Our Isle Royale Adventure: Day 3

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Wednesday started casually again, and even more so since we didn’t need to pack tents.  Despite the long trek to come, there’s no sense of urgency to get on the trail.  Or maybe it was just the cold!  We’re learning to dress up before climbing into the sleeping bag, or at least to have layers to put on as it cools down at night.  Joey ended up wearing long pants, rain pants, a t-shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a fleece, and his rain coat to bed last night.  Our bags just aren’t rated for quite this cold and blustery weather.  But we’re good scouts and find ways to make it work!  And once we’re warm, the cool weather makes for great sleeping, and it was nice to wake up without rain!

We hit the trail around 10, maybe 20 minutes after the couple we had met at the tower yesterday.  We caught up with them again as they were lounging in the sun at the old mining site on Island Mine trail.  We talked more about her hike on the AT and his travels around the great lakes setting up radars.

We also learned that he had previously worked in the Smokies studying the bears there.  I asked him how he would compare the Smokies and Isle Royale, especially given the diversity of climactic zones in the Smokies.  He pointed out that the Smokies have 12 distinct zones while the island has maybe 3.  But especially of note is that in the Smokies the different zones have strikingly different flora and fauna, in some cases species only found in that spot.  That’s not the case on Isle Royale.

The hike to Island Mine was very nice.  The weather was perfect for hiking: sunny but lots of shade; cool enough to keep all but the back sweat away but warm enough so most stops didn’t require adding lots of layers.  There was one stream crossing at Siskiwit Bay that was a challenge because of all the rain.  Joey jumped it with pack on and ended up with wet boots.  Eric threw his pack across to Joey then successfully jumped the creek feet dry.  I choose to hike up stream until I found two small trees on either side of the stream that I could use to swing across.  As a bonus I got a beautiful view of an open marsh for my effort.

Island Mine was interesting to see.  There was oxidized copper on the rock.  There was a large boiler and we tried to imagine how they hauled it there before the day of large helicopters.  A bit further down, Island Mine campground and the hike to get there reminded me a lot of my home woods.  The hike later in the day on the Greenstone Ridge trail did, too.  Not as many oaks on the Red Oak Ridge as I had imagined there would be.  But there were a lot of maples along much of our hike past Island Mine and almost to the end fo the Greenstone.

Coral-root Orchid

Late along the Greenstone we managed to see the Coral-root Orchid we had been promised was just starting to bloom on our ride to the island.  Not at all what I was expecting.

We made the junction to Huginnin Cove trail to our right and Windigo to our left around 5PM and decided we could make Huginnin Cove.  We opted for the longer but possibly easier hike on the east side of the loop.  I had a nasty blister develop on my left heal shortly after starting the loop that made walking, especially up hills, a challenge for this last stretch.  But it also kept the hike a bit slower and let me enjoy a wonderful range of sights instead of rushing to camp.  At one point we were treated with a beautiful early evening stop at a large open marsh area.  Quite peaceful.  And the hike along the bluff as the sun was getting low was just awesome!

We arrived at camp around 8:30.  The boys quickly setup camp and started cooking while I treated water.  After a pause to catch the sunset, we went back to camp and enjoyed dinner before hitting the sack.  I’m glad we saved the chicken & rice burritos for the 15 1/2 mile day.  It was quick and hit the spot.

The sunset was probably an hour in coming and even at 10:30 the western sky was still a bright orange. I don’t know if I’ll have another chance for a special outing like this with my sons.  I hope so!  But I do know I’m glad we took this one and have made the most of it!

Our Isle Royale Adventure: Day 4 and Homeward ->

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