I had been planning a trip with Mallory to Isle Royale since February. Both of us had more vacation than our Eagle Scout husbands and decided to ditch the men for a week and head to Isle Royale. I was excited but also a little worried when I found out that I was pregnant with my first about 5 weeks before our trip. After talking with my doctor, my husband, and Mallory, we decided to keep the trip and bump down the mileage. I've been to Isle Royale before and was feeling pretty good in my first trimester overall. My doctor's priorities for me were: "Hydration, injury prevention, and food safety." I also carried a Garmin InReach to keep in touch with people on the mainland.
Day 0 - Saturday 8/10
Left from Madison, WI around 9 AM. Stopped for lunch at a grubby A&W on the way up. In Madison, it was almost 90 degrees, but as we headed up north the temp dropped drastically. We stayed at the Lake Fanny Hooe motel the night before catching the boat and ate at the Mariner North restaurant before heading to bed early for the morning boat ride.
Day 1 - Sunday 8/11
Headed to the Isle Royale Ferry and grabbed a delicious pastry at Jamsen's bakery before getting on the boat. The boat was full, and there were waves of 1-2 feet forecasted. After leaving the harbor, it was clear that 1-2 feet was an underestimate. Though my morning sickness was relatively mild on dry land, I was definitely feeling a little gross and Mallory and I took the seats on the bow at the front of the boat for most of the morning ride.
We got to the island on time and stood on the pier for our LNT briefing along with the other backpackers. There were a number of groups, including about 20 scouts (and dads) who had been extremely excited for their first trip to Isle Royale on the boat. That's one of my favorite things about Isle Royale - everyone is so excited to get to the island and start their trip people are in such a good mood! We were very lightly sprinkled on during our LNT orientation, but by the time we grabbed our permit it had stopped.
We weighed our packs and groaned (mine weight 38 pounds, Mallory's 45) as we hit the trail to Three Mile. I'd done the trail before and knew what to expect, but Mallory had never been and had broken her foot and the rocky terrain made for slow going. I always tell everyone going to Isle Royale - don't believe the topo lines for difficulty! We made it to Three Mile after nearly 2 hours of hiking and made the decision to grab the last available shelter (Shelter 1) and hang out for the evening. We filtered water and made a delicious backcountry pad thai with GF ramen (Mallory is gluten intolerant), peanut butter, and dehydrated veggies. Hanging out at the dock, a few young kids were enjoying throwing rocks into the water and ran "tests" - I think based on how big of a splash the rocks made. Instead of "success" and "failure" it was "success" or "unsuccess." "Unsuccess" became a thing for us for the rest of our trip.
Day 2 - Monday 8/12
I woke up in the middle of the night on the ground. I rolled over, checked my watch (2:30 AM), reinflated my sleeping pad, and went back to sleep. When we woke up in the morning around 8, my hips were on the floor again. Unsuccess. I've used a 4" thick Big Agnes Double Z for a few years and have never had a problem with it until this trip, in which every single night I woke up between 2:30 and 3:30 AM and reinflated my pad. I've had to have BA pads replaced before, and I've sent this one in, but they seem to always develop microholes that cannot be fixed or seen. In better news, this was my first trip using my new Enlightened Equipment quilt and it worked wonderfully!
We woke up, ate some oatmeal, and hit the trail in the pleasant 65 degree weather and made our way to Daisy Farm. I remembered the first mile and half or so being just as rocky as RH -> 3M, and it took us a while to get up and over the areas where a little light scrambling was required. We got to Daisy Farm in about 2 1/2 hours, leapfrogging a group of the boy scouts along the way. This was the first day that people asked if Mallory and I were sisters - "Nope, just friends!" we'd reply several times over the course of the week. When we got to Daisy, we hadn't decided if we wanted to stay for the day or continue to Moskey Basin (the goal was to get out to McCargoe Cove), so we grabbed shelter 12 and headed down to the dock to filter water.
Mallory had developed some blisters in her well broken in boots (we decided that her foot surgery a few years ago had changed her gait) and I was feeling a little nauseated, and knowing that the trail to Moskey Basin is exposed and rocky, we decided to stay for the rest of the day. We read, enjoyed watching the brave people who jumped into the lake, and took a nap. Ranger Andrew came by to check in on things and asked about our itinerary. We'd decided to go to Moskey Basin the next day and zero before making our way back, and he noted that Moskey Basin would like be full the next day based on what he was hearing. I attempted to find any holes in my sleeping pad by doing the bathtub method in Lake Superior and patched anything that looked like it could even possibly be a hole or a crease. Unsuccess.
We ate some dehydrated chili, Mallory drank a few glasses of wine (even a small box of wine can add some weight to that 45 pound pack when your hiking partner can't drink...) and went to bed early.
Day 3 - Tuesday 8/13
After Mallory taped up her feet and I braved the outhouse (the Daisy Farm outhouse was the smelliest one I've ever been in, not so nice when smells are setting off nausea), we headed up the trail on another sunny day toward Moskey Basin. The blueberries were out in force, and there were patches of thimbleberries just a few days away from being ready to be picked. "Don't eat unwashed fruits..." I heard in the corner of my mind in the voice of my doctor. Oh well - I did it anyway. I didn't think I was too likely to get listeria at Isle Royale.
From my memory, I knew that most of the way to Moskey Basin there is a stream that you cross, and from there it's significantly less rocky and more downhill. I was so excited to get to that point! On the way, we passed a trio of guys who I think were a dad and two sons who were working on dad's shoes. They had totally taped around the shoes - it looked like he'd had a major blowout in the soles of his shoes! Unsuccess.
We made it to Moskey Basin after 2 hours of hiking and found all of the shelters were full, even at noon. We started setting up our tent at site 5, and chatted with a few folks who were also camping at Moskey for the evening. As we unrolled the footprint of our tent, one came back over - "Hey," he said, "I'm solo and camping in one of the shelters tonight - do you want to join me?" Mallory and I looked at each other - "Yes! Thanks!"
As we chatted with Tim, we found out that'd he'd been kayaking on the island for over 3 weeks! He was in his last few days on the island and would be headed back on our boat on Saturday. He was really accommodating and let us share his shelter (his side was much neater than ours) though all we had to offer him in return was some trail wine and the opportunity to message his family from my InReach. We spent a lazy afternoon doing laundry, reading, and chatting with Tim. He took a day hike to Lake Richie while Mallory and I snoozed and later gave us the low down on the sites he'd stayed at during his many past visits to Isle Royale. Tim planned to stay 2 more nights before moving on to Rock Harbor and catching the boat in the morning.
We were treated to a beautiful pink blue sunset where the lake seemed to disappear directly into the sky as we ate our black bean and ground turkey tacos.
Day 4 - Wednesday 8/14
Lazy day! We woke up and had nowhere to go, which was nice. We did try to give Tim his privacy back by taking over the next shelter over, which was vacated by the group that was staying there around 8 AM, but of course invited him to come hang out later in the day. We took a day hike to Lake Richie, the first time I was visiting a place on Isle Royale that I'd never been before. The water was tepid (not as cold as Lake Superior) when we filtered it, but we didn't jump in because we'd heard from several people that there is a large leech population in Lake Richie. No thank you. That would definitely not make my doctor very happy - I'm going to file that one under "injury prevention."
There were a few people attempting to fish Lake Richie, but we didn't see anyone having success. In fact, I didn't see a single person with any success fishing during our entire trip. I'd thought about bringing my fly rod but was glad I didn't (... already had a 38 pound pack). When we got back to Moskey Basin, the water was warm enough where I swam in the lake for nearly half an hour. We enjoyed watching the mergansers move around the lake, and saw one nearly get picked off by a common loon. Aside from the birds, we saw a few snakes, a couple of very friendly bunnies, a few ground squirrels, and a timid field mouse. No moose on this visit.
Dinner was the only store bought meal we brought - bibimbap. I wasn't very happy with it, bibimbap is supposed to be crunchy and this was just mush. Another beautiful evening and early to bed.
Day 5 - Thursday 8/15
I woke up to see Tim's kayak pulling out of Moskey Basin - we later learned he'd decided to not spend a third night at Moskey. He'd shared his shelter again the night before, and Moskey was busy, so I wasn't too surprised to see him move on. By this point our packs were lighter, and we knew what we were getting ourselves into with hiking and made better time, getting back to Daisy Farm by 11. We grabbed shady shelter 10 and did a whole lot of nothing! I did have a bit of trouble regulating my temperature this day - it was hot by the dock, but cold near the shelter. I was also just overall feeling very "first trimester" this day - a little nauseated, generally fatigued.
There was a lot of action at the dock this day. A few rangers (including a ranger who clearly had no idea how to park the boat...), a sailboat, and a group who had been doing archaeological work on the island for the last 6 weeks. There were lots of people jumping into the lake and talking about the moose they'd seen around the island. We were asked for the first time if we weren't just sisters but twins! Nope... I can kind of see it, but Mallory and I were very surprised to hear it so often!
Dinner was ramen with a nice assortment of dehydrated veggies.
Day 6 - Friday 8/16
We made quicker time of our way back to Three Mile on Friday morning. We had considered taking the Greenstone to Three Mile, but for the first time we heard there was a forecast of possible rain. We had decided to stop at Three Mile instead of going all the way to Rock Harbor based on Tim's advice - the Ranger would also be leaving on Saturday morning, so getting a shelter was going to be iffy at best with all the Ranger passengers likely staying at Rock Harbor as it leaves much earlier than the Queen.
We made it to Three Mile right as rain started spitting at us and had our choice of shelters - we chose 10. Shelter 10, we'd heard, was the prime moose spotting shelter at Three Mile and we were still hopeful we'd see a one. With our Kindles getting low on books (I was down to Wuthering Heights), we spent some time playing cards, napping, and thinking about what we wanted to eat when we got off the island! Our last dinner was black bean pasta with dehydrated pasta sauce - a little boring, but it did the job.
Over the course of the trip, I read six books - Outlander, The Stories of Your Life, 1984, The Fall of Wisconsin, Wuthering Heights, and Educated.
We had overall really good weather, and it only spit rain for a half hour or so. We didn't take our rain gear out of our packs the entire trip!
Day 7 - Saturday 8/17
Foggy morning when we woke up - you could barely see the . We decided to make our way to Rock Harbor via the Tobin Harbor trail. While the Rock Harbor trail is certainly more scenic, the Tobin Harbor trail is much easier on the feet. I can see how it'd likely be very buggy if there were flies or mosquitoes out, but we luckily had no problems with bugs at all on our entire trip. I had 2 or 3 bites, as did Mallory, and we never broke out the DEET. We each had treated our clothes with Permethrin before our trip.
We made extremely quick time back to Rock Harbor, and started passing obvious day hikers who were staying at the lodge about a half a mile from our destination. At one point we stopped on the trail to pause for a minute and heard some obvious lumbering in the distance - was this the moose we'd be waiting for, on our very last day? Unfortunatley, because the Tobin Harbor trail is along such a steep sidewall, when we were looking for the source of the noise we were pretty much looking up. The undergrowth is so thick we couldn't see anything. I definitely think we heard a moose, but unfortunately our trip ended without seeing a moose.
We got back to Rock Harbor and immediately decided to grab breakfast at the Greenstone Grill where I had a perfectly lovely Diet Pepsi (would've been happier with a diet coke) and Mallory had a real cup of coffee. As we waited for the boat, we heard from a number of people who were waiting for the seaplanes to come in. Because of the foggy morning, the seaplanes were very long delayed and couldn't fly in or out for most of the morning. We met up with Tim and ate some ice creams with him, chatting about the remainder of our trips and he gave us a lot of advice on different ways to plan the next trip we take to Isle Royale. He said he'd planned to write up a trip report of his own - hopefully we'll see it here soon!
The Queen departed on time and we were back on the mainland by 6:30. There was an art show in Copper Harbor the weekend we got back, which we didn't know, so everything was busy! We checked back into Lake Fanny Hooe, took quick showers, and ate at the packed Harbor Haus for dinner. I devoured a 16 oz ribeye (yeees) and we conked out.
We drove home in thunderstorms on Sunday morning after stopping again at Jamsen's for pastries and thimbleberry jam. My pregnancy has progressed well, and I'll one day get to tell baby about how I lugged them and a 38 pound pack around for a week at Isle Royale.
Moskey Basin Sunset
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My daughter and I actually ran into you guys one evening when you were chatting with Tim as moskey. We had the red and yellow kayaks