Saturday, August 22, 2009

Isle Royale, Day 7: Duncan Bay Narrows – Blake Point – Lookout Louise – Rock Harbor – Tobin Harbor – Fort Wilson

Total Distance=13.9 miles; Time=5hrs.

We got up early and started the day with a quick breakfast of Granola cereal. No cooking. The couple from the neighboring shelter came by to say good-bye. We were on the water before 8AM.

Duncan Bay Narrows was peaceful as we paddled into the sunrise but the waves were picking up steady as we approached the open water. We could see the sun! As soon as we were out of the protection of the bay 2-4' reflecting waves were right where we left them yesterday. The cliffs of the Palisades followed us all the way to Blake Point. Russ, as usual, kept a brisk tempo as if auto-paced by a metronome all trip long. I had a particularly hard time starting the engines that morning. Every stroke came with an effort and sustaining the normal 3.5-4 knot pace was a major challenge. At times I felt like I probably can't make another turn of the torso. Thanks to Russ, I just had to keep on going.

The chop appeared to grow larger as we got closer to the Blake Point. Confused waters similar to what we saw at Locke Point met us at Blake but the shoals were not nearly as long. Soon I was paddling to the southwest with the wind and swell at my back and enjoying the extra help. Before I had a chance to soak in the relief I heard my name carried by the wind. A look behind me revealed Russ in the water outside of his boat. That just did not make any sense. Why would he capsize in perfectly placid swell after what we have been through? And if some freak of nature did tip him over, he would certainly not be calling me for help. Then things started clicking into place: a swim is a ritual for Russ on every trip I've taken with this sailor. Well, turns out that's exactly what it was—a ritual swim that he wanted to share with me. Russ was celebrating the rounding of Blake Point which, according to most accounts, is one of the most treacherous places around the Island. I wish I could have joined him but I was happy to stay upright moving forward. Wet exit, re-entry and pumping were not in the cards this morning. I don't even know if I had in me to do a self-rescue without throwing up.

We continued on past Merit Lane campground toward Look-Out Louise recommended by our neighbors from Duncan Bay Narrows. Paddling with the waves and the wind I felt better. Maybe constant up-and-down and left-to-right got to me? Or was it the beer? I never quite figured it out. It was not long, though, before we both started to get hot because we were paddling down-wind. This was the warmest day of our trip with the sun out in full.

Entering Tobin Harbor we saw a couple of abandoned houses left over from the private residents who lived on the island before it became the National Park. I guess the park service has decided to let nature take care of these remnants of civilization. In the conditions that prevail here and without constant maintenance, it was blatantly obvious that the structures will not last long. In fact, most of them were in various stages of ruin already. Some didn't even look like houses anymore—more like piles of boards.

At about 11AM we arrived at the dock where the trail leading to Look-Out Louise started. At this point we did not have much time left for the hike at all. No worries, we caught another lucky break. A couple of canoeists promptly showed up at the dock and informed us that Copper Harbor ferry did not run on Friday. Gale force winds and waves from the north kept the ship docked safely in home port for the first time in two seasons. All the passengers who did not get back to the mainland yesterday were going to board the Isle Royale Queen IV first. The ferry will, then, return for the rest of the campers later in the afternoon.

The 1-mile walk to the bluff on which the lookout is located was very scenic. First, we passed by the Hidden Lake where, according to the couple from last night, the moose frequently come to visit the salt licks. Unfortunately, no moose were in the cards for us. No worries, the overlook was absolutely gorgeous offering us 400-foot views of Duncan Bay and beyond, all the way to the Amygdaloid Island. Islands, bays, narrow passages, and more islands as far as the eye can see. Canada was clearly visible on the horizon.

After the hike, we had an easy paddle past the Scoville Point and back to Rock Harbor. We saw many on-lookers on Scoville rock and even a single kayaker in a short-sleeve cotton t-shirt casually dipping his paddle in calm waters on an early Saturday afternoon. At around 2PM we dragged the paternal twins Nordkapps onto the same rock beach that saw us launch almost exactly six days ago.

It was nice to have all this time to unpack, change, and eat at the lodge. Rushing to make the ferry would have probably taken away from the overall experience. We even had time to tour the campsites and shelters at Rock Harbor and then took a hike on the Tobin Harbor Trail almost all the way to Scoville point.

The ferry came and took us from Rock Harbor departing at around 8PM. We did not land in Copper Harbor until 11PM.
There was no driving that night so we headed for
Fort Wilkins Historic State Park and built our tents at a campground one last time.

Go to: Reflections

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