July 4, 2000
- Dassler Cabin
I arrived at Isle Royale National Park this afternoon after a long six hour boat ride across Lake Superior from Houghton, Michigan on the Ranger 3. Two Park Rangers met me at Rock Harbor and we loaded my stuff into a small motor boat. They were in a bit of a hurry to take off on their own 2 day hiking and paddling trip. We motored slowly out of Rock Harbor then took off at breakneck speed for Scoville Point. It seemed really fast compared to yesterday's paddle where I was making no visible progress pushing into a very stiff headwind at the Apostle Islands. We tied up to a little pier and carried my stuff up a short rocky trail heavily scented with pine. The cabin is on a 30 foot cliff overlooking a large expanse of Lake Superior, about a mile in every direction. The feeling of this place is remote. The house is quite old fashioned with a gigantic water filter of the type we had in Zaire. They showed me the fireplace, stove, propane refrigerator, and solar cell light. There is no running water and I share an outhouse with the family next door. On the way to the outhouse there is an ancient outhouse tipping backwards off its foundation. I changed into my wet suit and we motored back to Rock Harbor. I got into my Storm and paddled right up to the Ranger III which towered about 3 stories over me and out of the harbor. Directly in front of me in the middle of the channel I noticed a little rocky outcropping. I paddled to it even though it was in the opposite direction from the cabin. The island was filled with beautiful black lava covered by bright orange lichens. Pine trees jutted out of the rocks. The trip back here had more incredibly interesting combinations and piles of lava rocks covered with lichens.
Looking East out the cabin windows there are little Islands to the South and the main island shore to the North. Scoville Point juts out between Tobin Bay which is about 2 miles long on the North and a little tiny swimming pool sized bay on the South. I pulled my kayak up on the Tobin Bay side next to the cabin's canoe. I am going Northeast toward Blake Point tomorrow morning. I packed my boat this afternoon and was quite proud to smash a lot of stuff into the back hatch. I dissolved in tears yesterday following a lame packing attempt and thinking about how I was going to Isle Royale alone. Although I have done many solo hiking and skiing trips in my life, during the past year I have done at least 20 trips with other companions. I couldn't imagine two weeks without someone to discuss, confirm or dispute my routing, paddling, weather, and almost all other trip related decisions. Not to mention just having someone to assist with a rescue on the water. I am attempting to get over it!
The guy next door came over and introduced himself this afternoon and I went over and met his wife and 3 small boys. I am glad that I am leaving tomorrow. It was nice to meet them but I do not want to be involuntarily interrupted.
At 7:45 or so I started walking back to Rock Harbor to see nature slides taken by a couple I met on the Ranger this afternoon. It took me 45 minutes to do the 2 mile hike. It would have been faster in my kayak since it only took me 45 minutes including a side trip earlier in the day. It was not totally dark when I walked back to the cabin at 10:45 PM.
July 5, 2000,
Wednesday - Merritt Lane
It was so pleasant this morning waking up in the cabin. Looking out a large bank of windows on 3 sides, towards both sides of Scoville Point and both sides of Lake Superior. I woke up and fell back to sleep several times and the thought occurred to me that it was OK and I had no one else to take care of today but myself. Its nice being out of touch. I wish I had time to phone Riley though before I left. Heidi is unreachable at music camp. This time when I got a bucketful of water for filtering, I only filled it half way and so it didn't slosh out all over me and was not so heavy. Strong pine scent every time I take path between cabin and lake.
Left Dassler Cabin at 10:30 am. I wanted to get out early today. The (Canadian) forecast sounded like waves/winds were building to a storm this afternoon. I thought I'd try to get around Blake Point. It is somewhat difficult to interpret the metric information. Meters I understand but it isn't instantaneous and I don't remember the numbers as easily as the Chicago forecasts which are commonly "2 to 4 foot waves" or "4 to 6 foot waves." Temperatures forget it - I figured that 20 deg C was about 58 deg F. It is windy I would say 15-20 knots. Partly sunny. I had a pleasant night. Stumbled to the out house right before bed (headlamp). It is a distance of at least 150' from the cabin with tree roots and all to negotiate with a full bladder. I like the difference, the reduction of everything. This morning after resorting to using a little strainer to put the coffee filter in and making coffee, and feeling satisfied at the improvisation, I found the brown plastic Melita filter holder.
I paddled amongst long thin islands and across an open spot into the waves and wind, East or Northeast. I passed the campsite at Meritt Lane and thought I would get around Blake Point but the farther I went, the bigger the swells became until they were over 4 feet and also slightly confusing wave patterns by the time I saw the black and white marker at Blake. I decided no way. I turned around OK but with the huge swells at my back it was very powerful and stronger than any swell I have felt on Lake Michigan. I paddled like hell and after a few minutes was in a more sheltered area of smaller waves and swells and soon back to Merritt Lane. I dragged the boat way up, tied it to an unsuspecting tree, and threw pad and sleeping bag in the shelter. The shelter is in the shade and its cold. The wind has been increasing and now there are bigger white caps out there. I can't see all the way to Blake but am going to take a hike out that way after I put everything away in case it rains.
I am really good at stowing my stuff. Forget dry bags they suck completely. All the food is in little ziplock baggies and squished in amongst other stuff. I have to fight the urge to have breakfast, lunch and dinner organized and segregated into 3 separate bags. There isn't that much stuff to keep track of anyway, I mean it isn't Dominicks in my boat. I brought a ton of apples. I could stay out for 10 days just on apples!
I am at Blake Point. It is 2 PM. I walked here. There is a trail through the trees, on the rocks, or on top of the ledge where there is a sheer cliff. I can see the beacon again. The swells don't look bad from here looking south because its an east wind. But looking east I can see why I didn't like being in them! There are white caps as far as I can see and big spray on some rocks a little ways out. I can justify not doing the point pretty easily but why do I feel compelled to justify? Weather radio reception out here absolutely sucks. I thought it was better on the marine radio at first but that radio was pretty hard to hear too. I have the marine radio, a weather radio and the ranger radio.
Isle Royale is awesome and no one told me why. It's the rock. I got a bit of a warning from Craig Blacklock's book Lake Superior Images but still. Its black, its volcanic, its covered with orange lichens and evergreen plants. The scent of evergreen is everywhere. The power of the lake. The time here by myself is a luxury. It is unspeakably unique. I can know myself in new ways. What do I like to do when I am alone? What do I want to do or see? Today I wanted to go to Blake Point. It is infamously exposed to the full force of the lake. Passage Island looks close, maybe 2 miles away. Weather conditions are quoted from Passage Island. At the Ranger's Wilderness Permit station on board ship, there was a 4 page forecast and one page was weather from Passage Island. So that's the closest forecast for me but too bad I can't get reception! I will try my radio out here on the point in a few minutes. If I can't get it tomorrow maybe I will call the Visitor Center. Darn I wish they'd translate the temperatures for me. I just made myself a chart. There are a lot of flowers in every little crack, something new-a new color or shape or size of flower. Beautiful big birds swooping around all over the place.
I am laying back supported by a bunch of large rocks coming together at right angles. I do not see threatening clouds so if a storm is coming where is it already and now that all my shit is unloaded will it calm down tonight before sundown? It was light till 10:45 last night. I could make a late dash. Next time I won't unload so early.
I just got a forecast from Marquette (NOAA) by holding the end of the antenna with my right hand. I think they gave the Passage Island data and Central Lake Superior bouy information. Then I got the Canadian weather, fainter. The wind is 20km/hr at Passage Island. NOAA had it at 17 mph gusting to 18 at Passage waves 2 feet. OK I'm going to head back now.
I took a faster way back and it only took 15 minutes instead of 30. I went along the rocks close to the water. I saw incredible veins of green (copper?) in the rocks and some amazing patches of very intensely bright colored rocks. Red, white and pink embedded in a circle. I heard a big low motor and thought a boat was approaching. In a few minutes a big ore freighter came by in between Blake Point and Passage Island. It hardly seems possible that a freighter could make it through that small place ‘threading the needle,' but on one of my charts there is a shipping lane. A little motorboat came by. The people are from Tobin Harbor. This morning I heard another big sound- it was the sea plane taking off!
I have been looking at my notes and reading pages I ripped out of the Lake Superior Kayak guide section on Isle Royale. I paddled over to where I saw a couple of kayaks beached-about 10 minutes from here. It was 2 guys counting frogs for a professor who lives on Edwards Island. Maybe I'll stop there on my way back. They are heading back there now for supper. Just a day trip. Told them about a frog I saw in a pool on the way to Blake Point. They were excited. The lake is calmer now but its raining a little. I am thinking about making a run for the other side of Blake. I see breakers on the shoals out there but its hard to judge the size of the swells out in open water, from here. I think I heard ‘wind 3 knots at Passage Island' on the marine radio. Of the 2 weather radios the marine radio pulls it in much stronger. Can't get anything on the little gray weather radio. I see a squall line up ahead-might stay here instead.
Mosquitos out. Reading book about Swedish guy who biked to and then climbed Everest. Reads awkwardly like English is his second language, but still a quick read. I am already on page 105. I love his descriptions of Iran and Turkey, Pakistan and India. He is fascinating and humorous even as people throw stones at him, sticks in his spokes, and he pushes people out of the way. It stays light here for so long. Its already 9:50 and bright. Its still windy and cooler. I am getting ready for bed.
We met the resident artist at the Apostles this weekend. She had her NPS radio on all the time! How intrusive! She said they told her to check in daily. I would not want to do that.
July 6, 2000,
Thursday 4 PM (EDT) - Duncan Narrows
My watch has been fogging up lately. I have a second cheap waterproof watch attached to my kayak which is on Central Daylight Time. I woke up during the night briefly, looked outside and it was still light out. I wondered if it ever gets really dark. It was light till well after 10. I got up really late - at 9:30 AM. Got a forecast with the marine radio – the weather radio is hopeless. I got both Canada and NOAA. Passage Island had wind speed 14 knots gusting to 18 knots. The bay looked ok but then it looked hunky dory yesterday too! It was overcast and showers predicted for afternoon. Waves less than one meter. I have to piece it all because NOAA gives wind but not waves at Passage. Anyway I thought I would try for Blake or at least camp closer to it so I could be ready tonight if it got calm and be able to see it better. There are a lot of little coves between Merritt Lane and Blake where I could stop and wait. I put on my dry suit too so I wouldn't be so worried about swimming. I paddled up to the end or 3/4 of the way and turned around - swells again but not as deep as yesterday. I turned back toward the point close to shore so if I flipped I would just drift into shore hopefully and not have far to do so. I got closer and closer to Blake and finally rounded the first part where there is a little beach next to the light. I figured that I could actually camp there in a pinch so I kept going. At the point there are shoals for about 75 feet out with breaking waves on the Eastern and Western edges of the shoals, and confused waves in the middle. I aimed for the middle area with no rollers or breaking waves and paddled like hell right through it. I turned around and paddled pretty fast to the more sheltered area on the other side of Blake Point, the Palisades. When I rounded the point, I saw a huge mountain of land far away and I thought shit the next point is really far away. This park is much larger than I originally thought! But soon Locke Point came into view and I realized the far away point was the Black Bay peninsula! Canada!
The Palisades are giant black basalt cliffs with lichens, sea caves and narrow places where you can paddle inside a crack, but today the water was too rough for that. I was hot. I paddled to a beach of rocks and stopped to change back into my wet suit. I passed 2 guys on a diving boat, motoring out to Canoe Rocks where there are 2 shipwrecks. I hung up my dry suit in the empty shelter at Duncan Narrows campground. The diving family is in the other shelter. The mom and 2 little kids were there alone. Since there are no trails from Duncan Narrows and they did not have a boat, it must get pretty boring while Dad is out diving.
I paddled farther into Duncan Bay, left my kayak at the portage marker and hiked up to Lookout Lousie. It is really hot on land in the forest. A Dad and 4 toe-headed girls ages 6-12 hiked up to Lookout Louise. He told me he has 5 more kids who stayed back in Houghton with Mom! From up here I think I can see Amygdaloid Island (the farthest island) and everything in between. I haven't used my ranger radio to check in yet. Melissa told me to check in every few days. I take that to mean whenever I feel like it. To the North-Northeast I see the huge high mountain in Canada, seemingly directly across from the Eastern end of Isle Royale. To the East of the mountain there is low land which goes eastward for a long ways maybe 50+ miles and then a series of more bumps but not as tall as the one described above.
It is 4:30 pm at Lookout Louise and the mosquitoes are awful now. I am going to return to my boat. I might hike all the way to Tobin Harbor but probably not. No fishermen or fisher women so far, so no fish meals. Since I do not like to cook for myself (not yet at least!!! I probably will want to eventually), I am quite content to eat crackers, cheese, granola bars, hot chocolate and gorp and biscotti.
7 pm - I am back at the Duncan Narrows shelter. The sand is dark brown and there are small brown stones right up against the water. I finally ran into kayakers - 3 men who arrived on the Queen yesterday from Copper Harbor, Michigan. They started paddling today from Rock Harbor. They are portaging through Duncan Bay to Lane Cove and then two more portages. That's a lot of carrying, even .6 miles with a loaded kayak would do me in! Dinner tonight: messy - grated parmesan cheese and dry chocolate biscotti, pretty indulgent.
There are flies in my ear! Hate that! The kayakers told me the name of the big elevation in Canada. But where is my memory? My nautical chart (McKenzie) shows 4 mountains, the largest being 1108 meters and labeled "the Paps." To the west of the peninsula is Black Bay then the western mass on my map might be the Nipigon peninsula.
Two rangers just paddled over. They are camping nearby. What a life! They paddled from Pickerell Cove to Belle Isle. I think I'll go to Belle Isle tomorrow. Just had Jiffy Pop with them. Ron tried unsuccessfully to make it at Sand Island last weekend. What is it about that product? This time, due to a little hole in the bottom...the oil drained out onto their gas stove's foil reflector! Each time there is a new but similar sounding reason for product failure. I was late in applying OFF today because I ignored the bites I was getting while unpacking the boat and tying it up, repacking food, pumping water, etc. Its amazing how many details and jobs there are out here. Tonight I didn't even bring my clothes bag into the shelter at all - I just hung up my wet suit on a railing and got into my sleeping bag. The rangers are concerned about the divers next door - they have made about 20 impact violations, everything from setting up a tent next to the shelter to their humongous fire pit. They have about 10 air tanks and a compressor on the dock which is illegal to use at the site. A ranger is going to come out here tomorrow and take a look but I'll probably be gone and miss the action. Hope to head over to Belle Isle tomorrow and then Pickerell the next day, scout out those blueberries.
It is 10:30 PM and too dark to read on this beautiful night with the silver moon on Duncan Bay. The clouds are in stripes - 4 giant ones running perpendicular to Isle Royale, and reflected in the orange sunset in Duncan Bay! Loons and the Passage Island horn are the only sounds. I saw a red fox this afternoon. The ranger says they're kind of tame and steal not only food but clothing!
July 7, 2000,
Friday - Belle Isle
I am only aware of the day because of the weather radio or counting my campsites. Last night I heard a lot of loons. I saw a few on Duncan Bay. One bird some distance away, dove a distance under water of at least 15-25 feet, twice! I left Duncan Narrows at 10:15 AM and paddled around Locke Point in south-southeast 15 knot winds. It was fairly protected until I got to the crossing from Five Finger Bay to Hill Point. Thank goodness for names that describe the scenery. Otherwise it would be difficult to know where I am sometimes. Hill Point was easy to pick out, it's a hill. It was a broadside crossing to the wind but once around Hill, it was just a beautiful float past big basalt cliffs. Tricky getting out to pee but otherwise quite interesting and some really cool islands between Locke and Hill. Very interesting unique and dramatic views of rocks and trees on the little islands. Orange lichen on black rocks.
Again I woke up in the middle of the night and it was light out or at least I could see the sky outside. So it probably never gets really dark. There is a 70% chance of rain this afternoon/evening. I want to get one of the 2 campsites at Pickerel Cove so I want to leave early tomorrow if the weather permits. There are about 6 shelters here at Belle Isle but I am the only person. A volunteer stays in a nearby cabin with propane tanks. Tuolumne Meadows in the winter is my dream job. One of the rangers spent 2 weeks here in the winter with the wolf research team collecting Moose urine and other interesting items. Sounds wonderful! They stay in a cabin with a wood stove and he says its luxurious. This morning for some reason the sleeping bag didn't go in the dry bag and the hatch as easily and I decided tomorrow I am going to squish it in either a garbage bag or just by itself! Damn I am sick of the red dry bag!
My gray weather radio finally worked at Duncan Narrows and just now. Seventy % rain chance tonight. Wind picking up now maybe up to 25 k. Up here at the shelter there is less wind. Beautiful rocks offshore with orange lichen. I am making hot chocolate. No sign of the portage kayakers. They must have gotten up early and done it really fast. I am surprised. I wonder if they got farther to McCargoe. I met a guy with a big motorboat and his wife. There were two big boats at the dock and the motorboat guy warned me that the other boat belongs to a right winger who is out fishing. One boat had its generator going.
I have been living in my wetsuit. Occasionally in camp I add my fleece jacket and wind jacket and warm socks and shoes. Reading more Goran Kropp. I am off my permit schedule. The ranger said it doesn't matter. Just tell them what you did when you're done so they can keep a record for impact. It would be good for the Apostles to follow this. Makes a lot more sense. I didn't really know what I would want to do until I arrived at each place anyway and with the wind and weather, who knows.
I just finished Goran's book. Amazing and interesting to read another version of INTO THIN AIR although Goran borrowed from it liberally and admitted to that. Still, it was a very quick read. Goran wants to sail to Antarctica then ski to the South Pole. I hope he reads Shackleton's account first!
There are lots of different wild flowers in this large meadow between the 6 shelters. Purple, orange, daises, yellow, and then many grasses. Still quite windy. I am going to run out of paper if I keep writing. Just wrote Shannon and Barb letters. Seems like 6 PM but is really 9 PM! Met volunteer - probably in college. Not interpreter just keeps stuff working (change tp, etc.). I think I would rather do stuff like that than interpretation. I would get tired of always being "on" and telling the same story and having to do it. I don't have patience with too much of that. He has kind of a set up like mine - propane and solar, outhouse. He told me about a neat-oh sounding mine shaft place near McCargoe and also Mt. Franklyn. I am glad I have my warm sleeping bag because it gets quite chilly at night.
Started reading another book-short solo adventures. Its pretty good so far and I realize I don't read as much at home as I'd like. I've been pushing to finish these quilts and have come very far with them but would like to get more reading plus I've had a couple of boring books I guess if the truth be told...
Its is getting late. While writing Barb I remembered the first time I heard of IRNP and it was awhile ago. I remember hearing it was a place where a boat leaves you and you just hike, and I remember thinking ‘oh, a forest without mountains, how boring.' I had no notion of the fingers, bays, lake, and it was before I started kayaking. I thought it was one piece of land. I did not think it would be a challenge or enough of a challenge. Hmmm.
July 8, 2000,
Saturday, 8:45 am
Just woke up, 2nd time. It rained last night - a little lightning - and now its very calm, birds and fog. Beautiful trees coming out of islands in fog! It looks like an impressionist painting looking out the bay from here. Its really amazing being the only one here, its like I am out here in the north woods alone! I made coffee outside on the picnic bench. Suddenly, lots of mosquitoes. I am taking stuff down to the boat. The mosquitoes haven't discovered the shoreline yet. More fog. I make a mad dash up to the shelter and bring back everything that belongs in the front hatch. Use privy. Listen to weather. The best reception for me is when I hold the end of the antenna out and raise my arm up high! Passage is wind 3 knots no wave info; for some reason. But marine forecast stays thunderstorms till afternoon then sun. It is perfectly calm now with more fog coming in very beautiful. Should pack up and get under way before rain if any. Would welcome it then. Suddenly sound as if boat wake coming. Just more waves for some unknown reason. Boat never appears. I notice every sound here. Its very unique. Two loons appear in bay. I saw one swim under water for at least 30 + feet yesterday!
Almost 4 pm...the fog came in more and more, until I could see maybe 20-30feet around me!! I paddled near shore on the north side of Robinson Bay through the fog and past stunning trees and it made me pay more attention to the underwater rocks too. I found the notch to Amygdaloid Channel easily and went through it, very cool and beautiful. The south shore of Amygdaloid channel was just incredible with rocks and little bays and incredible trees. Nearing the point was just awesome: 30' high rock walls and huge rocks in the water. Loons in Robinson and Amygdaloid. In Amygdaloid Channel there was a loon whose call echoes and it called out maybe 8 times, each time repeating from across the channel and I wasn't even sure it was an echo until the intonation changed a little and the echo did too. I stopped at the point and took out the Nikon quite an undertaking since my dry bag now holds all kinds of bee sting, OFF, sun screen, the ranger radio, the weather radio, geez its gotten crowded in there, plus film. Anyway, I backed up to take a shot of the awesome cliffs (total fog) and a huge wave came at me and crashed on the rocks. I just bobbed and it was ok. No wind, just a little cooler rounding the point and getting into Herring Bay what another incredible place with big rocks. There was still fog everywhere. I got off at about 10:30 again. Amazing that I could get up at 7 one morning and 9 the next. I stopped at Birch Island. One of the 3 Duncan kayak-portagers was there. The other 2 were on a hike. They did 3 portages yesterday and ended up at Birch (one shelter). If I go back there today I'll have to tent. Might as well tent at Pickerel Cove if I have to get the tent out. I talked to him for a few minutes, ate a cookie, had water, got some weird lemon grass oil, mosquito product that smells great from him sprayed on me and I paddled through lifting fog down McCargoe Cove. At the dock, met a youngish hiker, weird guy who says he's used to hiking in the Himalaya. Sure, buddy. He was strange, talking loosely about missing the ferry and bragging. Then a big tour boat pulled up and 6 Kayakers on some sort of outfitter trip got off with boats. Cheaters! They're heading back to Chippewa Harbor. Wonder what that area is like, I'll have to ask the honcho. A couple people are fixing a shelter at McCargoe. No motorboats moored yet. Might stay there but want to hike to the arch on Amygdaloid Island and maybe get to Lane and do Franklyn tomorrow too. So might get going. My l shoulder is killing me what did I do to it? Can't find Minong Mine - am way up the trail by Pine Mtn. Nice to get out of boat. Fog lifted, sunny and hot, need shorts.
I hiked back to McCargoe Cove. Almost all shelters taken. Place packed by large group of hikers crowded into one (why? it was only 5 pm - not raining!). Then 6 paddlers from Cascade Outfitters in Grand Marais, MN in another, 2 maintenance people fixing a shelter, etc... I decided to paddle back to Birch or Pickerel Cove. I past 2 guys in a canoe at Birch, heading also to McCargoe, and saw one of the 3 portagers in Birch shelter who said come on up to the tent site. I said, "the night is yet young," (6:30?) and I went on. It was great seeing all the bays and coves and rocks and islands with the fog lifted. So beautiful. I wanted to be here at Pickerel alone instead of Birch with the guys. It's a lot of effort getting to know people. Its ok much of the time but its nice being here in this incredible place of absolutely stunning beauty and write and read by myself.
The central undecideds of my life/quandaries are: to move/when, and the kids: I am so overwhelmed and its fine as long as I can get away I just have to keep figuring that out. I hate everyone's advice. I should stop talking period to advice givers. Its too confusing. I made a huge pot of soup it was great. Passage is south 16 knots.
Looks like light wind tomorrow am building. I went up on the ridge to Pickerel Cove and held up the antenna. Works like a charm. The question begs why am I trying to change things, why not just exist as I am? Loons in the distance, a cove over. I guess one answer is that gee I would like to live in an area where the prevailing ideas are closer to my own-such as hiking/biking-living to be outdoors, there are places like that. Its just not terribly important where I live. Is it so strange that I get no support for it other than Dad? Buzzing bugs shit!
Pickerel Cove is unbelievably quiet. After coming off the lake with some wind and building waves into shelter, then coming over the ridge to still water and perfect reflection: trees, rocks, I see the flying birds' reflection before the bird itself. Then the bird flies by trees-dark. Daisies everywhere on the hillside and lichen covered rocks, big room-sized and 2-story high rocks. One rock juts out into Pickerel Cove in the same NE-SW direction as Isle Royale. I did a foggy crossing by compass bearing today. Reading another great book - about solo women doing trips outdoors!
Sun not coming up by my tent but behind ridge in Pickerel Cove. Oh well! This is my first night in the tent instead of a shelter. I am camped at Herring Bay at the shortest portage on Isle Royale - just a few - well 100' long, a short uphill and downhill. I look out to the big lake and behind me over the ridge is Pickerel Cove. When I returned from reading up on the ridge, my boat was floating - the lake came up about 2', I pulled it up and retied it higher.
July 9, 2000,
I woke up at 5:30-6:00 to a moose splashing and saw hundreds of mosquitoes on the tent screen. I ate a whole pot of soup last night and painfully have to pee but will wait till the sun clears these guys out. I went back to sleep till 8:45 or so and they were gone! I ran out to pee and was swarmed by the little buggers holy shit they were bad. I started the stove but it didn't help and it sputtered out anyway. There was a thick fog. So I just packed up as quickly as possible and in less than an hour I was off, still waving my arms! The 3 guys came by to portage, they are going to do all 3 portages again today! Unbelievable! I told them, "you are men." They responded, "we are idiots." They want to see stuff in Rock Harbor but are missing all the good stuff out here!
I paddled out of Herring Bay in fog, ate on the boat to avoid bugs and found the ranger station on Amygdaloid. The ranger was there getting ready to do a couple of trips and hoping fog would go away so she could take the little (non radar-non GPS) boat. We chatted for awhile and then I paddled down to the arch on Amygdaloid. Someone told me its similar to a Utah arch. I don't think so; its a couple of rocks bent into caves. Maybe I missed it entirely. I walked around up there for awhile. The trail was nebulous so I used yellow flowers, probably an impact violation, to mark my way back. There was no way I was going down through mosquito haven to the lake. The view is wonderful from up there: the channel and the lake. There were amazing clouds that were bent like fishnets or drapery sheers, kind of gray color, translucent, you could see through them like a 3-d computer image. Before I had the presence of mind to take a photo, they were gone. The wind has picked up. I might listen to the weather. Fog gone for most part. Wind great for no bugs. Eating lunch at Amygdaloid channel.
5 PM - Mt Franklin - I was about to strip and pee when the outfitter kayakers came by. Fog diminished. I paddled with them along Amygdaloid Channel to the end of Am. Is. and they pointed their boats over into Belle Isle. I kept going stopping to pee at a little rock outcropping where it was deeper than I expected and I got my whole leg wet! It felt good-it was getting hot. I paddled into Lane cove toward a little outboard boat with a man and woman in it trying to pry themselves off rocks and out to floating and put their motor down. I offered to tow them- joking, they declined. They had collected a moose head (skull) and pointed out a dead moose (bones) on the shore. I was about to inform them of the adverse impact of taking moose stuff when I asked them and found out he is Peterson the famous wolf researcher (and his wife Candy) of Isle Royale! He invited me over to their place which is near Edison Fishery. I hoped to meet him! He said they have lots of bones there. It would be great to document. I am planning on paddling down there after a night in my bed (!) to see the lighthouse, cemetery, fishery, his place, and climb to Objiqay Tower.
It was a wonderful hike up here (Mt Franklin - 1.5 hr). It feels so good to walk and when I do I fairly bound along I am so happy to be walking. I miss running, not that I can't stand a rest from it, but just to occasionally get out there and get my heart rate up! So hiking up here did it for the heart rate for sure. I met 2 groups of 2 hikers each, from today's Queen heading towards Lane Cove (one asked if it was on the water!) Mt. Franklin is a few large rocks. I stood on one rock and shouted: I am queen of the Isle! Its quite windy. Just got a good forecast N 10-15 k to NW 15-20 k. Its kind of building now and it feels great. I was up here on Greenstone at Lookout Louise a few days ago but it isn't as high. I might paddle back to Belle Isle just to avoid mosquitoes. Lane Cove is notorious. From here I can see the 2 Canadian headlands which I saw before, and more headlands stretching west as far as the horizon!! I can see a peninsula jutting out (thin one) into Lake Superior from the right (seems to run SW-NE) and another one N of it and west-not meeting it but coming from the tallest and widest headland. I hear its only 14 miles across the lake to Canada.
It is vast scenery. It
comes out of a haze/fog/sunny part amidst lake covered with cloud, it looks
like a background for one of those Maxfield Parrish paintings Grecian columns-golds
and deep blues- 40's). It looks like a dream. This place is for paddlers, it
would be too hot for hiking and not the dramatic hiking scenery I'm used to.
The trails are thick w/plants and swamps. I love the diversion but am thrilled
to be paddling primarily as a way to see. What my father taught me about sailing
is why I loved kayaking immediately. He taught me about cats paws about heading
into the wind, and changing wind, about being ready when you leave the harbor,
about redundant systems. Being on the water is engrained.
I am back at Belle Isle. It took 1 hr 15 min to get back (1.5 hr to get to Franklin). It was buggy at Lane Cove so I paddled back into 10-15 k headwind. It felt good. Talked to the Cascade group briefly, then a couple of guys and their smoking girlfriends pulled up in a Grumman and another canoe that looked rusted-turns out its just painted brown. They promised us lake trout but its 10 PM and I haven't seen them since. Said they caught it off the back of their canoes! Sounds good but I'm getting very sleepy.
July 10, 2000,
Monday 8:15 am
I can't believe its Monday. Sun reached me. My neck feels better overall. I went down to the group shelter last night and sure enough the 2 guys (one works in a prison-they said the only UP jobs are cutting trees or corrections) made a lot of fish and it tasted great. Then they broke out smoked salmon and passed that around and gave me an extra package for breakfast!
The Cascade group just took off. Wind 10k NW switching to 20k NE by noon. They think they'll get around Blake. I doubt I will, I don't want to rush. This scenery is the best amongst the rugged fingers. I will wait for evening when the wind dies and then go to Scoville Point since they will be at Merritt Lane.
11 am- on an island off of Hill Point in 5 Fingers bay. By the time I left at 9:30, the wind had already shifted to NE and has been building all morning. It took me over an hour to get past Hill. I stopped here on a little island on the lee side with warm rocks and intricate spider webs, to pee and get water and eat the rest of the smoked fish. I felt so free this morning and laughed as I set off. Each morning I marvel at something new-yesterday it was escape from mosquitos, the day before, fog, today, the wind. I love it that there is no schedule. I am a well oiled kayaking machine, stuff gets stowed easily now. Kayaking has a whole different set of stuff from sailing-I am thinking of the wave patterns and how much better I am at identifying or at least wondering: is it a shoal or is it just big waves, are swells building across the lake or is it localized? Can I get out of this confusing wave pattern by heading off shore? Even from the lee of this little rock outcropping it looks calm out there but I know its at minimum 15-20 k already. Sunny. Taking lots of pictures stowing the camera in front of my life jacket. Rocks, tree roots branching out-white over the cliff edge-and spreading out like fingers around rocks or just hanging out over an abyss.
I thought about dad and
how he's repeating himself and I think I want to remember, what? Sledding, tobogganing,
waiting at Oak Park Hosp for hours while he saw patients (shit!). His go for
it spirit which makes me go for it. I know I have to be gentle with him in a
way perhaps he was sometimes but not most of the times. I also thought about
how anxious I am that my children will (drain water from shoes!) fail but what
does that mean? I have o let go of that and enjoy more and just through that
concentrate on 100% the moment with them. Soon I will go for Locke Point.
The other thing that occurred to me is that there are actually 6 fingers not 5: Amygdaloid, Belle Isle, Hill Pt Locke Pt, Blake Pt and Scoville Pt. I bet they don't count either Belle Isle or Hill since Hill is part of this big bay with Locke sticking out farther, but those are all points! This National Park is a mariner's park. After talking to the ranger I got a sense of how difficult a job it is to keep it wilderness. I appreciate its non-commercialness. It is wild out here. Birds and fish. Saw a blurry moose yesterday early through my tent crashing into the water.
Thought: Hill Pt. is a helluva hill. Yesterday I ran out of apples! I brought 2 bags in my kayak.
5 PM- ahh the satisfied feeling of having the chores done and being able to rest! I pulled in about 4, unloaded a minimum of stuff, washed myself, changed clothes, washed my wetsuit (smelly) and got water for filter and talked to a couple of kayakers going around the Island from Windigo (at breakneck speed I may add - one week!). I can't believe they took the time to pull over and talk! I am sitting on a very old bench facing out from Scoville Pt. The wind has died. This morning the Cascade leader and I discussed the weather and we agreed there seems to be wind of 10-15 k every morning, building through the day with the greatest wind in the early afternoon, then it dies by late afternoon/evening. Well its 5 and the wind is pretty much gone. I paddled slowly today, photographing a lot of cliffs and rocks and islands. The wind had diminished by the time I reached Blake Pt, to where I could round it easily, then since my film ran out, I just drifted while getting new film out of the blue deck bag. Cruised in to Merritt Lane with the swells, to where the Cascade group was gathered on the dock. They had charged over, stopping only to pee. I ate a granola bar and had a drink and talked a bit and left. The lake is rougher on this side of Blake- more of those big long swells.
I just saw a guy with a child in a small outboard go by, dock in my bay and take off and they came around as I was doing another unloading chore/garbage, extra dry bags, getting more drinking water. They live across the bay over the island on the other side.
Seagulls just landed on the Tobin side of my point! I think it has taken me a long time to relax to this pace. This afternoon I stopped paddling to watch 4 loons (or some bird) fly over me, with no other thought!
Anyway, I paddled back here in about 30 minutes. Rounding Locke Pt I could hear the Passage Island sound again. Its funny how you can't hear it till then. I could see the light house too. I passed Edwards Island and stopped and talked to the son of the tadpole researcher. Looked like a huge red wood house. (Stayed in my yak). The most interesting thing were the incredible basalt columns and fortresses along the island. He said it was called Edwards formation. The columns are black near lake level, then fungi orange then whiteish- maybe 25'-30' high. Very nice looking example of the cliffs making up the headlands below where I am currently sitting on a bench. I am eating sun dried tomatoes; they are quite dry and chewy and are giving me a monstrous thirst. The Voyager II or III just went by. It's a metal clipper from Grand Portage, Minnesota and brings the mail. It is so calm I might go paddling down Tobin Harbor and see if I can find the Schiebe's house. I didn't unload most of my gear so I can leave again tomorrow!
9:50 PM - I am getting tired. I went over to Bill and Willlie's place tonight - it's a tiny cottage on an island only slightly larger! He says the lake is down 4' and you can tell by looking at where the orange lichen starts. He told me there are only 7 private cabins left in Tobin Harbor and its the most concentrated place for them. Just a few in other places. Willie liked the kayak. He told me about a few big storms- May, June and after mid-August. It would be neat to see one but I'd have to pull up my kayak somehow. Tomorrow I'm going to head down to past Rock Harbor. I made a fire in the fireplace, put away the dry tent. After I had a roaring blaze I realized I left the radio in the kayak, fine place for it if the fire gets out of control! Haven't used the radio yet. Time for bed.
July 11, 2000
Time flies. I finally figured out why there's a roll of T.P. and matches in the bedroom next to the bed. Because it's a damn long way to the privy in the middle of the night! But I got up and peed outside anyway. It was still light out of course! And warm. Getting ready to leave again. Got more apples, cheese and crackers, am going to bring cookable food back here to make room in front hatch. Found poetry from 1997 Gary Lawless residency in manilla folder, he wants to do collaboration. Wonder if the offer still stands! I read one of them and it was so beautiful and evocative of my paddling experience, I don't want to read the rest until later. I'm afraid they will form my own thoughts. Found neat book on shipwrecks to bring along too.
9:20 PM same day- I have now been here a week. I spent quite a bit of time packing. Haven't used DuFresne (hiking book) much. Finally got off after 10-10:30 and went first down to the Voyager mail drop. Its on Minong Island also called Hotel Island. I am still not clear where Schiebe's are. The little mail building is the size of two privy's and has cubicles for each house in Tobin Harbor along with 2 empty beer bottles and a large steel place to put outgoing mail. It is a cute old old red wood building which I took a photo of during last night's paddle I left a letter in the steel bin. Since I saw the Voyager yesterday, it might be weeks till it arrives! I left the post office about 11. Paddled down to Rock Harbor and bought some books and maps at the visitor center. I love the different Isle Royale maps. Saw a couple familiar faces - rangers and the 3 mad portagers who were getting ready to take the Queen back to Copper Harbor. Also a Dad and 3 boys from somewhere west of Chicago, who were on last week's Ranger III and so they knew me (I gave a talk on the way over) but I didn't remember all of them. They had been back packing. Then the 6 Cascade paddlers came in. They had awoken really late. Anyway I kept hoping to find someone doing a load of laundry to add my favorite Duofold shirt to, but no one ever used the washer. A couple of mountain bikers with paniers came in from Copper on the Queen. The ranger told them - no bike riding- its wilderness! I ate lunch on the beach and paddled down the channel till I saw the Cascade group again at three mile campground. I was really hot and already had taken off my smelly long sleeve Duofold. I stopped at a dock full of teenagers, took my camera off (and my new coffee table book) and did a roll! It sure helped. I cooled off and could once again paddle with some strength and enthusiasm. It helped having new food too. (Crackers and cheese). I even left behind most of the granola bars, gorp, biscotti, brownies....
Anyway I caught up with the Cascade group , had one brief conversation and then headed off to the Rock Harbor lighthouse. It must be a few miles south of Rock Harbor. Nice classic white lighthouse with an old lens in the rear and a lot of information on shipwrecks near Isle Royale. One interesting thing was a reproduction of the light keeper's log book from the late 1800's. It was xeroxed on the same sort of pages- long and horizontal. Also a book of light keeper instructions for the Great Lakes lighthouses. Kind of detailed minutiae such as a few recipes for white wash. About 500 yards from the lighthouse is the Edison Fishery, a few old wooden buildings with ropes and nets and lots of fishing stuff. On the trail is an old 1870's wooden head stone, its about 1" thick and 5' tall, 2.5' wide or 2' wide - its really interesting. The whole island is in such a preserved state - such a throw back to times when no TVS, radios etc...
I thought the wolf researcher was nearby so I followed a trail southeast for awhile and never got there. The lady at the fishing place said he was at the next place over so I got back in my boat and paddled around the point and it was nearing 6, dinner time and yes they were about to eat. Candy invited me for dinner. I was thrilled. On the ceiling and walls - a large Lake Superior map (‘War Department') from an era when many train lines protruded south from the lake, and - yellowed with age, a real old IRNP park map. On another wall - humorous IRNP drawings by a son and moose skulls and antlers and memorabilia everywhere. I sat on a jump seat washed up from a shipwreck! The professor teaches in Houghton during the school year. Outside there is an array of thousands of moose bones tagged and inside, corresponding maps describing when and where they were found! Whole skulls with antlers out back. Other stuff in front - jaws, teeth, the heel bone, one piece of jaw, it's a lot of stuff. They can tell the season it died, the age, the sex... Pretty soon, along came more people for dessert. The maintenance guy and his wife whom I met previously at the slide show and she works at the visitor center and 2 women, one of whom did OSHA testing (respirator stuff) today. The women arrived on the Ranger today, and leave tomorrow. They brought dessert. I was stuffed. I had bought a thing of salsa in Rock Harbor and my chips from home. Tomorrow I want to hike to the tower and see the cemetery and maybe the HQ (Mott Island).
Coming back from the Peterson's - the sun was setting and there was great light. I took a shot of the lighthouse with the moon's reflection in the lake. Got some interesting lighthouse shots earlier too from inside of it looking out. Also the orange lichen on the cliffs and islands. I don't get the 17 mm lens out of my yak too often. The light was shimmering and reflecting from the water way up high on cliffs and trees on top of cliffs and sparkling and it was magical.
After all that I am back
at Caribou Campground where I literally hung my hat on one of the shelter door
handles, earlier this afternoon on my way to the lighthouse. It was still there
- what a wild way to reserve a shelter. Daisy Farm is across the water but it
has something approaching 20 shelters. I stayed up really late last night (11:30).
One thing that bugs me are cold wet feet. I think if I had my teva's it would help. Its something to remember for Pukaskwa.
July 12, 2000
Making coffee. Older motor boater came over. Talked to him for awhile shared biscotti till finished coffee and hot chocolate. I hear a bouy bell occasionally last night and now almost constantly. Patches of blue but forecast rain. Love the colloquialisms from Environment Canada.
I wanted to see the old "Steven King" cemetery on Cemetery Island located conveniently next to Caribou Island. The old boater told me he had seen kayaks pulled up to a big boulder across from our dock - or there was a dock on the other side. I tried the boulder and bushwhacked a bit - no cemetery. Got back in the boat and paddled around to the dock, tying up to a tree. Along came the Ranger 3 on its way back to Houghton. I waved and 10 minutes later its wake splashed everything and put enough water in the cockpit that I had to pump it out!! The cemetery was amazing. There was moss attached to every surface. There were 3 or 4 five foot picket fences enclosing about 8'-10' rectangles, fences covered with moss and surrounding either a wooden cross also covered with moss, or in 2 fences, were wooden headstones similar to the one near the lighthouse - about 1" thick wood, engraved, 5 or 6 feet tall by 2 feet wide, rounded on top. In one enclosure were 2 head markers. One for a 24 year old man dated 1854 or so and one next to it "infant daughter" dated 1856. I thought - look at this the equality of the infant daughter with the 24 year old man. In another enclosure, another young 25 year old man's marker. The wooden crosses carried no words. I thought about the loss of the infant daughter. Back then it must have been so common. Was it still so tragic or upsetting? I got back in the boat and paddled over to Daisy Farm under clouds. Lots of bugs at Caribou. Hiked up to Ojibway Tower. Cool place with great views! Took a couple of photos and got down - it was starting to rain and the structure is 100% metal! Am sitting on a big rock slab on my way down. I could see lots of Canada up there and wondered if Pukaskwa was there. I think I saw Thunder Bay! A lady and 11 year old child (complaining) came by. "Have you seen any blueberries? She asked. "I think it's a bit early for blueberries," I replied, feeling so smug since I didn't think they'd be ripe yet according to Rick's email, and she proceeded to pick a few ripe ones almost next to where I was sitting, off of low ground-cover type bushes. Totally unlike blueberry bushes I've seen at Olympic Peninsula or lower Michigan which are tall, as tall or taller than me. I thought, you know Bonnie, You don't know shit!
I returned to the beach, talked to 2 hiking families - each taking a couple of days' rest at Daisy Farm. Then I paddled across the channel (Middle Island Passage - where the deep boats come in) to Caribou Island, stopping to chat with the old guy from this morning, fishing in his boat. Really nice guy - they only catch one fish and eat it between them for dinner. Saw a couple in white Sea Lion kayaks camped in a tent and I was sitting at the picnic table with them when a couple of ratty looking guys, one with a pony tail to the waist, came up in a canoe. I ran to the only open shelter and left my life jacket in it. I offered to share it with them and it looked like rain so they said thanks. They turned out to be normal working people (pony tail = computers) and I took a long walk around the outer part of the island later after devouring single handedly a bag of chips and salsa from the store at Rock Harbor. The shoreline was achingly beautiful with a huge variety of rocks and cliffs and tree roots twisted around rocks sticking out to the sea (lake) tide pools, smooth places and rough places and just incredible rocks both on and off shore and the surf crashing not very high but a little, was just a beautiful sound and sight. I decided to paddle the outer shore tomorrow. There was a little stream hot stream but rocky place that in higher water would be a bit of a channel, and I was totally disoriented because when I turned a corner and expected to be in the inner harbor channel - I was facing the south - the lake, still. Weird.
July 13, 2000
Slept pretty well - had coffee and said bye to the brothers (k-5 principal and computer person) in the canoe and it was a big blue sunny day with West wind pretty stiff (10-15 k). There were 2 more big cabin cruisers at the dock in addition to the nice old guy. One of the new cruisers had a huge chip on his shoulder. An innocent comment like me responding to how do I like it here - its great - brings from him "its great if they let people visit the place." He came for the IR Boaters Association meeting on Saturday night. The other boaters (outboard) were still there. They are the catch and release types but are always out fishing. From somewhere rural and their speech sounds very colloquial. Anyway they kept asking me if I wanted a fish in response to my question, "did you catch anything." and I kept saying no I can't/ don't know how to cook them bla bla bla. Well their mission is to get me a fish! They are going to bring it to the cabin and fix it! OF course I'm not at the cabin, minor point.
I paddled the outer shore,
which was absolutely stunning, to Mott Island. Got out, met Azure, a nanny,
her child charge, and at HQ, met the people there. Wanted to see their art collection.
Mehan photographs on wall. Neatest stuff were a few huge maps, topos from space.
The two rangers I met popped in after their trip, and then another couple of
rangers mentioned a storm and I looked out and there were building clouds. So
I got going and paddled in some swells until I got to the end of Mott, then
came into the channel and after a brief pee stop, paddled to the Island West
of Raspberry, when thunder started. The storm is moving quite slowly big black
clouds over the channel which I need to cross to get to Scoville. A big boat
left Rock Harbor at 3 (the Queen or the Voyager2). Now its still dark. If I
could just sneak over - its maybe .5-.75 mile. But I still hear thunder. I had
lunch. There are electric lights at Mott Island. Seems like another world. A
world that can wait! I want to get back to the cabin ideally tonight but what
the hell does it really matter? I have been there 2 nights. Rolf Peterson said,
"Oh, you're the artist not in residence." I would like to take another
trip down by the south shore out west of Middle Island Passage, past Rock Harbor
Lighthouse and down from that out west. Don't know if I'll have time in my yak.
I want to see what an airplane ride would cost too. Although seeing it from
the tower was great, a plane ride would show Thunder bay clearer too. Its so
cool up there. The land forms are humongous. Now the storm is right in front
of me. I think I might go east since it seems to be n-south. Wonder if I could
kind of get on the other side of it. Some motor boats are out. Can see visitor
center from here. Its almost 4 - the wind picked up and temperature dropped.
I have my jacket on and am sitting in a clump of bushes on a squishy piece of
land by trees - dense shore trees. Can't see end of storm but see both sides
I dashed over to Rock Harbor when it seemed like the thunder stopped. Waited. Left when it stopped again but the waves were getting to swells by the time I got to Scoville point and thunder started again and I was glad to be done fighting the waves actually mainly bracing on a broad reach to the waves.
10:15 PM - One of the fish guys just came by. They passed me and brought a fish by earlier before I got back. He wants to take me fishing tomorrow! I am going to paddle over to Merritt Lane and meet them and go fishing! Then we are going to come back here and cook it! Its raining again.
July 14, 2000 Friday 4 PM
Weird day. Fishermen stopped by late last night they had dropped in earlier with fish but I wasn't t here, offered to take me this morning so I paddled over there about 9 am and they were returning from trolling. One had broken his pole. We went out and after an hour or more, I caught a fish! It was pretty exciting but other than that, fishing is boring as hell. And the motor was on the whole time and you're sitting on a backless seat. I guess I didn't think gee this might get boring when I said - yes - I just thought: fishing, I've never done that! Well I've had enough unless it would be just by accident off my kayak. Well they came over afterwards and we cooked two fish and it was good but time consuming and maybe just fatty. Why am I so tired? I paddled over to the Post office and mailed Shannon's and Barb's letters. Stopped at Schiebe's and left them a note. This morning when I paddled away from the cabin and down Merritt Lane, I thought how can I return to the city where I can't get in my kayak and paddle away every morning, how can I live somewhere where there is not the ridge of pine tree tops everywhere? I am probably losing it! Because after fishing this morning I want to go home. Those guys must have cured me of the last drop of whatever was who knows what. I'm tired of being with strangers. Now I have a sink full of dishes and how the hell am I supposed to clean them without leaving a trace? Why didn't I use paper plates? I am dehydrated.
July 15, 2000
Well, I did the damn dishes. It took 2 or 3 trips down to the water and haul back a bucket after using almost 1-2 gallons of filtered water and getting practically nowhere. I used a couple of tubs that were probably meant for just that purpose and threw the water in the bushes. I don't even think I used much soap. Oh well! I won't use dishes again here! Just my cups. When I finished hauling more water and changing clothes and drinking water (I was so hot, this house gets hot!) Mary Schiebe and her sister in law Marilyn motored over! I guess I was past my feeling of being desperate for company by that time and past feeling sorry for myself cleaning dishes but still it was nice to get invited to dinner. I got my stuff for the evening to paddle to the Wolf lecture at Rock Harbor 8:30 PM, and paddled over to the Schiebe's. Marilyn's husband, a boat association guy, is sueing the park service over new or proposed regulations and Bill Schiebe works for he NPS part time - they are all happy go lucky and laughing about these differences. Pleasant time, good food. I am too indifferent to cook anything but coffee and hot chocolate. I am sitting on the bench with a stiff north wind (8 km Passage Is - it feels like N to NE - its supposed to shift to SE and SW!) And its sunny. I feel so content. Working on my talk. Rolf gave a humorous slide lecture. Makes me think I should redo mine drastically, drop crap add humor. Some of the wild flowers are showing signs of heat distress. I am trying to decide whether to paddle on the outside and risk SW swells later or go on the Tobin Harbor side - which I did last night, pretty boring stuff but protected from all but NE. Last night with full moon I got a stiff NE back got back here after 11 PM!! Used headlamp landing only. It was still light over the Northwest ridge!