2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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Grizzly22
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2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Grizzly22 »

Hello Everyone,

I am looking for a little bit of advice for my 1st backpacking trip on the island.

My first trip to IR was in 2016 where I stayed in the RH lodge with my family. While we were there, we did a lot of day hiking around the east side of the island. I had a great time catching salmon right off of the rocks of the lodge and seeing Mt. Franklin/ Mt. Ojibway. At the end of this trip I knew that I wanted to go back and experience the island as a whole by backpacking it.

As we got into early 2021, I was finally able to get everything set up to return and backpack the island this coming June with a friend. My main goal was to see the island as a whole and be able to backpack it end to end. My other goal is to hopefully see some moose on the island because I did not see any the last time I was there.

My planned itinerary is to start at RH via the Houghton seaplane on an early morning flight and is listed as followed:

Day 1- RH- East Chickenbone
Day 2- East Chickenbone- Hatchet Lake
Day 3- Hatchet Lake- Island Mine
Day 4- Island Mine- Washington Creek
(We plan to have about 3/4 of a day in Windigo from day 4-5)
Day 5- Go home via Seaplane 11AM flight

My Questions for this route are
1. Is GRT hard to navigate in Late June
2. Should we consider camping at West Chickenbone instead of East Chickenbone? Is there any Pros/Cons to one over the other
3. Looking at the map I saw that there are not a lot of water sources directly on the GRT. Is there more sources than listed or will this not be an issue on the trail
4. Is the water source at Island Mine good in late June I've read up on people saying the source has dried out in the past
5. Is the GRT typically muddy in late June and would gaiters be recommended.
6. Is there any campsite on our list that is better for encountering moose.
7. Are there any recommendations for things to do in Windigo. We were thinking about renting a canoe and see the museum

Thanks for any advice you have.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Bobcat1 »

Tell us a little more about your backpacking experience and your fitness level. The reason I say that is that you have some pretty long trail days there on your itinerary. If you're fit and experienced, ok. If you are relatively new to backpacking, I might have some other suggestions. The GRT trail is not usually difficult to navigate. Just follow the rut, or the reddish trail across open rock outcrops. The GRT is almost always muddy in spots but dry in others. Some people swear by gaiters, some people see them as extra. Rely on your own experience as to whether they help you or not. The water sources are at the campsites, not on the ridge. The ridge hiking can be long and thirsty. Most people tend to fill up where they camp (down off the ridge) and carry enough to get them to their next camp. Hatchet Lake to Island Mine will be a long dry haul, and South Desor is a steep half-mile down and half-mile up to get back to the GRT, if you need water so be sure to carry plenty - maybe take an extra liter or two of capacity just for that day. Ask other hikers along the way if Island Mine creek is flowing, and adjust accordingly. I strongly prefer West Chickenbone over East, because the water is closer and the overall aesthetics- WChickenbone is just a prettier place and right on the lakeshore. E. Ch is a clearing in the woods up on a hill, and the water's 0.3 miles away down the hill on the edge of a swamp. Moose are kinda unpredictable - you may go all week without seeing them or you may see 12 in one day. Washington Creek area is pretty reliable for moose, particularly mamas with calves. The human activity keeps the wolves away from the area and the mothers have learned their calves are safer there. If you dayhike around Windigo, you might see some. Stuff to do in Windigo: Dayhike out the Minong Ridge to the first set of overlooks. Dayhike the Huginin Cove loop for historic relics and beautiful rocky shoreline. Dayhike out the Feldtman Lake Trail to Grace Creek bridge and back. Rent a canoe and explore the harbor; have lunch at Beaver Island campsite. Take a shower and get cleaned up. Go to an evening ranger talk. In the morning, hike the short (1.5? mile) nature trail with interpretive signs and such, just to stretch your legs before starting home. Also, late June is prime bug season so take headnets, bug repellent, long pants, whatever you need to handle swarms of blackflies.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Grizzly22 »

I am fairly experienced with backpacking. I have Backpacked all of PRNL, The Manistee River Loop, and sections of the Porcupine Mountains. My current fitness level is below where it would need to be for this trip but I've set time aside from now until then to get back into trail shape. When I was preparing for other trips that were similar difficulty, I would routinely go out and Hike 10-20 miles with full gear on in a single day and try to do this a few times a week. Being a college student has its perks with a fairly flexible schedule. I know that the success of my trip depends on being fit for the occasion. I like your ideas for our day in Windigo it sounds like there is plenty to do and see. Even though I feel experienced enough for this route what other recommendations would you have for alterations to this trip?
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Base654 »

I do this trip in the other direction, but it works in either. I prefer west to east for the short first day in case of plane delays. For east to west I would suggest staying on the lake and stopping at Moskey (my favorite site). That first day will be rough with a full pack, but staying on the lake will allow you to bail out at a couple of campsite along the way if you need to, or if the plane is late and it starts to get dark. If you have seen the peaks, there isn't much more to see along the ridge, the leaves will be out and you will be walking mostly in the woods. Island mine to Windigo is a gentle downhill almost all the way. At just 7 miles you could easily do that the morning of departure if needed. and there isn't much at Windigo, The ranger station, camp store and shower at Rock harbor is about all you will see at Windogo. So plan on something like Bobcat1 suggests, or just relax. That is the other reason I like the trip the other direction, a burger and a beer after my shower and the hike out to Scoville point the next morning finishes my trip.

Being young and prepared, I don't see any problem with the miles except your head will be down the entire time cranking out miles. I'm 50 and did your trip in the other direction 2 years ago and twisted my ankle on day two. If you can get a couple more days I think your trip would be more rewarding and would allow for a down day to enjoy or allow for an injury (which I used).

and bugs.
and bugs.

I prefer Hatchet, Desor, and Moskey to either chickenbone. I suggest avoiding E chickenbone, t'is a hike for water and not nearly as pretty as the others.

You will have a better idea of water along the ridge from trip reports that will come in before your trip. There are often a few streams along the way. In dry years I plan on stopping at the campsites vs going down for water and back up. None of the off shoots to the campgrounds are "nice little jaunts" even without a pack.

I have gaiters, they are light so I take them, but only use them when there is rain/dew on the overgrown trails. If it's actively raining I tie my rain pants to the laces on my boots.

if you have extra days...hatchet to Malone...Malone to Desor...

Anyway you cut it, it will be a good trip with some challenges. Have fun.

and bugs.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Base654 »

I do this trip in the other direction, but it works in either. I prefer west to east for the short first day in case of plane delays. For east to west I would suggest staying on the lake and stopping at Moskey (my favorite site). That first day will be rough with a full pack, but staying on the lake will allow you to bail out at a couple of campsite along the way if you need to, or if the plane is late and it starts to get dark. If you have seen the peaks, there isn't much more to see along the ridge, the leaves will be out and you will be walking mostly in the woods. Island mine to Windigo is a gentle downhill almost all the way. At just 7 miles you could easily do that the morning of departure if needed. and there isn't much at Windigo, The ranger station, camp store and shower at Rock harbor is about all you will see at Windogo. So plan on something like Bobcat1 suggests, or just relax. That is the other reason I like the trip the other direction, a burger and a beer after my shower and the hike out to Scoville point the next morning finishes my trip.

Being young and prepared, I don't see any problem with the miles except your head will be down the entire time cranking out miles. I'm 50 and did your trip in the other direction 2 years ago and twisted my ankle on day two. If you can get a couple more days I think your trip would be more rewarding and would allow for a down day to enjoy or allow for an injury (which I used).

and bugs.
and bugs.

I prefer Hatchet, Desor, and Moskey to either chickenbone. I suggest avoiding E chickenbone, t'is a hike for water and not nearly as pretty as the others.

You will have a better idea of water along the ridge from trip reports that will come in before your trip. There are often a few streams along the way. In dry years I plan on stopping at the campsites vs going down for water and back up. None of the off shoots to the campgrounds are "nice little jaunts" even without a pack.

I have gaiters, they are light so I take them, but only use them when there is rain/dew on the overgrown trails. If it's actively raining I tie my rain pants to the laces on my boots.

if you have extra days...hatchet to Malone...Malone to Desor...

Anyway you cut it, it will be a good trip with some challenges. Have fun.

and bugs.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by dcclark »

As for moose, time of day can make a big difference. Get up early and hit the trail, and you'll be luckier.

On our first trip, my wife and I were hiking the same itinerary as another couple. They would get up at sunrise and head out quickly. We would sleep in at least another hour and putter around camp. We didn't see a single moose that entire trip. Whenever we rolled in to the next campground, the other couple would excitedly show us photos and videos of all of the moose that had been practically waiting for them along the exact same trails, earlier in the morning.

That's how we became early risers on the island.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Grizzly22 »

Thanks everybody for the advice. I will definitely be an early riser on this trip, it is much easier when your already an early riser for work! I will definitely take into account the potential plane issues that were brought up as well. @base654 what gaiters do your use? I am looking for new gaiters because mine bit the big one a few weeks ago. I also have never had a pair of rain pants do you have any recommendations for that?

The main reason I am planning to go back and hike the peaks is because it is my hiking partners first time on the island and she expressed interest in seeing them. Because of this, I think we are definitely going to want to see the peaks. Does anyone have any comments on the McCargoe Cove Campsite? That was another alternative site we were looking into instead of Chickenbone. I know its a a further hike but if the site is worth it, we will definitely consider it.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by dcclark »

McCargoe is a nice place and has one communal fire pit, which is a rarity on the island.

On the other hand, It can be much busier than West Chickenbone, especially depending on when you are there relative to a Voyageur II stop.

On the third hand, it has shelters, which can be reallllly nice if the weather is bad.

So, if I were you, I might wait and decide on the fly.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by torpified »

You can decide a lot on the fly, especially if --- as you're doing --- you've followed Leave No Trace precept #1: plan ahead and prepare!

If you do wind up at McCargo, an option to consider is following the Minong Ridge Trail (detouring along the way to check out the Minong Mine, about a mile uphill from McCargo), then rejoining the GRT via the spur that passes by Hatchet Lake. That stretch of the Minong is more rustic than the Greenstone Ridge, but easy enough to follow once you get the hang of how it exits and enters the rocky outcrops. And the rocky outcrops are great!

gaiters: I'm a fan! They keep the muck off your shoestrings. For IR, I go for something waterproof and medium-height. I haven't tried these specifically, but they're an example:

https://www.rei.com/product/147889/rei- ... ow-gaiters

Whatever you do, please report back!
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Bobcat1 »

But, if you do Torpified's suggestion of taking the first stretch of the Minong, then you miss the section of the Greenstone between Chickenbone Junction and Hatchet Lake, which is a section full of great views from open ridge.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Ingo »

Grizzly22 wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 8:16 pm ... what gaiters do your use?
Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain High gaiters have worked well for me. They also have a shorter version if you prefer.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by Grizzly22 »

The OR Gaiters look very nice. It will be incredibly nice for a change to stop some of the mud and rocks from getting into my boots to irritate me on trail! It also sounds like a lot of my decision making is going to be an on the fly decision when we arrive. I remember from the last time that I was there that you have to have an itinerary but unlike other parks, you are not required to stick to your itinerary.
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Re: 2021 Trip Advice: GRT

Post by dcclark »

Grizzly22 wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 1:49 pm It also sounds like a lot of my decision making is going to be an on the fly decision when we arrive. I remember from the last time that I was there that you have to have an itinerary but unlike other parks, you are not required to stick to your itinerary.
You'll tell a ranger what your intended itinerary is when you arrive (or onboard the Ranger, if that's the way you arrive). But yeah, you're free to change it as much as you like. I love that freedom on the island, and I really miss it in a lot of other places (especially the Porcupine Mountains for the last few years).

I've never used gaiters, but I do bring rain pants. I prefer long pants anyhow, and rain pants keep the dew off of ALL of your lower half when you're hiking early in the morning. Some trails can get pretty brushy, and not just at gaiter height. That said, rain pants have to be fairly long to consistently protect your socks and boot tops.
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