The longest hiking trail on the largest island in the largest freshwater lake in the world. Surrounded by nature and nothing else. Fairly overgrown in many places. Not marked clearly enough to be assured you won’t get lost. A backpacking adventure that takes most people five or six days.
Your mission: do it in three.
Would you be up to the challenge? Would you be willing to walk miles and miles through the wilderness, carrying a heavy pack on your shoulders, on and on until you have to force your body to just keep going despite exhausted legs, aching shoulders, and feet that are on fire?
I would. I most definitely would. And, in fact, I did.
The island is a little-visited national park on Lake Superior called Isle Royale. It’s pretty quiet there; we (my father, siblings, and me) passed hikers a few times each day, but otherwise it was just us and the island.
And what a lovely island it is! We went in early August, when the wildflowers were blooming all over the place, the mushrooms were cropping up everywhere you looked, and there were also quite a decent amount of berries. I ate a few heavenly blueberries I’d plucked straight from Nature’s hand. By far the best blueberries I’ve ever tasted!
We passed through beautiful forests and climbed mountains and walked along the ridges. We camped out at nights by lakes (whose water we put through our filter to refill our water canteens).
As for wildlife, the island also boasts moose, wolves, and red squirrels. The moose are supposed to be spotted quite often (especially on the Greenstone Ridge Trail), but we didn’t see any.
Shame. I was really looking forward to seeing those moose, just so that I could point and shout “Moosen! Many much moosen in the woodenisit!” (Name that quote.)
The closest we got to moosen was discarded antlers.
The end of the third day was the hardest. We did about 15 miles each the first and second day and about 11 the third day, but even though the third day was the shortest and easiest (it was mostly shady woods and not a lot of uphill), it wasn’t like we started fresh. A night’s sleep isn’t enough to recover from the exhaustion of walking all day.
Especially when you do 40+ miles in three days, which is really not the norm. My father, who planned the whole trip, decided it was possible because they said “experienced backpackers” can do it in three days.
Yeah, experienced backpackers and my crazy family.
But don’t worry, I loved it!
Oh, and I sprained my ankle four and a half hours into the first day. The only time in nearly twenty years of life that I sprained my ankle, and it had to be when I was in the middle of the wilderness with more than 30 miles of walking ahead of me. Finagle’s law, my friends.
It wasn’t so easy, by the way, getting all these pictures. When you’re backpacking, you keep a steady pace and don’t really stop until everyone agrees on a break. I had to quickly snap photos and hope for the best before rushing to catch up.
There were quite a few lovely flowers, berries, and most of all mushrooms that I didn’t stop to photograph because I didn’t want to tire myself out catching up. Then there were the photos that didn’t focus properly, but as I was rushed I wasn’t exactly looking at the results and retaking the bad ones. For instance:
An incredibly stunning red and orange specimen, but, unfortunately, an incredibly blurry photo.
Okay, okay, that’s the last of the blurries.
I love this bee-on-the-flower picture.
Chickenbone Lake, where we camped the first night. We liked the name.
Admit it, this grasshopper is bea-u-ti-ful.
Light-colored mushrooms look washed out in all my pictures. So frustrating.
In case you can’t tell, I’m fascinated by mushrooms.
These gorgeous chanterelles were more vibrant in real life. Silly point-and-shoot that can’t see color accurately.
And while we’re at it, here’s another fly agaric. Just ’cause they’re so pretty.
See what I mean by overgrown? And some parts of the trail were worse than this.
That’s fungus inside the jagged stump of a fallen tree, in case you couldn’t tell.
I’m quite fond of how these thimbleberries came out.
Staghorn sumac. Odd-looking thing, do you not agree?
We often had to walk across these planks, probably because those were the boggier areas.
(Meadow salsify, I think, if you’re at all interested in knowing the name of this flower.)
A dried-out, cracked old shelf mushroom nevertheless still holds some appeal to me!
This beetle kept running away and hiding from my camera. It was hard to get a picture of it. (“So don’t, Avra!” you cry. “Why on earth would you want a picture of an ugly bug?” I ignore you, of course.)
I believe these are red elderberries.
A tree fallen across the path.
I can’t make out this bee’s expression. Any guesses what she’s thinking?
Some old abandoned hobbit-holes, with their chimneys sealed up.
The sign near the hobbit-holes. It lies, of course.
A view of Lake Superior at the end of the island.
We waited on the side of the highway, near the entrance to the Windigo harbor, for my mother to pick us up. Of course I found a photo opportunity as we waited. These flowers were quite beautiful up close.
A waterfall in a nearby park.
(Excuse this horrible glare; it couldn’t be helped.)
A really BIG mushroom.
One last picture of Lake Superior. It’s the view we had as we ate our barbecue—our final activity before heading home.
Oh, and kudos to anyone who understands the title of this post!