Hiking with Parkinson’s on Isle Royale 2021

Hiking with Parkinson’s on Isle Royale 2021


In 2020 I planned on celebrating my Seventieth birthday by hiking across Isle Royale National Park. Unfortunately  the Covid pandemic shut Isle Royale down. Plans were changed to the first week in September 2021 with my son Zachary and Daughter Michelle going with me. 

In April I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  In July and August I entered into the BIG and LOUD therapy in St Joseph hospital in Chelsea,  Michigan.  The therapy ended on Friday,  August 27th we took the boat to Isle royale on August 31st. 

Isle Royale National Park is an archipelago of 400 islands located in the  North west corner of Lake Superior.  The main island is forty-five miles long and nine miles wide. Other than Rock Harbor on the east and Windego on the west the island is completely wild.  The islands are home to moose, wolves, foxes, beavers, otter, squirrels,  birds and a host of other animals,  snakes  and insects. The only way to get there is by boat or seaplane. 


Zachary and I said our goodbyes to Harriet and drove the five hours from Paradise to Houghton, Michigan.  We checked into the  Holiday Inn Express and then went to dinner at Joey’s Seafood. After dinner we walked over to the Keweenaw Brewing Company. We both  ordered a flight, which is 5 small samples of beer.  It may have amounted to two bottles of beer but after finishing my beer, I felt drunk and wondered if this was a new reality of Parkinson’s. 

Zach walked and I staggered over to Subway and got sandwiches for lunch on the boat.  We returned to the motel and repacked our backpacks. Zach was helping me with lightening my load. He would say, “That’s too heavy,  you don’t need it!!”

Michelle came in from Peoria around 10pm.  

We turned in early because we had to be at the boat dock by 7:00 am.

August 31- Ranger III

We arrived at the boat dock at 7:00 am. The people who worked there were not happy to see us. The Ranger III didn’t leave until 8:15. We walked over to Bigby Coffee and had a donut and coffee for  second breakfast. Finally the time came to board and we took the  six hour boat ride from Houghton to Isle Royale – smooth sailing 

Arriving at Rock harbor we went to the lodge only to be told we didn’t have a reservation and no rooms were available. Diane, who works the front desk, was a very kind lady. She told us to Wait while they checked the records and it wasn’t long before we were booked into room 69. 

We went to the Reedstone Grill for dinner. We overheard a man raving about the wonderful White fish dinner that no one should miss. “Fresh out of the lake!” He exclaimed. We were sold. Could not wait! The restaurant only had fish sandwiches not dinners.

Went to sleep with the windows open and the sound of waves crashing on the rocks below. 

September 1- 

We left Rock Harbor early,  quite eager to hike the 7.1 miles to Daisy Farm. Although I have been training by hiking down dirt/gravel roads, I was exhausted after 2 miles. Dirt roads are quite wide and smooth compared to the trails to Daisy Farm. The trail to Daisy Farm is wide enough to walk single file and if you meet someone going the other way, one of you must stand aside to let  the other pass by.  Another difference is that you must step over or around rocks and roots, a misstep could cause a twisted,  sprained,  or broken ankle.  Part of the trail is across huge borders. These are quite easy to walk on, once you’re up on them. The difficulty lies in getting on, or down from them. Whereas I can walk an easy twenty minute mile,  on a dirt road,  I would guess each mile,  on the trail,  was 45 minutes to an hour. 

In spite of the slow going,  it was amazingly beautiful. 

I have heard of people who run marathons “hitting the wall.” This usually occurs after fourteen to twenty miles and they continue running through the wall until they get a second wind. I hit a wall around two miles in. I felt like I was a car that had run out of gas or that someone flipped the switch from on to  off. I decided to ignore this, “out of gas” feeling. However,  after the third fall I decided that a little rest might be a  better idea.

However,  in spite of resting, eating snacks, drinking water,  etc. my energy wasn’t returning.  We were about a mile out from  Three Mile Campground and it took us at least an hour  and a half to go the rest of the way.

Entering the Three Mile Campground,  the first thing we saw was the Wooden shelters that were available on a first come basis. I could not go any further and sat down behind the first shelter. While Zach and Michelle went to  look for camp sites,  I fell asleep.  Michelle came  to wake me up and lead me to our campsite.  I was so weak I had to leave my backpack.  I followed her to the campsite  but Zach wasn’t there.. She went to  look for him, to see if he found a better spot,  while I fell asleep on picnic table. Michelle returned, woke me up and and took me to site number nine.

I’m a bit foggy about who brought my backpack to our site, nor do I remember setting up my tent.  Somehow the Tents were up and everything was ready for our first night of camping .

September 16, 2021- Had Dinner with Zach and Gina. I asked about what happened the first evening of our hike. Zachary said that he quickly put my tent up, inflated my mattress, put my sleeping bag in place and had everything ready for me. It seems I climbed into the tent and slept for about two hours.

For dinner we had our first freeze dried camp food. These meals are so easy-to-use.  You stir a cup and a half of boiling water in the food. Zip the bag shut, wait five minutes,  give it another stir, close it again, wait five more minutes and  eat it right out of the bag. I had beef stew that evening. 

I recall doing a little fishing but,  for some reason,  I  cannot remember much else.

To be continued


Please continue to pray for us and be sure we will pray for you

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