Aboard the Queen IV

Published: June 22nd 2018
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Middle of Lake Superior, Michigan

We are moving along a nearly glass surface at about 15 mph. There is a split of land behind us, but absolutely nothing but wide horizon in front. You can kind of see where the lakewater meets the cloudy sky, but the colors are close to being the same. Water temperature out here is about 38 degrees. That’s according to the captain - I personally didn’t measure it. The air temp, especially with a 16 mph wind chill, is only around 40 degrees. People go outside to the bow of the boat to see the smooth lake, but they don’t stay very long.

We’re on the Queen IV, a passenger ferry. It is one of three different boats that ferry passengers over to Isle Royale. Isle Royale, as the name implies, is a large island in Lake Superior. It is about 46 miles long and maybe 9 miles wide at the widest point. It is comprised of one very large island and nearly 400 other smaller islands. They were formed by pre-Cambrian lava flows hardening into dark basalt. The island is one of the oldest exposed parts of the North American continent. It is best known, not so much for its geology, which is unique enough, but from its ecology. As an island in the middle of a large inland lake, it has an unusual collection of plants and animals, that, because of the isolation, have adjusted and adapted to their environment differently than anywhere else. Especially interesting to scientists, is the complex relationship between moose and wolves, prey and predator, on this island. It is sort of the classical case study in the movement to preserve wolf populations.

It is also one of the least visited National Parks, receiving only about 15,000 visitors a year. And we are headed there for a three-day stay. Mostly, I think, it would be a terrific place to do some serious wilderness camping - most of the island is a declared wilderness area. There are several groups on this boat that are intending to do just that. For the rest of us, there is Rock Harbor Lodge, a’resort’ of sorts that we are staying at. We’ll be doing some hiking on the island, but will be returning to a lounge for a drink, a restaurant for dinner, and a queen-size bed for sleep. Now that’s our kind of camping...

We spent most of yesterday getting ready. Had to pack up a subset of our clothing for our stay, along with all the other stuff we will need. And had to shutdown the trailer for four days. The big event, though, was carting the girls off to a boarding place. No pets are allowed on either the island, or the boat. So we had to do something with Fleur and Smooch for us to be able to go on this leg of the trip. Unfortunately, I can’t say that’s real easy. The closest dog-boarding that Joan found was nearly fifty miles away in Chassel, a town we had driven through on the way here. So we retraced our steps with the girls back down the same road we had traveled up with the trailer.

That also meant driving through Houghton again, the town that suffered the flooding last Sunday. This time we had to stop at a Walgreens to get stuff Joan needed, and it turns out it was located right next to the river. The flooding damage was significant there, washing out part of a Taco Bell and a car wash business. I snapped a couple of pictures of the damage. It was definitely a major disaster. As we drove through town, we saw several National Guard vehicles rolling into town - it had been declared a disaster area and needed help digging out from the mud. There were also signs advertising housing for emergency workers.

But we found the boarder, operating out of a private home. The girls were a little apprehensive as we gave the stranger the ends of the leashes. Smooch looked at me like I was deserting her, which, I guess was an accurate understanding of the situation. But its only for a few days and they will be with each other - they should be fine. Usually, when we leave them for a day or two, they end up welcoming us back, but clearly having enjoyed their time away.

Unwilling to make lunch, we went into Copper Harbor for lunch, at a place called the Mariner. We had variations on grilled cheese sandwiches that were really pretty good. Mine, the Smokestack, had smoked bacon, smoked Gouda cheese, and spinach. I would definitely recommend it.

Otherwise, we didn’t really do much yesterday. We are looking forward to our stay on Isle Royale. Connectivity is very limited on the island - cell service and wi-fi are non-existent. So I can still write, but not post. As I write this, I still have Verizon service out here on the lake, but I don’t know how much longer it will last - probably can’t post this one either. So they will likely all have to wait until we get back late on Monday or Tuesday. (Might be able to post this, but maybe not the pictures.)


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