My second night on Isle Royale was quiet and I awoke at 5:45am. After packing up my tent and gear, I departed Hatchet Lake and was back on the Greenstone Trail after a steep 1/2-mile hike that had me sweating. Again headed southwest on the Greenstone, it was quiet and I didn't see anyone else on the way to Ishpeming Tower, where I took a short break at 8:30am. Had I know it was going to rain, I might have stayed awhile under the shelter of the tower, but I was already a good half hour further down the trail when the sky opened up.
Now there are those people that believe it isn't a real hike or a real camping trip unless it rains. In short, I'm not one of those people and don't enjoy getting wet. I threw my rain jacket over my head and draped it over the top of my rucksack and kept going. I passed a couple of other wet hikers and the rain gradually let up after about 45 minutes. By the time I reached Lake Desor South about 10am, the rain was over.
Despite the long day of hiking the previous day, I was again feeling good. The hiking wasn't as enjoyable because much of the trail was overgrown and despite hiking along the ridge of the island, thick trees blocked the great views that I saw just 24 hours prior. At about 11:45am, I reached the trail intersection for the trail down to Island Mine campground. This was my original destination for the day, but as with yesterday, it was still early, I had enough water and I was feeling pretty good. My feet were getting a bit sore, but I changed into a dry pair of socks and sat on a log for half an hour while I ate lunch. With the promise of completing the hike with Windigo only 6.5 miles away, I decided to continue.
The boat must have dropped off another group of hikers, because I met several groups of clean-looking hikers coming up the trail over the next several miles. The Greenstone, from Island Mine to Windigo, opens up nicely and is a slow, gradual downhill almost the whole way - it made for some easy hiking that my feet appreciated. With lots of shade and a nice breeze to keep most of the bugs away, I got my second wind after an hour and enjoyed the simple rhythm of moving one foot in front of the other along the trail.
I stopped to speak with an older couple from the Northeast, John and Sharon, who were taking a break on the side of the trail and discussing plan for their four days on the island. They initially thought I was European because I was using trekking poles and we had a good laugh about it. I continued on and passed a couple of bigger groups, including one of Boy Scouts and their adult leaders. The trail continued to slowly wind down towards the southwest end of the island and parts of the trail were muddy from the earlier rain. At about 2:45pm, my feet sore and barking at me, I saw the trail marker for Windigo and shortly after reached the Washington Creek campground after about 20 miles of hiking that day. Shelter #14 offered a quiet spot with a picnic table overlooking the creek, so I set up for the night, changed into some flipflops and got some fresh water.
A bit later, I walked the short distance up to the ranger station and confirmed the time for the boat pick up at noon the following day. Once back at camp, I took care of some blisters (that's what wet socks will get you), drank water and read my book for a couple of hours. After dinner, I went back to the ranger station for an interesting program by Ranger Katie on the history of hotels and resorts on Isle Royale. After the walk back, I read some more with my headlamp and enjoyed a sky full of stars untouched by city lights - many constellations were almost unrecognizeable because of all the 'new' stars that could be seen - before getting to sleep at 9:30pm.
In the morning, I slept in and didn't get out of my bag until 8am. It wasn't a great night of sleep despite my fatigue and I pledged to myself to take a thicker sleeping mat on my next overnight hike, regardless of the extra weight. After packing up, I walked up to the ranger station and turned in my permit. The small store offered a nice breakfast - my first coffee in three days - and I ate while sitting on the dock and enjoying the sun. I then spent some time in the visitors center, grabbed some more food for my lunch, and laid out on the dock in the sun as other hikers slowly gathered for the ride back. The Voyageur II was a bit late, but a welcome sight a bit after noon. After loading up, we spent a choppy two hours getting back to Grand Portage, where I loaded up and headed back to the Twin Cities. I made a quick stop a Betty's Pies to grab some pie for my family (a cooler from home combined with ice I purchased at a gas station did the trick).
I enjoyed, as always, the drive along the North Shore and then headed south from Duluth. Getting home late in the evening, I was a bit glad to get back to civilization, but part of me missed the simple quiet and solitude of Isle Royale. The challenge of a long solo hike, carrying everything I needed, was a good way to finish the summer.