Saturday, August 15, 2009


Western suburbs of Chicago to Copper Harbor, MI is an all-day trip. I left Naperville about 9AM. In well over an hour I was in Kenosha area where Russ took over the driving. We arrived in Copper Harbor just as the sun set. Along the way, we only stopped for some fresh last-minute groceries in Houghton Wal-Mart—the northern-most biggish city along the way—and took a little side-trip to visit Piers Gorge–the site recently covered by Tom Bamonte's trip report. Otherwise, it was just a long drive. The woods became ever denser with every mile heading north. After Milwaukee, there were few urban areas along the way.

We took a hike at Piers Gorge and watched with excitement as rafts stuffed with thrill-seekers dropped into the white water boils one after another off of a 10' drop. A teenage boy from one of the rafts fell out as the craft went over the falls. The fast-moving water quickly took him and the raft to a boulder known as the VW Beatle. Right as he got close to the rock in the middle of the river, he got himself in between the boulder and the raft. Next moment the raft hit the huge boulder and bounced off of it. The boy disappeared in the white washing machine. I cringed. Luckily, the fella emerged from under the water a couple dozen feet downstream and was promptly fished out by the outfitters camped out on shore and armed with rope-stuffed throw bags.

Copper Harbor is another matter. Here's something that explains the place that it is very well. When we got to the motel located within steps of the ferry dock, we found no one in the office. A list of customers was glued to the inside of the window. It detailed that all guests are to proceed to their rooms and the keys had been left on the table inside. So we stopped to our room. The end of check-in procedure. How's that for safety concerns in the North Woods!

First order of business after settling in the motel was a dry run of kayak packing. We spread the goods on the lawn that separates the motel from Lake Superior—all of 50 feet of it or so—and practiced hard for about an hour with our headlights on. The daylight was all gone. Many things that I planned to take along did not fit. This was, after all, my first long trip out of the boat. Luckily the items that did not make it were luxuries. They stayed behind in Russ's truck without much loss. I believe Russ, who has packed his kayak for camping many times, also had to leave some items in the truck. I believe he mentioned that this was the longest he was going to life out of his Nordkapp. There was something to show for experience. Russ's daily packing chore seemed to go smoother and faster than mine. I will just blame it on the fact that he had those luxurious 16" oval Valley hatches while mine were the poor-man's version—7.5" round ones, all three of them.

Once we were done pretend-packing, about 11PM, we were hungry. We were heading into the wilderness for a week after all. The only burger to be found on the Island was at the Rock Harbor Lodge. Not much remained open in town at this hour. We hit both of the open places. One had the kitchen already closed and offered us quick food. The other one bore a promise of frozen pizza! It sounded mighty good on the night before we will rely on our own cooking skills for a while. It turned out to be a smoky establishment with a loud crowd. In the end, the last supper consisted of French Fries, a gigantic plate of nachos and some local beers. Perfectly willing to gorge ourselves, we could not finish the nacho plate between the two of us!


Kayaks have to be lined up in front of the ferry one hour before departure which meant an early morning for us. 7:30AM EST! I enjoyed every last drop of the hot shower before we stepped onto the cold iron decks of the ferry. The crew hoisted our vessels on the top decks and tied them up to the railings. The gear bags were also whisked up onto the upper deck. I found it to be kind of strange that so much weight was being loaded so high on the ferry. In a kayak that spells a date with the bottom. Before long, though, we found ourselves on the front deck of the Isle Royale Queen IV heading into a cold morning breeze northwest toward the Island of Kings. The day was just perfect—stiff breeze from the NW, 1-2' waves, some clouds and refreshing temperatures somewhere in the 50s.

The three-hour trip went quickly as we chatted away with a father-daughter pair of hikers from Upper Michigan. While on the ship, the crew collected the $4 daily fees from all the campers—a good time-saving measure.

It's probably best that I did not see the island on the horizon until we were practically in Rock Harbor. The off-shore rocks and islets in the mist were exactly what I pictured the island to be in my dreams. Peace and serenity all wrapped in the shroud of mystery and accompanied by a harmonious roar of wind and breaking wave best describe the feelings that flooded the consciousness. I was truly moved by the first sight of the island. The anticipation of several months has boiled up to the emotional climax. This was the emotional high of the whole trip for me—the arrival, the promise, the free reign for the imagination and anticipation!

Go to: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6 Day 7Reflections

No comments:

Post a Comment