1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH; 6/ 20 -23 /16

Reports or links to reports on trips.

Moderator: Tom

Post Reply

Topic author
torpified
Trailblazer
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 2
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH; 6/ 20 -23 /16

Post by torpified » Sat Jun 25, 2016 4:31 pm

This was my first trip, and a solo one to boot, so I tried to keep it simple. Sorry about the length of the report. As with walking, once I start writing, I have a hard time stopping. For the sake of those who prefer pith, I preface the narrative with a quantitative report.

Quantitative:
1 pratfall (plus countless episodes of slapstick due to forgetting I had a headnet on)
4 black fly bites
1 other hiker spotted on the GRT between Windigo and the Daisy Farm junction
1 moose, 1 beaver, 1 leopard frog, 1 bald eagle, 1 hummingbird
2 foxes
3 boy scout troops
very many unusual ducks
Travel times:
50 hrs AA => IR
52 hrs IR => AA
48 hrs Windigo => Rock Harbor
summer solstice + full moon = ~0 minutes/day of real darkness


Narrative:
6/20. Despite making every wrong turn possible, I reach the Voyageur II dock, as instructed, by 6:45 am. A boy scout troop, 6-7 small parties of civilians--including, I am happy to see, one father-daughter team--- and the dock dog are milling around. During attendance, it emerges that we are one boy scout troop shy of a full cargo. (“Are you Troop 48, from the Twin Cities?” Captain Jack asks the troop on hand. “No,” they reply. “We’re Troop 96 from the Quad Cities.”) Troop 48, who had been looking for the Voyageur II at the Grand Portage Marina, appear in time for us to depart on schedule.

Winds left over from a fierce storm the previous night whip up 3-5 foot waves, and I discover that one of the many things I am not is a sailor. So I spend the crossing on the front deck, talking to an ever-changing cast of scout leaders. I’m one of the lucky few passengers whose frothy, tumbling trip ends at Windigo, where we all get a LNT presentation, complete with stuffed animals to illustrate the principle I am charged with reading: “respect wildlife.” A friendly ranger endorses my intended itinerary [Windigo - S. Desor – W. Chickenbone – Rock Harbor] and I am underway by 11 am (EDT).

Other reports to the forum attest that this initial stretch of the GRT features . . . trees. I can confirm this, and although some of them are doing pretty interesting stuff (for trees), such as emitting otherworldly creaks in the wind, or hosting vast colonies of fungi, none of them are up to anything that stops me in my tracks. These tracks are coming readily, thanks to the condition of the trail itself: it’s rarely aggressively steep, mostly free of prolonged mud wallows, and dead easy to follow. I am reflecting on how walkable the trail is when I pull one of those numbers where you plant one foot on a stick you thereupon trip over with the other, and go sprawling. Relieved to get my mandatory pratfall out of the way, I get up and carry on to the Island Mine Junction, where I lunch.

Nearing the junction to S. Desor, I finally break into some of the clearings that are the trail’s aesthetic high points. (The trail’s literal highpoint, Mount Desor, is not one of them.) Wildflowers riot, and views open up of the weird corduroy protruding from Lake Superior that Isle Royale crowns. “That’s more like it!” I tell no one in particular.

I finally encounter another human at the S. Desor Junction--- Brent, on an extended meander of the Island. He’s headed to S. Desor and asks if I am too. I realize that I am not. It’s 3 pm on one of the longest days of the year, I have over a liter of water left, and I’m feeling chipper. I decide to carry on to Hatchet Lake, notwithstanding what I had heard from Troop 48 about the leeches there. Brent asks me to convey my regards to Kim, another solo woman with whom he’d hung out at the dwarf fire tower at the Ishpeming junction, and who was also planning to camp there.

In the next mile or so, the trail skirts a pond graced by a gargantuan beaver lodge. I stop in case there are any beaver who have forgotten they’re nocturnal and gone out for frolic. But I am annoyed—there is a large object obstructing my view of much of the pond’s surface. My annoyance evaporates when I realize that it’s a big bull moose, alternating submerging and emerging to shake his antlers and chew. I respect him for awhile --- it’s very clear that he’s seen me, too, and doesn’t mind --- and move on.

After a bit more gratifying skywalking, I plummet down to Hatchet Lake, arriving around 6 pm, in time to secure the last open tentsite, #5. I brave the leeches to collect water, find Kim (who is talking to another hiker who’s, in a separate incident, met Brent), attend to camp chores, rehydrate dinner, and settle down for the night around 9---a few hours before sunset, but almost exactly when the loons begin their homicidal howling.

6/21. Either the spiders of Hatchet Lake weave fast, or I am the first person on the trail this morning. The climb back to the ridge is a perfect warmup, and I love the ridgewalking it delivers me to. I particular appreciate how Pie Island, which to first approximation is a truncated cylinder, looks a little different every time you see it.

I respect, and photograph, an amphibian who galumphs across the trail just in front of me and who I stipulate to be a leopard frog. Around the Chickenbones, it drizzles and the bugs come out. Another thing I am not is stoic in the face of black fly bites. I develop superball-sized lumps, leak zombie-like rivulets of blood, and feel immense amounts of self-pity. So I deploy a headnet I basically leave on for the rest of the trip.

Around the Chickenbones, I start to encounter mud wallows so extensive that it’s futile to hope to cross them dry-footed by sufficiently adept use of roots and rocks. So I splash straight on through, which is strangely liberating. Past the Daisy Farm junction, the trail is ornamented by batches of trees that had succumbed to Sunday night’s storm. With an uncharacteristic calm, I just continue to follow the trail, clambering through the labyrinth of limbs in whatever way is necessary to do so.

I encounter the day’s first humans, highly tattoo-ed dayhikers, between the deadfall and the Ojibway fire tower. They report that they’d just seen some moose back yonder. For the next 20 minutes I creep forward like Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits---until the spectacle of two boy scout troops at the tower persuade me that any noise-sensitive moose had scarpered by now.

One troop is novel. Let’s say they’re troop 192 from the Octuplet Cities. The other is Troop 48 from the Twin Cities, who had disembarked the Voyageur II at McCargo cove the day before and camped at E Chickenbone, in the company of Avogardo’s number of blackflies, last night. They (the scouts, not the flies) recognize, and are kind to, me. Seeing me drain my Sawyer squeeze pouch, one asks if I need water. I assure him that the liter I have left is probably enough, and even if it’s not, I can always wring my socks out. Another, skylarking alarmingly on the lower reaches of the tower, notices me donning my pack and calls to his friend, “Brad! She has the same backpack you do!” A third is heading off with a trowel in a hopeful search for a private place to conduct business in the shadow of a fire tower.

Although I don’t want the next stretch to end, it does, and I plunge (past more recent deadfall) to the magical Lane Cove campground, where I spend the rest of the extensive afternoon and evening relishing my private stretch of the shore (site #4), reading, writing, and doing camp chores. Again, I retire around 9, just as the loons begin their murderous wailing. The sun sets several hours later.

6/22. My 51st birthday! (One reason this trip happened is that my husband had a work gig out of town this week, and spending the week doing something I really liked made us feel better about that.) I’m on the trail again at what appears to be my official start time of 7:45. I am enchanted by the trail between Lane Cove and GRT. One reason among many: the splendid illustration it provides of the natural history of the beaver. It crosses meadows totally reclaimed from beaver ponds, incipient meadows spreading around vestiges of abandoned dams covered with grasses and now partially breached by the streams they once blocked, and a very impressive active dam. This last is just a few yards upstream from a boardwalk about a board’s width higher than the water it crosses. The pond waters the dam holds at bay are about the same height as my head. I stop to take pictures of the beavers’ handiwork --- their dam and lodge, the pointy stumps of the trees they’ve felled, the remnants of their quixotic assault on a birch tree several feet in diameter---when some sort of sentinel beaver comes out to monitor my activity. He or she swims to about 5 ft from where I’m standing, and floats there glaring at me. I respect and photograph the beaver for a while. When the situation becomes uncomfortable, I head up toward the ridge. At the ridge, I hesitate. Plan A was to walk all the way to Lookout Louise, then grab a water taxi from Hidden Lake Dock to Rock Harbor. Only I couldn't make contact with the water taxi operators. Darting out and back to Lookout Louise isn’t out of the question---but I can’t resist the siren call of the greasy cheese omelete I imagine awaits me in Rock Harbor.

Somehow the rest of the walk registers as a blur. I search extensively for moose in a large pond along the Mt. Franklin trail, but only find a webcam. I take the Tobin Harbor Trail. After the spur to Suzy’s Cave I see lots of people, and a large fox (whom I respect, but fail to photograph). I roll into Rock Harbor around 10:30 --- only to discover breakfast service ends at 10 and lunch doesn’t start until 11. No worries – between checking in with rangers and the Rock Harbor Lodge, purchasing a shirt I could stand wearing, writing postcards, and rinsing mud out of the remainder of the clothing I mean to wear tomorrow, I have plenty to occupy me until vast amounts of food are available.

That afternoon I take a (double! – the only kind they had) kayak out on Tobin Harbor. My secret agenda is to see otters, the creature I’d hoped to see but hadn’t yet. I don’t see them, but I see many things that aren’t quite ducks. I slalom around islands admiring their dilapidated camps. For the second time that day, I consider, and reject, a trip to Lookout Louise, this time by leaving the kayak at Hidden Lake Dock and walking up. (It seemed overwhelmingly likely the docking maneuver would drown me.) Good to have unfinished business with a place like this!
Last edited by torpified on Tue Jun 28, 2016 6:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar

jrwiesz
May actually live on IR
Posts: 329
Joined: Mon Jan 24, 2011 3:42 am
Isle Royale Visits: 3
Location: Michigan

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by jrwiesz » Sun Jun 26, 2016 6:36 am

Nice report.

The birds that "aren't quite ducks" may have been mergansers?

Lookout Louise is one view you should return to visit; you might as well start your planning now!
"And standing on the the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, I suddenly had this desire to retreat north to where I just come, to stay in the backcountry, to spend another day in a place where the only deadline I had was to pitch the tent before dark."
Jim DuFresne

User avatar

IncaRoads
Forum Moderator
Posts: 238
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 1:52 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 11
Location: St. Paul, MN

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by IncaRoads » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:01 am

Another satisfied trekker. Glad you enjoyed your first visit.

I enjoyed reading your trip report, especially the part about the scouts spending the night with "Avogardo’s number of blackflies".

User avatar

Tom
Forum Moderator
Posts: 666
Joined: Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:16 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 12
Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by Tom » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:11 am

Thanks for the TR! You have a great way with words. Welcome to the family of hikers who are always planning the next trip...
I felt bad for the scouts; one for taking a trowel and hoping you can find any place to dig up on the Greenstone ridge near the Ojibway tower; two because unless things have changed (or it was locked) there was always a biffy located in the treeline on the South face, down from the tower. (I also recall a biffy at the Ishpeming tower, on the north side, I think.)


Topic author
torpified
Trailblazer
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 2
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by torpified » Sun Jun 26, 2016 4:07 pm

Mergansers: I've been studying pictures at Ducks Unlimited, and some of them were definitely mergansers! I think others were Goldeneyes and Black Ducks. I'm not sure that covers the bases, but I'm worried that I've already gone too far down the rabbit hole of caring which bird is which to ever emerge.

Biffy: =(?) backwoods bathroom? Or a variant on "bivy"? Troop 48 was having some discussion of a broken trowel. Park maps should be annotated to disclose the locations of these important resources.

Planning the next trip: I definitely am---and I'm hoping, while this experience is fresh in my mind, to try to get some advice from the Trails and Campsites forum about where to go!

User avatar

Tom
Forum Moderator
Posts: 666
Joined: Sun Feb 03, 2008 9:16 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 12
Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by Tom » Sun Jun 26, 2016 4:20 pm

Ha! I have never thought of it as a midwestern vernacular.

Biffy
noun, plural biffies. Chiefly Upper Midwest and Canadian Slang.
1. a toilet or privy.


Definitely NOT a bivy. Big difference. Huge. :lol:

I suppose the thought is "be prepared to bury" and then the designated camps have latrines/pit toilets/biffies/facilities. I think the only two I've ever encountered not at a camp are the aforementioned, now that I think about it. I'm not entirely sure they are for 'guest' use...

Mergansers and Goldeneyes would certainly be a common sight; Black Ducks not nearly as much. (And without plumage, mallards are very similar.)


Midwest Ed
IR Expert
Posts: 871
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:25 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Quad Cities, IL

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by Midwest Ed » Sun Jun 26, 2016 8:04 pm

Tom wrote:Definitely NOT a bivy. Big difference. Huge. :lol:
For sure. Definitely do NOT want to poop in the bivy!!! :oops:

torpified:

Your trip report was a great read. ~Thanks.

Where are the Octuplet Cities?
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013


Topic author
torpified
Trailblazer
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 2
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by torpified » Mon Jun 27, 2016 7:08 am

Midwest Ed wrote:
Where are the Octuplet Cities?
Only my imagination, I expect. But with the scout troops I'd already encountered representing the twin and quad cities, it seemed reasonable for the geometric progression to continue.


Midwest Ed
IR Expert
Posts: 871
Joined: Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:25 am
Isle Royale Visits: 8
Location: Quad Cities, IL

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH

Post by Midwest Ed » Mon Jun 27, 2016 5:20 pm

torpified wrote:
Midwest Ed wrote:Where are the Octuplet Cities?
Only my imagination, I expect. But with the scout troops I'd already encountered representing the twin and quad cities, it seemed reasonable for the geometric progression to continue.
Since I reside in the Quad Cities, I had to ask. :wink:

I can't imagine a mole of flies.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013


Tightlines01
May actually live on IR
Posts: 313
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 9:19 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 7
Location: Kentwood MI

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH; 6/ 20 -23 /16

Post by Tightlines01 » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:28 am

Loved the report.... Some serious miles each day, props! With mileage like that you'll be able to see lots of the island in your next trip...


Topic author
torpified
Trailblazer
Posts: 103
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 2
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

Re: 1st timer, GRT: Wi-HL-LC-RH; 6/ 20 -23 /16

Post by torpified » Sat Apr 08, 2017 11:14 am

Mileage was unintentional. It's just that there were a lot of hours in the day, and walking seemed like a pleasant enough way to spend enough of them that that's where I wound up!

Post Reply