After hearing that 3 separate parties were headed to the same destination as we were, and spending the night shelter less, we gambled on an early start and fast pace to take our chance at the only shelter at Todd Harbor, and our last night in a shelter until Windigo, 3 nights away. After another fitful night of sleep disrupted by the atypical sounds and stirring of the wilderness night, we were up and hauling to organize our gear at a blazing pace. Careful not to rustle around too much in the early morning, we glided out of camp as the first hikers to break camp as McCargo Cove welcomed the sun in an eerie low fog. Checking over my shoulder as we crested the hill out of camp, I saw another group loading packs onto their backs, and that familiar feeling of urgency quickened every boot step.
The hike to Todd Harbor is fairly uneventful and climbs out of the lakefront at McCargo up onto the ridge in typical Isle Royale fashion. Not too long after McCargo Cove, you’ll come to sweeping vistas looking out over Superior with Sleeping Giant on the Canadian shores in full view. You can even see the structures of the towns on the shoreline from this vantage point. Following the ridge for most of the journey, you travel on the angular rocky outcrop at points climbing up and down without much rhyme or reason westward. The middle of this hike brought new terrain that we have never encountered on the island, deep inviting pine forests, thick with needles and old growth towering pines. This mysterious setting was perfect habitat for the snow shoe hares and we encountered numerous ones ever frightful of our presence. They must have numerous predators for just as I would get ready to take my picture, off they’d hop hidden from view. I caught the scurry of a red fox slinking quickly out of view as we arrived into an area with the smell of decaying, rotting flesh. We were not certain of where the smell was coming from, but clearly this fox was investigating for himself.
While focusing on his footsteps, my husband even noticed large morel mushrooms. We took pictures and made a primitive arrow out of sticks for the next hikers to enjoy this find as we had. (Later we heard that 2 hikers had gobbled them up shortly after we passed.)
We enjoyed the grind seeing much fewer hikers on the trail with our early start and increasing remoteness. Each day that passed we were getting further from the ferry passenger traffic and deeper into the wilderness that many people avoid. As we descended the ridge, our eagerness increased and the last mile was a reminder to our feet of our pace. It was a very rooty trail and we were glad to pass over the final bridge into camp. The board was a 6 inch board that had haphazardly been thrown down in the creek and we adjusted several times before attempting to keep our feet dry over the 3 foot deep span.
Arriving early in the late morning, we were the first and only people in camp and enjoyed exploring each and every site after happily nesting into the only shelter. The wide harbor reaches out to Lake Superior and Canada’s bluffs rim the horizon. Several tiny islands offer the eyes objects to focus in on and lots of ponderance as to what inhabits the space. Keeping our eyes peeled we hoped for the dream moment of a moose swimming to shore, but instead as we gazed out from the pebbled beach, we heard the familiar rustling of moose coming from behind us instead of in front. We turned to see a young bull moose walk out into the water about 50 yards down the beach from us. We held still and held our breaths in anticipation. Sure enough, he began walking toward us putting on a show. Another hiker had arrived and was headed directly for the moose, and we hollered out “Moose” to him in warning. However, in the wind he didn’t recognize our call and so was headed directly toward the tall brute of an animal sauntering down the trail. When the man was about 10 feet from the moose he fortunately looked up and immediately darted onto the beach. The moose was unfettered and simply kept on strolling down the path, clearly unafraid of the campers. As he passed behind us, we captured the quintessential shot we had hoped to safely be able to take, and another Isle Royale moment was checked off our wish list.
We enjoyed a long rest day on the beach, sunning ourselves on the 40 degree day, soaking any heat we could to combat the cold breeze coming off the lake. We explored the dock and watched the geese and goslings move to and for to avoid each advancing hiking group that entered camp. We soaked our feet to ease the aches and inflammation. At day 3 of our trek, we ate more readily as the famous “hiker hunger” started to be noticeable. We were satiated quickly and sufficiently, but never felt “full.” The shorter distances on this trip are giving us more time to enjoy each location, rest our bodies more fully, and view wildlife with a more tuned in eye.