Let’s Go Back to the Isle: Day Four

Photo of the Greenstone Ridge trail looking over the interior of Isle Royale National Park on a sunny day.

Trail/Park: Isle Royale National Park

What a difference a sunny day can make. I had slept in a bit later than I’d intended, but with about 8 miles to cover to reach the campground at West Chickenbone Lake, I still had the day stretching out in front of me. I offered once again to clean out the shelter, allowing the family that had taken me in to get moving and giving me some time to wrap my head around the miles and mud to come.

It takes me about two hours to get from Daisy Farm to the Greenstone Ridge Trail. I’d planned to use the Greenstone to traverse the island down its center. I knew I’d be passing up views of Lake Superior, but for my first adventure of this kind, the most direct route seemed like the best idea. The day was bright and sunny with a nice breeze keeping the hiking at my favorite temperature.

The Mud Tho.

I was again reminded that the unique geography of northern Minnesota and Isle Royale is the perfect combination to create some pretty epic mud. The fun thing about the mud was that it offered me the chance to see what I believe were very recent wolf tracks on the Daisy Farm Trail. That was a big deal since there were only two wolves on Isle Royale and the rangers were asking for help reporting sightings of tracks, scat or the reclusive wolves themselves.

I also knew that my animal identification wasn’t perfect and that those prints and scat could be from the foxes on the island instead. I thought back to the orientation given by the ranger at Windigo. They had told us to be sure to keep personal belongings in tents or up away from the ground. There was a fox that was stealing things like boots and even a book because of the salts from the owners sweat. It made me laugh to think about a fox running off with a book.

The days was beautiful. Quiet. As I hiked, I had the trail to myself most of the day. I ran into two small groups heading north. I was still moving slower than I wanted – about a mile an hour. Between the mud, the significant elevation changes and the unchanging scenery, the distance dragged on. I berated myself for not having trained as much as I should have to be in shape for this hike. Being behind on my schedule kept pushing to the front of my mind. I was worried I wouldn’t make the ferry thereby being late for my check-in with my family, resulting in my family starting an unnecessary search. But I kept going.

It was late afternoon when I came to the junction with the East Chickenbone Lake Campground trail. I knew I was getting closer to my goal. An hour or so later I finally made it to the West Chickenbone Lake campground. I looked over the campground map and headed to check out the sites. There wasn’t another soul in the campground. I had my choice of any spot so I decided on one of the group sites that had a perfect place for my hammock and a stunning view of the lake.

The site was breathtakingly beautiful. Perhaps because it was the first time I’d had a chance to set up camp and not huddle in a shelter. Perhaps it was because the day had been near perfect weather. Having a solid place to hang my hammock meant I’d sleep well. Just drying out felt so very good.

A panoramic photo of the campsite at West Chickenbone Lake on Isle Royale in the late afternoon sun. There is a hammock hung between trees, a fire ring surrounded by makeshift seating and clear blue lake in the background.

I hung up my things that were still damp to dry in the sun. I put on my camp shoes and moved my boots around as the sun moved, trying to dry them out. I reveled in the beauty and reflected on the day. It had been a good one. I’d seen the wolf tracks and even some moose tracks, dragonflies seemed to follow me as I hiked, I had plenty of room to hang out my things to dry. My campsite made my heart sing. My trail legs felt like they are finally coming and I’m hopeful my pace will improve.

As I made dinner, I listened to the dozen or so loons call out to each other. When I cleaned up a chipmunk arrived to see if I had left anything laying out. Butterflies were everywhere. It was just the uplift to my day that I needed.

Helpful Hints

  • Make and keep as best you can to a training plan. The longer you train, the better prepared you will be. I had only trained about six weeks prior to leaving and my pace showed it. Or, better yet, train all year long in all kinds of conditions.
  • Don’t sweat what you can’t control. Allowing my worry of being a day behind to be in my thoughts so much distracted me from things I might have otherwise enjoyed. After all, the absolute worst thing that would happen is that park rangers would start looking for (and likely) find me pretty easily.
  • Remember it’s ok to slow down. I wouldn’t have taken note of the animal tracks, embraced the warmth of the sun, or enjoyed the loons at camp if I had been hurrying along.

Photo of a group of hikers on a sunny day in a field heading towards a wooded area. The photographer has taken the photo from behind the group.

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