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08/28/17

Permalink 07:24:56 pm, Categories: Adventures, 1980 words   English (US)

August 18-28, 2017 – Annual Isle Royale trip

We arrived at the marina late on Friday evening with preparations to make before we could get underway. There were provisions to load, water to take on, things to do. After a buzz of activity, we were finally ready for bed, excited to be off on our adventure at some point on Saturday.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny. We needed to drop Bug off at the kennel for his week-long stay since dogs are not allowed on the island. We knew it would take quite a while to get there, 100 nautical miles, and decided to hold off leaving until the afternoon. This would allow us to sail through the night and arrive bright and early on Sunday. We departed the dock by 2:00 in the afternoon and threaded our way through the islands before reaching open water. The winds caused a rolling wave which resulted in the boat rolling 15-20 degrees. Though we had the jenny up to help with the roll we ended up a few miles to the each of the Rock of Ages Light. We shifted course and headed to Washington Harbor arriving at the Windigo Dock by 6:00am on Sunday. The boy surprised me by popping up in the cockpit and turning off the key to the engine as Troy and I tied off. After the long trek, we all headed back to bed to catch a little more sleep before checking in.


Sunday we all awoke refreshed and headed up to the Ranger Station to check in. We bought some books and settled on a float plan for the week. The intention was to stay at Washington for only a day or so before heading off to other destinations on the island. Dylan wanted to go for a walk so he and Troy went to the Moose Exclosure and got a chance to see the changes that the Moose had made on the island during their time there.

On the way back the boys went through the Ranger Station and picked up the Junior Ranger book so Dylan could work on getting his Badge for Isle Royale. That evening, Dylan and I worked on the book together, though he did all of the work, mostly needing to be nudged to finish it.

Monday Dylan awoke excited to bring his book up to the Ranger Valerie to show her the work he had done and get his badge. We left Troy aboard the boat and headed up to the Ranger Station. Valerie reviewed his work very carefully and solemnly walked him through his pledge. While I am a bit biased, I have to admit it was one of the cutest things I have ever seen. Dylan was so proud and immediately showed every other person he met his bright and shiny badge. He even had a Junior Ranger vest to pin it on. Good thing he remembered to pack it!

After showing Dad his badge we set up chairs to watch the eclipse. The rangers had glasses for everyone to view it. Dylan found the process a little bit boring and the day was a bit overcast but we were able to view the eclipse until it was about halfway through before the cloud cover completely obscured our view.

Next, Dylan wanted to show me the Moose Exclosure. Since he had gone with Troy the day before he was anxious to show me. We followed the exact same path the two boys had taken the day before including walking to the airplane dock first followed by the Exclosure. He showed me all they discovered the day before. The path took us past the two new camper cabins that they had added to the island, which is an awesome addition for those who want to see the island but aren't quite up for camping out.

While Dylan and I were on our walk, Troy did some maintenance on WhymC (our dinghy), replacing the drain plug since the one we had would leak on us. Since we needed to test the dinghy the boys climbed in and went for a bit of a row. After ensuring they wouldn't sink, they picked me up and we went for a row in the harbor. I had always wanted to take a look up Washington Creek, Troy headed in that direction and we went up the creek about as much as we could in the wide dinghy before turning about. It was amazingly peaceful in there with the birds singing and grass blowing lightly in the breeze. The campground flanks the river quite aways in with the camping enclosures dotting the river along the way. We returned back to the dock and talked about the rest of our stay on the island. Perhaps we would just stay in Washington Harbor. We never spend much time there since it was typically just a jumping off point to the rest of the island (and a place to check in). There were things to explore that were new to all of us after all. We grilled chicken pizza on the boat and had dinner on the dock.

Tuesday was another beautiful sunny day. The temperatures were just perfect in the mid-70s during the day dipping down in the evening. Some nights were getting cold (50s and 40s) but it was helping keep the mosquitos in check. We hoped to rent a canoe to continue our exploration of Washington Creek figuring the canoe would get father along. Unfortunately, there was too much wind and we were denied. Before we could come up with another plan, a familiar looking boat appeared at the dock. It was Bear and his Dad! We met them last year in Rock Harbor. Bear is two years older than Dylan, but they hit it off so well and both remembered each other immediately. Though there are other kids on the island, they all keep very much to themselves and their parents. The other kids we saw were staying in the camper cabins and really hung around that area.

After Bear and his dad departed, we decided to take a hike up the path along Washington Creek to see how far we might be able to canoe up the river. We explored the camping area, saw plenty of fox scat and a few moose prints along the way. Though we saw no moose, we were pretty sure one was nearby since some of the signs were on the trail on the way back that were not present when we hiked out. The boy was a bit loud so I am not surprised that anything that heard us hid.

We returned from our hike and the boys decided to set up the jenny on the dinghy and go for a sail. I stayed behind and chatted with a hiker and got some good pictures of them out there. The boy was at the helm the entire time and I was able to snap a few good pictures. It was getting late in the evening and even though Troy wanted to add the mainsail, they decided to come in and enjoy the evening.

Wednesday dawned beautiful and bright once again. We took another trek up to the Moose Exclosure. This time the three of us went. Wednesday was also a bit windy so we didn't even try and rent a canoe, instead the boys bent on the mainsail on the dinghy and headed out with Dylan at the tiller once again. Three times the boy steered back to the dock to ask me to come out with them and on the third time I relented. I joined them for an awesome sail. We went around Beaver Island under sail and touched at the dock so we could do a little exploring. I was very surprised to find three camping enclosures! We headed back to the dock for another beautiful evening. We enjoyed an awesome dinner of grilled chicken breast with roasted potatoes and carrots and another beautiful sunset.

Thursday and finally the wind was right for us to rent a canoe! We paddled up the Washington Creek as far as we could until the trees and overgrowth became too much. The creek is so very peaceful and quiet. We returned to the cock and ran into Connie and Dan, marina mates from Washburn Marina. Dylan went swimming and spent hours playing in the dinghy. He played 'man overboard' jumping from the dinghy into the water and climbed back into the dinghy. He is getting very familiar with the boat. So much so we now refer to it as 'his' boat! We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of steak, brussels sprouts and potatoes along with some wine we picked up at the store. We spent a nice evening visiting with Connie and Dan and finally saw a moose. A big bull moose was wading on the shore across from the dock and we could see him eating grass through the binoculars. It was nice to finally see a moose after a few trips without a sighting.

Friday and another day of beautiful sunshine. Three fishing boats came in loaded with kids of all ages. 18 kids total from the age of 4 to probably 18. It was pretty amazing. The boy spent the day swimming and playing in the dinghy. He spent a lot of time learning to row and while we had the dinghy tied to the dock, Dylan had enough line to allow him to row out and back over and over again. He played man overboard again and again. We were able to visit with Steve Martin, the ranger, and talked with him of the benefits of the Walker Bay dinghy. He is apparently considering picking one up for emergencies on the island as it would be a lot more stable than the canoe they have been using. We ended the relaxing day visiting with Dan, Connie and Steve. After they departed, we met a hiker named Scott who talked with us for quite a while. Eventually we were joined by the airplane pilot who was spending the evening on the island. The amount of air traffic we saw during our trip was fantastic. We had never seen that many visits. We learned that they changed their jumping off point from the airport to the Houghton area and the parking lot is full during the summer. They had so much business they expanded to two airplanes. Pretty wild.

Saturday, we departed the dock by first light with the boy still sleeping. There was a bit of a roll to the lake resulting in the need to have someone at the helm during the entire trip. We thought we would try and do the trip in an entire day instead of overnight. When we were within sight of Outer Island the rain started and continued during the entire trip back. By the time we were in the channel on the west side of Madeline, Troy had already changed clothes once, his first set having gotten soaked through and through. Though we thought about anchoring out for the evening, the forecast for Sunday was for more rain so we decided to press on for the marina. We arrived around 8:00pm on Saturday. Not bad!

Sunday would be a maintenance day in the marina. Since we could not get Bug until Monday we took the opportunity to clean the boat and offland more things that we no longer needed. It felt relaxing and a good way to get ourselves back into 'real life' once again. We ended the evening with a pizza from town with Troy and I planning our next trip to the Big Island!

Monday, we awoke early, picked up Bug and headed home. Somewhat bittersweet to be leaving especially as our drive would reveal spots of color among the trees signaling the end of the season.

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