To hike, or not to hike, that is the question: Weather ’tis sublime tho I might suffer The Rays of Light, Wicked outrageous Sun… blah, blah, blah. Always enjoyed Shakespeare plays and movies – reading it, not so much. Anyways, back to my hack attempts placing Pen to Paper.
Warm evenings deceptively lead to cold nights this close to Superior. I slept poorly Wednesday night despite the serenity and calm. I did wake once to something BIG splashing near shore. Maybe a moose? So far, the only mammals seen are small ground squirrels. Once risen, I evaluate the ol’ cadaver: neck, shoulders, back, arms, and feet all check out okay. Thighs and calves are a bit sore and tight but not too bad. My itinerary has me moving to Chippewa Harbor today and as each minute passes the more that plan’s getting tossed aside: my shelter here is fantastic, I could use the rest, and Chippewa requires I travel the same trail twice. There, that wasn’t so difficult was it? I’m staying put. Isle Royale park management is keenly aware of slackers like me. All campgrounds have a maximum number of days you can remain before moving on. Some, like Rock Harbor, are only one night but here at Moskey Basin I can stay for three. Officials hope you’ll return a corrected permit/itinerary on departure. In theory, they use this information to adjust night limits or construct additional tent pads or shelters.
Being the last shelter at the end of a dead-end path, there’s almost no human interaction here. A light breeze swishes through dense pine boughs and except for the occasional goose honk or duck quack, it’s eerily tranquil. What to do? Filter water, cook, clean, shoot photos, write, gaze at the landscape, catch some rays, relax. I almost feel guilty. Almost. Later in the afternoon, a kayak floats past and I chat with the gentleman for a few minutes. Preparing dinner in the shelter, a ground squirrel is determined to get inside. It repeatedly climbed the screen and mesh upwards and sideways searching for any opening to within. Don’t leave food outdoors in a pack or these opportunistic thieves will chew through your gear to reach tasty morsels. That was my excitement for the day. Elysium.
Day 3. Rest day: no hiking.
Up at 5:30, the day has already begun under faint twilight. I mount a monopod to my Nikon and attach a shutter release. Finding a few inches of soil over solid rock, the monopod spike is driven home, the frame composed and aligned. Looking eastward, I await. Lake steam drifts lazily over glass reflecting muted colors of tree and sky. Slowly, slowly, the day brightens, and finally the Star arrives, a blazing orange radiance sending faint shadow over land, sounding the death knell for the lingering wispy fog. Perhaps an omen to another perfect day? I have been remarkably fortunate with only a brief shower Tuesday night and it appears I’m to be blessed with yet another bright day. I linger at the shore, reveling in the brilliant morning glow.
Today I resume my trek and get back on schedule with a hike inland and north. The trail wanders six miles through forest, passes alongside inland lakes then crests at the Greenstone Ridge before dropping to campsites on the shore of Chickenbone Lake. Well rested, I depart at 8:45 and immediately walk the same mud crossed two days earlier, which surprises me since the island hasn’t had any measurable rain for almost a week. Must be Hell after a soaker. The walk is cool and pleasant over smooth level dirt, smothering trees emit frequent chirps from unseen birds. The trail eventually slopes gently upwards offering scant flashes of scenery through thick foliage. A brown hare is spotted ahead: each of us frozen, he eventually hops to the side under low brush. After an hour and ten minutes I arrive at Lake Richie campground. Too early for a break, I continue on, the path nudging the north shore of the lake. Electric green trees shine over loons drifting and diving the beautiful deep blue waters. Pressing on, the trail eventually reenters woods and gains significant elevation where white skinned birch brighten an army of trunks. I’m encouraged to keep a brisk pace as the briefest stop brings clouds of mosquitoes. I think about wearing my mosquito net but it’s hot away from Superior and I’m sweating profusely. Wishing for a headband, my forehead’s drenched, the salty sting invades my eyes, causing frequent stops to wipe my brow. A trail portage marker at LeSage Lake has me checking the map to ensure I’m on the right track. At 11:45 am I peak at a marker on the Greenstone Ridge, sort of a big deal and milestone for me. After celebrating with a swig of water, it’s a short distance down to the campsites at Chickenbone.
Arriving at 12:05 pm, I take the first site I see – campsite #6 right on the shore of the lake. The site is level with a huge loamy area to pitch tents. Trees have been cleared near shore for outstanding views and easy access to water. Being inland, Chickenbone has no shelters and no sites have picnic tables. A quick check on the outhouse across the trail shows these to be less than redolent: you won’t find anyone lingering in there. And don’t forget the TP as there’s zero point zero provided. Cooling down under a nice breeze, I waste no time erecting my tent under the watchful eye of several blue jays. Flicking and darting, numerous dragonflies silently perform dogfight maneuvers through the site. It’s then that I notice the lack of mosquitoes that tormented me so on the trail. Conclusion: dragonflies devour those little bastards by the thousands. Out here, they’re my new best friends. Once my shelter was up, I wandered to shore to retrieve water. Hundreds of black tadpoles warmed themselves over colorful stones under crystal clear water. Campground empty, my only company this evening would be a loon fishing the distant shore.
Day 4. Moskey Basin to Chickenbone Lake (west)
Miles hiked: 6.05. Elevation gain: 1101 feet. Elevation loss: 1092 feet.
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