TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

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EngiNerdRacing74
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TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

Post by EngiNerdRacing74 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 3:12 pm

Hi everyone. Although I have lurked for a while I decided to finally make a post. Here is a report of my thru hike of Isle Royale for my second trip to the park. I've been wanting to go back and see more of the island since going two years ago, so I decided to pull the trigger and return for a 7 day thru hike from Windigo to Rock Harbor. I definitely wrote it for those who have never gone, so don't mind the writing style and details unnecessary to an Isle Royale veteran.

After all the planning and preparations, my trip began with the drive up on Thursday, August 23rd, to Houghton-Hancock in the Keweenaw Peninsula at the top of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. It was a pretty uneventful 8 hours and I did some last minute checks on my equipment and supplies for the week.

The real adventure began the morning of Friday, August 24th, with the float plane flight from the Keweenaw Waterway/Portage Canal to Windigo on the western end of Isle Royale at 8 AM with Isle Royale Seaplanes on their 1952 de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver which is considered to be the besh bush plane ever built by many even though production ceased in 1967. It is powered by a single 450 hp Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior radial engine and has a payload capacity of approximately 2000 lb, so it can literally carry a ton! The flight was smooth, as was the landing. Visibility was a bit hazy as you can see from the photos from the plane that morning. After landing in Washington Harbor and getting my gear, the first stop was the National Park Service Windigo Ranger Station to check in, review my intended itinerary and the principles of Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, and get my back country camping pass before hitting the trails. With that all handled, I went to get water before setting out. There happened to be a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) wandering around the area paying little mind to the humans around.

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There was some weather forecast for the afternoon, so I had already planned to do something slightly different than my original intended route. I didn't want to be covering several miles in the rain my first day so I had decided to head to Huginnin Cove on the northwest coast for the first night. Hiking out from Windigo and passing through its Washington Creek campsite I made note of the water spigot locations so I wouldn't have to lug all my water for the following day up out of Huginnin Cove and could score some water quickly as that would be the last opportunity for potable water without filtering on the next day of the hike.

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After crossing the actual Washington Creek from which the campsite takes its name, the real trek begins as signs of civilization disappear. I headed towards the split for the West Huginnin Cove Trail and the East Huginnin Cove/Minong Ridge Trail and took the East so I could hike along the shore of Lake Superior some on my way into camp. After just over a half mile, the East Huginnin and Minong Trails split apart and I headed towards the Cove. It was quite humid as expected in the forests and through the wetlands leading towards the lake, but the temperatures were in the mid-60s F and it was overcast with a slight breeze when the woods opened up.

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After a few miles, I could see the big lake through the trees and finally the trail began to run right along it. I tried not to stop too often so that I could get a site and set up camp before the rain came. I ended up getting a Tent Site #5 which was a nice site with its own little private cove withing the bigger Huginnin Cove. I popped my boots off and took a quick soak of the feet in the chilly Lake Superior water and it felt great after the first day of hiking. It started raining lightly on and off in the early afternoon and rained a little harder at times, but nothing too horrible. After setting up and eating, I trekked back up the trail to check out some of the views I had made mental notes of on the way in. There were some great views and a common loon (Gavia immer) hanging out in the water. Upon my return to the campsite, I found I had some neighbors since sites were starting to fill up. They were a father and son named Tom and Derick who were on a trip celebrating Tom's retirement from the USPS that week. We mostly kept to ourselves, but these two guys would end up being my neighbors and campsite companions for much of the trip. Total backpacking distance for the day was 4.5 miles, with a total of 8.43 miles and the equivalent of 58 floors climbed.

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The morning of Saturday, August 25th, was foggy and gloomy waking up to. I packed up in the foggy mist that was slowly clearing and headed out of the camp and towards the West Huginnin Cove Trail back towards Washington Creek to top off my water. After filling up, next up would be my first leg on the Greenstone Ridge Trail towards the Island Mine Campground, the only site not on a lake on the whole island. The hike was largely uphill climbing the ridge slowly but surely through fairly open maple forests. The forest on this leg was far more open under the canopy than most of the rest of the island that I have seen. The descent down from the Greenstone Ridge to the campground was pretty steep, not going to be fun to go up starting the day tomorrow morning. I rolled into camp and there was someone in all the sites, but my neighbors from the night before offered to share Site #3 with me. We had some good conversation and a small campfire in the fire ring. Island Mine is one of the handful of sites you can have a campfire in the whole park. There was a small stream to get water from not far from camp. Total backpacking distance for the day was 10.6 miles, with a total of 11.95 miles and the equivalent of 139 floors climbed.

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It didn't rain that night, but the humidity and condensation dripping from the maples kept everything a bit damp when I got up on Sunday, August 26th. I once again topped off my water supply before heading out since it would be several miles on the ridge with no opportunity to refill. Then I hoofed it up to the Greenstone Ridge and headed towards Mount Desor, the highest point on Isle Royale at just under 1400 feet above sea level. This was one of my shorter days of backpacking on the trip. The sun came out and skies were relatively clear. After passing Mount Desor, I could see Lake Desor from the Ridge. I got to the South Desor campsite and hung up some of my damp gear and set up camp in Tent Site #4. I popped down the steep little trail to Lake Desor from my campsite for a quick swim in the lake to cool off and rinse some of the filth of a few days on the trail away. Then I headed back to the site to relax and lay in the sun to dry off before making dinner. While I was preparing dinner, the sky was becoming overcast and the sound of thunder rumbled in the distance. So much for getting everything dried out finally! It stormed a bit and then rained a bit more overnight and then again in the morning. Total backpacking distance for the day was 5.5 miles, with a total of 7.59 miles and the equivalent of 73 floors climbed.

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I hate packing up a bunch of wet gear in the rain but I needed to get moving, so that is what I did the morning of Monday, August 27th. My next camp would be Hatchet Lake, a small lake near the middle of the island just on the northern side of the Greenstone Ridge Trail. I headed up the ridge from Lake Desor and then onto the Greenstone towards Ishpeming Point, where there is a small observation tower for the Park Rangers to use and is about halfway to Hatchet Lake. Much more of the trail is out of the forest on the Ridge as it becomes more and more rocky. There were some spectacular views along the way. Once again, the trail off the ridge to the campground was fairly steep, but as the woods opened up there was Hatchet Lake.

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Once again it was clear when I got into camp, but it began to cloud up. I ended up sharing a site again with my neighbors from the previous nights. A young couple also rolled into camp pretty late and shared the site as well. It was Tent Site #4. Eventually the winds picked up and the sound of thunder rumbled again in the distance. Some pretty good thunderstorms rolled through right around nightfall with the winds howling through the trees, lightning flashing, thunder rolling, and rain coming down. After the storms passed the wind continued to howl through the night. Total backpacking distance for the day was 8.1 miles, with a total of 10.1 miles and the equivalent of 107 floors climbed.

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The morning of Tuesday, August 28th, things were not as damp as I was expecting after the storms overnight thanks to the wind. I got up early hoping maybe the clouds would break and there would be a good sunrise, or maybe a moose would make an appearance, but instead I got a steady north-ish wind in my face and a very blue tinted lightening of the sky into gray.

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Once everything was packed up, it was back up from Hatchet Lake to the Greenstone Ridge Trail for my last big leg of the trek on this trail running along the ridge that is the backbone of Isle Royale. I would head towards Mount Siskiwit, and then towards the West Chickenbone Lake Junction to take the Indian Portage Trail south off the Ridge and onto Lake Richie. There was a potion of the trail along the way running along a beaver dam that was almost entirely washed away from the storms the previous night.

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The Indian Portage Trail runs among the several inland lakes in this area of the island, Chickenbone Lake, Lake Livermore, Lake LeSage, and Lake Richie.This would be my largest number of backpacking miles for a day at 11.1. I finally made it to the Lake Richie Campground along the northern shore of this inland lake. I shared Tent Site #2 with my usual site-mates at this point of the trip as we were on a very similar route. The site was up on top of a rock outcropping with a nice view of the lake and probably my second favorite site of the trip after Huginnin Cove. They went fishing while I was eating and finishing setting up my camp and came back with some pike that Tom had just caught in the lake to fry up in a pan with some Cajun spice fish fry. They shared some with me and it was pretty good to have something like that after several days of trail food. Only about 30 minutes before we were eating that fish, it was swimming in the lake. After that, we noticed a pair of trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) were hanging out in the lake feeding and preening themselves. These swans are the heaviest living birds native to North America, the largest species of living waterfowl with wingspans exceeding 10 feet, and were though to almost be extinct in the wild in the early 20th century with only 70 wild trumpeters known in 1933. A large population of several thousand was discovered in Alaska and the populations have been managed to be increased in the areas where they had been lost. I hung out by the lake watching the swans and enjoying the view as night fell. It was overcast, but no rain overnight. Total backpacking distance for the day was 11.1 miles, with a total of 13.56 miles and the equivalent of 144 floors climbed.

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When I woke up on Wednesday, August 29th, the sun was trying to peak through the clouds and the swans were still chilling in the lake in the same spot. I watched them some more while I got water for the day down at the lake and then hit the trails again along the Lake Richie Trail towards Moskey Basin. There I picked up the Rock Harbor Trail and little did I know things were about to get a bit more interesting. Just about a mile into this stretch I noticed something move up in the underbrush of a clearing along the ridge. Its head pops up and there is a moose (Alces alces). It is a decent sized cow but she wanders away before I can get much of a view or pictures. I was a bit bummed it was so quick, but I stood and waited a few minutes and then she walks back up with her calf and they hung out eating for a while. I got a good video of them when they walked off! Once they had passed, I kept on moving.

https://www.facebook.com/fwilson.ny/vid ... 194833939/

Another half mile or so on a stretch of trail through a more wooded area I see another moose cow ahead, but she was half into the trees by the time I snapped a picture. After these two moose encounters, I was excited to keep heading towards Daisy Farm Campground, the first time I'd make it to a place I had been before on my previous trip. This time I was trying to score a shelter for the night so that I could spread out all my stuff to air out and maybe dry out a bit too. I was able to secure Shelter #9 and after getting situated I took a quick dip in the waters of Lake Superior under the nice sunny skies and a few days without one, It was definitely cold but felt great for a few minutes. After that I dried off and then set out on the three and a half-ish mile round trip up the the Mount Ojibway tower on the Greenstone Ridge.

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You can climb most of the way up this tower and see some great views. I could see the Canadian shore to the north and the Michigan shore to the south and some great views of all the island that I had traversed so far off into the distance. After my trip up to the tower I made it back in time to cook and eat before heading down to the dock to check out the sunset before heading to bed for the night. Total backpacking distance for the day was 5.8 miles, with the day hike up Mount Ojibway another 3.5 mile, and a total of 12.56 miles and the equivalent of 143 floors climbed.

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The final day of serious backpacking was Thursday, August 30th. I would be doing the home stretch to Rock Harbor from Daisy Farm. I started out along the Rock Harbor Trail and when I reached the small trail going past Suzy's Cave over to the Tobin Harbor Trail I crossed over that way to the campground. I was really pushing through the soreness those last couple of miles to make it to the campground to hopefully score another shelter to reduce my packing time the next morning to catch my 9 AM flight off the island. I was able to get Shelter #2 right near the start of the campsite from the main Rock Harbor area.

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I dumped my stuff and headed to the trading post where I knew that I could acquire some "You made it!" beers. I ended up scoring two well deserved cans of Bell's Brewery Lager of the Lakes, which I felt was appropriate for this trip.

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After relaxing and downing the beers I headed to the Greenstone Grille Restaraunt, one of two eateries they have for the Rock Harbor Lodge guests and got a cheeseburger, fries, and a pastie. Mediocre food never tasted so good! After eating, I grabbed some water and trail snacks and headed toward the Stoll Trail out to and back from Scoville Point. This trail provides some great views along the shore and on the point. On the way back I took the Tobin Harbor side of the trail and got to see a pair of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) playing around swimming and splashing in the Harbor. Finally I made it back to Rock Harbor to enjoy my last sunset of the trip. This day ended up being the high mileage day of the trip, with 8.2 backpacking miles, 4.4 miles trekking out to Scoville Point and back, a total mileage of 16.44, and the equivalent of 71 floors climbed.

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On Friday, August 31st, I was up at 7 AM to get packed up to head to check out with the Ranger Station and head to the seaplane for a 9 AM flight back to the Keweenaw, but it was raining and windy so not looking promising for things to go as scheduled. I made my way down to the Ranger Station and, as expected, they could not fly out of Houghton-Hancock as the weather was worse there than on Isle Royale. I was getting concerned about getting off that day as time ticked on and the planes still were not in the air. Even more concerning as the Rock Harbor campsite had quickly filled with those leaving on the Ranger III Ferry the following day, and then overfull with those arriving, first on the Isle Royale Queen IV Ferry ,and then on the Ranger III. I wandered around Rock Harbor in the damp, windy chill trying to amuse myself and come up with contingency plans depending on how it played out. The seaplanes made it in the air early afternoon when the weather had cleared and I found out I would now be on the 5 PM flight at around 3:15 PM. The weather held out until then and I made my way to the seaplane dock in Tobin Harbor at 4:30. Once again the flight would be on board the de Havilland Beaver. We were in the air right around 5 PM to head for the seaplane base in Hancock. I ended up walking another 4.4 miles total this final day, mostly wandering around Rock Harbor. After landing I made a pit stop before loading my pack in the car and hitting the road back across Michigan's Upper Peninsula towards the Mackinac Bridge and then onward through The Mitten arriving back in Holly around 3:30 AM on Saturday morning and had a nice, long, hot shower, and then bed in a real bed!

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Totals for the trip of 8 days, 7 nights beginning at Windigo and ending in Rock Harbor were 53.8 backpacking miles, 61.6 serious hiking miles (b'packing and day hikes), 85.0 total miles (hiking and around campgrounds), and the equivalent of 755 floors climbed. Total miles and floors climbed equivalents are from data from my Fitbit Charge II I wore for pretty much the whole the whole trip except when I jumped in the few lakes I did. Campgrounds (site #) I stayed in were Huginnin Cove (Tent Site #5), Island Mine (Tent Site #3), South Lake Desor (Tent Site #4), Hatchet Lake (Tent Site #4), Lake Richie (Tent Site #2), Daisy Farm (Shelter #9), and Rock Harbor (Shelter #2). Although there were some storms and dampness, as well as the delay in leaving the final day, the weather was good for the most part and great hiking temperatures most days ranging from mid 50s F on the low end through low 70s F at the warmest, even if a bit humid. My knees and feet definitely hated me by the end of it all. All that being said, it was an awesome trip!

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Midwest Ed
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Re: TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

Post by Midwest Ed » Sun Sep 09, 2018 8:33 pm

Very nice trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your Facebook video link appears to be broken. I would also add that many people would unofficially consider that East Chickenbone Lake campground is also not really on a lake. It's much closer to one than Island Mine CG but still not close enough to qualify. :roll:
Last edited by Midwest Ed on Mon Sep 10, 2018 1:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
8 trips, 1975 x 2, 1976 x 2, 1978, 1985, 2000, 2013

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philranger
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Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2007 5:09 pm
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Location: Madison, WI

Re: TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

Post by philranger » Mon Sep 10, 2018 11:23 am

I enjoyed your trail report. Don’t ever worry about adding too much info. I think most of the people who read these posts are happy and hungry to read anything about Isle Royale.
Isle Royale Trips: 2005-RH to Windigo via Greenstone. 2006-McCargoe Cove to Chippewa Harbor. 2007-RH to Daisy Farm and back. 2008-Feltmann loop. 2009-McCargoe Cove to Chippewa Harbor. 2013-Minong Ridge. 2014-Windigo + Huginnin Cove. 2015-Lookout Louise to LC to DF to MB. 2018-McCargoe to Todd to HL to Malone Bay.


torpified
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Re: TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

Post by torpified » Mon Sep 10, 2018 3:34 pm

great report--I like it when theyre data-rich -- and fantastic pictures! Also, congratulations on the wildlife encounters. One of my longstanding, but perpetually frustrated, ambitions is to see an otter . . . .

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Grandpa
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Re: TR: 8/24-8/31 (Windigo-Huginnin Cove-Island Mine-South Lake Desor-Hatchet Lake-Lake Richie-Daisy Farm-Rock Harbor)

Post by Grandpa » Tue Sep 11, 2018 7:46 pm

Thanks for the trip report! I enjoyed reading about your trip and seeing your photos. Well done!

I was wondering if you got confirmation of the Trumpeter Swan sighting. The latest NPS bird list for IRNP (https://irma.nps.gov/NPSpecies/Search/SpeciesList) indicates that there's never been a confirmed sighting. The park service may be interested in checking it out if they haven't done that.

You may know that there are two other species of swans in the region. The mute Swan is a non-native invasive that's easily distinguished from the other two by its bright orange bill. There are programs to cull Mute Swans because they displace native species. The Tundra Swan (aka Whistling Swan) is a native bird that looks very much like a Trumpeter Swan except that it's smaller. Tundra Swans and Mute Swans are listed as "Occasional" sightings on Isle Royale.
First visit 1982. Last visit June, 2018. Isle Royale is my favorite National Park!

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