Isle Royale National Park
May 2010

Day 6



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Really? Could this possibly happen to us again? I awoke at 8:50 a.m. to a blue, sun-filled sky and when I crawled out of the tent a few moments later I encountered warm air and a refreshing breeze rolling through camp. It was going to be another gorgeous day! We packed up, ate a granola bar, drank a healthy dose of water, topped off our bottles and were on the trail by 10:50 a.m. As we headed out of camp via the West Huginnin Cove Trail I looked over my shoulder and noticed only a couple small clouds on the horizon far to the north.

The trail began an immediate steep climb up and away from the camp sites and, in short order, the cooling Lake Superior breeze was but a memory. The trail led us generally in a southern direction where we encountered a few small ups and downs before we ended up in a valley between two tall hills. The trail had the same basic composition that we had encountered yesterday before reaching the Lake Superior shore - mostly open, average terrain. We saw more moose droppings and wolf scat on and around the trail but neither animal made an appearance.

The trail eventually turned to the east for a while before making a fairly steep drop to another valley. After the valley, the trail climbed once again as we headed southeast to a point where we began to see the water out in Washington Harbor. The trail remained fairly level as we moved east toward the gaging station and our last few tenths of a mile back to Washington Creek. Unfortunately, when I stopped to take a picture about half way through our hike today I noticed that the battery symbol was red and flashing, meaning I only had two, maybe three, photos left. Bummer! There was a lot of time left before this trip was over and a great photo - a moose, wolf, large fish, northern lights or any number of other things - may come into view at any moment and I might not be able to capture it. I passed up a few photo ops hoping that the little juice left in the battery would be better served for that once in a lifetime chance encounter, whatever it may be.

We arrived back at Washington Creek around 12:40 p.m. Once again, we had not seen a single person during our hike. It also appeared as though there was nobody in any of the campsites or shelters. Now we really felt like we had the entire island to ourselves. We walked down to shelter #1, dropped our packs, swept out the shelter and then sat in the sun at the picnic table for a while enjoying the serenity that is Isle Royale on a day such as this.

With our entire week's worth of hiking behind us there was now nothing for us to do except, whatever we felt like doing, whenever we felt like doing it. The ranger station always has a small weather radio and several day's worth of forecasts posted right outside the main door so we grabbed our fishing gear and took a leisurely walk up to the building to see what was in store for the next few days, even though we would no longer be here. The building was closed at this point, but when Ranger Valerie walked out from the back office and saw us by the front door she came out and talked with us, as she would do with anyone. She's just friendly and outgoing like that. Anyone who has been to Windigo in the past 12 years has probably been greeted by Ranger Valerie or heard one of her nature presentations at some point; she has become a well-recognized part of many visitors Isle Royale experience. We had heard through the grapevine that she was no longer going to be working at the island and inquired if the rumor was true. She went on to explain that her years as a park ranger were over and that she was just finishing out the season here at Isle Royale before going to work for a private organization, the Isle Royale Society, which is sponsored by Michigan Technical University. However, even though she was going to be concentrating more on education and informational programs her new employment would still allow her to spend time on the island. After leaving the ranger station we walked down to the dock and fished. It was pretty breezy and cool standing out in the open on the dock so we returned to our shelter after 45 minutes with no bites. We made up our minds to return to the dock later in the afternoon when the sun wasn't so high and bright.

We saw one guy hike in around 3:30 p.m. when we were filling our bottles at the water spigot near the entrance to the camp area. It looked like he was passing right by and heading straight for the visitor center. Later in the afternoon we saw him camping at shelter #3 just two shelters away. While we were topping off the water bottles we heard a seaplane take off in the harbor and wondered if it was for the guy from our ship who had been dropped off at McCargo Cove. We never did find out.

Around 6:00 p.m. we started dinner which consisted of spaghetti and meat sauce. Boy, did it taste good, although, it usually does. We cleaned up our dishes and then went back to the dock to fish. We spent about an hour, probably making at least 15 casts with each of the lures we had as well as fishing from various places up and down the entire length of that long dock. Skunked again! Argh. The fishing during this trip sure had been a let-down when compared to other years. The sun was lower now on the horizon and its rays glinted off the surface of every ripple in the harbor, giving the water a rich, silvery look. A couple mergansers dove for fish not far from us and several groups of goldeneyes flew by overhead, squawking in the pastel-colored evening sky. We had no fish but it still was a good way to wrap up our day.

I'll share an interesting, kind of funny observation I had tonight and every other night during this trip. During the course of the day I really only noticed a single bird chirping here or there and the occasional sound of a squirrel or chipmunk scampering through the crunchy leaves on the forest floor. Other than those sounds and, obviously, our clunky feet traipsing down the trail, it's surprising how quiet the forest can sound. The exceptions are nighttime and early morning - it is these times when the forest springs to life with the varied sounds of nature. Every night, around 9:15 p.m. or so, crickets start chirping and they are soon followed by a croaking frog or two. Then, all of a sudden, a bunch of frogs, seemingly out of nowhere, join in and their sounds fill the entire forest. This loud symphony continues for about a minute and then most of the frogs drop off leaving only the crickets and one or two frogs to carry on, almost like the second group forgot the rest of the melody and are waiting for the first couple frogs to reach the well-known chorus before they join in again. This whole cycle repeats itself a couple times until they finally decide to keep going, non-stop, all together, into the night. At some point, after I've been long asleep, the crickets and frogs end their production and turn the stage over to the morning crew - the birds. Early in the morning a bird or two begin the same exact routine until the slowly waking forest is filled with a backcountry symphony of bird songs, so many in fact that it sometimes is hard to pick out individual birds.

We returned to the shelter and sat at the picnic table for a while playing cribbage and talking. At 10:30 p.m. we watched a fox wander past the front of our shelter and then a few minutes later it passed by again in the opposite direction but, it was too dark and it was moving too fast for a picture. Besides, I'm sure the flash would have drained every last volt in my almost-deceased battery. The day was quickly coming to an end so I drank some hot tea and wrote in my journal for a short time before going to bed around 11:30 p.m.

Final count for the day: An eagle flying the length of Washington Creek in front of our shelter, more mergansers and goldeneyes, a large toad, a garter snake, one fox, no bugs and a single hiker.

Miles Covered Today: 4.5
Total Trip Miles: 40.7

Day 7


This page last updated on 06-28-2013 @ 08:25 PM