Isle Royale National Park - Day 6 Three Mile to Rock Harbor via the Tobin Harbor Trail 3.7 miles hiked
We woke this morning to less wind, more rain. Our makeshift fourth wall had withstood the night. Our shelter from the storm had kept us dry and relatively warm once we crawled into the sleeping bags for the night. We spent yesterday huddled behind the barriers of the plastic bag wall, our tent, which we set up within the shelter, under a double layer of sleeping bags, surreptitiously boiling hot tea on our little stove, cursing the fact that we had neither a book to read nor cards to play even though we both are tired of two-person card games and the wind would have made a game a solitaire impossible. To fight boredom and chill, we decided to hike to Rock Harbor and back.
On our exploratory hike, we accomplished a number of things: 1) we retrieved potable water for drinking and cooking; 2) we realized that the Rock Harbor trail lives up to its name. The wet rocks, made slick by more rain this morning, facing the full brunt of the wind, would be a bad bet with our full packs. We would take the more protected inland Tobin Harbor Trail; and 3) we heard that yesterday’s ferries were able to weather the storm and make it safely out of the harbor. Our boat, the Voyageur II and its captain spent the night at Windigo but were planning to make a full circuit of the island tomorrow, the day of our scheduled return.
Today, we needed to get ourselves back to Rock Harbor. We prayed that the morning boat to Michigan had been able to leave. If not, shelters would undoubtedly fill with hikers forced to stay another night, leaving us with little option other than to pitch the tent in the rain and sit inside it until tomorrow morning when Captain Ryan will come to rescue us. Godspeed Captain Ryan.
The Tobin Trail, although a mile longer, turned out to be a very good idea. On the interior of the island, we were protected from most of the wind and rain. We traveled 4 miles in less than and hour and a half. The ferry to Michigan was delayed but still scheduled to leave. Likewise, Captain Ryan would be late tomorrow but was still on course. Shelters were still available. The rain was letting up. We settled into our final choice for a shelter, after we found our first selection was full of leaks and the second was too close to a well traveled path. We waited for tomorrow.
Today felt like the longest day ever. Even though we were in the most developed portion of the island, there is only so long you can linger in the camp store and so long you can browse the selection in the small bookstore. We spent most of the day in the shelter feeling abandoned, wishing there was something more to help us pass the time. A dated National Parks video, an educational talk, a nature walk, heck, even a small warm public space like the one in the newer visitor center at Windigo would have been welcome. While we were in the bookstore, Michael eyed a pamphlet which explained why none of these options were available.
On our journey, we have already encountered reduced hours, minimal staffing with an over reliance on volunteers and even unexpected closures at some NPS locations. No other park offered a breakdown of the budget crisis and its immediate effects on services and access as this little piece of paper we found at Isle Royale. We will write more, much more on this later. For the time being we were grateful for the explanation and something new to read.