Isle Royale National Park: Climbing Mount Ojibway

There was only a sprinkle of rain overnight, enough to make the rain cover useful, but by morning the sky was clear.

We breakfasted on strong coffee and dehydrated eggs, which were not my particular favorite. Phil was still feeling poorly, so he decided that he wouldn’t be joining us on our day hike up Mount Ojibway, at 1,133 feet, the highest point on the northeast side of the island.

We prepped for the hike by turning our backpacks into day packs and taking turns pumping water through the filter.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Adam had consulted his extremely handy copy of Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes by Jim Dufresne. From Daisy Farm, the climb up Mount Ojibway could be done as a loop. Dufresne wrote that although most hikers tackled the route counter-clockwise, beginning with the steep Mount Ojibway Trail in order to get to the top more quickly, a more pleasant hike was the clockwise route, which followed the less steep Daisy Farm Trail and then turned right and approached the summit along the Greenstone Ridge Trail. It was a longer approach, but the delayed gratification appealed to us as much as the gentler ascent.

We chose the clockwise route.

Departing the campground on Daisy Farm Trail, we crossed Benson’s Creek and then began climbing Ransom Hill, the first ridge above Daisy Farm.

When the trails leave the forest and cross open rock, little stone piles guide the way. Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

After Ransom Hill, there was a depression before we began the ascent to the Greenstone Ridge in earnest. We didn’t realize it, but Lake Ojibway was to our right as we crossed the boardwalk over a sea of small shrubbery ringed by ridges of fir and cedar. Dragonflies were everywhere.

Video: Sean M. Santos

Even with the boardwalk, the sensation of remoteness was palpable, as was the tangible realization that Isle Royale is an ecosystem, cooled by Lake Superior, that feels as if it should be hundreds of miles further north.

We climbed abruptly out of the depression and encountered a picturesque pond filled with leaves.

After the pond, the trail began rising in earnest toward the Greenstone Ridge.

Image: Sean M. Santos

We reached the Greenstone Ridge Trail and turned right for the mile and a half and about two hundred more feet in elevation to go.

The ridge was more open and arid than other parts of the island, and as we rose a little higher, through the trees we got our first glimpse of the Canadian shoreline some twenty miles distant.

Video: Sean M. Santos

Sky Sentinel stands at the crest of Mount Ojibway. It was built by the park service in 1964 as a fire lookout. Now that the park service allows natural fires to burn, it’s primary purpose is to monitor air conditions on the island. Although originally it was powered by one single line that ran from park headquarters on Mott Island, now its equipment is entirely run by solar energy collected from panels on the girders.

Although the pavilion was locked, we were able to climb up to just beneath it for 360-degree views of Isle Royale.

Image: Sean M. Santos

The wind was strong up on the ridge, and the chain link on the staircase rattled unsettlingly. It took me a couple minutes to get my sea legs.

Looking southwest down the spine of Isle Royale

Looking northwest toward Ontario

Looking northeast toward the end of the island about 7 miles up the ridge

Looking east toward Rock Harbor Lodge

Looking southeast toward Daisy Farm and the Keweenaw Peninsula on the distant horizon


Zoom: toward Thunder Bay

Zoom: Rock Harbor Lighthouse

Zoom: Lake Ojibway

Zoom: Sargent Lake, inaccessible by park trails or portages

We had a snack in the shadow of the tower before beginning our descent.

Image: Sean M. Santos

One of the grounding points protecting Sky Sentinel from lightning

On our way down Mount Ojibway Trail back to Daisy Farm, we encountered two sets of day hikers (one of which was the couple with the iPad from our ferry), but the entire time we were at Sky Sentinel, we had it to ourselves.

We descended into a wetland northeast of Lake Ojibway, and then climbed Ransom Hill, where we were able to turn for one last glimpse of Sky Sentinel (below) before cresting the ridge and making our final descent to Daisy Farm.

The last half mile back to our campsite was brutal on the three huge blisters I’d been developing since Monday. The rockiness of the trail didn’t help.

Image: Sean M. Santos

1 thought on “Isle Royale National Park: Climbing Mount Ojibway

  1. Pingback: Wind Cave National Park: Rankin Ridge Trail | As They Are: Exploring the National Parks

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