Isle Royale

Dave & Phil July 6-16, 2009

Isle Royale National Park is located in Lake Superior 4 hours boat ride east of the NE tip of Minnesota (Actually part of Michigan). It is about 50 miles long and composed of one large island plus hundreds of smaller ones. The terrain is rocky "Canadian Shield" county with spruce, fir, and birch forests. There are about 550 moose and about 30 wolves.


Isle Royal Trip 2009 - A Journal by Dave - Pictures added by Phil


Tuesday, 7/7/09

We left Grand Portage right away in the morning and made it to Windage by noon. It was calm on the cold water with temps down to 37 degrees F. There are very few people except those going and coming on the two ferry boats, few in general. We both wish we had more warm clothes as it is COLD near the water even though the sun was now shining brightly. We did a hike, went to a ranger lecture and had a great day.
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Wednesday, 7/8.

Today was a day of much boating and a long day! We spent the morning in the small boat going out to see a ship wreck,
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a huge lighthouse (Rock of ages)

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We also stopped at Washington Island with its many beautiful views and an old boat.
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At noon the Wenonah, a tourist boat stopped and many people got off for a few hours to hike or sit in the sun.
That afternoon we spent boating down the bay and hiked up to a lookout, a great hike on the warm part of the island.
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At 6:00pm we heard a rather bad weather report for Thursday and decided to take off for Siskiwit Bay some 20 miles away we thought (actually 30!). The trip on the outside of the island, that beautiful evening, was long but relatively calm. We made the turn into the bay just as the light faded, but were able to see buoys to get in. After that it was a night passage and Bim's navigation got us right to Wright Island where we wanted to go. At one point we saw gravel 20 feet in front of the boat and had to run both motors in reverse hard to stop. Our actual entrance to the bay was another 50 feet but we were OK. After a snack the sleeping bags were welcome at about 12:30am.

Thursday, 7/9

We slept in a bit today but found ourselves in a great little bay on the west side of Wright Island. There is an old homestead here that will be a campground some day. We also found almost no mosquitoes here, a wonderful change from Windigo!
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Later, we went to the ranger station and camp ground on the main island but found no ranger and only two very untalkative campers. Those were the only people we saw all day. We took a hike into Siskiwit Lake and were pleased to see it so large. The river coming out is large enough to have a waterfall.

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Later in the day we hiked on Wright Island and did a bit more in the small boat. So far the bad weather has not come.

Friday, 7/10

We left Wright Island early planning to go to Daisy Farm. The waves behind us built to about 4 feet and began to cause the dinghy to surf down waves and spin around. This was a bit more than we liked, but OK until heavy fog came in. I went below to get the book on the how to run our fog horn, while Bim was skipper. Below was no place to be and I began to get seasick and couldn't read. We knew we were near Chippewa Harbor and decided to go there. We followed the GPS in until we were less than 100 feet from the rocky shore before we saw the inlet, but then the fog lifted and we got in easily. There we met a family with 14 kids, many of whom were along and had a great day with them.
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We were on their boat until late in the evening and went to bed. Many mosquitos were there.

Saturday 7/11.

Up and off before anybody else was up. We made an easy trip to Daisy Farm where we climbed up to the tower on Chipped Mountain. The view was breath taking, but so was the cold wind. We took many pictures and went down.
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As we had lunch on the dock, 10 teenage girls came along who were hiking from Rock Harbor to Windigo. Their packs were bigger than they were.

After lunch we made another nice run to Rock Harbor. We met a man with his little daughter on Tobin Harbor round the other side of the peninsula, and decided to take Secondwind back there. Back in there were several Park Service docks that were free. After lots of talking and hiking we all went to an excellent naturalist talk on wolves.


Sunday 7/12/09

We got up today and spent the morning in the dinghy going up and down the many channels near here. We also went to the very north end of the island (Blake Point.)
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We made it back to camp around noon and took a lunch across the bay for a picnic on the rock.
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Most of the afternoon we spent at Rock Harbor talking to the many people we met. Dan and Aurora (Father and daughter) were very helpful; they are from Two Harbors and have lived on the Northshore all their lives. We bought a bit of food and a few things we needed at the store and looked at the gas pump for tomorrow. Gas is $5.39!

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Monday 7/13/09


Today we got going early from Tobin Harbor and went around to Rock Harbor for fuel, water and final food needs. We said good by to Dan and Aurora and headed to Caribou Harbor for the morning. From there we took the dinghy to Edison fishery where we visited with one of the only family members still on the island. We were free to look over all the very old fishing and boating equipment on site.
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From there we walked to Rock Harbor lighthouse and found a sign on it saying, "Open, come in and enjoy the lighthouse." The building is now a very nice museum about lighthouses and shipwrecks. Though it was open and very nice, no one is there. People are trusted to take care of it and they do. We were even able to get up into the old light chamber. What a view!

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From there we took a short dinghy ride to the center of the now 52 year long Moose/Wolf study. Never saw so many antlers and jokes. Someone has a sense of humor. Again no one was there guarding anything.
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The weather being perfect, we decided to put some miles behind us and took off in Secondwind for the protection of Siskiwit Bay. After about three more hours on the water we were in Hay bay where we tied to the dock on a warm afternoon and went for a very limited swim in the balmy 52-degree water.
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In the evening we took a slow dinghy ride around the bay looking for a Moose. No moose, but we heard a pack of wolves howling. Very eerie, but wonderful.
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Tuesday 7/14

Another beautiful calm morning at Hay Bay. We left early and moved to Siskiwit Bay, the campground on the south west side of the bay.
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We also took the dinghy over to Fisherman's home to scout it out in case we need to duck in there some day.

By now clouds had moved in and it looked like rain. After a long hike along the shore we had a great spaghetti supper.

After dinner we met two groups of youth and advisors and had a great evening around our only campfire of the trip. It was a wonderful night with many stories and fun. Finally, rain drove us into tents and we to our boat. Rain drops were a pleasant sound in our cozy boat.

Wednesday 7/15

We left Siskiwit Bay about 8:30 AM after a nice talk with the counselors of many sleeping youth! One man, Pastor Todd Murken, remembered Dad from one summer at the Paul Bunyan Theater. The weather was cold and cloudy as we set out for either mainland or Windigo, depending on what conditions we met. Conditions were this: Quite wavy at first, but later only 4 foot rollers. We hit fog right away and went over 15 miles (almost three hours) without seeing anything but fog and waves. The GPS held us on a course within 20 ft. The first thing we saw was a buoy when we were only 150 ft from it. We went into Windigo.

In Windigo we met a man with a 37-foot sailboat and had a good long talk in his beautiful living room. That night we went to a ranger lecture on blood sucking insects along with 17 7th graders who's boat had not been able to pick them up!

Thursday 7/16

The day started at 4:30 am. We left early to try to beat the bad wind that was forecast. We succeeded to some extent, but the crossing to mainland was rough. We hit rolling waves to about 4 feet plus chop of about three. It was the roughest I had ever seen in the boat including the four years on the Pacific!
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Everything held together well and the dinghy now being towed with two smaller Nylon lines rode the storm very well. We were in Grand Portage by 9:00 and soon had a huge lunch at My Sisters Café in Grand Marais.

After a nice drive down the North Shore, we got a campsite at Gooseberry State Park and did lots of hiking. The wind was still bad; it was a good move to get on the water early.

Friday 7/17

We left Gooseberry for Bemidji and made it in for a lunch back at home.