Isle Royale – Part II

Our first full day on the island was slow-going. We slept a little later than we’d expected, but as we had nowhere in particular to be, it didn’t matter much. When we awoke, we headed down to the dock. Part of our package included a ½ day rental of a canoe, so we had decided on a day on the water, only to discover that all of the canoes and kayaks had already been rented (early bird gets the canoe as they say). We could come back later, but there was no guarantee that we would get anything.

We strolled around and considered the various hiking trails on the island. While deciding, I stopped into the Visitor’s Center to speak with the Ranger (Lucas again) and get a crash course on some of the vegetation I’d seen on the island the day before. I was most curious about the variety of shiny hard berries (in red, white and blue), as I’d never seen anything like them. I was told they were not edible (they didn’t look edible, so no worries).

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The white berries with the black dot were Baneberry (also known as Doll’s Eyes) and are quite toxic. The red berries also fell into that same category. The hard blue colored berries are a type of lily – the Bluebead Lily. I thought those were really interesting. The bead apparently forms after they flower.

As the morning drifted away, we decided that rather than test our luck waiting on a canoe return, we would hop on The Sandy and head over to nearby Raspberry Island for a spell. Despite the name, you won’t find many raspberries on the island, though it was once full of them (a shame really, as I do love raspberries). We did come across a great rock cliff where we sat to enjoy the view for a bit. Just as I was getting up to leave I noticed some wild blueberries. We snacked on a few before exploring the island further – they were so delicious. Far superior to any supermarket blueberry I have ever eaten.

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We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife on the Island (we were hoping for an elusive moose, but alas, despite signs of them, we did not see any actual moose). But there were lots of flowers and wonderful views on the island. The bog in particular had some really unique plants. This pretty flower, which likes to munch on insects, is called a Pitcher Plant.

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There was also a plant called a sunburst which was tricky to photograph. Here’s my best attempt.

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The plants weren’t the only things that were tricky to photograph. After many failed attempts (including while he sat on my leg for a spell), I finally got this guy to sit still long enough for me to get a shot.

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It was a very nice visit to one of Isle Royale’s other islands and you’d be hard-pressed to beat the scenery.

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Though we left with lots of daylight remaining, once back on Isle Royale we stuck to the trails in the Rock Harbor area, as we didn’t feel we had time for a major hike. I spent quite a bit of my time munching on thimbleberries as we went. Having only discovered them that day, and knowing my time with them were limited, my strategy amounted to if it is ripe, pick it. Wondering what a thimbleberry looks like? You’ll have to google one, as I was apparently too busy eating them to capture a good shot of one.

In the evening, we ended up back down on the sea plane dock with a few other people to watch the sunset. A private plane had come in. I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of it. And of course, we also took pictures of the setting sun.

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With the sun down, the chilly night air had us making our way back to our cottage. It was a short trip, but we’ve very much enjoyed our time in the park.

Saying Goodbye to Isle Royale

The morning of our departure we headed for the seaplane dock for our 9am flight back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula only to find out the plane was delayed 40 minutes. Seemed strange as the skies were clear and the weather was beautiful. Perhaps something was brewing on the mainland. But it was a lovely spot to wait, so we hung out on the dock taking photos and hoping for a last minute moose sighting.

Twenty minutes later we were informed that the plane wouldn’t be coming – mechanical problems needed to be addressed and the part would not be available until the next day. We headed up to the park office to find out what our options were. Our choices? Get on the afternoon ferry if they had room, or stay an extra night, hoping to get out on the plane the next day.

We opted for the ferry (this was a shorter three hour ferry) and then determined to make the best of our extended stay, we used our free ½ day rental to take a kayak out in Tobin Harbor. We’d been down at the harbor while waiting for the plane and it could not have been more flat, so I had no concerns about this kayaking trip. This picture of a nearby canoe shows just how flat the water was.

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We spent about an hour and a half out on the water and simply enjoyed the stillness and the peace and quiet. At one point, along the shoreline we could hear voices of hikers on the trail that seemed to be following us. We’d later connect with some of those voices in the guest house while talking to some friends we’d made earlier.

In the afternoon we made our way over to the ferry and after waiting until all of the scheduled passengers got on, made our way aboard. The seats had filled up quickly. I found a table with two empty seats and asked the two young men who were sitting there if the seats were free. They were, so we joined them.

Alex and Ian had been backpacking on the Island as a final trek before the start of their sophomore and junior years at Michigan Institute of Technology. They were really great guys and we enjoyed a lovely conversation on the crossing, discussing everything from travel, to business, to school and families. And they gave us a couple of restaurant recommendations for back in Houghton, which is always great.

Coming into the dock in Copper Harbor the captain blew the whistle and told us to watch out the window, as employees of the restaurants like to come out and wave the ship in. Staff at the Copper Harbor Inn will even come out and dance the cancan. I assumed he was joking, but they did indeed come out and dance.

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Overall, the experience of Isle Royale was great from start to finish. The staff were fantastic and extremely helpful. And Alex mentioned on the ferry ride that while it’s the least visited of all the National Parks, it is the most RE-visited. With such a lovely and unspoiled experience, I can certainly see why.

Please feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We love getting feedback on the trip.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula contains more than 40 miles of lakeshore on Lake Superior, including 15 miles of sandstone cliffs, caves, and rock formations. But its 114 square miles also includes lush vegetation, nature trails, waterfalls, and hiking. With our Pictured Rocks water experience completed the day before (and really – that is definitely the best way to see it, though I might have been better off on the tour boat), we decided to see some of the sites on land.

We’d already stopped in at the main Visitor’s Center for some information before heading to camp, so with our list of NPS Day Hikes in hand, we headed out for the day. Our first stop was over at Munising Falls. At .25 miles, it hardly qualified as a hike, in fact signs to the Falls announced how far away you were in feet. It was a pretty walk on a paved path through some beautiful greenery. And the Falls, while not Niagara, were charming enough.

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Though it was still August, we were already seeing signs of Fall in the trees.

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Our next spot was the much longer hike at the Miners Falls Trail. At a whopping 1.2 miles it was far more taxing than our last “hike”. Even if the hike had actually been substantial it would have been completely worth it for the view. The overlook to Miners Castle is beautiful. A short walk brought you atop the “castle” but the view was definitely better from a distance.

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Since we still needed to break down camp before moving on, we skipped the actual waterfall but we did stop at one of those car overlooks on the way back. The view wasn’t all that interesting (I find that they almost never are), but this little guy sat and posed for a while.

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Before breaking down camp we visited the Bay Furnace Ruins situated within the campground. The furnace is all that remains of a settlement that was destroyed in an 1877 fire.

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Farewell Pictured Rocks. I hope to return someday.

A Presidential Detour

Before leaving New York and heading for the Canadian Falls we stopped by the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo.

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The site, which was declared a National Historic Site in 1966, is small, yet detailed and chronicles the Pan American Exposition, President McKinley’s assassination, and Roosevelt’s subsequent inauguration. An issues theater presents the myriad of issues facing Roosevelt as he took office. A brief tour takes you through the lower rooms of the house, including the library where he was inaugurated, and explains how Roosevelt had come to stay there after McKinley’s assassination (the house belonged to Ansley Wilcox).

The upper level of the house tells the story of Roosevelt’s presidency through a variety of exhibits, including a recreation of the White House Green Room which served as Roosevelt’s office. Here are a few shots from the tour.

Newspaper announcing a new President

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The library where Roosevelt took the Oath of Office

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Recreation of Roosevelt’s White House office

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In closing, as a fan of the National Parks System, Roosevelt is a favorite of mine for his role in bringing that to life. So, I’ll leave you with the conclusion of one of his quotes regarding the Grand Canyon:

Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. – Theodore Roosevelt