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TR: Sept. 2022 [Hiking][Minong Ridge Trail: McCargoe - Todd - Lil Todd - N. Desor - Wash. Creek]

Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2022 11:46 am
by IncaRoads
Name: Mark
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Arrival Date: Wed. Sept. 7, 2022
Departure Date: Tues. Sept. 13, 2022
Coming From/Via: Grand Portage/Voyageur II

Background: This 2022 solo trip coincides with my 50th year anniversary of visiting Isle Royale for the first time. In 1972 I was a high school junior. A buddy and I “rode the dog” (i.e. Greyhound Bus) from suburban Detroit to Houghton, and took the Ranger to Isle Royale. We spent a week there and traversed down Rock Harbor to Moskey Basin, then up to McCargoe Cove, and back along the Greenstone Trail to Rock Harbor. Upon returning to the mainland, we hitch-hiked back to suburban Detroit with stops in the Porkies to see the Lake of the Clouds and St. Ignace to participate in the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge walk. My current avatar is a picture from that 1972 trip where I was off-trail backcountry camped on an interior lake.

During this 2022 solo trip I traversed the entire Minong Ridge Trail. Due to advancing age and deteriorating body infrastructure, I tried to keep my mileage to about 6 miles a day. Campgrounds during this time were mostly full but not doubled up. It confirmed what the park service has been saying; the busy season is now extending into mid-September. Most campers were from the Midwest with increasing numbers of people from farther away like Kentucky, Colorado, and New York. The age demographics of hikers was definitely skewed toward a younger crowd. Temperatures ranged from highs in the 60’s & 70’s to lows in 50’s & 60’s with two nights getting down to about 48 degrees. Rain showers during one period were continuous for 36 hours.

Day 1 - Wednesday, September 7 - Grand Portage to McCargoe Cove, 0 miles

Briefly chatted with Capt. Don before departing. The ride on the Voyageur II to Windigo and then on to McCargoe Cove was calm and uneventful, although a little on the warm side. McCargoe Cove was already busy with activity when we disembarked. There were no available shelters but I was able to get a tent site. Quickly set up camp and then rested in the shade during the heat of the afternoon. After a late afternoon cigar, I prepared my only fresh dinner of the trip and retreated to my tent at sunset, approximately 7:20 CDT.

Day 2 - Thursday, September 8 - McCargoe Cove to Todd Harbor, 6.6 miles

Awoke to a mild morning with no dew. Hit the Minong Trail early. My initial routine was to hike for 1.5 hours followed by a 15 min. rest. I kept getting passed by hikers heading west and was concerned that I might not be able to obtain a campsite upon arrival in Todd Harbor. After a few cycles of that hike/rest routine, I made it into Todd Harbor at about 2:30 CDT. The campground was empty and the only shelter was open and available. It appears that the hikers that passed me were putting on much longer miles than I initially surmised. I was very exhausted from this first hike of the trip and had a hard time finishing my lunch, Did not prepare my dinner that night as the thought of food did not sit well with me. Lounged on the pebble beach of Todd Harbor with a cigar, as the skies became more overcast. Investigated the group camp sites as I have not visited them before. They were empty. Retreated to the shelter at sunset. The weather was expected to change during the night and into the next day.

Day 3 - Friday, September 9 - Todd Harbor Zero Day, 0 miles

Awoke to a steady rain shower on the roof of the shelter. The rain was expected to last all day and into the night. Decided early that I would take my “Zero Day” and stay another day in the shelter to avoid hiking in the rain. My appetite slowly returned and I was able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner without any issues. Talked with a hiker who had an updated weather report; after the rain passes, the next few days will be mild and dry.

Day 4 - Saturday, September 10 - Todd Harbor to Little Todd Harbor, 6.7 miles

There was a heavy dew this morning and wet vegetation soaked the lower part of my pants as I started my hike. I had gaiters this trip and they did a great job of keeping the majority of the water out of my socks/shoes. Before reaching the Hatchet Lake cutoff trail, I saw what appeared to be a baby muskrat holding its position in the middle of the trail. After seeing me it hastily retreated to the underbrush. Made good time today as my legs were feeling stronger. When I reached the infamous stream crossing, I was delighted to see that the water level was very low. I was able to dance on the top of the exposed rocks and was quickly on my way. Ate a late lunch, set up camp, and enjoyed a cigar down by the water. No additional hikers showed up that afternoon/evening and I got to enjoy the full solitude of the Little Todd Harbor campsite, my favorite on the island.

Day 5 - Sunday, September 11 - Little Todd Harbor to North Lake Desor, 5.7 miles

The remaining westward portions of the Minong Ridge Trail are some of the most challenging on the island. Lots of up and down as one traverses through the multitude of geographic fault lines that pepper this portion of the trail. My revised routine was to hike for 1.0 hours followed by a 10 min. rest. Longer rest period if I stop for lunch. I would change my socks at the halfway point. Air temps were in the 60’s but it was a lot hotter on the crest of the ridge. Took my time and enjoyed the views of Canada. Arrived and set up camp in late afternoon. Dried out damp items. Enjoyed a cigar down by the lake. A late dinner and retired early to prepare for tomorrows long hike.

Day 6 - Monday, September 12 - North Lake Desor to Washington Creek, 12.9 miles

Awoke early, packed quickly, started hiking. Accustomed to keeping my daily mileage to about 6 miles, todays jaunt of about 13 miles will severely test my limits. I had an off-trail backcountry permit so if need be, I could camp about 3-4 miles from Windigo and finish the remainder of the trail the next morning. Again, took my time and made sure I took rest stops at the appropriate times. Good to see that the park service flagged all the stream/beaver crossings with brightly colored tape. About midway along this segment there were two interesting features. The old burn area is starting to regenerate with smaller plants and shrubs. Nearby, many maple and aspen trees were defoliated due to invasive moths. The ranger later said that the moths will last in the general area until they eat themselves out of house and home. About a 3 year period. By late afternoon I made the decision to press onward to the Washington Creek campground as I still had ample daylight and my legs appeared to have enough strength to finish. Arrived at Washington Creek with 45 minutes of daylight to spare and set up in a nice tent campsite. Ate my last dinner in the dark with my headlamp on.

Day 7 - Tuesday, September 13 - Windigo to Grand Portage, 1 miles

Slept in. Ate a leisurely breakfast. Walked from the campsite into Windigo and investigated the area. Back at the campsite I did a final pack and made it back to the dock awaiting the arrival of the Voyageur II at 12:15 CDT. Another fine backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park is complete. No moose sightings but lots of wolf tracks in the mud. I leave with tired legs, a smile on my face, and the anticipation of a fish and chips dinner once on the mainland.

Total Mileage: 32.9 miles

Lessons Learned, Reinforced, or Things to Consider:

1. Brought gaiters instead of rain pants. They were useful in keeping water out of my socks/boots during those mornings with lots of dew on the trailside vegetation.
2. Including a zero miles day in my schedule allowed me to modify my itinerary due to an all day rain event.
3. First time using Darn Tough socks. No blisters. Quick drying. I like them.
4. The busy season at Isle Royale now extends into mid-September.

Re: TR: Sept. 2022 [Hiking][Minong Ridge Trail: McCargoe - Todd - Lil Todd - N. Desor - Wash. Creek]

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2022 10:08 am
by torpified
What a great report on what sounds like a very satisfying trip! (I don't suppose you have a report archived of your 1972 trip?) But was there no celebratory cigar at the close of your epic Day 6??

Re: TR: Sept. 2022 [Hiking][Minong Ridge Trail: McCargoe - Todd - Lil Todd - N. Desor - Wash. Creek]

Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2022 7:24 pm
by IncaRoads
torpified wrote: Mon Sep 19, 2022 10:08 am I don't suppose you have a report archived of your 1972 trip? But was there no celebratory cigar at the close of your epic Day 6??
No report from the 1972 trip. It was my first wilderness backpacking trip. IIRC, the freeze dried food package said 2 servings so I assumed it would feed my buddy and I. Wrong! We had to panhandle hikers for leftover or unused food at McCargoe Cove.

There was no celebratory cigar on my last night in Washington Creek. Got in too late and too tired to enjoy one properly.