Friday, September 2, 2011

Almost Three Hours on Isle Royale

Surprise!  Yesterday I took an impromptu day trip to Isle Royale.  My friend Rachel was going for the night, and I had the day off, so I figured, what the heck… I haven't been there this year.

At 7 am, when I biked down to make my reservation on the Queen IV, I wandered around the boat dock area, and, low and behold, what did I see?  The sun rising from the lake.  Oh, glory, what a treat!  I was hoping to catch a sunrise since I was up so early.  Here it is below.  

I swung home quickly, and when I got back to the dock, what did I see then?  Forty geese in a row in front of the ascending sun.  I'm not a photographer, as you well know, but I thought you might enjoy this scene.

I boarded the Queen IV, and made my way to the bow, where I knew I would spend most, if not all of the 3 1/2 hours to the island.  The sun was right behind me, pasting my silhouette perfectly against the front of the ship.  Here is my self portrait from the front of the boat.

The ride over was nice and smooth.  Mostly cloudy with a spot of sprinkles.  Captain Ben mentioned that Lake Superior's temperature this summer was only about 58 degrees F, so the ride was a little chilly for a couple girls who planned on basking in the sunshine for the day.

Two hours into the ride, I took a video of being in the middle of the Big Lake.  We couldn't see land anywhere around us!  I just love that.  Do to a lack of bandwidth at my house, however, I will be able to download that video at a later date, and make it available for you then, if you're still interested.

By the time we were close to Isle Royale, I was on the back of the boat, watching the wake.  I tell you, without warning, I turned my head, and there it was: Isle Royale in all its rocky, lichen, foliage glory.  My heart exploded through my eyes, and I sobbed for a moment.  I had forgotten how magical it was for me.  Seeing all the little islands, beaches and Rock Harbor brought all my memories back to me in an instant.  I suddenly felt so at home -- on my favorite playground.

Off the boat, Rachel and I knew exactly where we wanted to go -- not too far because I am easily distracted, and I had to be back on the boat in 2 hours and 45 minutes, but in a place where we wouldn't see anyone.  We had a place on the bouldery shore in mind.

On our path there, I was just amazed at all the beautiful plants.  I've only been there in early May, so September foliage was a treat.  I mean, it was the same stuff the Keweenaw has, but it was on Isle Royale!  We ate raspberries and thimbleberries right off the plants.  Mmm, Isle Royale berries.

We ventured across some large rocks (one of my favorite things to do) and found a nice spot out of people's way.  We set up a little base camp, and focused on taking it all in.  The spot we picked was windy, but look at the waves coming right at us through that gap.

I couldn't resist climbing around.  I crawled up some boulders and scouted the area.  One phenomenon worthy of note was a huge pine tree that got knocked down (presumably by the wind) and the four foot wide boulder that it used to be rooted in, cracked from the fall after the tree's roots gave way.  My pictures of this really did't turn out, but I marveled at it for a while.  Here is a pretty good idea of the landscape.

Time passed much too quickly out there, and it was time for me to make my way back.  We hiked up to the Scoville Point Trail, so I could make better time.  Rachel went on her way, and I turned to run to the boat.  Then I stopped, Wait a minute.  Why am I running in Isle Royale?  I should walk and enjoy my time.  If I hear the boat horn, then I'll sprint.  So I walked down the path -- it probably only took me four minutes, but when I rounded the corner to the dock, what did I see?  The Queen IV pulling away from the dock!

It can't be!  I never heard the horn!  I raced to the dock -- all the way to the end, my arms flailing to them.  No one was around, so I called out to a lady by the store, "Is the Queen leaving?"  She nodded her head.  I shoved my sun glasses and sweatshirt in my backpack and yelled, "can I just swim out there?"  I was ready, but I didn't really see a safe way to mount the boat from the frigid waters of Her Majesty.

Just then, a ranger came out with a  radio, and paged the Captain to let him know what was going on.  They had a bad connection, and further and further the Queen IV putted out.  We went into the information center, so he could get better reception.

Then I heard the Captain's voice, "Yes, we are turning around."  That sweet, sweet Captain, he came back for me!  I was so grateful for everyone who helped this poor little girl make her way on the boat.  Honestly, I wouldn't have minded being stuck on the Island for a night, but I'm sure the Harbor Haus would have!  At first I was pretty embarrassed, but then I thought, well, it will make a good story!
On the ride back, I met a very cool lady, named Cindy, who came over from Massachusettes.  She spent ten days out there by herself.  We talked almost the whole time on the bow of the boat --- my favorite spot.  But the water wasn't so calm this time, and we were crashing in some pretty heavy waves, so I had to stand at the front and be one with the waves, so my stomach's contents could stay one with me.  Again, it was another lovely ride back with Captain Ben and Company.  

This morning when the Queen IV honked her horn to leave, I felt a little twinkle in my heart as I remembered yesterday, when I had to cover my ears for it because I was on the boat to my favorite place.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can't make it out this year, so that makes it 5 years since I've been on the island. Hopefully next year I'll make it up. Last time I spent 7 days there and miss it so much. It was great to relive it through your words. I still use photos of my trips there as Wallpaper on my computers. Right now I have a shot of the Edison fishery on the screen.

    I'm busy today getting ready for photographers from a local newspaper to come out to my house. They want to write an article about me for this month's Festival of the Senses art show. A writer came out yesterday and stayed for over an hour. After that she said she wanted to get photographers out today, so I'm trying to make the house more presentable. As things progress I might actually make my art my job.

    I hope you have fun this weekend at the Fat Tire Festival. Good luck with the pendants.


  2. Glorious sunrise photos Amanda!.. and a great story which follows. I still remember fondly the two visits I made to that magical island years ago despite travel related issues on both. On the first trip the small boat from copper harbor had engine problems which stranded us in the middle of the big lake for several hour in choppy seas while parts were delivered for repair. Hoping to avoid this scenario on the second trip a few years later, we sprung some extra cash for the seaplane approach which was a bit shaky (my brother had to move to the back of the plane to help balance the weight!)but which got us there quickly with beautiful views on our arrival. Unfortunately on our return the seaplane was grounded due to dense fog which kept us on the island a couple extra days while the weather cleared and we waited our turn on being transported. All in all though, both trips were some of the most memorable lake experiences of my life thus far. I'm happy to hear you were able to take advantage of a quick one day trip, along with a travel adventure to remember as well. Take care