TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

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glitch99
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TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by glitch99 »

I had planned to do this as a single post, but it's taking a while to write it up so thought I'd start with the first couple days and update as I can. I hope you enjoy and find it helpful!

Day 0 – Saturday, 8/14
Drove from Detroit Area to Houghton/Hancock. The crew consists of Joe, Brett, Gary & me – all dads in our late 40s getting ready to catapult our youngest kids off to college this fall. Checked into the Ramada-Wyndham Hancock Waterfront hotel around 4:30. Enjoyed a few beverages & appetizers at The Den followed by white fish, lake trout and key lime pie at Joey’s Seafood & Grill. Final pack checks back at the hotel and hit the beds early.

Day 1 – Sunday, 8/15
Windigo to Feldtmann Lake
Up before 6:00am to prep for an 8:00am scheduled seaplane departure. Hotel breakfast was adequate – hot breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, granola and coffee. Seaplane dock is less than 5 minutes away and we arrived by 7:00am.

Pack weigh-in (to be sure we’re under the 45lb/person limit) went something like this with commentary from the nice lady checking us in:
Gary – 32lbs “nice job!”
Joe – 27 lbs “ooh, you’re going to enjoy that!”
Me – 33 lbs “well done!”
Brett – 45 lbs “OH BOY! Do you have any water in there you can dump?” :lol:
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Our plane took off promptly at 8:00 (we were ready early but they won’t leave before 8:00 on a Sunday to keep the neighbors from complaining). Beautiful flight under clear blue skies gave us great views of the Keweenaw and entry into Washington Harbor. Standard safety and leave-no-trace check-in talk with the ranger with emphasis on NO FIRES and keep your distance from the wildlife (no riding the moose :( ). Filed our plan and the ranger also informed us that all hikers were being issued backcountry permits due to the expected crowds.

We purchased our fuel canisters from the store and hit the trail to Feldtmann Lake by 10:00am. Temps in the mid-70s with a nice breeze - perfect weather to get us started! Beautiful trail with a great overlook a little over a mile in. It was shortly after the overlook that our issue with thimbleberries began. Specifically, the need to stop every few feet to eat them because they’re delicious and they’re everywhere! This made focusing on the infamously treacherous ‘rocks & roots’ of the Feldtmann Lake trail even more challenging. Occasional stumbles and turned ankles were unavoidable, but we thankfully sustained no injuries.
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Arrived at Feldtmann Lake campground by 2:30pm and grabbed site #2 right on the beach. Our first visitor arrived around 3:15 as we were still setting up camp – a bull moose waded into the reeds just down the shoreline. Brett won the $1 pool for first to spot a moose. We soaked our feet in the lake for a bit and then headed to Rainbow Cove for a quick swim. There were 2-3 foot waves crashing in the cove which, coupled with the hot rocks on tender feet, made washing up and filling water bottles a real challenge! We hiked back to camp for dinner and then returned to the cove for a beautiful sunset.
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Sleeping was not easy – a combination of warm temps, excitement for the coming challenges, and the constant snorting and breaking of branches by the herd of moose that seemed to be taking up residence in our campsite. The bull we saw earlier was content standing just a few feet offshore, clearly visible from Brett’s tent closest to the lake (and not making any effort to be quiet). Gary was setup closest to the trees and swore the moose were stumbling over his tent stakes. Definitely not complaining, though – at least we knew we wouldn’t go home disappointed by lack of moose sightings! No threat of rain so I left the rain fly off and happened to spot a few meteors streaking across the sky around 3:00am.

Distance: 8.8 miles (9.00 miles With Pack On per GPS w/ 552’ elevation gain)
Time: 10:00 – 14:30 (4.5 hours)
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by glitch99 »

Day 2 - Monday, 8/16
Feldtmann Lake to Siskiwit Bay
After barely sleeping, I was up at 6:15 and plopped my chair on the lakeshore to watch the sunrise. I was soon joined by a moose cow & calf eating breakfast about 75 yards up the shoreline. They were both slowly working their way toward me until the calf decided it would be fun to trot down the beach and watch all of us scatter to avoid coming between it and it’s mother. The pair of moose veered through the campsites and popped out the other side to continue strolling along the beach.

After breakfast and coffee, we began packing up when the bull moose we’d seen the day before wandered down to the lake for a swim. He entertained us for half an hour diving completely underwater to graze.
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We hit the trail a little after 9am heading for Siskiwit Bay. The first boardwalk not far down the trail had one section completely collapsed, but fortunately the ground below was dry and firm so we just walked around it. This quickly became a theme – with so little rain (the ranger told us less than 1” in the last 45 days) we found nearly all the boardwalks throughout the trip crossing dry creek-beds and swamps.

The first half of the Feldtmann Ridge trail is beautiful – one of my favorite stretches. A few steep assents to start, but you’re rewarded with several great views back across Feldtmann Lake. Much smoother trail (fewer roots & rocks) than the hike from Windigo. We stopped for lunch at the lookout tower and really enjoyed the 360 view from the stairway (access to the top is locked).
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The second half of the ridge trail is a different story – possibly my least favorite stretch of the entire trip. I enjoyed hiking on the exposed ridge just past the tower, but the last 3-1/2 miles is a straight shot through overgrown brush with no pleasant views and absolutely no breeze. With temps in the mid-80s and no cloud cover, we were soaked with sweat as we slogged through the last hour and a half. We also noted several large wasp nests near the trail along this stretch and one of the groups that arrived after us reported several people were stung.

At Siskiwit Bay we found both shelters already claimed so we grabbed campsite #2. None of the individual sites have much of a view, but #2 gave us the most space for our 4 single tents. We grabbed our chairs and headed straight for the lake to soak our tired feet. We spent a couple hours at the lake swimming and soaking up some sun before heading back to setup camp and cook dinner.
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After dinner, Brett & Gary spent the evening fishing off the break-wall while Joe and I chatted with other hikers on the pier. We got out the cards and played some Euchre before heading off to sleep shortly after sunset. Camp was much quieter tonight, but something woke me up at 1:30 so I threw on a jacket and headed down to the pier to get a clear look at the stars. Crystal clear night sky and the moon had set, but the horizon was brightly lit by the green glow of the northern lights! Not ideal for stargazing, but still a pleasant surprise.

Distance: 10.3 miles (11.2 miles WPO per GPS w/ 834’ elevation gain – not sure why the discrepancy to posted mileage)
Time: 9:20 – 14:40 (5.33 hours)
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by torpified »

Your thimbleberry problem sounds like a good problem to have. And I'm with you on the last few miles into Siskiwit Bay from the fire tower -- I think that's the hardest stretch of trail on the island!

Looking forward to further installments. With meteors on night one and the aurora on night two, there's no telling what nights 3 and beyond will bring!
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by Ingo »

I had a moose stand over my tent and eat for over an hour one night at Feldtmann. There was a hoof print 1' from my tent. So I believe Gary!
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by glitch99 »

Day 3 – Tuesday, 8/17
Siskiwit Bay to Lake Desor S
No moose sightings this morning, so we were packed up and moving before 9:00 today. We hiked along the beach until we hit the trail sign that directs you to the bridge over the Siskiwit River (less than 1 mile from the pier). Noticed wolf tracks in the sand following several sets of moose tracks.
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Sunrise on Siskiwit Bay

North of the river crossing, we bounced back and forth between the beach and the trail running parallel to it. The trail was badly overgrown in many places, but we preferred that (when we could find it) to the loose footing on the beach. As we reached the NW corner of the bay at Senter Point, it took us a minute to spot the opening of the trail that cuts northeast to reach Carnelian Beach. Once on the trail, it was easy to follow.

Before leaving Carnelian Beach on the Island Mine Trail, we stopped to top off our water bottles with more of Lake Superior’s finest. We had read reports of Lake Desor water tasting a bit funky so we all carried 3 liters for this stretch just to be safe. The hike from here to Island Mine was interrupted frequently to snack on thimbleberries. This stretch includes some of the longest sustained inclines of our trip – thankfully mostly in the shade, but we were still soaked in sweat by the time we reached the Greenstone Ridge intersection. Temps reportedly in the mid-80s inland today.
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We stopped for a snack at the intersection and chatted with several other groups coming up both from Island Mine and Windigo. Clearly more traffic along the GR than we had seen on the Feldtmann loop. The trail heading east from here was like an expressway compared to our first 2-1/2 days – wide and smooth, but we were frequently leapfrogging and passing other hikers throughout the rest of the morning. We paused for lunch near a large rock outcropping just past Mount Desor.
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The remaining hike was a pleasant walk in the woods with an occasional stretch of bare rock. We cruised into Lake Desor S campground just after 2:00 expecting to have our pick of campsites. Unfortuntely, all were claimed. Fortunately, a couple ladies we had met along the trail offered to share site #3 with us. It turns out that one of them is a wildlife biologist studying the wolf reintroduction to IR. She had been on the island since May and would stay through September. The other worked for the NPS and started her summer as a human fire alarm in the Rock Harbor dorms. Once the smoke detectors were repaired, she was assigned to support the biologist’s work.

We headed down to the lake for a swim and to sample the Lake Desor water. Not as clean tasting as what we were used to from Lake Superior, but none of us thought it tasted bad. The water is definitely warmer than Lake Superior, but still refreshing. Spotted a few leaches in the water but none attacked us. From site #3, there’s a trail straight down to the lake – rather steep, but convenient to have direct access. After cooling down in the lake, we took a little longer to setup camp as it was more crowded than usual, but we managed to squeeze all 6 one-person tents on the site. After dinner, we spent the evening playing Euchre in camp (even taught the ladies how to play – hopefully a useful skill with another month left on the island for them) and climbed back down to the shore to watch the sunset.

Distance: 9.9 miles (11.4 miles WPO per GPS w/ 1433’ elevation gain – included extra hiking around to find a campsite, but still not sure why consistently more than posted mileage)
Time: 8:50 – 14:10 (5.33 hours)
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by glitch99 »

Day 4 – Wednesday, 8/18
Lake Desor S to Todd Harbor
Long day ahead of us and not much to do in camp, so we ate breakfast, packed up quickly and hit the trail by 8:30. The ladies had already cleared out half an hour earlier. To be honest, our first experience with the crowds at Desor had us concerned we’d be fighting for a campsite at every stop from here to Rock Harbor (which turned out to be accurate).

We made good time heading back up onto the ridge and passed the ladies taking a break under the Ishpeming Point watch tower. This ~8 mile stretch of the Greenstone Ridge from Desor to Hatchet is a great mix of shaded forest trail, exposed grassy clearings and rugged rock outcroppings. We had a few nice views of Siskiwit Lake from the ridge, but the morning was otherwise unremarkable – just a really nice hike! The temperature climbed quickly into the mid-80s which felt like the 90s when we weren’t in the shade.
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Siskiwit Lake from GR

We passed a group of Scouts at the Hatchet Lake junction who had just climbed back up to the Greenstone to continue their march eastward. They looked absolutely gassed already at 11:30am and they had only covered a few tenths of a mile. We quickly saw why after veering left to head down the trail to Hatchet! That north face of the ridge is brutally steep. We made a mental note to NEVER include a hike back out of Hatchet to the south on future trips – what a rough way to start the day!

We took a quick break at the entrance to the Hatchet Lake campground but agreed to keep it short. Unfortunately, after seeing how crowded it was at S Desor, we were anxious to get to Todd Harbor and secure campsite early. I really wish that wasn’t a factor, but we felt rushed the rest of the trip by concerns of overcrowding.

I expected the trail from Hatchet to the Minong Ridge to be a series of swamps and beaver dam ponds that would make keeping my feet dry impossible. We passed several impressive dams, but the water was low and all the small creeks were completely dry. No wet feet today! As others have reported, there’s now one dam that’s just part of the trail shortly before the Minong Ridge junction. The trail was recently rerouted to go over the dam so watch for the red tape tied to the trees.
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Native trail crew creates a nice path for hikers

We kept up an aggressive pace and didn’t take a full stop for lunch. We blasted into Todd Harbor campground by 1:30 expecting to beat the crowds, but were again disappointed to find every site close to the water already occupied. Several were obviously people who had already been there one night and were sticking around for another – and I certainly can’t blame them! What a beautiful site!

The only open site was #6 which is set way back from the trail on the way out to McCargoe. Good size site with 3 separate pads for tents set among pine trees (and thimbleberries!). We planned to occupy only 2 of the pads in case anyone else came along in need of a campsite. Since we had skipped lunch on the trail, we quickly ate, grabbed our chairs and headed down to the lake to soak our feet. The water at Todd Harbor was glorious! Much warmer than we expected for Lake Superior, but still refreshing. We swam and sat on the beach for several hours before heading back to setup camp and make dinner.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by a small squirrel we named “Ricky-Bobby” who alternated between throwing pine cones at us from the tops of the pine trees and racing around our feet to pick them up and jet off to his stash. We spent the evening playing Euchre down on the beach while watching the sunset – can definitely understand why this is such a popular campsite!
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Sunset over Todd Harbor

A group of 5 guys rolled in fairly late in the evening to find all the sites full. They setup their tents in small clearings between the beach and the trail to the group campsites. I’m pretty sure that’s not compliant with the rules for backcountry campsite, but they were clearly not the first ones to pitch tents in those spots and it didn’t really cause anyone much grief. Probably the best spots in the campground!

Distance: 11.8 miles (12.3 miles WPO per GPS w/ 1309’ elevation gain – includes some distance in camp trying to find an open site, much closer to posted distance)
Time: 8:30 – 13:30 (5.0 hours)
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Re: TR: 8/15-22, 2021 [Windigo-FL-SB-DS-TH-MC-LC-RH]

Post by glitch99 »

Day 5 – Thursday, 8/19
Todd Harbor to McCargoe Cove
We were packed up and on the trail early today. Really looking forward to a short day and hoping to snag a shelter at McCargoe Cove. Love this section of trail! I was intimidated by the idea of hiking Minong, but feedback from this forum was that this stretch is really Minong-lite (confirmed!). Very few level sections of trail – constantly going up or down, but no long, sustained climbs. Great variety of terrain with occasional high points offering great views of Otter Lake, Beaver Lake and Lake Superior.

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Otter Lake & Beaver Lake from Minong Trail


There’s a small pond on the south side of the trail about 2.5-3 miles from Todd Harbor. It looked like a prime moose hangout and, sure enough, we spotted a cow and a calf wading through eating breakfast.

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We strolled into McCargoe Cove before 11am and found several shelters unoccupied. Claimed #4 as it had the best view of the cove. Temps were already climbing into the 80s again so we dropped our packs, changed into swim trunks and headed for the lake. Jumping off the end of the dock into the cool water was possibly the most refreshing experience of the week. Similar to Todd Harbor, the water here was much warmer than we thought possible in Lake Superior. The shoreline is rocky so water shoes or flip-flops are very helpful.

We had planned our route with the option for a zero-day at some point with the most likely choice being here at McCargoe. After arriving early and spending the entire afternoon swimming, relaxing on the dock, hiking back to explore the mines, chatting with other hikers, playing cribbage, fishing and even a short nap, we were all feeling fully refreshed and rested by dinner time. As beautiful as it is at McCargoe Cove, 5 days of freeze-dried dinners had us craving a burger and a beer in Rock Harbor ASAP so we decided to press on the next day.

We closed out the evening down by the dock discussing our routes and trip highlights with a few other groups. No campfire due to fire restrictions. Around 9:00 a very healthy-looking fox strolled through camp like he owned the place. He darted off toward our shelter and we followed to be sure he didn’t steal our shoes.

Distance: 6.7 miles (6.4 miles WPO per GPS w/ 523’ elevation gain) plus 2.5 miles round trip to the Minong Mine w/o packs
Time: 8:20 – 10:50 (2.5 hours)
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