TR: 5/30-6/12, 2022 [Hiking] Minong Ridge Trail E>W

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TR: 5/30-6/12, 2022 [Hiking] Minong Ridge Trail E>W

Post by Kelly »

This year's visit saw the return of TC as my hiking partner. She was good enough to humor my desire to make time to visit Grand Portage National Monument. I spent a couple of hours wandering around the Heritage Center (which still requires face masks inside), the Ojibwe village re-creation, the canoe warehouse, and the North West Company Depot, while TC walked the trails. If you're in the area and can't make time to visit everything, pick one that fits your schedule.

On the way up, we lunched at My Sister's Place, where the Reuben sandwich was as delicious as memory served. We overnighted at The Outpost Motel which was a solid choice for us.

Day 0: Wednesday, June 1

At 07:15 CDT, we were the last to arrive at Hat Point Marina. Don't be last!

The Voyageur II journey was uneventful. Our destination was McCargoe Cove, so we oriented and permitted at Windigo. We told the permitting ranger that we planned to stop for the night between North Lake Desor and Huginnin Cove. Rather than issue us a cross-country permit, they said that we should try to make it to a campground. Weird.

The crew of VII prefers not to dawdle at Windigo, and under the pressure to leave we asked the permitting ranger no questions about the trail.

At McCargoe, we nabbed a shelter and spent a pleasant afternoon soaking up the atmosphere. Heard the first loon at 14:26 CDT.

Afternoon merged into evening, when the friendly couple from Dallas started a fire at the campfire ring and campers began to gather round. At its height there were a dozen people there, including three wolf/moose study interns and a pair of brothers from Iowa who made a last-minute change from Voyageurs to ISRO due to flooding at the former. ISRO is also known as Isle of Introverts and most around the campfire seemed to be part of that tribe.
Last edited by Kelly on Wed Jun 15, 2022 5:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Day 1: Thursday, June 2, 2022

Post by Kelly »

Woke up on Isle Royale for the first time this year!

Last evening during campfire a red fox showed up, and it appeared again this morning when I went down to the dock to collect water. And like last evening, small eyeball-targeting insects also appeared, making use of my head net desirable.

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, we followed my topo map to Minong Mines and found nothing but large piles of rock refuse. Did a bit of exploring in the area. Back on the trail, TC used the sound ID function of Merlin Bird ID to ID and record some bird vocalizations. Having seen no one on the trail all day, I laid down on the trail to wait. Of course, about that time a single hiker coming from the west passed by.

Later that evening, we were joined in our shelter by a hiker who had been feeling poorly ever since they arrived a few days before in Rock Harbor. On that particular day, they hiked from Daisy to McCargoe. They'd planned to stop for water at Chickenbone, but word from other hikers and a sign at Chickenbone was that the water was unsafe to drink. By the time they arrived at McCargoe, they were out of water. Also, due to feeling poorly, they hadn't been able to keep anything down for a couple of days. We fed (a little) and watered our fellow hiker and determined to wait until morning to make any decisions.

In the evening, saw my first moose of the trip across the cove!
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Day 2: Friday, June 3, 2022

Post by Kelly »

Our fellow hiker wasn't feeling any better this morning, so I canvassed the other hikers and found no one who was getting picked up by VII today. Fortunately, the wolf/moose study interns were still in camp, and they were gracious enough to use their satellite communication devices to send out a couple of messages to communicate the situation. We left our fellow hiker in the capable hands of the lead intern. Ever after, a recurring trail earworm was:

"I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way..."

Sorry, M, Y, and F—you were great, and you deserve better.

Also, I was pleased to discover that last year, somewhere on the trail between Three Mile and Daisy I had met the friendly couple from Dallas. We were all surprised that we met again on the island.

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, we headed for Todd Harbor. Along the way, we encountered the actual junction to Minong Mines, which was further along the trail than we had made it yesterday, so that led to some exploring.

Between McCargoe and Todd Harbor, I counted 79 blowdowns. In total, it sounds a bit discouraging. In practice, it's quite manageable one at a time.

Along the trail, I found the only examples of calypso orchids we were to see on this trip.

Upon arrival, we explored available sites and eventually set up our tent in site 5.
Last edited by Kelly on Tue Jun 21, 2022 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Day 3: Saturday, June 4, 2022

Post by Kelly »

The shelter at Todd Harbor opened up, so we moved in. In fact, everyone but us moved on. In the morning, three hikers passed through from the west, and two others passed through from the east. Later, two others joined us in the campground.

It was a beautiful day at Todd Harbor—a good day for exploring past the Haytown Mine, a good day for reading, and a good day for a nap on the dock.
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Day 4: Sunday, June 5, 2022

Post by Kelly »

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, we headed for Little Todd Harbor. Disturbed one moose, perhaps a yearling, feeding off the side of the trail. Found my first morel ever—TC had already found one. I walked up behind her and said "I found a morel" just in time to see an all-black creature leave the trail in front of her and circle around behind us. She said it had been sitting in the middle of the trail and they gazed at each other for a bit before I interrupted.

Was it a fox? Was it a juvenile wolf? No way to know until Windigo! TC filmed the part of the encounter when it was on the move. I named it Wolfgang (aka Wolf, aka Mozart) to cover both bases.

As we approached the junction to Little Todd Harbor, damper sections began to appear until we met the dampest one of all: a stream with nothing but a log to cross it. Until about now, I thought perhaps this was the same crossing that torpified refers to in their recent trip report. Maybe it is. What we definitely had in the way of crossing was a log, twisted at the base which lay on the far bank. This twist has begun to separate, making it appear even dodgier than it already did. TC made an exploratory crossing without her pack. I looked for a branch with which to steady myself, and then I started across.

I made it nearly all the way across before my foot slipped and I suddenly found myself sitting on the bottom of the stream. I decided to move to the log to consider my next move. In so moving, I failed to compensate for my pack.

In what felt like slow motion, I found myself on my back, in the water on the other side of the log. Know that it is not easy to stand up in the water when wearing a full pack, although I did try. After a couple of attempts, I realized that rolling over first would lead to standing up next, and so I stumbled over to the bank and climbed out of the stream.

TC filmed this crossing, right up until I slipped, when she thought she should stop and try to help. But there was really nothing for it.

While it wasn't a truly warm day, neither was it too cold, either in the water or out of it. I was just (mostly) wet.

And so was the rest of the trail into Little Todd Harbor, which is the least-maintained section of trail I have encountered on the island. While we never did lose our way in this section, the trail was often faint and muddy or submerged. I, however, had gained the freedom of wet feet.

Upon reaching the campground, I spread everything out while TC pitched the tent. My sleeping quilt stayed dry in its compression dry sack. My phone in my pocket did not—"Moisture has been detected" it proclaimed, which was heartening, because I just needed to let it dry out. And my Kindle? "Your Kindle needs repair" it says. It wasn't in its usual zipper bag.

People who fall into streams deserve mac and cheese instead of lentils, and Little Todd Harbor is a beautiful place for dinner. Only the snack in my side pocket got soggy—all the rest of my food stayed dry. Most of my clothes were wet, because I was wearing everything but my sleeping clothes.

But it was a sunny, if not warm day, so circumstances were fortunate. No injuries except a cut to my left palm, and perhaps the loss of my dignity. However, my dignity is of little use on the trail.

After a couple of hours, the charging port on my phone did indeed dry out. I resumed reading on it, for a while at least, until the moment the screen went to black, where it has remained ever since. It's possible the photos I took before The Plunge survived on the micro SD card. We'll know after a few days.

One hiker joined us in camp. He had hiked that day from South Lake Desor and moved on from Todd Harbor because he found it too busy.
Last edited by Kelly on Tue Jun 21, 2022 3:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Day 5: Monday, June 6, 2022

Post by Kelly »

It being a beautiful day for hanging out at Little Todd Harbor, we did. I made some solar prints. We explored around the west end of the cove. Later, two hikers came in, who turned out to be the proprietors of Hoosier Hiking and are on ISRO for a month. After settling in, they joined us around our campfire for some conversation.
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Day 6: Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Post by Kelly »

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, we headed for North Lake Desor.

Hoosier Hiking headed out in the same direction. Once they left us, we didn't see them again until North Lake Desor.

This section is easily the most difficult section of the Minong Ridge Trail. Up and down, down and up, over and over again. We met one hiker coming from the west, and otherwise encountered no one.

We took our last break on a high ridge with an expansive view of the Canadian coastline. TC engaged in one of her favorite activities: making coffee in beautiful places. We prepared to head out together, and my last glimpse was of her packing up her pack.

I reached a minor beaver feature crossing, and still no TC. Since she'd had some small directional trouble on a previous crossing, I decided to wait for her.

Time passed.

And then some more, and I began to consider our situation. Had she fallen over the cliff? If so, what were the options? We didn't have any way to communicate with the outside world, although we might have been able to pick up a signal from Canada if we went back up to the last rest stop. If not, one of us would have to hike to Windigo for help, and that was going to take time. We were a minimum of thirteen miles and five hours (for someone who is not me—if I was the hiker, TC was in even more trouble) from there, and then there would be the getting back, and that was unlikely before nightfall, even as late as nightfall is these days. I had a whole workable but unsatisfactory plan sorted out when I finally headed back to see what was happening.

TC showed up just as soon as I crossed back over the beaver feature. What I took for her packing up was actually a search for cheese and crackers. Blah. But no need to activate a rescue plan! Still, the experience underlined just how far away from help we were should something have gone wrong.

Upon arrival at North Lake Desor, we found site 1 occupied by a single hiker and site 2 by Hoosier Hiking. We set up in site 3 and proceed to pre-filter lake water dusted with a layer of aspen fluff through a fairly clean T-shirt of TC's. Lake Desor water does not have the refreshing flavor of Lake Superior water, but I found that adding a few lemon crystals improved the taste.
Last edited by Kelly on Wed Jun 15, 2022 7:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Day 4: Sunday, June 5, 2022

Post by torpified »

This has been a terrific adventure to follow along! I'm looking forward to more installments!
Kelly wrote: Wed Jun 15, 2022 4:41 am

As we approached the junction to Little Todd Harbor, damper sections began to appear until we met the dampest one of all: a stream with nothing but a log to cross it. Until about now, I thought perhaps this was the same crossing that torpified refers to in their recent trip report. Maybe it is. What we definitely had in the way of crossing was a log, twisted at the base which lay on the far bank. This twist has begun to separate, making it appear even dodgier than it already did.
there is no doubt that that is the crossing that so impressed/terrified me. I'm sorry about your dousing, but admire the good humor with which you and TC weathered it---and also your foresight in packing in such a way that the things whose dryness mattered most stayed dry enough! Was it always clear that the worst outcome was becoming decidedly damp, as opposed to being swept away/swept under? Because I worried about the sweeping outcomes.
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Re: Day 4: Sunday, June 5, 2022

Post by Kelly »

torpified wrote: Wed Jun 15, 2022 2:53 pm Was it always clear that the worst outcome was becoming decidedly damp, as opposed to being swept away/swept under? Because I worried about the sweeping outcomes.
Yes. I would characterize the stream flow on that day as brisk but not overwhelming.

That was one of the days that I'm glad I wasn't hiking alone.
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Day 7: Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Post by Kelly »

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, we headed out on the trail. Had some ideas not taken hold, in retrospect I would have preferred to stay another day at North Lake Desor.

These ideas led to the idea of walking this stretch of trail (12.9 miles) all the way to Windigo, in one day. This had never been my plan, and I didn't commit to ending up in Windigo on this day. I did commit to hiking for 45 minutes, and then taking 10-20-minute breaks.

Hoosier Hiking left a few minutes ahead of us. Along the way, we crossed paths with two pairs of hikers.

So, 45 minutes at a time we made our way to Windigo. After the third beaver dam, TC went on ahead, hoping to make it to Windigo in time to buy shower and laundry tokens as well as other amenities.

Somewhere in that section is a long boardwalk through a swampy area that I fervently thank my fellow taxpaying Americans for providing. It did seem that the trail closer to Windigo has received more trail building and maintenance than other parts of the Minong.

At some point, it became obvious to me that reaching Windigo was doable, so I dumped most of the extra water I carried from North Lake Desor.

And then, shortly before the Greenstone-Minong Junction, TC appeared! She offered to switch her daypack with my full pack. I declined on account of almost being there!

The alarm for the 10th 45-minute interval sounded as I walked into our shelter yard, so in all it took 7.5 hours of hiking for me to hike the 12.6 miles to Washington Creek. The entire hike took about two hours less than my original estimate. I was tired, and my feet hurt, and there was no way I was hiking the next day. Windigo meant a shower, and laundry, and books!
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Day 7: Thursday, June 9, 2022

Post by Kelly »

A couple of items were at the forefront of our thoughts come morning. First was the video of Wolfgang, which a ranger identified as a black morph of a red fox.

And the second was books! I started with Minong: The Good Place: Ojibwe and Isle Royale.

One of my ISRO dreams is to rent a canoe (or kayak) in order to row out to Beaver Island and stay for the night. This year I was finally in Windigo when services like that are available. Eileen at the store said she would be happy to do an overnight canoe (or kayak) rental to Beaver Island, except she hadn't yet received the liability forms. So no go on that for the remainder of my visit, as they did not arrive on any boat from Grand Portage.

TC decided to hike to Huginnin Cove and stay for two nights, and even though my feet felt better my better judgment thought they needed rest. So I went off to have coffee with Hoosier Hiking, who were staying in a camper cabin for a few nights, and then went on the guided nature walk with Ranger Caden and two other hikers. One of my questions was "What kind of questions do you wish people would ask, but hardly ever do?" To which he promptly replied "Shipwrecks and lighthouses!" In fact, he was giving a lighthouse presentation later that day. It also came out that this was his first season with NPS and ISRO, so you have plenty of time to ply Ranger Caden with shipwreck and lighthouse questions this season. And we also learned that was his first guided nature trail walk, and I affirm that he acquitted himself well.

After the nature walk, I moved to a shelter with a better view of Washington Creek. All the Washington Creek shelters may be creekside, but not all have a good water view.

And then it was time for Ranger Caden's lighthouse talk, also attended by Hoosier Hiking and a couple of hikers waiting for the seaplane. And again, this was the first time he had made this particular presentation in public, and he again acquitted himself well.

The rest of the day was occupied with moving from reading spot to reading spot, and then having pizza with Hoosier Hiking.
Last edited by Kelly on Mon Jun 20, 2022 5:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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The rest of the days: June 10-12, 2022

Post by Kelly »

It being a beautiful day for a walk in the woods, I day-hiked the Huginnin Loop to visit TC. She had been testing the use of moose berries in her twig stove, with results that mean I'm trying them on my next visit to moose berry country.

(An earlier hiker called them something else, and my use of moose berries is a way to break that connection.)

Otherwise, there was much reading here and there, and several more books purchased. Upon TC's return, we ate more pizza at the store. We met the new head interpretative ranger and peppered him with NPS uniform questions.

At some point we said farewell to Hoosier Hiking (who is still there!) and then Voyageur II whisked us away to Hat Point Marina. I mention the drive to Grand Marais only to note that our stop at Hungry Hippie Tacos is now a delicious memory.
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Wrapping up

Post by Kelly »

Some notes:
  • I frequently wore a head net and bug spray from day one. Mosquitoes often existed, and so did what TC called "eyeball-targeting" insects. Bigger than gnats. No black flies prior to departure on June 12.
  • Next time I'll include a notecard in my pack for questions for rangers and reports for rangers. While I later confirmed the safe exit of our fellow hiker at McCargoe, I forgot to report the reported existence of the algae bloom sign at Chickenbone.
  • Is it my imagination, or is the Windigo webcam less wonky than before? I mentioned it to Ranger Caden, who promised to write a note to someone about it. The location is still not great, but it seems focused and straight now.
  • My SD card survived The Plunge! As TC said, "The only photos you lost were the ones you didn't take". So maybe pre-Plunge photos will begin to appear above.
Last edited by Kelly on Tue Jun 21, 2022 2:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR: 5/30-6/12, 2022 [Hiking] Minong Ridge Trail E>W

Post by dcclark »

It being a beautiful day to stay inside and read a trip report, I read yours and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the phrase "the freedom of wet feet" and now I have a name for that. I'm also pinning for the island and reading your report has me planning next year's trip already.
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Re: TR: 5/30-6/12, 2022 [Hiking] Minong Ridge Trail E>W

Post by torpified »

What a fantastic TR! It must have been very gratifying to resolve the mystery of Wolfgang.

I count 12 days all together. (I am not a good counter.) Does that mean you scaled the 87 blowdowns on Day 2 with 10 days' (= ?? pounds) worth of food in your pack??

The note card is an excellent idea! Bulletin boards with trip notes thumbtacked to them would be a way to crowdsource trail conditions beta without demanding tons of time/attention from NPS staff. . . .
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