This is another excerpt from our travel journal to Isle Royale. The first day is here; second day here; third day is here; fourth day is here. Photos by me, text by my husband.

Thursday May 29
Rock Harbour to Raspberry Island and Scoville Point, and return

It is the last full day on the island, and once again we had great hopes and plans for awaking early in order to go do much stuff. Atop the list was Raspberry Island, a one-mile canoe ride away over a not-very protected part of Rock Harbour. We had been foiled in our attempt of this trip by the wind on Wednesday, but were hoping that an early start, before the wind kicked up for the day, might help things out. Our lazy butts didn’t move from the bed until after 9, though, so we thought we were doomed. We had a good breakfast again in the cabin, heard on the radio the forecast of 22ยบ (that’s almost 70 to the rest of us), and wander out about 10 am, thinking we might hike to Scoville Point, a 4.5 mile return trip.

But upon arriving at the marina, we noticed to our astonishment no waves in the harbour, and the flag over the ranger station was hanging motionless. We saw the canoe guy walking toward us and asked him, “Any chance we could canoe to Raspberry Island today?”

“I don’t see why not.”

Huzzah! So we plopped down our half-day canoe rental, grabbed our paddles and lifejackets (which were, conveniently, not yet put away from yesterday – the operation here is quite casual in the early season), and headed off around the America dock and across the water.

The America dock is the old home of the steamship America, the original “lifeline” of the island, sailing its perimeter and to the mainland twice a week through the ice-free seasons of 1901-1928. Then it sank. Rocks and waves around here are treacherous, but still, we will put our faith in the Isle Royale Queen IV tomorrow, and in the little canoe today.

Every so often on water, I imagine the oddness of it all – above a seabed (or lakebed) that has just as much topography as the visible land (thought the scientists call it bathymetry just so they know what they are talking about and you won’t), we cling in this little thing to the density phase boundary. I imagine those little desktop doodads with the two coloured immiscible liquids, one denser than the other. Turn it over, and the purple liquid slowly drips down, spinning the wheel and chasing other bubbles down the spiral slide. Or the more expensive ones that merely tip back and forth while the two liquids slosh and create giant (relatively) crashing waves at the interface. A boat on water’s really not that much different – two immiscible fluids of air and water, forever defined by density, and us clinging to the interface.

It leads me to two thoughts: 1) I hope I can trust density; and 2) I really wish whoever owns the sloshbox called Lake Superior would quit playing with it so the surface would smooth over at least until tomorrow evening. As you can probably tell, the memories of the unfortunate trip here are re-building in my head as the time for the trip back approaches. Dread is an appropriate word.

Lake Superior rocks

So off we went to Raspberry – first around the point of Snug Harbour and the American dock, then along the shore of the lodge for a bit. It was our first good luck at the four lodge buildings, each named for some erstwhile Isle Royale inhabitants (Chippewa, Nokomis, Ojibway, and one I can’t remember). The lodge buildings have the look of our cabin, more 1970s than CCC. We keep being reminded that this park developed later. They’re all right out on the water’s edge, almost sprayed in the waves of a good wind. They are protected by a row of barrier islands (including our destination), but they still seem awfully exposed. But exposure doesn’t matter in a day like today.

Islands in the lake

We aimed for the dock across the water, and slowly paddled along through the swell. It was rougher than Tobin the day before, but nothing even close to presenting a tipping hazard. As we docked at the concrete pier (the world is so different without tides), a motorboat pulled off, leaving us alone on the island.Raspberry Island sea arch

There are two trails on Raspberry Island, which is less than half a mile stem to stem. The “larger” trail includes four or five interpretive signs, explaining the different ecosystems (ecosysta?) of the northeast part of Isle Royale. There’s the bog (home of moose), the spruce-birch forest (home of wolf), and the costal windswept rocks (home of orange lichen and just-holding-on plants).

Yarrow and lichenWe toured them all, on a trail more overgrown with the little onion-tulip-like plants than really trail-like. Really, truly, nobody comes here. We speculated how many people have walked this trail before us this year… maybe a ranger or two in April to make sure no trees were down and the signs survived the winter, maybe the other couple staying at the lodge,maybe the guy in the outboard this morning, maybe a moose or two. This was an unused trail. It probably gains popularity later in the summer, as the proportion of day-trippers and non-hardcore hikers rises, but in May, it was ours.

Pitcher plant

The bog included the carnivorous pitcher plants (watch your fingers!), the forest a rose-breasted grosbeak (watch your fingers!), and the rocky beach featured lunch. The “always eat with a view” rule worked well. If the horizon is a lake (big lake!), you only need to be five or ten feet above it to get the full panorama. We tried to convince ourselves we could see the Keweenaw at the horizon, but the clouds and refraction play funny tricks. We tried to convince ourselves we saw the curvature of the earth – that may be true.

Raspberry Island point

To be completely truthful, we did see two other hikers on the island, eventually. They had kayaked over after us, and were circumscribing the island anticlockwise (we went clockwise). It was a disappointment when we first heard their voices – we’re so spoiled.

We returned from the island shortly after noon – well, maybe 2 or so. We still had a good afternoon left before the wavey unpleasantness of tomorrow, and the weather was quickly warming. Not shorts-wearing warm, but we did leave off the second layer of long underwear. We had but one destination left that could reasonably be accomplished – Scoville Point.

Scoville Point

[And there, dear readers, the travelogue ends. My husband hasn’t written about the trip to Scoville Point, and it looks like may not get to it, considering we’re heading to Europe for three weeks. Two highlights of this hike: coming across a fox, and coming upon a sea of wild orchids. Trust that we survived the rolling seas the next day (and they were indeed rolling – dramamine helped) and made it back down the Keweenaw. We stayed the night in Eagle River, WI, then headed directly to central Illinois, to discover the missing toilet in our house. So we headed on to West Lafayette, clocking in about 530 miles and readvancing through spring. Thanks for joining us on this retrospective, check out the rest of the photos here and I’ll post an update if the trip to Scoville Point gets immortalized in the journal.]

Alert fox

Calypso orchid field


  1. #1 BerryBird
    July 2, 2008

    Thanks for posting the entire travelogue, Alice. I have really enjoyed hearing about Isle Royale, but of course, now I want to go there even more. Gorgeous calypso! I have never seen so many growing together like that.

  2. #2 dan byl
    April 7, 2009

    very nicely written. we are likely to spend 4-5 days late june/early july this summer and will stay in a cabin. i was wondering about how much you could do as not camping confines you to hiking distance and back. your log answered my concerns. glad we’re going in june/july rather than when the temps are 0 deg. celcius. hope to see a plieated woodpecker too, my holy grail bird.

  3. #3 Alice
    April 7, 2009

    dan byl – glad it was useful, and good bird sighting to you! Also warmer weather….. brrrrrrrrrr…. Have a marvelous time, it was an extraordinary place.

  4. #4 Taylor barg
    December 16, 2011

    What are those rocks names up at the top Im doing a report and I can’t find them anywhere!! Please help!!

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