Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Isle Royale 2017, Day 6: Ferry to Rock Harbor

Last time: Dave goes mining on the Minong

Sunrise over McCargoe Cove
I woke up to a brilliant flash. A few seconds later, thunder rolled across the hillside and crashed all around our shelter.

Sarah and I both lay awake, listening to the rush of wind and roar of thunder coming closer and closer. A single extremely dark cloud blacked out the bright morning sky. A tiny spatter of rain fell, and then the cloud slowly slid by to the east.

Thus began our last full day on Isle Royale. We woke up in McCargoe Cove, which had quickly become one of our favorite spots on the island. Today was to be both exciting and sad: In the early afternoon, we would take the Voyageur II on its way around the wild eastern end of Isle Royale -- new territory for us -- but then we would be back at Rock Harbor, ready to catch the Queen IV back to the mainland tomorrow. Our beautiful and relaxing trip was coming to an end.

The morning was cool and misty, so we dressed in our warmest clothes and walked down to the dock to look for moose. It was the first time I'd seen the dock silent and empty. We could still see the lone thundercloud skimming away into the distance, but the morning it left behind was nothing short of gorgeous. The water in McCargoe Cove was unnaturally calm, and the sky was streaked with sunrise on the high clouds. There was, however, not a single moose to be seen.

The Lovely Sarah searching for moose

It was about this time that I discovered that yesterday's bonanza of long-exposure Minong Mine photos had killed my camera battery. Very shortly, the battery died once and for all. For the rest of the trip, I used Sarah's pocket camera -- but you'll see that I didn't take many photos at all.

After enjoying the morning, we less-than-enjoyed our usual breakfast. After five straight days of oatmeal, even a handful of wild raspberries couldn't make it taste good. We packed our bags, swept out shelter #4, and headed back down to the dock. The campground had been completely full for the last two nights, and we assumed that other hikers would be coming in and looking for space. We didn't need the shelter any more, so we might as well make room for those who did need it.

Down at the dock, we were soon joined by the giant group of parents and kids. They were also heading to Rock Harbor on the Voyageur. Their party was reduced by 2 -- the backpacker from our first night at Chippewa Harbor, plus another, had headed out on foot the previous day (I guess they needed a little more quiet time).

The Ann Arbor crew had been up at first light, like the good farmers they were, and were already out on the trail. The large group of teenage girls had left the day before. Various others headed out on the Minong Ridge or towards Chickenbone Lake as we sat at the dock. All in all, almost nobody was left in the campground which had been so full and busy for the last two days.

Clouds over a calm McCargoe Cove

We sat on the dock and people-watched. Two stern-looking fishermen pulled up in their own boat, sat on the dock, and started fishing off of it. A couple walked in from West Chickenbone, stopped for lunch, and continued on the Minong towards Todd Harbor. A ranger pulled up in a tiny park service boat with two enormous motors. He brought with him his wife, also a ranger (but off-duty) and their 5-year-old. The mother and child headed up the Minong towards the mine site, while the father (who was on duty and clearly loved his job) stopped to chat with each and every one of us, before heading off to check the pit toilets.

Feeling melancholy about our imminent departure, Sarah and I unfolded our park map and daydreamed about future trips. We figured out our highest priority campgrounds to visit (Huginnin Cove and Todd Harbor, here we come!), mapped out routes to get there, discussed ferry schedules, and generally fully planned out 3 or 4 trips into the future.

Soon, another husband-wife ranger team arrived, both on duty this time. They hopped out of their boat and started getting us in order for the ferry. There were at least 10 of us waiting to board the Voyageur, quite a large number. Meanwhile, nobody was arriving to take up our empty shelters. This felt odd, and we suspected that it was due to the ferry schedule. McCargoe is well-served by the Voyageur, and if you are a non-hiker who wanted to get out away from the "built up" parts of the island, you could reasonably spend your time at McCargoe. In the future, we agreed, we would watch those schedules and try to avoid the busy days.

Soon enough, the Voyageur appeared as a tiny silver speck, far down the cove. It very slowly grew larger, until it finally arrived at the dock. The captain called out the group names (we watched as the over-large group went through a bit of verbal gymnastics in front of the rangers to make it clear that they weren't, y'know, actually all traveling together) and we crammed ourselves onboard the already packed boat.

Thunderhead over McCargoe Cove
The Voyageur wasted no time in backing out and heading back down the long, long cove. We stood on one of the side walkways -- the only open space -- and enjoyed watching the scenery. We passed Birch Island, a pretty little island near the mouth of the cove, with exactly one shelter and one tent site. At the mouth of McCargoe cove, we turned northeast, threading between long narrow islands that are really the tops of mighty basalt ridges. As we traveled, I recognized three identical boats coming towards us in formation. They were the messy boaters from Chippewa Harbor. So long!

We passed along the length of Amygdaloid Island, the outermost of the long parallel islands. We passed Crystal Cove and Belle Isle, both the former sites of resorts from the island's glory days. We passed smaller islands with curious names like "Captain Kidd Island" and "Dead Horse Rocks", and then started to round the farthest end of Isle Royale. Mighty Blake Point (the very end of the Greenstone Ridge) and the towering rock wall of the Palisades passed on our right.

About this time, I looked to the west and noticed a wall of dark clouds lurking just a few miles behind us. The sky ahead was blue and serene, but there was a storm chasing us. It looked likely that we'd get in to port before the rain caught us. Likely, that is, until the Voyageur made a turn not towards Rock Harbor, but rather into Tobin Harbor. The captain made an announcement: We were making a mail drop! The Voyageur is a designated mail carrier for the island, and one of its duties is to drop off a packet of mail at the Minong Island "post office" -- a tiny locked cabin with a tiny, sagging dock, all on one of the small islets in Tobin Harbor. There are still a few cabins on Tobin Harbor that are leased by their original owners -- from before the National Park was formed -- and this is a way for them to get mail during the summer.

The captain expertly brought the Voyageur up next to the sagging dock. One of his assistants jumped onto the dock, unlocked the cabin's door, tossed in a mail bag, locked up again, and was back on the boat within a minute.

Thunderstorm Warning over Isle Royale, from NWS Marquette.
That yellow box basically covers our entire route.
As we backed up and rounded Scoville point, the storm finally caught up with us. Huge raindrops chased the few of us remaining on deck into the main cabin. The drops quickly became a torrential downpour, complete with thunder rolling overhead. We later learned that the National Weather Service had issued a rare thunderstorm warning for Isle Royale.

The captain opened up the throttle, and we made it into the safety of Snug Harbor as the downpour let up slightly. With raincoats buttoned up, we raced up the hill towards the campground, hoping against hope that a shelter was still available this late in the afternoon. Rock Harbor is always busy in August, and the campground often fills up by afternoon. We had one thing working in our favor: The Ranger III, the largest vessel serving Rock Harbor, wasn't in port -- and as a result, the campground wouldn't be full of hikers preparing to depart on it at 8 am tomorrow.

Sure enough, every shelter was taken, except for one -- Shelter #6, sadly breaking up our Tour de Fours. We took it anyhow. As we were setting up our sleeping pads, we learned why the shelter was still available. Despite being located between the campground's two outhouses, we didn't notice any unpleasant smells outside. But inside the shelter, there was a very definite -- and very outhouse-y -- smell. We nicknamed our shelter the "pee hut" and left for dinner as quickly as possible.

One more McCargoe Cove View. What a gorgeous place.

Tonight was a special treat: Dinner at the Greenstone Grill, the park's "informal" restaurant -- meaning that it's willing to serve scruffy hikers who haven't had a shower in 7 days. It was only 4:00, but we were famished and nothing sounded better than food -- any food at all, really -- as long as it wasn't freeze-dried. We sat by a window and ordered a half pound burger, a pasty, and a coke, each of which we split with each other. They were every bit as amazing as I had hoped.

One fun part of being on the island for a week is how we started to recognize nearly all of the backpackers. We chatted briefly with a table of three men from Grand Haven. They had been out just as long as us and were practically singing the praises of the Grill's food, while avidly planning all of their food stops on their trip home tomorrow.

As we sat enjoying our food, the waitress (there was only one) suddenly shouted, "Moose!" I looked at her, pointing straight towards the window behind us. I almost got whiplash, my head turned back to the window so fast. Sure enough, a bull moose with a spectacular rack was wandering slowly down the paved waterfront trail, heading right towards us.

The moose was following the trail towards the restaurant, which also lead towards the Rock Harbor Lodge, bathrooms, and generally a much more built-up part of Rock Harbor. I scrambled to get out Sarah's camera (which I had been carrying ever since my battery died). I was basically shooting from the hip, but I got the photo:

A rather confused moose, from the Greenstone Grill

The moose got spooked when it saw the people and buildings up ahead, and made a remarkably fast about-face. A few curious bystanders had noticed the moose and were following behind it along the trail. They, too did really fast turnabouts as the moose started back towards them. One of the onlookers jumped into Rock Harbor itself in their haste to get off of the trail (luckily the water was only about a foot deep at shore).

The moose quickly disappeared into the woods near the amphitheater. We returned to our food. A big group of people started to collect near where it went into the woods, so we guessed that the moose must have decided to hang out in the trees not too far from the path. Soon enough, a ranger appeared and started running crowd control, keeping people from getting too close to the moose, and sharing moosey trivia.

After we paid for our meal and waddled out, the crowd had mostly dispersed, except for a few hardcore onlookers. We peeked into the trees, and sure enough, there was the bull, sitting in a field of thimbleberry plants and looking absolutely gigantic. I couldn't look away. It was almost unreal to see him "up close" (still a dozen or more yards away). His head swiveled around in a way that reminded me of cheesy Christmas yard ornaments -- until I stopped and reminded myself that all that means is that, apparently, animatronic reindeer are much more realistic than I ever believed.

We wandered over to the Visitor's Center. I was looking for a specific book, which I found: The Diary of an Isle Royale Schoolteacher, the transcribed diary of Dorothy Simonson, who spent a winter in the 1930's teaching in the one-room schoolhouse that we had found at Chippewa Harbor. Our local library has two copies, both of which are permanently restricted to the library's history room -- so I'd been reading it in fits and starts for nearly a year. I purchased a copy so that I could actually read it on my own time.

As we walked out, we saw a small group gathered on the path leading up towards the campground. One of the bystanders told us that another (different!) bull moose had just walked up the trail, which was a bit of a problem for anyone who wanted to go to the campground or the rental cabins located across the way on Tobin Harbor. Sure enough, as we looked, a bull moose wandered across the path and into the trees. A ranger rounded up all of the cabin campers nearby and had them follow him at a safe distance, while he ran "moose control" for them. It was quite the busy night for moose in Rock Harbor, and our total was now up to 4.5 moose.

There was no hurry for us, so we sat on the bench outside of the Visitor's Center. I read a bit of my book, until Sarah uttered a surprised yelp. The Ann Arbor farmers (and company) had just marched in, looking about as fresh and energetic as they had 12 hours and 15 miles ago -- at McCargoe Cove. We chatted with them briefly (we didn't want to get between them and the restaurant, which was their ultimate goal) and they yet again impressed me with their endurance and endless energy.

Finally it was time for the big event of the evening: the ranger presentation. Tonight was Ranger Kelly, presenting "Isle Royale Stories". The auditorium building was filled with lodge-dwellers on this cool and rainy evening, as well as a handful of backpackers like us (you can tell the difference by the week-old beards, the mud-stained clothes, and the smell). Ranger Kelly's presentation was surprisingly philosophical, reflecting on her own experiences on the island. I liked it. She told stories of her own and others' experiences with northern lights, canoeing, meeting moose, day-to-day ranger life, and helping with wilderness rescues. It was a fascinating glimpse into long-term life on the island (or at least, as long-term as it's possible to get, given that the park is closed for 6 months of the year).

We had the unfortunate luck to be sitting next to a large and severely rude group that wanted nothing to do with this philosophical nonsense. Sarah and I did our best to ignore loud sighs and barely-whispered complaints about how boring it was. They left as soon as the last slide clicked past, to our great delight.

Buoy marker in McCargoe Cove

There was a Q&A time at the end, and so we endured the usual barrage of wolf related questions (completely unrelated to the topic of the presentation), to which Ranger Kelly had incredibly sensible and well-practiced replies. I also noticed a bizarre trend: Multiple lodge-dwellers asked questions about "Isle Roy-all", to which they received nice and accurate answers about Isle Royal. I can normally understand where the oddball pronunciation comes from (I mean, look at how it's spelled!). But we had all just heard Ranger Kelly pronounce it correctly for an hour straight -- not to mention presumably every ranger and everyone else they had met on the island so far.

I asked the very last question, and it only felt fair to make it actually, y'know, about the presentation we had just seen. It was an easy one: Ranger Kelly had mentioned that the presentation was a couple of years old, and that she wanted to update it with some of her more recent experiences. So, I asked, what was a story that she would like to add? That's how we heard the story of the "Hatchet Lake Incident", a sort of wilderness worst-case scenario that had happened last year. In short, two campers strung a hammock up to a birch tree without carefully checking that the birch was indeed still alive. It wasn't, and the 60+ foot tall trunk fell and landed on them. The rest of the story involved some pretty amazing feats of endurance and grit, since this had taken place at Hatchet Lake Campground -- one of the most remote and inaccessible campgrounds on the island. Everyone came out OK at the end, although not without the help of about 1/3 of the island's personnel and some serious trail-running. This, incidentally, was apparently the origin of the National Park's strict new rules about how and when hammocks could be used on an island filled with standing deadwood.

By the time the Q&A was done, it was nearly dark. All of the moose had either cleared out or fallen asleep in the woods, and so we had a quiet walk back to the Pee Hut. We curled up for our last sleep on this magic island.

Next time: Homeward Bound, or, Why It's Always Worth Double-Checking Your Itinerary

Miles hiked: 0. Total: 10.6 trail + 12.5 dayhike = 23.1 miles.
Moose sighted: 2!! Total moose: 4.5!!

Pink: Voyageur II route, with stopover at the Tobin Harbor Post Office

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Isle Royale 2017, Day 5: Rest Day at McCargoe and the Minong Mine

Last time: Chickenbone to McCargoe to Chickenbone to McCargoe...

Inside the Minong Mine

On the 5th day, we rested. We "slept in" at McCargoe Cove, which is to say, we woke up slightly after the sun had risen. Morning was taken up with camp chores -- doing laundry in a bucket is always a joy -- and enjoying not being on the move for a day.

Sarah's plan for the rest of the day was to read, relax, swim, and take it easy. My plan was a bit different: Visit the Minong Mine.

The Minong Mine was Isle Royale's most successful copper mine, although that really doesn't say much. Isle Royale is, geologically, part of the same rock formation as the rest of Michigan's Copper Country. Ancient miners visited the island and extracted pure copper from the rocks, leaving behind small pits visible to the first European visitors. With the mining boom on the Keweenaw, some prospectors naturally tried their luck on the island as well. There was undoubtedly enough copper, but Isle Royale's remote nature -- especially the way it is completely cut off from the mainland for 6 months of winter -- quickly killed off even the richest mine.

Black-eyed Susans at McCargoe

The Minong Mine is accessible down a spur from the legendary Minong Ridge Trail, which runs along the Minong Ridge (see a trend yet?) between McCargoe Cove and Windigo. This meant that I also got to have a taste of the Minong Ridge Trail, which is famous for its beauty and extreme ruggedness.

I followed the Minong Ridge trail uphill from McCargoe -- or tried to. The campground's multiple criss-crossing paths led me astray, and instead I found a new outhouse. On try #2, I ended up in another shelter's front yard. Try #3 took me to the tent campsites. It turned out that the shelter's front yard in try #2 was on the right track -- I had to skirt around the shelter before continuing uphill.

Minong Ridge trail with wildflowers

When I finally found the trail, I almost flew along it. The day was cool and sunny, the sky was a rich late summer blue, and the breeze was light. The trail was lined with wildflowers in the sunny openings, and birches towered high above me. I felt great: healthy, energetic, well-rested, and happy.

The trail climbed steeply uphill as it mounted the ridge. It soon started following the edge of a steep rocky ridge with many deep ravines cutting into it. At one point, right next to the trail, I found this curious cut:

Ancient mining pit? Minong exploration?

I suspect it was a mining pit -- whether prehistoric or just a test pit for the Minong Mine, I don't know.

In just under a mile, I came to a signpost marking the spur trail to the Minong Mine. The spur trail headed steeply down the south face of the ridge, winding through dense pine forests. The first landmark was a vertical shaft, surrounded by a wooden rail fence. I looked as far over as I dared, but couldn't see much. Next down the hill was an angled shaft that was wide open. I peeked at this one too, but I knew better things were up ahead.

Old tram rail in the Minong adit
At the base of the hill, I found what I was looking for. A small spur that led into a shady trench. Here, the Minong Miners had drilled an adit -- a horizontal opening -- straight into the Minong Ridge. I walked under the cool shade of the trees, into the shadow of towering rock walls blasted out of the Minong ridge itself, and straight into the depths of Isle Royale.

The mine still had rails in place from old trams, which were probably pushed by hand, since it was expensive to bring (and feed) horses or mules to the island. There was no timbering or support -- the rock was strong enough to stand without failing for more than 100 years. The adit ran beneath both of the shafts farther up the hill. Here's the angled shaft from below. The photo at the top of the post shows the spectacular tree growing out of its mouth:

The angled shaft and tree (on the right)
My way to the vertical shaft was barred by a shallow pool of water. Beyond the pool, the vertical shaft was choked with fallen trees and brush. I suspect the shaft went much deeper below the water level, but I couldn't get close enough to see.

I spent about half an hour happily wandering in, out, up, down, and around this beautiful mine. The scent of the musty, humid, cool air reminded my of my days of living in the UP and exploring a new mine every weekend. This was a little bit of heaven.

The bottom (?) of the vertical shaft

After enjoying all of the pleasures that the adit had to offer, I continued downhill to explore the rest of the mine area. Below the adit's mouth, the Minong's poor rock piles sprawled across the valley.  "Poor rock" is the unprofitable rock the mine drilled through in order to get to the copper. The Minong's poor rock was strewn all over the countryside, filling in every possible nook and cranny. It looked like they didn't even try to organize it. Jagged rock outcrops stuck out from the hillside, where the Minong had apparently blasted around them in its search for copper, leaving the broken rock where it fell. Occasional water-filled pits showed where the miners had found a promising vein.

Rock piles and blasted outcrops
A father and son, who I recognized as part of the very large family group from McCargoe, were sitting on top of one of these outcrops. I stopped to chat with them as I wandered along the base of the big hill, looking for more mines to explore. They pointed me up a narrow ravine that led to a second adit, this one a short stub without any shafts to let in daylight. I spent an inordinately long amount of time playing around with my camera in this adit, resulting in nonsense like this:

Alien? Or just mine junkie?
Back towards the first adit, I found that there was indeed some method to this poor rock madness. To the east, the Minong had gotten its act together, and dumped its poor rock in long low piles that partly filled a very long, very green swamp. I followed the piles until they petered out, after which a low line of rocks continued into the swamp. This was an old mine road, constructed straight through a line of swamps at the base of the big hillside. The mine used it to access McCargoe Cove, where they had built a stamp mill (a massively inefficient water-and-gravity-operated machine for pounding the copper-bearing rock into tiny pieces, freeing the copper from its surrounding rock).

I wandered slowly along the road, which was just barely above the water level of the swamp. The day was warm and the swamp was green with life. The sky was a fantastic blue that reflected in the surface of the water:

Minong mine swamp, or possibly mill pond.

After reaching a long berm that was probably an old dam, I turned around to return to the main mine area. Along the way, I noticed a couple of places on the high tree-covered hillside where large rock piles tumbled down off of the hillside and into the swamp. Rocks don't do that by accident: There was a mine up above those rockpiles. (Looking at the aerial view now, there were even more rockpiles hidden behind some trees. The Minong Mine really "gophered" up that hillside!)

The rockpiles weren't accessible from the main Minong Mine area, which made them even more tantalizing to me. They were, however, clearly located somewhere not too far off of the Minong Ridge trail, which ran right up on that same hillside. Since the Minong Ridge trail was parallel to the old road I was now walking, I realized that I could find the mines by measuring the straight distance along the road between the main mine area and these rock piles. Then, I could measure out the same distance on the Minong Ridge trail, and identify the right location to find the rockpiles. As I walked back, I counted my paces until I met the spur trail coming down the hillside from the Minong Ridge trail.

The Minong Ridge

I headed back uphill to the Minong Ridge trail. Before I could measure back along the trail towards the rock piles, I had another goal to attend to. I turned left, continuing farther away from McCargoe. The trail took a steep uphill through a dense pine grove, climbing higher up onto the Minong Ridge itself. When I popped out in a rocky, grassy clearing, I was near the top of Pine Mountain, supposedly site of a good overlook.

Sure enough, on my right (north) I could see a faint volunteer trail heading towards a sudden rocky outcrop that jutted high above the grassy hillside. Above the top of the outcrop, I could see nothing but sky. There had to be a good view from up there!

McDonald Lake (foreground) with Lake Superior

I headed off trail, whacking through tall grass and juniper bushes. The outcrop rose so steeply that I had to hand-over-hand climb, pausing only when I found an unexpected cluster of blueberries. I eventually made my way to a high rounded ridge top. As I crested the ridge, the view took my breath away. I had a stunning and uninterrupted view over the north side of the island. Several hundred feet below me lay a dense forest of Balsam firs, with the blue gem of McDonald Lake nestled in the middle of them. Beyond that was the wide expanse of Lake Superior, and beyond that, Thunder Bay's "Sleeping Giant" lay shimmering in the not-so-distant haze.

Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay

As with all Isle Royale ridges, the north side was a sheer and nearly vertical 200 foot drop. I took off my pack, sat down with my legs dangling over the edge, and enjoyed the view. I also "enjoyed" a Clif bar, which only tastes good after ridiculously hard work -- like climbing the Minong Ridge. I quietly soaked up the views and the sun. It was one more perfect piece of a perfect day on Isle Royale, and I didn't want it to end.

After a good, long, soul-satisfying rest, I packed up and headed up along the ridge line to the highest point, where moose antlers awaited me:

Moose antlers on the Minong Ridge

With a long look over my shoulder, I climbed back down towards the trail and headed back towards McCargoe. As soon as I passed the Minong Mine turnoff, I started counting my paces, trying to correct for the zigs and zags of the trail. Only a few paces past my target distance, I realized that I was passing one of the deep ravines that I'd noticed on my way up. I saw the faintest volunteer trail heading down along the ravine -- it could have been a moose trail -- but I decided to follow it. I left my bag on the trail and took only my camera. After a long downhill hike along the side of the ravine, I finally found a way to scramble down into it. I turned and walked right back up the floor of the ravine. It had nearly vertical rocky sides and ended in an abrupt rocky wall right at the edge of the Minong Ridge trail, with small piles of shattered rock here and there. It could have been a mine exploration -- or it could have been frost-cracked rock that was moved and piled up by the spring floods. There was definitely no sign of the large rock pile that I had seen from the swamp. Nonetheless, the ravine was cool and deep, and trees arched high overhead in a particularly fetching way. I was glad I'd come down here. (Much later on, back home, I checked the aerials and realized that I was in exactly the right place -- but still several hundred feet too high on the hill. I suspect the ravine was part of a mine exploration.)

With that, I hoofed it back up to the trail and headed back to McCargoe Cove.

When I got back to the shelter, Sarah had just returned from her own fantastic day of laying around and reading on the dock. She had also met and befriended our (extremely) wide array of fellow campers. We ran through the interesting details as we ate a late lunch, and then headed down to the dock for more swimming and reading.

At the dock, Sarah introduced me to some of our most fascinating neighbors: Four 20-somethings from Ann Arbor. Two (a husband and wife) were farmers, along with a brother and an exchange student. They were all incredibly athletic. They had hiked 15 miles each day so far and felt just fine, thank you, and were looking forward to the death march all the way back to Rock Harbor tomorrow. The brother and exchange student spent their time doing flips off the end of the dock, presumably to burn off their excess energy.

Flip, flop

After a fantastic cool-down swim, some reading, and some good conversation with our neighbors, we went back to the shelter for dinner. We had saved our last freeze-dried chicken and dumplings for tonight. We also had carted a small (750 mL) box of wine across the island just so we could sit back and enjoy it on the dock tonight, just like we did last year. It was every bit as fantastic as you could imagine.

It was too beautiful of an evening not to sit down by the long, deep, blue cove. The bad-ass Ann Arbor farmers were still at it. Another couple sat fishing at the end of the dock on tiny folding chairs. Until the moment I saw them, I hadn't realized how desperately I wanted a chair. While backpacking, there's never a way to sit back. You're either sitting upright without a back (picnic table, ground, log...) or laying down. The chairs made my back ache in sympathy. I vowed to buy one as soon as I was back on the mainland.

Another feature of that evening was the huge family of 9 (or maybe a pair of families traveling together) that had taken over one side of the dock. The kids were noisily cannonballing (I admit that we joined them a few times). The father was sitting, fishing, and smoking out here in the wilderness -- we casually shifted to his upwind side. The mother wove bracelets while loudly complained about just about everything, including the rule that they were blatantly breaking: No groups of 7 or more sharing the same (non-group) campground.

The large, noisy, and smoky group eventually cleared out, leaving a much quieter evening behind  them. As we relaxed, a large and fancy sailboat (under motor power) motored down the cove, circled around at the end of the dock, and headed back up the cove, where it disappeared behind a small point. Soon we heard the putt-putt of a small inflatable launch come from their direction. The older couple in the launch waved at us and then headed straight to the end of the cove, past a pair of buoys clearly labeled "Closed Area". The buoys marked the outlet of a wilderness stream (which emptied from West Chickenbone), where no motorized craft are allowed. The launch poked around, looking for a way up the stream, and soon disappeared into high weed. Once again, I was not impressed by boaters.

As soon as the motor noise died away upstream, a river otter poked its head above the water and started swimming towards us. The dock grew silent as we all watched it swerve, dive, and pop back up far away. It was hunting for food, and eventually it dove and reappeared directly under the dock, where we could hear it splashing about, probably enjoying dinner.

Otter in the water.
With that lovely wildlife sighting, it was time to go to bed. We wandered slowly up to the shelter, pleased with a day well spent. A gigantic full moon rose slowly above the harbor, adding a little more magic to the world. We fell asleep enormously happy.

Next time: Around the point we go!

Miles hiked: 2.0 (dayhike). Total: 10.6 trail + 12.5 dayhike = 23.1 miles.
Moose sighted: 0. Total moose: 2.5.

Only a tiny bit of hiking on the left of the map -- to the Minong Mine and back