Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day One on Isle Royale

Isle Royale continued

Before we get started I want to show you a few more maps that give a better idea of where I was on the island. As I have mentioned, Isle Royale is about 40 miles long and 9 miles wide at its widest point. As I was not there to backcountry camp but to work on restoring some of the structures on the northeast end of the island, I actually saw very little of the park. Most of the cottages are along Tobin Harbor, so that is where I spent my time.

The red box shows approximately where the closeup map below is located.

Purple line shows the water route to the dock for the Dassler Cabin and the location of the cabin. When the weather's good this is the most convenient route, but it is possible to get to Rock Harbor by going down Tobin Harbor. It is about 1/4 mile hike from the docks on Tobin Harbor to Rock Harbor so that route is avoided if there's lots of stuff to haul.

We had arrived at Rock Harbor around 2:40 pm, and within a half hour I was on my way to Scoville Point and the Dassler cabin with a skiff full of food and gear. Alan, our certified boat operator, was at the helm and I traveled with Mary, a veteran of the volunteer crew and our primary cook, although I had volunteered to cook three of our dinners.

The Ranger III at the Rock Harbor docks.

The day remained clear and relatively calm, and we had a pleasant 20 minute boat ride.

Rock Harbor Lodge. People pay A LOT of money to stay here!

We chugged along and I marveled at the scenery, all rocky and thick with black spruce. Before I knew it there was the Dassler cabin, perched upon its own little promontory across a small cove from Scoville Point.

The Dassler Cabins. Sleeping cabin is on the left, the main cabin on the right. I don't know why this image is so overexposed but it's the only one I got from this view.

The Dassler Cabin doesn't have its own dock. The one the Dasslers put in kept getting swept away by ice and storms, so we used one perhaps a quarter mile farther down Tobin Harbor that is also used for access to two other nearby cottages, one which is still occupied. Alan dropped Mary and I at the dock with all our gear and Rubbermaid tubs full of food and supplies and went back for more people. This was perhaps the most exhausting and treacherous part of the trip, carrying the bins over rocky, uneven ground all the way back to the cabin. We made four trips in all, three with bins and one with our gear. My arms hurt for two days!

The Dassler sleeping cabin, with the tip of Scoville Point on the right across the cove. This building has two rooms and is very bright inside, and if I ever won a residency on Isle Royale, this is where I'd spend most of my time. The sleeping cabin is about 25 yards from the main cabin.

The Dassler Cabin, as seen from the front, or water side. It's pretty dark inside, with its small windows, dark panelling and surrounded by trees. The trees cannot be cut as the cabin is in a wilderness area. This covered area served as our dish washing station. 

There is of course no running water, so all water consumed must be filtered. We'd bring water up from the cove and have water filtering parties. There is a filtration system set up inside but it wasn't working properly--one of the tasks on our list for the week was to clean it up and get it going again. I had brought my gravity-style filter, where you fill up the top bag, open a valve, and the water flows down through the filter into the bottom bag--or in our case, a bucket. Needless to say this is much less work and I spent a lot of my free time filtering water.

Alan, Liz and Roger filter water behind the Dassler Cabin.

After dinner I had some time to explore the cove. I'd been told a loon had been hanging out there for several days, and I'd noticed a few other water birds, so I went down and sat on the rocky shore.

Cove near Dassler cabin.

Dassler sleeping cabin. There is a bedroom in the main cabin as well.

The loon was not at all bothered by my presence, and came quite close to me.

Common loon. Their calls rang out across the cold water at all hours of the day and night. I woke several times that first night to their haunting songs.

As I sat, the other birds swam slowly closer and closer. They seemed more ill at ease with the loon's presence than mine. These turned out to be a new bird for me--Red-breasted mergansers. I love the wispy little feathers sticking out from the backs of their heads.

Life-list birds! Red-breasted mergansers.

Back up by the cabin I walked to the Tobin Harbor side to watch the sun set. I don't think there's ever been a better place to put a bench.

Dassler cabin bench, with the point of Smith Island on the left.

It took only six hours for me to fall in love with this place.

Sunset over Tobin Harbor.

We were warned about the voracity of the mosquitoes after dark, so I made my way back to my tent site. The moose kept this area clear of trees. There were five or six of us camping in this general area, but I think that is not going to be allowed in the future. There are occasionally hikers that come down this way and the park staff are left to explain why there are folks camping here. I crawled into bed listening to the songs of the White-throated sparrows, who sang long into the night, then started again early the next morning.

My campsite.

Next: Day two, and a hike to Lookout Louise


  1. Thanks for documenting all of your trips-- I have been living vicariously through you! Beautiful scenes and experiences. Keep sharing! I enjoy reading your posts!

    1. Thanks, Joni. When I first started this blog back in...2009?...I thought it would be a place for me to just write whatever was on my mind. It quickly changed to a photo-journalistic adventure, which is fun for me because it gives me an outlet for my photography, which I love to do but which doesn't make me any money! I can make a week-long trip last for a few months in my blog, so I never seem to run out of stuff to write about. I like sharing the places I go in hopes that it will inspire and/or inform others who may be planning a trip to the same places.