TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

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Tom
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TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by Tom » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:01 pm

This trip started as a redemption tour of a 2016 paddle we had on the Isle. In that trip, we enjoyed some amazing time on the North side of the NE corner, enjoying Belle Isle and the Five Fingers, and the various bays. Our second half of the trip, which was to be three days on Rock Harbor (the body of water) found us laid up at Daisy Farm for the entire time as a SW blow continued, and with the harbor fetch produced multi-foot waves that never subsided. We couldn’t even push off from shore. Thus, redemption…

Friday, 7/13: My brother-in-law, who has been my hiking partner on Isle Royale for the past dozen trips or so, and I departed the Twin Cities, MN after the morning rush and made our way north. Traffic was light and construction zones amazingly quiet, so unfounded paraskevidekatriaphobia was kept at bay. We were making great time and found an extra moment to stop at Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais for a quick respite. They have a lovely rooftop deck that we enjoyed. After a fuel stop, we continued onward to Grand Portage, where we first made a visit to the GPIR dock to connect with old friends. We arrived just as the Sea Hunter III was returning. We went to the casino lodge (which, for the first time in like, forever, actually seems to be done with construction) and checked in. We performed a final pack and check of our bags before heading off to have dinner with Capt Don. We went to Naniboujou Lodge, where, for the first time since 1932, has started to serve wine and beer with dinner. Dinner was very solid. (Dining options are bit limited in that area of MN)

Saturday, 7/14: We awoke with light shining outside, but still plenty of time to pack up and be to the Trading Post at 5:50… which turns out to be ten minutes before it opens. Fortunately, they opened to doors promptly, and we were able to grab a few breakfast items and coffee, as well as a lunch to go, since we’d be on the boat a good portion of the day. We headed down to the ferry dock and grabbed our favorite Grumman canoe from the ferry service rental stock, and chatted a bit with Capt Benny as our other travelers were arriving. Eventually we found ourselves underway with smooth seas, arriving in WIndigo on time. I got a great welcome hug from Ranger Valerie who remembered me from previous trips, and she gave our group the LNT. Those of us moving onward then permitted, and as I came back down to the dock, who do I see but nobody other than the infamous FonixMunkee (Richard) of the forum, who was there finishing up his week of Rock of Ages restoration. We’ve met several times in the cities, so finally I can say we saw each other at one of our favorite places. It warranted a picture. :D
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As this was a redo of a previous trip, we elected again to drop at Belle Isle. The weather was downright awesome on arrival. There were several fishing/pleasure boats at dock, but they appropriately made way for the Voyageur II which has precedence while running it’s route. We had been watching the weather and caught the latest boater and recreational forecasts, and with that information we elected to not stay at Belle, instead immediately setting off on a paddle to Duncan Bay Narrows. We short-cutted the route by using the portages (they are easy) and made the camp in about two hours. We found both shelters taken (a pair of fishermen from MN, and younger paddler from Indiana, if memory serves. I know his name is Ryan, and that was his reason for eventually getting himself to Ryan island.) Campsite three, a tent site, is certainly not bad, but the mosquitos sure were. It was warm enough to let them stay about quite a while in the evening. The dock presented a better place to consume dinner and breakfast. The fisherman (nice gents, who offered us some trout) shared a story that the night before, the camp was full. What was interesting is that it was a group of foreign workers who had come in on a day off from working for the lodge. More interesting, is that they hiked in. For those who have ever looked at a map, they’ll know there is no foot trail to DBN. Even more impressive, is that for those who have bushwhacked in that area, I can’t imagine it was easy. I know it looks close from Lookout Louise, but dang, that terrain…
At the end of the day, we succeeded in our camp selection, since it had another motive… which was…

Sunday, 7/15: After watching the weather forecasts (and actual) for several days and talking about it for years, we figured the stars were aligned that if we were ever going to pull off a paddle of Blake Point with two men in and open canoe, today would be it. We got a decent start; perhaps a little bit slower since we had tents to pick up, but loaded up with a compass and radio, we paddled out of the Narrows feeling only a light breeze. As we started beyond the protection of Locke Point, we picked up the light rollers of Lake Superior, but the periodicity and height was nothing that was of concern in the canoe. We didn’t want to get ourselves too far out, for safety reasons, but at the same time when you start approaching the Palisades, much of the shoreline is rocky cliff (there are actually a few places you could potentially put in) which rebounds the wave back out. By the time we were at the Monarch shipwreck buoy, you started to pick up an alternate wave from the other side of the Isle… And paired with wave reflections, you’re really dealing with waves from four directions, which is a bit tough to read, and just becomes a slop. At some point you just need to keep paddling while wobbling, but we made it.
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It felt nice to turn in to Tobin Harbor. We made a bio-break at Merritt Lane, and then meandered down Tobin to Rock Harbor, our place to rest (and perhaps enjoy a beer) for the night. The winds picked up from the SW in the mid-afternoon, which had us concerned that fate was against us, but we still could get a quick second paddle of Tobin in, during which a cow moose swam across the harbor in front of us. The blow continued into the evening, but the posted forecast at the Visitor’s Center didn’t list significant winds. We hoped it would die back overnight, and indeed it slowed somewhat at dusk. Perhaps surprisingly, only four shelters had guests that night. I did experience a first sighting for me on the Island, a dog. Meet Icy (sorry, if I got your name wrong!) a sweet service dog that helps her owner with balance.
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A beautiful animal. If you’re on the island, her owner is working in the Rock Harbor store for the season. Stop in and say hi.

Monday, 7/16: We paddled away from Rock Harbor/Snug Harbor to find a relatively calm harbor. We skirted Center Island, crossing over to the lee of Smithwick, following the short of the barrier islands up to Tookers Island, where we docked to take a look at the camp. After hiking about (it’s not very large and taking a few pictures, we returned to the dock only to the winds had picked up… Significantly; enough to whitecap Rock Harbor, and the waves were starting to build. We pushed off fighting the headwind, and snuck the canoe to the channel between Davidson and Outer Hill Island, where we found a reprieve… And a great look at the beautiful residence that is the Boreal Research Station. Eventually we had to find ourselves back in the harbor, and fought against the wind and waves until we docked at Mott Island. After a good number of Isle Royale trips, I finally made it out to the summer headquarters… which is pretty industrial, actually. We hiked around giving our arms a break, finding our way to the neat bridge that connects over to East Caribou, as well.
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One thing that I think is fascinating about Mott is that you realize employees have families, and they are raised here… and for the young ones, that means they need a playground too:
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Eventually we had to find our way back to the canoe, and the harbor. The winds would blow harder every now and then, but it seemed like there would be no great time to start. Ranger Steve cautioned us when we filed our itinerary that the IRBA (Isle Royale Boaters Association) picking was coming at the end of the week, and boaters were already starting to arrive – And that Caribou Island is very popular. We found that to be true, so pushed our paddle upwind toward Daisy. A few waves crashed over the bow, but fortunately we were generally heading straight into it, so we stayed stable. Nonetheless, it felt good when we arrived at Daisy Farm. Not much has changed at the camp; although the dock is new, it continues to grow in (old timers may recall when if was much more open, especially coming off the dock), and the beaver house near the lakeside footbridge now appears dormant. The weather has been sunny (with nary a cloud in the sky) and downright hot by IR standards. It felt good when evening arrived. We spent the evening at the dock making new friends, and around dusk three otters entertained us by swimming around the dock. A great way to finish the evening.

Tuesday, 7/17: We had a planned weather day, and hadn’t needed to use it, nor did the forecast look like we would need to. Today became our quiet day. We paddled across the harbor to Bangsund Cabin. Rolf Peterson had headed out that morning for a conference, but Candy was hospitable and cordial as usual. We joined her for coffee and bars, and wonderful conversation. We took a few pictures of the Mooseum,
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and took the footpath over to the fishery and Rock Harbor lighthouse. When then returned to the canoe, paddling across the channel and took a look at Caribou. That’s a beautiful campsite; I can see why the pleasure boaters like it. We returned to Daisy Farm to enjoy lunch, and that’s when things got awkward. Setting on the dock finishing lunch, the lone other party on the dock (and perhaps camp, at the time) commented that it appeared the Ranger III was arriving into harbor. I looked up to discover, awkwardly, that my parents had brought the family boat into harbor:
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OK, just kidding. But when you see a pleasure craft that rivals the size of the Ranger III, you stop and oogle. The boat anchored SW of the Daisy Farm dock, and I think it spawned two additional smaller boats. I had to look it up when I got home, but meet QING. (Pronounced “Ching”) – Flagged under the Cayman Islands, this 150+’ transoceanic beast indeed rivals the Ranger III for size. Word from the visitor center in Rock was that there was 16 people on board; I’m guessing at least five or six where crew. Somehow I think what they were eating for dinner may have been different than me. :shock:

I had toyed with the thought of paddling out into the harbor in the canoe and telling them “You parked in my spot” but then I realized anyone who sails a $50M superyacht into Isle Royale may have a personal security detail, so I just stayed at camp.

In the afternoon we hiked over to the lakeside open ridge directly across from the lighthouse that can be accessed from the Rock Harbor trail, and found that Blueberries were just coming into season. We harvested enough to have a nice complement to breakfast oatmeal.

Wednesday, 7/18: Never thought I’d say it, but it would be nice to see a cloud every now and then… The sun can beat you down after a while. While the winds had oscillated from SW and NE on Tuesday, we woke to found a light breeze from the SW. We loaded up the canoe and started our paddle back toward Rock Harbor camp. Funny, how with a tailwind, we made over 1/3 better time going with the wind as opposed to against it, arriving at the docks of Snug Harbor in just about two hours. We made camp, and portaged the canoe to the Tobin Harbor. After lunch, we paddled due west of the Tobin sea plane dock, to the open ridge accessible from water. There we found a large blueberry patch. While whomever paddles over and harvests in a week or so is going to find a patch of ripe blueberries, we at least found enough to snack upon and add to breakfast. Our new friend Haley (whom we met at Daisy Farm) joined us for an island farewell dinner at the Greenstone Grill.

Thursday, 7/19: Go figure. Another sunny, beautiful day. It’s really getting old. This is our transit day; Mother Superior was calm with very gentle rollers. It was a comfortable sail back, Capt Jack and First Mate Kirk did a wonderful job as the Voyageur II hit all the southern island stops along the way. I will miss the cooler weather and lower dew points provided by the island, and will anxiously await the next trip!

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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by Ingo » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:45 pm

Glad the weather cooperated this year! Will be doing a similar trip in Sept, but hoping to start at McCargoe with Belle Isle as plan B.
The passage between the Hill and Davidson islands is another world isn't it. Seems like it's usually iffy getting in and out, but once there it's idyllically calm. Also special to be able to do Blake Point--and even get a pic from the water :). And ending the trip on a 6 mile paddle with a tail wind--what can you say!
79: worked RH, 01: BI-DB-RH, 02: MC-LR-WL-CH, 05: MI-CI-MB-DF-RH-TM-RH, 09: MC-BI-DN-RH, 11: WC-HC-WC, 12: MC-CB-HL-TH, 14: BI-ML-CI-CH-MB, 16: RH-CI-TI-RH, 17: WI-IM-SB-FL-WC, 18: MC-PC-BI-DB-RH-DF


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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by Midwest Ed » Sat Jul 21, 2018 1:46 am

What a great redemption expedition and then-some. I happened to catch the "Qing" on the Marine Traffic tracking website when it was in the same place where you spotted her. I too was shocked after I saw the size of the vessel. Except for the color, this Chinese made yacht reminded me of the "Disco Volante" of James Bond-Thunderball fame. What was also surprising was to see a vessel with a 3 meter draft located where it was. BTW, until recently it looks like it had been in a charter fleet and went for about $300,000 per week.
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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by torpified » Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:05 am

Now that's redemption!

About the concession employees bushwacking on their day off: I took the Ranger over with a quartet of new staff, who had traveled directly from Taiwan to Houghton to start their summer on IR. All of them had giant shiny rolling suitcases. I wondered whether they had any idea what they were getting into. It seems like they did: they told me their work program allowed them to travel around north american for a month after their spell in harness, and that they *elected* to be posted to IR because they loved the wilderness. Later one of the store clerks (not Icy's human but another guy) told me he'd come back under the same program for a *second* summer at IR, he'd loved the first summer so much. So I'm guessing the summer jobs select for especially adventurous and woodsy young people.

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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by hooky » Wed Jul 25, 2018 10:15 am

Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for the report. At some point, I'd like to paddle the harbor and portage over to the inland lakes.

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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by fonixmunkee » Thu Jul 26, 2018 6:50 am

Today we spell redemption "T-O-M." *drops mic*

Glad you got after it. I had to Google "paraskevidekatriaphobia," so thanks for keeping that word in there to keep me engaged reading.

You had a first seeing a dog on the island, and wouldn't you consider seeing a Cayman-flagged superyacht in Rock Harbor a first, too? That boat at IR is crazy to me. Glad you tossed in a few 1%-er jokes, too.

Also, it was so cool to run into at Windigo. I can't explain the root of this, but running into someone at Windigo--on that remote island--has always been something I'd think was so cool (besides Ranger Val). Maybe to me it just makes me feel validated like I know Isle Royale enough that I could be considered a "local", haha. You made that wish come true.

Glad you made it out to our little paradise, and glad you redeemed yourself on your paddle. Tell your brother-in-law "hi" for me, because I think I forgot to say that when we bumped into each other, because I was so excited :)

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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by MikeT » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:20 pm

Nice report Tom. Great weather too! Glad you were able to complete your mission this time. Wow, what a ship!
Caribou is a great campground, but not during the busy season. I wish they would move the one tent site there away from the shelters and to the south side. That would make it more friendly to paddlers. As it is, it is just a spot between the two shelters which are always full and the dock has coolers, grills, etc..
I attempted to go from the Narrows up to Lookout Louise one afternoon and got to a point where I needed mountaineering equipment. I searched a good quarter mile along the cliff face and found no where to go up. Once I reviewed the map and explored a bit on Lookout Louise on another trip, I think it would be possible to walk east from the lookout to where is goes down some then double back along the cliffs where they are not so steep. I have not tried it though.
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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by johnhens » Wed Aug 29, 2018 12:41 pm

Sounds like a great trip!! We have done the early AM paddle around Blake in the early AM a few times in kayaks. Glad you made it around without issue. I have found the IRNP is "small" compared to other places. I have run into folks here when wearing an Isle Royale shirt and have been asked if I have been there. Always turns into a fun conversation about shared experiences there. Even more fun to run into familiar faces there be it other forum folks or NPS staff. There is an element of familiarity amonst those who have crossed the waters to get there. Somewhat of an instant bond. Nice TR!!!
Somehow seeing the QING there would be a dissapointment. I have met many boaters, good people. That seems out of place.


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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by jerry » Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:37 pm

Enjoyed your report Tom. A question about the Voyageur Brewing place. Do they serve dark brew/beer?

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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by fonixmunkee » Tue Nov 06, 2018 8:35 pm

jerry wrote:
Tue Nov 06, 2018 3:37 pm
Enjoyed your report Tom. A question about the Voyageur Brewing place. Do they serve dark brew/beer?
Yes, they've always got a a good spread.


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Re: TR: 7/14-7/19 2018 – Canoe paddle of the NE corner

Post by jerry » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:31 pm

Thanks!

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