Click Ashley’s name above to see all of her posts!

Day 1, July 29

Waking up early at the Ramada Inn in Hancock, we were already exhausted. Our drive to Hancock was just over seven hours and took us a total of 450 miles. With a large amount of coffee and mounting excitement, we pushed through the fatigue and drove the short distance to the seaplane dock. We arrived and the shock of the seaplane is something I won’t soon forget. While the Ranger III was large and spacious, the seaplane looked to me like it could never fit six people with gear in tow. Matt remarked that our plane was small, but I had to inform him that we were in the even smaller one behind it.

On the seaplane to the island.

Having spent the last year planning, our pack weights were down to a science. For the ten days and nine nights, the seaplane scale put mine at 24 pounds, with Matt’s coming in at 35. Well under the weight limit of 50, we were stowed, and did manage to fit in the plane, which is far more spacious inside than it initially appeared.
The experience of flying to the island by itself was memorable. Taking off from the Hancock Portage Canal, the plane flew towards and crested just above Hancock’s iconic Portage Lake lift-bridge. The views were excellent, the pilot was friendly, and the experience of watching the island get closer and closer as we landed was well worth the added cost for the plane.
Upon landing, we went through the permitting process and bought our fuel as the plane does not allow flammable liquids on board. Unlike last year’s trip on the Ranger, the plane arrived around 9 AM. This meant we looked forward to a leisurely 7.9 mile hike that we had done the year before. The familiarity of the trail was calming, the weather was crisp, and we set off for the 3.7 miles to the Threemile Campground along the Tobin Harbor trail. The Tobin path is wooded,
less traveled, and has less rock scrambling than the Rock Harbor path, so we prefer that way. At Threemile, we stopped to have our lunchtime comfort food of meats, cheeses, and different crackers. The campground’s picnic tables offer a
view of Lake Superior and the scenery did not disappoint.

Rock Harbor Sign – Beginning of Adventure

Feeling refreshed, we set off to finish the 4.2 miles to Daisy Farm. While there were some warmer sections and rocky areas, the rocks aren’t as challenging in dry weather and we had experience with this route as well. Much of the path sidles along Lake Superior and continues to offer a lovely view. While Daisy Farm Campground can tend to be popular and crowded, our early departure paid off as we found a shelter that we could call home for the evening. It was nice to be
out of the sun as the afternoon had started to grow warm. We set up our gear, filtered our water from Lake Superior, and had our re-hydrated dinners from Pack-It-Gourmet (a favorite of ours). We watched the sunset and moonlight reflect off
of the water, a bit tired from the travel, but excited to take the Minong Ridge across the island and see some trails that we had yet to experience.

Day 2, July 30

As I lay in the comfort of my quilt, I awoke to the sound of splashing. I was sure that this would be the moose encounter that I so craved on the island and walked to the beach. Though I was initially disappointed that there were no moose to be found, I was greeted with a gorgeous sunrise and a group of loons meandering their way through the water while producing their haunting calls.

Daisy Farm Sunrise

After enjoying this natural display with some coffee and instant oatmeal enhanced with carnation instant breakfast (a must-have to make oatmeal less boring on a trip this long), we packed up our camp, swept the shelter, signed the Daisy Farm Register, and set out towards Moskey Basin. The route isn’t long, coming in at only 3.9 miles, but it is worth it for the destination. While enjoying my surroundings, I noticed an orange and fluffy tail dancing through the blueberry bushes. We had seen a few foxes last year, and once again we were reminded just how intimate the wildlife encounters are on this island. I shook Matt to get his attention, but the fox had gone about her business by the time he looked. We informed some other hikers and went about our trip, still flanked by blueberry bushes, though the berries weren’t quite ripe yet.
While the hike doesn’t stay near the water the whole time, it does crest a small ridge and give some nice views over Moskey Basin itself. With the shorter mileage, we arrived at camp in time to secure a shelter. The shelters here are on the edge of the water with easy access for swimming and filtering. The view is indescribably beautiful. Anywhere one looks, one is met with a panoramic view of the whole basin, flanked by trees and usually populated with all manner of loons, mergansers, and goldeneye ducks.

Ashley relaxing in the cold water at Moskey Basin.

With the afternoon sun bearing down on us, we braved the frigid waters of Lake Superior and then laid out on the large, smooth rock slabs and sunbathed. Some other campers entered the campground and excitedly told anyone who would listen that a moose cow and her baby calves had been spotted at a creek near the campground entrance. While we rushed towards it, hoping for our elusive moose encounter, we were again stymied by the animals. We laid out on some high rocks and just took in the sights of the basin along with a dose of sun. We re-hydrated our dinner and retreated into the shelter as the sun set. The shelter lived up to its name as we fell asleep to the sound of not just crashing waves, but also the buzzing of mosquitoes. It sounded as if the entire forest was alive, or that we crawled into a jet engine full of bees. In the middle of the night, Matt noticed that a large spider that we believe was a fisher spider was on the screen of the shelter.  While it unnerved him to see such a large arachnid, our spider friend did her best to eat as many mosquitoes as possible

Our setup in a Moskey Basin shelter.

Day 3, July 31

The loons were out in force, and their melodies lifted me from a refreshing sleep.  Matt and I drank our coffees and watched the sunrise across the basin. Though disappointed at another moose-less morning, I could hardly complain about the scenery. After our usual breakfast, we started our trip to Chippewa Harbor, hearing the forest still absolutely buzzing with the sound of insects hungry for our blood.

Moskey Basin camp sunrise

The trip to Chippewa Harbor marked a departure for us. Just before reaching Lake Ritchie, we veered south onto the first section of trails that we hadn’t traversed the previous year. The total trip is 6.2 miles, but this day was a bit more challenging. In addition to the mosquitoes not relenting, the heat and humidity were both on the rise. Despite this, we enjoyed the change of scenery. Although the island may look small on a map, we enjoyed the biodiversity of each area. This trail’s flora gave us nice views that were distinct from the parts of the trail we had already seen. I realized as I ran into spiderweb after spiderweb that we must have been one of the first groups to take this route for today.

On the Chippewa Harbor dock, looking for moose

As we were moving up a wooded hill, it finally happened. We saw our first moose! He was just in front of the portage trail along the way to the harbor. It was amazing that he was just on the trail, eating, paying very little attention to us. We let him move off the trail and up a hill to our left and then we crested the hill just before Chippewa Harbor. There was only one other group camping here, so we picked a shelter on a high rock slab overlooking the harbor. It was an amazing view from that vantage point. We went down to the dock and enjoyed a cooling wind after a long, hot day.
We filtered water and talked with a family that had canoed in. We were in fact the only people who had hiked in, and the remoteness was pleasant after the relative crowds at Daisy Farm and Moskey Basin. A sailboat slowly meandered its way to the harbor, and the mast could be seen over the trees from the mouth of the harbor to the dock. The family got out and grilled some food, which smelled amazing to us after three days and counting of dehydrated fare. They slept on their boat, and we retired to our shelter with word of a large storm coming over the island.

See Part 2 here!

Chippewa Harbor Shelter.