Day 4: Little Todd Harbor to Belle Isle

Belle Isle

The paddle from Little Todd to Belle Isle was not planned as the destination following Little Todd Harbor. Originally, we expected to stop at Birch Island, visiting places that you can’t access by hiking. After talking to the park rangers via the marine radio, we discovered that Birch Island was fully occupied by boaters. Given that it has one tent site and one shelter, it wasn’t surprising for such a lovely time in early August.

On this 20-mile day, we paddled along the north coast passing by Todd Harbor and by the mouth of McCargoe Cove and the opening of Herring Bay. We were still early in our excursion so we had a sense of urgency to be able to make it on time to where we needed to go. The distance was long, but the day was exquisite.

Our pressing on, I suppose, came in response to the knowledge that we might need to have two or three days without paddling because of weather, so we wanted to make good time as we started out. We started out at 8:00 AM and enjoyed the calm day of paddling and exploring.

As we started out, Lake Superior was glass calm. We could hear each small ripple of paddles in the water, distinct against the silence of the backdrop. Only small lapping of the water on the shore sounded.

The delicate colors of the sky merging into the water, edged by the dark trees and rock, with the radiant above and reflecting off the water, we were transported into some world of sensory perfection.

Even the loons participated, their calls and laughs echoing in the morning mist.

Calm paddling along the north shore at morning
Paddling Amygdaloid Channel

After passing Herring Bay we entered Amygdaloid Channel and progressed through the keyhole into Belle Harbor. While we heard that the keyhole could be a challenge. One paddler shared how a weird current rolled him as he passed through. Not so for us. We peered through the clear waters to view the rocky crevices and boulders over which we floated.

Notice the different aura to the view of paddling in the channel under bright sun. We had advanced from morning to afternoon, with reflections glaring, and gone is that pastel beauty of the early morning mist that adorns the early day in a wistful and glorious halo.

Instead is the darker water of the channel asking us to slow and drift among the islands and bays among the channel islands, beckoning us out of the direct sun. .

Most paddlers choose the keyhole route to avoid the prevailing northwest winds on the open lake that can be fierce. The channels are calm. From time to time, you see moose at the shore or even beaver out for a paddle, too.

Progressing eastward along the south shore of Belle Isle, we came first to the boat dock, a little disappointed by the lack of an appropriate landing spot for paddle craft. Fortunately, we didn’t need to land at the dock. Two sailboats were already docked, and a person called down to us that the beach was around the point and into the cove.

That news was much welcome, although we later discovered that there is a sufficient landing area off to the left of the dock just large enough for one boat at a time..

Paddle boats at Belle Isle Beach-
View from Shelter 6 at Belle Isle, facing toward the Cove

Once we came around the end of the isle, we passed under a promontory from which a couple of fellow paddlers greeted us, directing us to continue leftward into the cove where we met a clutch of kayakers with a variety of boats.

There were a couple of 12-foot poly boats that seemed too small for the magnitude of the task in front of us all. “Oh, no,” the paddler said, “I rolled it three times on the way in just to make sure the cold water wouldn’t be an issue. His team all wore dry suits. They were river kayakers from an expedition company out of Kentucky.

The senior member was a stout fellow in Kruger Sea Wind canoe with a couple of outriggers, visible with the curved rudder in the image above. The other two listened when he spoke, the senior professional taking a last hoorah, it appeared.

A father-son duo operated a sit-on-top tandem fishing kayak. Knowing their limitations with their boat’s limitations on the big lake, they planned to traverse the dreaded portage from Duncan Bay into Tobin Harbor, no small feat, but a safer bet for those not wanting the challenge of rounding Blake Point with the unpredictable currents and waves. I thought he was a prudent father making the wiser and safer choice for himself and his son.

From the cove with a small gravelly beach, we unloaded and carried our gear past the remnants of the old structures, a cement “patio” and a shelter that seems to contain an old fireplace from days gone by, perhaps of historical origin. We occupied Shelter 6 and hung our wetsuits to dry on a clothesline strung between the roof braces.

Our shelter and gear drying in the summer sun

Overlooking the beach area and landing spot, our shelter captured the summer sun. Behind us, the path led across the isle to the boat dock. Heading right from our shelter was a path leading up mossy cement steps and out to the promontory where we first saw the paddlers and the way to the beach.

Dead ahead was the beach, where I headed in my bathing suit to spend an hour floating around and letting the grime wash from my hair.

The beach was covered in pebbles of quartz and other colorful stones, an excellent place to dry out after my soak in the cool (cold) water of the sheltered cove.

The evening was lovely as the paddlers shared stories of where they went and what they were doing, there in that lovely place, all at once. From time to time, a boater appeared from the other side to join in the camaraderie until it was too dark to see. We all retired to our own shelters, bolstered by the new friendships and the burgeoning pool of shared knowledge about the island that we were all discovering in our various ways.

The accompanying video is here:

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