So with a clear weather forecast, we laced our boots up one last time and took off down the Tobin Harbor Trail for Mt. Franklin. Mt Franklin would provide us views out over the north east side of the island into the 5 Fingers area that we had fully paddled 3 years earlier. We would also be able to look south back to Rock Harbor over what we had just hiked this month. With primed legs after so much exploring in the last month, we made great time and floated with ease down the trail. We synced into an easy rhythm and settled into steady conversation now that it was just the two of us once again. We had observed a lot over the past 10 days with our friends that taught us even more about our traits and tendencies that were important to reflect upon. What was it we most enjoyed while out here? What style of hiking did we like the most to feel fulfilled on a trip? Why had certain days felt better than others?
We hashed out that our need for new experiences and covering distance certainly brought us happiness, but that staying in one place for an afternoon also increased our chances to know a place more fully and catch wildlife moments that sometimes in our rush we miss. The trail clicked on beneath us. The shady views of the harbor and the small islands on it poked in and out of our view to break up our monotony. The bugs were just hungry enough to hound us, but just tolerable enough to out chase if we kept up our cadence. As we reached the end of Tobin Harbor and joined with the Mt. Franklin trail, the wind picked up better and we were actually cooler in the full sun than we had been in the shade of the fir trees. We climbed up the rocky outcroppings in classic Isle Royale form, going up and down the ridge line north to south. Intersecting with a beaver pond, we found a tired couple waiting along the banks hoping to find a moose taking a dip in the pond. We wished them luck and small talked with them before heading on up our way the remaining climb until the Greenstone's crisply manicured footpath turned us west up the final push to the top.
Climbing out on the rocky outcropping and looking over a huge swath of the island was bittersweet. There was now very, very little of this island that we did not know first hand. Looking out over the lines of shoreline, we could see in our mind's eye what each trail was really like and recall how it felt and what details it had in store. Our curious wonder was now replaced with a calm knowing and trip down a memory lane. This must be mission accomplished. This is what we must have been looking for when we set out on this adventure so many days ago. The ability to look at the map or to scan a place and to know what it holds and to recall a day in our lives and all that adventure brought us.
After soaking it all in, we turned our backs on the view and put to rest the wonder and mystique. Quiet and fulfilled, we retuned the same way we had come in a blur of routine and machinelike turnover. We were seasoned and tuned in hikers. The bugs, the heat, the fatigue... none of it phased us, it was all now just the routine pattern of daily life, forged day after day on this epic adventure.