Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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Shokwav
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Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Shokwav »

Greetings, my friend and I are eyeing Isle Royale for a possible backpacking trip next year. I have done some research and believe the Windigo area would be a good choice for us, as we value solitude and unspoiled nature over most else. We both have good backpacking experience with other national parks (Yellowstone, Tetons, and Big Bend) but neither of us have ever been to the Midwest so this’ll be a new environment for us to learn. We will have about 6 full days and are considering doing the Feldtmann and Huginnin loops. I have several questions:

1. We would like to take things relatively slow and easy, and prefer to spend at least 2 days at a campsite to allow time to fish. Is it possible to do these two loops in 6 days without rushing?
2. Speaking of fishing, are there any special tips for fishing the IR area? We would like to stick to the shore of Lake Superior and won’t be fishing any inland lakes. We only have experience fishing lakes and the ocean in GA/FL.
3. Is it possible to kayak/canoe from Washington to any of the nearby islands, and is it a safe thing to try for two inexperienced kayakers?

Thank you for taking the time to help me figure all this out!!
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Bobcat1 »

Given the parks you mention for experience, think about the humidity of the Midwest. That’s what my California and Arizona friends have been surprised by. I can’t give you any fishing advice, but if you are comfortable paddling a canoe or kayak, Beaver Island is close and somewhat protected. Conditions at the time will dictate.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by backwoods doc »

If you want solitude and good fishing, get off the trails and paddle the inland lakes. I'd be happy to offer some suggested itineraries, if you like.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by glitch99 »

Welcome to the forum, Shokwav. I just did 3/4 of the Feldtmann loop in August as part of our end-to-end trek (viewtopic.php?f=8&t=4605) and it was noticeably less traveled than anywhere else on IR. You'll want 3 solid hiking days to make the loop with overnights at Feldtmann Lake (our favorite site from the entire trip) and Siskiwit Bay. The 10+ miles on the Feldtmann Ridge in particular is a solid day's hike so I wouldn't recommend trying to combine that with either the western or eastern legs of that loop. If you plan to spend 2 nights at each location (WC, FL & SB), that might be it for your 6 days. We didn't do the Huginnin Cove loop so I can't comment on that.

As for fishing, Rainbow Cove (1 mile hike from Feldtmann Lake CG) might be the closest thing to coastal ocean fishing you'll find on IR. My buddies caught a few small perch and pike in Feldtmann Lake, but didn't have the right gear to fish the cove. Siskiwit Bay is very sheltered and there's a beautiful new pier from which to fish. We spotted a bunch of large coaster brook trout lounging between the pier and break wall, but they showed no interest in the spoons and spinners my friends had to offer.

I hope that helps a little!
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Shokwav »

Thank you all for your replies! Backwoods doc, we are open to alt. routes and trip ideas so I’d love to hear any ideas you have! Glitch99, what you say about Feldtmann and Siskiwat being great sites confirms what I’ve read from others and really makes me want to stay there at least a couple nights. We aren’t dead set on the whole 2 night per site rule, but we generally take our time setting up camp and don’t like having to constant break it down all the time if it can be helped. Considering doing 1 night at Huginnin and just staying 1 night at mine, 2 each at feldt and siskiwat.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by johnhens »

When do you plan on going? Not sure the concession operator allows overnight rentals of canoes/kayaks to get to Beaver Island.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Ingo »

Shokwav wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 7:48 am Considering doing 1 night at Huginnin and just staying 1 night at mine, 2 each at feldt and siskiwat.
That's what I would suggest.

I'd also do the Feldtmann loop first, that allows the option of leaving off the Huginnin loop if it seems like too much at the end. Something like:
1 - Island Mine off the boat.
2-3 - Siskiwit Bay
4-5 - Feldtmann Lake/Rainbow Cove
6 - Huginnin Cove or Washington Creek, depending on how you feel.

Here's a link to my trip report a few years ago viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3338&p=22554#p22554.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Shokwav »

johnhens wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 8:14 am When do you plan on going? Not sure the concession operator allows overnight rentals of canoes/kayaks to get to Beaver Island.
Not sure yet but it'll either be early in the season (June) or late (September).
That's what I would suggest.

I'd also do the Feldtmann loop first, that allows the option of leaving off the Huginnin loop if it seems like too much at the end. Something like:
1 - Island Mine off the boat.
2-3 - Siskiwit Bay
4-5 - Feldtmann Lake/Rainbow Cove
6 - Huginnin Cove or Washington Creek, depending on how you feel.

Here's a link to my trip report a few years ago viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3338&p=22554#p22554.
I read your full trip log, good stuff! Looks like I may need to buy some new boots with liners, from reading your report I don't think my trail runners will cut it here lol
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by glitch99 »

Shokwav wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 12:45 pm ...from reading your report I don't think my trail runners will cut it here lol
Not necessarily. I just did 70 miles on IR in trail runners and I'll never go back to boots (unless hiking in snow). It just depends on whether you're OK walking with wet feet. I assumed my feet would get wet no matter what I wore and I'd rather have shoes that dry quickly. I also found on practice hikes that wet trail runners were not all that bad. We fortunately had dry conditions all week in August - nothing like Ingo's excursion in May :shock: - but I'd still stick with what you're used to.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by backwoods doc »

Ok, Shokwav. If you want to flee the crowds, relax, read a book, and spend time fishing & watching moose/beaver/loons, consider the following canoe routes:

1. Chippewa to Richie Canoe to Intermediate to Wood to Malone
2. Chippewa to Whittlesey to Wood to Malone
3. Malone to Wood to Intermediate or Richie Canoe, then back out at Malone (or out at Chippewa).

If you enter from the MN side, you can rent Kevlar canoes in Grand Marais, take the Voyageur II to Rock Harbor for 1 night, then get dropped the next day at Chippewa or Malone. You would then get picked up from Chippewa or Malone at the end of your trip, and head back to Grand Portage. Be sure to study the Voyageur II schedule closely.

The prettiest campsites are Richie Canoe and Wood (up on high bluffs). We've seen more wildlife at Wood than any other inland lake. Whittlesey campsite isn't wonderful, but you'll likely not see anyone else there at all, and the fishing is great off the small islands just SW of the the campsite. We like how the site at Intermediate is set back a little into the woods a bit. Since most of these lakes are close to one another (with 1/2 mile portages between Richie and Intermediate, and between Wood and Whittlesey) it's easy to establish a basecamp then day trip to a neighboring lake.

Happy to respond to any questions you might have.
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by Shokwav »

backwoods doc wrote: Mon Oct 11, 2021 4:17 pm Ok, Shokwav. If you want to flee the crowds, relax, read a book, and spend time fishing & watching moose/beaver/loons, consider the following canoe routes:

1. Chippewa to Richie Canoe to Intermediate to Wood to Malone
2. Chippewa to Whittlesey to Wood to Malone
3. Malone to Wood to Intermediate or Richie Canoe, then back out at Malone (or out at Chippewa).

If you enter from the MN side, you can rent Kevlar canoes in Grand Marais, take the Voyageur II to Rock Harbor for 1 night, then get dropped the next day at Chippewa or Malone. You would then get picked up from Chippewa or Malone at the end of your trip, and head back to Grand Portage. Be sure to study the Voyageur II schedule closely.

The prettiest campsites are Richie Canoe and Wood (up on high bluffs). We've seen more wildlife at Wood than any other inland lake. Whittlesey campsite isn't wonderful, but you'll likely not see anyone else there at all, and the fishing is great off the small islands just SW of the the campsite. We like how the site at Intermediate is set back a little into the woods a bit. Since most of these lakes are close to one another (with 1/2 mile portages between Richie and Intermediate, and between Wood and Whittlesey) it's easy to establish a basecamp then day trip to a neighboring lake.

Happy to respond to any questions you might have.
Wow, thank you for this excellent and detailed response! So in orders to rent the canoes I have to enter from the MN side? Since we’re flying up from Atl I can enter from either side if that makes it easier. This is pretty much exactly what I was looking to do, would early in the season be the best time or would it be better to go closer to the end?
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Re: Itinerary Critique, General Help for First Time Trip

Post by backwoods doc »

We have only gone in from the MN side. We fly Delta into Duluth, rent a car, pick up some fuel and a few final groceries, and drive 2 hours to Grand Marais. The good folks at Bear Track Outfitters will fix you up with a lightweight Kevlar canoe and get it securely atop your vehicle. After dinner in town, we like to stay at the clean and basic Outpost Motel, just north of Grand Marais (and therefore closer to the Voyageur II dock in Grand Portage). It is possible to rent heavy aluminum canoes at the dock. We only made that mistake once.

The trip from Grand Portage to Rock Harbor is pleasant but admittedly long. This past summer we opted to get dropped at McCargoe and portage into Chickenbone. West Chickenbone was packed, and it took most of the next day to portage and paddle our way to Richie. I doubt we'll do that again.

Others on this forum can comment on where to stay/rent canoes on the MI side. If you came from MI and opted to put in at Chippewa or Malone, you'd need to either overnight in Rock Harbor and catch the Voyageur the next day, or take a water taxi (a bit pricey) directly to your drop-off point. At the end of your trip, you'd need to either water taxi back up to Rock Harbor from Chippewa or Malone, or circumnavigate the island on the Voyageur II to get you back to Rock Harbor (which would eat up 2 days) and then back to MI.

You describe yourselves as "inexperienced kayakers". I personally wouldn't advise a trip that would have you paddling on Superior (although paddling out a bit into Malone Bay in an empty canoe or kayak is a reasonable option, if you happen to be blessed with a calm day).

We have made three trips to the island -- all paddling the inland lakes by canoe, and all at the end of July (the busiest time). Other than our experience at Chickenbone this past summer, once we hit the water, we leave the crowds behind. We have spent 2 nights at Whittlesey and 2 at Intermediate without seeing another person. We've also had to share the campground at Intermediate and Wood with one other party for one night (the sites are pretty spaced out). If you go earlier or later in the season, expect less people.

By the way, you don't need a license to fish the inland lakes. You will catch fish. Do take note of the regulations.
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