Isle Royale - Day 5
We ate our breakfast and got our minds right. We had no time frame, no race for a shelter, nothing to prove. It was technically our shortest mileage yet, but we knew it would be a challenging day.
The forecast was was full sun in the morning, which led us to get an early start to beat as much heat as we could and to keep the sun at our backs in the early morning. We strolled out of camp by 8 a.m., slightly behind our neighboring campers that we had met the night before. They too were heading to North Desor, and it was comforting to know we’d leapfrog on the trail.
The first 1/2 mile was up and out to return to the Minong Ridge, and we navigated the mud pit step by step, careful to keep our feet dry and as mud free as possible. On fresh legs, it felt much easier to us than the night before. My foot was bothered by a rubbing boot lace, and as I stopped to retie my lace, I was swarmed by mosquitos. It was proving to be a very buggy morning, and I kept my headnet on for most of the hike.
Once we reached the Minong Ridge, it wasn’t very long before it began to earn its reputation as the hardest trail on the island. The craggily rock and slanted angular chunkiness made the hike incredible slow paced as you placed each foot before extending the next, always mindful that one misstep would be a busted kneecap or a broken ankle. We had heard several accounts of rescues from this particular area as hikers unfortunately met their demise in just that way. To our right all day as we hiked was the beautiful outline of Canada. Now we were ever closer to it and could actually make out the bluffs and ridge lines. We pondered how the name Sleeping Giant came to be, as it did not resemble one to us at all. The water was as calm as could be, which would have made a great day of kayaking for the 2 sea kayakers we saw at Little Todd clearly attempting to circumnavigate the island the day before.
We continued in this same fashion of watching our feet, creeping along, and eyeing Canada from our perch high on the ridge for 2 1/2 hours, never stopping for more than a minute before the bugs would ambush us. It was easier to keep going than to mess with the bugs. Finally, my blood sugar stopped me in my tracks as I began to get nauseated and determined it was time to eat and drink. We found a nice spot with a slight wind and were restored to continue on in 10 minutes. High on the ridge, we heard rustling branches and saw a moose dart over the ridge as quickly as he had come. That put our moose count at 6. Passing the junipers that were pollinating sent up yellow dust clouds all day. At times it felt like we were just passerby’s on some juniper orgy. After 4 hours, we finally began entering into sugar maple groves and dropping down off the ridge.
The highlight of the day was crossing a beaver dam and watching another huge bull moose feed. His sloshing in the water and mighty gruffs and exhales had caught our attention. When we finally eyed him across the pond, he was massive. His new velvety antlers were coming in strongly and he was going to be a big boy. As we edged in to get a closer view, we played a game of stop and go as he resubmerged his head to eat. Finally, after half way crossing the beaver’s dam, he recognized that the large figure was out of place, and a stand off ensued. He stood still and we stood still, directly eying one another, but trying not to let on that we’d each been seen. Finally, he returned to feeding, and we exited safely on our way.
Lake Desor greeted us with a calm, sunny, warm day and we dried our gear and napped in our tent, resting the afternoon away. Our neighbors from the previous night returned and we shared in fellowship around our Mylar meals and swapped stories until just before hiker midnight. A huge 12.6 mile day awaited us on our final stretch into Windigo, and our hike of the entire length of the island.
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