Trail Miles: 2.7 Total Miles: 2.7
On Thursday, June 11th, Andrew and I took off from work an hour or so early to try and and get up to Houghton as quickly as possible. After a 6 hour drive, we made it to the Country Inn and Suites in Houghton around 11:30 Eastern time. To help us pass the time, we listened to the audiobook of A Game of Thrones, which Andrew has read, but I haven’t. Definitely a good way to pass the time!
We woke up excited on Friday morning and headed out to the dock to board the Ranger III. Houghton definitely seems like the kind of place you could easily spend an afternoon exploring, which I think would be a lot of fun some time that we’re in the area in the future. We got to the Ranger III at about 8 AM, an hour before the boat was leaving, so we grabbed our souvenir – a pin to place on our map of NPS locations visited. We also got our National Parks Passport stamped. It was chilly and somewhat foggy, but everyone was very excited to get going to Isle Royale.
One thing that was poor planning on my part – your packs get checked into cargo, so if you want to have anything on the boat, you’ll need to pull it out ahead of time. We grabbed our Kindles, my notebook and cell phone, camera, and Dramamine and we were off. I’d recommend either bringing a small day pack or filling a dry bag with entertainment, a snack, your camera, a water bottle, and a warm jacket (like a down coat) before getting to the boat. Lesson learned for next time!
The Ranger III kind of feels like it belongs in a Wes Anderson movie, if it had a bit more pink. It is comfortable, but definitely dated. I was a bit surprised at how many families were on the boat with young children. It made me super happy to see that there were kids as young as 10 or so who were just as excited as we were to get on the island. I never went backpacking as a kid, but I hope that eventually when Andrew and I grow our family that we can take our kids into the wilderness as well. The 6 hour boat ride to Isle Royale includes a LNT orientation and issuing of backcountry permits. After we boarded, we quickly grabbed a pair of seats by the window and watched the Keweenaw Waterway go by.
I took a Dramamine as a preventative measure and took a nap as my GoPro recorded a time lapse. Later on in our trip, I read the park newsletter, the Greenstone, checked out the map, and we submitted our intended path for our permits.
At 2:00, we started entering Rock Harbor and dropped off some rangers at Mott Island, the park’s headquarters. Excitement was definitely growing on the boat – we were nearly there! We landed at Rock Harbor at just about 3 PM, grabbed our packs and water and were ready to go! Fully loaded with food, fuel, and water, my pack weighed 34 pounds, and Andrew’s weighed 48. We didn’t hang around – we were ready to get hiking! We set off on the Rock Harbor trail at 3:15.
The Rock Harbor Trail looks very flat on a map, but topo lines are deceiving – most of the hiking is done on exposed rock between Rock Harbor and Three Mile. The trail rarely is more than 25 feet above Lake Superior, but the slanted rocks can be hard on the feet. The views of Lake Superior and Rock Harbor were absolutely breathtaking. The lake is extremely clear here, giving it a sapphire blue color where it gets deep. There wasn’t much wind, so the glassy surface of the lake looked even smoother.