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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Isle Royale, Minong Trail, First Boat 2014

Richard Templin and I took the Voyageur II's first trip to the island on May 14. Most of the passengers were MooseWatch volunteers. We had a nice visit with Candy Peterson, who has spent many many summers on the island studying moose and wolves. She was such a kind and gentle lady. No one was at the Windigo Ranger Station yet, so we stayed on the boat while some passengers unloaded. 

We were curious to see if we would get into McCargoe Cove, our dropoff point. It was ice free and a beautiful day full of blue sky when we landed there.

Aboard the Voyageur II
McCargoe Cove shelter

We took a nice long run on some trails (see previous blog). We saw a fox who posed for us and we saw some great views of southern lakes and the Greenstone Ridge.

It got cold that night, as it did the rest of the nights too. Brr-three-pairs-of-socks-and-don't-get-out-of-your-sleeping-bag kind of cold.

McCargoe Cove evening

The next day we started our journey westward down the Minong Trail, but this would be our shortest mileage day so we took our time getting moving. My legs weren't completely there yet.

Minong Mine
Minong Trail
Group site at Todd Harbor

Stream beyond the Haytown Mine at Todd Harbor
But his eyes look so serious.
Near the Todd harbor group sites. I love this tree.
Shoe drying. I accidentally burned my Montrails.
Todd Harbor sunset

We had Todd Harbor to ourselves, except for a fox, some loons, mergansers, ducks, squirrels, etc. Probably some moose we didn't see. We explored the Haytown Mine area and the shore around the group camp sites in the afternoon while the sun tried to come out. We had a fire and tried to dry our socks and shoes. It was a lovely spot to sit and watch the sun go down, and once Rich got that fire going, we didn't stray far from its heat.

Friday's hike from Todd Harbor to North Desor Lake got long. The first half to Little Todd Harbor is mostly a straight line and we made good time. 

Evil creek crossing just east of Little Todd Harbor.

Rich was waiting for me at the Little Todd junction with rice and beans cooking.

The second half of Friday's hike, Little Todd Harbor to North Desor Lake, is my favorite section of trail on Isle Royale. Most of it travels the top of the Minong Ridge and the views of the Greenstone Ridge and the Canadian shoreline are dramatic and beautiful, with cooling breezes, but it's an up and down hike that will grind your legs down and make you question those luxury items in your pack. It's one of my favorite playgrounds.

Minong Ridge, hat head

Minong Ridge
Canada from Minong Ridge

That walk into the North Desor Lake campsite is a lovely and welcome one. It's so different with no leaves on the aspen trees.

We tried to dry our clothes. The wind off the lake was cold, of course.

Filtering water, I watched otters swim by and poke their heads out of the lake. Neither Rich nor I made it to nightfall awake.

Saturday morning was our last day of hiking, the long haul to Windigo. Again, Rich took off well before I did--I'm a slow riser when the only source of heat is myself and it's cold out there. But once the sun came out, Saturday gave us perfect hiking weather. About a mile from the campsite, I (and Rich before me) came across a moose. She didn't seem concerned at all by my presence, and I slowly made a wide circle around her.

The hike to Windigo was good. Rich and I both fell backwards into the mud at different times. It happened to me crossing one of the beaver dams. We were grateful for pink ribbons the rangers had tied to trees in the fire damaged section--without them we would most likely still be there. Even more trees have blown down here over the winter.

Fire damaged section

After a dam crossing I followed a moose trail instead of the Minong Trail and found myself in a slough, jumping around to keep my feet dry. I backtracked and covered the moose trail with sticks and downed shrubs so others wouldn't follow. We met a couple groups of eastbound hikers as we got closer to Washington Harbor--they were the first hikers we had seen.

The end of the Minong. Yay!

We had plenty of time to explore before the Voyageur picked us up on Sunday. Sunday morning Rich went for a run and I chose a slower paced walk and took lots of pictures.

Scarlet tanager

Snowshoe hare changing into its summer outfit


A class of seventh graders from Iowa was staying in the group camp sites and rode the boat back with us. One of my current goals is to get people who are alcoholism and drug addiction survivors like myself to places like this to experience the healing and transformative power of nature and magic places and self-sustainability and all that stuff. It was fun talking to the organizers and Ranger Val about this. I'm grateful they got to experience the island. I'm also grateful I got to experience it, and grateful for the company of Richard. Can't wait to go back, as always.

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