TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

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ekimknife
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TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by ekimknife » Sun Jun 03, 2018 11:29 am

5/27: Drove up to Grand Portage, MN from Madison, WI sunday after a last chance gear check, oil change and all that. Ended up forgetting pants. Pretty long drive, never been to north minnesota and found duluth really neat to drive through. Shoreline from duluth to grand portage was also quite nice, though I didn't stop at any of the many turn offs and scenic spots. Wouldn't mind coming back up to spend time at the many mn state parks there. Forgot my wifes car doesnt have aux input, got stuck listening to radio for the whole trip which was not ideal. Spent the night at the casino lodge in grand portage, room was nice, $59 promotional rate hard to beat. Casino was depressing to walk through, didn't end up playing anything.

5/28: Woke up early, packed it all up, headed over to other side of the bay for the ferry. People trickled in steadily, canoes got loaded up, then packs, then everyone boarded in order by date of ticket purchase, early to late. Plenty of room, water was pretty much glass. Got into windigo a little early, got the 'leave no trace' talk and a conditions brief from ranger. Headed up to station and we all got our permits. I had written up itinerary using the google sheets software on the forum. My route took my south off greenstone to dairy farm on last day following rock harbor trail. Ranger suggested taking greenstone further east and getting off at mount franklin trail, taking tobin harbor back. I ended up taking that route. Figured I better hit the trail, so up the green forest from windigo, easy trail, steady climb up the ridge. Was actually pretty warm once off the docks and in the forest. No bugs to speak of, lots of bird song, very pleasant. Saw only 2 people on the trail, both near windigo. Made south desor lake with plenty of time but probably not enough to comfortably arrive at hatchet lake, so I set camp at desor. There was a lot of standing deadwood at the campsite which was not ideal. The steep hike down hill to get water was also a bummer. Lake was peaceful, sat on the shore till sunset. Lots of loons, pretty sure heard a wolf calling east of desor, heard a massive tree fall down on other side of lake. That night winds picked up loudly and I worried about the standing deadwood, but fell back asleep.

5/29: Woke up with the sun, packed up, topped off water and hit the trail. 16.7 miles to east chickenbone was somewhat eventful, cold front had moved in overnight. Overcast most of the day with strong breeze. Walking into the wind and the leaves making a lot of noise I walked up on a lot of moose, sometimes uncomfortably close, (like a bull<25yards, uphill from me). Gave them a wide berth when possible. Got perfect cell reception at one spot around a mile from ishpeming tower in a clearing with a 7' rock wall on the right side headed east. Stopped there to chat with wife and send a couple pictures. Ran into some mosquitos at ishpeming, just enough to put on first bugspray of the trip. Saw two people midday and another two near east chickenbone. Accidently took portage trail down to the lake and back before e. chickenbone. I have a feeling I am not the only one who has made the mistake. Picked up one big blister on the descents and was starting to realize I shouldnt have bothered bringing the backpacking stove. East chickenbone filled up fast after I set camp. Didn't like the site, long hike down to get water felt ridiculous after a long day of hiking. If I were in better shape or had more time I'd have headed up to a north shore site. Sat for awhile filling water on the rocks. Lots of big leeches in there, some mussels and minnows. Looked like darters or gobies, perch minnows, and some sort of stickleback or shiners. Not as much loon activity. Woke up that night to a crazy loud wind noise, but the tent really wasn't getting buffeted, so must have all been in the treetops. Kept me up awhile, it was impressively loud! But got back to sleep eventually.

5/30: Up with the sun again, made the long walk down to the lake to top off on water, packed everything up and hit the trail. Day started pretty worrisome, left knee started getting stiff after a series of descents. Took some ibuprofen and it started working again but it needed tending all day. The section of the greenstone from east chickenbone to mount franklin down the rock harbor was the best section of trail on this trip. Lots of nice views, varied landscape, tons of snakes, moose, birds, beaver ponds. Saw a pileated woodpecker too. Sunny day suddenly turned cloudy on the rock descent down to tobin harbor trail. About a half mile into tobin harbor trail got hit by a massive downpour. Forgot my rainpants, and didnt want to mess with trying to get poncho out so just pushed on in the rain to keep me warm. Trail turned into a creek but it's a nice little trail and I saw a lot of waterfowl in the harbor along the way. Rain stopped eventually and things dried out for 45 minutes or so. I was pushing my limits on my knee and the rain so it put a big smile on my face when I smelled a campfire. Rolled into rock harbor about 20 minutes later, a little dried off. Weird to walk down an asphalt road down to a store after being out in the woods for days. Headed straight to store, bought myself a 6-pack, some candy, and a greenstone ridge patch, figured I earned it. Walked over to camp sites and was very happy to find a shelter for the night, I had forgotten about those! And good thing, too, because it drizzled all night. Ditched my gear and went back to the harbor while there was a lull in the rain to keep my legs moving/see the sights/eat my candy. Still cold so I setup tent inside the shelter for some extra warmth. Beer gave me quite a stomach ache after taking ibuprofen all day but fell asleep easy.

5/31: Brought a phone battery bank and forgot the charging cord, but phone held charge in airplane mode for entire trip. Glad I had an alarm or I would've slept in quite a while and missed the boat. Got all packed up and headed to the docks, out of ibuprofen but didnt need to do much more walking anyway so had a gimpy knee for the day. Heavy fog, kinda cool. Ranger never showed to take back permits, they ended up rolling into dock as our ferry was pulling out of dock. They looked like they realized they were late lol. Headed out and the lake was choppy, and got choppier as the day went on. Brief reprieve at chippewa harbor and windigo where the fog was cleared and the water still. Then back out into the chop, and with dense fog there wasn't a horizon to track. Quite a few green faces onboard, packs up top got a good soaking. Made it to grand portage, off the boat, grabbed my pack, grabbed the parking ticket off windshield to pay at office, settled up and hit the road. Long drive back after a long ferry ride. Started fading near duluth but got some energy drinks and candy and made it back down to madison around 1030pm.

I wouldn't recommend this route, s. desor, or e. chickenbone to anyone unless no other choice. There just seems to be much better options. The greenstone from e. chicken bone to mount franklin, down to tobin harbor into rock harbor was definitely the best part of the trip. The rest was too similar to any woods hike on the mainland, kinda miss out on the unique island aspects of the park. If I had to do it again with only 2.5 days I'd stick to east or west side only, and avoid desor and e. chickenbone. If I go again I'd probably want 8 days or so, bring a couple friends, and possibly make it a canoe trip. Or at least take fishing gear. I did not need my backpacking stove and cook food for this short of a trip, could have saved some packweight there. I should have packed my charging cable, and pants. Pants didnt end up being a big deal as the middle of island was pretty warm, but kinda lucked out on that. Also needed a better music solution for the ride up and back, only a couple fm stations were worth listening to. I'm not sure I'd want to go solo again. All in all, the trip was a fun challenge and getaway. Didn't end up being my favorite national park but that's ok, still special in its own way. I'll take another crack at it in a few years if I'm still in the great lakes region.

Should mention this was a very last minute trip, decided to go a week before I left, read as much as a could about it for a day then reserved ferry tickets and paid online for park pass. All worked out fine.


torpified
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by torpified » Mon Jun 04, 2018 6:20 am

Who needs pants! Thanks for the report -- in the unlikely event all goes according to plan, I'll be tracing about half your steps later this week, and now I know to keep my eyes peeled for snakes!


Tortuga
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by Tortuga » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:28 am

Love it!

When I drove up to Copper Harbor from Chicago last June on a very planned trip I almost made it to Milwaukee before realizing I forgot... my BOOTS. I made the expensive decision to stop at REI in the Milwaukee burbs rather than make 4-hour detour to go home.

My first trip was the same as yours over Memorial Day week, and most of the campsites were full. Last year I went the week following and there were VERY few people. It's amazing what difference a week can make.

Nice recap!


MattC
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by MattC » Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:00 pm

I think we ran into you, possibly. Atleast my brother and I ran into someone going to ECB. I wanted to caution you about the water source being far away but when you're actually on IR, didnt feel its a place to give a stranger input. You/They warned us about some possible moose about 1.5 away from WCB. Do you have a dark green full frame bag? You/they mentioned they came from desor.


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ekimknife
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by ekimknife » Mon Jun 04, 2018 7:00 pm

MattC wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:00 pm
I think we ran into you, possibly. Atleast my brother and I ran into someone going to ECB. I wanted to caution you about the water source being far away but when you're actually on IR, didnt feel its a place to give a stranger input. You/They warned us about some possible moose about 1.5 away from WCB. Do you have a dark green full frame bag? You/they mentioned they came from desor.
Hah! Yep, that was me. You've got a good memory!


MattC
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by MattC » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:12 am

Glad we saw you and you decided a last minute trip there. Hope you go back to discover more someday!


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ekimknife
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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by ekimknife » Tue Jun 05, 2018 3:05 pm

Absolutely! Nice to have crossed paths. Hope you enjoyed your time there!

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Re: TR: 5/28-5/31, 2018 [Windigo to Rock Harbor via Greenstone]

Post by fonixmunkee » Thu Jun 07, 2018 7:20 pm

mattc wrote: ...a shitty mountain house meal...
mattc wrote: ...watching ducks for hours...
Those two things, for some reason, really make me miss Isle Royale.

Also, congrats on the first trip report of 2018. I'm glad to hear that, despite everything, you enjoyed you trip.
Sometimes you feel like a nut :: http://twitter.com/fonixmunkee

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