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- Isle Royale Visits: 12
- Location: St. Paul, MN / Fernandina Beach, FL
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Arrival Date: Saturday, May 19
Departure Date: Thursday, May 24
Coming From/Via: Grand Portage, MN / Voyageur II
Background: This solo trip allowed me to experience a repeat of a route that I took back in 1983. A mid-May trip was planned to minimize encounters with black flies. Northern Pike fishing was a priority again this year. I brought less fish related gear since I would do only catch-and-release. Stayed an extra night at Siskiwit Bay after an enjoyable backcountry dayhike to Lake Halloran for some fishing. Unusual natural phenomena observed: Lake Superior seiches.
Day 1 - May 19 - Windigo to Grace Harbor (Backcountry Camp)
I met Tom and his brother-in-law Brent on the dock before we departed. Capt. Don also showed up and got in on the conversation. Ride to Windigo on the Voyager II was smooth, quick, and uneventful. After the Leave No Trace (LNT) orientation, I decided to remove some extra clothing (as it was shaping up to be a hot day) and stroll up to the Ranger Station to get my permit. Started out on the Feldtmann Lake Trail and made it past Grace Creek in good time. Pulled out the GPS and bushwacked to my backcountry camp on Grace Harbor.
The heat of the day caused a multitude of ankle-biting stable flies to hatch/congregate near the shore. At times it looked like I was wearing chaps due to the large number of flies that were resting on my hiking pants. I investigated the shoreline up and down from my camp until early evening. I prepared an early dinner, cleaned up, and hit the sack at sunset.
Day 2 - May 20 - Grace Harbor to Feldtmann Lake
Woke up to a few raindrops hitting the tent and thunder off in the distance. The skies cleared a bit while I pumped water, fixed breakfast, and broke camp. Watched a NPS boat drop off a couple of researchers and their canoe. They appeared to be heading up Grace Creek. While strolling along the shore I observed many visible rocks that I had not noticed earlier. The large flat rock where I filtered my water earlier this morning was now dry, and 15 feet from the water line. In about 20 minutes the water level raised up a foot and was back to normal. This was the first time I have noticed a seiche (a standing wave that oscillates in lakes, bays, or gulfs over a periond of a few minutes to a few hours, usually as a result of atmospheric disturbances) on Lake Superior.
Bushwacked back to the Feldtmann Lake Trail and made my way down to Feldtmann Lake. The skies turned to a solid gun-metal gray and a light rain ensued. The rain got heavier and I had to pull out my rain jacket and pack cover. I should have put on my rain pants because upon arrival at the Feldtmann Lake campsite the lower part of me was soaked. The rain and wind continued picking up in intensity and I was getting chilled. I quickly set up the tent and crawled into my dry sleeping bag, even though it was only noontime.
A big-time thunderstorm with substantial lightning, thunder, and heavy rain kept me in my tent all afternoon. I did not want to risk getting hypothermia, as most of my clothing was wet or damp. My new tent, a Tarptent Rainbow, held up to the relentless storms quite well. Around 6 PM CDT the rain stopped for a bit and I took a short hike out to Rainbow Cove. Upon returning to the campsite I assembled my fishing gear and tried to fish but the waves were quite large and nothing was biting. A thunderstorm started up again in earnest and it was back in the tent for an early check-in.
Day 3 - May 21 - Feldtmann Lake to Siskiwit Bay
Awoke at sunrise to a cloudless sky. Spent the first part of the morning fishing Feldtmann Lake just in front of the campsite. Fishing action was good; I caught and released enough Northern Pike to delay my morning breakfast just a bit. As the morning warmed up, every piece of my gear was spread out in the sun in a successful attempt to dry out. Finally broke camp and got on the trail at 11:30 AM CDT. It was a beautiful and relaxing morning and no bothersome bugs.
I made good time to the Feldtmann Ridge tower, and stopped to eat my lunch. Two young men from the Feldtmann Lake campsite showed up a bit later. They were conducting a moose browse survey for researchers at Michigan Technological University and were heading to Lake Halloran for the night. I would cross paths with them a couple more times during my hike.
The trail was in great shape. It looked like they cleared trees once but a few have fallen since. Most are an easy walk around. Only once did I have to remove my pack and push it and myself through a small opening.
It has been about 30 years since I have done this loop. The trees have grown up a lot and the walk from Feldtmann Lake to Siskiwit Bay was glorious. When I did the trail segment between the Feldtmann tower and Siskiwit Bay many years before, it was like an old logging road with two tracks and all the trees were the diameter of baseball bats. The forest is much more mature now. I do think that the view from the Feldtmann tower is one of the best views in the park.
I easily made it to an empty Siskiwit Bay campsite by cocktail time (5 PM CDT). Picked a shelter, took a quick dip in the big lake to wash off the trail dust, prepared dinner and ate it on the dock just as the sun was setting.
Day 4 - May 22 – Siskiwit Bay (Backcountry Dayhike to Lake Halloran)
Awoke to unsettled weather and the possibility of more rain. After a leisurely breakfast down on the dock, I was greeted by a curious otter that was fishing along the breakwater. At about 10 AM CDT, I loaded my pack with fishing gear, food, water filter, etc., fired up the GPS and bushwacked to Lake Halloran (about 2 miles). Upon arrival, a light rain started to fall. I rigged up my fishing gear and had about 3 hours of good fishing action for Northern Pike. While taking a quick lunch at Lake Halloran, I saw a Luna moth (large lime green moth with dangling trailers off the lower wings) hiding from the rain under a cedar tree.
I made it back to the Siskiwit Bay campsite by 4:30 PM CDT. It was still raining off and on and I decided to stay another night in the shelter rather than push ahead for a backcountry campsite along the northern edge of Siskiwit Bay. This was a good decision as the rain continued well into the evening. Still no need for a headnet or bug dope.
Day 5 - May 23 - Siskiwit Bay to Washington Creek
Got off to an early hiking start on the Island Mine Trail at about 8:30 PM CDT. The skies turned sunny and warm as I hiked along the western shores of Siskiwit Bay. Saw some fresh moose prints along the beach; I never did see any moose during this trip. As I gained some elevation walking north of Siskiwit Bay, I saw many Monarch and Tiger butterflies. Stopped at the abandoned Island Mine and putzed around the tailings for a while. I sat for the longest time admiring the massive steam engine and wondered how the miners got it there. Probably moved it during the winter; could have dragged it with a team of horses over an ice road.
I made it to the Island Mine campsite just as I exhausted my water supply. I promptly filtered water at the little creek (headwaters of the Little Siskiwit River) which was running low. The water was quite yellow due to all the tannin in the water; a by-product of decomposing leaves and bark. The tannin gives the water a slight off-taste, but it is completely safe to drink. Made it to the junction of the Island Mine Trail and the Greenstone Ridge Trail for lunch. Just as I finished eating, the weather changed again for the worse and a thunderstorm forced me to retrieve my raingear.
Got into the Washington Creek campsite by 4 PM CDT. Secured a shelter, put on some dry socks, and then walked into Windigo; not a soul was seen. Made it back to the shelter and prepared dinner. A few mosquitoes were observed while I lounged in front of the shelter, but still no black flies. Marveled at ease of obtaining water from the campsite spigot. Saw a notice on the campground message board about the Minong Ridge fire and the aggressive goshawks. Sunset came and a heavy rain started up once again.
Day 6 - May 24 - Windigo to Grand Portage (via the Voyager II)
Awoke early and decided to take a 4 mile dayhike along the Huginnin Cove and Minong Ridge Trails. Got back to the shelter at about 10 AM CDT and started to break camp. I was watching Washington Creek and I noticed that sticks/debris were quickly moving up-stream. Another seiche was piling water up in Washington Harbor and water was flowing backwards on Washington Creek. Pretty cool.
Finished packing up and started to walk to Windigo to catch the Voyager II. About halfway there a heavy thunderstorm hit and I had to don the raingear once again. Spent about an hour in the Ranger Station talking with the Rangers and bought a topo map and a book (Isle Royale – A Photographic History, by Gale & Gale).
The Voyageur II arrived on schedule and soon we were headed back to Grand Portage, MN. Shared trip stories with Tom and Brent. Got to meet Bucket Bob who was returning from an extended stay at McCargoe Cove. Back on the mainland, I paid my parking fees and chatted a bit with Capt. Don before departing for Grand Marais, MN. It soon would be time to decompress with some malted beverages. Another great trip!
Total Mileage: 42.0 miles, including dayhikes
Outbound Lodging: Outpost Motel, Grand Marais, MN
Outbound Dining: Crooked Spoon Café, Grand Marais, MN
Inbound Lodging: Nelson’s Travelers Rest, Grand Marais, MN
Inbound Dining: Angry Trout Café, Grand Marais, MN
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