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Day 4, August 1

We awoke to the rapping and tapping of rain on our shelter, thankful for the barrier between us and the storm clouds. After some coffee and breakfast, we stood out on the rocky overlook one last time and took in the majesty of the harbor. Thankful for the view, we set off to with the intention to hike to West Chicken Bone, 7.9 miles ahead. We went back the way we came yesterday to the Lake Ritchie junction. The trail and surrounding vegetation was saturated from the rain, and we were soaked as we passed through overgrown sections of the trail. I commented to Matt the trail looked “moosey,” and not three minutes later we stumbled upon yet another majestic beast. We filmed and admired him as he ate plants out of the water, oblivious to our presence.

We sat down on some rock slabs for lunch looking out over Lake Ritchie. The sky was gray, but it appeared for the moment that the rain had slown and may even cease. Oh how wrong we were. As we left lake Ritchie, noting how few people were out that day, the skies opened up and unleashed a deluge upon us. We hastily donned our rain gear and pack covers, but they could only do so much to stem the tide. Winding our way through wet, rocky trails, we finally ran into a couple who was hiking towards us, looking rather cold and miserable. They told us that there was a moose up ahead, feeding in the water.

Lake Ritchie lunch spot

As we stopped in West Chicken Bone, a campground without shelters, we noted just how soggy everything was. We had set out early and the day was young, so we gambled on pushing ahead to McCargoe Cove in the hopes of getting a shelter rather than hiding in a tent for the afternoon and evening hours. While this would be another 2.7 waterlogged and cold miles, we knew we had to try to find some sort of respite from the rain.  Just after exiting the campground, there was a large bull moose in the water, just as the couple had said. It was too wet to get good footage of him, unfortunately, but we took heart that we had now seen three moose so far.

After so much solitude, we entered McCargoe Cove and our hearts sank. Every shelter was full. Wet, cold, and tired, we looked around, hoping one group was going to leave and allow us to have a spot. I noticed a woman packing up, took the chance, and inquired if she was vacating the shelter. To our pleasant surprise, she was a park ranger that was preparing to depart on the Voyager that was scheduled to dock soon. Not only that, but after one glance, she told us to come on in while she was getting ready so we could dry off. We thanked her for her generosity and began the arduous process of drying our clothing and swapping out our attire for something warmer and fresher.

The shelters at McCargoe scale up the side of a hill away from the cove itself. Matt braved the rain to go down the hill to filter water and then bring it back. While he was gone, I set about using our tarp to create a windblock on the screen side of the shelter to make sure that water would not come sideways into our dry hideaway. We hunkered down in our shelter and ate a very warm and comforting meal of re-hydrated chili. Snuggling into my quilt, I fell fast asleep, filled with the success of having won the shelter lottery on a rainy day.

McCargoe Cove Shelter

Day 5, August 2

Waking up and looking outside, the sky was still a dull gray, but it seemed that the rain had finally ceased.  Happy for the reprieve, I steeled myself for our departure.  After such a warm, comfortable sleep and a warm, comfortable breakfast, we then had to change back into our damp hiking clothing and brave the trail once again.  It was hard to be unhappy though, because this day happened to be my 30th birthday.  Matt surprised me with a slightly wet and slightly crinkled birthday card that he had smuggled in his pack since the start of the trip. I was happy with the unapproved weight, and we set off into the cold.

Moose shed found at McCargoe Cove and Todd Harbor Junction

Today was also a momentous day because we ventured toward Todd Harbor, 6.7 miles away.  This route was the beginning of the Minong Ridge, one of two major spines that span the east-west axis of the island.  The Minong, being adjacent to Lake Superior on the Northern edge of the island, is notoriously more difficult than its sister Greenstone Ridge.  That said, we were excited for an entirely new experience on the famed ridge.  Early on, we had a moose come through the underbrush and block our path.  He had no intention of moving quickly, and we joked about how long we would have to wait him out. The ridge was absolutely gorgeous. While the height can be challenging, it provides an incredible view of Lake Superior stretching all the way to Canada.  It was absolutely breathtaking and we instantly understood the appeal of the Minong.

Minong Ridge

After a day filled with signs of moose and fantastic scenery, we arrived at Todd Harbor. The only shelter was occupied, but we found a nice campsite nestled in a patch of trees that provided us plenty of room to air out our clothing. The weather wasn’t terribly warm, but the sun was out so we took advantage of it and sunbathed down by the beach. We ate dinner and had a lovely little rehydrated desert in honor of my birthday and then watched the sun set on the water, for which Todd Harbor is famous. We retired to our tent after having spent a very relaxing afternoon outside.

Todd Harbor

Day 6, August 3 

I awoke this morning to the realization that I was in fact still 30 and nothing would ever change it back. The tent was cozy and quiet and we had slept very well the previous night. Matt made breakfast and coffee and I took down the tent. By day six, despite our best efforts to clean ourselves without contaminating the beautiful environment, we were starting to acquire some interesting odors.

The loons cheered us on with their songs and melodies as we packed up and prepared to head out for a short day to Little Todd campground, a mere 6.2 miles away. We figured it would be another short day, and another afternoon filled with swimming and sunbathing. Once again, the universe had other plans.

Todd Harbor and Little Todd Junction

We left the campground and ran into yet another moose on the trail.  It was a small bull, for we initially couldn’t determine if it was a cow or not.  This one was far more interested in our activities and stared us down, so we moved behind a tree per ranger advice and waited until it moved off without incident.  We stopped for lunch at the junction just before Little Todd and noted that it wasn’t even noon.  Our In-Reach GPS had informed us that some storms were expected in a day or so.  Because of this, we decided to push on to our next planned campground: North Lake Desore.

Moose on trail!

This was another 5.1 miles away, but we felt fresh and full of energy after lunch and Mio so we started on our impromptu extension.  It was on this day that we started to learn why the Minong had acquired its famed reputation.  The views were amazing, because much of the trip was on top of a rocky ridge with very little cover.  The weather had grown hot once again, and the rocks did their best to reflect that heat on us as we hiked along. Between rocky sections, we noticed that the foliage was far thicker through here and that the flora had done its best to reclaim the trails from invading humans.  With Gatorade chews and Mio sport in tow, we made it to the wooded area just outside of North Lake Desore.
The wind picked up and howled a fierce omen of the storm to come the next day.  We retired to our tent fairly early since we knew we would have to wake up early to complete our longest day.  The gusts of wind did little to perturb the tent, and we snuggled into our quilts, preparing for the next hike.

Minong Ridge view