Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by rxmarcus »

I have read a lot of great info on this forum that has helped immensely in my planning. So thank you all for that. But I still need a little help with logistics in finalizing an itinerary. By "itinerary" I mostly mean a loose plan or plans, so that I can take factors such as weather and just generally how I'm feeling into consideration during the trips. I LOVE to have options!

The basics: a group of 4 of us from Indy will be on the island for 4 nights, 5/23-27. We are arriving to Rock Harbor via seaplane, which is scheduled to take off at 2pm. We will be leaving the island at 11am on 5/27. All 4 of us are very experienced backpackers (Midwest, Appalachia, CO, CA, WA, etc) and are fit. Ages 25-40. We are good with 10-12 miles/day, or more if need be.

Based on research my top 3 campsites are Moskey, Chippewa, and McCargoe. A 4th site is pretty flexible, with Lane, West Chickenbone, Angleworm (assuming we obtain a permit to camp here), and Daisy Farm as options. Basically, we're going to hang out on the NE end of the island, as it just makes the most sense logistically.

My dilemma is that the first day and last day are shorter with travel. My "ideal" itinerary is Moskey --> Chippewa --> McCargoe --> Lane/Angleworm/Daisy/etc. My worry is that by the time we arrive on the island by 3pm it might be too late for the ~11 mile hike to Moskey. Thus, my second thought is to flip the itinerary and start with a closer campsite, Lane/Daisy/etc --> McCargoe --> Chippewa --> Moskey. But then it doesn't leave much time to hike back to Rock Harbor on the last day from Moskey.

Basically, I am trying to figure out a trip that we can reasonably do that will include my top 3 sites. Is the hike from RH to Moskey that first day totally doable (assuming weather cooperates)? In theory I could also reschedule the pick up for the seaplane to later in the afternoon and my reverse itinerary would work better. Are there other option I'm not thinking about? Am I being too rigid with my top 3 sites?

Any advice or tips are very appreciated!

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Re: Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by dcclark »

Welcome! Something I always say to new Isle Royale visitors is: You'll be back! And in this case, I think you should embrace that idea, because I don't see a good way to visit all three of those sites with your schedule.

The seaplane is susceptible to delays, so you may or may not take off at 2 pm. I wouldn't make plans that require a long march on the first nor last days.

Even experienced backpackers often find the island "rougher" than they expect. There are no mountain-like elevation changes, but there is constant up-and-down over ridges, through swamps, back over another ridge, on bare bedrock... it wears on you. If you're used to 10-12 miles per day, you might want to plan for 8 miles and do more only if you have to.

OK, enough of trying to scare you away from big days. :) My main advice is to cut Chippewa Harbor out of your plan. It's down a long dead-end, which makes it hard to work into a short itinerary like yours. You can visit it next time instead!

Here's a reasonable plan:
Day 1: Arrive and hike to Daisy Farm (8 easier miles) or Three Mile if you arrive late (3 miles).
Day 2: McCargoe Cove (8 moderate miles, or 12 if you ended up at Three Mile)
Day 3: Moskey (9 moderate miles)
Day 4: Three Mile (8 miles), or if you're feeling good, do Moskey to Three Mile by detouring up to the Greenstone at Daisy Farm (~10 miles). Enjoy Mt. Ojibway and Mt. Franklin. If you're not feeling great, you can ditch at Daisy Farm instead.
Day 5: Hike the rest of the way to Rock Harbor in the morning. Hike the Scoville Trail if you have time.

This doesn't give you much wiggle room in case of bad weather (either delaying your arrival, or just causing a day to be bad hiking weather), but it will get you to a bunch of very nice places, see the north and south sides of the island, see the Greenstone, and hit several favorite campsites.

In any case, you'll be back! You can take the Voyageur to Chippewa next time, and start your hike there.
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Re: Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by Base654 »

I agree with dcclark. Skip Lane and Chippewa, it's going to require too much perfection of legs and weather and airplane. They are nice, but more of a destination, than an overnight. Slow down and look around.

I plan for 2 miles an hour on the island. At that speed I can look around as I walk, much faster and you have to watch your feet too much. You will miss the beauty of the island and scare away the nature with the noise. There are very few trails where you can get a full stride on relatively even ground. A lot of the island is stagger steps and hops for rocks and roots. When I walk around town training I am just over 4 miles an hour, with a full pack.
I did McCargo off of the Ranger (on trail about 3:00) once when I was in my mid 20s and a solid runner/hiker. I got into McCargo after dark and completely drained. If you want to try that you should be on an early morning flight so you have all day.

I will often return to Rock harbor from Moskey. That trip takes me about five hours with a quick lunch and water filter break. The Rock Harbor trail is, in my opinion, the fastest trail on the island. If you skip Three Mile from dcclark's plan, (decide when you get to three Mile) you could have the morning of day 5 for Scoville, and a burger and a beer. You might even have time to day hike the Tobin trail, cross over at Suzy's cave and come back up the Rock Harbor trail.

If you are really late day one, get a burger and beer at Rock, camp there and leave at day break for McCargo. McCargo, Moskey, Rock. or McCargo, Daisy, Rock.
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Re: Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by Midwest Ed »

When schedules are shorter, a lot of people seem to stick to the trails and campsites along the Rock Harbor channel (Three Mile, Daisy Farm, and Moskey Basin). IMO, the big thing they are missing is the portion of the Greenstone Ridge trail that offers some great panoramic views. The above 3 campgrounds can be utilized while making either day trips to the Ojibway fire tower (triangular loop) from Daisy Farm or even better taking the only slightly longer route from Daisy Farm to Three Mile (or vice-versa) up to the ridge and back. Try not to miss it especially if the weather is clear.
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Re: Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by rxmarcus »

Thank you all so much for the advice and input. Cutting out Chippewa now seems like such an obvious fix to my itinerary issue. I guess I just needed some experts to point it out to me.

I also have always planned the portion of the Greenstone from Chickenbone east to Ojibway and/or Franklin to my itinerary. Thanks for re-enforcement though.

I appreciate everyone's input!
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Re: Itinerary Question - camping 4 nights

Post by Bobcat1 »

Or, arrive and take the water taxi to Moskey for the first night. Then you can relax at your campsite (probably won't get a shelter that late in the day) and take off for your hike with a headstart in the morning. With four of you, the water taxi to Moskey wouldn't be too expensive each person. And then the weather will contribute to your decisions from that point forward. Check if the water taxi is running this summer.
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