Epilogue and gear list

Trip Start Sep 02, 2011
Trip End Sep 11, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Minnesota
Wednesday, October 5, 2011


It took time for Isle Royale to leave me. I dreamed of trees for several more nights. One morning I had a dream of standing above a crazy hard descent off the ridge, wondering how the heck I was going to do it. Then I realized I didn't have to because I wasn't on the island anymore! Whew!

My dark urine issue resolved itself right away. I'm assuming I was burning up my muscle tissue. Why my body didn't go for the fat is beyond me.

Isle Royale changed me. I lost five pounds (hopefully not all muscle). I also lost some of my self-consciousness and fear of people. The five pounds returned. I hope the anxiety doesn’t.

Will I go back? Maybe. At the very least, planning on it gives me a reason to go to the gym. There’s nothing like a goal to give you direction in life. Anyway, I need something to write about.

A note about cairns

My good friend Jan left a comment for me with a link to her own recent backpacking trip in the Presidentials. It was removed, we think because of the link in it: http://happening-here.blogspot.com/2011/07/saturday-scenes-and-scenery-hiking.html. When I looked at her photos, I was struck by the difference in cairns between our two trips. The cairns on her trail were huge structures, with quartz on top to make them easier to see in the fog. On the Minong, the cairns were often one rock sitting atop another, or sometimes just a single large stone. The trail on the Presidentials was 6,000 feet up. The highest point we hit was about 1,000. And Jan did it with a bad knee!

Gear List

Backpack: Gregory Deva 70. Since this was my first backpacking trip, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but the Deva was pretty comfortable for a torture device. I thought the hip belt pockets could have been a little more generous, but that’s my only complaint. Oh, and offer more color options. Julie and I looked too much like twins in our matching packs. 5.75 pounds, so it’s on the heavy side. $289 at REI.

Tent: Mountain Hardware Lightpath 3. We chose a 3-person tent because we didn’t want to be all crammed together and we figured the extra weight would be worth it. It was. That tent was just right for two people and their food. I have no idea how three people, especially three big men, could possibly fit in there. Three of me would have been too much (in the tent or otherwise). 5.5 pounds, again not an ultra-light, but since Julie carried it I didn’t care. $150 from CampMor.com.

Boots: I wore Keen Women’s Pyrenees. They have great toe space. No water ever got into them, though krish sometimes did. 1.5 pounds. $140 at REI. I also wore SuperFeet Green insoles.

Trekking poles: Leki Cressida Aergon SpeedLock, Women's. I got these thinking their adjustability would come in handy with all the ups and downs, but I never took the time to change their length. They worked very well for me. 1 pound. $93 at Onlineshoes.com (I know, a shoe store? But they had the best price.)

Water bottles: We had regular bike water bottles and also Platypus collapsible water bottles. Those are nice because you can hang them off your pack. They aren’t so nice when they get low and the nipple flops over into the dirt. I had the Platypus Big Zip SL hydration system on my back.

Water filter: Platypus GravityWorks. The gravity system is really easy to use and holds 4 liters. The filters are pricey, so I recommend frequent back flushing to keep your filter from dying an early death, like ours did. Mike told us that he and Hank just use a few drops of Clorox bleach to clean their water, but I don’t think that kills tapeworm eggs or larvae so I don’t recommend it if tapeworms are around (as they are at Isle Royale).

Clothing: Nylon wicking everything. One piece of clothing that came in very handy was a nylon bicycle beanie. It was small enough to keep in a pocket and I could put it on when my head got cold in the evenings and mornings.

Socks: I’m partial to the Wigwam brand. I had Wigwam light wool socks for the outer layer and REI brand liners.

Map: National Geographic 240 Isle Royale National Park Map. Water and tear resistant.

Sleeping Bag: Suisse Sport Adult Adventurer Mummy Ultra-Compactable. As already mentioned, it didn’t do well if the temperature dropped into or below the low forties. Otherwise, it was very light and compacted well. 2.9 pounds. $33 at amazon.com.

Pad: REI Lite-Core 1.5 Self Inflating Pad, short. Not thick enough for my aging hips. I didn’t mind the shortness, at first. By the sixth night, I was wishing I had a full-length pad. 1.13 pounds. I topped it with a Coleman foam pad that I cut down to match.

Cooking: We had the GSI MicroDualist cookset (1.1 pounds). It comes with a pot, two bowls, two cups (which look exactly like the bowls), and two foons (I don’t know what the difference between a foon and a spork is). We left the cups at home. All we used the pot for was to boil water to put into our Mountain House dinners. The cookset was light and compact (you store everything in the pot). We brought a pot holder, but didn’t need it.

Stove: MSR Whisperlite Internationale. Worked great. 11.5 ounces. 

Food: Mountain House dehydrated stuff for dinner. The pasta primavera we had on one of our pre-island test runs tasted the best, but none of the other dinners were memorable. We also got some Just Veggies to add to our meals, but didn’t use that much of it. They had a strong flavor that tended to overwhelm whatever we added them to. You already know about the gorp and peanut butter. Ug.

Gear we didn’t use: compass, headlamps, rope, sewing kit, spare anything, rain gear. Several pounds of gorp and nuts. All that extra weight, for nothing. If only I'd had a crystal ball...

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Carol Svatek on

What a great trip and what a fabulous story! LOVED IT!!!

Anne on

An absolutely wonderful story - great in the telling! I'd like to hear more - maybe over Mongolian Barbeque?

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