TR: 6/10-6/18 2016 Rock to McCargoe and Back

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TR: 6/10-6/18 2016 Rock to McCargoe and Back

Post by MikeTokarz » Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:06 pm

Apologies for all the links to my website. I was only able to upload a couple photos for the post.

Day 1 We left home for Copper Harbor on June 10 and arrived 13 hours later just in time to experience a phenomenal sunset over the calm waters of Copper Harbor and Lake Superior. On the way we made a stop at the Pictured Rocks to check out Munising Falls and Miners' Castle. ... d/327/cart

Day 2 we woke bright and early to board the isle Royale Queen IV and depart around 7:30. After a 3.5 hour boat ride we arrived in Rock Habor, told the rangers our plans, and we were off. Eight days in the wilderness with no electricity, no running water, and no phone reception. Our first hike on the island was one of our toughest, 7.1 miles to the Daisy Farm campground. Now, this trail isn't a challenging one, but being that we just spent 3.5 hours sitting on a boat, the exposed rock on the trail and frequent ups and downs on the first half made for some sore legs by time we got to Daisy. We got there around 4pm and claimed shelter #1, one of the more secluded sites at the campground, set up our stuff, and went over to the dock to lay there and watch the clouds float by. After a little while some guys from Chicago came to the end of the dock with fishing poles to see if they could catch anything. I noticed one of them had brought a Canon 5D Mark III with him so naturally I had to start talking photography with him and explain why Nikon is so much better. :wink: A few laughs and some more getting to know each other later, he got a bite on his line and ended up reeling in a 24" Trout right out of Lake Superior. We went back to our shelter a little while after this to eat dinner and go to bed early. While the others were asleep in the shelter I snuck out in the middle of the night with my camera to go take some shots of the Milky Way. This was a sight to behold. You could see it arching over the sky clear as day. It was amazing. I had never seen anything like it. ... d/306/cart

Day 3 took us a little over 4 miles to the Moskey Basin Campground. This was about as challenging as the previous day's because there were many more ups and downs, although it was a much shorter hike. We stopped at the dock for about an hour and had lunch, deciding if we wanted to go on to Lake Ritchie or stay the night here. After I finished some summer sausage and granola bars I decided to go explore the area a little. Just to the right of the dock is a 20 foot high cliff that you had to walk around to get up to. The views were spectacular up there. I found that there was only one other person who had already claimed a spot here and the sites were fantastic. All were right along the water and offered spectacular views of Rock Harbor. Since we were the second ones there we got to pick the second best shelter. We decided on shelter #4 for its easy access to the water and good seclusion. We washed our clothes in the lake and took a quick nap before dinner. Afterwards I went back over to the cliff to shoot a timelapse of the sun setting. Another early night and another peek out the shelter to check on the night sky. I was happy to see another clear night so I grabbed my camera and tripod and headed over to the dock to get some shots of the Milky Way with the cliff. I woke up my uncle fumbling around my bag trying to find a new battery so he joined me for a few minutes to take in the stars. ... d/326/cart

Day 4. Time to decide where to go. I wanted to make it at least to Todd Harbor during the trip but my uncle and cousin wanted to go as far west as possible. We decided to make a decision once we got up to the Greenstone Ridge. With sore legs we trudged our way to Lake Ritchie through the woods. It didn’t take long for the bugs to begin swarming and we had to stop to put on head nets. The hike to Ritchie was easy. Not many ups and downs. We got to the lake and set our bags down on the rocks near the trail. It was a great spot to stop and take in the view. Nice poofy white clouds in the sky, picturesque view of the lake right in front of us, and a nice cool breeze coming in off Lake Superior. Going up the Greenstone didn’t do our legs any favors. I swear I kept hearing a moose just off the trail but every time I stopped the rustling stopped. Maybe it was just me. We got up to the intersection with the Greenstone and determined there was no way we were making it to Hatchet Lake, let alone McCargoe. Down to West Chickenbone for the night. We had the campground to ourselves and set up home at site #6. Before bed I thought it would be a good idea to rub some Vaseline on my sore feet. Oh. My. God. It was the greatest feeling in the world. It rained most of the night. It was the first time I’ve used my Half Dome 2 in full rain so I was a little wary. I stayed dry the whole night and woke up with a damp foot of my bag from having it partially against the wall of the tent most of the night. Tip: Put the footbox of your sleeping bag into your rain jacket to keep it dry. ... d/326/cart

My cousin and I at Chickenbone West getting ready to go to McCargoe Cove
Day 5 I woke up and my feet felt FANTASTIC. It was like I had a fresh pair of legs below me and I was feeling good. After a few pop tarts and oatmeal we were heading up to McCargoe Cove. Really easy hike. The plants going over the trail were wet from the rain so I tried to knock as much off as possible in front of me with my trekking poles. Didn’t make much of a difference. Everything was soaked within a mile. I hiked ahead of my uncle and cousin and got to McCargoe about 20 minutes before them. They got there and we tried to set up a fire with what little dry wood we could find in an attempt to dry our clothes. We grabbed the shelter up on the hill (I want to say 7 or 9?) and went to explore the mines. This was a cool sight. Going down into some of the horizontal shafts, climbing to piles, and seeing the ruins was very interesting. When we got to the spot where you could see the small lake at the mine we saw a beaver getting some work done, dragging branches across the water. We were getting ready to head out when we passed another horizontal shaft and saw a strange white pile in the front of it. No, it can’t be. It’s the middle of June. It was 70 degrees yesterday. Yes, there was a 5’ x 5’ x 2’ pile of snow.
Myself and my cousin next to a big pile of snow in the middle of June
It’s Michigan, what do you expect? We went back to McCargoe, refilled our water, and headed back up to the shelter for a nap. For dinner we had mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, chicken, and gravy and was by far the best meal had, even if some of the veggies weren’t fully rehydrated. After that everyone started to gather down at the fire ring so we went down to meet everyone. This is where it got crazy. I’m from Livonia and my uncle and cousin are from Adrian. Aside from two Canadians who boated in, everyone was lived no farther than 20 miles away from me. Three guys from Canton, one from Garden City, two brothers from Northville, and what are the odds that two people my mom works with at REI just happen to be camping a few feet away, 600 miles from home?!
My mom's friends Derek and Sheryl from the Northville REI at McCargoe Cove

It’s a really small world. We learned that the group from Northville had a terrible day coming from East Chickenbone in the rain, getting covered in mud and one of them almost falling into a creek. The two brothers from Northville were spending I believe three weeks on the island. All they had with them was a single pot, a knife, tent, and two full backpacks full of nothing but rice and oats (talk about going super-ultra-light!). We recognized them from our ride over on the Queen and saw that one of their bags spilled when it was being unloaded at Rock Harbor. We wished them luck with their trip. ... d/325/cart

We all started talking about how we wanted to see the stars that night. There were clear skies when we got together but low and behold as soon as we started talking about the sky the clouds rolled in. By time it finally got dark we had a good fire going and were having a great time. Then the one Canadians appeared from their boat. We figured we were probably being a little loud so the group quieted down a bit. He went back in and came out a few seconds later with a big box and came up towards the fire and proceeded to give everyone except me and my cousin a cold beer. Needless to say we made room for them and graciously welcomed them. One of the first things we started talking about were stereotypes that Americans and Canadians have given each other over the years. I was shocked to learn that Canadians don’t say “aye” in every sentence :shock: and we assured them that football is indeed a very big deal here in the states. We all had good laughs that night. It was great.

Day 6 I really wanted to get to Todd Harbor. We had a really slow start to the day and my cousin was having back pains. It was dependent on him is we were going to make it to Todd or not. We got going and the terrain was moderate. Nothing challenging though. We stopped at the mine intersection to see how he was doing and decided we would turn back at the half way point if he wasn’t feeling good. Again my legs were feeling good so I hiked ahead and stopped at the Otter Lake lookout. That’s one hell of a view up there. Canada could be seen clear as day across Lake Superior and we were even lucky enough to have a bald eagle fly over us for a few minutes. My cousin wasn’t feeling great so we went back to McCargoe. I thought it would be fun to see how fast I could make up the two or so miles back. Took about 35 minutes. Not bad with a 60lb pack carrying a ton of camera gear. In hindsight this wasn’t the greatest idea. I waited for them at the fire ring. Once they got there we sat around for a few minutes, refilled our water, and headed back to Chickenbone West. Everyone was feeling good now and we made it there in a little over an hour. When I was making my way around the small point before going around the lake I heard some rustling and a grunt in the brush to my right. I had to look closely and was able to make out part of the head of a moose grabbing some dinner. My uncle and cousin said they saw a fox near the portage marker too. This time there was another person there. We picked site #1 and set up the tents. That night we finally got clear skies and I was able to shoot some star trails. It’s crazy how many stars there are on the island. Efforts should be made to reduce light pollution whenever and wherever possible. Our night skies are precious. ... ed/94/cart

Day 7 we decided we’re going to push to make it to Daisy and ultimately cut the trip short a day. For me this was the hardest stretch we did the whole trip. The climb up the from the lake right out the gate was brutal. Not my ideal way of beginning a long hike. The trail along Chickenbone lake was uneventful until we got to the climb up the Greenstone. The switchbacks were tough, but doable. Thankfully there’s a great view from the rocks once you get to the top. From there it was just a lot of hiking and wondering why it took so long to get past Angleworm lake. Finally we got to the point where there’s a trail marker with “viewpoint” written on it so naturally we had to stop and check it out. We left our packs at the sign and climbed up the rocks next to it and then over a few more. WOW. This was an incredible sight. Sargent Lake, Sleeping Giant, and all the hills we just hiked over. This was a humbling moment. The most inspiring view I’ve experienced in my life. We left together and my cousin and I went ahead in hopes of getting at least a decent shelter. The last one available was #22. Definitely not the best place to set up camp but at least there was a place. Too tired to check the sky that night. I woke up a few times but never summoned the energy to get out of my cozy sleeping bag.

Day 8 back to Rock Harbor. The trail was much much easier to do this time. We were all sore, but were used to the terrain so it wasn’t a big challenge. Uneventful for the most part. Stopped at the Threemile dock for water and made one more stop on the way at Suzy’s Cave. We claimed Shelter #6 at Rock Harbor and went to the Greenstone Grill for some pizza. On a regular day the pizza was less than spectacular, but after 7 days of cleansing it was nice to stuff our faces with greasy pizza. I went to the America dock to catch the sunset but nothing was happening. Started walking back to the shelter and once I started walking up the path there was amazing light that started to cover the trees behind me. I turned around and ran back to the dock I just came from. I was set up right on the entrance of the dock and one of the intern rangers walked past and asked if I got anything good. I told him I wasn’t too pleased with any of my compositions that evening. He kinda leaned to the side and looked behind me. He pointed to the rock faces to the left of the dock and said I could go around the barricade and shoot the dock from up there as long as I didn’t step on any precious lichens. I went up there and he went out on the dock. This shot has since become one of my all time favorites and wouldn’t have been possible without his permission. Shout out to you, awesome Park Ranger, you made my trip that much more special. ... ed/93/cart

That night incredible fog blanketed Rock Harbor. My uncle and I went out to look around. We didn’t go very far, just by the docks and the visitor center. The whole time we were out I kept seeing a small red light flashing on and off across the harbor. Looking from the visitor center it looked like it would be right at the point where the America Dock is. I thought it might have been a bouy on the water or a light on the dock marking it for when boats come in through fog, but the next morning there was no sign of a light anywhere near the dock. Very spooky. ... ed/77/cart

Day 9 was our last day on the island. Most of the day was spent sitting around waiting to board the boat and getting some goodies from the gift store. On my walk to the America dock to check if there was a light my full 32gb memory card with 1,200 photos on it fell through a hole in my jacket pocket and I didn’t notice until an hour before the Queen was set to leave. This was terrifying. The three of use raced around the Harbor and my uncle spotted it sitting between some rocks on the path to the dock. Thankfully Lexar memory cards have a nice gold finish on one side and that’s the side that faced up. I don’t know what I would have done if I lost that card. My trip would have been ruined. The ride back on the Queen was smooth sailing with a good bit of napping and pondering the next trip.

Here’s a link to the timelapse video I shot on the island. Instead of playing it in the order the shots happened, I thought I’d try to make it into “a day on Isle Royale” type video. Watch it in 4K to see the best quality :wink:

I applied for the Artist in Residence program this summer as a photographer with plans to shoot more timelapses and video during a three week stay. I’m very hopeful and wouldn’t hesitate at a chance to spend three full weeks on the island. I hope you all enjoyed reading my trip report.

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Re: TR 6/10-6/18 Rock to McCargoe and Back

Post by Tom » Sun Feb 28, 2016 7:06 pm

Thanks for the TR. Looking forward to more of your work, so here's to hoping you get selected for the AIR. Sounds like you had some great weather for photos; isn't the night sky something to behold?

I have an orange memory card holster for the very reason you discovered. Those cards suddenly become even smaller if you drop them on a forest floor. Of course, everyone knows the Canon 6D is probably be best backpacker DSLR ever made. It's the darn L glass that kills ya. :wink:

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