Isle Royale fall planning

I’ve been wanting to do something like this for ages, and a weeks ago circumstances aligned such that I’d be close (if a 12 hour detour is close) to Isle Royale in late September, making the temptation unavoidable.  Therefore, next week I’ll have 3 whole days and 2 half days, the time between when the boat I have to catch out there arrives and when the boat I have to catch back departs, to do a loop around Isle Royale.

This loop.

It’s a big deal, given how long I’ve been pondering the idea and how rare (due to travel logistics) the opportunity is.  My idea has always been to be on the island as late as I could be, and while the last full week of September isn’t quite that, given the sparse transport options after Labor Day, it is quite close.  In the almost six years since I drew up my first ultimate fall traverse idea my hiking, particularly off trail hiking, has progressed considerably.  Thus, my planned loop is only a bit over 50% trail miles, and while I’ll be using a little packraft for bay and lake crossings, bushwacking on foot will be the first priority.  With Isle Royale being so functionally remote and, for a national park outside Alaska, infrequently visited, seeing big chunks of the island not on human terms seems fitting.

The forecast is looking pretty mellow, overall.  For a trip like this the primary concerns are twofold; avoiding strong winds while floating (headwinds are slow, strong gusts can flip you); and hopefully avoiding nasty bushwacking during or immediately after a big rain (so as to not get too soaked).  I’ve packed full battle rain gear, as well as the usual clothing.  The only other special provisions for this trip are more, and more detailed maps than usual, and a prototype of the North Fork expedition pack.

It’s been a year exactly since I was this nervous about a trip. It is a wonderful thing.

6 thoughts on “Isle Royale fall planning

  1. Dave, this is awesome! A bunch of off trail miles on the island is gonna suck (as you know full well) and I commend you for putting together a huge loop around the entirety of the place! I suspect you’re going to have an experience out there that very, very, very few others have had. Looking forward to reading more after you’re back.

    1. Forecast is looking eerily good. Fingers crossed.

  2. Isle Royale is super famous among biologists because of the wolf population and the effects of inbreeding on it (among the multitude of things that wolf population was studied for). Is that the case in general or is one of those odd things? I’d feel like hiking a museum to me!

  3. I built tent pads on Daisy Farm and Moskey Basin back in ’96 with the Student Conservation Association during a 30-day stay. There was a ‘roving’ forest ranger names Chris who would traverse the length of the Island (40 miles if I’m not mistaken) on trail in one day. We portaged canoes and base-camp gear on and off-trail. Your loop looks solid. The nice thing with your timeframe is that you can always bail by sticking to trails. Can’t wait to read about it. Good luck!

  4. Dave,
    What an awesome trip. I cant wait to read your report afterward. Sorry our cabinet trip got sidetracked, however I’m glad to see your using that time slot wisely.

  5. This is very cool. I’ve dreamed of going there for a number of years now. Really excited to see your review of it.

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