Thursday, May 28, 2009

Isle Royale May 2009

This will be a multi-part post. What a trip! Headed north on Tuesday the 19th and stayed at a friends place outside Grand Marais. Up at 4:00 am to get our stuff together, have some coffee, clean-up and head north another hour to Grand Portage. The ferry left at 7:30 and we were to arrive 45 minutes before that. Made it on time, unloaded the packs, got the stuff together to carry onto the ferry, checked in and had our packs loaded onto the boat and hung out until departure time. Had a nice visit with the folks from Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line prior to heading out.

Day One:The Ferry Ride

As the boat pulled away from the dock I prepared to take up my usual post in the bow of the boat, but it was not meant to be. The spray was already soaking the front of the boat, so I headed to the stern. The waves were pretty big and I knew this was going to be a tough crossing for me. I tend towards sea sickness and have discovered I can cope with it pretty well if I can do a couple of things: be outside in the fresh air; see a horizon line and stay focused on it; and keep some crystallized ginger on hand to tone down the nausea.

Managed two out of three of those requirements. The fog settled in as we got out on Lake Superior and there went the horizon line! I hunkered down in the stern and did my best to stay warm (water temp is around 32 degrees and air temp was not a whole lot warmer). It takes about two hours to get to the island from the mainland and by the end I was wishing for the trip to be over.

Small World #1

On the boat were a number of groups. In one was a young man that looked familiar, figured I had seen him last year on the island and asked if he had been out there. Nope, his first trip to the island; but he thought I looked familiar too. Hmmm... Got to talking and he had just run the Superior 50K. Ah, I had just run the 25K, maybe we saw each other there. Talked some more, compared times and realized we had finished the race together! Having not introduced ourselves at the race, Brian Peterson and I met on a boat to Isle Royale.

Spent most of my time alone in the stern as it was pretty chilly. Was joined on occasion by a young woman who would quietly lean over the side, then head back indoors for a bit. Other passengers would pop out for a bit, but not for long. I learned on my first trip to the island to wear all of my cold weather gear on the boat - makes for a more enjoyable ride. Though by the end I had donned Mr. Wildknits jacket and had a wool blanket wrapped around my legs.


As we approached Washington Harbor I was alerted by Mr. Wildknits that land had been spotted. Yeah! As we got in to the harbor the fog cleared, the waves subsided and I headed for the bow. There was still ice clinging to the shore line in several places and we saw a few double-crested cormorants hanging out on shoals peeking out of the water.

Once on the dock, with packs unloaded, it was time for the traditional talk by the NPS Ranger about Leave No Trace ethics and other items unique to Isle Royale (ie: what to do if you encounter a moose or wolf and why you should not leave anything out that a fox might like - say your boots). Then it was up to the ranger station to get our permit and off we went.

The first day we had a 8.5 mile hike to our campsite. We donned our packs (mine is always at the upper end of what is recommended for my weight, but what do you do when you get cold easily and camp during the shoulder seasons?) and headed out. The trails on Isle Royale are easy to follow for the most part, with trail markers only at intersections. Nice change of pace from the heavily signed trails on the mainland. As we hiked along, the day warmed and we stopped on a ridge top to shed some layers and take some pictures of wildflowers.

Still waiting to hear back from the rangers and Isle Royale botanist to learn what these are. Any ideas?

My main reason for going to Isle Royale in May was to see spring ephemerals - yes, I am that kind of flower geek. Other reasons included: few people, wildlife, few people, and no bugs.

Our hike was interrupted several times by my need to photograph what we were seeing, especially if I could not identify the flower or if it was something I had never seen before. For example:

Skunk cabbage - I have heard about this for years but have never seen it in bloom, doesn't grow in my area. Such a cool plant- spathe and spadix and those leaves get HUGE!

The Carolina spring beauties carpeted the woods. Amazing display!

We arrived at the Feldtmann Lake campsite and had our choice of sites as we were the only ones there. Found a nice spot with access to the water and protection from a storm. I like to get the 'camp chores' done right away (pumping water, setting up the tent, etc)so set to it. On the beach (and in our campsite) I saw evidence of one of the islands year-round residents:

Was hoping this particular moose didn't decide to wander through the site that night!

After dinner we decided to hike out to Rainbow Cove as I had heard lots of good things about the beach. The trail meandered through the woods next to the creek that drains Feldtmann Lake and came out onto

a warm beach and miles of rocks to pick through - what more can anyone ask for?

I set out to walk the beach and pick up rocks (finding many a large spider in the process), Mr.Wildknits took a different approach:

He had as much luck just hanging in one spot and sifting through the rocks.

We made our little collections, exchanged our favorites and then left them behind as we made our way back to camp.

I have been going to Isle Royale the past two Septembers and am used to it getting dark early. I forgot that it stays light until 9:00 pm and we had plenty of time for hanging out at the beach. I got out my knitting and my book and lounged about for a bit, but ultimately was ready for bed before it got dark. Woke up during the night to rain and the need to bring our boots in from the vestibule 'just in case'.

More on the trip in my next post.


Wayne said...

I like Mr.Wildknit's approach. :)

Chris said...

Looks like fun! No pictures of the cool rocks?

Jean said...

What a beautiful place! Very nice photos. I read once that Isle Royale is the least visited of our national parks. What a great place to get away from it all!

wildknits said...

Least visited, but most return visitors!

It offers all that I want/need in a vacation - few people, beautiful scenery, wildflowers to admire and try to identify, no computers, cell phones or phones for that matter. Challenging terrain...

And Jean - you would love the birds - could have used your help identifying them all!