August 2, 2009

Summary: Paddle 24.1 miles.. Grand Portage Minnesota to Huginnin Cove Isle Royale

Daily Journal

Awoke at 5:00 AM and looked out the window to see the flags on the flagpole outside the Casino hanging down meaning wind was low... always the first item to identify is the wind. I was hopeful but have much experience on Superior so knowing this would not last.

On my way to the Marina where the Winona and Voyageur II are located, I stopped at the Grand Portage trail head. Only 11 years ago on my first major kayak trip I completed the famous 9 mile portage, this being the first leg of the Duluth to Hudson Bay trip. 
Loaded Kayak - in front of the historical Grand Portage Stockade.. Famous rendezvous point during the fur trade days.
Grand Portage Stockade.. Famous rendezvous point during the fur trade days.

At about 7:45 AM 8-2-09, Posing in front of the Winona at its home dock at Grand Portage Bay. In another hour this boat will be hauling about 80 passengers to the Island.

I had made my final weather inquireries and discussed the crossing wih Don, the owner of the Ferry service. The wind was supposed to be out of the SW and as Don put it, "the lake should be settling down throughout the day, but expect 2-4 foot waters mid-day"

I was ready - but planned to visit the Spirit tree before making final decision.

You can see the route as I leave the Marina and protected waters of the Bay.

I round Hat Point and make my way the the Little Cedar Spirit Tree.. More than folklore, this visit no mater how long or short becomes an essential part of the crossing to Isle Royale..

I visited the tree 10 years ago on a Lake superior trip.


Being greeted by the loon as I silently approached the Little Cedar Spirit Tree gave me a calm awareness of this spiritual encounter and of the many that have paid their respect at this very sacred place for hundreds of years. The entire time at the tree felt like a sign from the Lady (Gitchi Gummi) that she was going to allow my safe travel on the 22 mile open water crossing. I spent 15 minutes here before turning out of the bay and heading towards the distant island that, the Lady willing, I would set foot on today.

The Little Cedar Spirit Tree as it is commonly known, also called Manido Giizhigance, by the Ojibwa Indian tribe is an ancient tree growing on the shore of Lake Superior near Grand Portage, Minnesota. The earliest written records of the tree by Europeans in the Americas are by French explorer Sieur de la Verendrye in 1731, who commented on the tree as a mature tree at that time, making it at least 300 years old today.  The tree is held sacred by the Ojibwe and later the French  who traditionally leave offerings of tobacco to ensure a safe journey on Lake Superior.

Looking towards the Winona as it leaves the protected waters of its home on Grand Portage Bay as it makes its daily journey to Isle Royale with a load of normal tourists.. I say normal because about 6000 people visit Isle Royale yearly and only a dozen or so make 22 mile open water crossing in a kayak, So I wonder, does this make me not normal? Today the boat was full and no room for me and my kayak even if I wanted to hitch a ride... I had decided "anyway" as the thoughts ran through my mind, I planned to do the crossing on my own human power and the ferry being full was of no consequence, or so I told myself, but I still had to wonder as the crossing was still in front of me. So off I went


Place holder for Image of Isle Royale as seen from start of the Crossing


About a mile or so into the crossing the wind started to pick up and 2 foot waves became the norm

About 4 miles into the crossing I was dealing with 2-4 foot waves and some 3-5 foot waves, very similar to this photo of an earlier trip I took on Lake Superior


Place holder for Image from Video of real conditions during the Crossing.


What a picturesque setting.. My kayak tucked in a neat little protected place called Hugginin Cove.. This is my first night on the Island.. The open water crossing was behind me and I was the better for it..

My view of Superior from my camping spot as I look through the trees.

My first camp and meal on Isle Royale. In addition to the physical aspect of paddling and the mental strain of making decisions, one has to eat, which requires cooking when you are near exhaustion physically and mentally.

I did sleep good, and in the world on Lake Superior this is a good sign.


Look for the companion complete journal entries and memoirs of the trip on these pages in the weeks to come.