fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June 10)

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fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June 10)

Post by fonixmunkee » Tue Jun 07, 2011 9:22 pm

Crew: smithieus,
, non-members Don, and picking Matt up at McCargoe Cove

Link to photos: ... eJune2011#

Planned Itinerary:
1 June: Grand Portage to Windigo via the Voyageur II, Windigo to North Desor via the Minong Ridge trail (13.1 miles)
2 June: North Desor to Little Todd Harbor via the Minong Ridge trail (4.6 miles)
3 June: Little Todd Harbor to Todd Harbor via the Minong Ridge trail (6.1 miles)
4 June: Todd Harbor to McCargoe Cove via the Minong Ridge trail, McCargoe Cove to West Chickenbone via the Indian Portage trail (9.5 miles)
5 June: Stay in place at West Chickenbone
6 June: West Chickenbone to Chippewa Harbor via the Indian Portage trail (8.1 miles)
7 June: Chippewa Harbor to Grand Portage via the Voyageur II
Total mileage: 41.5 miles

Real Itinerary:
2 June: Grand Portage to Windigo via the Voyageur II, Windigo to South Desor via the Greenstone Ridge trail (11.4 miles)
3 June: South Desor to Todd Harbor via the Greenstone Ridge trail (11.7 miles)
4 June: Todd Harbor to McCargoe Cove via the Greenstone/Minong Ridge trail (6.6 miles)
5 June: McCargoe Cove to Lake Richie via the Indian Portage trail (6.7 miles)
6 June: Lake Richie to Chippewa Harbor via the Indian Portage trail (4.4 miles)
7 June: Chippewa Harbor to Grand Portage via the Voyageur II
Total mileage: 40.8 miles

Detailed report:
After work, smithieus, hodgepodge, Don and myself drove from Superior, WI to Grand Portage, MN. We stayed at the casino. We went to the Guest Services desk in the casino and using my Player’s Card was able to get a room for $42 for the night (two queen beds). We crashed out and woke up early in the morning to a howling wind. We made our way to the dock for the Voyageur II, where Capt Don informed us that the 11-14’ seas would keep us bound to the mainland for the day. We went to Grand Marais for breakfast and reformulate our itinerary. No one wanted to do the initial 13 mile day on the Minong, followed by the most grueling section—between North Desor and Little Todd, only to pick up the last 6.6 miles from Little Todd to Todd Harbor. So we changed our route to the easier-to-hike Greenstone, and broke up the trail in two 11-mile sections. This would put us back on track with our original itinerary, which was to meet our fifth person, Matt, at McCargoe Cove on Saturday . We finished breakfast at the South of the Border Café in Grand Marais (delicious!) and tried to get a room at the Casino, which was now $49 a night. But unfortunately, the rooms were full, so we went seven miles up the road to Ryden’s, where we got the last remaining room for $49. The cabins at Ryden’s are scant, but we just needed a place to rest for the day until we could get up at 0330 and try to catch the boat out at 0500. (Capt Don and his crew were having us get out of Grand Portage on the VII at 0500 so they could do the full circumnavigation that day and get back on track.) The staff at Ryden’s suggested we head up the road a half mile to Minnesota’s newest state park, Grand Portage State Park. It is now home to the tallest waterfall in Minnesota. We went up the road, parked, walked in and snapped a few pictures:

The café at Ryden’s was closed (presumably due to the power outage they were currently experiencing), so we went to the big gas station in front of the Casino in Grand Portage and got some groceries for dinner. We repacked our packs to take out the food and supplies we wouldn’t need. By 1930, the wind had disappeared completely, leaving nothing but blue skies. Figuring we were going to make it out tomorrow, we just burned time until an early bed time.

2 June: We got up the next morning at 0330 and hit the road to the VII dock. The winds were non-existent, so the trip was a go. I chatted with Capt Don about the new boat for a while, then boarded with Capt Mike and First Mate Ron to get underway. Immediately I met IncaRoads and compared intineraries. We would end up at Chippewa Harbor at the same time. We spent the quick boat ride—thanks to a tail wind—chatting and talking about the island. The tail wing sped us along to Isle Royale in an hour and a half. We got off the boat and Ranger Lucas did the Leave No Trace brief. He stated that the trails were covered with blow down from a bad fall storm and to plan accordingly for your hike. He also said something new: that the park was recommending putting food in bear cans now, instead of leaving food in the tent or a backpack. This was only a recommendation and not required, but it was due to the park’s fear that the wolves were becoming more inclined to enter the campsites in search of food. After the LNT brief, we went to the Visitor Center, filed our itinerary, topped off our water, and bid adieu to the VII.

There were many new (and young) rangers in Windigo. I hadn’t recognized any of them. The ranger lady who filed our itinerary said that the Greenstone ridge trail—our new path along the island—was relatively downfall-free. We would soon prove her to be wrong. While the first mile and half of the Greenstone out of Windigo *was* relatively cleared, it soon changed to every 500 yards or so there was blow-down in some way, shape, or form. We reached the Island Mine junction and ran into a gentleman and his wife. He stated that the blowdown from Rock Harbor all the way to where they were was very bad—adding about an hour to each segment of their hike. On top of it, his wife was hiking five months pregnant. Suddenly a 35 pound backpack didn’t seem like such a burden any more.

The weather the entire day from Windigo to South Desor was very favorable…a cool 60 degrees with a nice wind. The bugs hadn’t seemed that bad so far, and it was only by our second stop about 4 miles west of South Desor that I finally put on some bug dope. After the Island Mine junction, the blowdown did become more prevalent, but it wasn’t anything that was completely unmanageable. At most, it seemed that we had maybe added a minute at max to each stop for blowdown. Most of it was easily passable by going over or under. There were a few squirrel trails around some of the bigger stuff that had fallen parallel along the trail, but it had certainly not added an hour to our trek.

We rolled into South Desor about 6 hours after we started hiking and there was only one other solo hiker sharing the campground with us. Once camp was setup, we started noticing the black flies becoming more of a nuance. We cooked dinner and had a little whisky to get us ready for bed. By this time, the black flies were growing much worse, and for the first time EVER on Isle Royale, I busted out my headnet. With pants, long sleeves, and a headnet I was finally bug-free until we turned in that night.

3 June: We got up and prepared breakfast and coffee to less black flies than when we went to bed. We broke camp, and found that the solo hiker was already underway. We hit the trail and the temperature was already climbing. The sun was hot as well, and soon the bugs became unbearable on the trail. I was hiking in shorts because of the heat and couldn’t keep enough bug dope on my legs to keep the black flies and mosquitoes off of me. I hiked in my head net as well, which kept me relatively protected there, but I had to apply bug dope to my legs and arms every 45 minutes to keep them off of me. Even when I was slathered in bug dope, they still bit me through my shirt. It was single-handedly the worst day I’ve ever experienced for bugs on Isle Royale.

The downfall on the trail between South Desor and Todd Harbor was a bit more difficult than yesterday. I would assume this is because it’s the interior of the island and it’s harder for the trail crews to get here. Our normal pace of about 2.2MPH on the trail was slowed to 1.5MPH—still not a horrible pace—but the down fall had certainly increased our total trail time. We had finally taken it on ourselves to start clearing some of the downfall as well, which added to our time. We had a machete that we used on downed and dead stuff on the trail (like Ranger Lucas said, either go “over or through downfall!”), so we started making paths with the machete and our hands through what downfall we could. By the time we rolled into Todd Harbor, we were on the trail for a total of 7.5 hours (including stops). The solo hiker from South Desor was there, and there was no one else in the camp. The solo hiker hadn’t taken the shelter, so we had it for ourselves. Later, this would turn out to be a blessing. We dropped our packs and went to the lake. The temperature was up to 64 degrees, and so we took a dip to clean the three inches of bug dope from our skins. The water was surprisingly warmer than expected, and we were able to clean up as clean as we could from a shower. After we cleaned up, we had dinner outside of the shelter on the picnic table. The bugs weren’t as bad at Todd Harbor, presumably because of the “cooler by the lake” effect. We spent most of the night outside, having some whisky, smoking pipes, and just enjoying the view. We turned into bed to a quiet night.

But that quiet night soon changed. In the middle of the night (time unknown), the skies opened up and poured rain. Then the lightning and thunder came. The lightening was so intense and constant, that I could only count a maximum of three seconds between flashes. This rain and thunder continued for about 40 minutes, and then just as quick as the storm appeared, it disappeared, leaving a quiet night once again.

4 June: We woke up early to get on the trail and get to McCaroge to meet our fifth person, who would be getting off the VII there. The ground and plants were almost completely dry, so again I opted to hike in shorts as the weather was already warm that early. We had breakfast and coffee and got on the trail about 15 minutes behind the solo
hiker. The hike from Todd to McCargoe would turn out to be the most brutal—even more than our previous 11+ mile days. The reason why it was so brutal was solely because of the weather. The downfall was easier than the day before and was relatively manageable. But the temps had got up to 75 degrees, and along the ridges from Todd to McCargoe were like living on a tin roof. Sweat poured off of us and turned our 6.6 mile hike into a death march. The bugs weren’t as bad as before (probably because the wind on the ridges kept them off us a bit). We arrived in McCargoe after 5 hours on the trail and saw the back of the VII as it pulled away. We met up with Matt and another crew that had just got into McCargoe. They said that bugs were terrible at West Chickenbone and recommended staying away. Coupled with this fact was that we were completely exhausted from the death march from Todd, so we grabbed a shelter and called it a day. There were two other groups in the shelters besides us. We went down to the dock to take a swim to cool down and the water—even in the cove!—was unbearably cold…colder than Todd Harbor the day prior. We quickly washed up and then got dressed again as the bugs were getting bad, so it was mandatory to wear pants and a head net at a minimum. We stuck in the shelter for most of the day, playing cards and chatting. By nightfall, the bugs had disappeared some, so we went outside and sat on the picnic table. Eventually, two guys from another shelter started a fire, and around midnight they came to get us to show us the northern lights. We watched them at the campfire for about 40 minutes, and finally went to bed.

5 June: The next morning over coffee and breakfast we decided to push through to Lake Richie instead of staying at Chickenbone, based on the bug report from the previous day. We figured Lake Richie would be less apt to have bugs because it was on a hill that generally had a bit of a breeze blowing over it. We broke camp and hit the trail and immediately were inundated with downfall, some 70+ foot trees running the entire length of the trail. Since it was too difficult to go through these trees, we had to bushwhack around them. This was probably the most significant slow-down of the trip due to downfall. But since the Indian Portage trail is a relatively easy one, we were still able to make good time, stopping only twice. We did spend about 20 minutes in West Chickenbone and found that the bugs weren’t nearly as bad as reported. But we continued on to Lake Richie as originally planned. The bugs were nominal, with most only bug dope keeping them away. I still wore my head net just in case.

We got into Lake Richie about 5.5 hours later and it looked like the place had been shelled. Most campsites were unusable due to the amount of downfall. We had to take a group campsite because most of the sites were so covered in downfall. The bugs in the group site were bad, mostly mosquitoes. The water in Lake Richie was as warm as bath water, but no one went for a swim as we hadn’t really worked up a sweat or slathered on much bug dope on the trail. By dusk, however, the mosquitoes were so thick you could actually hear them buzzing in the woods. We waited for the sun to set more before going and trying our hand at fishing (when Matt got off the VII yesterday, he brought two rods). We caught two Northerns—neither of which were big enough for eating—and had lots of hits, but no keepers. No one else showed up in camp that night, so we had the place to ourselves. The temperature dipped down to about 42 when the sun went away, and we sat on the exposed rock hill watching the alpenglow on the lake, enjoying the bug-free conditions that the cold and breeze produced. We turned in relatively early compared to the night before.

6 June: At sometime early in the morning, we awoke to light rain. It rained off and on lightly, but just enough to warrant the use of rain gear during breakfast. By the time we broke camp the rain had stopped, so we dropped the rain jacket but kept the rain pants on in preparation for a wet trail. We made the last 4.6 miles from Lake Richie to Chippewa in great time, only encountering a handful of downfall, as it appeared the trail crew had at least got to some of it. We made quick time over the trail—5 hours in total—and arrived in Chippewa to warm, sunny weather. We grabbed a shelter, said “hi” to IncaRoads, and then went to the lake for a swim. The water was about the same temp as Todd Harbor two days prior (and significantly warmer than McCargoe Cove!) so we were actually able to swim and clean up a bit. After that, I sunned myself on the dock before rounding up everyone and IncaRoads to try and find the Ah-wah-nee-sha.

A background: the Ah-wah-nee-sha is an old pleasure boat from the era when there were summer cabins in Chippewa Harbor (that’s right, that “schoolhouse” behind the campground isn’t actually a schoolhouse, but rather a leisure cabin). The Ah-wah-nee-sha was a boat used to ferry people up and down the harbor while these cabins existed. Some say the resort’s owner, Holger Johnson, beached the boat in McCargoe Cove with intentions to come back to it. Others say it was a final “eff you” to the NPS when they kicked everyone off the island prior to it becoming a National Park, so he cut the boast loose before leaving, and it ended up a ways up the harbor. Either way, the wreck of the Ah-wah-nee-sha had eluded me my previous three times in Chippewa. I got a piece of intel from some boaters who were up the harbor just a few minutes prior to our arrival and he pointed out the cove that the boat rested in. He also said that the wreck was almost fully out of the water, and he hadn’t ever seen that much of it before. Using my GPS, I sighted the cove’s direct and distance and gathered up the group, along with IncaRoads, and hit the trail to finally find the wreck.

We hiked back out of Chippewa towards the Lake Mason junction, and continued on the trail for .8 miles, until we took a direct left off the trail and bushwhacked .1 miles to the shore. The bushwhacking was relatively easy-going, and .1 miles later we popped out on the shoreline directly on top of the Ah-wah-nee-sha! I had finally found it. We explored around the wreck for a bit, took pictures, and then went back toward camp. IncaRoads and Matt split off and went to Lake Mason, and the rest of us went back to eat some lunch. The warmth of the day disappeared quickly in Chippewa Harbor, and so did the small amount of bugs. We went behind the campground to explore the old “schoolhouse” and then came back and made dinner. As the sun started to wan, we made the hike up the big hill behind the campground to enjoy the last few hours on the island. I had been on top of this hill before, but never actually made it to the tippy-top that offers an amazing panoramic of the entire island in every direction. We spend an hour or two watching the sun go down (and playing with photography!) and then bugs became overwhelming, so we all went back and turned in for the night. The temps stayed moderate for Chippewa Harbor, which isusually a pretty cold place in a shelter.

7 June: IncaRoads woke us up to get ready for the boat. We had a quick breakfast and the VII showed up at the dock a half hour early. We jumped on board, and were under way in short order. Capt Mike said that they were a half hour early because of an impending storm that was coming across the lake. As quickly as the skipper told us, we could see the dark clouds drifting over the lake. We stopped in Malone Bay quickly, and by the time we cleared the Siskiwit Bay, the rain started. The waves never got very big, and by the time we rolled into Windigo, the rain was all but over, but the clouds still loomed. We picked up a group of 15 elementary students and set out for Grand Portage. The rain came again, but soon disappeared and the sun popped out about 30 minutes out of Grand Portage. By the time we got to Grand Portage, it was warm and sunny.Overall, a great trip (as usual). It could have been disastrous with the delay, but our group adapted and made the best of it. Probably the most memorable moment was those last few hours on the hill behind Chippewa Harbor, chatting and enjoying the views.

Take-aways: The bugs are bad! Bring a head net—or better yet, bring a bug SHIRT. There is lots of downfall, but it’s manageable. Plan accordingly, and estimate it took take UP TO an extra hour on your trip. The trail crews have been reduced and the NPS doesn’t estimate they will be able to clear up all the trails this season.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture Trip Report for June 1-7, 2011

Post by Tom » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:28 am

Oooh! You have us hooked already! :P

BTW, Love the new avatar picture... The sun is, ummm, exploding from your loins, LOL.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture Trip Report for June 1-7, 2011

Post by Ingo » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:18 am

Tom wrote:BTW, Love the new avatar picture... The sun is, ummm, exploding from your loins, LOL.

Thank you Tom, I was trying to figure out how comment in a not inappropriate way :D . Love the pic Fonix!
79: worked RH, 01: BI-DB-RH, 02: MC-LR-WL-CH, 05: MI-CI-MB-DF-RH-TM-RH, 09: MC-BI-DN-RH, 11: WC-HC-WC, 12: MC-CB-HL-TH, 13: RH-PI, 14: BI-ML-CI-CH-MB, 16: RH-CI-TI-RH, 17: WI-IM-SB-FL-WC, 18: MC-PC-BI-DB-RH-DF

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture Trip Report for June 1-7, 2011

Post by IncaRoads » Wed Jun 08, 2011 12:57 pm

I was privileged to witness the new avatar photo shoot. Fun times on top of the hill behind the Chippewa Harbor campsite, waiting for sunset.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June

Post by Isle Royale Rob » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:21 pm

Hey Fellas, I was the boater from Detroit you spoke to at the dock. My buddy Steve (the bigger guy) and I stayed in shelter #1 on the top of the hill. I am sorry i didn't introduce myself. I am glad you made it to the wreck. Those are some great photo you got of the wreck. We ended up packing at 5:45am and left the dock by 6:30am Tuesday headed for Birch Island. Glad you guys had a good trip. Ill post a report soon myself.
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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June

Post by FroggyLeSeur » Mon Jun 13, 2011 8:16 pm

Do you have the GPS coordinates of the wreck? Those photos look great. Glad you had a fun and safe trip.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June

Post by fonixmunkee » Sun Jun 19, 2011 11:09 am

FroggyLeSeur wrote:Do you have the GPS coordinates of the wreck?
Here's the coordinates of the Ah-wah-nee-sha: N48 01.722 W88 39.640

I popped them into Google Maps and you can actually see the boat laying on the shore a little bit, just to the right of the point: ... 2&t=h&z=20

It's 100% out of the water right now due to the low lake levels, and with a good pair of hiking boots, you can walk around the entire wreck.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June

Post by Gimp » Sun Jun 19, 2011 12:24 pm

Nice report Goldmember! (sorry I was watching the Austin Powers movie last night)

Your comments about the trail between Tobin and McCargoe reminded me of my trip last year when I seemed to 'hit the wall' there. It's such an easy section of trail too. I decided against an Isle Royale trip this year and your report of the downfall made me feel better about my decision. I encountered that situation on the Pictured Rocks trail in May 2004 and still haven't forgotten it.

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Re: fonix's Post-Rapture TR for June 1-7, 2011 (UPDATED June

Post by HexFletch » Wed Jun 29, 2011 9:27 am

Awesome trip report! Sounds like you had more than a few amazing moments. Seeing the Northern Lights would be amazing enough. Your trip report makes me want to hike a similar route -- would love to see some of those spots ... and do some swimming (something we never got around to doing on our first trip to the Island).

Your comment about the younger and newer rangers at Windigo struck a chord for me. We discussed our plans with one of these rangers, Grace. She was very nice but I believe lacking in some experience which resulted in us not getting all of the information we could have used. Not a big deal but something that should be noted. And she told us the exact same thing about the downfall, that the Greenstone Ridge was fairly clear. As you discovered, it was ... for about a mile or so out of Windigo. After that, not so much. :o

Lake Richie trail was clearly the most significant area of downfall we encountered as well. I have a feeling the trail crews won't be able to clear that area for some time.

Impressed with your logged mileage in the face of all that downfall. And great info in this trip report. Thanks for sharing.

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