Day 9: Siskiwit Bay to Washington Creek

Trip Start Aug 24, 2012
Trip End Sep 07, 2012

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Where I stayed
Washington Creek

Flag of United States  , Michigan
Monday, September 3, 2012

We’re out of camp by 7:15. As we hike past the dock, we run into Jim and say goodbye. He’s heading back to South Lake Desor, so this will be the last time we see him. Jane is on the trail ahead of us, sans pack, munching on a granola bar. She turns down the path toward the group sites. She’s staying an extra day here. Julie and I head north.

The first couple of miles skirt Siskiwit Bay. We cross real bridges, not just the single-plank boardwalks so common on the island. The scenery is so picturesque, I stop often to take pictures of it. Meanwhile, Julie is forging ahead. She’s gotten over any worries about her ankle and is back to leaving me in the dust. If there were any dust, that is. The day is overcast and both Julie and I have put our pack covers on in case it rains later.

Our halfway point today is Island Mine. It’s several miles uphill from Siskiwit Bay. We hike over the stream that supplies water to the campground and it is extremely low. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to fill my water bag from such a pathetic water source. This is a place where a pump filter would work better than my Platypus. Luckily, it doesn’t matter because we are just passing through.

Last night, Jane had told about staying at Island Mine a few years back. She’d been pumping water at the creek and felt like someone was watching her. When she looked up, she saw someone was. A wolf on a nearby hill. She froze and the two of them just stared at each other. Then another hiker came by and the wolf trotted off. 

I didn’t expect to see a wolf on the island and am jealous to hear that Jane had seen one. Wolves are a lot rarer than moose on the island. There are something like six wolves left and about 700 moose. Even so, we’ve seen a lot more evidence of wolves than of moose on the Feldtmann trail: two sets of prints and one pile of scat. We haven’t seen any evidence of moose at all.

Julie and I plop our stuff down in group site one for lunch. Lots of people say they don’t like Island MIne because it’s not near a big water source, like a lake or bay. I like it. It’s quiet here, just the sound of the wind and the occasional plop of a caterpillar falling out of a tree. They aren’t as prominent here as I thought they would be, but they are definitely in evidence. We eat tortillas with peanut butter and relax in the cool shade of the maples and oaks.

Time passes. “Are you ready?” Julie asks. 

“No.” I could rest here all day. I eat a few energy-fortified jelly beans.

“Will you ever be ready?” Julie presses me.

I look at her and frown. “No.” I eat a few more beans. Grape, my favorite.

Julie shakes her head and stands up. I guess my stalling tactics aren’t going to work. We put the packs back on and keep hiking. Our next landmark is the Greenstone Ridge, so we’ve got another couple of uphill miles ahead of us. When we reach it, I’m surprised. Just a few days ago, I took a break in this very spot. It looks completely different today. Before, though there were quite a few caterpillars, there were also quite a few leaves. Now it is utterly denuded. Barren. Desolate. Depressing. There’s no sign of the red squirrel that scolded me before. I hope it will be OK. 

The clouds have cleared and the sun is doing its thing--making me too damned hot. “It’s like being in some kind of science fiction movie,” Julie says, looking at the caterpillar-wrought devastation around her. Something post-apocalyptic maybe, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (which is the bleakest post-apocalyptic novel I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot of them). We see no one. That means no humans, wolves, moose, or even squirrels. It’s eerily quiet except for the plopping of caterpillars. 

“Burrito!” I suddenly call out. 

Julie stops and looks back. “What?”


“From where?”

“El Burrito Mercado,” I say. “Or someplace in San Francisco.” 

“Chipotle would be good for me,” she says, resuming her walk. “I could stand a tonic water, though. I wonder if they have any at the store.”

Yes, the store is on our minds. We’ll get food that’s realer than the rehydrated stuff we’ve been subsisting on, but not as real as what we can get at home. Maybe they’ll have Coke. Before Julie’s ferry arrived, another boat was offloading supplies. I’m praying it was food for the store.

“Hard boiled egg!” I call out awhile later.

“Egg salad sandwich!” Julie replies.


My feet are really in pain, but not from blisters. Probably just from carrying so much weight for so long. I call a rest break. There are two kinds of rest breaks. Pack-on and pack-off. In the former, you just stand still for a few minutes, bent over, leaning on your poles. It hardly counts as a rest. In the latter, you are freed from the burden of your pack and can actually sit down. We find a nice log that only has one or two caterpillars on it. We snack. A red squirrel comes by to check us out. Then we hear voices. A couple of guys approach from the West, talking loudly in New York accents, as if they needed to be heard over the background of traffic or the clanging of pots and pans. They’re on their way to South Lake Desor, so I tell them about the beach there. They hike on, picking up their conversation where they left off, just as loudly as before.
We rest for a good 20 minutes. “Are you ready?” I ask Julie.


“Will you ever be ready?”


We hoist on our packs and continue our hike.
Shortly after, we run into a group of ten hikers. Some of them seem practically elderly. They’d better not be hiking faster than I am! They’re on their way to Island Mine. I hope they can get enough water.
We reach Washington Creek at 2:30. I suggest we camp in the group site and Julie agrees. There are four sites and none are in use. The tent is still wet from last night’s storm, so Julie hangs it up over nearby trees and rocks to dry in the afternoon sun. I grab the clean water bag and our trash, and Julie gets her clean clothes. We hike to the store. The first thing I do is head to the cooler to see if they have Coke. They don’t, but to my surprise, they do have the tonic water that Julie was craving. I get apple juice again, and a couple of hard boiled eggs, and a cheese sandwich piled high with orange cheese. I’m hoping it’s cheddar.  It’s not. I’m not sure what it is. 

I offer Julie part of my sandwich. “No thanks, I don’t really like cheese sandwiches,” she says.

“Just pretend it’s a turkey sandwich. It tastes just like the one I had last time I was here.” She shrugs and takes a bite. 

“You’re right, it doesn’t taste like anything.”  (She’d heard my story of the tasteless turkey already). She hands the sandwich back and sips her tonic water. 

“I don’t suppose you want to split a one pound block of Wisconsin sharp cheddar?” 

She shakes her head. Oh well. I take another bite of my sandwich and wash it down with apple juice. 

At the ranger station, we purchase Nevada Barr novels. Julie gets A Superior Death, which takes place here at Isle Royale, and I get Blind Descent, which takes place at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. On the way back to the campground, Julie stops. “What’s that?” she asks, pointing out over the bay. There, in the middle of the reeds across the water, is a dark blob.

“Is that a moose?” We happen to be near one of the docks and walk down to get closer. I use the camera’s zoom function. “Yep, it’s a moose.” Finally, I get to see a moose! Of course, I’d envisioned a closer encounter than this. Heck, I can’t even tell what it is without binoculars. I snap some pictures and we watch the blob move around doing something that looks like eating. 

“I think I see some plants hanging out of its mouth,” Julie says. Oh yeah, right. Who do you think you are, Steve Austin? It would take bionic eyes to see any detail about the distant figure. Or at least better eyes than mine.

A couple of guys walk by on the path. “Hey, there’s a moose over there!” we call to them, all excited. 

“Oh, we saw one there yesterday,” they reply and keep on going. How quickly the extraordinary becomes mundane.

Soon we’re bored with the blob and continue back to camp. We stop to get water. I’m so excited that I don’t have to filter it. Clean water comes right out of a spigot mounted to a pipe coming out of the ground. Amazing! While I’m filling the bag, we hear sounds in the bushes behind the spigot. They get louder. Something big is in there. Is it a man, or a moose? The brush doesn’t seem all that dense to me, but I can’t see a thing through it. We decide to go around to the other side for a better look.

When we get there, a whole bunch of people are crowded around with cameras. Must be a moose then. We still can’t see anything, and apparently neither can anyone else, because they soon disperse. I stand up on a picnic table to try to get a better look, but to no avail. The moose is quiet and the water bag is heavy and I’m really tired after hiking over 11 miles and I don’t feel like waiting around for some damned moose to show itself. So we go back to camp. We still have the whole area to ourselves. 

Back at Hatchet Lake, Rex had told me that he’d seen moose in the creek behind the group sites, so after we get the tent set up, I position my chair by the water and wait for a moose to arrive. Julie joins me for awhile, then goes and takes a nap. 

All I see is a duck. 
Start time: 7:15 amEnd time: 2:30 pmTotal time: 7.25 hoursTotal miles: 11Average speed: 1.51 mphTotal moose seen: 1

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