Backpacking Isle Royale National Park 🏕

We finally made it!

This is the first adventure that I let myself go on in 11 months! That means I have been overly cranky because I’m normally used to being on some kind of road trip/camping/backpacking adventure about once a month. I was getting to be a not nice person and quite honestly I was starting to feel numb. In my previous blog post I wrote about how much my chi was blocked and about how my creativity had come to a standstill. So let me tell you dudes that I needed this trip! I needed this trip like I need air… so not even kidding!

Not even a bum foot could keep me from going! I suffered a foot injury in June and thought it would heal on its own and decided not to do anything about it. As Isle Royale was quickly approaching in September I chose to ignore it even more because I did not want to not go on this trip. So I went and I took vitamin I, a.k.a. ibuprofen, every single day… LOL! Nothing was going to stop me from road tripping, boating and backpacking!

The day finally came when I headed down to Columbus, Ohio to meet my cousins and spread out our gear and decide what we were and were not going to take. We left early the next morning and got about 45 minutes north of Columbus when we stopped for gas and my cousin realized that one of his brakes smelled really bad and might’ve been…smoking? So we called his wife and she met us halfway between where we were and their house to exchange cars. After we reloaded our gear into her Subaru we got back on the road and headed north!

Oh my stars… this crew 🤪!!!

I tend to take “adventure hiccups” in stride. After all I’m finally on the open road, we got about 15 hours to drive and really what is 45 minutes in the grand scheme of things? It’s nothing. Sometimes things happen and you just have to roll with the punches. Let it go let it flow and keep moving on. The “hiccup” didn’t set the tone for the trip, it’s just something that happened, it’s fixed, it’s over and we’re moving on.

So we’re driving up north leaving Ohio and going into Michigan and it’s beginning to feel real! I’ve been to the lower part of Michigan before and it’s beautiful, it really is. I mean their football team might be horrible…Go Bucks, but hey no state is perfect. Except Montana. 😋. As we headed out of the lower part of Michigan into the Upper Peninsula that’s when the excitement really started to kick in! We crossed over the Mackinac Bridge and were officially in the UP! Whoop whoop! Dudes, the UP is vast, quiet and has its own kind a beauty separate from lower Michigan. It’s different in the UP. You just feel farther away and more relaxed and that’s amazing. Property in the UP isn’t that expensive and I’ve thought about throwing down a couple thousand for a few acres. I don’t know we’ll see. 🤔

We spent the night at Taquahmenon State Park.

My cousins Bobby and Anne (father/daughter)

We had a decent campsite right across from the river and I went for a swim. The water was chilly for sure but it wasn’t that bad. We sat by the fire and I went to bed early because I am not a night person plus I did not have any beer or other spirits with me to entice me to stay up and sit around the fire. My cousins drove across the way to look at all the stars but I was happy to be in bed after a long days drive.

The next day we packed up and headed further up north and found a hotel room to stay in. Let me tell you about this hotel room… It was straight out of the 70’s. I opened the door and this whiff of what must’ve been some kind of powdered cleaner came wafting out of the room. Quite frankly I was a little put off and really wanted to spend the night in the car but I figured what the hell, hopefully I won’t get bedbugs. I have to be honest though, it was quite comfortable and I’m happy to report I don’t have bedbugs!

We left the hotel super early the next morning and made our way up to Copper Harbor which is almost the very tip of the Upper Peninsula. It’s a little town but it’s quite picturesque with it restaurants and boats bobbing around. We dropped off our gear and the crew loaded it onto the ferry and we boarded the boat for the 55 mile journey across Lake Superior.

I’m not gonna lie I was kind of nervous about such a long boat ride because it takes three hours. I even read the complete story of the Edmund Fitzgerald and everything that happened and why it sank near Whitefish Point on Lake Superior. I was that in my head about it. Lake Superior actually has its own weather system. It is the deepest, biggest and coldest freshwater lake on the planet. But I couldn’t of lucked out more than I did because the ride over was like butter. It was blue skies, calm water and aaaamazing!

There’s only one other time that I was actually on a boat in open water and that was with an old boyfriend on a whale watching tour on the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of Monterey, California. Although that was a smaller boat, it was even more worrisome because the horizon just kept ticking back-and-forth violently. I don’t get motion sickness but like any human I do have a fear of being eaten alive by sharks. Just a side-note: sharks don’t actually want to eat humans and rarely do even bite humans. Sharks I love you and you’re an amazing species! I’d actually like to swim in open water with you one day…on purpose!

After the three hour boat ride we landed at Rock Harbor on Isle Royale. Finally we made it! I was so stoked dudes! We listened to the ranger give a talk to the backpackers about the do’s and don’ts of the island. After that we bought any last minute snacks that we wanted, got our permits to actually be on the trail and we set off. Oh wait…before we started on the trail we weighed our packs because they have a weighing station which I thought was pretty cool. My pack with 32 pounds. It weighed more than what I wanted it to but hey, it’s OK. My cousin Bobby weighed his pack and it weighed 58 pounds. His daughter and I tried to talk him out of some of the weight but him being an ex marine and wanting to be prepared for everything, well it weighed him down and greatly affected his journey.

From Rock Harbor we headed east along the coast and it was quite a rocky start to our trip. I mean it was literally rocky! The scenery was gorgeous as we climbed the rocks and peered across the sparse pinetrees out into the vast open blue of Lake Superior. I stopped to take a picture of the scenery and for the first time in 11 months I felt euphoric, alive and very happy! I felt like I was back home as in back home in the happy place in my soul. ☺️

A view from the first leg of our journey!

We headed east to Three Mile campground and then just past it we hung a right and headed up toward the ridge to Mount Franklin. The highest elevation on the island it’s only about 1300 feet so it’s not that much of a climb. My awesome friend Matty Poptart lent me his ultra lightweight Zpack backpack and it was a godsend! I’m actually going to invest the $325 and get one. It was on this trip that I realized how much stuff I used to carry that I never actually needed.

We ran into a ranger and he checked our permit and then we headed back up toward the ridge. As we crested the ridge to Mt. Franklin I turned around. The birds-eye view of the lower lying island and the blue waters of Lake Superior appeared out of nowhere. There was a nice breeze up top and I took off my pack and plopped down for a little bit. With the sun on my face and a breeze blowing across my sweaty body I knew the climb was worth it.

We hiked down off the ridge to the north side of the island. We encountered dense brush but luckily there were narrow boardwalks to get us across these wide and sometimes incredibley dense marshes. You are able to back country camp but you have to bushwhack your way through the terrain and let me tell you you would need a Crocodile Dundee kind machete to do it! We came to rest upon a downed tree to drink some water and have a snack. It was also at this juncture that we came across a beaver dam right in the middle of our trail so we had to divert to the left and go around it to get back on the trail. I think beavers are one of the coolest animals on the planet! At that point I had to trade my tennis shoes in for my hiking boots.

Beavers just doing their thing. Hike around it human!

I cannot stand hiking in hiking boots. I have never found a truly comfortable pair but I’ve always worn them because I felt I had to. It wasn’t until a trip that I was on a few years ago where this one woman was hiking in her tennis shoes. I said, “You’re hiking in tennis shoes?” She said, “Yes! I have way more flexibility and agility in tennis shoes than I ever had with a pair of hiking boots.” From then on I’ve always worn tennis shoes and carried my hiking boots on the back of my backpack in case I needed them. And I needed them to get around the beaver dam so I’m glad that I had them!

After descending the north-east side of the island we came up on Lane Cove. I hiked ahead so I could find a spot for my one cousin and I to set up our tent as we were tent sharing. I found a beautiful spot on the edge of the water and hurriedly set up the tent so no one else could claim the spot. My other cousin, her dad, set up his tent right next to ours.

I may hate tent camping but the views when you wake up are pretty cool

We ended up spending two days at Lane Cove because it took a while for my cousin Bobby to recover from the first day of carrying his 58 pound pack. Taking two days to spend there wasn’t such a bad idea as it was really peaceful and beautiful. After all we just spent 2 1/4 days in the car so it was nice to rest easy for a couple nights and relax.

Of course coffee ☕️ at Lane Cove

Also let me tell you about tent camping. I hate it! The only way I like to tent camp is if I’m with a boyfriend. Somehow snuggling next to someone makes the hard ground a little softer… LOL! It doesn’t matter what type of air pad I use or how I angle the tent whether it’s uphill, downhill or sidehill, I hate it. My back hurts, my neck hurts and I am miserable for the first few nights until my body can adjust to the hard ground. Everything that we read before this trip said that hammock camping was not recommended. Yet at the next campsite over there was a young lady hammock camping! Uggghhhhh!!!!!! I love to hammock camp. You can set it up over water, sway in the night air and your back is fully supported just like you’re in a nice little cocoon!

My cousin Anna taking in the view at Lane Cove

Lane Cove is where I first swam in Lake Superior. Now I knew it was going to be cold but I didn’t realize how cold. I only managed to stay in for about 20 seconds because I thought my limbs were going to fall off like how icicles break off the side of a house! Lol…But it woke me up and it was incredibly refreshing!

After just chilling out and enjoying the scenery of Lane Cove we packed up our packs and headed back up toward the ridge and further east along the Green Stone Ridge trail to the fire tower. The views from the fire tower could never be done justice with pictures from my iPhone. I could’ve stayed up there all day and spent the night up there because it was that pretty. I pretty much had about a 320° view of the island. It was breathtaking, peaceful and just blissful. After I took several pictures and videos from atop the fire tower we descended down the Ojibway trail to Daisy Farm campground.

Atop the fire tower was so much better in person!!!

It was at Daisy Farm that we got to stay in a lean-to for the first time. The great thing about these lean-to’s is that they are screened in because black-fly season up there is just horrific. Luckily we missed black-fly season!

The first thing I did after dropping my bag at Daisy Farm was immediately change into my swimsuit and sprint towards Lake Superior. The hiking that day was sunny, hot and exposed and I was stinky and sweaty.

I of course had my cousin Anna video every time I went swimming in a body of water to prove that I did it. So after we got to the shore I decided that I was going to attempt to run into Lake Superior and immediately immerse myself underwater. That my friends, did not happen! The water at Lane Cove is calm and protected which made it just a tad warmer than the exposed waters along the outlying coastline of the island. As soon as I got up to my calves in this part of Lake superior I immediately ran out and back on shore. My legs were bluish red because it was that cold! It felt like 100 ice picks piercing my legs at the same time! It was insane dudes! But on the second attempt I did it! I walked out there through the ice piercing pain and dunked my entire body because if I didn’t my skin was going to crawl off me because I was that gross from hiking that day! Plus I didn’t want my two cousins to leave me in the lean-to by myself to ferment 🤪.

That night we made some dinner then I headed off to bed. The next morning my two cousins went off on a father/daughter hike to Moskey Basin. I chose not to go with them just because 1. I wanted them to have some father/daughter time on this trip and 2. I just really truly needed a day to myself. I love my family and I love backpacking with friends but sometimes you just want to take in the beauty of a place by yourself….and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I took two naps that day. I also laid on the little shore and sat out on the dock and chitchatted with all the backpackers going to and from the campground. It was a really cool day! At about 4 o’clock that afternoon my cousins came back into camp. Just after they came back to camp a guy came through with a giant and I mean a gargantuan lake trout that he just caught. Normally I don’t like fishing. Once in while I eat fish but I can’t be there when it’s caught because I am just going to throw it back into the water so it can live a happy little swimming life! However this guy said that he was canoeing the island by himself and there’s no way he could eat that whole lake trout. He went back to his camp, filleted it up and divided it up among several backpackers. My cousin put it in a small pan with some salt and pepper and him and I had the most amazing freshwater fish I’ve ever had in my life!!! I think we both kind of hoped the guy would have caught another one the next day but it didn’t happen… Total bummer.

After spending two days at Daisy farm we packed up and hiked four miles to Three Mile campground. We thought about hiking back to Rock Harbor but we didn’t think that we would get a campsite. Good thing that we didn’t because all the campsites were taken. How do I know this? I know this because once we got to Three Mile campground it was about one in the afternoon and I looked at my cousins and I said, “What the heck are we gonna do for the rest the day? It’s only a 3 mile hike to Rock Harbor and at Rock Harbor there are chips, cookies, Diet Coke’s and beer!” We all agreed this was a fabulous idea and so we headed off on a 6 mile round trip hike just so we could get snacks. It was along that hike that we came across Tobin Bay.

We got to watch the sea planes take off and that was pretty cool. It was quiet on that side of the trail and provided a very peaceful hike.

After we went to the visitor center and stocked up on beer, pop, cookies and Doritos we plopped down by the marina just to take in the boats, sun and water. It was there that we saw more wildlife in 15 minutes than we had on our entire trip. We saw a loon up close which was super cool because we’d only seen them from a distance and then we saw a beaver that just swam right up to the dock and underneath it like it was no big deal.

The island is 45×9 miles. There are approximately 1600 moose that inhabit Isle Royale National Park. During our 6 day 5 night stay we did not see one single freakin’ moose! My one cousin claims that he saw the hind end of one but neither his daughter nor I witnessed it so I’m not so sure. 😏. I was disappointed not to see a moose because I had spent 2 1/2 weeks traveling through New England last October and did not see one moose! Although I saw endless “Moose X-ing” signs. What the heck dudes?

After one night at Three Mile campground we packed our bags again and we headed back to Rock Harbor we we originally started out. We weighed our packs at the end of the trip and mine weighed under 32 pounds which made me kind of happy but you’d expect that when you’ve eaten all your food and drank all your water! Hahaha….

We hung out at Rock Harbor and listened to a park ranger give a presentation about the animals on the island. Did you know that Isle Royale has its own species of squirrel. These things are thieves. They don’t care if you’re sitting there eating your dinner as they will brazenly walk right up to you and grab it off your fork!

Finally the time came to when we had to board the boat to head back to the mainland. The first hour and a half of this crossing did not sit well with me. The lake was kind of choppy with 2 to 4 foot waves but to me they felt like 30 to 40 foot waves. Again I don’t get motion sickness but I knew then how cold Lake Superior is and I thought for sure we were going to go down and that my heart would freeze after about 60 seconds of being in the water and I would be a popsicle! I went into the main cabin of the boat and I sat down next to this one gentleman who was sitting alone but with four empty seats around him. I asked if I could join him he said yes as he only had two other friends with him. I put my head on my arms on the table and tried not to think about the boat ride. This sweet guy started making small talk and soon his two friends joined him. His two friends turned out to be his sister and his brother-in-law and they couldn’t have been nicer folks. They were all retired and on this trip together. Julie the lady of the group asked me if I knew how to play euchre. I told her I did not but I was willing to learn and she said great because they needed four people to play. So for the next two hours I played euchre with this fine group of folks and it completely took my mind off the boat ride!

I highly recommend everyone visit Isle Royale National Park. It is the least visited but the most revisited of all the national parks.

You won’t have cell service but you will have your sanity restored!

~Lori

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3 thoughts on “Backpacking Isle Royale National Park 🏕

  1. Lori that is such a beautiful story very well written but before you send it out for publication correct all your grammar and miss spellings. But I could imagine your every turn your every move it as you were writing I mean it makes me want to go there. I know I won’t but it makes me want to. I love you

    From Gina

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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