No place like it.
Trip Start Jul 01, 2011
14Trip End Jul 27, 2011
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Suffice it to say that our ambitious backcountry hiking itinerary was quickly stifled by tropical heat on the Island. We arrived into Washington Harbor to Windigo Headquarters (the westernmost and lesser port of entry into the park). We checked our ideas against the rangers who suggested that increasing our maximum hiking distance by 40% with heavier loads through bug infested, ZERO wind (this was probably the most damning of all factors), 85 degree, 100% humidity weather on the island was not recommened. We were inclined to agree (afterall, this is supposed to be recreation, right?). Afterwards, our intuition proved wise as several hiker on the island this week experienced cramping and heat stroke, one even went into shock. We learned that none of these hikers had any lack of access to water - they simply couldn't absorb the water they were drinking fast enough to replace it
Instead of hiking 26 miles in three days through a few of Isle Royale's many swamps, we hiked to Hugginnin Cove our first night, 5 miles in from Windigo, and only had to endure two or three swamps (they did have 2x12 boardwalks for us to stay above the muck . . . where the mosquitos were:). Hugginnin Cove is a beautiful place with 5 quaint and scenic campsites. We saw beautiful flowers and heard songbirds we'll never forget. We dined on basalt rocks resting on the shore of Superior (the mosquitos are fewer on the water, though deer flies pick up that shift a bit), splashed water on ourselves to keep cool, and enjoyed wonderful sunsets.
We returned to Washington Creek campground (adjacent Windigo) to discover shelters! (see pictures) We then discovered a very quiet (somewhat sparse even) culture at Windigo. Our first day in Washington Creek treated us to a cow moose wading and feeding not 200 feet from our shelter (down a pretty steep cliff bank to the creek, much to Laura's comfort). Dan was geeked and the both of us were sold on Windigo. Our plans had us hiking 8 miles to Feldtman Lake but the forecast was more heat and Feltdman Lake has leaches (still wanna swim?)
Among the many things we did were:
- 1. jumping off the dock at Windigo with (we found out later) one of Windigo's park Rangers (among others). This hardly ever happens, but since Washington Harbor (4 miles from mouth of Superior to Windigo) is sheltered from big water, it can warm to a balmy 65 degrees near the dock:)
2. Canoeing (or trying to) in Washington Harbor with a stiff and constant 10-20 mph west wind = white caps everywhere and very little wind protection along the shore = not much open water paddling and only 1 of 4 hours of the rental actually used:)
3. Being invited to Ranger Sean's lodging for beers and conversation one night and a small park staff BBQ the next night. How we became worthy of this hospitality, we may never know. Sean is a very gregarious individual and seemed comfortable showing us behind the curtain of the National Parks Service (we may get recruitment letters soon, who knows:). Regardless, we were very touched and humbled by the gesture, greatly enjoyed the company of the Windigo crew (it's a very small and tight-knit posse there), and feel that these small gestures made this trip most special to both of us.
4. Losing a significant volume of blood daily to the local vampires: mosquitos, black flies and deer flies. We'd love to minimize this aspect of our experience, but we're walking living proof of the damage of those buggers (they were less intense around Windigo than on the trail to be sure)
5. Building friendships with the local butterfly, the White Admiral. These beauties would float(remember the calm winds) around our camp, sampling anything of ours that was salty, frolic around us when in camp, and often escorting us down the trail when walking.
6. Enduring and marvelling at at least two awesome thunderstorms (the most intense of which occured while were were in our three sided, screened-in shelters, thankfully).
We could cite millions of other things, but we'll let those play out in our conversations when we return!
Dan and Laura (DnL)