Sunday, September 5-
We were on the dock at 8:00 am and had breakfast while we waited for the boat. We were warned not to be late because the boat will not wait for anyone. In fact, while we were waiting to check into the Rock Harbor Lodge, an older couple was hoping to get a room because their boat had left without them.
We were sailing aboard the Voyageur II from Daisy Farm to Windigo, which was a four hour boat ride. The nickname of the Voyageur II is the vomit rocket. This is because the weather on Lake Superior can be calm and sunny one minute and the next thing you know you’re in the middle of a storm with rain and high winds. Michelle and Zachary have both had experience with sea sickness and are hoping to have a smooth boat ride. I have never had seasickness which may be because I’ve never been in a situation where anyone would nave suffered with it. I too am hoping and praying for a smooth sunny ride because I don’t care to be tested regarding sea sickness.
The boat arrived early and since we were the only people on the passenger list, as soon as we were on board, the boat set sail. There were four possible places to sit: the seats on the bow were completely taken, which is the best place to sit if you want to avoid sea sickness. The galley had a lot of available seats. however, the galley is the worst place to sit if you wish to avoid getting sea sick. The next section is the engine room, which was surprisingly quiet with twin diesel engines running just below and in two large cabinets with metal tops. There were also seats in the stern, most of which were already taken, but most people seemed to be standing and watching where the ship had gone.
We found comfortable seats in the engine room, which had large windows and the seats were high enough that you could look straight out at the horizen. There was a short period of time when the wind and waves made the going a bit rough. Two people came running out of the galley and out to the outside walkway that lead to the bow. They were out there for a while trying to get their stomach settled. l don’t know if they were feeding the fish, wouldn’t be surprised but really didn’t want to watch.
The boat pulled away from the dock and turned south, going past the Rock Harbor Lighthouse. Once it was in open water it ran a more southwest course following the shore line. The boat could have stopped at Chippewa Harbor or Malone Bay if any passengers had requested it. We passed by both ports without anyone getting on or off.
The shoreline, with the hills, trees, and waves, reminded me of the Northwest Pacific coast in Washington State or Alaska. There are over four hundred Islands around Isle Royale, most of which are huge boulders thrusting out of the water with trees and bushes on them. A few are big enough to have campgrounds which people who come to fish stay at. I received a book for my birthday entitled, Naked in the Stream, Isle Royale Stories, by Vic Foerster. In the book Mr. Foerster speaks of fishing with his friends and family on the various islands around Isle Royale, and the lakes on Isle Royale. He spends weeks at a time on one island or another, especially Belle Isle. After my hiking experiences I’m in no hurry to hike the Island again, but fishing….
We continued south west going past Wright Island, which is in Malone Bay, We came upon Isle Royal Lighthouse on Menagerie Island pasting by it on our left. We continued past Long Island and went by Siskiwit Bay and Point Houghton both to our right. I was looking for Fisherman’s Home but could only see trees as we past by. Going by the Head, which does not have anything to do with going to the bathroom in the boat, we turned North West, Passing by Cumberland Point we could see the Rock of Ages Lighthouse just to our North west. I offered to sing the old hymn, Rock of Ages, for everyone in the engine room, but Michelle said something about people having sour stomachs from the boat ride. I’m sure she meant that people were too tired to appreciate good singing, and I let it go. Making a slight turn to the north east we entered Grace Harbor and were soon in Washington Harbor. We passed by Beaver Island and could see Windigo Visitor Center’s Dock.
The first business to attend to once we were off the boat was to secure a good camping space. As soon as we had our backpacks we were off heading down a trail that went in the general direction of the camp. Unfortunately, we were on the wrong trail and when we saw houses that were for the workers, we realized our error. By then I was tired and wanted a short rest. Zach went ahead and spoke with someone who told him the way to the camp grounds. He came back to where I was sitting and told us the way. He then went ahead to see if there were any shelters left because rain was forecast overnight. Even though the shelters were all taken he got us a wonderful site right on the bank of Washington Creek.
Once the tents were up we decided to tour Windigo and then eat our dinners in the Pavilion by the dock. It was a long walk from the campsite to the general store and about half way there Michelle and Zach remembered something they meant to bring for dinner. My shoe was bugging me and I sat at a picnic table to adjust it while they returned to camp. I finished adjusting my shoe and looked to see if they were coming back. There is a sign that directs people to the camp grounds and standing behind it was a Female Moose. We spotted each other at the same moment and she seemed skittish about me sitting on a table that she was going to be passing. We were warned, multiple times, about how dangerous moose are and that you should avert your gaze when you see one. I realize that we’re staring at each other and I look to the side and quietly say, “Go ahead, it’s okay, no one is going to hurt you.” If you’ve ever been involved in one of these inner species conversations you realize that a moose doesn’t understand English, or any other language as far as I know, so we attempt to communicate through sign or body language. When I said, “go ahead…” I also looked down at my boots as if they were the most important thing on the planet. I could hear her slowly approach me until she was about ten yards away and then she trotted quickly by. She trotted down the road and turned left at the restaurant on the path that went to the general store and ranger’s station. There were a couple of young women walking towards the store and when they saw the moose trotting in their direction began screaming. One ran into the ranger’s station while the other jumped behind a tree. The last we saw of the moose was it hightailing it into the woods. I have the feeling that she didn’t enjoy the inner species encounter any more than those young women. It was just a few minutes after the moose encounter that Michelle and Zach returned. They were frustrated because they must have walked right by the moose and didn’t see a thing.
Our first stop was the General Store, who would usually have anything a backpacker might have for gotten and your could purchase tokens for taking a nice hot shower. Their stocks were pretty low because the season was going to end in eight days and they had stopped ordering things for the store. Plus, when we found out that the tokens were five dollars and fifty cents for a five minute shower, we decided to wait until we checked into a motel to enjoy such a luxury as a hot shower. Besides who needs a hot shower when you can get refreshingly clean using baby wipes?
Our second stop was at the Ranger’s Station, where there were free maps, newsletters, pamphlets, and, not so free things like, books, magazines, T-shirts, hats, and toys. I bought two books and Michelle bought one. There was also a skeleton of a moose, a wolf that had died and been stuffed and was exhibited in a plexiglass box, and two moose skulls who died because their antlers had gotten stuck together as they fought for dominance. We got into a discussion with the Ranger about the various trails and how easy or difficult they were to traverse. He said that he had walked every inch of the one hundred and sixty-five miles of trails on Isle Royale, at least six times. He went on to say that, the north trail was the most difficult and was mainly for people who were really experienced. Part of that trail crosses over beaver dams and lodges. The second most difficult trail was the one that we had walked on from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm. Maybe I’m not such a loser after all.
By then we were hungry and, since the Restaurant was still being built, we went to the pavilion to cook our dinner. I had some of the best Lasagna on the island, with dried apples and a candy bar for dessert. We were watching for moose all the way back to camp.
Actually, we didn’t need to look for moose because the moose came looking for us. As w e approached our camp site we realized that a moose was standing in t he middle o f Washington Creek, not ten yards from where our tents were set up. The moose slowly meandered down steam eating weeds from the bottom of the creek. Those weeds must have tasted as good as my lasagna to the moose, who was in no hurry to eat and run. We continued to watch her eat until it was too dark to see any thing. What a beautiful, mystical view we had of a moose, in a stream, eating dinner at sundown.
Because of drought conditions we were not allowed to have campfires, not even in a fire ring. We were in our tents by nine-thirty and I laid there wondering what would happen if that moose decided to take a shortcut through our camp. Would the moose know enough to step around a small pup tent? Or would it barrel through not even realizing that it was tearing our tents to shreds? I mean, come on, it’s pitch black out here!
We fell asleep to the sound of rain, not moose, on the top of our tents. Tomorrow we were going to take the vomit rocket on a five-hour cruse back to Rock Harbor.