Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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MicahN
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Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by MicahN » Mon May 13, 2019 1:30 pm

Hi there,

I am planning the following itinerary in early June and would like to know if there are any red flags or suggested alternations with the below:

Day 0 - Fly to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Drive to Grand Portage
Day 1 - Ferry from GP to Windigo; hike to Lake Desor South Campground (11.6 miles)
Day 2 - Hike to West Chickenbone Lake Campground (15 miles)
Day 3 - Hike to Rock Harbor Campground (16.7 miles)...or hike to 3-Mile Campground (13 miles)
Day 4 - Ferry from Rock Harbor to Grand Portage...or hike to Rock Harbor and then ferry to Grand Portage (3.7 miles)]
Day 5 - Fly home

I am in athletic shape, have some outdoor experience and also an avid hiker, so I am feeling somewhat comfortable with the proposed mileage I outlined above. If I'm missing any additional considerations, please let me know. Thank you in advance for any feedback.

Best,
Micah


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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by Midwest Ed » Mon May 13, 2019 2:44 pm

Your statements have enough qualifying remarks that I want to question your history and motivation a bit further. Stating you are an avid hiker but only have "some" outdoor experience makes we wonder what that means. My first thought goes to a lot of walking but not much backpacking? Your first day is not very difficult but the 2nd and 3rd days are a lot of mileage for Isle Royale for a first time visit, especially for someone not used to carrying a backpack. Your 2nd and 3rd days will also be more rugged on your feet and legs than the first. Halfway through your 2nd day you have put yourself almost in the middle of the Island with no option other than to press on. Plus you are going to be spending almost all of your last day on the boat, returning to Grand Portage.

For alternative trips, I see a couple of choices.
Day 1 - Feltdmann Lake (8.8 miles)
Day 2 - Siskiwit Bay (10.3 miles)
Day 3 - Washington Creek (Windigo) (11 miles)
Or Day 3 - Island Mine (4.4 miles)
Day 4 - Return to Windigo by Noon (6.6 miles, fairly easy, mostly downhill through mature hardwoods)

This loop provides you with much the same type of Island experience and scenery from Feltdmann Ridge (You could also do it clockwise instead). Another choice is to start out with your planned itinerary but on Day 3 divert to Chippewa Harbor (7.9 miles) and schedule the Voyageur to pick you up there. Malone Bay or Daisy Farm are also possible pickup locations. You must pre-schedule any of these pickups as the ferry does not stop if no one is scheduled.
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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by dcclark » Mon May 13, 2019 3:39 pm

I'm really curious about your hiking experience. I know a guy -- one guy -- who did multiple 15+ mile days on Isle Royale and loved it. I also know lots of people, myself included, who are experienced hikers but got thrashed by 8 mile days on the island. The main trouble, especially for us midwesterners, is that the island is filled with constant rocky up-and-downs, even if you're walking along the ridges. That can kill your legs and feet.

If you're used to hiking the distances you listed with a full backpack and on rocky up-and-down terrain then you'll probably be fine. But if any of those 3 aren't true, you're likely to be in a world of hurt very quickly (and, as Ed pointed out, probably without a ditch option).

Plus, it's totally worth taking time to slow down and smell the thimbleberry blossoms while you're on the island. I really do recommend it!

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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by Base654 » Mon May 13, 2019 10:36 pm

I'm going to agree with the folks above for much the same reasons. I will add that, with those miles, your head will be down looking at the ground. I do that at times between parts of the island that I have seen many times before. With the time and expense spent, I suggest you slow down and see where you are. You aren't going to see the entire island anyway. Just going from one end to the other on the ridge, you miss a lot of the different regions. If you don't see every thing, come back.

I have made more than a dozen trips and I still haven't seen everything.

p.s. it's beautiful, you will want to come back.


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MicahN
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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by MicahN » Tue May 14, 2019 8:33 am

Appreciate the feedback, alternative trip options and tips of caution. I've done many day hikes of various mileage, terrains and difficulty levels, but backpacking is fairly new (the mileage and backpacking weight aside, filtering/purifying water, using a backpacking stove, etc), so the insights above are certainly helpful. Sounds like it would definitely be worth slowing down to enjoy the surroundings. Thanks again.

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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by hooky » Thu May 16, 2019 12:04 pm

I say this all the time, but I'd much rather have stops along the Lake Superior rather than on the inland lakes. I like the suggestions that Midwest Ed made regarding alternate routes.


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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by MicahN » Fri May 17, 2019 12:05 pm

I was able to extend my trip to give myself more time. Here's my new plan, but appreciate any suggestions/tips on the below. As always, thanks!

Day 0 - Fly to Thunder Bay, Ontario. Drive to Grand Portage
Day 1 - Ferry from GP to Windigo; hike to Lake Desor South Campground (11.6 miles)
Day 2 - Hike to West Chickenbone Lake Campground (15 miles)
Day 3 - Hike to Daisy Farm Campground or 3-Mile Campground or… ???
Day 4 - Hike to Rock Harbor Campground
Day 5 - Ferry from Rock Harbor to Grand Portage
Day 6 - Fly home

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Base654
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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by Base654 » Fri May 17, 2019 7:56 pm

You seem to be set on an end to end. The extra day will help if you need extra time. You could stop at Island Mine or Hatchet Lake if you need to and be able to make up the miles after leaving Chickenbone. I would still suggest slowing down and hanging out on the West end, or the alternate pick ups Midwest Ed suggested. You'll love it either way. have fun.

check your ferry schedule, Your trip only works departing GP Wednesday. The Voyageur II runs every other day except Friday. From their website:

"May 27th, 2019 - September 15th, 2019: Outbound trips to island Monday, Wednesday, Saturday; Inbound trips from island Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday."


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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by torpified » Sat May 18, 2019 6:01 am

I want to echo the sentiments that you'll be back, and that it's hard to know how you'll feel about the housekeeping (and house carrying!) aspect of the endeavor until you've tried it. (I've got friends who are national-level competitive masters triathletes who consider backpacking 8 miles from RH to LC the hardest thing they've ever done!) Having the extra night to adapt if you turn out to prefer lower mileage days is a good idea.

Another way to hedge your bets: on Day 1, stay on the Voyageur past Windigo, then disembark at McCargo (and check out the mine!). After that, there are fewer miles you HAVE to cover to reach RH, but opportunities to expand the route (for instance by dropping down off the ridge to Moskey Basin or Lane Cov) if you're feeling peppy. Another way to consume pep is to dayhike from campsites---for instance out and back down the Minong if you're staying at McCargo, the fire tower loop if you're staying at Daisy Farm, Scoville Point from Rock Harbor.

Report back!

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Re: Another First Time IR Backpacker: Itinerary Feedback Requested

Post by chief54 » Sat May 18, 2019 6:34 am

My first solo trip was as a young man, after my father took me there as a young boy. I was in U.S. Coast guard where my ship dropped off me at Windigo and picked me up at Rock a week later with much the same itinerary as you are proposing. I made miles but only saw my boots or so it seemed. If like most folks ,you will love the island and return. now over 40 years later and many trips to IR I have slowed down my trips and have lingered after each step. Each trip as the years went by entailed less miles, which was certainly physical as I got older but more so was to really see the island. Now I base camp as much as possible, which at times can be challenging due to limits on nights you can stay at each site but 3 days at Moskey is paradise or Daisy Farm, my favorite, I know its big but so many memories off my first trip as a 10 year old with my father, first moose, wolves howling at night I was captured to say the least. Torpified has a good idea by starting at McCargo, take the island in small bites no need to eat the whole thing at once, savor the island, you will be back.
first visit at age 10 in 1965 numerous times since then, 30+ times

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