Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

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backwoods doc
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Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by backwoods doc »

I'm trying to convince my wife (who is no longer interested in backcountry backpacking/paddling) to go to the island. I envision our being based at either Rock Harbor or Windigo for a few days, and taking some day hikes.

Which would be your preferred place to be based, and why?
Last edited by backwoods doc on Mon Apr 19, 2021 9:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by Ingo »

Rock Harbor: Hike Scoville Pt, Lookout Louise/Hidden Lake (with a paddle), Mt Franklin, Susi's Cave. Rent a boat for Edison Fishery, lighthouse, and moose boneyard. In a normal year, boat tour to Passage Island, and others. Sleep in a real bed--if you have to convince her, then this probably trumps everything and answers your question.
A few years back my wife and I stayed at the lodge on a short trip and had a great time--she's not into the backcountry trips either. It wasn't the same for me, of course, but I did get my I.R. fix, even if a little light. And it gave me the opportunity to get out to Passage Island, something I had wanted to do for a long time. But doesn't sound like they're running tours this year.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by Midwest Ed »

Rock Harbor for her and Windigo for you. Oh? Wait! That's not what you meant? :oops:

Seriously though, based on your description of her present state of mind and body, Rock Harbor for sure (with still some caveats for 2021 due to Covid). There's the lodge, the cabins, the restaurant, the grill, water taxis, and assuming the 2022 season is back to normal there will be the daily boat tours on the M.V Sandy. The variations for day hike are better at RH especially if the water taxi or M.V. Sandy are utilized. Boat, canoe and kayak rentals are available at both ends. If you just want to tent or shelter camp but not really hike around much then Windigo has the edge since it has a 3 night limit vs. the 1 night at RH. Windigo also has the more rustic camper cabins available for rent.

In 1985 I talked my non-camping wife to take the Ranger over and back with one night camping in RH. She got to see a moose so I didn't take too much heat when we finally got back.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by newb2019 »

We are not backpackers and greatly enjoyed our three nights in one of the Windigo cabins. If the weather is good, you can rent a kayak/small boat, and although we didn't hike much, I believe there is enough to hike to keep you busy for a few days. After reading Nevada Barr's A Superior Death, I'm even happier we went with Windigo.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by torpified »

newb2019 wrote: Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:39 am After reading Nevada Barr's A Superior Death, I'm even happier we went with Windigo.
That's only because you hadn't read Winter Study yet!

[Gratuitous aside before returning to the official topic: after devouring a copy of A Superior Death I bought at the Rock Harbor Store to read while I rode out a thunderstorm and awaited a ferry home, I had the bright idea that, whenever possible, my backpacking paperback would be a Nevada Barr novel set in whatever place I was backpacking through. My next walk was in Yosemite's lonelier southeastern reaches, and my first night I had Upper Merced Lake all to myself. I cracked open High Country only to discover that much of its plot revolved around a homocidal maniac stalking the main character through the lonelier southeastern reaches of Yosemite surrounding Upper and Lower Merced Lake.]

The backpacking-averse Mr torpified really enjoyed the Rock Harbor Lodge stay (the first floor rooms have great decks and deck chairs for reading mystery novels while watching the lake) and all the local hikes and canoe trips already mentioned. And we didn't even get as far as the Sandy excursions or water-taxi assisted day hikes. I bet even the congenitally restless could happily spend a week there without repeating their adventures or backpacking. (Of course, Windigo would be super cool too!)
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by Bobcat1 »

Depends, like a lot of things in life.

Is your wife likely to be content in a wooden tent? The camper cabins are pretty basic, although they are a very nice addition to Windigo. At Windigo you have evening ranger talks, and 3 significant day hike options (Huginin Cove, out the Feldtman trail, out the Minong) as well as canoe/kayak rental and exploration to Beaver Island. And it's QUIET. Also 3-night limit in the shelters so you can actually stay for a couple days even if you can't get reservations in concession-operated accommodation.

Rock Harbor, on the other hand, offers noisy boats, (relatively) lots of people, and more options (water taxi, MV Sandy excursions, etc) along with resort-style accommodations. I had a forced 3-day "vacation" in Rock Harbor after I injured my knee and had to get off the trail a couple years ago, and managed to find enough things to do, even with limping around and not walking far. And there's benches all over the place!
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by treeplanter »

My two cents. If you're looking for creature comforts, hard to beat Rock Harbor. Lot of options for things to do, but hiking options are a bit limited, since most day hikes are on a long, narrow peninsula. Windigo is more rustic, but has better hiking options. Hike the Huginnin Cove trail for a nice look at Lake Superior. Hike the Greenstone east for a few miles to see the hardwood forest. This is about as far north that sugar maple and yellow birch grow, making it an ecological treasure (plus a nice contrast from the Boreal Forest which dominates the Rock Harbor area). Plus you can hike to Feldman Lake if you're really ambitious. I've camped at both locations and really have no preference. Though my old-guy body now looks at Rock Harbor a bit more favorably.
Last edited by treeplanter on Tue Apr 20, 2021 12:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by newb2019 »

torpified wrote: Tue Apr 20, 2021 6:42 am
newb2019 wrote: Tue Apr 20, 2021 5:39 am After reading Nevada Barr's A Superior Death, I'm even happier we went with Windigo.
That's only because you hadn't read Winter Study yet!
I actually read Winter Study before we went, and it was interesting to see some of what was described in the book. A Superior Death made Rock Harbor out to be a crime-ridden place, although I imagine things have changed for the better since the book was written.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by Grandpa »

I see a pattern developing here – one spouse who doesn’t backpack.

Grandma will occasionally backpack but only if there’s no alternative (eg Denali NP, Grand Canyon NP). The housekeeping cabins at Rock harbor offered a comfortable alternative for us at IRNP. So when she wanted to visit IRNP, that’s what we did.

We hiked the Suzy’s cave loop and the Scoville Point trail. We attended ranger talks. We took the Sandy tours to Edison Fishery and Passage Island (all tours COVID-cancelled for 2021). Then the highlight was to take the Sandy trip to McCargoe Cove / Minong Mine (Sandy tour no longer offered, but transportation is available by water taxi for more $). Instead of touring the mine, we packed a lunch and spent the rest of the day & evening hiking the 15 miles back to Rock Harbor. We could take our time knowing that we had dinner and a warm bed awaiting us. It was a sunny, bluebird day. As much as I enjoy tramping the trails with a backpack, I must say that it was a WONDERFUL trip.

I’ve backpacked from Windigo with our son and VERY much enjoyed that trip as well.

To answer your question:
RH - Offers more options for NP-type activities including ranger programs, a bona-fide restaurant, a casual snack bar, motel-style lodge rooms and housekeeping cabins.
- Offers canoe & motorboat rentals and water taxi for day hikes as well as overnight camping.
- Is more accessible for us Michiganders; less so for Minnesotans.
- Is EXPENSIVE.
- RH Lodge is fully booked for 2021.
- One-night stay limit in campground
Windigo - Offers some amenities including ranger programs, canoe rental, snack bar; limited compared to RH.
- Quieter than RH; more laid-back.
- Great hiking opportunities.
- Much less expensive than RH.
- Three-night stay limit in campground.

I hope that helps. Grandma wants to go back again.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by backwoods doc »

Thanks for all the great insights everyone (I think I'll steer clear of Nevada Barr novels).

Fortunately I already have a paddling trip on the inland lakes with my son slated for this summer. 2022 could be my first "two trips in the same summer" year -- backcountry with my son, and a tamer option with my wife.
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Re: Rock Harbor vs. Windigo

Post by Base654 »

I spent one night in the house keeping cabins at Rock Harbor a few years back. We had a view of Tobin harbor and I really liked it. It was the end of a cold wet trip and the cabin in the woods feel didn't take too much away from the back country feel. If it was a longer trip without camping I would choose the cabins to save on food as they have kitchenettes.
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