Back to the Mainland

Published: June 26th 2018
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Fort Wilkins State Park, Copper Harbor, Michigan

I know - how can we be back when we haven’t posted yet about being away! Well, I’m behind now. We were just so busy on Isle Royale that I didn’t get the chance to write about anything. It didn’t help that the connectivity was weak and sporadic. And now, there are four full days worth of rich travel experience to report. I admit that I’m having trouble getting my thoughts organized and down on ‘paper’. And then there are the pictures - between us we probably have a couple hundred snapshots. Editing them is not going to be an easy task. Anyway, I’m planning on spending a couple hours a day to fill in the last four days, but it might take a couple more days before I get caught up.

Let’s just say, for now, that Isle Royale is one of those 5 star parks that will generate thoughts and feelings for a long time to come. This is a powerful park and one that everyone should make an effort, yes a considerable one, to see. I know I have never seen anything quite like it. We talked to one

The Queen IV Ready for boarding
guy who seems to have traveled a bit, and he compared it to Acadia in Maine. But we haven’t been there yet, so I have no idea if he’s right. As I get posts out covering our four days, including lots of pictures, you can judge for yourself.

So, just because its fresher, I’m going to start with yesterday, which means I’m beginning with the end.

We knew we had to leave Isle Royale yesterday - our ticket to a small slice of paradise had expired. We had our usual breakfast, and then returned to the room for a final shower. (Having a hot shower with plenty of water and total privacy was one of the benefits of staying at the Lodge.). Then we began stuffing everything back into our bag and the two backpacks we had brought along. So we managed all of that and went to the office to check out. They had mistakenly charged us for two dinners, but since we were on a meal plan, they acknowledged the mistake and cheerfully refunded the money. We were told to leave our bags in the room and the lodge would make sure they got on the boat. (They did!)

The boat left at 2:45 and so we had four hours to do pretty much nothing. For us, anyway, that isn’t enough time to do a hike. And besides, we weren’t interested in misjudging times and not making our boat. So we decided to stay in the harbor area. Joan walked around a bit and read some of her current book. I went to the ‘guest house’, took out the iPad and tried to start writing about our visit. I think Joan was a bit more successful than I was.

Writing about the experience here is difficult. The island has a definite effect on you, but it isn’t one that you can easily put into words. It is easy to talk about the mechanical aspects of the lodge and the food and things like that, but then I look at a paragraph about how good the food is and realize that isn’t what is most important to say about our time there. But when I try to explain about the island, I end up getting twisted up in my own sentences. So, even as I wrote four long pages of stuff, it wasn’t ready to

Sunrise and a gap in the islands
publish - I’m going to have to work on that some more.

Lunch time rolled around, and we headed for the bar for a final glass of wine, and then over to the Lighthouse restaurant for our last lunch. There was one waitress at the restaurant, ‘Crystal’ was on her name tag, but we found out that was just an ‘American’ name given to her by management because her Chinese name (Hui-wen) was too difficult for us English-bound Americans. She was a young woman, full of energy, and very committed to doing her job. Over the course of the weekend, we developed a friendship and when we came in the restaurant, she always rushed to be our waitress. She spoke English well, but a little haltingly and had a really cute way of asking questions about Americanisms that she didn’t understand. I liked to tease her about things and also taught her a few things about opening a bottle of wine In return, she taught Joan how to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in Chinese. She also gave us tips about where to hike. She made our stay even better and we had to say goodbye to her, in Chinese, of course. And we gave each other hugs.

After lunch we wandered over near the boat dock. A ranger was going to give a talk at 2:00 and since we were there anyway, we sat in. She spoke about how the isolation of Isle Royale has contributed to its unique ecology. When a species has limited genetic material to develop, some interesting things happen. And that is reflected in the fact that several species of flowers, garter snakes, birds, and fish, are unique to the island. Even the moose on the island have ‘downsized’ to reflect the smaller nutritional base. Although the ranger didn’t mention it, there are similarities between what is going on in Isle Royale and what Darwin noted in the Galapagos. It was a great sendoff.

Boat ride home was non-eventful. It was mostly calm, although the waters got a little rough the last hour of the trip. Joan spent more time reading, I tried to write some more, and we ended up playing a game of cards. After docking and claiming our baggage, we said goodbye to a Chicago couple (Bernadette and Jeff) whom we had befriended at meal times. We shared similar politics and we were all thankful we didn’t have to listen to the news for three days. Exchanging contact information, we promised to stay in touch. Hopefully, that is one promise we will all keep because they seemed like really interesting and fun people.

Hungry, and with nothing in the trailer to eat for dinner, we headed over to the Harbor House. The restaurant staff has a tradition of greeting the Queen’s arrival with a can-can dance (they are an Eastern European style restaurant) out on the lawn, waving to us on the boat. As an advertising tactic, it works - we stopped there. And the food is top notch. But beware, this restaurant is not wallet friendly - I don’t know where people get the notion there is no fine dining in Copper Harbor. Harbor House is certainly a high end place to eat and the cocktails are pretty good too.

So today is a chore day to recover from our mini-vacation. As I write this Joan is doing laundry, and we are going to need some groceries for the next couple of days. Why we need a vacation from our vacation is a mystery to me, but now we have to settle back into our normal travel mode. Later this afternoon we will drive back down to Chassell to pick up the girls and bring them home. Hopefully, they will have missed us as much as we missed them.

Hopefully, I can begin work on getting the story and the pictures together about our three days on Isle Royale.


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