Isle Royale NP
Miles Today: 120
Total Miles: 8234.4
Days on the Road: 141
So much for THAT money-making scheme.
Isle Royale Facts
Biggest Island in the Biggest Lake in the World
As many visitors in a year as Yellowstone gets in a day
And the best thing about Isle Royale: No bears
Eyeball Portraits, money-making scheme #2
Our Island Menu
Salami and Cheese Sandwiches
Falafel Wraps w/ Cous-Cous, Avocado, Cucumber and Tomato
Oatmeal, Coffee, Fruit
Macaroni n' Cheese
Tuna, Avocado, Tomato Sandwiches
Curry Potatoes wi/ Cous-Cous, Tofu and Zuchini
Granola w/ banana
Moo-Shu Pork w/ Rice
Soba Noodles w/ sesame ginger sauce, snow peas, cucumber
Peanut butter n' jelly
Cliff Bars, Twizzlers, Heath Bar, Apples, Oranges, Beef Jerky, Trail Mix, Gu, Jacob's Creek Merlot
Life, The Universe, and Some Other Stuff
When it comes to not planning ahead, Liz and I are practiced experts. In the week leading up to our trip to Isle Royale National Park, we had occasional internet access and frequent cell phone service. We also knew full well that the boats out to the island were infrequent and often booked solid. We had repeatedly read stern advice from guide book after guide book to "book at least a month ahead". We didn't buy the month thing, but still, we knew. Instead of calling, though, instead of emailing or booking online, we silently figured it would be easier to drive 130 miles up Minnesota's North Shore to within spittin' distance of Canada and just see if we could get on a boat. We had no backup plan. If we are to visit every National Park in the 48 touching-each-other states, we had to get out there.
When we discovered -- from a dripping wet (it was raining) Park Ranger with the inner peace of a buddha -- that the boat we had hoped to catch doesn't run on Tuesdays, and the other boat, which runs every day, was getting a late start this summer due to low water on Lake Superior, we were faced with an extra day in Grand Portage, Minnesota, the last stop in the U.S. and a town where the "Gas, Food, Lodging" signs on the highway all refer to the same building. This being an Indian Reservation, that building is, of course, a casino.
Grand Portage is also home to a wonderful National Monument, a recreation of a Northwest Company fur trading post, and rumored to have once been the biggest city in North America. Traders from Quebec and Voyageurs from the north lands would meet here at the Grand Portage ("big carrying place") to exchange their goods once a year and get really, really drunk. Not wanting to flout tradition, we had a couple of Bud Lights. Our unexpected delay gave us ample time to explore the monument, watch all of the films they could muster, and have a nice talk with Isaac, a high school teacher from Wisconsin who had personally stitched all of his circa-1780's finery, and could make fire in 10 seconds with a flint and steel. Thank god this man is a high school teacher.
After our visit, we consulted our newly acquired boat schedules and realized we could stay on the island for one night or three, or more, but not the two nights we had thought would be just right. We were so confused we retreated to Grand Marais, got a hotel room and ordered a pizza. American Juniors was on, and all of our indecision and planning woes just melted away. "Let's get in the sauna." "Absolutely."
We opted for the three night stay, figuring if we were going to pay all that money to get out there on a boat, we might as well hang around. After a beautiful, if diesel-fumey, boat ride, during which three guys prayed for the entire ride from their Adventure Bibles, out loud, on the bow, we arrived at Windigo Harbor. We took a look at a trail map and decided on one night at an isolated cove on the North Coast, and then two nights at a reportedly splendid lake, with lots of moose.
That was the plan, but this story being about who it is about, the plan didn't last long. After a somewhat grueling hike, due to our general lack of conditioning and the ridiculous amount of crap we brought, we arrived at Hugginin Cove, which sounded like something right out of the Care Bears and was so cute we could've just died. Instead, we stayed for three nights. Never went anywhere else. We read, we talked, we drank a bottle of Merlot (the one thing we were really glad we had brought. Next time, two bottles), we watched three sunsets from our private rocks, facing Canada and thinking how nice Canadians are. We were completely alone for the first two nights, except for a group of day hikers who happened by, naturally, just as we were sunning ourselves naked on the rocks, secure in the knowledge that we were alone on the planet. After a few minutes of huddling behind boulders, laughing hysterically and surreptitiously sliding our clothes from the exposed rock, we emerged fully clothed, acted casual, and they asked to borrow our water filter. We agreed.
On the third day, in the early afternoon, we heard voices, and not just any voices. This was the unmistakable lilt of young American girls, where every sentence turns into a question by the end. "I don't, like, ever, shave my eyebrows? But I can't, like, just, you know, leave them alone, ya know?" We had theorized before and now were quite sure that this manner of speech is designed to carry on the air for the greatest possible distance. What evolutionary benefit this imparts it's hard to say, though we did pick up several potentially useful grooming tips and learn an awful lot about their families.
These interlopers also committed a cardinal sin by breaking the campsite/urinal rule. This rule states, simply enough, that should you enter a men's restroom or a campground, with a line of undivided urinals and/or campsites, it is proper to select one with AT LEAST a one urinal/campsite buffer. Never, ever, is it acceptable to select the facility directly beside the current user. This applies even if the campsites are 20 yards apart. Since the next site is 40 yards away, and the one after that at least 60, these are clearly preferable. We thought everyone knew this rule. We were, sadly, wrong.
Staying still in the wilderness for 3 days was the best thing we've done in quite a while. It became our entire lives in microcosm. We ate, we drank, we read, we wrote, we thought, we made a small, illegal fire for coffee. There was laughter, there were tears, there was Scrabble. We didn't see a moose, which is typical of our wildlife viewing luck, but we saw at least 5 million flies. While considerably more annoying and unquestionably less majestic than a moose, the flies sheer numbers were quite impressive.
There was even whittling. When is the last time there was time for whittling? Like, I don't know, never?
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.