Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Questions about trails and campsites on the island.

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Trekman
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Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by Trekman »

Hello,

Looking for a loop that starts and ends at RH. Leaving from Copper Harbor. Never been to the island and am going with a group of very experienced backpackers. Looking to do around 8-12 miles a day but can be more if campsites are worth trekking too. As mentioned we have never been so any potential itineraries would be appreciated.

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dcclark
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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by dcclark »

Here's a suggestion that will show you much of the east end:

9/4: Arrive, Rock Harbor -> Lane Cove (7 miles)
9/5: Lane Cove -> Moskey Basin (11 miles)
9/6: Moskey -> McCargoe Cove (9 miles)
9/7: McCargoe -> Daisy Farm (8 miles)
9/8: Daisy -> Rock Harbor and leave in the afternoon (8 miles)

This shows off some favorite campgrounds (Moskey, McCargoe, and Lane), shows both the north and south shores, and gets you some miles on the Greenstone Ridge as well.

One thing to keep in mind -- many people find island hiking to be more rugged than they're used to. If you usually hike 12 mile days in the midwest, you might want to stick to the 8 mile end of things on the island. But if you're used to rougher terrain, you may be more comfortable up to 12 miles.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by Jon Prain »

Given all of the parameters and limitations (the Rock Harbor end of the island, loop route, only four nights, 8-12 miles per day) the itinerary suggested by dcclark is probably about as good as you will get. HOWEVER, I "disagree" with the route in several ways also.

1) I am one of the few people who is not a big fan of Lane Cove. Many people like it. Some of us are not huge Lane Cove fans. (I am not AGAINST Lane Cove--just not a FAN). Lane Cove is somewhat unique--in that it is on the North side of the island --- it is on Lake Superior --- and it has no dock (so most boaters aren't going to "bother" you). Thus, you get to see things at Lane Cove that you might not see at other Isle Royale campgrounds. Some people like the "loneliness" and "solitude" of Lane Cove. However, both times that I was there, Lane Cove was very crowded. (I got the last open campsite one time and I had to share a site the other time). The 2.3 mile trail from the Greenstone Ridge Trail to Lane Cove has roughly a 500 foot elevation change in the 0.8 miles closest to the Greenstone. That means that it is a steep downhill going in--and a steep uphill hike the next morning. Also, very little else is located near Lane Cove. Thus, if you go to Lane Cove, you are sort of out-of the -way when it comes to reaching other campsites. (Rock Harbor is 6.9 miles away in one direction. And, to the southwest are Three Mile Campground (4.6 miles away) and Daisy Farm Campground (6.9 miles)

2) The dccclark itinerary has no overnights at any of the inland lakes (like Lake Ritchie of WEST Chickenbone). It has only Lake Superior campsites. The problem is, if you add an inland lake site--you have to miss one (or more) of the very nice spots on Lake Superior that have been suggested by dcclark. If you go to an inland lake, you also start to lose the "loop" nature of the route and have to hike back over trails you have already hiked.


Let me throw another itinerary out there. Not better than the one dcclark is suggesting. Just different.

September 4th. Hike to Lane Cove

September 5th. Hike to McCargoe Cove (Note: 13 mile day--plus the uphill hike out of Lane Cove)

September 6th. Hike to Lake Ritchie (checking out East and West Chickenbone campgrounds) 6.3 mile day. If you want, you can do a long side hike to Chippewa Harbor--or just rest at Lake Ritchie. Other option: Don't stay at Lake Ritchie (an inland lake). Hike 2.3 more miles and stay at Moskey Basin Basin (on Lake Superior).

September 7th. Another short mileage day--go to Daisy Farm or Three Mile Campground.

September 8th Come back into Rock Harbor. If you camped at Three Mile the night before--and come into Rock Harbor early--you can enjoy Rock Harbor on this day. Hike out to Scoville Point. Enjoy a meal at the Grill. Maybe shower. Relax that day etc.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by torpified »

I think you'd be very happy with trips based on either of the E side loops already suggested! Here are about 4 more cents, in the form of purely subjective reports, offered in the spirit of helping you gauge the range of responses people have to different options you're considering:

On the Lane Cove question: I loved it there (but I hit it during one of its phases of solitude), and really relished the walk out and back, which dips into and out of a series of beaver-impacted habitats before delivering you to the shores of Lake Superior.

On the matter of a Rock Harbor day: I also really like having a day to putter around Rock Harbor after a backpack. The Scoville Point hike is tremendous. Another fun option, one that lets you see more of the island's modes, is to rent a canoe and explore Tobin Harbor and/or paddle to Hidden Lake and hike up to Lookout Louise from there.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by bobcat »

If you really want to do some mileage, take the Minong to the Hatchet Lake cut-off and then return to Rock Harbor on the Greenstone-Lake Ritchie-Rock Harbor Trail. This can be done with zero backtracking if you take the Tobin Harbor trail out of Rock Harbor. Lay this out on a map and see how the mileage looks to you-you would certainly pass through some of the most gorgeous scenery the island has to offer. If you prefer to hike and relaxing at camp is not your thing, this could work.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by dcclark »

I actually agree with Jon Prain about Lane Cove, but so many people call it a favorite that I decided to add it. Plus you really do get the "full" island experience that way (by which I mean, a good ol' heart-pounder of an uphill hike first thing in the morning). But cutting out Lane Cove would not be a big problem.

That said, I'll repeat: Many people find the island more rugged than they expect. I'd go with shorter days, maybe even a rest day, rather than trying to see everything and pushing yourself beyond your limits.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by Trekman »

Thank you all. There is a lot to consider in terms of routes forsure but planning is half the fun! I have continuously heard about the island being more rugged than expected but the group i am going with are seasoned bunch. Thank you everyone for the suggestions!

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by Trekman »

Would a hypothetical route of RH-Three Mile for night one. Then go from Three Mile to Moskey for night 2. Moskey to Chickenbone East (Seems like people avoid this campground so insight appreciated), Chickenbone to Lane Cove for night 4 and then a short hike back to RH to explore in the morning. Mileage seems reasonable and still allows us to see a lot of the East side of the island. Any feedback/suggestions is greatly appreciated.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by bobcat »

Chickenbone East is just a clearing in the woods, no great scenery etc, and it is a steep 1/2 mile downhill to the water source. As campsites go, it is strictly utilitarian. If you can handle roughly two miles more on days 3 and 4, you can go to McCargoe Cove for night 3 which is a very scenic and social campground right on a long inlet of the Lake AND McCargoe has shelters which is nice if it's raining. I have stayed at Chickenbone East, and its location looks favorable on a map but if it was up to me I would choose McCargoe Cove. Another option would be West Chickenbone which is scenic and right on Chickenbone Lake.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by booyah »

Trekman wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 10:04 am
Thank you all. There is a lot to consider in terms of routes forsure but planning is half the fun! I have continuously heard about the island being more rugged than expected but the group i am going with are seasoned bunch. Thank you everyone for the suggestions!
FWIW, I recommend a stair climber for a good practice for island hikes.
I made my daughter practice on a stair climber before our trip, and she was very appreciative...

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dcclark
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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by dcclark »

Ditto to everything Bobcat1 said about East Chickenbone. I would add that it is not even really in the woods -- much of it is open and exposed on a high ridge. Hot sun will fry you, high winds will toss you around, and a storm won't have anything to slow it down.

Definitely continue to McCargoe -- or Chickenbone West -- if you possibly can.

Finally, the "short hike" from Lane Cove to Rock Harbor is up and over the Greenstone ridge, and you'll be climbing the steep side. You can do those 7 miles in a morning, but they won't be easy.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by bobcat »

That hike has steep sections, but the foodbags will be empty. And, having Mt Franklin be your last high viewpoint as you exit wilderness back into the society of Rock Harbor is priceless.

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by Trekman »

Noted on going from Moskey to Mccargoe. the hike from McCargoe to Lane Cove seems to be around 13 miles which seems like too much. Is there a good alternative option for the last night campsite on our way back into Rock Harbor?

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Re: Early September Rock Harbor Loop 9/4 - 9/8

Post by bobcat »

Look back up the thread for dcclarrk's suggested itinerary, in the second post at the top.

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