Isle Royale: Getting there

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Isle Royale: Getting there

I started writing this post with an overview of the summer but changed my mind. Maybe someday I’ll write about taking Gen Chem 1 and 2 (oh, how exciting!) but for now I just want to share photos from the backpacking trip Matt and I went on before I get too busy with Orgo, Physics and Bio.

The day before my final exam in NY, we received news that Matt’s grandmother had passed away so after my test we packed up and headed out as quickly as possible. Just a heads up: if you are ever driving around Upstate New York at night, check in to a campground before 9pm because most campgrounds won’t accept late check-ins. The next morning we drove through Niagara Falls and Canada and got delayed a few extra hours crossing the border. What were we thinking? I don’t know… that it would be nice to see the falls? We will never go that way in the summer again!

Our time with Matt’s family was sad and wonderful and so, so special. I created new memories of a woman I had only met once through the stories from her children and grandchildren. I wanted to record everything everyone said about her, so that someday when (if we are so blessed) our children ask about Matt’s grandmother I have something to say.

What I will say is this: she was an incredible woman who raised 10 wonderful children; she fiercely loved her grandchildren and was at every school play, birthday dinner, and holiday party; she went to mass every morning to worship God and then shared God’s grace with everyone who came in contact with her.

When they ask what grace is, I will recite to them Mother Theresa’s words (words that I think were read at the funeral):

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

I will keep her alive in the details. For me, those details will mostly be the things she left behind: the rocking bench on her front porch, the photo wall of her children and the other photo wall of her grandchildren, her blue bathroom with neon pink dumbbells on the windowsill, her basement still decorated with christmas lights and the tables ready for a party. But of course, more than the things she left behind, her children and grandchildren will keep alive the most important thing: her beautiful spirit.

Isle Royale

Isle Royale is an island in northeast Lake Superior that is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide and has 450 smaller islands surrounding it. The gray line is the border with Canada. All the islands comprise Isle Royale National Park.

Isle Royale mapTo get there we drove from Detroit to Copper Harbor, Michigan where we boarded a ferry to that big green island. I am patient enough to circle the island for you below, but you see it there, to the northwest of Copper Harbor. Detroit to Isle Royale

Google Maps will tell you it’s only about 10 hours to Copper Harbor, but I think it ended up being more like 15 or 16. We did stop for (gluten-free) pizza in Macinaw City and then we stopped again for a swim in Lake Michigan.

juliadesantis-isleroyale-3The water was divine and I was really disappointed when we had to leave so soon.


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As it was getting dark (around 9:30pm) we still had at least 4 hours to go so we stopped to pack up our stuff and arrange everything so we would be ready when we pulled in to camp. juliadesantis-isleroyale-9

After only a few hours of sleep, we packed up our tent and made it to the ferry that would take us to Isle Royale! We met a man and his son exploring Michigan and then fell asleep for the next the 3 hours because we were completely exhausted from the long drive and lack of sleep.



We woke up a little before arrival and explored the ship. juliadesantis-isleroyale-11 juliadesantis-isleroyale-12 juliadesantis-isleroyale-13 juliadesantis-isleroyale-14 juliadesantis-isleroyale-15 juliadesantis-isleroyale-16 juliadesantis-isleroyale-17

And then we were there! This is me standing next to my pack at Rock Harbor. Matt’s pack was heavier even though his looks smaller.

Although I didn’t think it was necessary, I am decked out in all bug resistant clothes because Matt insisted. Thank goodness. Bug resistant clothing is a MUST if you do not use Deet bugspray on your skin. juliadesantis-isleroyale-20

Here’s Matt, how cute is he! juliadesantis-isleroyale-21

The first day we hiked about 6 miles to Daisy Farm. It was BEAUTIFUL—it reminded me of the most beautiful parts of Acadia National Park in Maine, but a wilderness version sprawling 45 miles with nothing but foot trails, moose and just a few wolves (we saw neither, although many people do usually see moose). juliadesantis-isleroyale-22 juliadesantis-isleroyale-23 juliadesantis-isleroyale-24

There are very few markers on the trails and our first landmark was called “Three Mile campground”. But, that name is misleading because it is really 3.7 miles. And those .7 miles make a difference with all that weight!

Once we got to Daisy Farms. I set up camp and Matt cooked dinner and then we carried it down to the dock to watch the sunset and pump some clean water through our filter. Lake Superior water is the BEST water I think I’ve ever had.  juliadesantis-isleroyale-28

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For those planning a trip:

  • Bring bug resistant clothing if it is June-August and bug spray.
  • Bring a water filter with a pore size of .4 microns.
  • Wear double socks to prevent blisters (one thin silk layer close to your feet and then cushy wool hiking socks on top).
  • Double bag food and keep a close eye on your belongings. The animals have been known to steal food and SHOES! As one of the rangers said “it’s not nice, but this is their home and that’s how they play.”
  • (I’ll add more as I think of them).