Creek to Huginnin
The most magical place on Earth
(Map at bottom of post)
woke up at 7:30 am, again to grey sky and still more fog – not a
welcome sight. Regardless of the weather, we were heading to Huginnin
Cove today, but we hoped that things would improve.
Cove is on Isle Royale's north side, approximately 5 miles from
Windigo. It is tent-only (no group sites), and the campsites are
close to the Lake Superior shore, with views of Canada to the north.
Despite this, Huginnin Cove is apparently more of a day-hiking
location than an overnight destination. I had read about the rugged
trail and rocky shore and was looking forward to spending a night
|East Huginnin Cove Trail|
felt very lethargic this morning, and after eating breakfast, I
packed up sluggishly. Because Huginnin Cove is so close, we were not
in a hurry to leave early. The sun actually came out around 10 am,
and it was clear and sunny for a whole 20 minutes. Just as our
spirits were lifting, it became overcast and cloudy again.
|East Huginnin Cove Trail near Lake Superior|
|Butterfly at Huginnin Cove|
Cove can be reached by two different trails that form a loop
beginning and ending just east of Windigo. Our plan was to hike there
via the East Huginnin Cove trail, taking West Huginnin Cove Trail on
the way back. To reach the HC trails, we headed east past Washington
Creek campground to the Minong Ridge Trail. It is necessary to hike
about a mile of the Minong Ridge Trail to reach the junction with
East HCT. Heading east on the Minong Ridge, the trail crosses a
bridge over Washington Creek, which has a shed built next to it
containing equipment to monitor the flow of the creek (I did not
think to ask the reason for this, unfortunately). The junction with
West HCT is located a short distance from the creek, followed by the
East HCT junction a quarter-mile or so further.
north on East HCT, the trail passes the remains of Wendigo mine,
which operated briefly in the early 1890s. The mine closed after just
two years after failing to yield a worthwhile amount of copper. The
trail winds through marshes and swampy areas, which are usually good
for moose-spotting, but we didn't see any on our way there.
|East Huginnin Cove Trail gets interesting|
first few miles of hiking are mostly in nondescript woods and not
very exciting. However, once the trail gets closer to Lake Superior,
things get much more interesting. This is what I'd been looking
forward to, and I was not disappointed. For about a mile, the trail
runs along a short bluff above the lake. Below us, waves emerged from
the fog to crash against the rocky shoreline. Huge boulders are
strewn everywhere along this stretch of trail, with thick moss
growing on everything, and gnarled tree roots snaking all along the
trail and over some of the boulders. This was more like it.
|Waves come ashore along East Huginnin Cove Trail|
everything was extremely slippery due to the recent rain and the
endless wet fog. We had to be very careful; the rocks were slimy with
mud and wet moss, and the tree roots were like well-oiled death
traps. Despite taking deliberate care with every step I made, my left
foot slipped on a rock, going right out from under me and causing me
to crash hard on my left side. Fortunately, I didn't fall straight
forward onto my face and onto more rocks. I managed to fall on
relatively soft, mossy ground to the side of the trail and was not
hurt. I was very lucky.
|Rocks at the beach at Huginnin Cove|
is a wonderful, short hike – by far our favorite of the trip –
and we were both happy to be hiking on this rugged, scenic terrain.
The trail continued following close to shore, and soon we came upon
the first of two coves. The first cove is filled with enormous pieces
of driftwood – entire tree trunks that have washed into the cove
and onto shore. It looked mystical in the fog. Just past this cove,
the trail heads away from the water, winding through the woods and
around to the second cove and the campsites.
|The first of two coves on East Huginnin Cove Trail|
into camp, the trail runs close to Huginnin Creek before emerging
onto the beach, directly at the center of the cove. Huginnin Cove has
five sites; standing at the center of the cove, we looked to the
right to see Site #1 located just offshore on the spit of land that
creates the cove's east border. Sites 2-5 are to the left and in the
woods off the beach. Lucky for us, no one else was here at this time,
so after a quick walk-through of the sites, we set up camp at Site
#1, which is far and away the best. This site has one half of the
cove to itself, including the large boulders at its eastern tip,
where it is possible to sit and watch the lake for hours.
|Campsite #1 at Huginnin Cove|
had been persistently foggy and overcast during our hike, and we were
still unsure which way the weather was going to turn. We set up our
tent and changed into warmer clothes quickly in case things took a
turn for the worse. Our luck continued, however, and the sky cleared
suddenly around 3:00 pm. The sun shone warmly, and fluffy white
clouds floated overhead in a gorgeous blue sky. We had almost
forgotten what that looked like.
|The view north from Campsite #1 at Huginnin Cove|
scenario could not have been more perfect. We had nabbed a kick-ass
campsite, and the weather had become beautiful. Our tent was just a
few steps from the water, surrounded by trees and rocks. We spent a
lot of time out on the boulders, either climbing around and
exploring, or sitting in the sun and watching the green-blue lake.
Directly ahead is Canada, with Pie Island around 20 miles away and
looking like a misplaced butte – its rectangular shape and flat top
standing out against the horizon.
|Looking north to Canada from Site #1 at Huginnin Cove|
We waded in the cove for a while,
and Craig eventually returned to the tent to take a nap. There was no
way I was going to spend any time inside if I didn't have to, and I
sat on the beach sifting through rocks and just enjoying the view and
weather for a couple of hours. At some point, two more hikers had
shown up and set up camp at other sites. Sites 2-5 are not visible
from the water, but are relatively close to shore. Site #2 is
probably the next best site after #1. It is close to the beach,
though not directly on it.
|Campsite #1 at Huginnin Cove|
eating, we returned to the boulders to watch the lake and explore a
bit more. Craig climbed over the rocks and over to the adjacent cove,
while I took photographs of the area in the pre-sunset waning light.
Unfortunately, a wall of clouds appeared just as the sun was about to
set. The sun sank behind it, preventing the spectacular sunset I was
hoping for. I was too happy to be disappointed by this, however.
Today had been a wonderful day.
on the northwest end of the island, Huginnin Cove would allow for
good sunset viewing later in the evening if the sky remained clear.
We decided this was the perfect time and place to eat our favorites
from the food bag – chilimac from Mary Jane's Farm, followed by
banana pudding from Pack-it Gourmet for dessert. While we cooked
dinner, a couple of snowshoe hares hopped through our camp. They are
really fast and surprisingly big, with huge rear feet.
|The view east from campsite #1 at Huginnin Cove. The Canadian shore can be seen in the distance.|
|Moon above Huginnin Cove|
moon rose above the cove, and we sat outside of our tent watching it
illuminate the trees and reflect on the water. As dumb as it might
sound, Huginnin Cove was magical. The gloomy weather and rain of the
days before were worth it just to spend a day here. Neither of us
wanted to leave. We would have loved to stay here a second night, but
the weather was still questionable. The number of people we had seen
stranded at Windigo due to bad flying conditions was worrisome, and
we didn't know if this good weather would hold. We decided the best
plan would be to hike back to Windigo the following morning in order
to give ourselves a better chance of getting home on time. If the
weather looked like it would take another bad turn, maybe we would be
able to leave early.
stayed up as long as we could, turning in only when we couldn't stay
awake anymore. I didn't even try to
read; I laid in my sleeping bag listening to waves washing on shore
in the moonlit cove and trying
to make the moments last as long as possible. I drifted in and out of
a light sleep, eventually hearing
a light rain gently falling on our tent later in the night.
|Moon above Huginnin Cove|
To be continued in Day Seven: Huginnin Cove to Windigo
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