Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On the Stoll Memorial Trail, Isle Royale NP

Isle Royale continued:

Thursday dawned as clear and bright as the first two days on the island, and after breakfast Liz and I took a short boat trip to Minong Island to do some painting at the Stack cottage. What an amazing place that was (but for some reason I did not get any pictures!). The house sits on the very tip of the island (see map below) and has amazing views of the end of Tobin Harbor and the great expanse of Lake Superior beyond. It is a castle compared to the other dwellings on the island--huge living room, three sizable bedrooms and a great big kitchen. The whole place is full of big windows, with a whole wall of them on the east side, and a covered porch off the kitchen. It would be an amazing place for the Artist-in-Residence, except for two things--it's on an island, so one could easily be cut off for days in bad weather, and there are no pit toilets, due to the thinness of the soil on Minong. That means chemical toilets only, which require more care, and I suppose they don't trust folks to take care of them properly.

Map showing Dassler and Stack dwellings and the Stoll Trail.

Liz and I worked on one of the two outhouses behind the cottage. Before we arrived the roofs had been removed, and while we scraped and painted the exterior on one outhouse, a few of the guys were busy replacing the roof on the second outhouse. The interior was empty, its floor having rotted out some time ago, but there was still a roll of tissue hanging inside, under this really cute folk art fish. We did not touch the interior.

Outhouse artwork at Stack cottage.

Friday, our third full day on the island, was our day off. Mary and I had decided to take a hike into Rock Harbor, maybe take showers, get some lunch, and do a little shopping at the gift store. It was another glorious day, and we were on the trail by 9 am.

Black duck in the cove near Dassler--another new bird!

Zack and Liz decided to spend their day off hiking from Daisy Farm, where they were dropped off, up to Mt. Franklin and back to Dassler, a jaunt of about 12 miles. That seemed much too ambitious for me, although I would undertake a similar hike later on.

Zack, Liz, John and Allen in our skiff.  Just look at that beautifully calm water! 

The views from the Stoll Memorial Trail, which runs from Rock Harbor to Scoville Point along the south side of the peninsula, were just stunning. Every view of the water and landscape was magical.

Dassler sleeping cabin from Scoville Point. The main cabin is hidden in the trees on the end of the point.

Up on Scoville Point

Stoll Memorial Trail. It amazes me that trees can grow in such a harsh climate in such thin soil.

We stopped a lot to watch birds and examine flowers. It took us over two hours to hike the two miles to Rock Harbor!

Calypso orchids. June is orchid season and I saw quite a few on the island.

Stoll Memorial Trail--yes, that's a trial that zigs to the right a bit.

Mary and I stopped here for a snack.

The whole hike was pure eye candy. I wanted to melt into the scenery.

We did finally make it to Rock Harbor, and had a wonderful lunch at the cafe. I devoured a veggie burger. I don't think there's anything better than a burger when you're really hungry. We were both shocked to discover that tokens for the showers were six bucks, so we decided to wash our hair in a bucket back at camp, even though we'd dragged towels and clean clothes with us.  I picked up a few T-shirts at the gift shop and had another ice cream sandwich before we started back.

Rock Harbor with the Isle Royale Queen IV at the docks. That boat sails from Copper Harbor, at the tip of the Keewenaw. It is therefore a shorter boat ride as it eliminates the hour the Ranger III spends in the canal, but it's also a longer drive to get there, and a smaller boat to take across Superior. Bigger is better, if you ask me!

We found John and Allen sitting on the patio outside the restaurant, enjoying their own ice cream, and we joked about how long it took Mary and I to hike two miles. As if to prove our point, not 20 feet down the path, and still within sight of them, I spotted this crossbill perched on the top of a spruce. Of course I had to stop and take pictures, and I could hear them laughing.

Female Red crossbill, another first! You can just see the hook at the end of her bill.

We had a close encounter with a Kestrel on the return hike. We were just entering a clearing when this bird flew towards us across the open space, and went to land in a tree near the trail. It appeared to spot us at the last moment and veered off, landing in a snag perhaps 30 feet off the trail. I thought at first it had a stick in its talons, but it turned out to be a black snake, whose head the bird had apparently already bitten off. He watched us watch him for a while, then he flew off.

Male Kestrel with a black snake, on the Stoll Memorial Trail.

Then finally, near the end of our hike, I was able to get a decent shot of a Yellow-rumped warbler. These little guys where everywhere, but I did not have very good equipment with me so getting a good shot was not easy. I had lent my small travel binoculars to Mary since I had my camera, and she was really getting into watching the birds the time we reached Scoville Point. She stood for some time admiring this bird, and declared that I just might have made a birder out of her!

The ubiquitous Yellow-rumped warbler.

Back at the cabin everyone was taking bets as to when Liz and Zack would make it back. It was after 8:00 before they staggered into the cabin, so I estimate they spent nine or ten hours on the trail. Of course, we'd taken seven hours to go four miles (although we were in Rock Harbor for over an hour). I cooked my last meal of the trip, a big pot of black bean chili. Mary made cornbread and fixed a salad, and we had quite a feast.

Next: Weekend weather delays

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