Sunday, June 3, 2012

Isle Royale National Park 2012 | Part Two

*GUEST POST* Part 2 of Craig's solo trip report - May 14-21

Looking up Moskey Basin toward Lake Superior from shelter #2

Friday morning arrives and I am heading to Moskey Basin - Nina's favorite place. I’m unable to decide between it and McCargoe Cove. My hike would be about 6 miles, a good part of that repeated trail from the day before. After a night of rain, I would caution people about the foot bridges on this section of the Indian Portage Trail. They get very slippery. Upon arriving at Moskey and opting for shelter #2, I immediately took a dip and did laundry. All the shelters here are good, but I really like how the rock at this one slopes down into the water. The sun was out so I figured hanging a clothesline would be a good move. A brief rain would eventually cause me to bring the laundry inside only to put it back out later.

Female Merganser

Male Merganser

Before leaving home, Nina helped me prune my food supply. Luckily we didn't eliminate too much, because at this point I started noticing what I had left for the remainder of my trip, and there was little, if any, excess. I brought the first book of the original Foundation Trilogy with me. As it turns out, I had to ration my reading as well as my food. I did not want to blow through the book and be left with nothing. I could've used a second book, or a lightweight Kindle loaded with several books. The waves were very loud as they crashed into and flowed by the rock, which was my front yard for two days. The first evening would find things very peaceful and dead quiet.

The end of Moskey Basin

Saturday was my second day at Moskey Basin, bringing with it very nice weather and a day full of relaxation. After my morning ritual of a cold face splashing and a water filtering session, I walked around, visited the ice-damaged dock, and took some photos, including one of my favorite graffiti of this trip. The rest of day was just me hanging out and I have no significant notes from my goings-on. This evening was far from quiet; the loons were very vocal. They performed all night, literally.

What can you say?

I left Moskey Basin Sunday morning at 9:30 and started heading for Three Mile campground, which true to its name, would place me 3 miles from the boat pickup at Rock Harbor. Three Mile is the second place on this trip I’ve never stayed, Chippewa Harbor being the first. I ended up stopping to put on partial rain gear during this hike, as it was sprinkling a bit and looked ominous. Full rain gear is warm and suffocating, unless it is really cool out, so I went with the jacket and pack cover only, opting to convert my pants to shorts. This made for comfortable hiking through the light rain. I stopped at Daisy Farm for a snack and to look in a shelter we stayed in before, to no avail, for some Iron Maiden graffiti we saw on our last trip. Nina really wants a photo of it, and we’ve no recollection of where we saw it. After snacking, it stopped sprinkling so I tucked the rain jacket away. Wouldn’t you know the minute I put it away, it started sprinkling again, so I donned the jacket and headed out my last 4.4 miles of the day.

Wolf scat

About a mile into my hike, the clouds began darkening, but they appeared to be behind me a good distance, or so I thought. I took the risk and figured with the comfortable pace I had going, I would just make my way to Three Mile and avoid putting the rain pants on. I was very comfortable in shorts. As it turns out, the dark clouds either caught up quickly, or told the lighter, closer clouds to start in on me anyway. It started and I was faced with a window of about 30 seconds to decide on the rain pants. For some reason I chose not to wear them and paid. It began raining, and by raining I mean pouring. In under 10 minutes my socks and the inside of my boots were soaked, as evidenced by the squish sounds I heard with every footfall. I had a good laugh at myself and still enjoyed the walk. My last trip to the island was filled with perfect weather, so my dues had to be paid. It's is all part of the experience.

Moose droppings

Trying to follow Leave No Trace principles, I walked right through the trail puddles, some of which would by now be water mixed with moose marbles and hairy wolf scat. The reason for staying on the trail is to avoid widening it, encroaching on and causing more wearing of the non-trail surfaces bordering either side. Sometimes the puddles were a little deep and I would carefully hop on rocks or roots. Despite all this, I made really good time and arrived wet and ready to shed my heavy boots. After throwing my stuff in the shelter and grabbing a towel, I went to the lake to clean out my socks and boots, knowing I would not have the luxury of dry boots again on this trip. They were still wet after arriving at home. I also got in the water and had a really cold rinse, after which I went inside, got sorted, and dried off. Ironically, the only pants I had to wear now were my dry rain pants. Touché. My only dry footwear was the pair of Crocs I wear around camp, which are full of holes, so any trip outside would be a rock hopping affair, in an effort to keep my socks dry. It was at this point I discovered that, in addition to my rain jacket failing to keep me dry, my pack cover failed in its commitment to its duties. I pulled out some damp socks, a damp shirt, and wet long underwear. Somehow, and with lots of luck, I also pulled out a dry pair of socks, a dry pair of underwear, a dry shirt, my dry fleece, and thankfully Nina’s dry camera. The hood of my sleeping bag was a little wet, but that was not a big deal. I guess the lesson learned is to keep things in plastic bags within your pack if you expect super rain. Our rain gear worked swimmingly the last time we used it during our trip to the Porkies, and I’ll give it another chance on the next trip.

The shore and a dock at Three Mile at sunrise

All this wetness led to me having my favorite meal of the whole trip. After drying off and setting up my sleeping pad and the like, I made some coffee and enjoyed one of the best Snickers bars I’ve ever eaten. I spent some time reading only to realize I was really cold, especially my feet. I didn’t feel cold when hiking in the rain, but I’m sure the dip in the lake didn’t help. Anyway, I thought getting in my sleeping bag would be a good idea. It took a few hours to feel properly warm. I arrived that day at 1:00 pm to existing rain (obviously) and it kept raining steadily until after 7:00 pm. Aside from a quick trip to get water after the rain let up, I was essentially in my bag in the shelter from 1:45 pm - 6:15 the next morning. No sleeping pad is comfortable for that long.

The sun on its way up at Three Mile

Monday brought with it great weather - the best yet. It is too bad the best weather was on the last day, but it made for a really nice walk back to Rock Harbor, and the boat ride back was smooth sailing. Typically on the last day, your pack is lighter since most of your food is in some outhouse or another, so to speak, but mine was filled with wet clothes. It was a short hike though, along a very interesting, diverse trail. On both visits I wondered how many people, visiting the Island for the first time, go immediately down the Rock Harbor Trail with a full pack and expectations of a nice, flat walking trail.

Rock Harbor Trail

My tale ends with the store at Rock Harbor being open and me having a really good can of Coke. The wait for the boat to arrive was about 3 hours. A guy came strolling in, ahead of his buddies, with an almost full kitchen garbage bag of trash strapped to his pack. I had to ask. He said that it was the garbage from three guys for three days. I couldn’t believe they almost filled a 13 gallon garbage bag. Once back in town I stopped at the Mariner North for a Reuben and then headed to Zik’s to wet my dry. I stayed in town that night and left for home at 6:15 Tuesday morning.

An islet along Rock Harbor

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