Itinerary Review

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

Moderator: MikeT

Post Reply

Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

Itinerary Review

Post by yanman2008 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:13 pm

My wife and I will be heading to Isle Royale the first week of September and I have made an aggressive plan to hike across the island and see if you guys had any tips or suggestions that I may be overlooking.

Arrival to the island at Rock Harbor via Grand Portage Isle Royale Transportation Lines Voyageur II at 3:00 PM on Monday.

Plan to hike from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm on this short day - 7.1 miles.

Day 2: Daisy Farm to Hatchet Lake - 15.2 miles

Day 3: Hatchet Lake to Washington Creek - 18.8 miles

Leave the island on Thursday via Isle Royale Seaplane to Grand Marias at 9:00 AM.

I already have the transportation booked (which was a much bigger ordeal and way more expensive than I was originally planning), so we are definitely going end to end in the time on the island. We are from Colorado and are accustom to long miles and steep elevation gains, so I am not too concerned about distances or even the elevation change as we hike several weekends a month including backpacking trips in the Rockies.

Would Day 2 campsite be better to go all the way to South Lake Desor CG? 22.3 miles and then Day 3 would only be 11.3 miles.

How do you get from Grand Marias back up to Grand Portage? Taxi? I am assuming Uber and Lyft have a small presence here.

Appreciate any help. Thanks!


johnhens
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1705
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:10 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 33
Location: Big Rock, IL

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by johnhens » Mon Aug 19, 2019 5:09 pm

Assuming you are in good shape, mileage is doable. Not sure about Uber or Lyft in Grand Marais. There is a shuttle service that operates for the Superior Hiking Trail,Harriet Quarels 218-370-9164, you may be able to find transportation there. Call Stone Harbor Outfitters in GM 218-387-3136, they may be able to help. Keep in mind that your seaplane may be delayed due to weather. September can be stormy.

User avatar

Base654
Trailblazer
Posts: 175
Joined: Thu May 14, 2015 8:51 am
Isle Royale Visits: 14
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Contact:

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by Base654 » Mon Aug 19, 2019 9:45 pm

This is not a trip that I would like, but if you like miles, go for it. I will stress johnhens "good shape". The average person would be in pretty bad shape trying to get those miles in, particularly if your plane is waiting at the end. For me, much of the difficulty of the island is the long step up or down with careful foot placements (i.e. giant strides or stair climber). The elevation change is not really a problem, just the repeated 8'-10' near verticals wipe me out.

I do beg you to post your views after you return so that others will have some comparison to your regular hikes. Many of the hikers going to the Island are "ok shape and hike the flat lands" types.


Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by yanman2008 » Tue Aug 20, 2019 7:41 am

Thanks for the responses! This is a nice community here and I am glad I found it before heading out to Isle Royale.

Just a little background about me, visiting America's National Parks is my one and only bucket list activity. Isle Royale will be #29 and Voyaguers will be #30. My wife and I will be flying into Minneapolis, driving over to Apostle Island's National Seashore and doing some kayaking. Then we are heading up to Grand Portage and over to Isle Royale for this trip then up to Voyaguers for a couple days before heading back to Minneapolis. Over the last couple of years, we have done similar trips through the desert southwest and Utah in 2016, California in 2017, and Washington in 2018.

We are not college athletes or anything like that, but we are experienced hikers and backpackers from Colorado both in our late 20's. Last backpacking trip was the Lost Creek Wilderness Loop (with a couple detours) was about 30 miles with approximately 5,000 feet of total elevation gain. We camped at the trail head and then did 15 miles per day for 2 days. Both days had some pretty significant straight climbs of about 2,000 feet over a couple of miles. We topped out at 12,000 feet above sea level, over the treeline. Typical day hikes will be 10 miles and around 2,500 feet of elevation change. We just did the Devil's Thumb Lake Trail as an example that you can view route and details on AllTrails.

All of that said, I just wanted to give context to what we are accustom to doing. These hikes are not "easy," but are well within our capability. Combine my dream of doing something remarkable at each of the 61 National Parks with minimal time off from work and you get this itinerary. I will definitely be back to report on my thoughts after the trip.


torpified
May actually live on IR
Posts: 312
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 4
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by torpified » Tue Aug 20, 2019 9:15 am

I've hiked at elevation in the west and also at IRNP. On the basis of your dossier, I'd happily wager that you'll be fine with the mileages you're contemplating (but yes please report back!). This include the 18.8 mile last day. The last 6 or so miles into Washington Creek on the Greenstone Ridge Trail is gently downhill, and I remember the whole HL-WC walk as being a mostly smooth and foresty. (On my first trip, I walked that stretch in the other direction on the first day, after being deposited in Windigo by the Voyageur, quite happily.)

Also if you stick with DF to HL for Day 2, you can take the slightly longer way, via the Ojibway fire tower, which will expose you to a supercool, open, view-rich bit of the Greenstone Ridge!

User avatar

hooky
IR Expert
Posts: 616
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:26 am
Isle Royale Visits: 2
Location: Central Indiana

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by hooky » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:24 pm

Like torpified said, Greenstone from Ipsheming trail junction to Windigo is a breeze. Hardpacked, not as rocky as the first part of your trip will be, fairly wide and mostly downhill from South Desor to Windigo. The last time I was at S. Desor, there were 2 groups headed to Windigo that I chatted with a day later on the Voyaguer and they made great time. If you feel good when hit Hatchet, I say go for SD. The short day from SD to Windigo may give you time to explore Washington Creek and still lounge a bit.


Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by yanman2008 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 3:32 pm

Torpified and Hooky, I appreciate the insights. Exactly what I was looking for. I definitely am considering stretching Day 2 to Desor Lake South.

Thanks again for the insights everyone.


Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

TRIP REPORT

Post by yanman2008 » Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:22 pm

Day 0:
We drove from Duluth to Grand Portage. Stopped for lunch in Grand Marais and ate at the Angry Trout Café. It was in the mid-50’s, but we still sat outside to eat. Food was delicious and we finished off our lunch with 1-oz. shots of pure maple syrup, definitely a fun and tasty little shot of sugar. Multiple people around us were laughing as we downed the syrup. While in Grand Marais, be sure to check out the Lake Superior Trading Post for any last minute supplies you might need. We ended up buying toilet paper here just to make sure we had some if the outhouses were empty.
We visited Grand Portage National Monument. We really enjoyed the kitchen tour and the discussion about the fur trade from a ranger. Highly recommend taking a couple of hours to visit the national monument.
We drove to Grand Portage State Park and did about a 4.5-mile hike to the middle falls. Looking back on this, knowing we had 40+ miles ahead of us on Isle Royale, we probably should have just gone to the main falls and left the hike for another trip. It was still a very secluded hike and we thoroughly enjoyed a little warm up.
We stayed at The Grand Portage Lodge and Casino. There was another group literally across the hall from us at the hotel who were also going to Isle Royale the next day via the Voyageur II. We ate dinner at the casino restaurant which decent food and service. We packed up our backpacks and got a good night sleep before our journey to Isle Royale.
Day 1:
It was a cool, but comfortable morning when we arrived to the Grand Portage Isle Royale ferry dock. It was a pretty full boat, but it was fully loaded and we departed at exactly 7:30 AM. The boat ride to Windigo was extremely choppy. There was a storm in the forecast for the next day (more on that to come) and it caused some major waves on Lake Superior which slowed the trip across the lake. Once we got to Windigo, everyone left the boat for ranger orientation. Those going to McCargoe Cove had to go to the visitor center to get their permits and then got back on the boat. We were bound for Rock Harbor, so we had a couple of minutes in the camp store and visitor center then got back on the boat.
It was a long and slow boat to Rock Harbor. There were only 5 people total that went the whole way. We got there at about 3:30 PM. We stopped in the Rock Harbor camp store and picked up a bag of chips and a bag of Muddy Buddies as our guilty pleasure and filled up our water bottles and bladders. My packed weighed 44 lbs and my wife’s pack was 30 lbs when fully loaded with water (hanging scale available on the side of the Rock Harbor camp store).
We were officially on the trail by 3:58 PM headed to Daisy Farm, by 4:15 we were stopped by 2 moose. The female moose took off immediately, but the bull simply stood in the middle of the trail. We waited about 20 minutes and saw no movement from the moose, so we went off the trail to go around him. We were back on the trail with no signs of the moose. This section of the Rock Harbor trail was very rocky and had a lot of roots, so we made sure every step was secure. We ended up at Daisy Farm a little bit after 7:00 PM. We saw a beaver swimming in Lake Superior right next to the pier and we watched him do his work for a little. All of the shelters were full, but we were able to fit in a shelter between another couple in a tent and a solo backpacker who didn’t pitch his tent in the shelter.
Day 2:
The skies were grey in the morning and the weather forecast was not great for our second day. We didn’t get going as early as we wanted to because we were trying to be quiet for our shelter-mates, but we were fully packed up by 7:15 AM. We ate a quick breakfast and filled up our squeeze bottles from the pier into Lake Superior. The water was extremely choppy so filling those bottles was not the easiest, but we got it. It was about 8 AM when we finally got moving.
Because the weather forecast was not good, we decided not to add any extra miles so we skipped Mt. Ojibway and went up Daisy Farm trail to the Greenstone Ridge. At about 10:30, the sky opened up and it began pouring. It rained hard, almost non-stop, until about 5:00 PM. Some of the views that I read about on Mt. Siskiwit were not there because of the rain and fog, but it was still really beautiful to see the fog behind the trees. We literally could not see more than 20 feet in front of us through the fog.
It was about 3 PM when we got to the Hatchet Lake campground spur and we decided to call it quits for the day and not push on late in the afternoon with 7 additional miles to South Lake Desor. Again, all of the campsites were full so we ended up sharing a site with 2 other tents in the same site. Needless to say, with all of the rain, we were fully soaked head to toe. We used the foliage in the campsite to hang our clothes to try to dry them out overnight. As we slept, were heard a moose stomping through the woods.
Day 3:
Thankfully, the weather was so much better on our long day. According to my wife, the hardest part of the entire trip, physically and emotionally, was putting on our cold, wet pants and clothes that didn’t dry at all overnight. That being said, we were on the trail by 7:15 AM. It took a little bit to climb back up to the Greenstone. As soon as we were on the Greenstone Ridge trail, a big bull moose was coming directly towards us on the trail. We quickly jumped off the trail behind a couple of trees. Our movement caused the moose to veer off the trail and that was the last moose we saw.
One of our favorite activities on the last day was eating as many ripe thimbleberries as we could find. We were sad as we got to the west side of the island and the thimbleberries were far less frequent. Our goal on this day of about 20 miles was to get to Windigo before the camp store closed. Most of these miles were easy for us and we had a great time. Our clothes dried out and we were able to get to Washington Creek by 3:30. After we dropped our packs in a shelter, we could barely walk upright, our bodies had grown accustom to carrying our packs.
Unfortunately, we had pictures of the Rock Harbor camp store in our heads and the Windigo store is definitely not the same size. We were still able to find some food to feast on such as ramen noodles, saltine crackers, French fried onions, and hot chocolate. This hodgepodge assortment of food was certainly a feast for us.
Day 4:
Our flight to Grand Marias was at 9:00 AM, so we had enough time to visit the visitor center and view all of the displays. We left our camp fuel at the camp store and waited for the plane. The flight was a real treat and we were able to spot a ship wreck under the water from the sky. We landed at about 9:50 and with in 5 minutes, Harriet Quarles had shown up in her van. She had another hiker heading to overnight one of the state parks and his dog in the van. She is eccentric lady to say the least, but offers a great service. She suggested the Naniboujou Lodge for lunch as a welcome location for dirty, smelly hikers. After we got back to our car, we changed quickly and went to Naniboujou for lunch. It was great food, and the placed got packed almost immediately after 12 when they opened.
All in all it was a great trip and as we continued on our journey to Voyageurs, we spotted a wolf off the side of the road.


johnhens
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1705
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:10 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 33
Location: Big Rock, IL

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by johnhens » Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:05 pm

Looks like a great trip. Glad you saw a moose, though they are present in CO. So what did you think of IR and how difficult was it compared to what you thought? I imagine getting winded was not an issue. What did you think of IR compared to other NPs you have been to?


torpified
May actually live on IR
Posts: 312
Joined: Wed Apr 20, 2016 4:06 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 4
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Contact:

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by torpified » Thu Sep 19, 2019 9:06 am

Thanks for reporting back! I'm with your wife on the question of which parts of backpacking are the hardest. Some trips I have a morning mantra as I squirm back in to my sodden walking clothes: "Wool insulates even when wet. Wool insulates even when wet...."


Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by yanman2008 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 4:40 pm

johnhens wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:05 pm
Looks like a great trip. Glad you saw a moose, though they are present in CO. So what did you think of IR and how difficult was it compared to what you thought? I imagine getting winded was not an issue. What did you think of IR compared to other NPs you have been to?
As far as difficulty, it was pretty much exactly what we anticipated. Day 1 from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm was almost entirely flat, but had a lot of roots and rocks to contend with, making each step precarious. I had anticipated the climb from Daisy Farm up to the Greenstone to be slightly more strenuous, but underestimated the climb between West Chickenbone and Hatchet up to Mount Siskiwit. We did have to stop just to catch our breath a couple times in that section, but well within our ability. Our last day from Hatchet to Washington Creek, the most strenuous part was definitely the half mile from the campground to the Greenstone. That half mile took us 45 minutes, while almost every other mile on the trail was 20-25 minutes of hiking with picture taking and site seeing filling up much of the rest of the time on the trail. Coming from the mountains and having hiked significant elevation changes definitely had us well prepared to handle Isle Royale.

As far as comparing to other National Parks, the most obvious and greatest part of Isle Royale is the isolation and solitude. We literally hiked 10 miles and were on the trail for 4-5 hours without seeing a single other person between East Chickenbone and Hatchet. This was a great time on the trail with just my wife and I. When you compare that to places like Yosemite or Glacier, where you are staring at someone's back and someone is looking over your shoulder, Isle Royale really shines. The other thing that was so unique about Isle Royale was just how dense the forest is. Trees in the west, where they grow, have significantly more space between them. To speak in hyperbole, you can drive a car between them. On Isle Royale, the trees block out the sun and create a dark shade 10 feet off of the trail. I really loved just looking into the forest and trying to see what was just 4 or 5 rows of trees deep. I try not to rank the National Parks in terms of favorites because each of them offers something different. That being said, you don't have to spend much time on Isle Royale to see what is so unique about it and appreciate the wilderness.


johnhens
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1705
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:10 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 33
Location: Big Rock, IL

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by johnhens » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:18 pm

I did Hanging Lakes near Gelnwood this June, kicked my butt. Worth the hike though. Beautiful!


Topic author
yanman2008
NewbieCake
Posts: 9
Joined: Mon Aug 19, 2019 2:00 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 1

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by yanman2008 » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:27 pm

johnhens wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:18 pm
I did Hanging Lakes near Glenwood this June, kicked my butt. Worth the hike though. Beautiful!
Oh yeah, that is a must do. 1 mile straight up hill with 1,000 feet + of elevation gain. Did that a couple years ago before the permit system was put in place. I hope that system will be much better for the preservation of the site for generations to come.


johnhens
Forum Moderator
Posts: 1705
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2007 4:10 pm
Isle Royale Visits: 33
Location: Big Rock, IL

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by johnhens » Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:41 pm

yanman2008 wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:27 pm
johnhens wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 5:18 pm
I did Hanging Lakes near Glenwood this June, kicked my butt. Worth the hike though. Beautiful!
Oh yeah, that is a must do. 1 mile straight up hill with 1,000 feet + of elevation gain. Did that a couple years ago before the permit system was put in place. I hope that system will be much better for the preservation of the site for generations to come.
[/quote
My cosuin from Parker told me about all that was happening before the permit ssytem. I was impressed, not too busy and the trail was in good shape. Like Superior, hard not to dive in the water. Glad you enjoyed IR!! We saw moose in RMNP.


kolo
Trailblazer
Posts: 131
Joined: Mon Apr 30, 2012 8:48 am
Isle Royale Visits: 11

Re: Itinerary Review

Post by kolo » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:39 am

I hope that system will be much better for the preservation of the site for generations to come.
I hope so too! With the population increase in Colorado and the popularity of hiking/climbing in the mountains, the permit system might have to be implemented in other areas of Colorado too. It is getting more and more like California, unfortunately. A lot of newbies don't know about LNT ethics or choose to ignore it.

Here is a link about a current discussion on Chicago Basin, a once pristine place in Colorado that I have visited twice to climb 14ers.

https://www.14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=57109

Post Reply