Isle Royale National Park

Cooper braced himself between the edge of the table and the wall of the bench seat as I curled up against his chest, trying to find a restful position. It had only been thirty minutes into the boat ride but the looming forecast suggested an uncomfortable ride ahead.

The night before was spent working, me until midnight at the restaurant and Cooper until 4 am at his overnight job. Within seconds of getting home, the Fit was loaded up and we were on our way north to Grand Portage for a weekend of backpacking through Isle Royale National Park.  Sleep was a necessity but with a five hour boat ride, we committed to resting while out at sea. Now, as the boat collided with choppy water sending us high into the area, we regretted many things.

With little sleep under our belt, we got off to a slow start when we arrived on the island at McCargoe Cove. A three mile walk down the trail and we would be at our first campsite at West Chickenbone Lake. We slept nearly eleven hours that night after filling our stomachs with Knorr pasta side meals and Bourbon and awoke the next morning ready to play.

Traditionally our vacations are far from restful. We drive through the night going great lengths to get from one location to another or we hike long distances only to come home and immediately go back to work. This trip was our relaxing vacation with approximately 20 miles to hike over the course of two and a half days. The second day was spent hiking to Daisy Farm campground and then onto Rock Harbor for our last night.

Daisy Farm was a treat. The shelters lined the path just a stones throw from the banks of Lake Superior. With our toes in the water, we cooked dinner and watched the sun slowly disappear beyond the tree line behind us. That night, we could see the glow of the moon illuminating the sky and hear loons calling out.

Throughout the second day we ran into a number of hurdles that made us feel unprepared for the elements. We ran out of water almost two and a half miles away from the campground, a rookie mistake that would cost me a pounding headache the next morning and nausea for the first half of the hike. After refueling and spending the afternoon relaxing on the dock, we headed back to our campsite for dinner. One meal down and one to go, the fuel canister we believed to be full at the beginning of the trip began sputtering quickly before turning itself off. No fuel, no more hot meals. We resigned to eating cold, hard noodles and the one hot meal we had managed to make. Cold oatmeal the next morning wouldn’t be the worst meal we’ve ever had after a year in AmeriCorps.

After dinner, we sat around the picnic table to complete a logic puzzle we had found in the campground information box. Lindy, Cindy, and Mindy went with Trent, Kent, and Brent to get ice cream sundaes and it was up to us to figure out who got what. We had a good laugh sorting through the puzzle, making fun of ourselves for struggling to finish it. As the sky grew dark we took out our headlamps and the luminoodle. The light of my headlamp was fainter than usual and quickly dimmed even more as I tried to read the next clue. Of course, I forgot new batteries. We decided to work by the glow of the luminoodle to save Cooper’s headlamp for the next day. We were just finishing up the puzzle when Cooper grabbed the luminoodle and began stuffing it into the carrying sack still lit. “Did you know you could do this?” he asked as the device cast a lantern like glow over the puzzle. Just as I was about to respond, everything went dark. We erupted in laughter. It was too fitting a way to end the day of slightly unprepared backpacking by having our backup light source also run out of batteries.

Despite feeling a little unprepared, we took each moment as good practice for what’s to come in just a couple of months. We spent a lot of time talking about the Pacific Crest Trail and walked away with a better understanding of measures we need to take to ensure we’re prepared for the elements we’ll face.

While we were on Isle Royale, we ran into a number of backpackers. After backpacking the Ozark trail and rarely seeing others, it was a different experience to run into so many faces. Often people we met at one point on the island would resurface later, either at a campground a day later or on the ferry ride back. Everyone was welcoming and we felt inspired by a lot of our conversations with others. It was a fun change of pace from our previous experience and it showed us a side of what we might find while out on the PCT.

I didn’t think it possible but our experience on Isle Royale sparked even more excitement for what’s to come next. We began to more thoroughly plan and we’ll be posting soon about what the process looks like for us. Till then, happy fall everyone!





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