2015, Trip 3, Isle Royale National Park, June 22
Seven hours on a continuous Disney ride: Chris’ description of the boat ride from Grand Portage MN to Rock Harbor Lodge at Isle Royale National Park, MI. Interpretation: Not a comfortable, relaxed ride.
The Voyageur II, our transportation to the island, has been around a while. It is not heavy on the amenities. It did have coffee and two rest rooms and the seats were padded with backrests, though. Chris and I were the second group arriving this morning at 6:15 A.M. I met Kirk, the second in command (of two) who indicated we could stow our gear on the deck and be patient for the boarding process-which began about 6:45 AM.
While waiting at the dock, we met and talked with two couples that will also be staying at Rock Harbor Lodge with us. One is from Edina, MN and one from Minocqua, WI. The Edina couple seems to have traveled the globe. They had dog-sledded in Ely MN at the same place that we had done. This November they plan to visit Churchill Manitoba to watch polar bears-a trip similar to one that Chris has been dreaming about. The WI couple used to have a cabin cruiser that they had used to cruise around the Apostle Islands area of WI.
The Voyageur II holds about 50 people, today’s count was 47. Of those, most were people backpacking and camping out somewhere in the park. They generally got off the boat at Windigo, the first stop, at the southwest end of the island. When they got off, a park ranger met them and went over the rules and warnings; including that you need a specific type of water filter, iodine drops are not enough. The Voyageur II is the only ferry that goes completely around the island; dropping off backpackers at several remote locations.
There was a church group (many of them wearing shorts), a group of three from Wilmington DE, and a two-some with a boy of 11 and a woman about 30. The boy had done this before, not so for the woman. Most of the groups seemed to be going out for 5-6 nights. Supposedly there is a limit of 40 pounds per person of gear that can be carried on the boat. From the look and sounds of the two guys storing the gear, most backpackers had not read, or had ignored, the limitation.
The boat trip to Windigo was two hours. It would take us an additional five hours to reach Rock Harbor Lodge at the northeast side of the island. The day had started out cloudy and got cloudier as we approached the island. The temperature was in the low 50s(Fahrenheit). Soon it was drizzling and it alternated between a drizzle and a light rain for most of the rest of the day. At a second stop, two other couples got off and headed for their camping site. Those of us staying at the Lodge wished them well. We also thought: There are advantages to getting old; no false optimism or naive ideas about camping and backpacking in the rain.
Lake Superior can be very violent and stormy. It has a well-deserved reputation for dangerous waters. Our waters were probably relatively calm for the Lake, but the small boat was still tossing about on the waves. Chris and I both had “sea bands”- an acupuncture/pressure type device to help one avoid seasickness. We did not have breakfast and were not planning to eat or drink while on the boat. Before Windigo, I did have a brief spell where I sat out back to keep my stomach under control, and it worked. Chris did fine, stomach-wise.
The boat was traveling at about 12-14 miles per hour, according to Kirk. As we left Windigo, the waves increased and the tossing about increased a notch or two. All of the seats are inside, under cover, although there are two outdoor areas where people can stand and view the scenery. There was little to no heat and the engines make a loud racket. Some people napped, others read or talked. The scenery was so-so. The clouds, drizzle, fog etc dampened enthusiasm. After a while, the lake and the shoreline can only do so much to impress you. Chris was not enjoying the ride, but was able to keep conversing with various groups. I think it helped take her mind off the ride. She indicated she thought the ride was worse than the two nights of high winds on the Lake Powell adventure of a year ago; I thought she looked worse during the Lake Powell trip.
We finally reached Rock Harbor around 2:30 PM CDT, half an hour early. It was raining and our luggage got a little wet but the lodge provides a porter to bring your luggage to your room/cabin. For us this was a godsend since we had a house-keeping cabin at the far end of the “complex”. We have our own small kitchen, bathroom and a great view through large picture windows of Tobin Harbor. We did not bring food, though, we plan to eat here at the two restaurants and buy a few snacks at the store. A little more cost, a lot less hassle. We tried out the grill after we were settled in. The burger and tossed salad with chicken were both very tasty.
The cabin is like the Ritz Carlton. Well-built, heat, plenty of hot water, clean, pleasant kitchen area. But then it is not like the Ritz Carlton. The floor never seems to truly get warm, the space heater is noisy and has to run almost constantly, the bed is shorter than I am and the sheets are not fitted and seem too small for the bed. All in all, though, I prefer to think like the first sentence: The cabin is like the Ritz Carlton. Starting in the evening and until almost 3 AM, the winds are howling and the rain is heavier. I sit in one of the wood chairs and watch the storm and am thankful we are camping inside.
Tomorrow we hope for better weather and will be out hiking.
Ed and Chris June 25