My first night on Isle Royale went well, although I woke up with a chill about 3:30 a.m. because the overnight temperature got into the high 40's. After a couple more hours of dozing, I got up about 5:30 a.m. as it started getting light. I repacked my rucksack and got a quick snack before getting on the trail a bit after 6 a.m. Other than a couple of people silently sitting on the dock, wrapped up tightly in their sleeping bags, no one else was up yet as I left Three Mile campground by heading along the shore, the water calm and still. I quickly came to a wooden trail marker and turned right for the trail up to the Greenstone Ridge.
Parts of the trail were a bit overgrown and I quickly got soaked from the waist down as it had rained overnight and left the vegetation wet. Much of the trail was rocky and uneven from tree roots growing across the path; parts of the path were difficult to follow, but previous hikers had left small piles of rocks to help mark the way. The trail continued up to the island's backbone and I reached Mount Franklin at about 7am without seeing another person.
I picked up the Greenstone Ridge Trail and turned southwest as the sun started to rise over Lake Superior. There was a cooling breeze as I enjoyed great views to both side of the island, with Canada visible to the north, and the expanse of Lake Superior stretching the horizon in the south. After gaining some altitude over the next hour or so, I saw the metal tower on Mount Ojibway in the distance and reached it shortly afterwards. Climbing up to a landing on the tower (the top platform was locked shut) offered some an amazing vista and I sat down to eat a snack and take a 15-minute break.
After getting my rucksack back on, I continued down the trail and enjoyed the solitude, the weather and views over the next several hours. My original destination for the day was Chickenbone West, but I reached it at 11:15 a.m. and stopped to eat lunch. I was still feeling strong and it was early in the day, so I swapped my wet socks for a dry pair and continued down the trail. I saw a handful of hikers along the way, past Mount Siskiwit and along the Greenstone, but it was by no means crowded despite hiking in the Isle Royale 'busy season.'
By mid-afternoon, it was getting warm and I was getting tired. Since there are only trail markers at intersections, I primarily used my watch to gauge how fast I was going and at about what time I'd arrive at my destination for the night - Lake Hatchet. Running low on water, I was happy to see the wooden marker for Hatchet Lake despite knowing it was another half-mile down a hill to the campsite on the lakeshore. Fortunately, the trail was downhill (which unfortunately meant a nice uphill start the next morning).
Reaching the lake about 3 p.m., I selected a nice open campsite facing the lake, dumped my rucksack and went to fill up my water bag. The water was a bit brown, but after running about 3 liters through a Platypus water system, it was delicious and cold. My thirst was slaked and I had my water for tomorrow. I got my tent set up and changed out of my boots and into a pair of flipflops. My feet appreciated the break and fresh air as I read a bit and did some personal hygiene before having dinner about 5:45 p.m. Instead of carrying a stove and fuel to boil water for dehydrated meals, I elected to carry ready-to-eat food, a bit more weight, but much less hassle. I learned that MRE's (military style meals-ready-to-eat) had improved in the 10+ years since I was an Army officer.
More hikers arrived at the camp in the early evening, but the campsites were spread out and it was quiet. The sun started to fade and the temperature started falling about 8 p.m., so I got into my sleeping bag and read for a bit more before going to sleep.
Next up: Another early start and a long day of hiking along the Greenstone Ridge to the southwestern end of the trail at Windigo.