May 31 - Ferry to McCargoe Cove
Rode in on the Voyager from Grand Portage. It was a really smooth ride, and the boat was full! Quite the change of pace after being used to social distancing for well over a year at this point. We all had to wear masks, but it felt a bit like a return to normal after being in nothing that remotely resembles a "crowd" for a very long time.
Arrived at McCargoe Cove around 1:45pm (I think EDT, if I remembered to adjust my watch? If you ask me, the island should be on central time ). It was a fairly busy campsite; I think all the shelters were full but nobody ended up at a tent site.
I had a couple of smaller hikes planned in the area: preview the portage to Chickenbone the next day and then visit the Minong Mine site. The portage was a bit longer than expected; I clocked it at about a mile. I guess I misread my NatGeo map which has a confusingly placed "0.5" and "0.7", and in retrospect I don't really know what these mileages are referring to. For some reason I was thinking the portage would be the 0.5 mi distance, so it was about double my expectations. Oh well, it's a fairly flat trail so the extra distance wasn't a huge deal.
After previewing the portage and backtracking to camp, I headed on to the Minong Mine. It's a fairly neat place, so if you're already nearby, I'd recommend making the hike if you haven't been there yet!
June 1 - Portage & Paddle to Lake Richie
I rolled out of camp and started my portage at about 10am EDT. The portage between McCargoe and Chickenbone was fine. Then Chickenbone - Livermore was a nice short portage. Livermore - LeSage was a tough one, with a brutal incline right out of Livermore, but fairly flat when past that. Then finally LeSage - Lake Richie was a decent portage, although I did stop to give my back and shoulders a break a few times from my subpar yoke. I ended up going to the trail-accessible Lake Richie campsite, since I met another group of canoers on the last portage who had plans to go to the canoe site. The trail-accessible site was totally empty, so I can't complain too much! Overall, the portages left me completely pooped by the end of the day, so I slept well.
Wildlife report - total of three moose! A bull at McCargoe, a female on the shore at Chickenbone, and a female just west of the portage in Lake Richie! I also caught a fleeting glimpse of a fox at the Lake Richie campsite.
June 2 - Paddle Lake Richie & Hike to Chippewa Harbor
After a long day of portages, I'd planned a somewhat easier day here. I paddled down through Lake Richie left my canoe at the south portage, and then hiked with my pack on to Chippewa Harbor. I planned to leave my canoe here until I would pick it up on the morning of June 4 (spoiler - I stuck to this plan, and had no issues). I didn't want to bother bringing the canoe on to Chippewa Harbor, since I'd be headed back up through Richie and staying at Intermediate Lake, and I had a no-canoe, off-trail hike planned for June 3 from Chippewa.
I arrived at Chippewa Harbor around 1pm, and only one other boater was using a shelter. Ended up spending most of the rest of the day reading and watching eagles & gulls on the dock. Lovely scenery.
Wildlife report - a mother moose and her baby on the south arm of Lake Richie! Quite a neat sight. Also while sitting at the Chippewa dock, saw a gull grab a fish from the water and fly to a rock to eat it, where a bald eagle promptly flew in and stole it.
June 3 - Off-Trail Hike on Lake Superior Shore
I planned to basically follow the short of Lake Superior east from Chippewa Harbor for as long as I was comfortable, and then backtracking in the afternoon with plenty of safety margin to get back before sunset (which wasn't too much of an issue considering how late the sun sets this time of year).
I really enjoyed the hike along the rocky shores. Very scenic, especially up on that tall cliff above the entrance of the harbor! Against all odds, two kayakers who were paddling around the island scaled up to that cliff at the same time I was sitting up there taking a break. Considering how few people I'd seen on the trails up to that point, you can imagine my surprise when I was hiking off-trail and someone showed up. I had a short chat with them and continued east along the shore. The hike was slow-going trying to find a workable path through the rocks, and I ended up not going nearly as far as I was hoping. Stopped for a late-afternoon lunch at a pebble beach just east of Lake Theresa and headed back. I stopped on Chippewa Harbor cliff for a quick photo on the way back. I also turned off airplane mode on my phone while there just to check, and lo and behold: my phone showed 0 bars/LTE which apparently was good enough to make a quick call home to say hi. The call did end up dropping fairly quickly. Made it back to camp around 4pm to find one other group of boaters had come in and claimed the 3rd shelter.
Fun day, and I'd highly recommend the hike to anyone willing to go off-trail. Please take it slow though, since I could see somebody easily losing their footing, slipping, and then knocking their head on a rock.
Late in the evening, just before sunset, I headed over to Lake Mason just to check it out and say I'd been there. The lake was glass and it was totally serene. Ended up sitting down and just soaking in the nature for a while until the mosquitos drove me away. Highly recommended that you visit there on a calm, clear evening!
June 4 - Paddle & Portage to Intermediate Lake, and (finally!) Some Fishing
The hike back my canoe on Lake Richie was pretty uneventful. Saw a group of two and a solo hiker coming in to Chippewa Harbor along the portage trail. I got back to my canoe which was exactly as I left it, and paddled through Lake Richie, said hi to another group of 6 canoers, and started on the Intermediate Lake portage. There are a few decent hills on this portage, but being fairly well-rested, I made it through just fine.
I got to the Intermediate Lake camp around 1:30pm and set up my tent. Just me at the campsite. I waded into the water to fill up my water bladder, much to the delight of a couple leeches who must have been waiting all day, because I wasn't in the water for more than 30 seconds ended up with two leeches on me. I would have loved to send karma their way and use them as fishing bait, but that's not allowed sadly! But I did end up going fishing in my canoe with artificial lures until just before an evening/nighttime storm hit, and caught some lackluster northerns and perch, all catch-and-release.
A decent thunderstorm hit at 9:15pm and continued through morning the next day. I slept through it pretty well.
June 5 - Paddle & Portage to Wood/Siskiwit Lake and Ryan Island
Got going fairly late after the storm cleared; I was packed up and out of camp by 11am. Paddled my way over to the portage, and enjoyed the fairly flat portage over to Siskiwit. Made my way over to the Wood Lake campsite by about 1pm and then set up camp. Just like the previous day, I was the only one at the site. One of my main goals of this trip was to visit Ryan Island for its notable "largest island in the largest lake in the largest island in the largest lake in the world" status, so after setting up camp, I immediately set course for the island but stopped about halfway there when I was getting bad vibes from the wind. I wanted to play it extra safe since I was solo, and frankly I didn't have much faith in my little handheld marine/weather VHF to reach anyone in case of an emergency.
I returned back to camp and listened to the NOAA weather radio reports. It sounded like the wind was supposed to calm a bit later in the day, so I passed time by reading my book, and sure enough around 3:30pm, the wind did reach a much more comfortable level. I cautiously paddled my way to Ryan Island and reached it around 4-4:30!
While there, I spent a little over an hour wandering around looking for the mythical "Moose Flats" and "Moose Boulder" mentioned in the Siskiwit Lake Wikipedia page. Sadly, I couldn't find any evidence of a seasonal pond on the island, which is consistent with an article on Atlas Obscura that I read before the trip. Frankly, I reached the same conclusion as the man in the article: I "can’t be 100 percent sure that it doesn’t exist, without exploring every square foot of the island, which is very densely forested." I did find lots of boulders that could be "Moose Boulder" but there was just no evidence that any notable ponds ever form on the island. I suppose after a particularly heavy rain, one might be able to briefly snap a picture of a rock sitting in a shallow puddle. I would say I did a fairly thorough survey of where the island topography might form a pond on the western 50-60% of the island. I chose the western half based on the topographic data that I looked at before my trip. If I went out again, I would definitely want to spend some time on the eastern half of the island, which appears to be an unlikely candidate, but I want to be thorough! This topic fascinates me... let me know if you've been out on Ryan Island and did any searching. I may post a topic elsewhere on the forum on this.
After my visit to Ryan Island, I did a bit of fishing for lake trout in the area. No luck. Then I headed back to camp which took about 45 minutes into a moderate headwind. Spent the remainder of the evening on the nice overlook of Wood Lake at the campsite reading my book.
Wildlife report - Nothing notable. Slightly surprised that I didn't see a moose on Ryan Island considering the limited area and amount of moose droppings I saw. Not to say that I'm disappointed; it would not have been great to be digging my way through the dense brush on the island to find myself face-to-face with a bull moose!
June 6 - Paddle & Portage to Malone Bay
There was a rainstorm in the morning that kept me in my tent until around 9:30. I had a leisurely breakfast, packed up, and got out of camp around 10:45. It took me about an hour and a half to paddle through Siskiwit to the portage into a moderate headwind. The portage was pleasant, and there were plenty of shelters available at Malone Bay. I grabbed the easternmost one (#1) and basically lounged around camp reading, did some very short hikes, and took some pictures for the rest of the day. I enjoyed the nice cool breeze off Superior.
June 7 - Out-and-Back Hike to Ishpeming Point
I had built in an extra day at Malone in case I ran into no-paddle weather at any point in my stay. This hike along the Ishpeming Point was only going to happen if my trip had gone exactly as planned in the preceding days, and it had. So I packed a light daypack with about 3L of water and got going around 10am. About halfway up the trail (right at the Siskiwit river inlet), the trail seemingly abruptly ended at a beaver dam. Upon closer inspection, the old boardwalk was flooded thanks to the 2-stage dam, and I had half a mind to just turn around and lounge around in camp on my last day. But I decided to carefully cross right over the top of the dam, and made my way to the trail on the other side.
Aside from the beaver dam, the trail still wasn't in that great of shape with many downed trees and nearly fully overgrown in places. If you plan to hike this trail in the near future, keep a close eye on it because it can be easy to lose! I'm sure with some more traffic it will improve a bit. Honestly I'm surprised the trail wasn't marked as closed, but I suppose the park service is quite hesitant to close a spur trail in to a ferry dock.
I reached the top around 12:30-1pm, which was apparently peak lunch hour. There were 8 or 9 other hikers eating lunch up there as I arrived, all having a great time. After some conversations over a quick lunch, I headed back down to Malone. As expected, the view from Ishpeming point was non-existent, and you can't even go up the tower. But I knew that going in, and this hike was really just a backup plan for me.
I got back to camp around 3:45pm, gave myself a quick "bath" and organized my bag as much as I could before the morning ferry. In the evening I attempted to catch some brook trout on the bridge over the Siskiwit falls, but I didn't have the right equipment so I had no luck.
June 8 - Ferry to Grand Portage
Pretty uneventful ferry ride. There were some open seats on this trip, in contrast to the trip out to the island. Surprisingly, after a strong early-morning thunderstorm, Superior was fairly calm and the waves weren't bad at all. Took about 5 hours to get from Malone back to Grand Portage.
Great trip! If you want a paddling trip with a fairly leisurely pace and some optional hikes, I really enjoyed this route! Feel free to ask me about any more details.
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I hope to be in that neck of the woods about 5 weeks from now. Did you see any evidence of the algae bloom in Lake Richie?
Definitely, although I'll warn you the first bit out of Chippewa Harbor until you reach Lake Superior proper is a classic bushwhack.
Not that I remember. Glad I got through before that warning.
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I was on the island, on foot and on some of the same trails, at the same time*, and I admire your restraint in labeling the weather of Friday/Saturday June 4/5 "a decent thunderstorm". Huddled in my tent at Hatchet Lake, I thought it might be the apocalypse!
(*trip report coming soon!)