Tuesday, July 21, 1992

1992 Visit to Isle Royale National Park

In 1992 we lived in Rochester, Minnesota. Bernie Allen, my son's scoutmaster, asked me to go with him and some scouts to spend a week at Isle Royale National Park, located on an island in Lake Superior. I accepted his invitation.

Besides Bernie, my son John, and me, a second scout, Scott Cook came on the week-long trip. (More scouts had expected to go, but their vacations ended up in conflict.) The four of us had a good time.

Rochester, Minnesota, to Copper Harbor, Michigan, July 13, 1992

We left Rochester at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, July 13, 1992, before having breakfast. We stopped at the Embers Restaurant in Minneapolis-St. Paul for breakfast, then headed for Duluth on I-35.

We visited the Marine Museum in Duluth, where we learned of the large number of ships that had sunk at the bottom of Lake Superior. We learned, for example, that the Edmund Fitzgerald had sunk in the lake on November 10, 1975. (When launched on June 7, 1958, she was the largest ship in the Great Lakes—she is also the largest ship to have sunk there.) I recalled Gordon Lightfoot's popular song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," which was played at one point in the Marine Museum.

John, Bernie, and Scott at the Arial Lift bridge and Maritime Museum, Duluth, MN
We continued from Duluth to Copper Harbor, crossing northern Wisconsin on U.S. Highway 2. We continued to Copper Harbor on U.S. Highway 41, passing through Houghton. (Several of my programmer colleagues at IBM were graduates of Michigan Tech in Houghton. It gave me something to talk about when I returned to work after the trip.)

We arrived at Copper Harbor by about 5:00 p.m. and camped at a state park. After eating food we had brought with us, we went to sleep—John and Scott in one tent, Bernie in another, and me in a third.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, July14–19, 1992

We awoke early in Copper Harbor and ate breakfast in time to board the Queen (a.k.a. the "barf barge"), which ferried us across Lake Superior to Isle Royale National Park. We arrive at half past twelve.

Bernie (left) and John, aboard the Queen

The National Park occupies all of the island named Isle Royale. Rock Harbor, where we landed has drinking water, a trading post, restaurant, and gift shop. I purchased a water strainer/filter for $45.00 after learning that we would have to filter the lake water to get drinking water. (Lake Superior's water is very cold; after being properly filtered, it is delicious to drink.)

John, Scott, and Bernie as the Queen approached Rock Harbor on Isle Royale
Rock Harbor as viewed from the Queen

After orientation by the park rangers, the four of us began an eight-mile trek to Daisy Farm Campground. The path went along the coast of the island and had lot of ankle-twisting roots. (The lake looked clear; we could tell that the water went almost straight down right next to the path.) I twisted my ankle once—slightly—it wasn't bad enough to be a bona fide sprain. We walked through Three-Mile campground on the way to Daisy Farm.

Trekking to Daisy Farm
L-R: Bernie, John, and Weldon, resting on our way to Daisy Farm
John, Bernie, and Scott, resting

Daisy Farm was our "home base" throughout the week. We left our tents and sleeping bags there while we took day hikes to other parts of Isle Royale.

John and Scott at Dairy Farm

Throughout the week we hiked much of the 45-mile length of Isle Royale. It was tiring but invigorating!

One day we had ventured far from our camp at Daisy Farm. We realized that we couldn't make it back before dark ... and we were beat! We decided to just spend the night on a rock (perhaps the rock below?) The sun set and it was pitch black. We didn't dare brave the ankle-twisting roots on the edge of the island—we didn't want to risk slipping into the deep lake right next to the trail on the edge of the island. It would be cold, but we'd be safe.

As we lay there on the large rock, we heard footsteps. Our of nowhere—in the pitch black without a flashlight walked a man who said he was a graduate student studying Isle Royale at night. He had a small boat very near, at the edge of the lake. He offered us all a ride to Daisy Farm. He dropped us off and left in his boat.

Who was he, anyway? To us, he was a guardian angel.
Taking a nap
From our base at Daisy Farm, we took lots of day hikes ... and rests
We saw many moose as we hiked.

We tried not to attract the attention of any of the moose we saw
Another moose. This one seemed more intimidating?
We saw other wildlife during the week. Here is a fox that visited us at Daisy Farm.

A Fox outside our window at Daisy Farm

This lookout tower was a reminder that we were in a national park. (Oh, by the way, did I mention that no motorized vehicles were allowed on Isle Royale? Transportation was all by foot ... hiking.)

Ranger lookout tower at Isle Royale National Park
In the morning of our last day at Isle Royale, Bernie awoke feeling very sick. He was worried that the waves on Lake Superior would make him seriously sea sick as we returned to Copper Harbor. We prayed. The sea was a still as glass as we  returned to Copper Harbor. (The captain said he had never seen Lake Superior that calm in all his experience as captain of the Queen ...)  The only disturbance was the V-shaped wake behind the boat.

We had planned to have Bernie and me trade off driving his minivan back to Rochester. Because he was so sick, however, I drove the whole way.

It was a fun trip!