TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

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TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by Ted4bp »

Isle Royale 2019 6/9 – 6/15

Hello all!

I could write a book on all the details, hiking experiences, and planning that went into this trip. Instead, I wrote a short summary and a more detailed description to share.


Day 1: Rock Harbor to McCargoe Cove Approx. 15 miles.
Just to get our trail legs and visit McCargoe.

Day 2: McCargo to South Desor approx. 17 miles.
Passed the midpoint of the first cross island trip.

Day 3: South Desor to Windigo approx. 11 miles.
Easy day.

Day 4: Windigo to South Desor, Hatchet Lake, or West Chickenbone???? Approx. 27 miles??
Zombie march to hopefully see a moose, mission accomplished!

Day 5: West Chickenbone to Daisy Farm approx. 7.5 miles.
Could have made it to Rock but respected the one-night policy.

Day 6: Daisy to Rock Harbor approx. 7 miles.
Short hike, let’s take Rock Harbor Trail! Then Scolville Trail to boot!

Day 7: Rock to reality….
No blisters!!! Almost 90 miles!!


Hiking with a friend of many years, we both practice lightweight/ultra-lightweight backpacking, we tested our limits and did something more challenging than we previously did on the island, this was my third trip and his fourth trip to Isle Royale National Park. My total pack weight with enough food for eight days, three liters of water, and stove fuel is around 28 pounds, there are restocking options, but we did not want to take any chances that would prevent completing our goals.

Sunday, we flew from Hancock to Rock Harbor on one of the Isle Royale Seaplanes, this gives us almost an extra day of hiking versus riding aboard a ship coming from either Houghton or Copper Harbor. After landing in Tobin Harbor, we went to the ranger’s station to self-register arriving around 10 am. the station was closed until 1 pm. The plane allowed us to avoid the mass arrival of the ship and proper orientation / registration, saved time.

Day 1: Rock Harbor to McCargoe Cove Approx. 15 miles.
We wanted to hike the Greenstone Ridge and visit McCargoe among a few other sites. The weather Sunday was cloudy and in the 50’s, great weather for hiking in my opinion, we set out using the Tobin Trail to help build up our trail legs for the trip ahead of us. With the rain we experienced this year, the trail was not as muddy and slippery as it has been on previous trips, this is a plus in my book, considering we keep a 2 1/2 to 3 mph. pace. We quickly made our way up to Mount Franklin, then over Mount Ojibway, and continued hiking on the Greenstone Ridge, there was a moose shed on the side of the trail along the way. After taking in some of the views and passing some other hikers our adventure was on its way, we arrived at Chickenbone Lake intersection and started to head north to McCargoe Cove. After we passed East Chickenbone Lake camp, the lake, the bog walks, and the bridges we knew we were close and when we saw the gnawed and fallen trees, we knew we had made it to McCargoe Cove. Once you see the giant trees that they fell and massive complex dams that beavers chew and build you realize how amazing and intelligent they are. Upon arriving at McCargo Cove, we took a quick look and a picture of the site map, I remembered from the past that we wanted to stay in lean-to six, so that’s what we did for the night.

Day 2: McCargo to South Desor approx. 17 miles.
We woke up early to hit the tails, the sun was out and but it was a little cool, our plan was to hike to South Desor on the Minong Trail. After a while on the tail something was odd, the “Minog Trail” started looking familiar to me, considering that I have never hiked any part of the Minong on past trips but wanted to someday it was like I was experiencing Déjà vu. We missed the Minong Trail, I realized we were on our way to West Chickenbone going around the north side of the lake, ironically the Minong Trail begins around lean-to six, which was one the reason that I picked it in the first place, I remembered there was something significant about that lean-to but forgot the details, maybe I’ll remember next time. We made our way to South Desor and hiked up to Mount Siskiwit, the way up to Mount Siskiwit is steep and rocky at times, under the wrong conditions I imagine that it could be a difficult adventure, but once you are on top the views are spectacular. Next, the trek to Hatchet lake to filter water, the hike in and out to Hatchet Lake is a gruesome up and down hill on rocks, I think they pitched a boulder from the ridge to create the path to the lake, I would have stored my pack at the top of the ridge if I had thought about it sooner. On our way to Ishpeming Point, it started to mist then the mist turned into rain, we hiked through it to Ishpeming Point where we encountered a couple under the observation tower, they were really overpacked, we took a break there before heading off. The rain stopped and we continued, we made it to South Desor feeling a little sore but nothing to worry about, the camp and water supply there are ok but nothing to write home about, set up camp on site four. We discovered that someone abandoned a tent, fishing pole, and some refuse in the outhouse, which was too bad, I couldn’t pack it out to discard it at Windigo because I didn’t have the room. Later, that night after dinner, it thundered off and, on all night, but no rain and in the morning the interior of the tent was damp due to condensation.

Day 3: South Desor to Windigo approx. 11 miles.
Again, we woke up early to hit the tail and the sun was out, a little cool side in the morning but warmed throughout the day. The hike to Windigo from South Desor was enjoyable, the west end of the island is completely different from the east, there is a nice canopy of maple trees and smooth bare trails. We stopped for breakfast at the Island mine intersection, while we were there, we meet a few more hikers, most of them were heading east except one couple, after about five minutes they doubled back. Later that day, we arrived at Washington Creek, picked lean-to three right on the creek, I dreamed about french-fries and other food at the Windigo store for some reason, but to no avail no fried food there. Although as far as food goes, you can buy beer, ½ gallon bottles of hot sauce, pringles, family sized pop tarts, and marshmallows in Windigo if you are interested, I had to pass on the hot sauce but did opt for some beer. later that night, I heard a sloshing sound from the river, upon investigation, the sound was a momma moose and baby climbing out of the river about 20 yards in front of me, did not have the camera, too dark anyway.

Day 4: Windigo to South Desor, Hatchet Lake, or West Chickenbone???? Approx. 27 miles??
Up and out early again, we started our way back up to the Greenstone Ridge, it was a little cool out as we made our climb up to the ridge that we just left the day before. We had a few options as far as the day’s destination was concerned, based on our endurance, motivation, weather, or absurdity we could camp at South Desor, Hatchet, or Chickenbone? The answer to that day’s goal was obvious, of course we chose West Chickenbone, my friend has been on the island four times now and never saw a moose, we have a good chance at seeing moose there.
So, the twenty-five mile plus, up and down six significant elevation changes, stop to look for cairns / trail markers, stop for water at Hatchet Lake, descend the rocky Siskiwit Trail, Zombie March begins, to West Chickenbone! So, we marched, the re-water trip to Hatchet is still gruesome but this time I remembered not to bring leave my pack on the ridge, after Hatchet, approximately 18 miles, we marched some more in pursuit of moose. Down Siskiwit we go slowly but surely, we passed groups of people that we already passed days before on our way to Windigo, they were still on their way to Windigo. After an eternity, I knew we had to be close, considering the McCargo camp six Minog trail incident and now slightly delirious I stopped to double check my map, then we were both looking at our maps, my friend realized the trail intersection was about 10 yards in front of us to West Chickenbone! We are almost there, we made the rocky descent down to West Chickenbone, set up camp, just in time to watch a bull moose swim across the lake, mission accomplished, that night we slept like rocks.

Day 5: West Chickenbone to Daisy Farm approx. 7.5 miles.
As usual, wake up early and hit the trail, the hike out of Chickenbone to Daisy is up and over the ridge, over bogs, over creeks, and around beaver dams, we pushed through to Daisy Farm to score a lean-to. We relaxed and laughed at the journey we made so far, we meet other people/groups around camp and at the dock, the reactions people had when they found out we left Windigo on foot and made it to Daisy in two days let alone starting at Rock five days earlier proved that we met our challenge.

Day 6: Daisy to Rock Harbor approx. 7 miles.
Same as usual, early start, set out to Rock Harbor, but since we missed doing some of the Minog Trail we stepped it up and took the Rock Harbor Trail. Why not at this point? Meet a park ranger at Three Mile who was traveling by boat conducting survey, after we made it to Rock Harbor the Ranger meet up with us again not realizing who we were he was surprised when he remembered us, we had a laugh. Last thing to do on the island is to pay homage and hike the Albert Stoll Memorial Trail.

Day 7: Rock to Reality.
Back to reality on the plane….
Find fried food!!!
No blister, zero not one after almost 90 miles!!!

Thank you for reading!!
Last edited by Ted4bp on Wed Jun 26, 2019 12:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by newb2019 »

Crazy trip, amazing!
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Re: TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by bobcat »

That’ the great thing about “hike your own hike”. Glad you had a good time and met your personal challenge!
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Re: TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by torpified »

That's getting around! (I wonder if anyone has ever bought one of those half gallon jugs of hot sauce from the Windigo store?) Congratulations on the moose, and thanks for the report.
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Re: TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by fonixmunkee »

You got some serious mileage in, wow!
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Re: TR: 6/9 - 6/15 2019 Rock to Windigo to Rock 7 days

Post by mip73 »

Hiking the "Minong Trail" will be a fun story for years to come. We had little laminated maps to reference different points on the island but they don't do a lot of good when you ignore the bigger signs. ;)
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