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t had been pretty cold again last night, probably upper 30's to low 40's. There were a few more clouds last night
too, but still not enough to obscure the roughly 60 quadrillion visible stars; the night sky in the great north woods is truly an amazing sight!
I woke up around 6:00 a.m. and heard a few birds happily chirping away from their perches up in the nearby trees. It was still too cold for me to
be comfortable outside of my sleeping bag so I tucked my head back inside and fell asleep for another 30 minutes.
At 6:30 a.m. I was abruptly awakened by a loud splashing sound emanating from
Washington Creek not far from our shelter. It had to be a moose, I thought.
The splashing woke Ken as well and he said he had heard something outside
before the splashing began and thought that maybe a ranger was walking past
the shelters on their morning rounds. I quickly retrieved my camera and went
out to track down the source of the sound. I wasn't even sure if my camera's
cold battery would be able to fire off a single image, so I attempted to warm
the battery by briskly rubbing it between my hands as I headed west down the
footpath behind our shelter. The soggy, dew-drenched vegetation hung so close
to the small path that my pants, socks and shoes were quickly becoming soaked
with the cold morning moisture. When I was about half-way between our shelter
and Washington Harbor, whatever had been tromping around in the creek had
apparently decided to leave the water and was now cruising through the dense
snapping twigs and breaking branches. Finally, I saw it. The moose emerged
from the woods onto the trail about 20 yards in front of me. It saw me and
quickly took off down the trail, heading straight for the mouth of the creek.
Obviously, it was much quicker than me and I heard it re-enter the water well
before I saw it again. I put the battery into the camera and turned it on
as I rounded the clearing at the end of the trail. By now the moose was close
to the woods on the opposite side of the creek. It stopped for a few seconds,
looked back at me and then splashed through the remainder of the creek, disappearing
into the thick tree cover on the other side, but not before I managed to get
a quick, blurry photo. I was now cold and
wet so I went back to the shelter
and fell asleep again until 8:45 a.m.
It was still pretty cool when I woke up for the day, but it was comfortable enough to stay outside of my sleeping bag and write. Ken woke up a while
later and we ate breakfast around 10:00 a.m. We walked up to the showers near the visitor center only to discover that they had not yet been turned on
so, we improvised by washing our hair and faces in the bathroom sinks. Washing up a bit made me feel a little more civilized and was probably symbolic
of our return to a more suburban way of life which would be upon us again in a matter of hours.
Back at the shelter we finished packing our gear, moved the picnic table back outside, swept out the shelter and then played another round of cribbage
under an increasingly warmer, sunnier sky. At 12:30 p.m. Ranger Valerie walked up and advised us that the Voyager was going to be at Windigo about 25
minutes early because it had not had to pick up additional hikers after leaving Rock Harbor on the east end of the island. She then left us and went
to warn the other hiker over at shelter #3.
Since we were completely ready to go we just grabbed our packs and walked over to the visitor center to spend our last few minutes looking through the
store. We ran into Ranger Valerie again and struck up a final conversation with her. We knew she'd worked on the island for a rather long time and
that she would be able to answer the question which had been nagging us since departing Feldtmann Lake several days ago; could we have hiked our
original, off-trail route? We explained that we had wanted to hike the shoreline east from Rainbow Cove, cut up past Lake Halloran and then pick up
the trail for the rest of the hike to Siskiwit Bay. We told her how we had discussed it with the other ranger when we registered our itinerary but,
decided against it because he was relatively new to that end of the island and wasn't sure whether or not our plan was feasible. To our surprise she
told us that it was more than doable. She said, in fact, that she had done that route in the past and that she was actually going to be doing it again
the following week. She explained that the route is easier or more difficult depending on the time of year, however, we probably wouldn't have had much
trouble if we had attempted it this week. Well, now we knew. She went on to detail for us several other off-trail hikes and "lost" trails to consider
in the future. It was a wealth of information from someone who had first-hand knowledge.
At 1:00 p.m. we heard the captain's voice crackle over the radio in the office.
He said the Voyager II was coming down Washington Harbor on its final approach
to Windigo and asked the ranger to make sure everyone was on the dock with
their gear and ready to go when he arrived. We grabbed our packs, thanked
Ranger Valerie for the excellent information and made our way down to the
dock. There were only nine people, including me and Ken, for the return trip
to Grand Portage. The trip back was just as nice as it had been several days ago
on our way to the island - blue skies, no wind and waves that were calm
to two-feet. We left Isle Royale at 1:20 p.m. and were back in
Portage by 3:15 p.m. As we pulled into the harbor we noticed that the area
was becoming enveloped by thick fog. One of the deckhands said this was not
an uncommon sight. He explained that when the warm air in and around the harbor
meets the frigid water of Lake Superior it causes thick fog like what we were
seeing. It was a cool way to end another great hike. As we walked back to
the car I came to the realization that this trip was now officially finished.
As I flipped back through the figurative chapters of this latest book, reminiscing
about the great sights, smells, experiences and camaraderie, I began to realize
that this had probably been one of my favorite trips to the island, and one
that would be hard to beat anytime in the near future.
Final count for the day: Several geese, two mallard ducks, crows, goldeneyes, one moose and the familiar flock of cormorants perched on their
exposed rock in the middle of Washington Harbor west of Beaver Island.
Miles Covered Today: Only .3 mile from camp to the dock.
This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 12:27 PM