Isle Royale National Park: Return to Rock Harbor

Thursday morning we woke up and took stock. In our original itinerary, tonight would have been when we camped at Daisy Farm, but we’d already been here two nights. Already the regret of not having made it to a campground on an interior lake, with an increased likelihood of seeing more wildlife, was hugely mitigated by having been at Daisy Farm the evening before for Candy Peterson’s talk.

We decided to begin the hike back to Rock Harbor where, Friday night, we had a room reserved at the lodge. Our goal for Thursday, however, was Three Mile. We hoped to get the same lovely, harbor-side campsite we’d had Monday night, or at least the one adjacent.

We breakfasted on dehydrated “breakfast skillets,” which we wrapped in whole wheat tortillas. Then we began striking camp.

Soon we were hiking Rock Harbor Trail in the brilliant sunshine, this time heading northeast along the harbor. We took our time, enjoying the relatively short 4.4 miles. And happily Phil was feeling much better.


Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Greenstone deposits in basalt along the shore

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

Image: Sean M. Santos

We reached Three Mile around lunch time.

And all the shelters and campsites were full.

Chagrined, we had no other choice to push on the final three miles to Rock Harbor and hope for a campsite there. It would get us back to relative civilization a day early, but there was nothing to be done about it save rest, eat some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and continue on our way.

Image: Sean M. Santos

Basalt, formed from lava, is the primary bedrock of Isle Royale. Sometimes it cools in polygonal columns, creating stones that look hewn by humans rather than occurring naturally.

Other times, angular rocks are actually manipulated by humans to create a staircase on a trail.

Halfway between Three Mile and Rock Harbor is Suzy’s Cave, which had been formed by the erosion of the lake 5,000 years ago when the shoreline was higher. Isle Royale is still rising, an inch every century, from the weight of the ice age glaciers.

Now Suzy’s cave is some eighty yards from the shore.

Back on the trail, we ran into the iPad couple again. They were on a day hike out to Daisy Farm. We learned that they were from upstate New York and were going to be returning on the Queen the next day. They’d spent their time at Rock Harbor Lodge exploring the island via day hikes and canoe trips.

A dragonfly landed on my pack while it was on my back. Image: Adam Geffen

Image: Sean M. Santos

One thought on “Isle Royale National Park: Return to Rock Harbor

  1. Pingback: As They Are…Always Changing | As They Are: A National Parks Project

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