After yesterday’s 8+ mile hike up and over the Greenstone Ridge, I slept as if in a tomb. As my eyes crack open, loons can be heard calling offshore in Moskey Basin under yet another crisp blue sky. Wrapped in my bag, I don’t challenge the morning chill until 8:30 whereby the stove is lit for a bowl of goopy oatmeal. My plans have me hiking back up and over the Greenstone to Lane Cove but I’ve had numerous reports from the trail that the site is buried with mosquitoes. Being a shelter-free campground, I’d need to fend off millions of tiny flying needles from the confines of my tent. I decide to waive that destination and instead do a simple trek back to Three Mile, just 4 miles along the bay.
Glancing down at my pants’ cuffs, a brilliant idea enters my mind, “I should wash this dirt off.” I walk out to the pier where sparkling clear water laps gently over smooth pebbles and sand, gradually gaining depth. Removing my boots and socks, I step into the placid scene and within fifteen seconds I’m scrambling for terra firma, feet pink and crushed from frigid shock. But my main objective had been accomplished and the crusty layer of dirt affixed to my cuffs had softened to mud. A rinse cycle would be needed so I buckled up to flounce once more in the excruciating chill.
Sitting on shore near the pier, I rolled my cuffs to the knee then dried my lower legs and feet. A woman is absorbing warmth from abundant sunshine and I learn she’s a Girl Scout leader and has been to Isle Royale in a similar role many times before. Her troop was heading to Mount Franklin on the Greenstone for a scenic overlook before dropping back to Lake Superior at Three Mile campground later this evening. Many campgrounds have dedicated sites for groups (between 7 and 10 people) that must be reserved in advance.
With socks and boots back on my feet, I packed my gear and set off for Three Mile at 9:50 am, enjoying a cool breeze and glistening lake. I hiked this same trail on my 2nd day here, only in the opposite direction. I got off the established path once while passing over rock, missing the stacked stones used to guide the way. Dangling on huge boulders adjacent to shore I realized my error and soon got reacquainted with the trail. I arrive at Three Mile a little after noon and only shelter #12 is free. Twenty five meters from the breezy bay, the shelter is tucked between large protective trees where it’s calm and buggy.
As each day passed I found it increasingly difficult to get any water to flow through the MSR filter. My water source is so clear and pure, it’s hard to believe the filter could be clogged. But I used a cleaning kit (Scotch-Brite pad) against the cylindrical ceramic filter nonetheless then rinsed in lake water. What a difference with good flow with each stroke! An athletic blonde female park ranger approached in her boat and tied off at the pier. We chatted for a bit then she made her rounds. Later, she came over and checked my permit at the shelter. I sat at my picnic table and wrote out half my postcards when I noticed the Girl Scouts had arrived and camped in a group site to my right, up and over a small rise.
Day 7. Daisy Farm to Three Mile
Miles hiked: 4.2. Elevation gain: 584 feet. Elevation loss: 582 feet.
Today, up at 6:40, I skip breakfast and get loaded for an early departure. I hope to get into Rock Harbor campground as shelters are clearing out so I can be assured a dry slumber for my last night on the island. I depart at 7:20 am and backtrack a few hundred yards towards Daisy Farm to the trail junction that cuts inland to the Tobin Harbor trail. The Tobin trail parallels the Rock Harbor trail but is a bit longer. But for what is paid in length is more than made up for in beauty and path disposition. The slightly rippled waters of Tobin Harbor are gorgeous, with numerous small rocky islands, covered in pine, scattered about. Approaching the Rock Harbor complex, an asphalt drive is seen with a gulf cart rumbling my way. The path is used to access the sea plane docks and rental cabins. From here, it’s a short walk to the pier where I landed a week ago. With my watch indicating 9:00, I’m hopeful I’ll have several open shelters from which to choose. I soon learn all shelters are already taken!? I approach several and ask if they’re clearing out. “Nope”, all had supposedly just arrived. So, at 9:00 in the morning at Rock Harbor, all shelter occupants from the previous night had already departed and each were occupied by new campers. That scenario can be summarized with two letters: ‘B‘ and ‘S‘. I’m guessing several parties were just getting up and preparing breakfast. We’re talking families with young kids. I wasn’t about to challenge anyone and ask to see their permits, so I just went over to the tent sites and threw my tent down at site #10, set across the path from a water spigot. It was yet another awesome day and the forecast was to remain dry, so not having a shelter was no big deal.
Once the tent was up, I walked to the park store and bought a brass shower token for $6.00. The store has all sorts of camp gear for sale and I joked how the cans of bug spray could be sold for several hundred dollars and people would grudgingly pay! Then off to the showers, set behind the shop, and it was fabulous! A cold water shave at the sink followed and I was beginning to feel / look / smell human once again.
Rejuvenated, I strolled atop a concrete walk past the marina to the Lighthouse Restaurant and Gift Shop for a meal and beer. A Dutch gentleman that I’d seen on the trail several times before asked if I saw the moose and her baby near the campground? Uhh, no. This was his third moose sighting and at this point I figured he was either the Moose Whisperer or he was pulling my leg. He was on the island with his family and directed his teenage daughter to help me, the blind old guy, back to where the moose were grazing trail side. With a tad of skepticism I follow my guide to within 100 meters of my tent and there they are: a chocolate brown mama moose and her wobbly calf standing on the trail leading to Three Mile! With Nikon in hand, I was able to shoot a bunch of photos over a 15 minute span. The mother was carefree and unconcerned by the growing crowd of onlookers, but the baby was somewhat jumpy and skittish.
Back at the restaurant I sat at the hunter green counter and ordered a fried whitefish sandwich and pint of Keweenaw Brewing beer. Holy smokes! After seven days of dehydrated foods, these locally sourced delicacies were incredible. One pint led to four as I repeatedly got caught up in conversations will fellow patrons. Nice way to ease back into “civilization.”
Day 8. Three Mile to Rock Harbor
Miles hiked: 3.81. Elevation gain: 527 feet. Elevation loss: 516 feet.
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