Let’s start with what the plan is – We left Texas headed to Chicago to visit with a whole lotta relatives who were gathered there for the Fourth of July. We spent a week with them and then jumped a plane to Boston to visit with Bryan and Katelyn on our way to tackle Acadia. So after returning to Chicago and a last dinner with our other favorite son, Christopher and his gal Ellie, we jumped into Tex and headed north to Isle Royale National Park. The park is actually part of Michigan, but can only be accessed by water and ferries run from Houghton, Michigan and Grand Portage, Minnesota. Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake (by surface area) in the world and it holds enough water to cover the 48 contiguous states at a uniform depth of 5 feet. Benjamin Franklin insisted that the border between Canada and the United States be drawn as to include Isle Royale in the latter due to the value of the copper that was on the island. The park was established in April of 1940 and consists of 571,790 acres. This is a challenging park and is visited by only 16,000 visitors a year.
There are no crowds at this National Park!
We arrived at Grand Portage the night before our departure and found a campsite. We then decided to drive down to the dock where we would park Tex and leave on a four-day backpack excursion. We were leery about leaving the trailer for so long unattended, but our fears were unwarranted. On our way back to our campsite we found “The Grand Portage” national historical site and decided to stop and investigate. We learned that the Indians harvested beaver pelts for Canadian trade companies who would send canoes with manufactured goods to trade. The men on the canoes, known as Voyageurs, were known for their strength and endurance. The whole operation ended when the United States wanted to protect the natural resources from the Canadians who then moved the whole operation 50 miles north into Canada.
We arrived for our departure and were greeted by the marina manager who escorted us to the parking area. We boarded the boat with our packs and watched as Tex slowly faded from our sight. It was a cool morning so everyone seated themselves inside the boat, but a quick step out onto the deck for a picture brought a shiver down your spine. A two-hour tour (luckily not the “three hour tour”) and we arrived at Windigo Harbor on the east side of the island. We departed here, but there are numerous points on the island that the boat will drop you off and pick you up. We decided to hike the Feltdman Lake Loop which was 8.5 miles south to Feltdman Lake the first day, 10.5 miles east to Siskiwit Bay and then 11.5 miles north and then west to Washington Creek which is .3 miles from Windigo.
We trekked through the woods and were taken aback by the amount of mosquitos that were here to greet us. The next thing we realized was that the trail was overgrown and the only way to discern the path was that the growth covering the path was about a foot shorter than the growth next to the path. There were times when we were sure we were lost only to go another 100 yards or so and discover a downed tree that had been cut with a chainsaw or a footbridge that alleviated our fears. There is a sinking feeling when you turn around and notice that the way that you just came has no markings of your trail. The path that you came down just swallowed up any indication of your existence. When we could see the trail we noticed that the trail was fresh with moose tracks and snot. We finally flushed it out, but unfortunately we didn’t have the camera ready so all we have is the memory! We made it to Feltdman Lake and took site number 2 next to the lake and quickly put up the tent. The lake breeze lessened the mosquitos and after we set up camp we took a side hike to Rainbow Cove, which is on the far southwest corner of the island. The views here are gorgeous and we enjoyed our mosquito free time noting that the lake is so big we couldn’t see land.
Our second day’s hike was much like the first except the trail eventually took us up along a ridge, which helped us with more of a breeze. We came upon a lookout tower where we able to get a good view of our surroundings and then were surprised when we arrived at our campsite and we were able to procure one of the two screened in shelters. No tent required!
The third days hike started out the same, but after the first five miles we ended up going west on the Greenstone Ridge Trail which is the main trail that connects the east and west side of the island and is the most hiked. We were no longer on an overgrown trail and enjoyed the scenery while we hiked. We ended our day and scored another screened in shelter and were close enough to Windigo to hike to the small store there and enjoy a ginger ale!
The next morning while we waited for the boat at the dock we spied a bald eagle perched high above us and of course plenty of other birds to keep us in a fowl mood!
If we were to plan this trip again we would have stayed on the boat to the easternmost part of the Island and hiked west all the way back to Windigo. This was a memorable experience and we enjoyed the boat ride back again taking note of the enormity of Lake Superior!