Isle Royale National Park - Day 1 Grand Portage to Isle Royale (via Voyageur II) 25 miles Windigo to South Lake Desor Campground 11.3 miles hiked
Look at a map of Michigan, the Great Lakes or even the United States as a whole. Now look closer, focus in on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Look in the northwest corner. There is an island. An elementary school teacher of mine told me to imagine Lake Superior as a wolf’s head. The island is its eye. That eye is Isle Royale. That is where we will be spending the next week.
We have been anticipating Isle Royale National Park since the early planning stages of our trip. It is our first extended hiking excursion, our first venture into the wild. Isle Royale has shaped our schedule, forcing us further south in order to visit the Park in a moderately warm time. The Park has always been in the back of our minds. Thing is, we know very little about the place and it kind of scares us.
This week has been a crash course. Very few people we meet have been there. “All I know is that you better be prepared. Once you are out there, no one can help you,” has been the ominous consensus. I guess they are right, we will see. We spent two nights in Duluth and one in Grand Marais, Minnesota in preparation. Yesterday we made a last minute purchase of an extra fuel canister, a larger pack towel, 20 garbage bags, long underwear, rain pants and a book detailing hikes on the Island. I think we’ve thought of everything.
The maps emphasize Isle Royale’s isolation. 20 miles from Minnesota to the northwest, 60 miles from Michigan to the southeast. The island itself is 45 miles from end to end and eight miles across at its widest. Park Rangers, potable water, food and anything else you might need are located only at Windigo and Rock Harbor (more or less the Island’s western and easternmost points, respectively). Everything you need is on your back.
I think our backs weigh somewhere in the 30-something pound range. We don’t have a scale. They feel pretty good. We arrived at the dock in Grand Portage, MN, packs in hand, at 7:00 a.m. Generally, the 60-foot Voyaguer II leaves for the island when everyone gets there. We left at 7:45 a.m. In two hours, we will be at the Windigo Visitor Center.
We have scheduled the Voyageur II will pick us up in seven days at Rock Harbor. Gab and I will hike the 45 miles cross-island, west to east, in about five days. The remainder we hope to spend doing day hikes without our burdensome packs. We will take Isle Royale’s most popular route, the Greenstone Ridge Trail. According to our recently purchased book, the Trail goes along the Island’s central backbone. The strenuous and rocky Minong Trail skirts the island’s northernmost ridge. After much discussion, we decided that we do not need the Minong’s challenge.
The Lake Superior weather has not been kind this week. Highs are in the 50’s and rain has been plentiful. Rocks and rain are a mixture we do not want to face. Greenstone it is. Let’s just hope the Trail is not too crowded. We have no idea what is in store. The Lake can be awful temperamental. We are a little bit scared. Once we leave the boat (the Captain says noon) we have a 12-mile long, uphill hike to where we can pitch our tent and sleep. Wish us luck.