First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

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MIuser44
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First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

Hi all, my wife and I (mid 50's) are considering first trip in August 2021. We're competent day-hikers for medium-long hikes, have never backpacked and are not considering backpacking on our first trip to IR. So we're thinking 3-4 nights at Rock Harbor with day trips. Here's our first thoughts:

Day 0: Drive to Houghton (or Copper Harbor)
Day 1: up early, drive to Copper Harbor and board Isle Royale Queen 8:00am. Arrive Rock Harbor 11:00am ish. Settle in, Hike 2.2 miles Scoville point, evening photos.
Day 2: Hike 5 miles to Mount Franklin (10 mile loop) and then decide to return to lodge or continue on to Lane Cove (14.8 mile loop) or Mount Ojibway Tower (14.4 mile loop)
Day 3: Kayak 1 mile across to Hidden Lake Dock, 2.2 mile hike to Lookout Louise, then return Kayak to Lodge and/or lounge/explore more with kayaks
Day 4: Open. Options: boat tour, fishing excursion, short/medium hike
Day 5: Morning is open for hike/other. Board Isle Royale Queen 2:45 return to Copper Harbor 5:45.

We like a semi-planned itinerary with some flexibility on-the-fly to explore what looks interesting once we're there.

Any feedback? Are there other hikes we should consider? We enjoy scenery hikes generally, photography, etc....

Also a question - is there reliable internet at the lodge area? Unfortunately will need an hour or two daily.
Thanks in advance, it's appreciated!
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by dcclark »

That's a lovely plan, and I think you've hit many of the high points that can be seen from Rock Harbor. Some details:

- It sounds like you're planning to stay at the lodge, which will be fine but is plenty expensive for fairly basic accommodations -- it's the price of running a hotel on a remote island. Another option would be to rent a housekeeping cabin (somewhat lower cost). One thing you can't do is stay in a shelter or campsite at Rock Harbor for more than one night.

- Hiking on the island can be rough even for people used to doing moderate distances in the midwest. The difficulty surprised us a lot our first time on the island, even with experience backpacking in the Porcupine Mountains. You might discover that the 10 mile trip to Mt. Franklin on Day 2 is the most you want to do, especially with the constant up-and-down involved in getting up on and off of the Greenstone. I would not feel comfortable adding Lane Cove on to that trip, especially because the north side of the Greenstone (heading down towards Lane Cove) is extremely steep and only gets harder the more miles you have on your legs. You might want to do the Lookout Louise trip first, just to get a sense of what climbing the Greenstone feels like for you.

- Other good hiking options include a there-and-back to Three Mile (6 miles total). Take the Tobin Harbor trail for one direction, or maybe cut across at Suzie's cave. You'll get plenty of variety with less up-and-down. Also note that Scoville Point is a there-and-back that is 2 miles each way, 4 miles total.

- There are a lot of good boat tours to be had from Rock Harbor. In particular, be sure to visit the Edisen Fishery and lighthouse (which is a fairly long tour). Other nice ones include Raspberry Island and a sunset if the weather is good, and Passage Island.

- There are ranger talks most nights in Rock Harbor. Be sure not to miss those as they are always enjoyable.

- Don't forget to take some time to just sit around and enjoy the scenery, wherever you go!
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by Midwest Ed »

All good advice. I am a great fan of the MV Sandy, the park's tour boat/water bus. It runs 1 to 3 times daily on a fixed schedule for each tour. Please refer to the park's newsletter, The Greenstone for precise information. The link is to the 2020 edition. The 2021 edition should be released in late winter/early spring but I doubt the schedule will change.

I see 2 options that could fit nicely into your planning or can be part of backup plans. There is a trip to the Hidden Lake dock and a Ranger guided hike up to Lookout Louise and back every Tuesday and Thursday morning. It is quite common for some passengers to hike back from Lookout Louise where you would pass through Mt Franklin (or could even stop for the night at Lane Cove). Make sure to tell the Ranger or boat Captain of your intensions. You could even decide after reaching the Lookout. It is very rare that windy weather will make Tobin Harbor too rough for paddling but the Lodge rental people can be quite conservative.

Another option is to take advantage of the trip to The Edisen Fishery and Rock Harbor Lighthouse. The Sandy does not have a scheduled stop at the Daisy Farm campground dock but they have accommodated this request in the past to stop there just to drop you off where you could then spend the night or hike back to Rock Harbor the same day. Here, make sure to check with the Captain before you purchase your tickets. Also, it sounds that you are planning to stay at the Lodge but be aware that the campground there has a one night limit during most of the season.

There is internet service available near the Lodge and is free to Lodge residents but it might be intermittent and the speeds can be suitable only for email, etc. My perspective on this is somewhat old and I know the Park has been working on improving this infrastructure. Hopefully others can provide a more recent update.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by Ingo »

All good ideas. I also like the idea of using the MV Sandy for one-way trips. The lodge calls it the "water bus" on their page, at the bottom here: https://www.rockharborlodge.com/water-taxi. You could potentially do the Edison Fishery/RH Lighthouse tour, and then hike back from Daisy Farm, although that would be a long day. You can also have the lodge make a lunch for you on days you intend to be out all day. They also run a "water taxi" that you schedule for a specific date/time, but is pricey, as evidenced on that page

I've stayed at the lodge only once, specifically to be able to take the tour boat out to Passage Island. Loved that trip and found it fascinating. It's about a 1 mile hike from the dock to the lighthouse once you get there, as I recall.

The Scoville Pt hike is both perhaps the most beautiful and easiest trails. If you're up to some hiking in the dark, consider hiking out with headlamps for the sunrise, it can be spectacular--but I'd recommend that as a 2nd trip, probably not the first time.

I agree that I'd skip the in/out of Lane Cove. And a round trip to Mt Ojibway sounds like a rather long day, too.

The housekeeping cabins are more private (2 per building) and quieter, removed from the marina/lodge area. The one advantage of the lodge rooms (just a hotel room), however, is that they are literally right on the water.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

Wow – what great advice from all, thank you so much for taking time to read and absorb and offer experienced advice!

Thanks dcclark for the Scoville distance note, had missed that in the quick first outline. Forgot to mention – we’re thinking about the housekeeping cabins for overnighting as we’re not experienced back country campers and IR is no place for the first time. Also we like to do our own thing for meals at least some of the time. We’re not super budget-conscious, not expecting discount rates given the location/access. The ranger talks are on the list, our daily cadence is to get out there early and return sometime in the afternoon to enjoy some evening downtime so that will be a natural.

About the long hike - the longer options in my original list did/do seem ambitious from what I’ve read (and even more-so after the replies) and I suspect we’d turn around at Mount Franklin as we’ve learned that it’s most enjoyable to return from hikes tired but no more than a restful evening and sleep will replenish. Or maybe switch it up completely into a water taxi/bus drop-off…

The water taxi/bus and hike back sounds like a great option – we’ll surely look at this more! Lookout Louise and hike back, or Rock Island Lighthouse/Edison Fishery/ Daisy Farm drop-off sound like great options for a big hike day. Both of these being loops sounds like more variety than the out-and-back to Mount Franklin. Hidden Lake dock/Lookout Louise return hike looks a bit ambitious(?) as the Greenstone flyer seems to say it’s 11.4miles from Hidden Lake dock to the lodge area with 4.8 miles of that on the Greenstone trail. Only now do I understand (thanks to the replies) there is the fixed-schedule water bus and custom-schedule water taxi so we should be able to make something work for sure.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond – we really appreciate it!
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by torpified »

This sounds like a superfun trip! (It may even inspire you to backpack next time!)

three more thoughts:
*if you do the kayak/lookout Louise combo, you can incorporate an out-and-back (of whatever length you choose) on the easternmost stretch of Greenstone ridge trail. It's a way to get a sense of what that part of trail is like without committing to the whole hike back to Rock Harbor.
*it's about a 9 mile hike back to RH from Daisy Farm, via Mt Ojibway and Mt Franklin, along a really striking piece of the Greenstone Ridge. If your preliminary forays suggest that that sort of thing might be fun, I encourage you to check it out!

whatever you wind up doing, please file a trip report telling us how it went!
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by Bobcat1 »

Mt. Franklin is arguably the best viewpoint on the entire Island. To make it a shorter dayhike, take the water taxi to 3-mile and then hike up to Mt. Franklin. Return to RH via the Tobin Harbor trail for some different scenery and vibe than the Rock Harbor trail, which you will use if you do the MV Sandy/RH Lighthouse/Edison Fisheries/ Daisy Farm Drop-off and hike back.

Also, no one ever seems to mention it, but you can take the water taxi to Raspberry Island (schedule it to pick you up again in 2 or 3 hours). There is a unique sphagnum moss bog there, with interpretive signage, and some stunning views out to The Lake on the far side. I’ve been over there a couple times while in RH with my kayak. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, sometimes the MV Sandy excursion goes to Raspberry instead of Passage Island if the open Lake is really rough.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

Added thanks to torpified and Bobcat1 for the additional thoughts. We understand all of the points made and have reconsidered/reconfigured significantly and rebalanced the days. Here's our latest thoughts:

Day 1 Friday: Arrive 11:00am from Copper Harbor, hike Scoville 4.4 loop.
Day 2 Saturday: Water Bus to Rock Island/Edison Fishery casual tour 9a-1:30. Then chill, ranger talk, explore near the lodge, evening photos, etc.
Day 3 Sunday: procure water taxi to Daisy Farm, hike to Ojibway-Mt Franklin-3Mile-lodge 9 mi loop.
Day 4: Monday: Light Hike to Suzy’s or 3 Mile, etc. and/or kayak time
Day 5 Tuesday: 9a-12:30 Hidden Lake/Lookout Louise water taxi/hike 2.2mi loop. 2:45 board for return to Copper Harbor.

It may be a bit light but we don't sit around doing nothing except for recovery days, so I expect we'll add things on the fly depending on the groove.

Thanks again...
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by treeplanter »

For your Day 2 journey to the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, take the time to hike the 1/4 mile to Rolf and Candy Peterson's cabin. They expect visitors and Rolf will tell you more about wolves/moose on IR than you can possibly store in your mind. His collection of moose skulls alone is worth the walk.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

whaaat! I had no idea he could/would be on the island and potentially available. I'm aware of his work legendary work/status on the studies (MTU grad 86). I had thought John V. had pretty much taken over. We'll definitely not miss the opportunity, looking forward to the trip even more now! So glad you mentioned it, I'm surprised this has not popped up in all my research.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

Well I learned my lesson. Called on January 11, no housekeeping cabins available for 4 nights pretty much anytime within +/- 3weeks from our target date. We're thinking 2022... and will hop on the way-back machine to call every day for reservations starting Jan 1(?) Best as I can tell that's the only method to secure a prime reservation. Thanks all for the help, we'll keep the itinerary and notes, just have to delay a year. We're thinking Porkies for 2021, which is not a bad thing.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by dcclark »

Sorry to hear that. Things go fast, and faster nowadays.

Let me know if you have Porkies questions. That park is really my first love (and I've cabin-camped there many, many times).
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by MIuser44 »

Hi dcclark, thanks for offering about Porkies. We'll have 4 nights for 3 full days dedicated to day hikes. (maybe overnight backpacking someday, but not this trip). Here's what we're thinking , we'd appreciate any insights. About our capability, my wife and I (mid 50's) are in good physical condition, we enjoy hiking, we've done 3-5 mile winter hikes in SE MI "wilderness" (lol) areas the past few weekends without any strain.

1) Escarpment trail, bottom-top-bottom 8.6mi total
2) Explore around Presque Isla river area. Optional - other minor hikes at that end of the park.
3) Hike to Summit Peak and Mirror Lake loop 5.2mi.

One thing that might be lacking is any hikes on the north end for Superior views (?). Are there any "can't miss" big water views on the north end (north of the road)?

Thank you in advance!
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by dcclark »

Sounds like a great trip! Dedicated dayhike trips are a lot of fun. Will you be staying in the Porkies? Maybe a rustic cabin? (Those are one of the most interesting features of the Porkies, in my book.)

1) The Escarpment is rough. I do not think that 3-5 miles in SE Michigan will have prepared you for 8 miles of it. It starts with a 600 foot climb over the course of half a mile, over rough cobbles and roots. It doesn't really let up after that -- even when you're "at elevation", it's constantly dropping and climbing again and again. I've done that loop, and as beautiful as it is, I don't particularly want to do it again!

I recommend starting at Lake of the Clouds, hike east on the Escarpment, then stop when you feel like it and turn around (the Cloud Peak shortcut trail is a good point for this, about 4 miles total). You'll have great views both ways and not kill yourself. If you're still feeling good, you could then go west on the Big Carp River trail (starting at Lake of the Clouds again) for a mile or two, then return. It's still the Escarpment, and still has great views, just a different name for that side of the trail.

2) Presque Isle is great. The East and West river trails make a 2 mile loop with constant waterfalls. Still some elevation gain, but nothing like the Escarpment.

3) Summit Peak and Mirror Lake is a good loop, and (relatively) easy trails the whole way. Be sure to spend some quality time at Mirror Lake. Sit on the Little Carp bridge there for a while and have a snack. It's a magical spot. Then sit on the Lily Pond bridge too, 'cause it's another magical spot!

4) I love Superior, but there aren't a whole lot of "big lake views" from high ridges in the Porkies. It's a feature of how the ridges are arranged: The sharp cliffs mostly face inland. You can go right down to the lake at Presque Isle or Union Bay, of course. One option for some views is to park at the Lake Superior trailhead along M-107 (so, east of Lake of the Clouds). Hike the Lake Superior trail about 1.5 miles to a couple of overlooks with decent lake views. I recall that one has a bench, but I'm not 100% on that.

5) Don't forget some of the smaller day hikes. The Union Mine trail is a short 1 mile loop with some interesting history and pretty streams with waterfalls (if there's been enough water lately). Nonesuch has the ruins of old mine buildings (picturesque) and has a nice river and rapids. The Little Carp River trailhead walks you right into some beautiful parts of the Little Carp. Pinkerton Creek trail takes you straight to Lake Superior and back.

Let us know what you end up doing!
Last edited by dcclark on Wed Feb 03, 2021 7:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First Time Visitor, Looking for Itinerary Advice

Post by treeplanter »

MIuser44 wrote: Wed Feb 03, 2021 6:09 pm.......One thing that might be lacking is any hikes on the north end for Superior views (?). Are there any "can't miss" big water views on the north end (north of the road)?......
I'll add my thoughts. The "Lake Superior Trail" trailhead is along M-107 just east of the Lake of the Clouds overlook. Starting from here, the first quarter mile of the trail (five minute walk) is in old-growth timber which then changes to second growth. Tree growth is scrubby and scattered here with the terrain being rocky, giving you some superb views of Lake Superior. You can sit and look at the Lake for hours, or make your way down to the shore. Beautiful trail.
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