Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

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deeman
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Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by deeman » Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:22 am

Just got back from a nice 4 days on the island and I wanted to share my experience and thoughts on the trip.

Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor:
We arrived at the Queen IV around 7:20am. We were really surprised to see the number of older (70's/80's) people heading over to stay at the lodge with their luggage. It was very cool and I hope I am that adventurous when I get to that age. The luggage loading process was a tad unorganized since they called out for all lodge travelers with luggage to load up their stuff first. Then they called for all other "luggage" then they yelled "if you have luggage get it over here now!" All the backpackers looked at each other and wondered "is our backpack considered luggage?" They yelled again and we hurried our backpacks to the loading area. Several people also had fishing poles (including me) securely fastened to our packs and the handler said if you want us to break your fishing pole leave it like it is, otherwise REMOVE it. Okay.....would have been nice to know in advance so we were not scrambling to remove it. Our crossing was exceptional! Glassy conditions the entire way. 3.5 hours total time.

Rock Harbor:
Exited the ship and went to the mandatory orientation session on the dock. This lasted 15 minutes or so and was pretty basic but quickly instilled this was not a free-spirit place. No campfires unless in designated areas or we will fine you, do NOT leave the trail, do NOT camp off the trail unless in the designated camp site, etc. We were then told to send one rep in our group (me) to the Ranger station to get our permit. They did not say we needed the proof of our prepaid Park Fees for all travelers in the group but of course we did. I had to find the 3 others in my group and get their printed proof of payment and we were off. There were conflicting stories of whether or not you MUST follow your plans but all the Rangers checking people in said change it as needed.
We decided to grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. The Greenstone Grill had a wait but the fancier place next door had immediate seating so we ate there. Pretty good food, I had the whitefish platter and it was tasty. Wait staff from Malaysia were very nice.

Rock Harbor to 3 Mile:
With food in out bellies we headed off to 3 mile. It was a pretty challenging trail to say the least. Lots of rocks so aggressive step-ups and downs were needed. We also passed a fair amount of people coming the other way way. This section is actually nice because it's right beside the shoreline. We quickly learned that in order to see the water and be at the waters edge came with a price - rocky terrain. Once the trail moved a tiny bit further in-land the trail flattened out. So you have beautiful, Superior views with tricky terrain or flat trails and wooded views.

Camping at 3 Mile:
Interesting. I was quickly learning that my notion of the boat dropping you off and not seeing another person until we got back to Rock Harbor was very, very wrong. Especially in 3 Mile, which I am sure is a very popular place since it's close proximity to Rock Harbor there were LOTS of people.....like everywhere. We were warned by people coming from 3 Mile that there was a larger group of young Boy Scouts. Sure enough all of the Shelters were full, many as we learned were full of the scouts who I would suspect were supposed to be in the Group Site. Additionally all of the camp sites were full too. Really?? I did not expect this. We ended up camping in a group site since all other spots were full with the knowledge we would have to pack up and leave if another group with a reservation came. The camp itself was LOUD. Lots of yelling by the scouts and other college age kids. People truly don't know how to use their inside-voice while camping. The slamming outhouse and shelter doors were non stop. Oh well.

3 Mile to Daisy Farm:
This was more technical trail along the shoreline but about 1/2 way to Daisy the trail moved inland and the trails flattened out very nice. We knew the forecast was calling for showers all day on this day so we had 2 people race ahead to attempt to secure a shelter while me and my buddy did our own slower pace. It was a very nice trail to Daisy overall. Our front-runners secured the very last shelter at around noon. The hurry-up to get rewarded concept did not sit well with me since I thought we were going to "get away from it all". Want to take a break and eat lunch on the shore? NOPE, we need to move-out to secure a spot. Our 3 Mile experience taught us to move quick or risk not getting a spot at all. We put our gear into the shelter and sure enough it rained.....and rained....and rained. It ended up raining until 5am the following day. I was VERY happy to get a shelter. We attended the talk that night about the Moose and Wolf population which was very nice. The couple who spoke were very, very interesting and had about 27 years experience on the island. Hikers who rolled in drenched around 3-5pm did not look happy and the prospect of having all camp sites and shelters full showed on their face.

Daisy Farm to Lane Cove:
Wow!! Now THIS is what I had hoped for. As soon as we headed toward the interior of the island while working our way to the north side quickly thinned out the other hikers we encountered. And the views were incredible. There are basically 3 very tall ridges which run lengthwise on this trail. You go uuuuupppp one ridge and doooownnn the back side and repeat this 2 more times. On the final ridge you are rewarded with magnificent views and a chance to climb a lookout tower. We were so fortunate that the skies were clear and the views were incredible. Past the lookout tower you hike along the Greenstone Ridge for quite a ways and finally come to another overlook which has equally great views. We eventually headed off the Greenstone Ridge and north towards Lane Cove. This was a very technical trail at times too. Some steep ascents and descents in wet muddy trails kept us on our toes. But it was beautiful. We got the second to last camp site here where only 5 camp sites are offered and no shelters. This campsite was hands-down the nicest spot we stayed. Nice and spread-out and quiet. We took a swim and setup camp. We saw a large group of 6 or 8 loons and watched the sun go down. A very nice, long hike indeed. Right around 7 miles.

Lane Cove to Rock Harbor:
It started raining around 6am but was just a steady drizzle. We felt fortunate that we didn't need to care about our stuff getting wet since we were heading for the boat. We had to trace our steps on the challenging terrain including a large tree which fell across the trail. We managed to slide under it this time rather than taking our packs off and passing them over the top of the tree. A couple of stops along the way for raspberries where a great treat. The nearly 7 miles went by quickly and we were back in Rock Harbor in time to get another delicious meal at the Greenstone Grille.

Lessons learned:

WATER - Water for the most part was plentiful for us since we were near the shorelines. The Superior water tasted great and had very little sediment to clog our filters. My buddy and I used the Sawyer mini and tired to back flush it each time and it treated us well. I do wish I would have brought an empty gallon milk/water jug to collect a full gallon of dirty water. It could have easily tied to the outside of the pack and added no weight. In most cases getting water was a trick. Either laying on your belly to collect off the docks, going to the shore and getting your feet wet which usually involved asking the nice folks on the waterside camp sites to sneak in to load up on water . I used a camel back stowed on the upper section of my pack for filtered water which worked well.

Shoes - I always have had issues with blisters and this time was no exception, but they were minimized. I went with mole skin or tape on my feet, a super thin wicking liner sock and merlo wool outer sock and properly fitted, broken-in boots but still had blisters mainly on my foot pad. You REALLY need good footwear. There are very uneven sections and you don't want to slip in those spots. Also, brings Crocks or flip-flops as camp shoes, you be VERY happy you did. Getting out of your boots feels great and if you need to wade into the water to get water or freshen up they work great.

Gear:
I am so glad I bought aluminum hiking sticks. On the uneven sections they were amazing. I highly recommend them. I brought one of the newer lightweight 5x5' tarps and used it once or twice. I also REALLY liked that I had a 2 man tent so I could put my backpack in there if and when it rained. I used a $12 Alocs white gas mini stove it was incredible. I brought paracord and never used more than 10 feet.

Expectations & Trails:
Looking back I would push very hard to get away from the Rock Harbor crowds quickly. We had originally planned to hit Lane Cove from RH on day one but with severe rain predicted for day one and a member in our group with a knee injury we wanted to start easy. I honestly was not a fan of the crowds at all, but that is just me. If your social and like to learn where people are from or hear their shelter door slam every 8 minutes then you'll do fine. I also did not care for the restrictive rules, but I knew them going into the trip. The two nights where it did not rain we all agreed that a campfire would be awesome but not allowed. I personally will not go back because it was such a long journey to get there. For us, it was 10 hours of driving and a 3.5 hour boar ride just to be in close proximity to people. Just not my thing. The scenery did make up for it however so I am very glad I went and checked it off my bucket list! Perhaps a later trip would reduce the crowds.
Last edited by deeman on Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:34 am, edited 1 time in total.


fishrman47
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor

Post by fishrman47 » Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:16 am

Thank you for being honest about what you didn't like. So many of these reviews are, "everything was awesome." The "dirty laundry" stuff is more useful for planning a good trip.


JerryB
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by JerryB » Fri Aug 26, 2016 11:28 am

Thanks for the report.
The rules can be offputting, I agree, but they pay off with the more pristine conditions you find on the island, as compared to non-national parks. I love the Porkies, but conditions there simply do not compare because of the lax rules.
You will find "crowds" on the island, but it depends entirely on where you hike. I have gone three days without seeing another sole. That will never be the case at three mile, however. In general, the west end is more isolated. Your trip report does future new hikers a service by pointing out where crowds may be encountered.
Finally, for future readers, I want to clarify your term "technical" as applied to some of the trails. I am not sure if there is a standard definition. To me, it suggests at a minimum scrambling requiring three-points of contact or maybe even roping off. That is not what the trails are like.

Thanks, again, for the report.

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IncaRoads
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by IncaRoads » Fri Aug 26, 2016 7:29 pm

Great trip report! I like that you added a lessons learned section to your trip report; if it helps just one future Isle Royale hiker then it is worth it.

If I remember correctly, the National Park Service states that the busiest times at Isle Royale are in July/August. At many of the campgrounds in the eastern end and around Rock Harbor it may be necessary to double up at campsites. I prefer the quieter times with less visitors and usually visit in May/June or September.


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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by bobcat » Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:06 pm

I just got back, spent 8 days on the island including the same times as the above poster and can agree - the Rock Harbor shoreline was very congested and full last week- both with hikers and with kayakers including me. The day I arrived at RH, the campground was full to overflowing with every site already doubled up, with two packed-full ferries leaving the next day. I had to move on all the way to Daisy Farm the first night to even get a place to pitch my little tent. 3-Mile is not a great kayaker's campsite because of the lack of good landing areas and very high docks, but Daisy Farm with the big beach is a kayaker's dream. The night I stayed there (doubled up on a group site with a boy scout troop, due to everything else being completely full), there were at least 20 kayaks on the beach....

Literally, we had to leave camp at first light and get to the next campsite before 10 am to get a spot to ourselves - and on that long rainy day (Saturday) we had incoming hikers all afternoon at Moskey Basin looking for shelters and asking to share, who had come there because Daisy Farm was full. We let one party in to share, putting 5 people in the shelter that night.

For kayakers, I would suggest checking out West Caribou Island and Tooker's Island campsites rather than the ones on the big island, if you want to camp on Rock Harbor shores. I'm not sure about space at West Caribou, but Tooker's has a small landing beach and then a wide path up to the camping area with room to store kayaks along both sides of the path. Plus it's only a 20-minute paddle from Snug Harbor to start or end your trip.


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deeman
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by deeman » Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:15 am

Thanks for the great feedback! I'm glad I am not the only one feeling the IR Squeeze!

I wonder if the increased traffic is a sign of the new norm. Perhaps with all the good press it's getting to be a popular destination. We did run into a nice couple from Seattle so the word is certainly getting out. Or it could simply be a end of the summer rush. I know in my mind Jun is out due to the potential of black flys and skeeters. September is iffy since you don't know what weather you'll get which leaves July and August to essentially support 80% of the visitors (just guessing on the %).

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IncaRoads
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by IncaRoads » Tue Aug 30, 2016 9:57 am

deeman wrote:I wonder if the increased traffic is a sign of the new norm.
I believe it has always been like this. Many people prefer to camp when the weather is warm and most hikers enter through Rock Harbor. Try the western end sometime for more solitude.

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Ingo
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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by Ingo » Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:20 am

I've found July to be a reasonable compromise between "crowds"/bugs/weather. Campgrounds have been full, but never overflowing. Bugs have been annoying, but never overwhelming. Looking forward to my first fall trip next month.


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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by bobcat » Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:16 pm

I think part of the crowding is that I was limiting myself to Rock Harbor waters. Had I started at Malone Bay, or paddled the South Shore, I undoubtably would have been out of the crowds. Then again, some canoeists I met at Moskey Basin and then again at RH later told me that there were 11 people at the Lake Ritchie Canoe campsite one night......


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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by zims » Mon Dec 05, 2016 12:35 am

deeman wrote:Thanks for the great feedback! I'm glad I am not the only one feeling the IR Squeeze!

I wonder if the increased traffic is a sign of the new norm. Perhaps with all the good press it's getting to be a popular destination. We did run into a nice couple from Seattle so the word is certainly getting out. Or it could simply be a end of the summer rush. I know in my mind Jun is out due to the potential of black flys and skeeters. September is iffy since you don't know what weather you'll get which leaves July and August to essentially support 80% of the visitors (just guessing on the %).
Hello
Glad to see the great interest in the island.
I can personally tell you I have many trip reports on here in june, and Our little group finds it to be the best time to visit. It really just depends on where you land your feet on the island as to how your trip will flow. If you go adventurous and go to the mccargo or windigo end, you will run into less people. Spend some time at huggin cove. It is the least visited and I find to be the most beautiful area to be explored. Not a lot of people head out to the cove since you pretty much have to do a full circle and it doesn't hit another trail till you are almost back to windigo


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Re: Rock Harbor - 3 Mile - Daisy - Lane Cove - Rock Harbor : August 2016

Post by jerry » Wed Dec 21, 2016 7:18 am

If you want to avoid crowds, I would suggest going to the western half of ISRO NP. During July a few years ago, I went about 30 hours without seeing or talking to another person. (Yes, I talk to myself.)

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