Friday, October 8, 2010

The Big Lake They Call Gitche Gumee

Isle Royale NP & Apostle Islands Trip - North Shore Minnesota – Day 1 – 8/28/10 

Members of the Carolina Berg Wanderers, a hiking group in the Charlotte, NC area, are adventurous souls who like to hike, bike, paddle and play both locally and globally. While our backyards of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia have enough outdoor adventures to last a lifetime, occasionally someone gets a wild idea to go farther. I confess I had never heard of Isle Royale National Park before Cathy tossed it out as a destination, but I knew that big fun was likely to ensue, so I signed on literally sight unseen. Over several months we planned different aspects of the trip, with Cathy taking the lead since she was familiar with the area.

And that’s how I found myself in the Minneapolis airport with Cathy, Jeff, Kim and Neil, stuffing duffel bags into a rental van for a two-day drive up the North Shore of Minnesota. First stop: Target for a food supply. We would be camping and backpacking for the next eight days.

En route we stopped in Duluth, MN (cute town!) supposedly for a visit to a local outfitter shop, but the Portland Malt Shoppe ruined us right off the bat. For the rest of the trip when food was scarce, we daydreamed about these malts.

Our first adventure stop was at the Split Rock Lighthouse to meet up with our friend Mike, recently retired and meandering across the country in his customized van (aka “home”). At Mike’s invitation, I jumped ship from the rental’s back seat to his front seat for the next few days.

I expected Split Rock Lighthouse to be a lonely, brooding place, but there was quite a lively park atmosphere on this Saturday afternoon, lots of families and children. We walked on several short paths up high on the cliffs and down to the shore of the much-anticipated Lake Superior. The big Gitche Gumee will be our focus for the rest of our trip. (And "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" was in our head for days.)

Southern innocents, we took off our shoes and plunged right in – but this ain’t Myrtle Beach! Our feet were numb within seconds. I had to hold onto Cathy to keep from falling.

Cathy got the scoop on another overlook point a few miles further up the coast, so we headed for Palisade Head, which is part of Tettegouche State Park but not contiguous with the rest of the park. Here are Mike and Neil on the huge rock outcropping of Palisade Head.

View of Shovel Point from Palisade Head. We'll be looking from there back to here tomorrow.

The view looking straight down: a hardy ash tree holding on for dear life

At last we headed towards our first night’s home that Mike had reserved for us at Eckbeck Campground in Finland State Forest. I have a brand new tent from my friend Judy Gross (Heartfire) of LightHeart Gear that uses only my hiking poles and stakes to set up and I was anxious to try it out. I was also anxious to eat supper. In my haste to set up camp, I tripped and fell out of the tent opening, catching myself with my left hand and bending back my left thumb at a very unattractive angle. During dinner I held onto a glass of ice water and watched my thumb swell up impressively.

At the Northern Lights Roadhouse we had an excellent meal. We chatted with the waitress and asked her a question about some of the local sites, to which she replied that she was new here herself, she had just moved from Charlotte, North Carolina. Ha!

A slightly restless first night’s sleep in a new state after a long, long day. And my thumb hurt. (Postscript: when I got back home to Charlotte I had my thumb x-rayed ~ broken.)
Never do anything that you wouldn't want to explain to the paramedics. ~Author Unknown

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