Father & Son Newbies

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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Wisco
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Father & Son Newbies

Post by Wisco »

I’d first like to thank all of the moderators and those who regularly post on this forum, your advice and insight has been extremely helpful.

My son and I will both be newbies to Isle Royale when we visit this summer. My son is 11 and this will be his first time backpacking and my first time in 15 years. We are both in good shape - he’s in cross country and I run about 10-15 miles/week.

I’m looking for some advice. I have one night reserved at the Rock Harbor Lodge on Friday, July 23rd to Saturday, July 24th. I was thinking that we could wrap up our trip there, but we could spend our first night there as well. I have a very open schedule and can stay on the front or back end of our night at RH Lodge.

Looking for any suggestions. We are coming from Wisconsin and can take the ferry from Houghton or Copper Harbor. Any advice about how long we should stay for our first visit and ideas on possible routes?
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by dcclark »

Definitely end at the lodge. Nothing will be so good as a shower and a burger at the restaurant after your days camping!

What sort of mileage do you think you will want to do each day? Keep in mind that even folks used to hiking long distances in the Midwest are often surprised at how rough Isle Royale can be. The constant up-and-down over the ridges wears you down. I like to limit myself to 8 miles per day on the island and enjoy time at the campsites, but everyone has their own preferences.

I'd encourage you to stay on the island for at least 5 days, or a full week if you can. At almost any speed, that much time would let you make it to Moskey Basin and/or McCargoe Cove, two absolute favorite campgrounds. Hike part of the Greenstone and check out Mt. Ojibway and/or Mt. Franklin along the way. Take your time and poke around at every interesting site.

One nice part of Isle Royale camping is that there are no reservations (other than the lodge). So you can choose where you stay each day. That gives you the flexibility to stop if you decide you need slower days, or to speed it up and see even more places. I always recommend planning at least one rest day: you'll probably need it, and it gives you room to shuffle your schedule around to take advantage of good weather, avoid the inevitable rainy day, or take care of an injury.

As for ferries, the Queen (Copper Harbor) is much faster but can be a bit choppier in rough weather. It will arrive early enough to let you get in half a day's hike on the first day if you really want. They are taking reservations at 50% capacity, and mid-late July will be the peak season, so you might find it hard to get a reservation even now. The Ranger is slower but much more stable in rough seas. We're still waiting to see what the Ranger's plans are -- some time in March the park will announce its schedule and capacity for the year.

In any case, you'll be back again! So don't worry if you can't see and do everything. Enjoy what you can and take time to taste the thimbleberries. :)
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by Wisco »

Noted. The lodge on the last night it is!

My son and I just reviewed your suggestions and we both agreed that 8 miles per day is a good plan. We want to take our time and explore along the way. No need to push ourselves to "get it all in," since we live in Wisconsin and can return another summer.

A full week sound a little long to my son, but we agreed on a Monday- Saturday, so we will take the Queen - I will make the reservation tomorrow. We plan on making the trip to Moskey Basin or McCargoe Cove.

Never had a thimbleberry, but I love me some berries! I'll have to do some research.

Appreciate the help.
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by johnhens »

If your son is new to backpacking, get him out to hike with the pack he is using, with gear in it. Easier to make adjustments on the pack and gear at home. A lodge room at the end of the trip will be nice. Might want to bring a change of clothes that you can leave at the lodge (check with them when you make your reservations).
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by torpified »

Unless things have changed, your lodge booking will come with a half-day canoe rental. It's definitely worth taking advantage of the opportunity to explore the island by a different mode! I'm a big fan of canoeing across (relatively) sheltered Tobin Harbor to Hidden Lake dock, then hiking from there up to Lookout Louise.
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by dcclark »

Wisco wrote: Mon Feb 22, 2021 9:00 pm Never had a thimbleberry, but I love me some berries! I'll have to do some research.
You are in for a treat. Think overgrown raspberry, but softer and more tart. Shops on the mainland will happily sell you a pint jar of thimbeberry jam for $15. :P

Side note: Thimbleberry leaves are huge and soft. They make great natural wipes, e.g. for wet hands.
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by Bobcat1 »

Also note, there are multiple things you can do from Rock Harbor area, and with the Queen you depart in the afternoon, so you have another almost-full day. As Torpified mentioned, use the half-day canoe rental to explore Tobin Harbor and maybe hike to Lookout Louise and explore Hidden Lake. There's also Scoville Point (gorgeous 4-mile roundtrip). If your trip goes so well that you might end up in Rock Harbor a day early, there's nothing wrong with grabbing a campsite at the Rock Harbor campground for 1 night then simply moving to the lodge for your scheduled night the next night. This would give you a chance to attend two evening ranger talks as well.
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by Wisco »

Thank you for the great suggestions!
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by Wisco »

Our current plan is to arrive Sunday and return the following Saturday. We are thinking of hiking the loop below, which will leave us one extra day to hang out at one of the camp sites.

Rock Harbor - Daisy Farm
Daisy Farm - Lake Richie
Lake Richie - McCargoe Cove
McCargoe Cove - Daisy Farm
Daisy Farm - Rock Harbor

Appreciate the suggestion to canoe into Tobin Harbor and possibly check out Hidden Lake - great idea. We will definitely spend time exploring around Rock Harbor!
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by Bobcat1 »

Lake Ritchie is nice enough (unless there’s an algae bloom), but Moskey Basin is spectacular. Consider stopping at Moskey. Or at least check if there’s an available shelter then decide! Great choice of route. On your way back to Rock Harbor, consider climbing back up the hill after staying overnight at Daisy Farm, and taking the Greenstone Ridge east to Mt. Franklin. This stretch has gorgeous vistas, especially from the Ojibway Tower and the Mt Franklin overlook.
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Re: Father & Son Newbies

Post by JerryB »

I agree on the Mosley suggestion. Chippewa is nice too—both are good for exploring. Chippewa will involve some backtracking
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