Day 12: Grace Island to Windigo

Two Kayaks and the Sea Plane Landing

We left Grace Island on Day 12 early in the morning as we wanted to get to Windigo prior to the arrival of backpackers who would come in throughout the day for departure to Grand Portage the next morning. Our aim was to get a shelter, so we could get a shower and the best microwave cheeseburger on the island, and relax on the deck at the Windigo store. We did not want to spend too much time dealing with tents and the like. The companion video is here:

As we paddled away from the shore at Grace Island, the Voyager II rounded the corner at the sunken America at the end of Washington Harbor on its way out into Lake Superior to pass along the north shore to McCargoe Cove, past Belle Isle, and around Blake Point and Scoville Point into Rock Harbor and finally to its dock at Snug Harbor where it would rest overnight. We love that boat, and we were scheduled to take it back to Grand Portage when the time came.

A Sailboat at Anchor in Washington Harbor
The Seaplane Landing

The day was lovely for the short, less than two-hour paddle, with light clouds and a blue sky. With no particular rush, we paddled rhythmically along the north shore of Beaver Island and past a sailboat at anchor. We took the north shore to stay out of the sea plane landing strip, and we made a good call as we heard the low whirr of the propellors of the sea plane.

Sea Plane Taxiing
Sea Plane at Dock

The plane circled and lined up for landing, buzzing overhead, then approaching from our right and south of us, landing and taxiing to the dock where it tied up and let off its passengers.

As we paddled, we thought about what we had learned and what we want to do differently next time. There was time to reflect as we had a few days before our boat was scheduled to depart, but we headed in for the shower and the company. Ilene at the store, Marty who leads Maintenance, Ranger Jenna, and Sean in Law Enforcement, and the others–we looked forward to saying hi to all the folks who work on the Windigo end who make us feel so much at home. And did I mention the cheeseburger?

One of the first lessons we learned was that we do not need to paddle so quickly. Go slow. Take time. Meet people. See sites. Yes, you need weather days built in, but it’s important not to press on all the time. We had set aside 16 days, but we were coming into Windigo already on Day 12. We would have had time to explore Wright Island and Hay Bay. We could have taken an extra day at Belle Isle to explore the fingers. I will take time, next time, to take more photos, so stay tuned in late summer 2022 as I share our second circumnavigation.

The New Store at Windigo (Still not open)
Familiar to all who have been.

In our kayaks, we came to rest, past the main dock, on the boat launch in front of the new store that is being constructed, but which is still not yet open, and near the boat gas dock. We pulled up, unloaded our overnight gear, and headed to the Washington Creek Campground, about a half mile from the main structures at Windigo. We got the first shelter we came to, and there he was, large as life, a bull moose grazing in Washington Creek.

Moose View One
Moose View Two

In a few minutes, we were ready to dig out a change of clothes and head toward the store to buy our shower tokens and rent the towels–the first shower since Rock Harbor. On the way, we passed the LCM Angelique landing craft used by the park service for carrying heavy equipment and supplies. On this day, whatever her larger cargo was, it had already been unloaded, only a Bobcat remained, looking tiny on deck, Angelique’s loading ramp down and waiting.

LCM Angelique at Dock
LCM Angelique at the Entrance of Grace Harbor

LCM Angelique is integral to maintenance on the Island. We passed her one year in the open lake midway between Houghton and Rock Harbor when we took the Ranger to the Island. Later, we realized the craft was operated sometimes by Marty, IRNP’s Director of Maintenance on the Windigo end.

Passing the new and unfinished store, just past the LCM Angelique, we stopped at the public restrooms and checked the showers and laundry room at the next building, overlooking the harbor, before proceeding to the Visitor’s Center. We wanted to stop and share our wolf print information with the rangers before heading up to the store. The Visitors Center houses artifacts from the island, including a wolf mount and a moose skeleton as well as the lens from the Rock of Ages Lighthouse.

Wolf mount in the Windigo Visitors Center
Moose skeleton in the Windigo Visitors Center

The Ranger on duty viewed the prints we had captured in photo and asked us to share them by emailing them to the IRNP information email address for cataloging with other wolf data. Our good deed done we headed up to visit Ilene at the store and hoped we would have a minute to visit with Marty and others.

Oh, yes, and the cheeseburgers. Having chatted with Ilene, we sat on the deck with our cheeseburgers and Pringles, feeling good about our low-cal choice for diet soda. The cheeseburgers are the kind you get at a gas station, heated in a microwave. Duane thinks they are delicious at the end of the paddle. I do, too, although this time I enjoyed the delectable egg burrito. It’s not particularly the cheeseburger. I think it’s the fact that the food is warm, has structure, and is not eaten with a spoon, unlike the dehydrated meals that are our lightweight staple.

As we ate, our reflection continued. Duane wanted to devise a way to rig two cameras to create differing perspectives while he is paddling so that he can take shots of the shoreline and directly in front of him. I also want to invest in a GoPro so that I can contribute to the video footage we are able to capture in addition to our still shots with Duane’s Nikon and my phone.

Windigo Dock
Windigo Icon, lol

For subjects, we want to include more of the bays and the rugged shorelines. We want to look for a couple of old settlement areas we have heard about, one on the south shore that supported Island Mine, as well as another fishery on the north shore near Belle Isle. There are some features near the Keyhole that we want to explore and we want to get the Keyhole on film.

We want to take some day hikes to the peaks and pinnacles at various location, to film, for example, the arches along the north shore that a fellow kayaker told us about. We also want to check the Menagerie lighthouse if we have the wave conditions to do so.

Rock of Ages Original Lens
Duane on the Dock

No sooner than we finished our cheeseburgers/burrito, the Sea Hunter III pulled up to the dock, and Duane and I met eyes over the cans of diet Coke. We had not thought about the availability of space on the boat that serves primarily the day hikers. With little fuss, we packed up our trash and headed down to the dock. We met Paula there, and she confirmed space. Good thing we did not set up our tent. We headed back to the shelter, packed up our gear, and carried our boats down to the dock. Au revoir, Isle Royale, for this year, but as I write this, next season is just around the corner. Keep watch for the account of our second circumnavigation in late summer. Yes, there will be posts before then, so check in often.

If you want us to capture images of something in particular on the second circumnavigation, please put your suggestions in comments so that we can be sure to try to make it to those attractions. Perhaps there is something we ought to explore that we don’t know about, or maybe there is a treasure that deserves more attention than it is getting. I appreciate the feedback.

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