Isle Royale National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States, which automatically makes it attractive to us. It's also difficult and expensive to access, but we were going to make it happen starting tomorrow. And we were going to do it via a three-night backpacking trip to enhance the wilderness experience. This post includes some information on the logistics of getting there and our planned hike.
Tomorrow we start our Isle Royale National Park adventure. For those that are interested, here is a wide view map of where Isle Royale is located.
Though it is far closer to Minnesota, (and Ontario, Canada for that matter) it is part of Michigan. The only access is by water and that means either a boat or float plane. There are no vehicles on the island and pets are not allowed.
There are three ferry ports that serve the island: Grand Portage, MN (two hours to the western end at Windigo), Copper Harbor, MI (three hours to the eastern end at Rock Harbor, and Houghton, MI (five hours to the eastern end at Rock Harbor).
The Grand Portage option (Voyageur II) was the closest to us, plus it's the only ferry that circles the island giving you multiple drop-off and pick-up choices.
After planning a few itineraries, I finally settled on a relatively short, easy hike from the north side of the island to the south side. In addition to it being less challenging (for our second backpacking trip), it allowed us to get dropped off by the ferry at our first campsite, hike to the interior for our second night, and hike to the southern campsite for our third night where we would get picked up by the ferry on Tuesday morning. Plus, per Linda's wishes, we could have campfires two of the three nights (campfires are only allowed in certain camping areas).
The squiggly yellow line on the map below shows the approximate location on the island of our planned hike.
And here is a close-up version.
We wouldn't get to see much of the island with this 11-mile hike, but we would have some nice camping spots and have the opportunity to see moose. (The island is 45 miles long and 9 miles wide with over 160 miles of hiking trails.)
Okay, that's it for the preliminaries.
Now, my hope was to leave this morning sometime around 9:00 a.m. and maybe visit one or two of the state parks along the Lake Superior shoreline. I especially was hoping to visit Grand Portage State Park and see High Falls, Minnesota's highest waterfall.
Linda's plan was to leave around noon.
We left Kabetogama somewhere around 2:00 p.m. and we had a 4-hour drive. Sheesh.
We thought we had plenty of time this morning, so we hadn't packed our backpacks nor had Linda put together our backpacking meals. She uses the "recipes" from this blog post on The Yummy Life blog: A Week of Lightweight, Nutritious, Backpacking Food. As it turned out, getting the food ready took a couple of hours.
The only hotel in Grand Portage is at a casino and half of it is under construction. They had no openings. Now they do have an RV park/campground, but storms and heavy rain were expected overnight, so we were not tent camping for tonight. That pretty much canned my hope to go to the Grand Portage State Park.
I had trouble finding anything available anywhere between Grand Marais and Grand Portage (for what I was willing to spend just for a one-night bed). Eventually, I found a cancellation at the Gunflint Motel in Grand Marais. It's a 45-minute drive to the ferry in Grand Portage, so we'll have to get up really early tomorrow morning to meet the 6:45 a.m. boarding time (7:30 a.m. departure).
So, we took the back roads and Minnesota Hwy 1 through the Superior National Forest and the towns of Ely and Isabella. Eventually, Hwy 1 spit us out on Minnesota Hwy 61 which follows the western shore of Lake Superior (they call it the "north shore" here in Minnesota).
We arrived in Grand Marais around 6:00, got checked in. Later, we drove around the town of Grand Marais which had a nice feel to it. Perhaps we'll come back and visit one day .... and maybe we'll get to check out the state parks in the area as well.
Back at the hotel, we re-checked our backpacks, got showers, and I set the alarm for 5:00 a.m.. Hopefully, we'll get a good night's sleep for tomorrow's start to our four-day visit to Isle Royale National Park.