Today was a relatively short hike to our last campsite on Isle Royale. Along the way, we had a beaver encounter, and we watched otters at our destination. I caught a couple of pike at a small lake, and we had a wonderful evening. I think I need to plan more of these backpacking adventures.
I woke up before anyone else in the Lake Richie camp in Isle Royale National Park. This was my time to take in and respect the pristine wilderness. I got a great night's sleep with the sound of the loons being our lullaby.
I walked along the lake in search of moose. No moose, but I enjoyed the calm, peaceful, beautiful morning.
The trail section along Lake Richie is probably a mile with a quarter mile being to the left as I exited our campsite and three quarters to the right. I went to the left first, .....
and then went the other direction walking slowly and listening for any wildlife that might be moving in the woods or the water. It was so quiet.
The only sound was this small stream flowing into the lake.
I walked past the end of the lake to where the trail made a sharp right turn and continued to where we noticed a large, flattened area of grass yesterday. Still no moose to be found, but I did see a Snowshoe Hare and a few squirrels.
On my way back, the sun broke through the clouds and fog.
I walked a couple miles enjoying my alone time with nature. Back at camp, everyone else was stirring, and Linda was finishing off her coffee.
After our pineapple/coconut oatmeal, we cleaned up, packed up, and headed out for our 4.5-mile hike to our last campsite at Chippewa Harbor where the ferry would pick us up tomorrow.
After a short time, we came to a trail intersection. Moskey Basin, a popular camp was straight and the trail to Chippewa Harbor (4.3 miles) went to the right.
The trail proceeded through thick woods .....
and across marshy swamp where the boardwalks were elevated.
Here's a little GoPro video of us on the boardwalks.
As we came to another boardwalk section, I noticed something in the water in front of us. I quickly let Linda know there was a beaver swimming toward us.
It didn't seem concerned with us at all as it was patrolling the area where it was building a dam right under the trail. This photo shows just how close we were as it was taken from behind Linda between her backpack and her hiking pole.
Here's a close-up as it swam under the boardwalk to the other side and stopped to check us out.
Here's a very short video clip of it just watching us.
Eventually, it swam away from us and we continued, but then it came back. The GoPro isn't great for this type of video, but Linda had it going and she captured it swimming plus the violent tail slap when the beaver finally had enough of us.
Water splashed on us and over our heads, and that pretty much ended our fifteen-minute or so beaver encounter. Pretty cool.
Not far past the realm of the beaver, we saw a large, fresh moose print in the trail.
Soon, we arrived at the end of the lower finger of Lake Richie .....
which was close to half way on today's trek.
The rest of the way, there were lots of thimbleberries, .....
and more of the mixture of woods and marsh with short, sometimes steep, ups and downs. It was an interesting section of trail.
As we got closer, the trail opened up and we were on a rocky ridge overlooking Chippewa Bay for a little while.
Then we dropped back down into the woods and marsh area where we saw more signs of moose. We passed the signpost and side trail to Lake Mason, a small interior lake, .....
and knew Chippewa Harbor was not far away.
We reached the sign showing the layout of the camp, .....
and saw that there were four shelters, two individual tent sites, a group tent site, and two latrines (there was actually a third latrine near the group site).
After being spoiled with a shelter on our first night, Linda definitely wanted one of the shelters. Number 2 & 4 were open, so we snagged Shelter 4 (in the center of the photo below).
Now, unlike McCargoe Cove, there was no community firepit. Only the tent sites had firepits, and having a campfire was a big deal to Linda when planning the itinerary. However, having the choice between a shelter and a firepit, her need for a fire suddenly wasn't so important.
We had an obstructed view of the water, and it was a short walk to the dock.
The view from the dock, looking out toward Lake Superior was beautiful.
We had some lunch, and then I filled our collapsible bucket with cold, clear lake water. Linda's primary goal was to wash up and wash her clothes.
So, she stripped down on the hidden side of our shelter, and took a "spit bath" while I explored the rest of the camp area. Unexpectedly, two guys in a canoe pulled into the dock and her bathing spot wasn't hidden anymore, so her bath was cut a little short.
She washed her clothes, and we set up our sleeping bags and mats in the shelter.
We met the two guys in the canoe, Greg and Dave from Michigan. They've been coming here for years and have hiked all the trails and portaged their canoe to almost all of the inland lakes. They had two good-sized pike that they tied to a tree near the dock. They were going to walk over to Lake Mason and do some more fishing, so they weren't ready to clean their fish yet.
We also met Karen and Tom, co-workers from Wisconsin, who were in the shelter next to us. Karen is an avid backpacker that comes to Isle Royale every year.
And we met Huck & Liz from Ohio who snagged the last shelter. They run a 4-H Camp for kids, and have had numerous wilderness experiences. Liz once worked for a sea turtle rescue center in North Carolina, and Huck worked in the Ocala National Forest near Silver Springs, FL. In our "small world" moment of the day, we learned he knew Jan & Phyllis, friends of ours from Iowa that we met on our first workamping job, and who we later visited at their volunteer job .... in the Ocala National Forest.
Our new buddy, Josh from Georgia, arrived a little later and had to settle for one of the tent sites.
Now, the big issue for the day was that we were all low on toilet paper, and there was none in the latrines; a "tissue issue" for sure. At McCargoe Cove, there were about six rolls, but none here, and Karen said that was unusual. So, we had to ration and even resort to the use of thimbleberry leaves. With our high fiber backpacking diet, Linda knows to bring more next time.
After introductions and the uncomfortable toilet paper discussion, Greg & Dave left to walk over to Lake Mason about a half mile away. And while Josh was down at the dock, he yelled "Whose fish are these? Otters are trying to eat them".
Josh tried to scare the adult and two pups away, and the rest of us rushed down because we wanted to see the otters. After they couldn't get the fish off the stringer, and the crowd gathered, they left.
But they soon returned and didn't care what any of us did; they were going to have a pike dinner even though we were all only about ten feet away. The group felt bad about Greg and Dave's catch, but not bad enough to make more than a half-hearted effort to protect it. We were all wildlife lovers and wanted to enjoy the otters.
They ravaged the fish, and mightily enjoyed their feast.
Here's some video of the carnage.
Eventually, they were able separate most of one fish from its head, and they swam off several yards down the bank to have some privacy. But the adult soon returned and desperately tried to break away the other fish. It grabbed the remaining pike and threw its entire body into the water a couple of times, but the string and the pike's spine just wouldn't break.
Frustrated, it left to join the pups and shortly thereafter, they all swam away across the bay. Well, that was fun .... not for the fish or Greg & Dave, but the rest of us felt quite blessed to witness the otters for such a long time.
Josh and I then got our fishing gear together, and we walked over to Lake Mason. On the way, we met Greg & Dave returning. We delivered the bad news, but they took it well. "It's happened before, and we should know better." Fortunately, they had another big pike they had just caught, so they'll still have fish for dinner.
They gave us a tip on where to go, and we followed their advice.
On my second cast, I caught a nice pike.
A few minutes later, I caught another one about the same size. After awhile, I moved to another spot where I hooked a much larger one, but it bit off my line. Still, I was happy I didn't lug my fishing stuff on this trip for nothin'.
I was rooting for Josh, and he eventually hooked a pike of his own. But it got off just before he could get it on shore for a photo.
Lake Mason is a pretty little lake and looked like it would be good moose habitat.
I may come back in the morning on my nature walk.
We walked back to camp where I found Linda chatting with Karen about backpacking and backpacking gear. She was excited to tell me what she learned. I was excited to hear she was excited about backpacking.
Maybe we'll do this together more often than I thought. I kept thinking "This is my element and these are my people" as I reflected on the day's events.
We quickly boiled some water using our MSR WindBurner stove, and poured the pre-prepared Chicken Curry Rice (recipe from The Yummy Life blog) into it. After a few minutes, it was cooked and ready to eat.
After dinner and the quick clean-up, I walked down to the dock to take more pictures.
Then I wandered back through the group site to a wonderfully secluded spot where I stumbled upon this 1936 cabin .....
with a great view
Apparently, it was the cabin of commercial fishermen that spent 50 years on the island from 1904 to 1954.
Walking back, I got a picture of this Snowshoe Hare.
Later, all the guys gathered on the dock where we talked and watched the otters as the sun sank behind the tree line.
The otter pups swam under the dock and poked their heads out playing peek-a-boo with us, while the adult found more fish to munch.
The water was so clear, and it was really cool to watch their underwater grace and acrobatics.
Greg & Dave were so gracious about the loss of their fish, and they were genuinely happy that the rest of us had such a wonderful opportunity to watch the otters. Really nice guys.
Linda chatted with Liz and Karen, and it was clear that she enjoys backpacking more when there are others to meet and share stories with.
As it got dark, we all called it a night. Last we saw, there was a chance of rain and wind, so we moved all our gear to the back of the shelter. Then we climbed into our sleeping bags, read for awhile, and drifted off to the sounds of nature.
What an awesome day.
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