Isle Royale is just as pretty as it was when I last visited in 2013. We visited June 25-30 this year.
On the way up to Copper Harbor, we drove through the city of Houghton, which has a street named after the park:
The ferry ride across was eventful. The lake was calm for most of the trip, but about 30 minutes from the island, we entered a thunderstorm. We pulled into Rock Harbor in the rain.
While many of the other passengers huddled under the canopy at the ranger’s station, we claimed a shelter in the Rock Harbor campsite, and enjoyed a hot beverage while we were waiting for the rain to stop. At 2:00, we headed out onto the trail.
Trails were clearly marked and easy to follow (most of the time), but muddy. Rain always makes the trail muddy, and it was especially bad for us on this trip.
Although it was late June, the wild strawberries weren’t ripe yet. We had heard that spring was about two weeks late this year, and it certainly seemed so.
We didn’t encounter any black flies, which was a relief.Â I was worried that we might get hit by the annual black fly plague. We got lucky again.
We made it from Rock Harbor to Daisy Farm, about 7 miles away, in 4.5 hours. That’s a slower pace than we have made in the past. I blame the state of the trail. The strain of navigating huge mud patches and slippery rocks slowed us down.
The weather cleared up on our second day. Morning at Daisy Farm was gorgeous. Visibility was perfect.
The trails are pretty well maintained. Some boardwalks have rotting boards. We saw several drops of construction materials for trail maintenance. Helicopters delivered replacement boards. The park crew is doing a good job with what they have.
There’s still a lot of mud, though.
We didn’t encounter many other people in the park. Probably due to the earliness of the season. Someone told me that the best time to visit is the week before July 4. We’ve visited in June, July and August. While the weather is the best in August, and the thimbleberries are ripe then, the park is much more crowded. In June, we have always been able to get a shelter in a campsite. Can’t say the same for August.
At McCargo Cove, we saw a moose and a fox. We took a rest day there. It was cold: highs in the 50s, lows in the 40s. The second day was clear and beautiful, and much warmer. Sunshine makes all the difference on Isle Royale.
My favorite place on the island continues to be Moskey Basin. At Daisy Farm on our second day, we met a young couple from Maine. We ran into them again at McCargo Cove. I told them that Moskey was a beautiful site, and mentioned that our favorite shelter is #2, right on the water. I advised them to try to get that shelter if they could.
When we arrived at Moskey, we saw the couple again. I had told them that we were planning to be there that day. They must have remembered, because to our delight, they saved the #2 shelter for us! Thanks, A and L! You guys are the best!
The stupid squirrels at the campsites continue to be a problem. Stop feeding the squirrels, people!
We averaged 7-10 miles per day. On our fifth day, we stumbled into Rock Harbor (11 miles in 6 hours), and my wife announced that we we were staying in the cottages that night. I had no objections to a flush toilet and a hot shower.
This was my 4th trip to the park, and I hope it won’t be my last. However, I’m getting too old to be carrying a 40-pound pack. I strained my back, and my wife had problems with her feet. Next time we go, we’ll take the water taxi to campsites and take day hikes instead.