Isle Royale: The Island

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Isle Royale: The Island


So, after hiking 7.1 miles from Rock Harbor (where the ferry dropped us off) to Daisy Farms (I know I said 6 miles in my last post but then I looked it up and one of the maps says it is 7.1 while the other says it is less so… I’m going with the bigger number), Matt made a delicious dinner while I set up our tent and then we curled up and fell asleep. On our first morning, we slept in and by the time we woke up almost everyone in camp was gone. Instead of following suit, we headed to the dock and appreciated the quiet as the day got warmer.

Before leaving, we changed our itinerary to avoid an 11 mile hike because I thought it could quite possibly mean the end of our relationship. That sounds dramatic now, but I was sore and frustrated to even have to pick up my pack at all. We settled on an “easy” 7.2 mile hike to Lane Cove.juliadesantis-isleroyale-35 juliadesantis-isleroyale-33

First, the Mount Ojibway Trail (1.7 miles) took us up to the Greenstone Ridge. Although 1.7 miles is nothing in terms of distance, it was a lot of up and down and then a lot of up. Everything was so, so beautiful, but I needed to stare at my feet the whole time so that I wouldn’t fall (I really didn’t want to fall with such a heavy pack). When we did stop to rest the mosquitos would always find us—even with our bug resistant clothes. So I cried somewhat uncontrollably for it all—the situation I had found myself in, the persistent bugs, and especially for the beauty that I felt like I was missing as a result of continuously staring at my feet.

Matt has photos of me looking pretty upset. I don’t think anyone needs to see those.

So after climbing to the top, we reached a look-out tower. Took another break. Ate some blueberries and thimbleberries that we collected around the tower. No more tears.

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After leaving the look out tower we hiked along the Greenstone Ridge. Our lazy morning meant we were hiking during the heat of the day. If you are planning to do this hike—make SURE you bring a lot of water.


Matt enjoying the view. I think that is Lane Cove in the distance. Doesn’t it look forever away?

Protecting my face from the sun, too exhausted to care about the view:

The hike to Lane Cove was long and windy and there was one very steep descent. It was easier for me to run some of it than to walk. Occasionally there were planks set-up for us to navigate our way over wetter land. juliadesantis-isleroyale-51


I wish I had more pictures of me in an upright position but, oh well.

We found a moose antler!juliadesantis-isleroyale-49


Isle Royale is really known for its moose and wolf population. Moose swam across Lake Superior in the early 1900s and thrived on the island, totally free from any predators until a pair of wolves crossed the ice during a brutal winter in 1949. Now, all the wolves on the island can be traced back to one genetic ancestor and there isn’t enough genetic variability for them to survive. Scientists have a few options: (1) do nothing, (2) wait to see if this population dies out and then introduce a new wolf population, or (3) genetically rescue them by bringing some wolves to the island to mitigate inbreeding. Although I think it is still a contentious issue, for now they are doing nothing.

According to Wikipedia:

“The highest number of moose on Isle Royale since being researched with the interactions of wolves was 2,450 in 1995. The highest number of wolves ever recorded on the island was fifty in 1980. The most dramatic decrease in the wolf population occurred when the canine parvovirus was spread to the wolves on the island, introduced by a park visitor’s dog (breaking the rules of the national park) in 1980 or 1981, causing a crash in the population; there were fifty wolves in 1980, but only fourteen by 1982.”


We didn’t see any wolves or moose while there. Moose are fairly common but the wolves usually hang out in the wilderness areas not frequented by humans.

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We made it to Lane Cove and ate some yummy, yummy pad thai that only involved pouring boiling water into a bag! juliadesantis-isleroyale-56

At Lane Cove, most of the tent sites overlook the cove and are absolutely beautiful. We finished dinner and were in our tent before the sun had completely set so we could enjoy the last little bit of light protected from the bugs. Summer light at 930pm is the best.juliadesantis-isleroyale-54

We wanted to take photos of the stars but the moon was practically full every night. Here is one from when the moon was just starting to come up:


Getting ready for another day.juliadesantis-isleroyale-60

Selfie! juliadesantis-isleroyale-61 juliadesantis-isleroyale-59
juliadesantis-isleroyale-53This is a thimbleberry:

And this is the most patient and kind backpacking partner in the world:

And this is a butterfly:juliadesantis-isleroyale-41juliadesantis-isleroyale-62

Just when I think the photos of me lying down are down… there is another one.


So from Lane Cove we headed back to Rock Harbor (read: showers and ice cream!). And then spent the next morning  exploring without our packs.

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Biggest rabbit (hare?)I’ve ever seen:

We returned our itinerary and told the NPS of our changes. You don’t have to make reservations for campsites, but they do like to know your general plan before you set out so they have an idea of where people are located in case there is an emergency. juliadesantis-isleroyale-69
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We drove through the night back to Detroit (and I saw a shooting star!). I dropped Matt off, took a nap, picked up my favorite chocolate ever from a local chocolatier, and then headed to Kentucky. We stopped and took this photo at the place where I went swimming on the way up. These photos are actually taken at 2am in the morning… but the moon was so bright it looks like day (and it’s a long exposure).

I had hopes of getting back in the water but was a little too cold to do so.

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All in all it was an AMAZING trip. I survived (and Matt survived me).

I am so glad we went and would go back in a heartbeat.

It was unlike anywhere I have ever been. So remote and empty and quiet.

The few people we ran into were very nice.

Next time we go I am going to be in ship shape before the trip. I really need to do better at balancing studying with my health.

If you are even thinking about going. Go! I lived in Maine a stones throw from Acadia National Park for three years and in the weeks leading up to Isle Royale I looked at tons of photos online and kept thinking… it looks just like Maine… why make such a long trip when we could just go to Maine and see all our friends… but it is totally, totally worth it. It has a very different feeling than Maine.

Go to both. 🙂