This summer (August, 2003), the Brignull-Downar's headed north for adventure. Having survived our fist experience at backpacking in Wyoming's Wind River Range, we decided to try it again. The goal was a week of backpacking somewhere appropriately senic within driving range - that turned out to be Isle Royale National Park. According to the NPS this wilderness archipelago is 45 miles long and nine miles wide at its widest point. Isle Royale has 165 miles of scenic hiking trails and 36 campgrounds for backpackers. More than enough for a week. Getting to Isle Royale is an adventure all by itself. The island sits well out into Lake Superior which is known for it's impressive waves. In fact, our latest issue of National Geographic Adventure had an article on American Extremes in which that North America's largest inland waves are found there. The tallest wave ever measured on Lake Superior crested at 23 feet (7 meters), but marine forecasters believe rare rogue waves, like those suspected of sinking the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975, can surpass 35 feet (10.6 meters). There are actually several wrecks around Isle Royale which makes it a popular spot for divers as well. Not to mention, the setting for a murder mystery by Nevada Barr called, A Superior Death.

To cross the lake, we got reservations for a three hour tour on the Wenonah, leaving from Portage, WI. It took us about 12hrs. to reach Portage from Chigao. This is also the site of the Grand Portage National Monument and we were surprised to arrive to blazing bonfires, the sound of durms, and all sorts of people running around dressed like early settlers and living in big tent cities. It was late, and there were no hotels or anything, so we crashed in the back of the truck in a crowded field/parking lot. In the morning we got up early and ventured over to the Casino for breakfast, as it seemed to have the only restaraunt in the area.

Then it was off to the Wenonah for the trip out to the Island. Unfortunately, the camera was in a backpack which got stowed below deck, so there are no pictures. The trip out was beautiful, the weather was perfect and the lake was perfectly calm. We got a bit of a tour from the ferry operator. He showed us a neat old tree - the Witches Tree, a fishery and the shipwreck of the America.

After a couple hours, we arrived on Isle Royale in the "town" of Windigo at the western end of the island. This consists of a small store and a Visitors Center/Ranger Station. They make you register an itinerary before you start out, although you don't really have to stick to it. Here is a PDF map of Isle Royale (209k), also courtesy of the NPS.

We had been planning on hiking to Island Mine on te first day, however we were at the end of the line for registering, and probably half the people ahead of us said that they were planning on Island Mine as well, so we changed our plans at the last minute. That first afternoon we hiked over to Huginnin Cove instead, which is up on the North side of the island. It looks like a pretty short hike on the map - only 5.1 miles - but it is really hilly with several ridges to cross, so it was pretty hard. A little over halfway is an old abandoned mine called Wendigo Mine, which operated from 1890 to 1892. There isnt much there except a couple old falling apart buildings and some big piles of dirt. But it was a nice place to rest for a bit.

Shortly after leaving the mine we came to a swamp, and our first Moose sighting of the trip. There are about 900 moose on the island currently, and lots of wolves which prey on the moose. Didn't see any of them though. This moose was standing under and behind a big dead tree when we first saw it, and it took several minutes to actually figure out it was a moose. Luckily our trail headed around the swamp and brought us much closer. We got within probably 25 feet, but then he seemed annoyed and snorted at us, so we left and kept hiking.

Not too much longer and our trail came out on the lake, and then meandered along the edge of the lake until we reached camp. Our first campsite was just back a bit from Huginnin Cove. There were a few other people camping there as well, mostly a group of people who had kayaked over, but the campsites were pretty well spread out and everyone was quiet. After a quick supper and filtering some water we called it a day pretty early.

Our second day brought us back toward Winding and then up the Greenstone Ridge Trail to the Island Mine Campground. It was a pretty quiet, but long, day - over 10 miles. The Greenstone Ridge runs just about the full length of the island. We only did the first ittle bit of that. The ridge never really opens up and we spent the whole day hiking through the forest with no really good views. We did hike underneath one really cool tree (right). Though we didn't see moose #2, we did see all sorts of great butterflies. By the time we reaching a campsite at Island Mine, we only had enough energy to make dinner and take last picture of our campsite in the woods.

Aerial view of Isle Royale at sunset (NPS photo)

Continue on to page 2

Go Back Home