Isle Royale National Park: Day 1

Continued from Isle Royale National Park: Prologue

On Friday we strapped on our 36-pound backpacks and headed to the Houghton County Memorial Airport for our 30-minute seaplane ride to Isle Royale National Park. As is often the case, transportation was delayed because of the weather. On that day high winds presented a challenge to safe travel. We were supposed to leave at 10am, but didn’t take off until about 3pm. Dave, the pilot with Royale Air, did a fine job handling the tricky wind conditions to get us there quickly and safely.

Approaching Isle Royale from the air. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Fresh off the seaplane at Tobin Harbor. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Once off the plane at Tobin Harbor we made a beeline for the Rock Harbor Lodge. We had reserved a water taxi to take us to the Hidden Lake dock at the east end of the island. Most visitors skip the eastern part of the island, and we thought it would be cool to visit this area first.

The author at the Hidden Lake dock. Once the water taxi departed, for the next four days we would be alone in the wilderness. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

With the seaplane delay we were well behind schedule to cover 8.4 miles and reach the Lane Cove Campground by dusk. Although keeping a healthy pace, we took in as much as possible along the way.

Hidden Lake, photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

The Lookout Louise Trail started out rather pleasant, covering some level ground around Hidden Lake. The wet soil was covered in places by boardwalks…

Jim Fischer examining the trees near Hidden Lake. Photographed 05/25/2012 at isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

…and by numerous plants like marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris, Ranunculaceae):

Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris, Ranunculaceae) near Hidden Lake.  Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Cool fungi were also present:

Unknown fungus photographed 05/25/2012 at isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Before long the trail started gaining some elevation on the way up to Lookout Louise on the Greenstone Ridge. Over this mile-long segment there was about 300 feet of elevation gain.

The author on the Lookout Louise Trail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

It wasn’t long before we saw the first evidence of the moose on the island:

Moose scat on the Lookout Louise Trail, photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park. Blackberry for scale. Over the next few days we would see dozens of such piles.

In addition to the marsh marigolds, there were other cool flowers along the trail like gaywings (Polygala paucifolia, Polygalaceae):

Gaywings (Polygala paucifolia, Polygalaceae) along the Lookout Louise Trail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Occasional pine stands created dimly-lit tunnels to traverse along the way:

Lookout Louise Trail, photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Once we finally reached Lookout Louise, the view was worth the trek. In addition to the smaller surrounding islands, we could see Canada along the horizon:

View from Lookout Louise. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

From here the hike along the Greenstone Ridge was both relatively easy and beautiful. Marching along solid rock, we were surrounded by amazing lake views and northwoods trees like the abundant birch (Betula sp., Betulaceae):

Stately birch (Betula sp., Betulaceae) above the Greenstone Ridge and Lake Superior. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Interesting flowers continued along the way, like this rock harlequin (Capnoides sempervirens, Fumariaceae):

Rock harlequin (Capnoides sempervirens, Fumariaceae) photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

In the warm, sunny afternoon many insects were buzzing about:

Mourning cloak (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Nymphalis antiopa) photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Stunning views were a mainstay of this eastern section of the Greenstone Ridge:

View from the eastern Greenstone Ridge Trail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

After a few miles we turned off the Greenstone Ridge Trail and onto the Lane Cove Trail towards our first campsite. After descending about 400 feet, the wet ground harbored numerous amphibians like this spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer, Hylidae):

Spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer, Hylidae) along the Lane Cove Trail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

I also saw the largest American toad (Bufo americanus, Bufonidae) I had ever seen.  It must have been at least four inches from snout to tail:

American toad (Bufo americanus, Bufonidae) at least 4 inches from nose to tail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

North American beaver (Castor canadensis, Castoridae) were also present along the creeks in this low area:

Beaver dam along the Lane Cove Trail. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus, Araceae) was common in the wetlands:

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus, Araceae) photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

After what seemed like forever we finally arrived at the Lane Cove Campground:

View from the Lane Cove Campground. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

The setting sun against the approaching rain clouds provided a dramatic view of the nearby islands and trees with Sleeping Giant in Ontario, Canada in the background:

View from the Lane Cove Campground at dusk. The nearby islands and trees were silhouetted against the setting sun behind Sleeping Giant in Ontario, Canada. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Thus concluded an impressive first day on Isle Royale. We fell asleep listening first to the eerie calls of loons and a lone moose, and then the patter of modest rainfall.  Although it rained a bit in the evening, our single-man tents and mummy bags kept us warm and dry, ready to face the next challenging day on the island.

A broader view of Sleeping Giant in Ontario, Canada against the setting sun. Photographed 05/25/2012 at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan.

Day 1 Summary:
1) Hidden Lake Dock to Lookout Louise via the Lookout Louise Trail (1 mile, almost 300 feet of elevation gain)
2) Lookout Louise to the Lane Cove Trail via the Greenstone Ridge Trail (4.8 miles, over 100 feet of elevation gain)
3) Greenstone Ridge Trail to Lane Cove Campground via the Lane Cove Trail (2.4 miles, about 400 feet of elevation loss)
4) Camp at Lane Cove Campground
Total: 8.4 miles, 400 feet of elevation gain, 400 feet of elevation loss

Continued with Isle Royale National Park: Day 2

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Entomology, Fungi, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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