Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I don't know how the weather has been by you (unless you live in da Keweenaw), but it's been in the 90-degree-Fahrenheits the last two days. Not today, thankfully. Not today.

If you remember my post about not liking hot weather, you can be right in assuming that I sure as heck did not go for any crazy adventures while the temperature is as high as my body's. I made it to my dock to lay in a bikini and sweat. And burn. Yup. Summer.

Anyway, I have a couple seasonal firsts for you. The lilacs are peaking. I smelled my first rose on Saturday. I smelled my first vanilla-y goodness from hairy vetch two days ago. Even the irises found their way up my nose! There's the old saying of "Take time to smell the roses," but I might do it a little too much. No, maybe just enough.

I did go out for a 6 mile jog this morning before 9 am. I figured the day could be sweltering by afternoon, so I got it in when I could. The fog was still on the lake, and I couldn't see one side of da Harbor from da udder! I couldn't even see the bell buoy from the lighthouse! And the air was refreshingly cool. A day to be grateful for.

Yes, and I will cherish the moments that I take to lay on the dock and sniff each flower as it arrives. Do you know why? The Harbor Haus opens this weekend. School will still be in session. I'm about to become a work-and-volunteeraholic. That's just what the summer does to a person in da Harbor. Memorial Weekend is the kickoff.

So I can officially say, "Good-bye Life! It's been great hanging out with you for the last few months. I'll see you in November!" And, "Hello, Tourists! Don't drive so stinkin slow on 41."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Montreal River Adventure

Remember my last big inspiration from the final Isle Royale post? I became infatuated with the idea of exploring other areas of the Keweenaw with as much vigor as I did on Isle Royale. While I spent a whole afternoon wondering where I should go first, Aaron casually mentioned that he and Ryan were going to the south side of the peninsula to get some GPS coordinates for the upcoming Keweenaw Point Trail.

What an opportunity, I thought! They were going to walk through the trailless woods along the Montreal River, which contains three waterfalls, including the one that opens into my friend Lake Superior. That adventure would knock some off my list.

After about half an hour drive southeast on trail 134, we parked near Fish Cove. The mission: follow the few coordinates already on the boys' GPS to the pink flags they tied on trees. Then hike around to unique sights of the area and tie more flags in hopes of creating the Keweenaw Point Trail -- the trail of all trails. The trail that will run the perimeter of the Keweenaw Peninsula for hikers and mountain bikers. Pretty neat, hey?

After almost an hour of wandering around through fallen trees, thick pines, broken branches, thimbleberry fields, large rocks and tons of blueberry bushes, they finally came across their pink flag from the last time they were out. "Good," Ryan said. "Now we can start." I kept my comments to myself knowing I was along for a full day of bushwhacking.

Luckily the bugs weren't terrible, but if we stopped too long, I definitely had to put my bugnet hood over my head. Mostly mosquitoes, somewhat blackflies. The sweat dripping down each flank of my body sort of kept my mind off them.

"We should see the falls in about an hour," they promised. I had no idea where we were. I knew my compass pointed to SE and other surrounding letters, but I still didn't know what that meant in the grand scheme. Oh well. Doot, doo doo doo dooh. There I went.

What's that sound? Rushing water! We found the uppermost of the Upper Falls. Not at all what I had in mind, but special in its own way. Here is a view from the top.

And here is a view from the bottom looking up at Ryan. Do you see him up there in the light tan? Now that's a big rock.
On and on we trampled delicately through marshes, piles of dead trees, bilberry bushes and scratchy branches. I think the boys got sort of lost because they had to ask me which way we were going. We were on our way, roundaboutly, to the lower Upper Falls.

Aaron heard falls to the left, but Ryan and I hear falls to the right. Two against one, we went right... right back to the bottom of the falls we were just at. So's to not make these boys look like fools, their plan was to meander east around the falls and then cut back. I guess we just cut back too soon.

Onward in the sweltering sun we marched and climbed. At one point, we climbed up the side of a ledge that we had to crawl under. Crawling under a rock jutting over the edge of a cliff -- how cool is that! Memorable, memorable.

And soon enough we found the other falls. A quainter little falls. Quite refreshing. Aaron is in this one for scale. I know, eat your hearts out, girls.

Oh boy, I better just get to the end or I'll hold you past your bedtime. We finally reached the mouth of the Montreal, which is good fishing, I hear. However, when we got there, it looked like a high school trip was visiting. Teenagers everywhere. No worries, though. They didn't block the view!

I know, Aaron's in it again, but that's really the best shot I had. And to the south -- all Lake Superior, baby! My favorite!

I did get to walk the beach of Fish Cove, as well, which is another one of the Keweenaw's finest for rock beaches. Over 7 hours we hiked yesterday, and we didn't cover much more than a square mile on the map. Thank goodness those boys are going to put in a trail there!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Isle Royale - Week Two (Part II)

*Note: If you have not read the first two Isle Royale posts, please skip down two to "Isle Royale- Week One."

Day thirteen: Caribou Island to Lookout Louise - 8 miles. Up again early on a bright sunny day. Instead of heading back West to the Ojibway tower, we all went East to Rock Harbor, where the Queen IV docks. It was so nice paddling there when we knew we didn't have to meet the Queen right away to go home.

That day was so beautiful, we paddled with no sleeves! Rachel and I even parked at Three Mile beach for a suntan. Ahhhhhh, no bugs. Then the boys finally met us at Rock Harbor. We filtered water and each packed a night bag for Lookout Louise.

We only had to paddle across Tobin Harbor for half a mile. Our big, strong boys agreed to let us girls sit in the middle of their canoe with the backpacks while they paddled through the glassy harbor. We pulled up at Hidden Lake -- a lake I sure would have never found! They say that's a sure place to see moose, but since bad moose charm Amanda was along, we saw none. None the whole trip, in fact... I didn't just forget to tell you about about them.

Rachel and I then paddled the empty canoe back to Rock Harbor to retrieve the spices for our last dinner on the island. They boys laughed as they watched us zig and zag. We were not good at steering at all, but at least we had a great time!

Rachel made us spaghetti on the bridge, our most unique dining spot of the trip. Then we headed up to Lookout Louise. That was the most awesome trail I saw on the whole trip. Rock faces and bulges surrounded us and lead the way. We even passed Monument Rock, which Rachel thought looked like a castle.

And the view at the top wasn't bad either! We looked over Canada and the five fingers of the north side of Isle Royale (see below) just as the sun began to set. What a place for our last night! We even got to watch the skyline of Canada slowly light up as the sky darkened. We all found a spot to lay on by the cliff, threw down our sleeping bags and slept under the stars during what must have been the warmest night we had.
Day fourteen: Lookout Louise to Rock Harbor - 2 miles. Rachel woke me up as pink stretched across the sky. We caught it shimmering above the lake, but I wanted to see Mr. Sun's bright face, so I trekked back south to where I thought I would get a view by the top of Monument Rock. Watching that bright ball of love shine through the trees was worth the hike. So beautiful and quiet!

By the time I got back to Louise, the rest of the crew said they were getting ready to head back down. But Craig and I went for one last adventure West part way down the trail toward Mount Franklin. We found some bilberry bushes and watched a rabbit. So sweet. Then continued on down the magnificent trail of boulders.
We all met back up at the bridge, and the boys paddled us back to Rock Harbor on another calm day. We had hours to spend there since we left so early. Rachel and I traversed the rocky shore and the boys fished. When the Queen pulled into the Harbor, Rachel and I did the Cancan for the boat like we do at the Harbor Haus. We only earned a couple funny looks.

There is something to be said about coming off that island with friends from home coming to get us. The captain and some other Harborites came over and asked about our journey. It definitely eased me into the trip back home.

On that final day I thought I was at peace with leaving Isle Royale, but as the ship left the dock, I missed it instantly. I still do. I know we are going back next year with a new route in mind.

And one thing I'm grateful for (among millions) is that I have a new appreciation and sense of wonder for Copper Harbor. There are so many places here I have not yet explored. Remembering my enthusiasm for each spot on the island I was eager to visit, I will keep my list handy for all the places right around me that I need to see. Hopefully I will get to tell you about them soon!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Isle Royale - Week Two (Part I)

*Note: if you have not read "Isle Royale - Week One," please read the next post first unless you like to live in a state of confusion (which I do not condone).

Day eight: Malone Bay to Wood Lake - 4 miles. I caught the sunrise at Sisikiwit Lake -- a beauty. We were head-winded in for most of the day, so (after portage #1) Rachel and I hiked West along Siskiwit Lake to find the cliff we found last year. On our way back, the boys found us, and we had to hike back to the cliff yet again to show it to them. After a short rest back at the shore, and Brian catching a Lake Trout, we decided to paddle on. The paddle was easy enough. Wood Lake was quaint, lovely and peaceful. A couple fishermen in a canoe were already camping there, but they were nice and kept to themselves.

Day nine: Wood Lake. Another sunny day to watch the sunrise. That place has great rocks to perch on -- I mean huge cliff-type rocks -- my favorite. We all bushwacked to a nearby beach to entertain ourselves. Dan, Rachel and I lost the other two and ended up about a mile away from their destination. I was glad, however, because we got to hike along the huge rocks that I love so much along the shoreline. Those were the rocks I could only dream about walking on as I paddle by them in a kayak.

We ate some fried Lake Trout back on the shore at Wood Lake. Rachel even caught the first fish of her life! But Pike were two days from being in season, so she kissed and released. Brian, Rachel and I watched the sunset behind the Greenstone Ridge. This was the first day of blackflies, but, luckily, they were not yet biting and sucking our precious blood.

Day ten: Wood Lake. An unexpected full day at Wood Lake Due to the incessant rain. Thankfully Craig had a tarp, so we could all sit underneath together. This was our "Day of Silence." We did not speak a word to each other upon rising. I found it fascinating to see how everyone chose to communicate without words. We even played hacky sack with an empty hot sauce bottle and euchre without words. After lunch of glorified macaroni and cheese with venison ring bologna, we took a nap -- except for Dan who fished for hours and brought back another Laker.

Upon rising from our naps, we decided that the Day of Silence could end, so the day wouldn't be so depressing (not that is was). Not bad for our only rainy day!

Day eleven: Wood Lake to Lake Richie Camp - 4 miles. Unfortunately this 4 miles was not all via water. We did two portages. The first was 0.4 mile from Siskiwit Lake to Intermediate Lake. Not bad at all (except for the flies who started to take a liking to our taste). We paddled through that lake and portaged 0.6 mile over some gnarly terrain to Lake Richie. Then we got to paddle one more time to the campsite. Nice little spot, but the bugs were relentless. Who would have thought?

Day twelve: Lake Richie to Caribou Island - 8 miles. This was the dreaded day. I woke early to watch the fog span over the lake and dissipate with the sun (pictured below). We packed up camp asap (even without coffee) to paddle 0.2 mile to our 2.3 mile portage to Moskey Basin.
The sun was hot. The blackflies were ravenous. Each of us were weighted like mules with as much gear as we could carry across the land. The first trip over was seriously one of the hardest things I've had to endure in my life (the other being a 2.6 mile portage in the Boundary Waters). Rachel and I stayed close to one another in order to trade off the 5 gallon pickle bucket of our packed trash. Many times on the way we would simply collapse on our bellies for a break. With my head in the grass I would repeat each time: "I am grateful for this opportunity to push myself past my limits and become a stronger person." Magically, that made pressing on a little better -- for the first 40 seconds, at least.

When we reached Moskey Basin we were greeted by a long dock sticking into Lake Superior -- a refuge from the bugs and a sanctuary in the sunshine. After a quick break, we cheerfully hiked back to get the boats. The boats....

For the most part, we all traded which boats we carried, so we could switch up the muscle groups we were using. And thankfully, we were able to load everything else into backpacks and make that our final trip on the 2.3 mile gruel. The second time wasn't quite as bad... at least for me. But we all pulled our own weight.

Back at the Moskey Basin dock, it didn't take long before we were shirtless with our pants rolled up sprawling in the sunshine. That moment of relaxation in the sun without bugs made the whole double trek worth it to me. We all rested up and ate lunch.

But, it was time to paddle on (after all that, I know) to Caribou Island. The weather was so inviting that we just had to do it. Leisurely, we paddle about 5 miles to Caribou -- an island I just love due to its rugged rock formations. In fact, after dinner I strolled around the south and east side to reminisce and explore. Silly me without a light or clear sense of direction, I almost got lost! Luckily I recognized the moon and camp fire. I took the shoreline back to my home for the night.

My goodness. I have way overextended the details of these few days. I shall finish the rest of the adventure for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Isle Royale - Week One

Fourteen days on the rock. "What are you going to do out there?" people asked. "You are going to freeze," they warned. Our crew mockingly repeated these phrases to each other while we all had the time of our lives.

Rachel and I paddled a tandem kayak. Dan and Brian paddled a canoe. Craig paddle a single kayak. The power behind these boats was quite evenly distributed so that no boat was left behind (unless they were trolling, of course).

At approximately 2:00 pm EST on Monday, May 4th, Rachel, Brian, Craig, Dan and I stepped off the Ranger III and onto the rugged shores of Isle Royale -- our home for the next 14 days. The weather was stunning. We roamed Windigo (a western cove) smiling and sleeveless.

Here is the breakdown of our route and highlights for the first seven days. Get your Isle Royale map out unless you have it memorized.

Day one: Windigo to Beaver Island - 1 mile. Dan and Brian found a matching set of moose antlers at Windigo. A great day in the sunshine. We ate chicken burritos for dinner.

Day two: Beaver Island to Rainbow Cove - 9 miles. Paddled in sprinkles and cool weather to Rainbow Cove. Then hiked 0.8 mile northeast to set up camp at Feldtmann Lake, a serene and peaceful spot. Craig saw a moose swimming and found the first morel. We ate steaks and potatoes on the beach of Superior.

Day three: Rainbow Cove to The Head - 4 miles. Hiked the Feldtmann Ridge up to a lookout spot, then came back down to paddle on. The South winds were too much for the canoe, so we parked early and hoped for the wind to die. No luck, so we back-countried a camp spot amid the marshy grasses. We spent lots of time with our noses in the beach rocks.

Day four: The Head. Winds kept us on land, but not down-hearted. We wandered about the area. Collectively, we found 2 small antlers, two big antlers, a moose skull and lots of agates.

Day five: The Head to Siskiwit Camp - 16 miles. We were so eager to move on that we paddled til two hours before sundown. We experienced deep rolling waves, multi-directional-cross-chopping waves (I am making these terms up to describe what I experienced, by the way) and even smooth water with a tail wind. Sunshine all day. Frost at night.

Day six: Siskiwit Camp to Hay Bay - 6 miles. After breakfast we embarked on a morel hunt. Between the five of us we found a hat full! I picked dandelion greens on the way back. Then we paddled across Siskiwit Bay and up a river to a waterfall. We bushwacked to camp right next to the falls! Dinner at dark was so amazing that I have to tell you about it. I made a dandelion green salad with dried strawberries and bananas, almonds, fresh apples and topped with a mandarin-ginger yogurt dressing made that night. We also ate thai noodles with peanuts. Then, after all that, we fried a panful of morels in clarified butter. Oh, man, was that delicious!

Day seven: Hay Bay to Malone Bay - 7 miles. After breakfast (of multigrain pancakes with craisins, walnuts and pumpkin seeds topped with fresh yogurt and pure maple syrup) we paddled our way to Malone Bay. On the way we pulled off at Wright Island. Rachel and I couldn't believe the calm sunniness, so we made the boys paddle on while we sunbathed in our skin. We both meditated on that moment to help us get through the summer. At Malone, I was eager to hike the 0.6 mile up to see Siskiwit Lake. Still a beauty!

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip!