Isle Royale National Park - Day 1

Trip Start Jul 07, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Three Mile Campground

Flag of United States  , Michigan
Sunday, July 22, 2012

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I got up early, finished getting ready to visit Isle Royale National Park and then headed over to catch the Isle Royale Queen IV from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor on the island of Isle Royale. The Isle Royale Queen IV is one of four ferries that service the park and the only one from Copper Harbor.  The trip took a bit over three hours. The seas were very calm and it was a pleasand trip.

Isle Royale National Park consists of Isle Royale in Lake Superior in Michigan near the Canadian border and approximately 400 smaller islands.  The total land area is 209 square miles, making it among the smallest of the national parks.  It can only be visited by boat or plane and it is the only national park that closes for the winter.  As a result, it is the least-visited national park in the continental U.S. with under 20,000 visitors a year but it has the highest backcountry use per acre of any of the national parks.

The national park was authorized in 1931 but wasn't established until 1940.  Logging continued during much of the time in between.  There was also a large fire that burned much of the island.  Much of the land was in private hands when the park was authorized.  Some people sold while others made deals to will their land to the government.  There are still a few private holdings and quite a few unused buildings that are now owned by the government.

Once at Rock Harbor the passangers were divided into two groups. One group was for people staying in the lodge in Rock Harbor. I must admit, I didn't even know the lodge existed until I got here. The other group, which included me, was for people camping on the island. We were given a talk about leave-no-trace camping and park rules. We then went into the Visitor Center to get our camping permits.

I had originally intended to stay at Rock Harbor my first night. I couldn't get a reservation for the ferry on the day I intended so I came over a day earlier and intended to stay in Rock Harbor for two nights. When I tried to get my permit I was told there's a one night limit in Rock Harbor. They made out my permit to have the first night at Three Mile Campground, which, as the name states, is three miles from Rock Harbor. I really wasn't prepared for that. I had packed a lot of things when I was under the impression I wasn't going to be hiking any distance and my pack weighed 49 pounds. Now I was going to carry everything three miles today and back the three miles tomorrow.

I walked to Three Mile Campground on the trail along Rock Harbor. There is no elevation gain on the hike but the the trail goes up and down a lot and is quite rocky so it's not the easiest waling.  The campground has a number of shelters. Fortunately, I was able to find an empty one so I wouldn't have to sleep in a tent. After I unpacked I wandered over and chatted with my neighbors. They were going to go pick some blue berries. That sounded good so I joined them. When we got back I had dinner and went to sleep early.
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