On September 3, Dave and I drove to Copper Harbor in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to find the town without electricity, telephones, and the boat that was supposed to take us to Isle Royale National Park the next morning was stranded on the island due to gale force winds. There was a chance the boat would come back in the morning and then head back to the island, but the winds and waves (up to 15 feet tall!) continued so we didn’t make it to the island until Sunday afternoon.
We missed the second boat that we were supposed to catch Sunday morning to Windago on the opposite end of the island so we had to go with our back-up itinerary. Instead of camping at Rock Harbor, Island Mine, Lake Desor, Hatchet Lake, Lake Richie, and Daisy Farm we were going to stay at Lane Cove, Daisy Farm (two nights), Lake Richie, and McCargo Cove. But upon our arrival, the ranger informed us of an algae bloom at both Lake Richie and Chickenbone Lake that would make a stay at either campground unpleasant, so we were going to go to Moskey Basin instead of Lake Richie.
We hiked the 7 miles from Rock Harbor to Lane Cove to discover the campground was full and that we’d have to share a site. I was upset at first, but the campsite was beautiful and our neighbors were friendly and quiet. We woke to a beautiful morning with breakfast overlooking the water. As we started packing up, a ranger stopped by to deliver bad news. More rain and gale force winds were heading to the island from the east. So we had to make a decision: 1) we could stay at Lane Cove which could be moderately protected from the winds, but was somewhat isolated from help should we need it, 2) hike to Daisy Farm, Three Mile or Rock Harbor and hope to grab one of the three-sided shelters and ride the storm out, or 3) hike to Rock Harbor and hope to make it in time to take the boat back to the mainland.
We decided for option number 3. It was a very hard decision and we were very, very disappointed, but it seemed like our best option. The only problem was that we had very limited time to get back to the dock and we had 7 miles with a lot of it scrambling up steep hills to hike.
We made our way to the top of the Greenstone Ridge in record time. Dave hiked ahead to hopefully secure our place on the boat, while I followed. Dave is a much faster hiker than me even with a heavier pack, so the plan was that he would come back for me and take my pack after he made arrangements with the boat captain. However, I surprised us both by hiking my tail off, meeting him only minutes outside Rock Harbor. We had time to regroup and have lunch before taking the ferry back to Copper Harbor with heavy hearts.
We had been looking forward to our best and longest (at least for me) backpacking trip yet. We had spent a lot of time training, planning, and packing for Isle Royale. Dave wanted to show me the island he loves and I wanted to see a moose, a sea of stars, and the Northern Lights. I wanted the challenge of hiking 50 miles. But it wasn’t in the cards this trip. Our 7 day and 6 night tour of the island turned into an overnight trip. We were upset and disappointed, not surprisingly, but we would be back again one day.
However, there was one big experience that made it all worth while…