Isle Royale National Park: Go North, Young Men.


Sean at Michigan Department of Transportation Baraga Cliff Roadside Park Honoring Peter R. Kamarainen

Adam and Phil arrived Saturday evening from Detroit. Sean and Phil poured a round of drinks (Moscow Mules and rye on the rocks), and we set to work over the topographical map of northeastern Isle Royale. We hit upon an ambitious but achievable hiking route:

  • Day One: Rock Harbor to Lane Cove, 6.9 miles
  • Day Two: Lane Cove to East Chickenbone Lake, 10.9 miles
  • Day Three: East Chickenbone to Lake Richie, 5 miles
  • Day Four: Lake Richie to Daisy Farm, 5.8 miles
  • Day Five: Daisy Farm to Rock Harbor, 7.1 miles

Afterward, we sorted meals, took a clipper to my longish hair, and went to bed.

After a breakfast stop at the Jewish deli, we set out on the eight-hour drive north, stopping along the way at a suburban REI to get a new water bladder for Sean (he’d discovered a hole in his the day before).

North we went into Wisconsin…through Milwaukee and Sheboygan…on to Green Bay and further north, cutting off I-43 to 141, then US-41. North into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (for only the second time in my life). Through Crystal Falls and its sudden drop away to the east, past “flying deer” next five miles signs and moose and snow mobile crossing alerts. Up to the Keweenaw Peninsula and our first glimpse of Lake Superior.

Then on to Houghton and past the signage to the park’s mainland headquarters, across the Keewenau waterway and up the steep switchbacks of Hancock, Michigan. We stopped briefly at a scenic overlook celebrating the waterway.

We had just settled back into the car (with me behind the wheel, as I’d been since Chicago), when we saw the ruins of an old mining operation and had to pull over.

It turned out to be Quincy Mine and Hoist, part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park, administered by the National Park Service.

Back in the car, we pressed on for the final leg of the trip, arriving in Copper Harbor around 8pm local time.

We checked in at the Bella Vista Motel, in site of the ferry dock.

Then we had our first look at the Isle Royale Queen IV, which would ferry us to Isle Royale in the morning.

We went in search of food, ultimately picking the Mariner North, mostly because it was open. Hearty food and local beer. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we’d see many of the next morning’s fellow travelers at the Mariner, a recurring theme of Isle Royale: running into people over again as you all travel in several limited routes to the island.

Phil: “This is the time of year when the tortellini swim upstream to spawn.”

Later in our room, Adam filtered water into the bladders and bottles, and we finished sorting out what would be packed for the island and what would remain behind.

Then, to bed.

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