TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

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TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

Post by royalewcheese »

Third trip to island, but this was my longest, and in fact by far the longest camping / backpacking trip that I'd ever attempted. Was solo. Actual itinerary was actually quite different from what I planned, as I revamped the plan part way through. Changes starting with leaving on 30Aug rather than 29Aug due to ferry being cancelled for the day due to gale force winds on the lake.

Day1 - 30Aug - Ferry - RH - Daisy
Took Isle Royale Queen out of Copper Harbor. As mentioned, a day later than planned. First time on that boat having previously taken both the Ranger and the seaplane. Very rough waters, and a significant number of people were sick on the boat, so not a particularly nice trip. Coming in, you could see smoke billowing from Horne fire. As ferry was at capacity, check-in at RH was very slow with the number of people to process. I made the mistake of not paying beforehand, which meant two separate lines to go through, so was practically the last one on the trail. Lots of warnings about crowded conditions and expectation of sharing sites.
Weather nice and clear, probably low 70s. Made my way initially on the Tobin Harbor side as I remember RH side being quite difficult. Cut back down near 3mile and continued to Daisy, and despite no elevation gain, felt like the terrain quite a grind even though not that long of a distance. Got into Daisy and set up in first site I found as everything looked full and I was fairly late getting in. Did not end up having to share the site, but this site was not very nice, with incline, rocks, and roots, plus some leftover trash. Later came across an open shelter, but was too late to take advantage. I ended up with sleeping pad issues, plus there is a bell at Daisy, (maybe on a buoy?) that rang all night. Not a fan of this campground.

Day2 - 31Aug Daisy - McCargoe
Another nice day, probably got up above 70, but very humid, particularly in the morning (which seemed typical every day regardless of weather). Climb up the Greenstone was okay, and some good views, but a lot of the route just felt like tough going in terms of trail conditions, and I ended up taking it quite slow and was very worn out by the time I hit McCargoe. Just significantly more challenging than I expected, possibly accentuated by my pack still having near full week of food and not really feeling my best. McCargoe was close to full, and I ended up in overflow at a group campsite, but ended up still having it to myself. McCargoe lived up to its reputation as being a very pretty site, albeit a bit crowded, and I saw a beaver swimming by dock for most of evening. Found it very handy to have my satellite communicator, as I asked my wife to maildrop a new sleeping pad to Windigo. Had sprinkle of rain in the night despite clear forecast, just enough for wet tent in morning.

Day3 - 01Sep McCargoe - Todd
Another very nice clear day for weather, probably up to high 60's. Started down the vaunted Minong, expecting the worst, but this was a surprisingly easy stretch. It had its moments, but after really dragging the last two days, I hammered through this without much difficulty, and even managed to be the first one to get into Todd, allowing me to grab the one shelter. So happy! I really really liked Todd Harbor. Small, with a beautiful view of the harbor. My only real complaint was a couple of fishing boats at the doc, with folks being way too loud with their talking and drinking. Also notable is that most of the campgrounds on Lake Superior have picnic tables at each site, which I find to make things way more comfortable. I did decide to change routes, as I had originally planned on the full Minong, but was really concerned that the Desor N to Win stretch was just too much to tackle, so I decided to shift down to the Greenstone.

Day4 - 02Sep Todd - Hatchet
This is a fairly short jaunt, only about 4 miles, so quite an easy day. Also yet more perfect weather, in the mid-high 60's. Part of the route had been flooded out by a beaver dam, and the trail was routed around on the dam itself so that was cool. Very easy to navigate dam as it had a lot of clay packed on it. There was a stream crossing which had the board rotted, loose (actually floating), so got feet a bit wet and had to jump across part of it. Lots of little frogs on the trail. In quite early so I had my pick of spots at Hatchet, but inland campgrounds don't have shelters, and all the sites seemed largely the same. Had hoped for a lakeside site or good view, but is instead a fairly rugged climb down to the water. Still, lake is quite pretty and feels properly isolated. Spent time watching the loons swim. Envious of folks with the little lightweight chairs, as sitting on rocks and logs gets old. Definitely looks worth carrying. Sprinkled a little that night but more or less dry in the morning.

Day5 - 03Sep Hatchet - Desor S
Yet another perfect fall day in the mid-high 60's and clear. Was dreading the steep climb up the Greenstone first thing in morning, but took it slow and wasn't really a bit deal. Ishpeming point a letdown given that its a high-point and has a fire tower, but view is completely overgrown with trees. Woman on trail told me about a wolf encounter close to Desor S where she looked down from her map and the wolf was standing right next to her! Had a photo of it walking away. Pretty crazy! Got into Desor S, some people already there, but grabbed a decent site. I think it eventually filled up to capacity with some site sharing, but I remained on my own. Nice flat tent site, but no shade, no lake view, and access to lake here really sucks, with a big walk down, and beach choked with logs and rocks unless you walk way over by group sites. Bathed my feet in the water and picked up a leech for my trouble. Overall one of my least favorite campgrounds. Also after 5 days, properly filthy, but didn't end up swimming as many people did, although tempting to brave the leeches some more.

Day6 - 04Sep Desor S - Windigo
Rained a bit in the night, but not heavily, and stopped by the time I packed up in the morning. Is a fairly long hike, but I was looking forward to that last 6 miles past Island Mine that is a nice gradual downhill. Was kind of pissing rain a bit in the morning but not enough to bother covering up, but sometime around noon it really opened up and got a good soaking for at least a couple of hours. With the rain, lack of views, and the long but easy trail conditions, I walked pretty fast with barely stopping at all along the way, as I had dreams of a nice shelter to hang all my gear to dry. Nearly empty foodbag meant a light pack. Plus looking forward to my maildrops, and the little bit of pseudo-civilization at Windigo. Despite the really large number of shelters there, they were all full. I was able to grab an individual tent site, but it was basically a wide spot by the side of the trail. At least it stopped raining and it was clear the rest of the day. I had remembered the Windigo store having frozen pizzas they'd heat for you, and I was pretty excited not to eat anything freeze-dried. As it turned out, with their end of season inventory, the only food there was basically marshmallows (no fires allowed), canned food (no can openers), raw onions, butter, and some cheese sticks. They did have pop though! I also managed to get shower tokens (no soap available) and quarters for the laundry. Clean at last! (although I would have been happier without the spider infestation in the shower) Weather perfect. Received my mail-drops, so I once again had a fully functional sleeping pad and my next week's worth of food and toiletries. Also very importantly, Windigo had moose! My last two trips to IRNP I saw zero moose, which I was pretty salty over, so this was a big deal. I also chatted with a dude that had walked in a single day the 40 or so miles from Rock Harbor to Windigo via the Greenstone. That night was clear weather, plus a moose ended up going through my campsite. I could actually hear it loudly chewing it was so close. Very cool.

Day7 - 05Sep Windigo - Huginin Cove
Only a short 4 miles hike with kind of rolling terrain, not too bad, but was feeling pretty worn down so that was okay. Got into Huginin Cove, which is quite small with only 5 sites, and one only the second arrival so I had my pick of most of them. I really really liked this campground. Wave action is quite loud, which I loved listening to. Great view of the Canadian shoreline. Tent site was only a few steps from the beach. My one complaint is the lack of picnic tables, but sites did generally have boards set up to sit on, which was okay. Weather was...interesting. Kind of wanted to rain off an on, and it would start, I'd retreat to tent, and it would stop. Finally it really opened up hard, so I hung out listening to the patter, and then it got very windy, so it seemed s*** was finally getting real. Then it just suddenly stopped, the sky cleared up, and I had a perfectly clear, absolutely beautiful evening. Slept well listening to the water. Considered staying here for two nights, but weather forecast was unfavorable, and was tired of not having a good seat, so figured I'd make another attempt at a Windigo shelter.

Day8 - 06Sep Huginin Cove - Windigo
Took the longer route this time, which runs partially along the shoreline, and quite enjoyed it. Daytime weather very nice, clear, mid-60's. Got into Windigo fairly early and nabbed a great shelter. Got another shower, hung out. Windigo store got some muffins in stock, so that was a win. Now that I had a shelter on Washington Creek, it seemed like the moose all disappeared. I was hoping for a big rainstorm, and we had a bit of thunder and lightning but unfortunately nothing too exciting.

Day9 - 07Sep Windigo - Dayhike to Minong Overlook
Lazy day...didn’t have to pack up, and I got to experience hiking without a pack on! Felt very free. Nice hike up to the Minong, enjoyed the summit, but views were very hazy, so I wasn't able to see much. Still quite liked it as it was fairly windy and atmospheric. Ended up threatening to rain all afternoon but only had a brief sprinkle. Very tired of freeze-dried food at this stage, so grateful that muffins were still in stock at the store.

Day10 - 08Sep Windigo-RH via ferry
A zero day for hiking given the planned ferry ride. Strange noise in the camp in the morning, which turned out to be a Native American dude chanting. Got on Voyageur around 1030, which I'd never ridden before. Not a fan. Rear of the ferry is extremely loud with engine noise, whereas seating in the front doesn't really have a window view. We got out on Lake Superior, and the wave action was so bad that they turned the boat around and went back into Windigo. Had to wait around until later in the afternoon for weather to sufficiently clear, so it was a lot of just hanging out killing time. Very nice day besides being windy. Finally left again, but still had decent wave action. Boat dropped 20 people off from Minnesota to McCargoe, which I was amazed to see that big of a crowd coming in there this late in the year. Did not get into RH until ~745pm. Wasn't sure what to expect for crowds, and surprisingly and thankfully, there were shelters available. I had been really concerned about having to find an open site and set up a tent as it was getting dark, but in the end was no big deal (luckily given my headlamp started malfunctioning). Restaurant already closed and I'm about out of food, but managed to grab more freeze-dried food just as store was closing.

Day11 - 09Sep RH - Dayhike to Scoville Point
For my last day I planned on a bit of luxury, and had a reservation at the resort. After camping for so long, it was pretty awesome to have a room. While objectively, rooms there are pretty basic, it felt amazing in these circumstances. However on balcony, flies (non-biting) were persistent and annoying, (along with my neighbors talking incessantly). As the trail out there had recently reopened after the fire closure, I took the opportunity to hike (without my pack) to Scoville Point, which is a very pretty walk, particularly toward the end point. Overall really nice just to chill out for the day, especially given the continued pleasant weather in the 60’s and clear.

Day 12 - 10Sep - RH Ferry
Back on the Queen. Water was quite calm so it was a very comfortable ride back. The ferry does leave the island fairly late in the day, so is a bit difficult to make a long drive afterward.
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Re: TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

Post by IncaRoads »

Welcome to the Isle Royale Forums. Nice first post! And a trip report no less.
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Re: TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

Post by dcclark »

Nice report, but a big thumbs up just for your user name.
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Re: TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

Post by torpified »

thanks for the detailed and highly readable report. I admire the format of your trip: you took real advantage of basecamps at Windigo and Rock Harbor, and also of the trails in between!

Could you tell us more about how the Windigo mail drop worked? Extensive uninformed study of webpages left me with the impression that if you'd have to meet the Voyageur on the dock to collect any package mailed to you at Windigo.

Mod Note: Changed vessel name from Queen to Voyageur.
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Re: TR: 8/30-9/10, 2021 [Rock to Windigo via mixed route]

Post by royalewcheese »

So glad to hear that folks enjoyed my trip report!! I didn't actually expect any feedback.

Regarding my mail drops at Windigo, there are good instructions on the National Park website ... torage.htm

Note that the address will come across as a bit weird to your local post office. I actually tried to do a mailing label at home using their website, but it would not take the address as valid. But went fine for me at the post office with a brief explanation. wife's emergency shipment of the sleeping pad was more problematic, as the post office staff argued with her on the validity. She showed them the instructions on the website, but they were still skeptical, and I think ended up looking up the address of the Voyageur dock and using that. Which wasn't correct, but it made it there anyway. I think be prepared to explain that the local post office in Minnesota treats the initial delivery as going to a PO Box (that's what the tracking feedback reflected), uses the ferry for the final delivery, and that they are used to handling it exactly as shown on the website.

While the IRNP instructions say that the boxes will be left at the dock, this was not the case. I asked the ranger, and they directed me to the store, which had them stored. The folks at the store first verified that I did not owe any postage before handing them over, so I suspect that they normally go here.
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