Previous: Moskey Basin to Daisy Farm
Trail Miles: 7 Total Miles: 22.3
This night was the first night that I truly didn’t sleep well. It had been chilly when we fell asleep, so I was in my sleeping bag with my leggins, shirt, and down coat on. One of our Platy bottles fell over around midnight and woke me up and I immediately realized that I was shivering. I had my bag just a bit unzipped because I get claustrophobic if I’m too restricted, so I zipped it up and tried to get warm for a few minutes. It wasn’t working. I was going back and forth in my head deciding if I wanted to wake Andrew up when I realized (1) hypothermia can happen even in temperatures that seem “moderate” and (2) we were less than a quarter of a mile from the ranger station. I wasn’t going to get hypothermia within easy walking distance to a ranger!
When I woke Andrew up, he immediately unzipped our bags and put them together and warmed me up with his body heat. “Wow, you are really cold” he whispered to me. After just about 30 seconds, I was done shivering and felt a bit calmer. After a few minutes, we zipped into our own sleeping bags and I mummied up a bit. I slept warm and snug through the rest of the night.
I have a few lessons learned from this night. First of all, open shelters are significantly colder than tents because they don’t trap in heat. It’s also important to mummy early in the night if it’s going to be cold. I was very thankful for the body heat, but it also would have been a good idea to get up and do some jumping jacks before getting back into my bag. Finally, we’re adding a space blanket to our first aid kit. Most heat gets lost through your sleeping pad, so it would help to have another layer between you and the ground on cold nights.
After that adventurous evening, we woke up around 8 and hit the trail around 9:20. Instead of returning the way we came, we went up to the Greenstone Ridge towards Mount Ojibway.
The trail was quite steep in areas, but there were only a few switchbacks. Before getting to the Greenstone Ridge, you pass over two other ridges. It wasn’t rocky hiking, though, which was good for me! It was pretty neat to see Lake Superior from above.
We got up to Mount Ojibway at about 11. This was definitely one of the highlights from our trip! We’d heard the the tower might be locked, but the stairs were open and gave great views.
We took off our packs and relaxed for a while. It was sunny, but not too hot on the ridge. We knew there weren’t good water sources at high elevations on Isle Royale, so we had brought a good bit of water. We wound up relaxing for about a half an hour, hydrating and eating some homemade beef jerky.
Even from the ground and not the tower, there were great views of Ontario and Lake Superior. Once up on the tower, the island’s lakes including Angleworm Lake, Lake Ojibway, and Sargent Lake were easily visible to the west, and Duncan Bay and Tobin Harbor were in view to the east.
Andrew had brought a pair of binoculars, and we checked out the lighthouses in the area, park headquarters on Mott Island, and some interesting beaches on the Canadian side of Lake Superior. The weather was perfect and clear all around us.
As we were exploring the Mount Ojibway, another hiker coming from the west told us that he had seen a large moose about a quarter of a mile back. As we ate our snack, we debated whether or not we should go the opposite direction to check it out, but decided to press east instead.
The Greenstone Trail is the spine of Isle Royale. It runs across it’s highest (and middle) ridge for over 40 miles. The section that we were on, Mount Ojibway to Mount Franklin, was fairly exposed and a little rocky at times. The breeze and temperature on the ridge was great, so we made quick work of the hike.
In one of the few shady and moist areas on this section of the Greenstone, we passed by what I’m pretty sure was a wolf print! We had seen a lot of moose tracks, but no sign of the three remaining wolves on the island. What do you think – is this a wolf print or are we reading too much into things?
We got to Mount Franklin and stopped for a full lunch. Mount Franklin has great views of Canada to the north, but you can’t see anything towards the south. We ate some nutella on pita bread and the rest of the beef jerky on a nice rock overlooking Lake Superior.
It was really pleasant at Mount Franklin, so we spent some time chatting and sunning while we were there as well.
From Mount Franklin, we started downhill to get to Three Mile. The Mount Franklin Trail is pretty darn steep, with no switchbacks. At the half mile closest to Mount Franklin, we passed by more people than we’d seen all day. It was just three groups, but still! You should plan to take your time if you’re on this trail. Even going downhill I managed to fall onto my butt into a small mud pile.
One person we passed said she’d been going to Isle Royale for 20 years, and this was her second to last night of 8 on the island. She had gone from Daisy Farm to Three Mile via the Rock Harbor trail in the morning and was day hiking to Mount Franklin. For as much as I liked seeing families with kids, I was also pleased to see an older solo woman!
After the dramatic drop in altitude, there was a rocky region where we passed a large group of about 10 people stopped for lunch who looked rather clean, though many were wearing head nets. We realized that the other boat that goes into Rock Harbor, the Queen IV, probably dropped people off in the early afternoon. The group we passed was friendly and had questions about the trail ahead.
After the short exposed section, the Mount Franklin trail dips into the woods, which were extremely buggy. It was no wonder people were wearing their head nets. The area was rather swampy, so there were several sections that had hundreds of feet of wood instead of trail. By the time we crossed over the edge of Tobin Harbor, Andrew and I were getting swarmed and were tired of the mosquitoes! We had to pass over one last low ridge to get to Three Mile, and we went as fast as we could to get out of the bugs.
By the time we got to Three Mile around 3:30, all of the shelters were taken, so we set up at a tent site. It was once again remarkable how much chillier it was down by Lake Superior. We quickly set up our tent in the sun and filtered some water. Andrew and I also tried to clean up a bit with our camp towels, as we knew we smelled pretty darn bad by this point. We sunned ourselves in our tent and read for the majority of the afternoon.
It was a busy night at Three Mile – lots of people fresh off the boat, as well as groups like us headed to Rock Harbor the next day. Two groups wound up sharing the tent site next to ours. We had bean tacos, which were super tasty, but I had to break out the head net myself, even while eating. It seems like the bugs had gotten way worse, I think because of the rain a few days prior. We wound up going to the dock and hanging out with Nicole, Chelsea, and Megan for several hours. It was great to get to chat with them! The weather forecast for the next night was pretty much an unknown for all of us at this point, but when we left it had rain likely. The five of us decided we’d probably get up early to get to Rock Harbor and check out the area and snag shelters.
We went to bed around 9:00 and set an alarm for 6 the next morning, ready to see what our last real day had in store for us.
Continue to Day 5