Isle Royale National Park

July 15-17 — In the northwest corner of Lake Superior, right up alongside the Canadian border, sits Isle Royale National Park.  This roadless, remote archipelago is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The main island is 40 miles long and 9 miles wide with an N.P. Visitor Center on each end.

Isle Royale features scenic shorelines along Lake Superior and the big island’s inland harbors and coves; it boasts unspoiled forests and wilderness; it offers refreshing interior lakes; it allows for 165 miles of foot trails; and it is home to wild creatures like moose and wolf who have an interesting co-dependence on each other for survival.  It is not a destination for those who crave being tethered to cellular/internet service; it is a destination for those who truly want to unplug from the world and connect with nature.

Hover your cursor over the photo and click on the arrows to scroll through our pictures from Isle Royale National Park:

The ridge line - now we will hike 2.3 miles on the ridge before heading back down

Departing out of Copper Harbor in the U.P. on Tuesday morning, July 15th, we made the 55-mile Lake Superior crossing in about 3-1/2 hours and arrived at the northeast end of the main island, Rock Harbor.  We had arranged for two nights in the Rock Harbor Lodge which sits on the rocky shore of Lake Superior and provides each room with a deck overlooking – and sometimes hanging over (like ours) – the water.  Incidentally, these are the only overnight accommodations in the park; everything else is back-country camping.

We quickly checked in, ate lunch, got our duffle & backpacks in our room, figured out our itinerary for our time on the island, and booked transportation on a smaller boat to take us seven miles down the island to our drop-off point of Daisy Farm.  From here we began our afternoon hike — 1.7 miles up to the center of the island, 2+ more miles across the ridge line down the spine of the island, 2 miles back down to the shoreline, and then 3 miles back to the Lodge.  We were in awe much of the time as we looked out over the water northward into Canada and southward onto the vastness of Lake Superior.  We hiked on a lot of bedrock, for Isle Royale itself was formed some 1.2 billion years ago as earth itself was forming, and most recently (only a few thousand years ago) was smoothed over by the crushing power of the last glacial period.  Over tens of thousands of years, plants arrived, soil was created, and more, larger vegetation could take hold here.  Hiking on Isle Royale today features trails over this bedrock, through shrubs and trees, and next to lovely wildflowers, with water beyond the island in every direction.  Happily, we made it back right before the restaurant stopped serving dinner (at 7:30 p.m.!)  Advice for the next hike — don’t set out on a 9-miler at 3 o’clock in the afternoon!  Anyway, we made it back barely in time for dinner, showered back in the room, and fell asleep to the sound of the loon outside our room on the water.

Isle Royale N.P.

We had another full day on Wednesday, opting to canoe all around Tobin Harbor in the morning, and hiking an easier, yet equally beautiful, 4-mile trail out to the northeast point of the island in the afternoon.  From our canoe, we thoroughly enjoyed the serenity and stillness of the water, often times ceasing to paddle and just listening to the sounds of the wilderness.  We were also thrilled to see a loon swimming underwater – so graceful he was as he’d dive down, then pop up some 20 seconds or so later quite far away from where he dipped down.  Our afternoon hike out to Scoville Point was more of the same – the quiet beauty of nature and trees and wildflowers and rocks and water……..

One of the highlights of our trip was meeting and sharing stories with two fellow hikers and a fishing enthusiast.  It was right around happy hour time, and fortunately the island does feature a nice little bar that, not surprisingly, is decorated with the latest in all-things-pine.  After our thoroughly enjoyable day, we decided to enjoy ourselves further with more Keweenaw Brewing Company beer and a glass or two of wine.  Adam & Shannon had just gotten married four days before and were spending part of their honeymoon up in Isle Royale hiking.  Ed, long ago retired from running one of our country’s largest companies, was still enjoying his life with all the exuberance of someone 25 years younger than his actual age.  So a pair of newlyweds were there because they just finished hiking 19 miles (which Adam billed to Shannon as only a 12-miler), and Ed who had just broken the record for the largest haul of lake trout (26, plus two salmon) ever taken in by this charter fishing boat in one day.  All of us then, from various walks of life, convened on the deck of this little bar and proceed to share beer & wine, food, laughter, and stories from the day’s activities as well as stories from the past.  I was keenly aware that this would happen, and I’ve already experienced it in these short seven weeks that we’ve been living Out There… it’s going to be the people that we meet on this journey – not just the places we go and the scenery we see – that will be the highlights of our trip as we look back on it in the coming years….

Our time on Isle Royale came to an end on Thursday, July 17th, when we boarded the Isle Royale Queen IV and headed back across Lake Superior to Copper Harbor.  While we’re not sure our travels will ever bring us back to this park again, it is truly one of the most beautiful, most remote places either of us have ever been.  Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed and will always cherish our time here.

Hover your cursor over the photo and click on the arrows to scroll through our pictures from Isle Royale National Park:

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