TR from my archive: July 4th 2000, Wi-IM and back.

Reports or links to reports on trips.

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bobcat
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TR from my archive: July 4th 2000, Wi-IM and back.

Post by bobcat »

OK, Torp is begging for more trip reports. Here's one from my archives, posted at the time on a different backpacking forum that is not IsRo-centric.

Moose With an Attitude and other tales from Isle Royale (From early July 2000)

Over the long holiday weekend I took a 4-day solo backpack trip to Isle Royale National Park. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Isle Royale, it’s the least-visited park in the US national park system, it’s a wilderness island in the northwestern corner of Lake Superior, and it’s a globally famous living laboratory because of its remote location, pure northwoods ecology and captive populations of moose and wolves. It is truly a gem and is my favorite place in all the world.

I left my office at 8pm Friday, went home and packed my stuff, and left at 11pm for the 6-hour drive to the ferry port. The North Shore of Lake Superior is a spectacular drive by day, but not by night – there’s this vast sense of nothingness broken by the occasional offshore twinkle of light from a freighter. The wind is cold coming off the Lake…..the water temperature is less than 40 degrees, year-round and it acts like a big refrigerator. I got to Grand Marais, MN at about 3 am and dozed in the car for a couple hours at a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead – several other folks were doing the same thing prior to starting a SHT hike, or judging by the canoes on the roof of their vans, a Boundary Waters canoe trip. It poured rain for much of the night, but stopped by morning. At 6am I went into town for breakfast and continued the last 40 miles to the ferry port at Grand Portage, way up right on the Canadian border.

SATURDAY: The Lady (Lake Superior is definitely a female spirit!) was in a pensive mood that Saturday morning – one- to three-foot waves rocked the ferry gently as we steamed our way the 22 miles or so out to Windigo, the western visitor’s entrance to Isle Royale. After checking in and getting the rangers’ briefing for hikers, and being duly issued my backcountry permit, I took off eastward on the Greenstone Ridge about 1pm with the intention of reaching Malone Bay in two days and returning to Windigo by the same route.

The first seven miles of this trail is a green tunnel through birch and aspen forest……not much to see, just a more-or-less steady climb from lake level to the ridge. I reached the ridge at about 5pm and had to decide – camp at the first campsite Island Mine, or continue 5 miles further to South Lake Desor? Hearing grumbles of thunder in the distance (but being unable to see the sky), and feeling the lack of sleep from the previous night, I stopped at Island Mine campground. I pitched my tarp (experiment #1 – no tent this trip) in a good spot – not in a run-off route, higher on the hillside, sheltered, pitched low and taut………then I tossed my pack under the tarp and hauled a bucket of water from the stream. The thunderstorm hit, but I was dry and comfortable leaning back against my pack as I filtered water (mini-Katadyn filter-experiment #2). This filter is small, light, and easy to use, but slow. But hey, it was raining and I didn’t have any need to hurry. A group of four other hikers arrived, soaking wet and bemoaning the rainstorm – and started to set up camp in my campsite! I politely pointed out that there were four campsites in the area, and this one was mine………which started a conversation with a woman who sent her husband to find a place and put up their tent while she watched me cook my dinner (Esbit stove – experiment #3). The Esbit stove worked great for me – small, light, boils 1.5 cups water in just a couple minutes……I don’t do much fancy cooking – just add boiling water, stir, and eat. A second wave of storm, with a bit of wind this time, hit while I was cooking but I was still dry and secure with my well-pitched tarp.

Isle Royale National Park has chosen (wisely, I think) to limit visitor impact on the land by concentrating campers in specific campsite areas, rather than allowing distributed camping. The park builds level tent pads, and outhouses in these campground areas, and requires special permits to camp anyplace else. So, in accordance with the regs, and somewhat by habit, I had put my tarp up on a tent pad. Well, shortly after I had crawled in my sleeping bag, a third wave of storm hit. Only this time, all hell broke loose. It musta rained about an inch in 15 minutes – and I suddenly realized that, while my tarp protected me from falling rain, and wind-driven rain from certain directions, it couldn’t do much for rising water. The nice level tent pad was being inundated with water faster than the water was running off! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten out of bed so fast! Next thing you know I’m crouched on my thermarest, holding my food bag in my lap, frantically stuffing my sleeping bag back in its waterproof stuffsack, and helplessly watching everything else I have with me get swallowed by a puddle of water! Learning experience #1: Don’t pitch a tarp on a tent pad. This was the beginning of a very long night. Fortunately it wasn’t cold, just very wet. The worst problem was that I was dead tired and desperately needed some sleep, but I couldn’t come up with a dry place to sit down much less lay out my sleeping bag! My tarp was still holding off the rain but the ground underneath it, and both sides of my groundsheet, were totally soaked and muddy – no way I was laying my down sleeping bag there! I checked around for another likely site to move and re-set up camp…..after all it was only 10pm and I couldn’t really leave until first light, which would be about 4:30. I ended up on my muddy thermarest under my tarp for most of the night. Finally, at 3:30, the rain tapered off and out of boredom as much as anything, I started packing up. My biggest dilemna was whether to continue my plan for three nights in the backcountry, or to return to Windigo and the security of wooden shelters. After two nights in a row of hardly any sleep, I figured I needed the rest, so I headed back down the hill to Windigo. Arrived at 7:30am, found a vacant shelter, hung up all the wet stuff, washed the mud off my thermarest, ate breakfast while my thermarest dried in the early morning sun, and then went to bed!!!!!!!

SUNDAY: Got up shortly after noon after about three hours of dead-to-the-world sleep. Went to the visitor’s center, which is new since my last visit to this end of the island. Spent a mellow day puttering around, cleaning mud off my gear, and moving my clothesline every couple hours to keep it in the sun. This was a learning experience – my Bridgedale socks once again proved their worth by drying faster than any of the other brands. I think I might have found a solution to my problem of being a dirt magnet (“Pigpen”) on backpacking trips – if I get all my clothes in a dirt color, they’ll look clean! I had a new camping shirt, (experiment #4), a tan shirt courtesy of a friend who found the tan too dark for her beloved desert sun – let me tell you, that shirt looked as good after four days as when it started, despite being trampled in the mud when my campsite flooded! You’ll definitely see that shirt on future trips This day had very much the feel of a layover day despite the fact that I hiked 8 miles with a pack full of wet gear! After dinner I went to the campground ranger show where, among other things, the ranger cautioned us about protective mother moose in this season of young calves.

MONDAY: Set off at 7:30 for a dayhike out toward Feldtmann Lake. About two miles into the hike, I was strolling along lost in thought when I was jolted into alertness by a moose trotting toward me from the underbrush. I backed off down the trail as I watched the mama – I just caught a glimpse of her calf disappearing over a nearby knoll. This moose was definitely taking exception to me being there…..she was blocking the trail, grunting, very nervous – mostly if you see a moose they just roll their eyes and go back to eating. I hadn’t been even within 50 yards of them, in fact I hadn’t even noticed them! I backed off to about 100 yards and just waited. Finally after about 10 minutes the moose took off though the woods away from the trail. I continued cautiously down the trail, especially when I realized that the calf had followed the trail when it scampered away. Sure enough, a short distance down the trail I saw the curious baby moose watching me. I stopped, backed off again as far as I could because I didn’t see the mama. Suddenly there she was, charging down the trail at me!! Ok, that was it! I dropped my pack and camera and climbed the nearest big spruce tree. Then I started laughing….here I was, treed by a moose in the middle of the woods! There was 1400 pounds of maternal fury snorting and stomping around on the ground 15 feet below me, and I was worried she would stomp my camera and lunch! After about 20 minutes, mama moose gave up on me, took her calf and left the area. After that, the rest of the dayhike was fortunately uneventful! About 14 miles total.

TUESDAY: Another dayhike, out to the Minong Ridge on the north side of the island for glorious views of the Canadian shoreline with its incredible rock formations and peninsulas. Saw a mother moose with twin calves – she saw me when I started talking to her so I wouldn’t startle her, and she responded more like I’m used to – she ignored me totally once she realized I was not getting any closer! Got some pictures of that one! Eventually they browsed their way off the trail and into the woods so I could finish my hike. About 8 miles total. Back at Windigo by lunchtime, I packed up all my stuff , turned in my permit to the rangers (required), and was at the ferry dock with plenty of time to spare. This was an incredible trip – with the exception of the one big storm that forced my change of plans, it’s the best weather I’ve ever had on Isle Royale. The bugs were annoying but that’s part of the territory in this season – one of the reasons I like September so much is that the mosquitos are mostly gone by then! I also got the full benefit of spring wildflowers! I don’t know much about them but there sure were a lot of things blooming.

There are so many things to do on Isle Royale – trails to hike, waters to fish, coast to explore by kayak, shipwrecks to dive……..it is truly a magical place for me!
torpified
May actually live on IR
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Re: TR from my archive: July 4th 2000, Wi-IM and back.

Post by torpified »

Thanks for the legacy trip report---the locus classicus of the Treed-by-a-Moose story, to boot! Also, I applaud your experimental spirit!
bobcat
Bushwacker
Posts: 204
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:39 am

Re: TR from my archive: July 4th 2000, Wi-IM and back.

Post by bobcat »

Yeah, Torpified, the whole purpose of the trip was a shakedown for a high-Sierra 9-day trip later that summer in California. I was trying out my gear list, some UL approaches that were fairly new at the time, etc. Hard to believe this was almost 20 years ago! It was a last-minute decision to go to IsRo instead of just a local trail somewhere.
Ted4bp
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Re: TR from my archive: July 4th 2000, Wi-IM and back.

Post by Ted4bp »

Sounds like quit the trip!!! Thanks for the read!!

Happy trails!
Ted
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