The Isle Royale 40 - Page 2
By the Numbers/Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
:: 165 Miles of hiking and running trails on the island
:: 50 Years of the longest ongoing predator-prey (wolf-moose) study in the world (www.isleroyalewolf.org)
:: 4 Days average length of stay, longest of any National Park
:: 1394 Elevation in feet of high point on IRNP
:: 601 Elevation in feet of Lake Superior
To entice me from my Colorado environs, Greg proposed that we run the island's 40-mile length, what we soon dubbed the "Isle Royale 40." Our intended path started on the docks of Rock Harbor at the northeast end and traversed the entire length of the Greenstone Ridge, arguably the earth's largest and deepest lava flow, to the public boat dock at the southwest entry point of Windigo Ranger Station, Greg's temporary home at the time.
On an early July morning, we gobbled up the first three miles over undulating, rocky terrain along the Tobin Harbor Trail. Haunting loon calls floated up from misty vapor tails dancing over the water. At a junction we turned west and crossed a rickety board bridge over Tobin Creek, then began a gradual ascent to Mount Franklin at 1074 feet, almost 500 feet higher than Lake Superior. Greg pointed out Thunder Bay, Ontario, in the shimmering distance across the omnipresent Lake Superior.
"At this point, we're permanently connected with the Greenstone Ridge Trail," said Greg as we trotted through boreal forest and over obligatory rocky outcroppings en route to Mount Ojibway and its lookout tower, at 7.3 miles. We hit a few trail intersections, including Daisy Farm, Chicken Bone and Hatchet Lake, popular trails to lakes and campsites.
By the marathon mark, 4 hours 25 minutes into our adventure, we approached Ishpeming Point (1377 feet), feeling strong and breathing easy. We came to a brief halt underneath another lookout tower enshrouded in shrubbery.
Then, jolting us from our wilderness reverie, out popped Peter Zahart, one of Greg's colleagues, whom he had convinced to hike up from his housing at Malone Bay because few water sources were available on the ridge.. "Howdy, guys," he said. "How about some extra water and a couple of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches?"
"Thanks, Peter," I said. "You're a life saver."
We had 15 miles to go. It would feature rough, rolling terrain and the high point of the park, Mount Desor (1394 feet). Once atop Desor we would have a gradual six-mile descent to the dock at Windigo.
"Let's do this thing," I called, setting off on my "ultra shuffle."
As we approached the Island Mine Trail intersection and attempted to glide over Mount Desor, marked only by an inconspicuous rock cairn, our bodies began to rebel.