Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

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Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by egraetze » Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:07 pm

A bit lengthy, but I enjoyed reading these prior to my trip so I imagine others may feel the same, and lessons learned may be of interest to some.......

Friday, 7/15: Drove the 10 hours with my 2 older kids up to the Arcadian Motel, which is just by the Houghton Airport. We picked up subs in Marquette for our next day lunch on the island, then arrived at the motel at midnight. Repacked and go to bed by 1:30. Owner Bill was still up and showed me a picture of his boat since he was going to the island with his grandsons the following Thursday and said to meet with him to get some fish.

Saturday, 7/16: We woke at 5:30 A.M. I slept fair. We all showered and finished organizing. Daughter’s pack was at 39 lb with water. Son’s and mine were just over 45 lb. We drove into Calumet for a fast food breakfast. We got to the airport by 7:20 A.M. The terminal was empty, but some cars were in the lot. The pilot Dave came around just prior to 8 A.M. and said the entire island was fogged in. He would be in contact with Rock Harbor every half hour as they would get reports from Windigo relayed through them. We sat in the airport for hours. A man and his daughter along with two other men showed up for their 10 A.M. scheduled flight. The island remained fogged in. Just prior to noon, reports were that Rock Harbor was clearing up. We had the option of going on this flight, but opted to wait out for Windigo to clear. It was sunny and looking better around the airport. They took off and we left to check out Calumet, Hancock and the Isle Royale park office in Houghton while waiting. During that time, the noon had arrived which included a man, his daughter and the daughter’s friend came to the airport. The girls were 15. We got back to the airport by 2 P.M. The plane returned at about 2:30. We were told that the island was fogged in again. Dave went back to his trailer and said he would return in a while. In the meantime, people were filling the airport for a flight to Chicago, and for a departure to Chicago. Dave eventually came back, and then said to bring our packs to load. He got our pack in along with the 15 year old girl from the later flight, and then kept attempting to make contact with the island by satellite phone with no answer. After 30 minutes of trying and checking the satellite weather views, he finally said we are going even without making contact with the island. The noon flight daughter’s friend came with us in order to get all the delayed passengers onto the island as it was getting to be mid afternoon. We took off. I sat in the front seat next to Dave. My son was behind Dave with a pack in front of him. My daughter was in the way back with the remaining packs behind her. The other flight’s girl was behind me. The flight was smooth. The mainland was clear and visible. We flew at 125 knots. Once over Superior, fog blanketed it all. The island became visible 10 minutes prior to landing. We could see the ridge. The edges were still fog covered. As we came low to go over Rock Harbor, fog was rolling over the outer islands. We dipped into Tobin Harbor and floated to the dock. Dave hopped out to tie up to the floating dock. Very fun flight. We all jumped out, loaded packs and made the short walk over to Rock Harbor. We first went to the dock to fill up on white gas. The cost was over $6 for about 38 oz. One cap was missing an O-ring, so we had to purchase a new bottle for $18. We then checked in with the Ranger Station to give our plans and get the no trace left behind speech. We now had to take the Voyager II in the morning to get to Windigo so our plans had to change. We would disappointingly miss out on the Feldtmann Lake loop, and would stay at South Lake Desor for night 1, Todd Harbor for night 2, then McCargoe Cover for night 3. That left several options for the last half of our hike including the ability to stay at one site for 2 nights if we chose to. We had a talk with the Voyager II captain and learned that they had room for us. After check in, we looked for a shelter. Finding none available, we settled on a campsite which wasn’t too bad. After setting up camp I decided we would eat at the lodge instead of breaking into the freeze dried foods. We hiked only halfway onto the Stoll Trail, which is a nice hike onto the peninsula heading east out of Rock Harbor, then hurried back to get to the lodge prior to the restaurant closing at 7:30 P.M. We ended with a table on their deck overlooking the water and dug into a great tasting burger and fries along with “pops” to wash it down. After dinner we stopped back at the tent. It was too buggy, so we went back to the dock to hang out for a while. We finally went to bed with some remaining daylight.

Sunday, 7/17: We woke at about 6:30 A.M. We broke down camp and ate oatmeal for breakfast along with coffee down at the dock. We loaded onto the Voyager II and got underway at 8:45. Had a relatively smooth trip with several stops to unload or load passengers. There was plenty of fog in places. One minute it was too cold to sit outside, and the next was very warm in the breaks of the fog. Finally arrive at Windigo, late due to the fog. There was plenty of activity there. It was sunny and hot. We were the only ones to get off there. We had peanut butter and jelly on tortillas at the dock, then went to the store to write and send a postcard home. After having a couple take our “before” photo, we were onto the trail by 2:30 P.M. It was a hot and humid start to the walk. It was about a 5 mile hike mostly uphill to Sugar Mountain. There was some muddy path to get through at the start, but not too bad. We only passed one couple at the very start of the trail. Bugs were around, but it was not all bad. We sat down for the first time at the Island Mine Trail junction, which was 6.5 miles in. We were somewhat beat by then and drenched, but chose to push onto South Lake Desor 5.1 miles further. This second half got to be a grueling hike with plenty of wet and muddy and too much up and down. My daughter suggested why did we get off the boat when we were already at where we were heading!. Many choice words were said by all. This was a bit much for the first fully loaded day. We finally got to Desor after 7. We set up the tent, pumped water, and ate a late dinner at 9 P.M. The sky was looking like rain, so we put our packs in the outhouse, but in the end left them out with pack covers on. We had chilimac for dinner, which was awesome. The bugs drove us in to the tent after eating, then the rain and thunder came. We only heard voices from the direction of the group camp, but hadn’t seen anybody on the trail since the start. We went to bed with plenty of light remaining.
Miles: 12.18; Start/end time: 2:30 P.M./7:20 P.M.; Moving avg.: 2.8 MPH

Monday, 8/18: Woke early and had grits and cheese for breakfast with coffee. Filtered water. We had to clean the filter element more than expected. The source water appeared fairly clear, but we still had to clean the element about every 2 liters. Broke down camp, but didn’t get on the trail until 10:08 A.M. South Desor was not nearly as pretty as it was in ’87, when there were more birch trees, less undergrowth and fewer down trees. The hike up to the Greenstone Ridge was a muddy mess after the prior nights’ rain. The 3.5 miles to Ishpeming Point was very overgrown, so we got soaked. My son led nearly the whole way so he knocked at least some of the water off the plants. There was plenty of uphill and mud, but no rewarding views. Ishpeming Point was nothing more than an abandoned observation station with no view, but we took our first mosquito infested break there. The 3.8 miles to Hatchet Lake was more of the same. The first, and only nice view was about 100 yards before the Hatchet Lake junction, with an incredible overlook of Siskiwit Lake. This was our second break, which was a bit less buggy. The climb down to Hatchet Lake made us glad we didn’t have to hike it back up. We stopped for a lunch of pepperoni sticks on tortillas at Hatchet. Had a great lunch, with a nice and comfortable sun overhead. The entire stretch between Island Mine Trail and Ishpeming Point was filled with tree blowdowns, but fortunately most had a trail established some way around them. We were drenched with sweat the prior day, but up to this point not as bad today. We filtered more water prior to heading off to Todd Harbor. The trail heading east along the edge of Hatchet Lake was very pretty with a birch forest and not too much mud to deal with. Once the trail turned north, there was a bit more up and down with a couple of creek crossings. This was a fairly easy section of trail. Once on the Minong Ridge, we made quick time to get to Todd Harbor by 4:34 P.M. The hike was sunny and warm, but not nearly as miserable and hot as the prior day. We didn’t see a single person on the entire trail. At Todd, the single shelter was taken, but all sites were open and we were able to select the best which was overlooking Todd Harbor under the pines. There was plenty of room in the site to spread out. My son washed and dried the mud covered ground sheet prior to setting up the tent. We all rinsed clothes in the lake and let it all dry quickly on the rock covered beach along with our soaked boots. We set up camp, took a dip in Superior and relaxed prior to dinner. The edge of the lake was silty, so my son hauled buckets of water to our camp to filter there. We had lasagna for dinner. The kids got a fire going in the community fire ring next to our site. A ranger landed at the dock and came around to check camping tags. Others arrived to occupy most of the remaining sites. We went to bed fairly early.
S. Lake Desor to Hatchet Lake –
Miles: 8.18; Start/end time: 10:08 A.M. /2:21 P.M.; Moving avg.: 2.7 MPH,
Moving time: 3:04

Hatchet Lake to Todd Harbor-
Miles: 3.58; Start/end time: 2:49 P.M./4:34 P.M.; Moving avg.: 2.9 MPH
Moving time: 1:13

Totel – Miles: 11.76; Moving time: 4.47

Tuesday, 7/19: Took down the tent damp. Ate nothing, but put a Clifbar or two into our pockets. The people from the shelter said the west half of the Minong was buggy. They were so right. We put on bug repellent and hit the trail at 8:10 A.M. There was a tricky creek crossing right at the start, but we were able to get across dry. The mosquitoes were the worst I’ve experienced in my life. My son described seeing as many as 15 at a time on the back of each of my shoulders. The bug repellent was ineffective with our sweating and with how thick the bugs were. Fortunately we all started with long pants, which stayed that way. My daughter wore her jacket with her hood on most of the way due to the bugs. We followed fresh moose tracks on the trail through the pretty cedar forest. There was some overgrowth that soaked us quickly. We rarely stopped as the bugs were so bad that we couldn’t stop to get much of a drink in. The last third of the trail rose for some awesome views of Otter Lake. We took a couple short stops on the rocks to take photos, quick drinks of water, and to sample the huge juneberries, but the bugs made the stops way too short. After the Minong Mine, the trail dropped quickly and we waded through more mud up to McCargoe Cove. Seems the last stretch took way too long and we were pretty wore down and beat by the bugs, heat and lack of water. We saw nobody else on the trail. We finally made it to the dock and were able to find one marginal shelter. We dropped our packs and I went searching for a nicer shelter. I came upon the man and his daughter who went out on the first flight prior to us. They had already been at McCargoe a day and a half after a tough Daisy Farm to McCargoe hike through the East Chickenbone campsite. They described how tough it was to get water at Chickenbone Lake since they ran low on the way. The shelter above them was open, so I wrapped my shirt around the door handle and hurried back to the kids. We hauled the packs over, settled in and spread out the tent and clothes to dry. My son hauled buckets of water up to the shelter to filter. He had cooled off by that point, but I was still dripping down sweat and felt very wore out. My daughter went down to the dock where it was sunny and hot. I went down a short time later and laid on my back to relax. I sat up after a short while, then suddenly became light headed. I ended up passing out. When I came to, I was helped back to the shelter so I could lay down out of the sun. I had developed a very bad headache, but other than feeling wore out I did not feel as though I was in serious trouble. The kids were very worried just the same. For the remainder of the day, we weighed out options. We had beef stroganoff for dinner. This was one of the best tasting freeze dried meals yet. We all went to bed early as our decision was to catch the Voyager II at 2:00 P.M. for a ride back to Rock Harbor. The man and his daughter had arranged for the boat to stop the next day. This seemed to be the wisest choice. We just hoped that there was room on the boat.

Wednesday, 7/20: I slept like a rock. We had the freeze dried skillet breakfast on tortillas, which is the best we had on the trail. We slowly packed up our things to get down to the dock. The previous night was rainy with lots of lightning and thunder rolling through. One strike was so close that it rattled everything in our shelter. In addition to man and daughter, there were several adults and 3 boys, who said they were a scout troop, waiting for the boat. The boat was scheduled to arrive between 2 and 2:30, but we didn’t see it coming down the cove until 3. My daughter was very much on edge. The boat pulled up, and appeared packed. We learned that they were delayed by the storms. We positioned ourselves close to the boat to assure a seat, and the captain said he had room for 6. We got on and found seats outside the back. Turns out the scouts were allowed on also. The trip through the northern islands was beautiful. Sibley Provincial Park was visible in the distance. We picked up 3 older kayakers at Belle Isle who were on a 2 week fishing trip, then we were off to the east end of the island. The first part of the trip was smooth, but once we rounded the end of the island it became very rough with the southwesterly winds. The first mate went below to stow away loose goods. The boat was tossed around pretty well up until turning into Rock Harbor’s Snug Cove. Upon arrival, we agreed that I would race ahead to grab a shelter. Once tied up, I was able to quickly head down the path and found the first open shelter, but then settled on number 4 which offered some privacy and a bit of a view of the harbor through the trees. The kids came up shortly after. The scouts grabbed the first shelter. The man with daughter originally said they were going to head to 3 Mile this night, but chose not to go. They fortunately got the last available shelter. It was a good choice for them as we later learned that all available shelter and sites at 3 Mile were filled that day with people having to head to other campsites. My daughter went swimming at the plane dock and we didn’t do much the remainder of the day. Dinner was beef stew, which was good but not nearly as good as the other meals. After wandering around the lodge and dock, we quickly went back to the shelter as a storm came moving in. We all went to bed early with some daylight left. A major storm blew through quickly. One lightning strike couldn’t have been more than a couple hundred yards to the south.

Thursday, 7/21: We had a great night sleep. I went to the Ranger station early as we were debating what to do about the 1 night limit at Rock Harbor and we still had 2 nights remaining. The ranger was not authorized to permit an extended stay, so she called down the EMT, who had a higher authority, for us to have a talk with him. The EMT believed it to be a combination of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and mosquitoes that affected me and that I should now be OK, but he agreed that I should take it easy for the remaining days. He followed us back to our shelter to mark up our permit. Others in surrounding shelters just jumped from one shelter to the next with no issues. We had grits and cheese for breakfast, which was very good. My daughter went down to the plane dock to lay in the sun, and shortly after a maintenance worker walking by the shelter told us of a cow moose with 2 calves close to our shelter. My son took some great pictures as they did not run off. We later went to hike the Stoll Trail to Scoville Point in the afternoon. The trail and views were worth the hike. The point was pretty cool with crashing waves. A loon swam around the bay next to the point. We made our way to the point to the north since we saw a cabin through the trees, but stopped short after seeing laundry hanging along with open windows. We later learned that this cabin, with the awesome easterly views high on the rocks, was the cabin for the artist in residence. We finished our 4.4 mile hike by about 4:30. We turned in relatively early again. It was a nice sunny and relaxing day.

Friday, 7/22: Out last full day started out chilly as it had been a cool night. We ate oatmeal, then went down to the dock to rent a canoe. All had been taken by that point and we were told to stop back around noon to grab a returned one. We had tuna on tortillas. My daughter went down to the plane dock for the sun while my son and I hung out in the shelter. We heard branches cracking near the shelter. I joked that it was a moose, but all of a sudden a bull moose came out of the woods right next to our shelter. We got a couple of blurry pictures. We then went down to the dock to rent a canoe for 4 hours, starting at noon. We left from the plane dock in Tobin Harbor into the sunny cool air and headed for the trail to Monument Rock and Lookout Louise. The trail was a nice hike up and over the Greenstone Ridge, and was well worth it. This was over the extreme east end of the Greenstone Ridge Trail. Monument Rock was a unique spire sticking high up just south of the ridge. Lookout Louse was the most incredible overlook on the island with far views to the islands, bays, and Canadian shoreline to the north. Unfortunately, my camera batter was dead, and my son’s was on the last bar so he didn’t bring it on this walk. If we only knew about the views! We made our way back to the canoe after our 2 mile hike, then paddled to Scoville Point. The harbor was relatively calm, but the main lake rough so we didn’t go beyond the point. We saw many cool cabins, some with life leases and others abandoned. At one, which appeared to have nobody around, we got out at their dock and looked around. The cabin, spare bedroom and other outbuildings were pretty rough on the outside, but appeared fairly clean, although sparse, on the insides. You got the impression that these were either lifelong lease cabins that ran out or were about to run out, or cabins that reverted to park ownership that the park was letting go to rot. Seems such a waste as these could be used or preserved for their history. We got back into the canoe and paddled away our remaining time. We had lasagna as our last freeze dried meal. The evening program was about life in Tobin Harbor, which was fitting as we just explored there. Tom Gale presented as he was a lifelong resident with his grandfather buying Gale Island in the early 30s for $600. His grandfather and uncle were the life lease holders, and the last passed away several years prior so the remaining time on the island was in question. They now only had a limited part volunteer extension that may only go 2 more years. This involved assisting with the artist in residence logistics as well as other services. The presentation was very interesting including the history and life on the island in the past. It was a shame for his family to lose the cabin, but he was not bitter about it. He wrote and assembled the illustrated history book which I already had a copy of. We ended our final day, turning in around 10. Our canoe and walking amounted to about 8 miles for the day.

Saturday, 7/23: I woke at 4:30, and got out of the bag after 6. It was a very cold morning. We ate a skillet breakfast in tortillas, packed everything and went down to the dock. Took final photos, and then got onto the Ranger II prior to 9. We left right on time. We swung by the park headquarters to pick up others and freight prior to heading out onto the lake. We are on the open waters by 10 A.M. The ride was incredible, and the boat was a spotless luxury liner. There were only 40 passengers on the boat, which holds 128, so we had all the room we wanted. We spent the time watching the island sink to the north and the mainland rise to the south. They even had a ranger program, then later music entertainment. There was rough water towards the end. Once we got onto inland waters, the boat slowed way down. Watching the Houghton/Hancock bridge rise was fun. Rain started coming down pretty good as we landed at 3:30. My son got a ride to the airport to get our car. We had pizza in town prior to leaving for home.
The adventure was awesome. I loved sharing it with my kids.

Highlights: MH Chillimac, MH Beef Stoganoff, MH Breakfast Skillet on tortillas, propel for drinks, 151 proof rum for medicinal purposes (especially when mixed with propel flavored water along with ice snuck from the lodge), meeting interesting and nice people on the island.

Lessons learned: Don’t rely on the sea plane for convenience. Expect unexpected events to happen. Mosquitoes can be extreme in July. Bring an extra camera battery.

For future reference: No need to hike the Greenstone for a third time from Windigo to Hatchet Lake as there are no views this entire stretch. Todd Harbor to McCargoe Cove was the nicest trail of this trip. Try to pack 40 lbs or less fully loaded for trip start. I will be back for a 4th time some year.
Last edited by egraetze on Fri Aug 19, 2011 6:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
Eric


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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by Vandy » Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:11 pm

Great report, egraetze!

I found the mosquitoes horrible at ishpeming point when I was there about 20 days prior.
By far the worst of the trek.
I, too stayed at Todd Harbor and can picture the exact campsite you stayed at (I was lucky enough to get the shelter).

One thing about hiking in the heat, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Even if you aren't thirsty.

Glad you got the share the experience with your kids.
Seems like you all had fun once you got the first day behind you.


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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by johnhens » Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:38 pm

Thanks for taking the time to write a great TR. Too bad about the bugs, glad you enjoyed it anyways.

I agree with you about the cabins, as long as folks are willing to maintain them, I think it is in the Park Services' interest to extend the lease or give a temporary lease so that the cabins do not fall into disrepair.

What did the kids think of IR?


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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by egraetze » Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:00 pm

The kids loved the island. This was with my 21 year old daughter and 20 year old son. My daughter has wanted to apply for the artist in residence program there, so it was great for her to see it. My son is always up for adventure. The trip was awesome for both. Would love for my daughter to get up there to provide an excuse to go again. Really disappointed for missing out on the Feldtmann loop on this trip. I've now had my fill of Windigo to Hatchet on the Greenstone. The prior experience in the 80s resulted in major blisters from the Windigo to Island Mine leg.
The old cabins were so cool to see from the water. There is value in human history, so I hope the park service makes some attempt to preserve the more significant structures in some way.

Vandy: I think our site at Todd Harbor was even nicer than the shelter, so even though we had our heart set on the shelter, we were just fine with the site. It was a nice place to camp.

Eric

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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by Rafiki » Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:20 am

egraetze wrote:A bit lengthy, but I enjoyed reading these prior to my trip so I imagine others may feel the same
KEEP THEM NICE AND LONG, I LIVE FOR THESE REPORTS. Now...time to proceed forward to reading beyond the first line :)
343.1 Miles Hiked: 2004 (3 Days), 2010 (11 Days), 2011 (13 Days), 2012 X 2 (8 + 12 Days), 2013 (9 Days/Paddling)

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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by Rafiki » Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:23 am

Aww man this is an old one. The reply was only made on 8/18 :/
343.1 Miles Hiked: 2004 (3 Days), 2010 (11 Days), 2011 (13 Days), 2012 X 2 (8 + 12 Days), 2013 (9 Days/Paddling)


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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by egraetze » Fri Aug 19, 2011 5:42 am

I meant to post it sooner, but just finished up typing from my notebook a couple days ago. The report should be useful for some, or at a minimum entertaining. It's only been 3 weeks since the end of my trip. Not like it's been 3 years. Trees, rocks, trails, camps, transportation and appreciation of the island does does not change very quickly. Anybody gaging my report on mosquitoes to coorelate on how it is there now should know better than that.
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Re: Trip Report 7/15 to 7/23, Windigo to Rock Harbor

Post by Vandy » Sat Aug 20, 2011 5:58 am

[quote=Vandy: I think our site at Todd Harbor was even nicer than the shelter, so even though we had our heart set on the shelter, we were just fine with the site. It was a nice place to camp.[/quote]

The shelter was a welcome site after walking in the rain most of the day. Thunderstorms rolled in that night for about 8 hours, too. So, it was good to be inside a sturdy shelter.

I agree though, the site under the pines looked pretty sweet.

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