Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

Moderator: MikeT

Post Reply

Topic author
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jun 07, 2019 7:43 am

Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Post by stefaniematt » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:02 am

Our family of 5 is planning a trip to Isle Royale in a couple of weeks (week of June 20). We have done quite a bit of backpacking out west with our longest backpacking trip to date in Washington for 3 nights, 4 days of hiking averaging about 8 miles/day with packs. Kids are 12-17 and all very athletic. My husband has done a lot of backpacking and some mountain climbing. I (44 year old, reasonably in-shape woman but not doing a ton of exercise on a daily basis) am probably the weakest link in our group. My husband's initial plan was to hike the entire length of the island on the Minong trail over 7-8 days, but after some thought we've modified it. We would have loved to work from east to west, but that didn't work with the boat pick-up etc. and we are locked into these dates: I would love thoughts on our itinerary as well as any insight on what we can expect in terms of weather and bugs.

Day 1 -- (4 p.m. sea plane into Windigo) -- [CAMP WINDIGO]
Day 2 -- early start because it will be our longest and hardest day -- Windigo to N. Desor. [CAMP N. DESOR] (this is the day I'm most worried about)
Day 3 -- N. Desor to Little Todd [CAMP LITTLE TODD]
Day 3 -- Little Todd to Todd Harbor [CAMP TODD HARBOR]
Day 4 -- Todd to McCargoe [CAMP McCARGOE]
Day 5 -- Water taxi from McCargoe to Rock Harbor [STAY AT ROCK HARBOR CABIN]
Day 6 -- Seaplane out from Rock Harbor

User avatar

Posts: 34
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:36 am
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Missoula, Montana

Re: Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Post by Montana » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:28 am

This looks like a good plan -- I did this route in reverse 2 years ago with my 17 daughter. Your first day will be hard, but with an early start and plenty of rest stops you will be fine (be sure to take plenty of water out of Windigo as the water sources along this route are pretty limited). If you can, do some long walks/hikes with your pack over the next few weeks. And, pack light for your trip! Have fun, what a great experience for your family!

May actually live on IR
Posts: 310
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 4
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Re: Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Post by torpified » Sat Jun 08, 2019 5:43 am

What Montana said! You're experienced, so you can keep your pack weight down by knowing what you don't need to take -- but prepared for rain, chilly conditions, and bugs. If your strapping hiking companions are agreeable, they may be willing to lighten your load further by carrying the lion's share of the group gear and supplies. And hiking around the solstice, you'll have scads and scads of daylight---you can set a sustainable pace on Day 1 without fears of being benighted.

Posts: 277
Joined: Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:30 am
Isle Royale Visits: 7

Re: Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Post by JerryB » Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:14 am

Do yourself a favor and study any Minong trip reports you can find here. Most will be from the opposite direction. I have not done the Minong recently but I was told this year that trail finding on that portion of your route done on day 1, especially in your direction of travel, can be tricky. I gather the beaver ponds will be your biggest issue. If it is wet, your day 2 will be slippery. But, you will be at some great campsites!

One last note: Plan now for a contingency hiking plan if the sea plane is delayed or the weather gets really bad and you decide to stay over an extra night at some site. The most likely option would be to skip Todd, which would be unfortunate, but if it is necessary,....

Posts: 1
Joined: Sun Jun 09, 2019 1:48 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1
Location: Michigan

Re: Windigo to McCargoe June 22-26 -- Thoughts?

Post by mb7 » Sun Jun 09, 2019 3:00 pm

Let me start by confessing that I have not hiked the Minong Trail west of Todd Harbor, and I think your plan is completely doable, but there are a few things to consider. I was a part of a Boy Scout Troop that split into two groups. One group (mine) went down the Greenstone Ridge Trail and the other down the Minong. What I know about the western portion of the Minong is what the other crew told us.

The Minong is a difficult trail. DuFresne's book says it' a 1 mile per hour trail and he's right. By comparison, the Greenstone can be hiked at 2 to 2.5 miles in an hour. You would also be hiking the difficult portions of the Minong with all of your food - meaning maximum pack weight. I saw some of the video our other crew took of their trip on the Minong and it looked like rough going in spots. Also, it's not clear from your schedule if you are staying overnight in Little Todd Harbor (you have Day 3 listed twice). If not then the hike from North Desor to Todd Harbor is a second long day on a difficult trail.

Now the good news. Todd Harbor is fantastic. The beach is nice and the dock is good to swim from. If you came on the Greenstone Trail from Windigo to South Desor, you go to Todd Harbor by way of the Hatchet Lake Trail. The portion of the Hatchet Lake Trail on the south side of Hatchet Lake is a beautiful birch forest with fern and thimbleberry undergrowth.

The hike from Todd Harbor to McCargoe Cove is excellent. It mostly runs along a high ridge of rock with views of Lake Superior. Be sure to take the side trail to the Minong Mine. You can go into the mine and see the trailings piled behind it. Acres of rocks moved without machines. I turned my phone on to use my GPS app about half way between Todd Harbor and McCargoe Cove and (surprisingly) had a little cell phone signal from Canada. I got a text from Bell Canada offering me a $5 per day data package. I didn't take them up on the offer, but it was nice to know I could get enough signal to text if I needed it.

You asked about bugs and weather. I was there in late July. Mosquitos are a part of the island, but we found that they were no issue at all until the sun started to set. However, by that time we were ready to head for our tents anyway. I'm not sure when the black flies peak on Isle Royal. I looked through my trip folder and found a note I left for myself that in July, the average high is 74 and average low is 51. The record high is 94 and record low is 37. I'm not sure exactly where I got that information. Our trip was sunny and 70 during the day and around 50 at night. Rain is a regular occurrence, so come prepared.

You can rent canoes at Rock Harbor and canoe in Tobin Harbor for a different perspective on the island. Don't go out on Lake Superior in a canoe.

Probably I've written such a long reply because it's been 2 years since we went and I'm getting the itch to go back. I especially envy you the seaplane ride. I hope the weather is clear for you and you get to fully take in the scale of Lake Superior. Enjoy your trip.

Post Reply