This is another excerpt from our travel journal to Isle Royale. The first day is here; second day here; third day is here. Photos by me, text by my husband.
Wednesday May 28
Rock Harbour to Lookout Louise, and return
So let me digress to the future again. [What was going on again? Oh yeah.] I write today from the point of Raspberry Island, looking out over the big lake, having just practiced Alice and my Rule #1: everything tastes better outside. The writing is better outside too – a good view, a comfortable rock, and a warm sun to heat my toes, still a bit chilled from wading in the lake. Raspberry Island is another place accessible only by canoe, and not very well travelled, and all the better for it. It is within sight across Rock Harbour from the Lodge but if we stay on the lake side of the island and only look out, we’re alone again. It’s wonderful. But the story of Raspberry Island is one for the next chapter. Let’s move back to Wednesday, the low-key day in Tobin Harbour and Lookout Louise.
We awoke early (who are we kidding…we awoke about 8:30), had a breakfast of toast and marmalade that couldn’t be beat, and left the cabin before 10 to go talk to the guy at the canoe rental. We were beat from the long hike the day before, and thought that some time in a canoe, and then the short 1/2 mile loop on Raspberry Island might be nice. The island is one of the barrier islands to Rock Harbour, though, so the canoeing waters are not very protected. And 3-5 ft swells in the big lake meant chop in the harbour that would be too much for a canoe. The lodge wasn’t allowing travel to Raspberry. Instead, though, they could offer the trip on the protected side – across Tobin Inlet to Lookout Louise. Okay, we said, and off we went.
The canoeing was great – a chance to get back to old skills and hobbies, and also a nice, smooth water to paddle through. I must say that our canoeing skills greatly overmatch our kayaking skills so the ride also featured much more marital bliss than our customary rides in our tandem kayak, The Circle Tour do. We crossed the harbour after some mergansers, poked around some small islands (one with an old summer cabin still (barely) standing), and made it across the 2-mile trip to the Lookout Louise trailhead in about a half an hour. Beached the canoe, noted we were the only boat there, and headed off up the trail.
Just a short way in was Hidden Lake, so named because it was about 15 feet from the main lake, but not visible from the canoe. From the trail, it was less hidden. That was good, though, because we had heard in the visitor center that Hidden Lake was a good moose spot, and I was afraid we would miss it.
We stopped for a while, but no moose – was yesterday’s moose spotting going to be the only one? I had promised Alice that there would be moose around every corner. I hope she’s not disappointed. Ten minutes at the lake led to spotting of two mergansers and four painted turtles. Or maybe three painted turtles and a moose pretending to be a painted turtle. Maybe.
The trail up to Lookout Louise was nice – an easy uphill of about a mile through the birch/spruce/fir trees that define this half of the island. It was also very underused. I wrote yesterday [er, last week] about the thrill of being the only people at Lookout Louise (a view which rivals many National Park views). We were certainly spoiled this week on the trails – we saw a grand total of 3 co-hikers in more than 20 miles of hiking. On one hand, that’s a bit scary if there’s an accident. But on the other, it meant that we had the freedom to move at our own pace and to stop, sometimes for a long time, to watch the birds and the turtles without others making noise.
There’s also a feeling, when you’re obviously the first people on a trail for the day, that the animals don’t expect people to be coming by. I have no idea if this is true (and then no idea what it means for the ethic of us being the first of the day to bother the animals), but it heightens the sense that what we are seeing is actually wild [Yeah, don’t tell me how wilderness is a social construction for now, will you?], and may (closer) approximate what the land was like before civilization and cars and buildings and central heating. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a place, with the possible exception of some of the hikes we’ve taken at the cabin, where the human contact was so low. And somehow, the fact that BC hikers are on logging roads negates the fact that we never see anyone else hiking. Maybe this sense of wilderness is part of the renewal that Alice and I are looking for (I hope it is, anyway). I’m really trying to make my mind go the other way – that this sense of wilderness is sad, considering its amazing infrequency.
The summit of Lookout Louise has been previously chronicled, with the stories of the view of the Canadian shore, and the watching of the soaring eagle and hawk. We did see other people shortly after setting off in our canoe for the ride back (three people in a rowboat) but we quickly ducked behind an island and left them behind, again to be alone with the place. A slow paddle back down and across Tobin Harbour led us back to our cabin about midafternoon, exhausted, and ready for a lunch of leftovers and a nap.
Napping is a wonderful thing on vacation, and I’m trying to convince A. to share that opinion. We are pretty much beat after the long hike, so even the short canoe and hike of today is enough. And besides, what is the point of coming back from vacation more tired and worn out than when you left? So we napped with a clean conscience, then read, ate, wrote, and read again until dark.
It doesn’t get fully dark here until almost midnight, but the clear skies of the day [and the nap] led us to the idea of stargazing. We headed down to the marina at about 11:30 pm- it was mostly dark but the northwest horizon still held more purple than black. The stars were out in force, as were a few satellites and at least two shooting stars, but there were no signs of the Milky Way or Northern Lights. Perhaps we were asking too much. The cold winds shortly brought us back inside, to go to bed about midnight and swear we would be up early so as not to waste the last full day on the island. I bet you can guess how we did on the waking up early bit…
For the record, Wednesday’s bird sightings:
- broad-winged hawk (Lookout Louise)
- black-capped chickadee
- golden-crowned kinglet (a tiny little bird somehow spotted in a dense thicket)
- black-and-white warbler