Continued from Isle Royale National Park: Day 1
On Saturday morning the rain had stopped, but the wind off of Lake Superior at Lane Cove was brisk. I put on an extra layer and headed down the rocky shore alone.
The wet cobbles were slick, making progress a bit tricky. Most of the rocks on Isle Royale are basalt, members of the Portage Lake Lava series. These thick beds were formed by huge volumes of lava that spewed from a rift in this region almost 1.2 billion years ago. Over hundreds of millions of years this area was buried by younger sediment, only to be exposed again by uplift and erosion. In more recent geologic time several glacial periods worked to carve the rocks. The last ice sheets retreated around 10,000 years ago, leaving Isle Royale in its present state. The meltwater also left it surrounded by the massive Lake Superior, which itself has polished many of the shoreline rocks into smooth, round shapes.
I stared at the rocks here for quite some time. Partly this was because they were really cool, and partly this was because I didn’t want to trip and fall. Before long I was distracted by something else. A trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator, Anatidae) approached from the distance, flying low over the water before splashing down nearby. I sat down to watch and it calmly swam past me, occasionally honking softly or dipping its head in the water for a snack.
Before long my friend Jim was awake and we got moving, somewhat eager to escape the cold wind off the lake. From Lane Cove we headed back towards Greenstone Ridge.
We soon came across more evidence of the moose on the island: Giant hoofprints.
Further evidence of moose was provided by young quaking aspen trees (Populus tremuloides, Salicaceae) that were growing in many of the forest openings. In some places the tender leaves and twigs were stripped by foraging moose.
When we descended the approximately 400 feet from the Greenstone Ridge to Lane Cove the previous evening, we had little appreciation for the elevation change. Going back up that morning proved a little more challenging. Over the last half mile the trail was really steep.
Soon after we got back on the Greenstone Ridge Trail, we arrived at Mount Franklin. This was about 500 feet above our campsite at Lane Cove along Lake Superior. It was hard to believe less than two hours earlier we were at the water along the right side of this shot:
Mount Franklin itself is a prominent, steep cliff that provides great views of the northeastern section of the island.
As we continued west on Greenstone Ridge, the weather was warm and partly sunny. Many of the openings were filled with a variety of insects:
We soon caught sight of our next waypoint: The fire tower on top of Mount Ojibway. If you squint you can see it here:
After a while we finally got to the tower, and the views of the western reaches of the island were great. This would be the westernmost extent of our travel, however. The western reaches would have to wait for a future trip.
From here we headed south on the Mount Ojibway Trail toward the Daisy Farm Campground. After descending from Greenstone Ridge, the trail went back up over Ransom Hill before descending again.
There were still more insects:
After descending Ransom Hill, the trail leveled off as we approached Daisy Farm:
We had originally intended to push on to the Moskey Basin campground, but with heavy rain in the forecast we didn’t want to overextend ourselves. After dropping our packs in a shelter, we headed down to the lakeshore to filter water:
With ample daylight remaining, I made an exploratory hike down the Daisy Farm Trail while my friend Jim ventured down the Rock Harbor Trail toward Moskey Basin. We were still intent on seeing a moose, and thought we could increase our chances by splitting up. I didn’t see a moose, but the trail was still nice:
I even stumbled across a jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum, Araceae):
Jim didn’t see a moose on his solo hike either, so we decided to head back up Ransom Hill to spot for them before dusk. The vantage point we had gave views of open spots on Greenstone Ridge and the valley below. We could even see the Mount Ojibway fire tower from here:
Before long I got bored and started photographing the interesting plants at this spot:
Although we didn’t see a moose, on the way back to camp we came across an American red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus, Sciuridae) chomping on some of the plants:
We saw a ton of these on the island; they’re probably one of the most common mammals there. Even when you don’t see them, you can frequently hear their shrill calls from the trees.
After getting to sleep, we were awoken around 3am by a pretty strong thunderstorm that lasted for over an hour. The torrential rain made us glad we opted for one of the wooden shelters at this campground. Although we managed to again fall asleep amid the thunder and lightning, the rain would still be coming down in the morning.
Day 2 Summary:
1) Lane Cove Campground to Greenstone Ridge via the Lane Cove Trail (2.4 miles, about 400 feet of elevation gain)
2) Lane Cove Trail to Mount Frankling via the Greenstone Ridge Trail (0.3 miles, about 100 feet of elevation gain)
3) Mount Franklin to Mount Ojibway via the Greenstone Ridge Trail (2.5 miles, about 100 feet of elevation gain)
4) Mount Ojibway to the Daisy Farm Campground via the Mount Ojibway Trail (1.7 miles, about 600 feet of elevation loss)
5) Camp at Daisy Farm Campground
6) Short hike up the Daisy Farm Trail (about 1 mile)
7) Hike back up Ransom Hill on the Mount Ojibway Trail (about 1 mile)
Total: 8.9 miles, 600 feet of elevation gain, 600 feet of elevation loss
Continued with Isle Royale National Park: Day 3