Isle Royale

Growing up I had oftentimes heard stories of friends and family having incredible adventures at Isle Royale National Park. I have always desired to experience the island for myself and return with my own stories to share, and working at Bearskin this summer has allowed me to do so.

My aunt, a Grand Marais local and wonderful backpacking companion, agreed to join me on my Isle Royale adventure. On one of my days off, she and I packed our bags and headed to Grand Portage early in the morning to catch the ferry to Isle Royale. The weather for the ride was perfect; the water was like glass and the rising sun quickly warmed up the cold Superior air. The calm condition of the water allowed us to see the famous sunken steam ship “America” very clearly as we pulled into the Windigo port. My aunt and I quickly got our park permits and settled into a campsite, eager to hit the hiking trails.

We decided on hiking part of the Huginnin Cove Loop, a nice wooded trail where we were hoping to see some beautiful sights and maybe even a moose. The views on the hike were lovely and though we didn’t see a moose, it was very enjoyable to find hundreds of their tracks along the trail.


By the time we got back to our campsite we were looking forward to a big meal, and we soon found out that we weren’t the only ones. As I was cooking over the camp-stove, I heard some splashing coming from the little stream behind me. To my surprise, there was a moose coming down to the water right across from our site to join us for dinner. We watched her munch on plants along the shoreline for a good 15 minutes before she swam right over to our campsite and trotted off into the woods just a few yards away from us! It was the most amazing moose experience either of us had ever had.

The next morning we were ready to take on more hiking adventures. We chose to do the Grace Creek Overlook trail along the lake because it got hotter and buggier the further inland we went. Walking along the water allowed us to watch boats and sea planes come into and out of the Windigo harbor and it also provided the perfect habitat for Lady Slippers–we must have counted over 50 of them along the trail!


After we finished our hike, we packed up our bags and headed to the boat for our journey back. The weather was very overcast, creating an eerie sight as we passed by the Rock of Ages Lighthouse which was barely visible through the fog.



Before we knew it, we were back at Grand Portage and on our way home, excited to share our own new stories about Isle Royale. It was an amazing experience and I would definitely recommend the trip to anyone looking for a unique adventure.




Round Lake to Gabi and Back


This week Kate and I took a quick overnight trip starting at Round lake, and looping through Gabimichigami.  We had great weather, and shockingly, saw very few people.   Our route had us portage into W.Round lake, and head towards Brandt lake from Brandt we portaged to Flying, and then Fay lake.  Water is very high in this area, and the portage to Fay involved long stretches of knee to waist deep water.  I had been over that portage in June, and it was much drier.  I suspect there is a beaver to blame somewhere.  From Fay it was on to the Chub river and Warclub lake.  I was eager for this section, since neither of us had paddled the area between the Chub River and Peter lake.  We ate lunch on Warclub, and had our fill of blueberries.  Next was Seahorse lake, one of my favorite lakes of the trip, with high rocks and sprawling bays.

Once we portaged into French lake, and then Peter, we were done with the small lake portion of the trip.  Like all of the lakes so far, Peter was burned, and didn’t look like it offered great camping.  From Peter we portaged to Gabi, our destination for the day.

Gabi is a large expanse of water, and with the exception of the south bay, unbroken by islands or peninsulas.  We found a nice campsite and made our home for the night.  We swam and looked for berries, before eating dinner and going to bed.


The next morning it was a treat to have fresh blueberries in our granola!  We were on the water by 8:30, and made our way through Rattle lake to Little Sag.  Little Sag is a pleasure to paddle, and we wove between its islands as we made our way towards Mora lake.  We’ve always enjoyed the portage to Mora, with its great views of the last drop of the Frost River.


From Mora we paddled Tarry, Crooked and Owl lakes.  On Crooked we watched a Loon feeding its young.  We portaged to Tuscarora lake, and paddled to an island to swim and eat lunch.  The day had become very warm, and it was nice to find some refuge in the shade.

We finished lunch, and made our way to the long portage out of Tusc.  Despite my love of the Howl Swamp portage, we choose the more direct route to Missing Link lake.  The portage was long and hot.  There was an abundance of frogs on the Missing Link side, many still with tales.  We paddled Missing Link and returned to Round Lake.  On the drive home we bemoaned the lack of a functioning air conditioner in my truck.

It felt so great to get out over night in the middle of the season.  We were very lucky in regards to the weather and the solitude.


Nighthawk lake through Poplar Creek

I have, on a few occasions, tried to access Nighthawk lake from the small flowage to the east of the lake.  I have always enjoyed overlooking the lake in the winter from the Poplar Creek ski trail.  As the planted white pines surrounding the ski trail grow larger it’s possible that in a few years the view of the lake will be diminished, and without a reminder every time I ski or groom by, my curiosity about the lake will wane as well.


My previous attempts at getting to Nighthawk have failed due to lack of time, lack of water, or lack of heart.  Most of the marsh between the creek and lake sits firmly in the middle ground between land and water, where neither paddling or walking is possible.  It is impossible to not become covered in mud, and the bugs are ferocious.


This time I gave myself plenty of time.  Our water is fairly high.  After a few hours of pushing and dragging through through the swamp, I was able to crash through the woods to the small beaver pond down stream of the lake.  One more climb over a beaver dam, and I had done it!  A paddle around Nighthawk revealed it to be a small nondescript lake.


I determined that it would be much easier to simply portage back to my truck on the ski trail.  In around twenty minutes I was loading up my canoe.

nighthawk swamp3

Poplar creek is on the right, Nighthawk the left.

The yellow is the "paddling" portion, the orange the walk on the ski trail.

The yellow is the “paddling” portion, the orange the walk on the ski trail.

Leaving the main creek

Leaving the main creek

Less water already

Less water already


The Swamp

At the other side of the Swamp.

At the other side of the Swamp.

Almost to the beaver pond

Almost to the beaver pond

Nighthawk at last

Nighthawk at last


In summary:  Is it possible to get to Nighthawk lake from Poplar Creek? Sort off.  Should you try it? No.