Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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TomM1940
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Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Post by TomM1940 »

Son and I are planning to return to Isle Royale in June 2024. Son plans to do a trail run from Windigo to Rock Harbor in a day. I plan to take it easy taking the Voyager to RH. We are thinking of June for this as it's cooler on the ridge and fewer people although not deserted.
Here's the general plan.
1. After breakfast at Suomi Bakery, fly to Windigo early on a Sunday (or Tuesday), camp at Washington Creek.
2. The next day, son takes off along the Greenstone while I take the Voyager to meet him at RH. Son is a pretty experienced trail runner. Iron Bull in Wausau, Dances With Dirt at Devils Lake, Broken Arrow in Tahoe, and Pikes Peak Marathon. He's shooting for around 7 hours.
3. Camp and eat at RH and have some- surprisingly inexpensive for a national park- beer.
4. Tuesday (or Thursday) fly to Houghton.
Of course weather would turn this into a non-event. But a few questions hopefully you might weigh in on please.

I'm thinking it would be better to make this a Tuesday-Thursday trip vs a Sunday to Tuesday trip. Reasons below.

How busy is the camping at Windigo/Washington Creek in early June? A shelter would be great but we'd be just fine in tents. I thought it easier to get a camp site arriving Windigo Tuesday vs Sunday. But how likely would we be doubling up on either day?

Getting to RH on a Wednesday would avoid drop off days for the Queen and the Ranger and getting a shelter is more likely. Thoughts?

Water on the Greenstone. There's spots east of Chickenbone as well as Chickenbone and Livermore. What might be chances of algae blooms that time of year?

What's been your experience with trail runners on the island? I've heard tell of mixed thoughts from the Rangers.

Of course there's likely other ways to do this. I could go up a few days ahead of my son and get a more days of hiking in but I wanted to flush things out a bit with the great folks here.

Thanks in advance.
torpified
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Re: Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Post by torpified »

Some quick thoughts about the trail runners question:

calibration: according to fastestknowntime.com, the current FKT on the Greenstone ridge trail is around 7 hours. The official route follows the GRT to its eastern terminus, and ends at the Hidden Lake Dock. So it's a mile or so longer than your son's route would be. Still, he'd be booking if he hit the 7 hour mark. As much daylight as there is in June, it might be wise to start early enough that he's not benighted, even if the run takes considerably longer than anticipated.

trail runners: a few years ago, I ran into a crew who were trail-running the Minong as part of a weeklong, mostly trailrunning, trip to the Island. They were having a blast. They were also supporting one another---stopping periodically to regroup and low-key checking on the member of the party who had gashed her knee in a spill earlier in the day. And they were adhering to Leave No Trace principles: their path wasn't littered with discarded power bar wrappers, and they weren't trampling slowmoving hikers who were in their way. Insofar as rangers do have reservations about trail runners, I suspect that those reservations are due in part to (i) a bad rap trail runners get because some of them aren't so LNT-compliant, and (ii) Search and Rescue concerns, predicated on the assumption that trail runners are more likely than less ambitious hikers to push their limits and injure themselves in a way that requires intervention.

SAR: Running in a group jointly dedicated to the aim of taking care of one another is a good way to mitigate the SAR worry. But it sounds like your son's effort is a solo one. One (logistically complicated) thought would be for you to set up an advanced camp at East or West Chickenbone and look for him on the trail the day of his run. That would give him a bailout option after 25+ miles, if things weren't going well. It wouldn't address every possible contingency, though, and would interfere, if things are going well, with being there to celebrate with him in Rock Harbor when he completes the run.

Although it's pricey, if you each had two-way satellite communicators (like Garmin Inreach), he could send you regular "on time on course" updates, and also message you if something goes awry.

Keep us posted!
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Ingo
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Re: Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Post by Ingo »

TomM1940 wrote: Wed Jan 17, 2024 5:36 pm How busy is the camping at Windigo/Washington Creek in early June? A shelter would be great but we'd be just fine in tents. I thought it easier to get a camp site arriving Windigo Tuesday vs Sunday. But how likely would we be doubling up on either day?
It's been a few years since I've camped there (pre-Covid), but I would think there would be plenty of room, although who knows these days. I don't think Tues vs Sun matters, or that you can really predict, since there isn't a boat coming in either day in early June. But the Ranger III does make one trip to Windigo in June (6/18) if you end up being later.
TomM1940 wrote: Wed Jan 17, 2024 5:36 pm Getting to RH on a Wednesday would avoid drop off days for the Queen and the Ranger and getting a shelter is more likely. Thoughts?
It seems that campground pressure in RH is more from folks coming in to leave the next day. Most folks getting off the Queen tend to hit the trail since it gets in early. Last trip we were lucky to get the last shelter arriving on the VII, but it was pretty full (July).
TomM1940 wrote: Wed Jan 17, 2024 5:36 pm Water on the Greenstone. There's spots east of Chickenbone as well as Chickenbone and Livermore. What might be chances of algae blooms that time of year?
Odds of blooms are low in June, but it's happened at least once.
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Re: Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Post by TomM1940 »

Ingo and torpified, thanks much for the info. Can't quite "how to" the reply to each of youse individually so hope you all get this.
Torpified-
My son is dialed into FKT and he's researching the route. I've seen some terminate at Lookout Louise while others go to the Hidden Lake dock. He wants to set a FKT. I'm sure he'll figure it out. Personally I'm trying to find a site for SKT, or slowest known time, that's more my style. And yeah, the earlier the start the better, even in June. We're both pretty big on LNT, he's an Eagle Scout and I've done lots in the back country. A side note, I continue to be impressed with the respect IR visitors give to the island. He wants to do this solo/unassisted and I get it and even in June I suspect there will be folks throughout the Greenstone for spot assistance if needed. However, you've encouraged me to strongly recommend some contingencies for dealing with cuts from a fall and a bail out plan. I'm considering the Sat phones but we're both licensed amateur radio operators and from the Greenstone we can probably communicate through most (but not all) of the island with light weight hand held radios. He can certainly dial up repeaters in Thunder Bay if needed.
Ingo
That 6/18 Ranger is something to consider. I guess it's the Ranger drop off at RH to avoid. I was camping at a full Daisy Farm in mid-June on a Ranger drop off day and it was about 10pm and folks were were still walking in as RH and Three Mile were full, hence the concern. Hey, as long I have a tent, water, and jerky, I'll be fine. I figured there's always a chance for algae blooms even in June so I think he'll have extra containers but check with the Rangers in Windigo and bring them if needed.

One itinerary item I forgot to mention, after returning to Houghton, have lunch at Suomi Bakery.

Above all, you both really reinforce something I firmly believe in and that's contingencies. But wait, wasn't it Elizabeth Holmes, Silicon Valley darling, that said "The minute that you have a back-up plan, you've admitted you're not going to succeed"? She probably never hiked IR. Thanks much.
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Re: Can't plan too early, questions for starting at Windigo

Post by backwoods doc »

I would suggest at least a single Garmin InReach Mini, with tracking set to every 30 minutes. That way, if he doesn't move in an hour, and you haven't heard from him (and can't get him on the radio), you can send in the cavalry. $300 well spent.

You might also want to build a couple of extra days into your itinerary, so he doesn't have to attempt this on a day when the weather is either too hot and sunny (more dehydration risk), or too rainy (more ankle injury risk). I've talked with park medics, and those are the main reasons they get called out. Keep in mind that it can take them several hours to get to a down hiker, and several more to get them out, depending on location.
2018, 2019, 2021 (all inland lakes by canoe); 2022 X2 (RH and WC); 2023 HC
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