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Questions about how to get to the island and where to stay near points of departure.
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I'm sorry if this topic is old, but I couldn't find anything via searching. I'm going on the Voyageur II and was wondering about people's experience with having to stay an extra day. I'm going in late september and am wondering if I should bring an extra day or two's worth of food. Does the boat just come the following day at the same time if it misses the scheduled pick up day due to weather? I live 12 hours away and have to work early morning 2 days after my scheduled arrival in Grand Portage, so I really hope it doesn't happen. But I hear this does indeed happen from time to time. Has this happened 2 days in a row or anything? Is there a way I could communicate to my family or job I'm going to be late?
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It's never happened to me in 8 trips (knock on wood). I always have food leftover because I wasn't hungry enough to eat it after hiking. I never bring extra, it just happens.
Isle Royale Trips: 2005-RH to Windigo via Greenstone. 2006-McCargoe Cove to Chippewa Harbor. 2007-RH to Daisy Farm and back. 2008-Feltmann loop. 2009-McCargoe Cove to Chippewa Harbor. 2013-Minong Ridge. 2014-Windigo + Huginnin Cove. 2015-Lookout Louise to LC to DF to MB. 2018-McCargoe to Todd to HL to Malone Bay.
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We have had to extend our stay a number of times over the years having taken all the various transportation services. We were there 2 days longer about 20 years ago. We were in the campgrounds by then and the rangers did a good job keeping us informed on the status of the ferry. There was a break in the weather, we were told the ferry would be there at 10:30 AM and leave at 10:45AM. A couple of years a go, we were paddling Malone Bay. I had my VHF and knew the next day was to be stormy as the day progressed and we would be windbound an extra day and a half at least. A ranger came to Malone to tell us the VII was coming that evening instead of tomorrow to beat the storm. We were ready and got off. The storm blew for 2 days. We always have extra food in case. We have shared our food in the past with those who did not have extra food that were delayed. We had fish a few nights and were fortunate to have extra food.
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I notice that your posted itinerary shows you will be Windigo for your departure. It's true that as the season grows later, the seas tend to get rougher from time to time. The odds are you will not have any problems but being in Windigo will probably maximize your chances of getting home vs. a planned departure from anywhere else. On occasion the Voyageur II will cancel it's circumnavigation of the Island and make the trip to/from Rock Harbor on the same side of the Island. If the the seas are bad coming from the north she will go to Rock Harbor on the south side and then probably return on the south side. I do know that the Voyageur II will do everything in their power to get back on schedule in order to not leave people waiting longer than necessary. I don't think they would ever automatically switch their pickup until their next scheduled stop. The following does not apply to you but I wonder about the circumstances for anyone at a campground waiting for pickup that happens to get bypassed or skipped because they had to travel on the wrong side? Of course safety is their paramount concern. A note for anyone waiting for pickup after a day's delay, don't stray far from the dock because they could show up earlier than scheduled and will want to make the stop as short as possible. Stay in touch with park rangers whenever possible as they likely will have information on revised schedules. The concessions will be closed so do not depend on getting any food from the store. Bringing a little extra food is always a good idea. There is mainland communications from Windigo and Rock Harbor but I don't know how or if that is affected after the concessions close. If you have to be stuck somewhere or you must miss work, there are far worse places to be or to cause it.
edited for grammar and spelling
Last edited by Midwest Ed
on Sat Sep 19, 2015 2:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013
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Thanks Ed, that was extremely helpful. If weather and waves were real bad I have the option to skip the Huginnin Cove loop to stay around Windigo/Washington Creek to stay in the know with the Rangers. I'm gonna bring some extra food for sure, I could always share with someone who needed it if they were running out.
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It does happen. I had to stay an extra day during my trip in 2011 due to high waves -12 to 15 feet. This was in September.
The only real inconvenience was that the bar in Rock Harbor ran out of beer.
The Park Service did a very good job of keeping everyone informed as to what was going on and what the ferry schedule would be. The ferries were full going back to Michigan.
Any time that you are hiking in the wilderness you probably should have an extra day or so of food for the time that you have an unexpected bivouac.
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Got stuck due to high waves for two days also at Rock Harbor in 2010 in late August. We had to double up in the shelters at Rock Harbor. Got to meet a lot of nice folks due to the layover. The Copper Harbor boat was supposed to have arrived on Sunday. It arrived for us late in the afternoon on Tuesday. It left within an hour of arrival with those of us that you were scheduled to leave on Sunday. It was dark when we got back to Copper Harbor.
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I experienced an extended stay in August 2009. I'd arrived via float plane in Windigo and hiked the length of the island via the Feldtman loop. I was supposed to leave on the float plane out of Tobin Harbor at 9 a.m. on a Thursday morning. I recall sitting there and waiting as the weather closed in and then I moved to sit under a canoe on the canoe rack for shelter from the rain. I finally learned that the float plane had initially been grounded due to fog back in Houghton. By the time that cleared out a severe lake gale had hit the island and I wasn't going anywhere. That afternoon the IR Queen was at full capacity as it pulled away from the dock. It was dark, the rain was pouring and the protected waters of the harbor were already sloshing about. I felt sorry for the people on the ferry. Rock Harbor was pretty empty and I grabbed a shelter along with two young guys from Ohio. On Friday it continued to pour rain and the protected harbor waters were sloshing about rather severely. The Queen didn't sail that day nor did the Ranger. People were coming off the trail looking like hypothermic refugees. It struck me that some didn't even have rain gear. The Rangers came around and ensured that all the shelters were packed to capacity. For me, the problem became staying warm in the constant cold and rain because my own clothes always seemed damp as I sat drinking hot tea and reading a book. The two guys from Ohio discovered the common room was open next to the lodge and it had a large fireplace which I sat next too in order to dry myself out. Most of the heat was going up the chimney, but it sure was nicer than the shelter. The storm finally abated late on Friday afternoon. By that time there was a long list of people who missed float plane or ferry rides out. If I recall correctly, the Queen made two runs across that day and the Ranger came over and then departed the same day. The float plane finally got me out on Saturday afternoon.
As I was a solo backpacker I'd left emergency information with both my wife and my boss so that they could contact the IR headquarters. My wife called the headquarters and was told not to worry that I was probably just delayed. No mention was made of the storm and transport problems. My boss ended up calling the state police to check for my car at the Houghton Airport. They were the ones who told him about the storm and cancelled ferry and plane service. Then they knew my situation. It has always bugged me that the person at the park service who answered the phone couldn't have mentioned that. Overall, it was quite an adventure. I always carry an extra meal, but that experience taught me to carry an extra days worth of food. I am also avoiding trips over when I know the stores and restaurant aren't going to be open. I also carry more calories worth of daily food. It had rained daily on that trip and I'd had constant concerns about hypothermia. It turned out that I lost 7-pounds by the time I arrived back at home and that was after several fast food stops on the drive back. The weight loss told me that I'd had an insufficient calorie intake. 'Single person' freeze dried meals only have about half the calories an active backpacker truly needs as I discovered.
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We experienced a delay when the Voyageur II was held up by weather.
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On the other hand, if you plan your route such that you arrive off the trail at RH or Windigo a day or two ahead, and then finish your itinerary with a "local" loop hike or day hiking, you might get advance notice of a storm that might shut down transportation. This happened to us in August of 2010 - we got to Windigo a day early (planned extra day in our schedule) and the rangers were out on the trails and in the Washington Creek campground advising people to leave on that afternoon's ferry (last year of the Wenonah) rather than wait for the next day because of approaching bad weather and the risk of getting "stuck". The ferry company was taking anyone with plans to take either ferry in the next two days.
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as advised by the park service you can always be delayed.always bring a few extra meals.if getting back at a specific time is imperative don't go...find a place to drive to....
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We were taking the boat back to Grand Portage on Thursday, August 25, and it turned around right before heading into the main part of the lake -- the waves were just too high. When we returned to Windigo, we were told that they would continue to survey the situation and we'd go back out if we could. Someone said it was only the second time they had had to turn back. I wasn't worried about staying over -- figured as soon as they announced we were staying, one in our group could zip down and grab a shelter, and we could get food from the store. But there were a few people who had spent the previous night in the lodge at Rock Harbor and obviously were not equipped to stay in a shelter. The ranger said that if the boat could not go back out, that everyone "would be taken care of." Not sure what that meant. There is employee housing, so maybe there was room there.
But the lake calmed a bit and we headed back out about four hours later. It was very rough ride but we made it.
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The rangers at Windigo will always do whatever it takes to make sure everyone has accommodations of some sort. While we try to anticipate the weather, it sometimes changes earlier or later than forecasted. We knew that day was going to be "one of those days" and we knew we could get back or we never would have left Rock Harbor. We just didn't know if the drop in sea conditions would occur as forecasted, in that case it was a few hours later. We could have gotten back as scheduled, it was not unsafe, but we never want to scare the living hell out of everyone just to get home on schedule. As a result we chose to wait it out for a few hours and let things, (and passengers who had already endured a less than smooth ride) settle down a bit for the last leg of the trip.
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In my experience on the island with the Voyageur and the Queen, they have always, ALWAYS, been concerned with their passengers and have done their VERY best to take care of everyone. The Park Service also does everything they can do, from letting you make phone calls to providing food (be it limited). They are some very dedicated people. Here's to each Captain and crew and to the people who make it all work!
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MikeT wrote:In my experience on the island with the Voyageur and the Queen, they have always, ALWAYS, been concerned with their passengers and have done their VERY best to take care of everyone. The Park Service also does everything they can do, from letting you make phone calls to providing food (be it limited). They are some very dedicated people. Here's to each Captain and crew and to the people who make it all work!
I'll second that one!
"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."