs to startle him as much as possible.
And just in case you’re wondering, no I was not afraid. I estimated this guy to be in the range of 35-40 pounds. He was as best I could determine, alone. Predators like to take on prey on terms that the predator establishes. In general, if you startle a predator they run. At least initially. I’d be MUCH more worried to discover a wolf following me than to sneak up on one and startle it. Wolves make their living by following things – and then eating them. So I wasn’t afraid – I just wanted to help keep the wolf from becoming too comfortable around humans.
I snapped a couple of more shots as he made his exit, bouncing along the trail.
And thus ended the wolf encounter.
Shortly after, I came to a fantastic view of Feldtmann Lake. The trail abruptly descends from the high plains-like ridge through forest and bog to the campsite, but before it does, there is a fantastic view of the lake several hundred feet below you.
I made the descent with some trouble as my left foot was really hurting at this point and got to the Feldtmann Lake campsite pretty quickly. I chose site #2 which had ample room for setup and a good view right onto the lakeshore. It was not yet 14:00 when I set up my tent – a very early day. However I was pretty well done in. I just wanted my foot to feel better and to potter around a bit. As I set up the tent I was considering taking a .8 mile excursion to Rainbow Cove. With all the wind from the west the surf sounded like it was right beside me. Then raindrops began to fall. I scooted my ass inside my tent and scratched the excursion right off the list. I had had enough wet clothes for a bit.
I ate a cold dinner of beef jerky, corn chips and Clifbar. Mmm, junkfood. Finished off both the jerky and the corn chips, which needed doing anyway.
The mercury dropped pretty strongly; it felt like it was in the 30’s again. I slept with my clothes on and was pretty comfy in that regard.
I was NOT comfy with the moose activity though. It seemed like every 15 minutes a moose went tramping through the campsite making lovelorn noises along the way. Whistling, grunting, splashing, stomping, chomping and tramping. Every few minutes. I swear it was like a regular ungulate highway. I was genuinely concerned that one would step on or trip over the tent.
Between sporadic rain, steady wind and darkness I really just didn’t care to look outside the tent to see what was going on and I didn’t. I would have loved some moose pics but I knew I wouldn’t get any in those conditions and I figured not being trampled to death by a half ton rutting herbivore would do as a nice alternative.
In the morning I looked and no moose tracks were closer than 20 feet to the tent. So maybe I was being a bit of a drama queen. Or maybe they just didn’t leave tracks when they were standing outside the tent. Who’s to say?