TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

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TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by Ingo »

Maybe a little long ;):

Saturday, Sept 17: On the road by 5:25am. Get to DTW (650 miles) at 4:10 pm and pick up my daughter, who only waits about 15 minutes. Pretty good timing, all things considered. Drive another 200 miles to Grayling, MI.

Sun, Sept 18: Take it easy, stopping at overlooks of Mackinaw Bridge and such. Lunch at Togos in Marquette. Jim’s Food mart in Houghton for sausage, cheese, and butter. Take the scenic shoreline M26 route into Copper Harbor. ~5:15, 400 miles. Supper at the Mariner North. Fine, OK, nothing special. Note that fries are extra with a sandwich, although the waitress implied otherwise, asking “what kind?” instead of “do you want?” Bella Vista was fine, basic as expected, has frig.

Mon, Sept 19: Storm overnight. All power in C.H. is off. Up ~6:00, packed up in dark with flashlight and phones. Jenna managed a shower. Tried the Pines for breakfast, no power. Grab a box of Nabs John has in the truck for breakfast.

Power comes on just before 8:00 as we’re loading up the Queen IV. Rough ride with 6-8’ (according to the Capt) broadsiders from the SW. Queen decides to stay the night in Rock Harbor, so campground is full and we’re in the 2nd to last tent site. Concessionaire is packing up, but has some food in the store so they open up for a couple hrs for the stranded folks. Could have had beer/wine/ice cream, but our money was way back up in the tent. Suppose we would have got it if we were at the end of our trip.

Hiked to Scoville Pt. in the sun, but windy, obviously. Whitecaps in Snug Harbor washing over the low docks. Beef Stroganoff for dinner. Bed by 9:00. Sunset is about 8:00 and sunrise about 7:00 (EDT).

Tues, Sept 20: Nature calls about 5:30, gorgeous moon and stars in the clear sky. Queen leaves at 7:00 am, about when we get up. Walk down to Tobin Harbor, oatmeal breakfast, on the water by 10:40.

Paddle to Three Mile campground with the wind on our nose into 2’ waves. Really messy past the gap between Tookers and Davidson Islands with rollers from the side coming through the gap, even though we stuck close to main shoreline.

Caught up to suwanneej who was solo paddling his canoe. He was on a similar itinerary as us, but a shorter trip. Took a couple hrs+ to do the 3 miles. Took out at the little dock and got the shelter on the end. A couple are in the other shelter next door. They have a carbon fiber version of the same canoe. Worked as researchers on the island back in the 80s.

Hung out into the afternoon, took a nap. Tired from the paddle, as neither of us work those muscles regularly. Walked thru the campground and chatted with suwanneej. Country ham and white sauce on rice was OK, but probably won’t do the country ham again.

A fox pulled our neighbor’s large day pack off their table, but we were able to scare it off. It kept circling us, looking for an in to our table. Jenna finally threw a couple pebbles and it finally left. Beautiful though, with dark almost black legs, and very large. Eating well all summer at Three Mile, I presume.

Weds, Sept 21: Bed around 9:00, up around 7:00 for sunrise pics, then breakfast becomes the routine. Oatmeal again today. Debate going to Moskey, but decide on Caribou. Leave ~9:30, nice easy paddle. Able to paddle inside the outer islands, but Lorelei Lane was still iffy getting into with the lake swells breaking in the gap, so we passed on that.

Caribou before lunch, taking our time. suwanneej is there in shelter 1, we take the other. A couple guys pull up in their canoe from the other direction just after us and take the tent site. Sausage, cheese, and gorp for lunch again.

Paddled to the Bangsund cabin and explored, but the Petersons are not there. Head for the fishery and see a small boat with a couple heading our way, I say “ I bet that’s them.” Sure enough, they dock as we turn around to head back and chat. Wonderful people. Rolf is sociable, but quiet, Candy the talker. They are pretty confident that wolves will be reintroduced, because of public pressure if nothing else, but will take a few years because of the bureaucracy.

Learned that although the moose population is rising, you’re probably less likely to see one. Because of the lack of wolves they just hang out in one place and don’t move around like they used to. Wolves make the moose move to identify the weak ones. Had a homemade lemon bar before we left.

Paddled up to the Edison fishery and walked to lighthouse. Jenna climbed the rocks. Lighthouse was locked up for the season, so couldn’t go up—disappointing. Paddle between the Middle Islands back to Caribou. Sunny, calm, beautiful. Find a cool little nook in the rocks that looked like it had been used a dock at some time in the past, at the end of Caribou.

Lasagna for dinner. Jenna put some freeze dried veggies in hers—awful. Never again. Packed ½ of that dinner and the 2 bags of veggies out. Got out to end of Caribou, looked in old generator shed (with old generator), climbed around the rocks and took pics.

Our neighbors had a campfire at the dock. I jumped in off the dock, Jenna dipped at the little beach. Dried off, then joined the other folks at the fire and shared some fireball. Fall asleep to bell buoy in Middle Island Passage.

Thurs, Sept 22: Rain overnight. Put fly up in front of shelter, but probably didn’t need it. Pancakes & bacon for breakfast. suwanneej heads back up the harbor to catch his boat tomorrow. Wonderful to meet and hang out with him.

Paddle to Daisy Farm and hike the loop up to the Ojibway tower and back. Ate lunch and hung out for over an hour at the top. Lots of moose trails (more like moose highways) but no moose. Saw a fox on the trail down, but he didn’t hang around for a pic. About a 5 ½ hr day, easy paddling, sunny in a.m., then cloudy, then sunny.

MH Chicken and Mashed Potatoes for supper on the lakeside beach at Caribou. Gravel is contoured into an almost perfect seat. Crème Brulee later for dessert. Both of us said “tastes like the cheesecake”, but both liked the caramel crumbles better than the cheesecake “crust”.

Hung out with the neighbors who made another fire. Brilliant stars. Not a cloud in the sky. Thought about pulling out the tripod to try some night shots but decided to just enjoy instead.

Fri, Sept 23: Up for sunrise pics. Pancakes & bacon again. Wind is picking up out of the NE and forecast to stay there, so we eliminate Moskey Basin and head upwind for Tookers Island instead. Given the whitecaps rolling down the harbor we’re not sure we’ll get there safely or not, but decide to give it a try. Hugged the islands up to Mott, avoiding the whitecaps in the harbor, but still blown around a bit.

Stop at Mott for a break, walked around a little bit, used the real restroom, and talked a little to a ranger. Note that they do have tent sites there if you really get stuck.

Got into Lorelei Lane between Inner and Outer Hill islands ~11:45—about impossible to not catch some broadside rollers off the lake while in the gap, so a little interesting getting in. But they get knocked down here more so than the other gaps. Beached on Outer Hill Island and explored. Swells wrapped around the island, lifting and dropping the canoe on the rocks, so a little tricky in those conditions. Probably put most of our trip scratches on the canoe. Found a hardhat and washcloth on the lakeside.

Once past the research cabin on Davidson Island it was very clear we weren’t going out the end of Lorelei Lane. And start wondering if we should try getting across to Three Mile, or if that was even safe. Decide to angle out into the harbor heading north (past Three Mile), giving us the option of turning back left for Three Mile, forward right for Tookers Island, or keeping straight ahead for Rock Harbor if we had to.

It was a mess either way, so went more than ½ way across and up the harbor then made a hard right 90 deg turn to Tookers. That gave us the best angle on the waves, even though it was rather confused. 2-3’ breaking whitecaps rolling down the harbor on the NE wind with 2-3’ rollers coming of the lake from the SE made for a whitewaterish ride at times. I almost lost the horizon a couple times in troughs, so I figure the largest were approaching 4’. Watching Jenna go up and down made me think we were on a teeter totter. Wished I had a GoPro setup. Would not have made the turn to Tookers if it hadn’t started settling a bit--OK, not much, but not getting worse and we were getting past the gap so a little more consistent.

And so we got there. Very little water in the canoe—it does a very good job of diverting the spray which was flying by my head at times. Coming into Tookers we were a little upwind and almost got blown back past the dock, save for some very hard paddling at the end.

~2:00 Crashed on Tookers (figuratively). Mac & Cheese for supper with crushed sour cream & chives Nabs sprinkled on top. Mmmmm good! (the Nabs were left over from breakfast on the boat and pretty well crushed already from being in the pack). Really like Tookers, especially by ourselves. Explore in the evening. The harbor calms down too, of course.

Sat, Sept 24: Weather is supposed to build from NE, then E, then SE. Can get both US and Canadian weather stations on Tookers. Reluctantly decide we should get our stuff over to Rock Harbor while we can, even though we both would rather stay on Tookers and day paddle—except that the weather isn’t cooperating.

Rock and roll surf’n safari across and into Snug Harbor. Fun, slightly disconcerting, but nothing like yesterday. Wind is a steady 20ish from the SE all day, so glad we came when we did. Found out a solo canoeist came from down the harbor to Tookers that night—but he was exceptionally experienced, able, and had a full spray skirt. Even so he said he didn’t know if he would make it. He was on the boat with us on the way out and had paddled the north side to McCargoe, through all the inland lakes and back up RH in the same amount of time.

Early lunch, then paddled Tobin Harbor which was calm as could be, like another world. Went up to Scoville Pt and turned around by the artist in residence cabin when things started rock’n and roll’n again. Stopped along the way at the Merritt cabin and admired the rowing skiff.

Paddled, well floated mostly, down to the Hidden Lake dock and hiked up to Lookout Louise. Jenna’s knee is bothering her by now, so it’s a slow and deliberate hike. She later said it was worth it though. More floating downwind back to the dock. Been watching for moose all the way, but no luck. This makes Jenna sad.

John had breakfast skillet (one of his favorites) for supper and Jenna had chicken & rice. It’s a fill-in meal for me, but she really liked it. Walked down to lodge and America’s dock for sunset pics. Jenna poops out around 8:30 but John’s still talking—first to her and then to himself.

Sun, Sept 25: Sunrise pics over R.H. from behind the lodge. Pancakes and bacon. Checked out the housekeeping cabins and hung out on Tobin dock for a couple hrs.

Checked forecast—calling for 4-10 ft waves tomorrow, so decide to conserve food. Continued blowing to beat the band from the SE all day. The shelter floor was wet ½ way back where the tarp didn’t cover the front, even with the trees in front. If we didn’t have the tarp everything would have been piled up against the back wall. A couple walks to the harbor between rain showers, played cribbage, Jenna took a nap. Portaged canoe back to the Rock Harbor side.

John had Breakfast Skillet again for supper and Jenna had Spaghetti. Rain let up enough to get some nice wave shots in the evening. Some waves washed on top of the America dock.

Mon, Sept 26: Up to answer nature’s call about 5:00. Notice a red glow above the tree tops to the north. See some movement. Wake Jenna up, get dressed, and walk over to Tobin Harbor for a better view. Not much aurora at all, but great stars and milky way.

Up at 7:30, make coffee and walk to dock. Get word shortly after 8 that the Queen is not coming today. We were expecting that given the gale force winds and 7-10 ft waves in the forecast. The Canadian forecast said 4 meters.

Oatmeal for breakfast. Sunny in the a.m. then light showers by noon. Started hiking toward Susie’s Cave, saw rain coming up the harbor, so headed back to the shelter.

Reading, cribbage, debating how much food to eat or ration. Tues forecast still has 30 kt winds in it. Tuna for lunch, with crushed sour cream & chives nabs in it. More cribbage, cocoa & Fireball. Cooler today with high of 57 in the morning. Otherwise consistently had highs in the 60s and lows around 50.

Had mocha mousse pie dessert late afternoon, then split a spaghetti dinner about 8:00 in order to conserve food. I brought a dessert for every day and we only ate one every other day or so. Plenty of sugar available anyways.

Tues, Sept 27: Get word about 9:00am that the Queen plans to leave Copper Harbor at 11:00, putting her here around 2:30. Gale warning up for the lake until 11:00, then subsiding a bit in the afternoon as the wind shifts around to the north.

Got close up shots of a bull moose in the campground. Just hanging out following a cow around looking for some love, we presumed. Eat last of the oatmeal then most of the trail mix for lunch.

Queen gets in just after 3:00, unloads, loads and leaves by 3:30. It’s rock’n and roll’n again, but mostly at our stern quarter once we got away from the island a bit. Gets into Copper Harbor around 7:00.

Get a room at the King Copper, quick shower and clean clothes, and at the Harbor Haus by 8:15. (Capt had told us they closed at 8:30). John had Filet Mignon and Jenna had bacon wrapped Whitefish. Either will melt in your mouth! Shared a bottle of wine.

Weds, Sept 28: Breakfast at The Pines, head for the family cabin in Presque Isle.
Thurs, Sept 29: Visit family in Eau Claire.
Fri, Sept 30: Drop Jenna off at her aunt’s in the cities, hit the road for home ~2:00 from Edina.
Sun, Sept 31: Home shortly after noon. 2941 miles in the truck, 90 miles on the boat, 20 miles paddling, and about 15 miles hiking.

Lessons Learned: Test the water filter before you leave. I have a gravity system that was taking 2-3 hrs to do 4L. Had been fine the last time I used it and I always backflush before putting away. Maybe I reached the 1500L life of the filter, but obviously didn’t think so. Could have been a major issue if we had travelled more.

More flies and gnats then I expected for this time of year, but never had to use bug dope. Each had a couple fly bites for the trip.

Was warmer than expected. Water temps were in the 60s, so it never got too cold at night (around 50 the couple times I checked).

Bella Vista vs King Copper, about even. No big difference to me. The Bella Vista did have a frig if that matters.

The last time I went thru Houghton on a Sunday evening, nothing was open. Not a problem these days.

"Just Veggies" should be named "Just Awful". However, "Just Fruit Salad" is really good!

- John I.
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: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by jrwiesz »

Thanks for the Great report!
"And standing on the the crest of the Greenstone Ridge, I suddenly had this desire to retreat north to where I just come, to stay in the backcountry, to spend another day in a place where the only deadline I had was to pitch the tent before dark."
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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by kolo »

Ingo, thank you for a great report on your trip! I really enjoyed reading it. You traveled a long way to get to the Isle, but of course, it was worth it! Isle Royale is truly a special place and it is evident that you enjoy and treasure spending time there.

I am typically a backpacker, but two summers ago I completed my first canoe trip at Isle Royale. Before that trip, I had many questions. You and several other kind people on this forum gave me some good tips and advice, which I really appreciated! It was an excellent trip. This summer I backpacked part of the island, but I look forward to another canoe trip next summer.

I find the canoe trips a little more interesting because the weather is more of a factor.

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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by hooky »

Thanks for the report. Not too long, just right I'd say.

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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by IncaRoads »

Great trip report. Mac & Cheese is a versatile backpacking meal; goes well with a variety of flavorful additions.

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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by Ingo »

IncaRoads wrote:Great trip report. Mac & Cheese is a versatile backpacking meal; goes well with a variety of flavorful additions.
Especially so when you have milk and butter for it! (the joys of canoeing :) )
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: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by Midwest Ed »

Great little trip. Shows how tough even the Rock Harbor passage inlet can be with strong head winds and seas. The Petersons are always great people to talk with. Did you sign their guest book? It will put you on their emailing list.
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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by johnhens »

Thanks for sharing your trip with us!! Nice bull moose, interesting that it is hanging around RH.

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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by MikeT »

Ingo, thanks for the report! Lake Superior can be so fickle. Sounds like you did a great job adjusting to the conditions.
We always bring a backup gravity filter when paddling or hiking. Very small and lightweight.
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Re: TR: 9/19 to 9/27/2016 Paddling Rock Harbor

Post by head2north »

Thanks for the report, in a way I got to Isle Royale this year in a canoe living through your trip vicariously - my spirit appreciates it.

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