During fall 2011 it occurred to us that with Eric graduating from Southern Illinois University and Joey from Centennial High School we had a great excuse to schedule a backpacking adventure! We decided May, right after graduation, would be the perfect time to go – before summer got busy with new/summer jobs. We bounced ideas back and forth over the winter ski vacation and into February. The one major requirement the boys had was someplace cool. Our two big contenders ended up being Yellowstone National Park and Isle Royale National Park. When Yellowstone took the lead, we picked up a backpacking guide book and watched videos like “Secret Yellowstone” and “Yellowstone: Battle for Life“. We were hooked! — that is until we found out from the guidebook that almost all backpacking trails were snowed over until late June/early July at best.
There’s no disappointment in going back to Isle Royale National Park, and indeed it was Joey’s first choice originally. We decided that we’d take this chance to do an extended hike. After waiting for the final Lacrosse schedule to come out, we booked our passage on the ferry to the island, located in the far northern portion of Lake Superior, for May 26 to June 7. Even given the 13 hour drive from Grand Portage, MN, back to Champaign, IL, that would get us back to Champaign in plenty of time for Joey to play in the CILAX season-ending tournament on June 9.
Change of plans #1: we found out the Lacrosse tournament was moved up a week in April. At this point, Eric had also found out he would be supervisor on a vineyard and was also worried about being gone two weeks. Fortunately the folks at Grand Portage * Isle Royale Transportation Line were very accommodating and changed our return date without hassle.
Plans were finalized, Eric and Joey then later Eric and I managed to fit in a shake down hikes in southern Illinois. We tested out equipment and tried out the trail worthiness of our own dehydrated foods. Eric and I confirmed we could go at least 12 1/2 miles in a day with full packs. Other than identifying a few additional items like a bandana and pack towel for me, we were ready to hit the trail.
On May 20th we had an open house to celebrate Eric and Joey’s graduations and birthdays, Joey’s Eagle rank advancement, and Angie and my impending empty-nest status. On May 21st my Uncle Orland passed away. We found out his funeral would be Friday morning and our ferry ride left Saturday morning at 7:30AM but was 13 1/2 hours away. A challenge, but doable. And so began our Isle Royale Adventure…