My son and I arrived up north on Tuesday, June 21 for Wednesday's trip on the Voyageur II. Despite an ugly ride through Minn. because of some really bad weather, we arrived early enough for a great dinner at the Angry Trout in Grand Marais and an early night at the casino in GP.
The next morning, we headed out the lobby door on our way to the island. Two kayakers spotted us and told us the ferry was not leaving today, but that we still needed to go to the dock and let them know if we would leave tomorrow at 4:30 am. AM! Turns out that ten foot waves kept the V II in dock. I could hardly argue that decision and would not have had any luck if I tried. At the dock, we ran into Jerry from this forum. Over the next day, he helped us sort out our itinerary options and shared his many experiences on the island. Thanks, Jer!
Looked like we had all day Wednesday to kill, so we headed to Rydens for some breakfast and then to the State Park on 62, just shy of the Canadian border. Despite the continuing rain, we hoofed it out to the 130 foot waterfall at the end of a planked trail. Truly spectacular. I recommend that stop to anyone. We still had the day to kill, so my son and I drove back to Grand Marais and wandered around. One stop was Sven and Ollie's for a pizza lunch and then to the Dockside (next to Angry Trout) where we picked up some delicious smoked fish wraps for dinner back at the casino hotel. Early to bed, for an extremely early (3:30) rise in the "morning."
As promised, we were awake at 3:30 am. As far as we could tell, it was overcast, but much calmer than yesterday. We headed out to the ferry for an early start to the island. Our ride was choppy, but we managed to sleep most of the way. We had decided to get off at Windigo and do the Feldtman loop instead of the Minong. Cramming in the Minong, with one less day and wet conditions, just did not sound like fun. So, we hit the Feldtman at between 7:30 and 8am. It was not raining, but everything was quite wet, so we wore rain pants. Good decision! The first third of the leg to Feldtman Lake offered some great scenery and a few nice vistas of the Greenstone. The last two-thirds was a muddy slog. Even in these conditions, the number and variety of wildflowers in full bloom was amazing. Orchids, wild roses, Thimbleberries and Bunch Berry flowers were everywhere. Add in the rasberry canes and blueberry bushes and the trip kept our interest and, at times, made us wish it were August so we could eat all the berries. I lost count on the water crossings at six. All but two were by bridge or plank. One was a very minor challenge (very), but it did create some interest. The bad part of the trek was my lack of preparations. I was all set for the Minong and had read everything (including the reports here) I could find. This itinerary caught me off guard. For some reason still lost to me, my son and I were under the impression that it was a mere six miles to Feldtman Lake. After about three hours (less, actually), we kept expecting to see camp. For three more miles we were disappointed. And because we thought we were so close, we never stopped for lunch. We made the nine miles on a single Poptart each. I think we were a little cranky when we arrived at camp.
We arrived at camp at around noon, a four or four and a half hour hike. Not bad given the conditions. And were we ever rewarded with a great site. Sites 1 and 2 are both spacious and immediately on the water, with great views. A quick set up of camp (tent, hammock and siltarp canopy--just in case) and we were ready. For a nap. Then a dinner of shepard's pie and our first day on the trail was over.
We slept in on Thursday until about 8am. It was a bit chilly and we lacked the will power to move before then. After a quick breakfast and slow breakdown of camp, we were back on the trail at 9:30. This was our favorite day. The highlight was an extended hike on the ridge with the best views I have seen on the island (my experience is limitied, but I did hike McCargo-Todd-Hatchet-Desor (S)-Island Mine-Washington Creek). Add to that our expectation of seeing a moose--we saw tracks and scat everywhere--and it was a great hike.Next highlight was the watchtower, half way to Siskiwit Bay. More amazing views. On the way, we ran into some hikers going the other way, who told us of seeing a cow and calf in the bay. Alas, rumors would be as close as we got to a moose. We arrived at Siskiwit before 1:30 and explored the available sites. The shelters were taken, so we picked a site down the trail where we had access to our own private beach. We cleaned up a bit and even cooked on the flat, smooth rocks nearby. Good day.
All the way to Washington Creek. We knew we had a long way to go, so we moved a bit more quickly this morning. The first half of the way to Island Mine is mostly along Lake Superior, so we were blest with great views and a nice breeze. One warning here for future hikers. The trail continues along the shore until the harbor turns right and that is where the trail heads uphill to Island Mine. A bit short of that point, the trail forked. The trail to the right looked like a simple use trail for access to the beach. We were not going to fall for that!. We went left on a well-established trail. It quickly tracks along a creek to the right. On this trip, the creek was very wide. We hike on for ten or fifteen minutes until we dead ended into the creek. We hunted around and could not find a good crossing or a trail head on the other side. My son back tracked and found that we were supposed to have crossed that creek very close to the lake shore, but the crossing there ( a few logs) was not readily feasible because of the hight water. So we headed back to the beach and crosssed the creek at its mouth (we changed into water shoes). Once across, we found the trail on the other side of the small ridge above the shore.
Shortly after, the trail headed up. And up, and up. The hike to Island Mine is quite tough. Nothing technical, of course, but grueling, Other than the huge pile of mine tailings and the deserted well, pretty dull too. Tired and sweaty, we made it to Island Mine for a leisurely lunch. We also pumped some water. WARNING: Later in the summer, pack in plenty of water if you plan on going all the way to Washington Creek. The creek at Island Mine was small even after all the recent rain. Rested and fed, we turned toward the last leg of the hike. Not the most interesting part of the island. More of a walk in the woods.
At Washington Creek, we found a shelter (there were plenty) and ran to clean up before the store closed. (We arrived around 4pm, and the store closes at 5pm central time). Then,the best frozen pizza possible--sitting on the deck of the store!
Kicked around Windigo for a while. Coffee, chats with rangers and the always friendly hikers one meets. Then home--smooth ride. Even anothre dinner at the Angry Trout!
The lessen? Be prepared for changes in itinerary!
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Glad you had a good day at Siskiwit. That's one of my favorite places on the island. It just seems like a really secluded place.
I think the detour you ended up on out of Siskiwit on the way to Island Mine was the trail that leads into an area reknowned for old caribou bones (from when they used to live on the island). If it's a very swampy area, then this is it. I've seen this trail before, walked in a way, and turned around, so that's why I'm guessing this may be what you are referring to.
Heck, now that I think of it, the entire Feldtmann loop is one of my favorite hikes on the island. The Minong is my first, but you got a good backup hike. I as well was robbed of a trek along the Minong this year because of bad weather on Lake Superior. So take solace in that.
Thanks for sharing your TR!
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Thanks for the TR!
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Fonix, I'm right with 'ya. I think my buddy and I are always the last to leave a given campsite. Heck, by the time we sleep in, stretch, eat, pump water, clean up, re-pack and finally leave it is usually pushing 10:00 or 10:30, sometimes even a bit later. I have always felt slow when I hear about the hikers who are up early and on the trail by 7:00 or 7:30 am. Geesh. I kinda look at these trips as my mini vacation. Since I'm up for work every day at 4:30 am, I'm in no rush to be up early on my hikes.An hour to break down camp is "slow?" Then we're really, really slow