Isle Royale Part 6 – 21 mile run on the big island

It was day 4 at Isle Royale National Park, a trail running mecca spread over 400 islands with over 165 miles of trails and 99% designated wilderness, and my sister Lynette (the Ecologist for the Park) and I had plans for a 21 mile loop on the main island.

Monday morning, August 14, 2017, Lynette and I set out in her boat, the Universal Special, to head from Mott Island to the big island, for our “big” run of the trip.

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Captain Net

We discovered that the Universal Special was capable of going faster than 7 miles per hour when not loaded down with 5 people! We easily skimmed across the channel towards Daisy Farm, our start/finish for the run.

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Rock Harbor Lighthouse
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a few of the 400 islands that make up Isle Royale

From Daisy Farm, we took the Mt. Ojibway trail up 1.8 miles to the fire lookout. It was a surprisingly good climb to start the run.

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Lynette heading up towards Mt. Ojibway

Just after reaching the Greenstone Ridge Trail, we heard a terrible racket from some sandhill cranes:

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Lynette climbing up to the top,
Mt. Ojibway fire lookout. She pointed out a nearby radio tower that she and her colleague Leah had built by themselves, which meant they hiked in all the building materials from the boat. 
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One of many inland lakes as viewed from the fire lookout on Mt. Ojibway
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Lynette heading back down

From Mt. Ojibway, we headed west on the Greenstone Ridge, the trail that bisects the entire island, about 44 miles across (that Lynette and I plan to run next summer).

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Crossing many boardwalks

We followed the Greenstone Ridge Trail for about 6 miles to the East Chickenbone Trail, which we would follow down and around Chickenbone Lake.

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Boggy
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Me running towards Chickenbone Lake
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Lynette on a slightly overgrown section
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Lynette stopping for Thimbleberries

Around mile 9.5, our halfway point, we turned left on the Indian Portage Trail, which led us back down towards Chickenbone Lake again.

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A perfect spot for moose, but we didn’t see any on this run.
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so many fun things to look at
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The sun came out as we neared Chickenbone Lake again

The Indian Portage Trail led us along two more lakes, Lake Livermore around mile 11.8 (as we crossed the Greenstone Ridge Trail), and then LeSage Lake at 12.5, before reaching Lake Ritchie (where we would filter our water), at mile 14.3.

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so many lakes

Before Lake Ritchie, each time we passed water, I asked Lynette if we should stop, but she insisted on Lake Ritchie (there is now an algae bloom at Lake Ritchie so the water is no longer safe to drink).

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so much green
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Taking a break at Lake Ritchie

At mile 15.3 we left the Indian Portage Trail for the Lake Ritchie Trail, which would lead us back down to Daisy Farm, our starting point.

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making our way back down to the boat

We completed our 21 mile loop, which had about 2600′ of climbing, and some fairly technical (rocky and/or overgrown) trails, in 5 hours.

21 mile run

elevation profile- 21 mile run

No speed records were broken, but we took our time, running casually and stopping frequently to enjoy berries and scenery.

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Daisy Farm dock after the run

We had a celebratory beer with our sandwiches on the dock just as the raindrops began and the glassy lake became covered in perfect little ringlets.

After returning to Mott Island, my mom and I went out for a hike, and saw our friend the bull moose. I chased him down the trail for quite a ways but couldn’t get any clear photos. Lynette and my dad went fishing, after making ice cream with Avian and her friends. Avian said “thanks, I’m out” and didn’t come back until after 10pm.

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my mom on the Mott Island loop
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Mott Island trail along Lake Superior
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little island off Mott Island

It was a beautiful end to an incredible day on Isle Royale.

Next up, Part 7-  Edisen Fishery, Bangsund Cabin, and Rock Harbor.

(for more stories on my visit to Isle Royale, see parts 1234, and 5)

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