5/27 - McCargoe to Todd (6.7mi) - Rode the Voyageur II out from Grand Portage and had perfect weather. Flat water all the way and sunny. Stopped briefly in Windigo where I believe 36 of the 52 passengers got off and stayed off, but scored a lucky bonus as Dr. Rolf Peterson, head of the wolf-moose study, and some of his colleagues got on. All were very nice and talkative and it was a real treat to get to talk to them about the ongoing issue(s) re population dynamics on the island. Total lucky bonus we were not expecting at all. Got off in McCargoe at right about the scheduled 1pm and headed towards Todd. Nice hike early as we got up on some higher sections of the Minong. Oddly, these were the only sections of trail we saw any black flies on, but they got me pretty good in the 15 minutes I remained too stubborn to put some spray on. From there no real bug issues all weekend though you could tell they were coming shortly. Trail finally descended to Todd and we were treated to a fantastic sunset and then the real treat, a top-rate northern lights display that went on for hours. Best I've ever seen...by a lot. Just exploding across the sky out over the lake. Two other two-person groups were at Todd that night. Only question I have about this section of trail is the mileage. For a variety of reasons we suspect it's longer than 6.7. Could be wrong but our supposed average time/mile was so low it's practically impossible to believe (This was not the case the other two days).
5/28 - Todd to Hatchet (4.1mi) - Easy day two so we left reasonably late around noon or so. Most of the hike is through birch forest so no real vistas, but an enjoyable hike nonetheless. Ran into one group of two at the Minong-Hatchet Lake Trail intersection and they were headed the other way on the Minong, thru-hiking it in just three days. In-between there and Hatchet we saw a young bull moose just a bit off the trail to our right -- was the only moose we saw all weekend. Got to Hatchet and got a pretty nice site (site #2 I think?). All the sites are on opposite side of trail but at least ours offered a solid view of the lake nonetheless. A solo hiker was in the site next to us and three guys came in later in evening and went down to one of the sites at the west end. Started to rain that evening and kept up through most of the night. A harbinger of things to come...
5/29 - Hatchet to Malone (11.6mi) - Longest day of the trip but nice in that the hardest section is the first half mile, then the next 3.8 trickle up to Ishpeming Point and after that it's all gravy. No rain by the time we got up and going as we were moving by about 7am, but naturally the rain started shortly thereafter. And didn't stop. Up the ridge to catch the Greenstone was about .4mi, then 3.8 along the ridge to Ishpeming Point. Nice hike that humps up and down over the ridge and then down through forest. Steady rain by the time we got to the fire tower so we were glad there was full cover. Stopped for about a half hour and ate lunch (also picked up cell service here), during which it stopped raining. Finally started heading down to Malone so naturally it started raining again. Steady. And never stopped. Just accepted we were going to be soaked at this point and made our way down. Pretty lightly traveled trail but in good shape all the way. Made turn at beaver dam on west end of Siskiwit and humped the last three miles. Lots of mud and fair amount of deadfall across the trail, but nothing too terrible, especially since by that point getting more wet wasn't possible. Finally neared the campsite and ran into the second big surprise of the weekend: wolf tracks. Two of them, a mere one step shy of the boardwalk that runs into the Malone campground. Only one other person there that night so we grabbed a shelter with a great view, which was great as a night in a tent after getting that wet would have sucked.
5/30 - Up reasonably early, packed up and hiked the few hundred yards to the dock by about 930. Boat was right on schedule and picked us up at 10. Fun ride back with 3-5 foot waves and swells up to 7. Didn't bother me but a lot of people on the boat weren't looking so hot, so we hung out outside on the stern just to enjoy the last few hours of the weekend.
Overall, probably rambled a lot there, but an absolutely fantastic trip. Got a bit wet and muddy, but that's to be expected. What a great place, and getting to ride the boat with Dr. Peterson and some of his staff was a rare treat -- as was seeing the wolf tracks. One bit of advice I'd offer is that if you take the Voyageur II out of Grand Portage, make a point of it to talk to the crew members. Great guys and lots of good stories. Believe it or not it's one of the things we keep talking about that really added to the trip.
So yeah, that's it. Got some photos posted here...can pretty much follow the entire trip: https://hollywebb.smugmug.com/National- ... oyale-Mich
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That's a nickel. Why it was in my buddy's pocket at that point I have no idea, but it was. As for the photos...yeah, my main objective with a lot of things I do is to just crudely document the trail so I can kind of always go back and re-walk it, plus a few friends always like going through them that way. At times I'll drop back far enough he's out of view but a lot of the time I figure it doesn't matter much.