Isle Royale National Park - Day 3 Hatchet Lake Campground to West Chickenbone Campground 7.9 miles hiked
At 7:00 p.m. today, two hikers walked past our idyllic campsite along West Chickenbone Lake and said hello.
They were the first people we had seen in a day and a half. In that same time period we had seen six moose up close and personal. We had heard another trampling through the woods and snorting mightily near to our tent at about 1:00 a.m. What a place.
After two days without a single moose sighting, we had resigned ourselves to a moose-less journey. I even haughtily proclaimed that I did not believe there were any moose on Isle Royale despite the unvarying trail obstacle of moose droppings. They look just like deer droppings, round and numerous, except they are bigger. Which makes a lot of sense.
We had even seen parts of a moose skeleton, picked clean and scattered by the famed Isle Royale wolves and vultures. But no actual moose.
Today’s early early morning visit was trepidatious fun. I was rudely awakened by Gab’s beating left fist on my leg, “I think there is a moose outside.”
“Huh” “I think there’s a moose outside,” she repeated excitedly.
I listened. Branches snapped and leaves rustled in a major way. You read seven feet tall, 1,800 pounds but the size doesn’t really sink in until you hear them just yards from your piddling tent at 1:00 a.m.
“I think I am thankful you woke me up,” I thought. “Can moose see in the dark?” “Do you want to put on the headlamps and see what it looks like,” I asked. “No sudden movements. Remember?” “You’re right” “Well, uh, maybe? This could be our only chance,” Gab added after sitting up and exiting her sleeping bag. Then she rethought. “Uh, no. I’m a little scared.”
We both were. Soon, though, the rustling moved away from our tent and up the ridge. It took us a while to get back to sleep.
Our first sighting came today as we neared the beautiful vista from the top of Mount Siskiwit. I came over a ridge with my head down, watching my steps. When I looked up, a young bull was standing on the trail 20 yards in front of me, peacefully eating. I stopped dead in my tracks.
His antlers were just forming. He did not yet see me.
I turned around. “Gab, look up,” I whispered. She kept walking. “GAB, LOOK UP,” I said a little more forcefully.
That caught both hers and the young bull’s attention. He picked his head up. So did Gab. I slowly backed up, giving him his space. We took our packs off. He went back to eating. We were in awe. He scratched his head with his front leg.
After about ten minutes of adrenaline and wonderment, we realized that this guy was in our path. We were at his mercy. It was his Island after all. I walked forward a little. He picked up his head. “You really don’t want to do that,” his expression voiced. He was right. We waited some more until he decided to snack in a different spot. We were now allowed to continue our hike. Thank you Mr. Moose.
In the next four hours, we would cross five more and feel the same overwhelming excitement each time. What a day. What a place.