Sunday, October 25, 2009

Isle Royale National Park | Day Six

McCargoe Cove to Daisy Farm

We had declined an invitation the night before from friendly camp neighbors to join them at the fire ring (one of only a handful on Isle Royale) in favor of retiring early. We wanted to get an early start for our 8.2 mile hike to Daisy Farm since we knew that half of it would be along the Greenstone Ridge. Our goal was to get up to the ridge as early as possible to avoid having the midday sun beating on our heads. Plus, we had now become a bit spoiled by the shelters and wanted to get to Daisy Farm as early as possible in the hopes of securing one.

Regarding the shelters, we were very impressed with their condition. From reading tales of other hikers trekking in areas such as the Appalachian Trail, we were not expecting the cleanliness that we encountered. The shelters were heavily graffitied, and based on some of the handwritten messages (side note: Apparently lots of people count a black sharpie among essential gear to be taken on a trip where the goal is to pack as few items as possible!), the structures have been in place since at least the early 1970s. Despite this, the 3-sided structures were in great shape. Isle Royale's shelters have a screen front to keep bugs and other visitors out, and I was amazed at how successfully they did their job. I didn't see a single spider or even a cob web in any of the 4 we used. A broom hangs from a nail by the door of each one with the understanding that visitors sweep dirt and debris from the floor before leaving camp. Designed to sleep six, it's considered good etiquette to share a shelter with other parties should the campground fill up and the weather turn bad; however, due to the perfect weather and lateness of the season, we managed to have one to ourselves each time we elected not to sleep in our tent.

We ventured down to the dock for a quick sunrise photo, then stepped onto the trail just after 7:00 am. After backtracking past the beaver dam and along the stream that connects McCargoe Cove to Chickenbone Lake, we began to climb back up the Greenstone Ridge. The East Chickenbone Lake Trail (unnamed on the map, but everyone calls it by this name) is a beautiful 1.6 mile stretch which winds past the eastern side of Chickenbone Lake, creeping over rocky ridges and dipping down into cool, foggy valleys.

Crossing a footbridge over an unnamed stream

Our early start ensured nice cool temperatures, and once again our pants were quickly soaked through from the dew-covered vegetation. Just before the end of the trail, it abruptly ascends via a couple of steep switchbacks to the top of the Greenstone Ridge. We reached the top around 8:30 am and stopped for a 15-minute breather. Like the lookout at Mt. Franklin, this unnamed spot offers an expansive view of the north side of the island from a height of around 900 feet. From here, the 4.2 mile stretch of the Greenstone Ridge heading east is a tiring, yet pleasant hike. The path weaves alternately in and out of forest and onto bare rocky crests, and hints of fall color were just starting to peek through the trees. We were happy to discover that it was alternately shady and sunny, and therefore not nearly as hot as the section we had hiked between Mt. Franklin and Mt. Ojibway on day two.

Taking a break to enjoy the view atop the Greenstone Ridge

During a snack break, we met a woman solo hiking the length of the island via the Greenstone. This was her fourth consecutive year hiking Isle Royale and she had yet to see a moose. I actually felt guilty that we'd had the good fortune of seeing some exciting wildlife during the first five days of our first visit. This lone hiker had flown on the sea plane to Windigo and was heading east to Rock Harbor where she would fly out at the end of her trip. I take the occasional solo vacation which usually incorporates day hikes, but I don't know if I have the guts to to an overnight by myself. Yet.

We descended the Greenstone Ridge around 11:00 am heading southeast along Daisy Farm Trail. Foot bridges guide hikers over a few small streams, swamps, and marshy areas before the 1.7 mile trail ends at Rock Harbor Trail.

We arrived at Daisy Farm Campground at noon and were able to claim a good shelter very close to the water. I can't say what, exactly, made this day so tiring, but I have never been so exhausted as I was when we dropped our packs at Daisy Farm. Every muscle felt devastated, and I could not have cared less about filtering water, changing clothes (aside from removing my boots), or preparing food. I don't think I moved for nearly an hour once my sleeping pad was inflated and I could lie down. Each one of my limbs weighed at least 1000 pounds, and once horizontal, all well-meaning thoughts such as, “I should really do some stretches,” were squashed in favor of slowly sinking into a coma.

Early morning fog lurks in a valley along East Chickenbone Lake Trail

Once I managed to miraculously regain consciousness, I hobbled unsteadily down the short path to the water. The shore along this part of Rock Harbor consists of small volcanic rocks and is a nice spot to cool off and lay clothes out to dry in the sun. The water was freezing and my washcloth-sized MSR pack towel came in handy as I could not bring myself to fully submerge. I limped back to the shelter where Craig and I drank hot peppermint tea and shared a bar of dark chocolate that we had been saving.

The rocky shore in front of our shelter at Daisy Farm

After more resting, we visited the dock to filter water and absorb some sun. Truthfully, I don't remember much else about the rest of our day at Daisy Farm. We spent most of our time lying in the shelter, eating snacks, talking about how great the trip had been thus far, and marveling at how completely destroyed we felt. The sky turned overcast and the wind picked up when we went to bed. From what we could remember of the forecast, there was a chance of rain the next day and we wondered if a storm was blowing in. Part of me would have liked to witness a Lake Superior storm from the relative safety of our shelter in the harbor, but the rest of me was hoping for dry conditions during our hike along the potentially slippery Rock Harbor Trail the following day. We felt that we had been so fortunate with the weather that it had to change at some point. We would just have to wait and see what the morning would bring.

Looking out at Rock Harbor from inside our shelter at Daisy Farm


To be continued in:
Day Seven: Daisy Farm to Rock Harbor

More photos from this trip can be seen here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Isle Royale National Park | Day Five

West Chickenbone Lake to McCargoe Cove:
The Best Day Ever!

McCargoe Cove reflection

I awoke with the confusing feeling that I had somehow fallen asleep in my tent in a strip mall parking lot under a bright streetlight. An owl hooted and I checked my watch. It was 4:00 am, and I remembered that I was in the woods, not preparing to buy a Nintendo Wii at Best Buy the morning after Thanksgiving. Where was that bright light coming from?

Minong Ridge Trail

I twisted my head around to look out the window and found the moon beaming down on our tent like a spotlight shining out of an otherwise pitch black sky. Wide awake, I spent the early morning in my sleeping bag listening to owls and loons conversing with the forest around Chickenbone Lake. At 5:30 am, a wolf started howling. This time, it sounded much closer than the distant chorus we had heard a few days before while hiking on the Rock Harbor Trail. My hand hovered above Craig's arm, ready to alert him should it happen again. Suddenly, multiple canine voices were everywhere. I shook Craig awake and we both held our breath and listened to this nearby pack of wolves howl under the bright moon. It was a moment to remember.

As suddenly as it started, the howling stopped and the woods went quiet. Neither of us could fall back to sleep after that, and as soon as we detected the slightest lightening of the sky, we left the tent to start our morning routine. Chickenbone Lake was shrouded in fog which went from gray to pink as the sky lightened. I imagined a canoe floating from shore toward the small island in the distance and disappearing from view as the fog swallowed it up. It would have been a wonderful time, albeit a bit spooky, to paddle out into the quiet water.

Foggy Sunrise on Chickenbone Lake

Dew clung heavily to everything, so it was necessary to pack up our tent while it was wet. Heading out of the West Chickenbone Lake campground, Indian Portage Trail swings west and crosses a stream before curving back north and hugging the edge of the lake for almost two miles. Our destination was McCargoe Cove on the north shore – a distance of just under three miles. We anticipated a short day of hiking followed by what we hoped would be another relaxing campsite similar to what we had at Moskey Basin a few nights before.

Since the vegetation along the narrow trail was dripping with dew and leaning inward, it wasn't long before we were both soaking wet from hip to ankle. Ten minutes after leaving our campsite, the ground became marshy and we found ourselves walking a long stretch of protective plank bridge. Just before reaching the stream crossing, the trail curved to the right and Craig suddenly stopped in front of me, turned around and said very calmly, “Uh...a whole pack of wolves...”

Boot prints mingle with paw prints

His voice trailed off as he turned back around to face forward again. I thought he was trying to be funny since I couldn't yet see what was around the corner. After inching forward another foot or so, he turned to me again and the look on his face was priceless. “I'm not kidding,” he said. “There are at least five wolves on the trail ahead of us.” The next few moments were the most surreal and exciting I've ever experienced.

Afraid I would scare them away, I crept forward as quietly as I could. We could not stand side by side due to the narrow footbridge, but I could see them once I stopped directly behind Craig. Before I had caught up, he witnessed two wolves dart into the woods from the trail. Three were still there, and of these, a big gray one was clearly the leader. He looked directly at us and stepped forward on the bridge. It looked to us like he was ensuring that his pack could cross the bridge behind him into the safety of the woods while he kept an eye on us. Another gray wolf ran behind him into the trees, then a tall brown one moved forward to stand behind the first one. The two of them simply stood there and watched us.

No one had any idea what to do – including the wolves, it appeared. Everything we had heard and read said that wolves avoid humans and will run when they get wind of people. Fleeting glimpses are all anyone is usually lucky enough to see. There are specific things hikers know to do when encountering bears in the backcountry, but what about a wolf pack? What is the etiquette in this type of situation? There was no passing lane; who had the right of way? Do we offer intel, like the coordinates of where we saw that lone moose the day before, as a kind of bridge toll? Should we get out our wallets and show them pictures of our dogs? It was unreal, and we just stood there dumbfounded.

Indian Portage Trail

I briefly wondered if we should give them space and retreat the way we came, but Craig felt that was a bad idea, so we just continued to stand there trying to look casual. Then, looking right at us, the leader slowly took four steps closer then stopped again. At this point we were holding our breath and really not believing what was happening. It was, literally, the wildest thing I've ever seen and there was no question that this was an animal that could kill us if it wanted to. Still, there have been no reported cases of wolves attacking humans, and I did not feel scared. I think I was simply too shocked.

Apparently satisfied that we were not a threat (or food), the two of them stepped off the bridge and spent a few seconds debriefing next to the trail before nonchalantly strolling into the woods. We waited for several seconds before continuing on the bridge. When we walked past the spot where they had disappeared, we were convinced we were being watched by many well-camouflaged eyes. We had seen five animals, but recent wolf study information stated that the current packs ranged in size from 2 to 9 members, so there could have been more.

Two wolves on Indian Portage Trail

Although it had seemed like we were locked in a stand-off for several minutes, in reality the whole thing was probably over in under one minute. The wolves were tall and similar in size to our 85-lb German Shepard/Lab mix, but with longer legs. As soon as I saw them, I took out my camera and snapped three photos in succession without giving it time to focus. It was then or never. The shots I ended up with consist of one gray blur in the trees, one photo of Craig - eyes like saucers - with the barely discernible form of a wolf ahead of him looking in the opposite direction, and one blurry shot of the (assumed) alpha and the brown wolf backing him up. It's better than nothing, and I was actually quite happy that I didn't accidentally step off the bridge and make a fun, prey-like spectacle of myself in the muck below.

Indian Portage Trail crosses a stream

The rest of that morning's hike is mostly a blur due to the elation we both felt. We stopped every fifteen seconds or so to re-tell the story to each other and confirm that it actually did happen. I do remember that the trail was very pleasant, with Chickenbone Lake to our immediate right most of the way, and we passed a beaver dam at some point. The happy mood we were in prevented us from getting the slightest bit bothered by how wet we continued to get from the dewy vegetation, and before we knew it, we arrived at McCargoe Cove.

Shelter #4 at McCargoe Cove

It was only 9:30 am, and once again we had the place practically to ourselves. We met a lone backpacker who had been hiking the length of Isle Royale via the Minong Ridge Trail, which is known to be very difficult. He had started out hiking from Windigo with his brother who quit after the first day. Although the shelters here were not right on the water, ours had a nice view of the cove, and a large dock provided a good space to lie in the sun after braving the frigid water. I confess I was not actually brave at all and made quite an ass of myself trying to get in without actually getting in. Later in the afternoon we would end up spending a couple of hours just sitting on the dock watching loons swim on the smooth glassy surface, and staring mesmerized at the perfect reflection of trees on the opposite shore.

The dock at McCargo Cove - a difficult place to leave

The remains of an old copper mine provided a fun, 2-mile roundtrip day hike just west on the Minong Ridge. We brought our headlamps (totally unnecessary) and ventured down into the old mine shaft, which still has a section of train track previously used to cart the mineral deposits out. Being a card-carrying rock nerd, I could have easily spent a couple of hours investigating the dark wet cave, but we returned to our shelter to make lunch and re-live our wolf encounter ten thousand more times.

Minong Mine

To be continued in: Day Six - McCargoe Cove to Daisy Farm

More photos from this trip can be seen here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Isle Royale National Park | Day Four

Moskey Basin to West Chickenbone Lake

Chickenbone Lake

Moskey Basin is known for its sunrises, and although the morning started off a bit cloudy, we were not disappointed. We went about our morning routine at a leisurely pace, and once oatmeal and coffee were consumed we discussed our day's route. We had two possible destinations: Lake Richie or West Chickenbone Lake. Both are inland lakes known for good fishing and moose spotting potential, and each offers only a small number of tent sites. We decided to roll the dice and just see what happened.

Sunrise at Moskey Basin

We backtracked to the trail intersection and headed west on Lake Richie Trail which brought us to the campground in just under 2.5 miles. Lake Richie is a favorite spot for canoeing and fishing, but the drawback is that the campsites are located away from the lake and up a ridge. While the lake is picturesque and dotted with small islands, all of the campsites appeared to be in direct sunlight, and on this warm sunny day there would be no chance of shade until evening. We stopped in one of the campsites to eat a snack and make a decision. While Craig munched on trail mix, I visited the outhouse. It was terrifying.

Lake Richie

A side note on going to the bathroom in the woods: I feel a bit prissy complaining about the outhouse, so let me explain. When we first began planning this trip, we figured that the Isle Royale backcountry bathroom experience would consist of digging holes and bringing our own TP. We are not virgins to this form of dehumanization. Later on in the planning stage, we were happy to learn that there were pit toilets located at all campsites. Once on the island, the clean state of the facilities at our first three locations made us very happy indeed. We became spoiled.

Outhouse at West Chickenbone Lake
A charming path lures hikers to the horrors within

After detouring to a private spot in the woods, I returned to the campsite and reported my grim bathroom findings. It was only 10:30 am, and we decided that we didn't want to spend an entire day in the open sun. If we had a canoe for exploring the lake we might have felt differently, but we decided to keep going and try our luck at West Chickenbone.

Lake Richie Trail ends at Indian Portage Trail which follows the north side of the lake for a little over ½ mile. Indian Portage Trail runs the the width of Isle Royale from north to south and connects the opposite shores of the island via four inland lakes and a handful of canoe portages. A hearty person could paddle a canoe up Chippewa Harbor to the south, then paddle his/her way north through Lakes Richie, LeSage, Livermore, and Chickenbone before re-entering Lake Superior through McCargoe Cove to the north.

Portaging a canoe is nuts. Once heading north on Indian Portage Trail, we crossed paths with a forest ranger whose head was hidden inside the upside-down canoe balanced on top of his shoulders. He asked us for our names as we passed him. “I like to make a mental note of who I encounter out here in case of an emergency,” his voice echoed down to us. I have no idea how he could see where he was going. A bit further north, the trail hooks around Lake LeSage, then begins to climb some ridges. Here, another canoe portage follows the trail and creates a connection with Lake Livermore. This stretch included a descent so steep it took me several minutes (only with slight exaggeration) to navigate it relying heavily on my trek poles for balance. I had recently sent the poles back to Leki for repairs; if one of them had collapsed, I would be dictating this from a full body cast. Portagers would have to scramble up or down that segment while hoisting a canoe. To us it seemed impossible, but one person we met along the way assured us that the canoeing experience on Isle Royale is worth the work involved.

Fishermen on Chickenbone Lake

The trail hugs the marshy west end of Lake Livermore before ascending the Greenstone Ridge. Rounding the narrow end of the lake, something caught our attention through a window-like opening in the trees. An unidentifiable big brown object stood in the water on the opposite shore. We stood there for several minutes when the thought occurred to each of us simultaneously that we might be a couple of idiots staring at a large overturned tree. As soon as Craig gave up and started to move on, the tree moved its huge head. MOOSE! I was so excited I nearly fell off the plank bridge we were standing on. It was far enough away that we couldn't tell whether it was male or female, and it wasn't until we returned home and could view the enlarged photo that we were able to see antlers.

A bull moose cooling off in Lake Livermore

We left our moose window and began to climb the Greenstone, which was not nearly as steep a climb here as in other places. Once at the top, beautiful glimpses of Chickenbone Lake could be seen through the white birch trees. Here, the trail descends steeply and passes a group campsite on the way to the individual sites at the lake's edge. We saw the 2 young hikers we had met leaving Lane Cove on our second morning. They had ended up taking 2 days to get to Chippewa Harbor, and were currently hiking the 10.6-mile length of Indian Portage Trail to McCargoe Cove. West Chickenbone was a convenient place for a break along the way.

A glimpse of Chickenbone Lake while descending the Greenstone Ridge

Chickenbone Lake is shaped like a chicken wing and the west campground offers six tent sites. After some debate over location, we settled in and took a swim. The pit toilet here was a horror show which Craig advised I not attempt to use if I could help it. A sign hung in the outhouse explaining that the facilities further inland can't receive as much attention as the others, which makes perfect sense. A very bold and chatty squirrel took up residence in our site and proceeded to pester us for the duration of our stay. Known for chewing through both tent and backpack in search of food, we had read about these tiny menaces which are closer to chipmunks in size and unique to Isle Royale. After it engaged Craig in a game of chicken around our Nalgene bottle, we decided to hang our food as a precaution.

Our campsite at West Chickenbone Lake

The only tree with an adequate branch for hanging food was located at the water's edge. Our minds got carried away with an elaborate fantasy of a moose wandering through our site in the middle of the night, heading toward the water, hooking an antler on the hanging bag, and dragging our food supply out into the lake. The squirrel watched the entire food hanging process with disturbing intensity, chattering loudly the whole time. We kept our fingers crossed that it would retire for the night and leave our packs undisturbed under the tent's vestibules. In the end, all was safe and the squirrel entertained itself by chasing a snowshoe hare back and forth through our campsite until dark when we all went to bed.




PCT food hanging method thwarts demonic squirrels

Snowshoe Hare flees tiny squirrel, is unfazed by giant human
To be continued in: Isle Royale Day Five: West Chickenbone to McCargoe Cove

More photos from this trip can be seen here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Isle Royale National Park | Day Three

Daisy Farm to Moskey Basin
“I did nothing, and it was everything I ever thought it could be.” -Office Space

Although we only had to hike about 4 miles to get to our destination, we decided to get an early start in the hope of securing a good spot at Moskey Basin. There was no hint of sunlight when we awoke around 6:30 am and attempted to quietly deflate and roll up our sleeping pads.

Islets along Rock Harbor

Throughout the trip, we tended to wake before anyone else and set out on our day's hike just as others were emerging from their sleeping bags. I love getting up early when camping to enjoy the sunrise if I'm in a position to do so. Plus, I think there is a better chance of spotting wildlife in the early morning, a philosophy that Craig eventually embraced and would pay off big time later in the trip.

After getting dressed and eating breakfast by headlamp, I wandered down to the water to witness a magnificent sunrise. A handful of others were now awake, standing at the water's edge and staring in awe at the purple and pink horizon.

Sunrise at Daisy Farm

When I returned to the shelter, Craig was visiting the two women camping next door. We had filtered much more water than we needed the night before, and we didn't want to carry the excess since we had plenty to drink and would be able to get more at our next site. After debating whether he would seem like some kind of weird forest creep by offering to give away our extra water, he had apparently decided to go for it. Since they weren't chasing him out of their campsite with torches, it appeared to have gone well.

Scraggly trees along Rock Harbor Trail

We finished packing and headed west on the Rock Harbor Trail just after sunrise. This section of trail proved very interesting and would be my favorite hike of the trip. Admittedly, I felt relieved that we only had this 4-mile stretch to accomplish that day. If we had pushed all the way the day before and been made to endure this stretch of trail at the end of the planned 10.8-mile trek from Lane Cove to Moskey Basin, I might have set fire to the trail, then salted the earth.

Here's how Jim DuFresne describes this route in his essential guidebook, Isle Royale National Park: Foot Trails & Water Routes: “...the trail begins its up-and-down course over one rocky crest after another. A few times it dips down into wooded terrain, only to break out and ascend another bare, rocky crest. Keep sharp eyes out for rock cairns because the trail is easy to lose. There are a few steep climbs and descents but none of them are long.” This is basically right on point, although I don't remember losing the trail more than once or twice, and only for a few seconds each time.

Contemplating the Awesomeness

The constant up/down that DuFresne describes was exactly that – constant. But the landscape was so fascinating I couldn't help but love the entire journey. I took breaks here and there to catch my breath and, in between the gasping and panting, exclaimed about the utter awesomeness of our surroundings. The trees here were very scraggly and covered in old man's beard, giving everything a very old and weathered look. The rocky terrain revealed Isle Royale for what it actually is – a huge, ancient rock that has somehow managed to grow a forest on it.

The terrain of Rock Harbor Trail

As we ascended a ridge topped with a clearing, we heard something that stopped us dead in our tracks. A low moan somewhere in the distance rose in pitch and then became quiet. We stopped and waited, staring at each other with wide eyes. Again we heard it - a low-pitched, mournful moaning which was soon joined by a few more, all at different tones. It wasn't really how I imagined the sound, but it could be nothing else: We were listening to wolves howl for the very first time. Soon, a chorus of howling washed over us, and we stood there rooted to the spot, smiling at each other crazily. It was the most exciting sound I've ever heard.

At the top of yet another ridge

Abruptly, the howling stopped. We shook ourselves out of the stupor the sound had caused and descended the slope, paying extra attention to everything around us. Not long after listening to the wolf pack at the top of the ridge, we began to notice wolf scat along the trail. It looks similar to that of a big dog, but with hair in it from whatever animal had been a recent meal. While moose are the gray wolf's main food source on Isle Royale, they turn to beaver during the summer. The park brochure gives insight into the cycle of life on the island, describing the interdependency between the moose, wolf, beaver, red fox and snowshoe hare, and how each of them is needed to maintain symbiosis in this unique ecosystem.

"To simply hear a wolf is an honor; to see one is a wilderness favor granted to few."

About an hour before reaching Moskey Basin, we crossed paths with the couple from Wisconsin whom we had met the day before. Unlike us, they had made it all the way to Moskey Basin and were now making their way back toward Rock Harbor before heading home. When I mentioned how amazing the trail was, the husband looked at me like I was sprouting velvety antlers and said, “You like this trail? I hate it!” We asked them if they heard the wolves, and he got very excited. “We saw one,” he blurted. They explained that about ½ hour back, they had seen one standing in the trees at the edge of the trail near a stream crossing. They suggested we keep our eyes peeled when we get to this area because it might still be there.

Now on tenterhooks and more aware than ever of our surroundings, we made our way quietly along the trail. Every sound had us stopping, listening, and squinting into the trees. Eventually we decided that if the wolf didn't want us to see it, we wouldn't. And we didn't.

We arrived at Moskey Basin around 10:30 am, late enough that everyone had cleared out except for one tent camper who was still sleeping, and early enough that no one had arrived yet. Not only were we able to claim a shelter, but we also scored the best site possible. Smooth, solid rock rises out of this inlet of Lake Superior and slopes gently upward, eventually flattening out. The shelters are placed right at the tops of these wonderful rocky slopes and are very close to the water. Our shelter appeared to have the best rock surface in front which eased gradually into the lake – perfect for swimming and collecting as much water as we would need for cooking, drinking, and doing some pseudo laundry.

Our front yard at Moskey Basin

This was instantly our favorite spot so far and we knew it would be impossible to top. I can say confidently that it is the best spot in which I've ever camped. The scenery was so beautiful that I won't even bother to describe it because I don't think it's possible. We were very glad that we had wimped out the day before and changed our plans. This was going to be an excellent spot to spend a whole day doing absolutely nothing. A park ranger passed through briefly to check on things and asked how we were doing. Loons called to one another, and two very young ones practiced diving for fish, popping back up here and there in front of our site. Other unidentified birds sunned themselves on rocks, and after getting in the water ourselves, we did the same.

Feeling refreshed, we strung a line in front of our shelter and hung our clothes to dry. As we prepared lunch at our picnic table, a lone hiker showed up at the next shelter and told us his story. He was from Traverse City and had made arrangements to meet up with a friend on the island the day before. After hiking as fast as possible to get from Rock Harbor to Mt. Ojibway (their meeting place) by a predetermined time, his friend had already come and gone. Since there is nowhere to camp at Mt. Ojibway, this meant that our new acquaintance had to turn around and hike back to the first place he could find – Daisy Farm. A group of hikers found him, slightly hallucinating and dehydrated, and invited him into their shelter. After receiving water and food, the poor guy passed out and awoke the next morning, embarrassed to find a ranger checking on him. Now he was at Moskey Basin because he thought his hiking partner might show up there. If not, he was going to hitch a ride with some boaters who were heading to Three Mile and had offered to take him along.

Lichen covered trees frame the view next door at Moskey Basin

After lazily resting in our shelter for an undetermined length of time, we made dinner and watched 3 otters splash around in the water in front of our site. By now, Mr. Traverse City's friend had shown up and they had gone, and a big group of hikers from a Minnesota backpacking club had taken up residence next door.

Moskey Basin, the view east from our site

We looked forward to lying on our sleeping pads that night out on the rock, hopefully watching more bats, and stargazing. If some wolves decided to join us and howl at the moon, which was going to rise directly in front of us, that would also be acceptable. Unfortunately, cloud cover obscured the moon, and mosquitoes became a bit bothersome at dusk which ruined the atmosphere somewhat. A few toads hopped around the rock, and one of them stood at the water's edge repeatedly nabbing insects with its tongue. We lingered outside as long as possible, not wanting to give up this amazing place to go to sleep. Eventually we had to turn in, but I tried to stay awake as long as possible like a little kid, hoping to hear the wolves again. Owls hooted and loons called, and eventually I drifted off. This was the best day so far, but our trip would get even better.

At the end of Moskey Basin, looking back toward our site


To be continued in:

Isle Royale Day Four: Moskey Basin to West Chickenbone Lake

More photos from this trip can be seen here.