June 20th, 2011


Isle Royale, Part One

Getting there is half the fun

We were up betimes on Saturday, June 11, and rapidly packed. A crew snapshot, a prayer, and we were off. Venturing Crew 119 was heading to Isle Royale National Park -- the least visited National Park in the system, and one of the most re-visited by those who make it there. We started out with a long, boring day of driving, ending up just outside Madison, Wisconsin, at a private campground called Kamp Kegonsa.

The next day, we went north through Wisconsin, stopping for lunch in a town called Rhinelander. Years ago, the town elders decided that they needed something to attract tourists to their mining/logging/end of the world place. So, they called forth the Hodag, a Northwoods monster. He currently resides in the city park, amidst of cluster of really interesting museums: a railroad museum; a CCC museum; an old sawmill; a one-room school.

After yet more driving, we finally reached Copper Harbor, Michigan, on the tip of the pinkie of the U.P. We stayed at Fort Wilkins State Park just outside of town, and started converting our gear over from touring mode to trekking mode.

Just starting out Just starting out
Crew 119 still fresh and clean
Long drive Long drive
Connor checks out on the drive to Wisconsin
Portent of things to come Portent of things to come
The evening was chilly; it would get even chillier
Yuck Yuck
Kaleb making supper; Jeffrey is a picky eater
Kamp Kegonsa Kamp Kegonsa
First night's camp near Madison, Wisconsin
Hodag Under Glass Hodag Under Glass
Rhinelander, Wisconsin
Choo-choo Choo-choo
Rhinelander museums
Waxing Moon Waxing Moon
Fort Wilkins State Park


Isle Royale, Part Two

By the shores of Gitchee Gumee

We had a beautiful crossing from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale on the ferry. The water was smooth as glass. It takes about 3 hours 20 minutes to make the trip. Lake Superior is a freshwater inland sea. The surface temperature in the middle of the lake was 37 degrees. The wind generated by the Isle Royale Queen IV made it a very brisk experience to stand on deck, so we spent most of the voyage in the cabin. The cool temperatures were certainly a nice contrast to the oppressive heat we'd been experiencing back home in Indiana.

We were told to watch out for the Isle Royale Rock Harlequin, a flower that blooms nowhere else in the world and only for a short time in the summer. We were also told to listen for the Winter Wren, a shy little bird that has a very long mating call, sometimes lasting 10 or 12 seconds. We were told that there were, by last count, something less than 300 moose on the island, and only 14 wolves. Loons were less abundant than they had been, too. We saw the Rock Harlequin, heard the Winter Wren, and saw and heard some loons, but the moose and the wolves ignored us and didn't show up for their pictures to be taken. The mosquitoes, on the other hand, were happy to show up, though in less numbers than I feared. We never did have to break out the head nets.

After lunch at Rock Harbor Lodge, we stumped off down the coast for a seven mile hike. It was a tough hike, particularly for starting so late in the day. People hadn't gotten used to their packs yet, there were lots of rocks, etc. Still, there was lots of daylight. Isle Royale is on Eastern Daylight time and it was approaching Midsummer, so it didn't get dark until about 10:30 p.m. We went to bed while it was still light every night.

We found no poison ivy on the Island (good news). And the woods were filled at times with a piney, resinous fragrance, something like a cedar chest. It felt great to be back for my third trek on the Isle.

Pirates of Lake Superior Pirates of Lake Superior
Avast, there!
Approaching the dock Approaching the dock
Rock Harbor Lodge, IRNP
Off on the trail Off on the trail
Entering the Wild
Adjusting straps Adjusting straps
Jeffrey, Dave, Kaila, Ben
Down the coast Down the coast
Rock Harbor on the left
Isle Royal Rock Harlequin Isle Royale Rock Harlequin
something special
Ah, grub Ah, grub
Chowing down at Daisy Farm campsite


Isle Royale, Part Three

Greenstone Ridge

Our second day on Isle Royale, we had a long hike ahead of us from Daisy Farm on the coast to Chickenbone Lake West campsite -- some nine miles (we took a shortcut, though). Our hike would take us along the Greenstone Ridge, named after the copper-bearing rocks that are so prominent on Isle Royale. All the copper used by Native Americans before the coming of Europeans came from this area. Many attempts were made to commercially mine the copper, but while it was easy to get to, there just wasn't enough to make it pay.

We began the day by filtering water. We had ten people in our group, which means we used an average of ten gallons of water a day for drinking, cooking, and washing. All water on Isle Royale has to be filtered or boiled. Iodine will not kill the tapeworm larvae found in inland waters on the Isle. Pumping water through our two filters was a daily chore, and one which must be done with full attention at all times, lest the clean output be contaminated by dirty water.

A mated pair of loons were nesting near the dock at Daisy Farm. We were careful not to disturb them. Spirits were better, even if the hike was longer. Straps were getting adjusted, people were getting used to hiking, new flowers -- ladyslippers, columbine -- delighted us. There were fewer mosquitoes. At Chickenbone Lake, we met some other Venturers from Wisconsin -- also chartered to a United Methodist Church.

Rosy-fingered dawn Rosy-fingered dawn
Daisy Farm
Early morning over Rock Harbor Early morning over Rock Harbor
Daisy Farm, IRNP
Loons Loons
Daisy Farm dock
Ladyslippers Ladyslippers
Flower child Flower child
Melodie picks up some ornaments on the trail
The Greenstone Ridge The Greenstone Ridge
Isle Royale's spine
Break time Break time
Soaking up the sun on the Greenstone Ridge
Who is that old man? Who is that old man?
Yours Truly on the Greenstone Ridge


Isle Royale, Part Four

Throw me a line!

We had our shortest day hike from Chickenbone Lake to Lake Richie -- a mere four miles. We got there before noon and rested a bit. The day was bright and breezy, and the fishermen among us got down to work. While they were practicing their best lines, I took a look at the empty group campsite next to us. It was there that Deanne and I spent a whole day with our Venturers in the rain in 1999. Looking at that exact spot, and looking out from that spot, took me back to that day. I missed her so much, but she seemed closer to me that day than on any other part of our trip.

Meanwhile, there were lines in the water. The fish started biting. In the end, four Northern Pike had met their match. We had a feast that night of fried pike, mashed potatoes, crackers, and cherry cheesecake. We were so full up on food that we had to go find some of our neighbors, some Scouts and a tagalong family, and invite them to come eat our fish.

It was a great day all around, and the apogee of our trip.

1,000,000 B.C. 1,000,000 B.C.
B.C. = "before coffee"
Water boys Water boys
Filtering water at Chickenbone Lake
The Privy Council meets here The Privy Council meets here
...one member at a time
Ha-ha-ha-HA-ha! Ha-ha-ha-HA-ha!
The woodpeckers haven't left much of this one.
Gearing up Gearing up
Dave and Ben prepare their fishing stuff while Kaila looks on
Here, fishy, fishy Here, fishy, fishy
Like something out of Central Casting
Kaleb strikes first Kaleb strikes first
Northern Pike
It's the big-un! It's the big-un!
Dave lands the biggest fish of the day
Fish on! Fish on!
Jordan brings his catch to land
Fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads Fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads
... eat them up, yum!


Isle Royale, Part Five

Last days on Isle Royale

The next morning was cool -- 48 degrees when we were packing up to leave Lake Richie. It was overcast all day, but never rained. This was to our advantage, since this was the longest day of hiking we had planned, some twelve miles in all. We took a wrong turn at Moskey Basin, but soon found the right trail and were heading up the coastline of Rock Harbor.

We made excellent time. Traveling over territory you've hiked before makes everything go faster. At one point, I showed Kaila Moskey Basin from several miles on up the coast and she was surprised at how fast we were going. In all, we did twelve miles in about nine hours.

Dave kept saying how "pristine" everything was. Of course, he also kept saying, "I wonder if we could make a Yamaha that would carry our gear for us?" and "We need some picnic tables and running water up here." Sorry, man. There's a basic trade-off: the farther out in the wilderness you go the groovier it gets, but there's a price to be paid. Once you've built roads and trucked in everything you want, the magic goes out of the place.

Our last day we were up and at 'em early, and arrived back at the Visitors Center shortly after ten o'clock. We had a lot of time to mess around and eat lunch. The ferry wasn't due to leave until 2:45 p.m. I took a shower -- the best six dollars I ever spent in my life. We shopped for souvenirs.

After another smooth and easy passage on the Isle Royale Queen IV, we went back to Fort Wilkins, where everybody else took showers. We went shopping for supplies. That evening, we had smoked lake trout, boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, lots of butter, fresh tomatoes, cheese curds, apples, and soda pop.

After Thorns and Roses (evening devotions), Ben and Kaleb presented several awards, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving. I was moved that the youth expected us to pray in that way and wanted me to lead them. We got something good going on here.

Bridge to Nowhere Bridge to Nowhere
Wrong turn at Moskey Basin
Obstacles Obstacles
Lots of downed timber across the trails
Threemile Camp Threemile Camp
Last night
Would you like to swing on a star Would you like to swing on a star
Or just go backpacking?
Squirrel Squirrel
Sorry, no leftovers
Westering Moon Westering Moon
early morning over Threemile
The fog rolls in The fog rolls in
Barrier islands to Rock Harbor
Words fail me Words fail me
Really they do, sometimes
Have cards, will travel Have cards, will travel
Rock Harbor Lodge, waiting for the ferry


Isle Royale, Part Six

Going home

On Saturday, June 18, we left Fort Wilkins early for our longest, hardest day of driving. We had to cross the entire Upper Peninsula and at least a third of the Lower Peninsula before stopping at Scott and Connor's family cabin at Baldwin, Michigan. It took us eleven and a half hours.

Going home is as stressful as anything a group does. Everybody's tired. Grumpiness sets in. But then, too, people check out, mentally, sometimes: either they think the trip's over (when there's still two days' driving to do) or they're already preoccupied with what they've got to do when they get back. Either way, holding a group together and keeping them relating to each other the right way is hard, and the longer you've been away and the farther you've got to drive, the worse it is.

Still, we managed to get home in one piece. And we had some fun along the way. We stopped at Da Yooper Tourist Trap in Ishpeming, Michigan (a long-time ambition of mine). And we had a lovely evening at Camp Cow Woody, named after Scott's younger son, Payton's, early inability to pronounce "coyote." Mostly, though, we just drove. And drove. And then we were home.

World's Largest Working Chain Saw World's Largest Working Chain Saw
Da Yooper Tourist Trap
Just a widdle kid Just a widdle kid
Oversize lawn chair at Yooper Tourist Trap
Bobbing for something Bobbing for something
Connor samples Yooper humor
Guilty, guilty, guilty Guilty, guilty, guilty
Scott does penance
Zonked Zonked
It's a long way from there to here
Fishing Camp Fishing Camp
Scott and Connor's cabin in Michigan
What's cookin'? What's cookin'?
Scott's outdoor kitchen


Wake me up when the crazies leave

When I was a boy, gambling was illegal in many places, or restricted to a few forms, such as pari-mutuel betting. "Running the numbers" was a racket that mobsters engaged in. Now, most States, like Indiana, have legalized gambling in one form or another. The United Methodist Church and all its liberal leadership have declared that legalized gambling is the last moral ditch, and we will all die in it, never compromise with it, work to repeal it for the good of all that is right and true in our society.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not fond of gambling. I think it's foolish. And I think State-sponsored or State-run gambling is a form of political corruption, as well as a stupid and hurtful way to fund the government. What I don't get, though, is why the Church is so all fired up on this.

Compare the same liberal UM clergy on the issue of, say, conducting gay weddings. Where is the moral passion against the normalization of homosexuality? Why beat up on the economically profligate (gamblers) but run to defend the sexually profligate (homosexuals)? And who gets to pick among sins which ones we will baptize and say are now okay?

Nor am I singling out gays and saying they're particularly bad people. Pound for pound, they're no worse (and no better) than anybody else. The question is, why is one sin the thing we're all supposed to fight to our last breath, when this other sin is being recommended to us as the New Normal? And why are UM clergy willing to break the very rules they promised to uphold and still expect not to be punished for it? Is this any way to run a Church?

I believe in showing mercy to sinners. I also believe, as my charismatic friend put it to me, that "God blesses obedience." I look at my liberal colleagues, though, and I see them showing mercy to some sinners but not to others. I see them demanding obedience when they howl their calls to action, but then in the next breath howling just as loudly their demand that they be allowed to be disobedient to the very Church they are leading.

Who can make sense of such crazy people?
compass rose

Da Creation of Da UP


In da beginning dere was nuttin.
Den on da first day God created da Upper Peninsula.
On da second day He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, and da ducks.
On da third day He said let dere be Yoopers to roam da Upper Peninsula.
On da fourth day He created da udder world down below.
On da fifth day He said "Let dere be trolls to live in da world down below."
On da sixth day he created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven.
God saw it was good and on da seventh day He went huntin.


- One day it's warm, the rest of the year it's cold.
- People who say "I have half a mind to go to the U.P." have all the right equipment.
- Nearly 30% of residents in Schoolcraft County in the U.P. are graduates of the sixth grade.
- If you fly a straight line from Sault Ste. Marie to Ironwood, you'll see a lot of trees.
- Dollar Bay in the U.P. was named after the annual salary in the area.
- The U.P. is the supplier of mosquitos to the free world.
- There are two seasons in the U.P. -- Swat and Shovel.
- People in the U.P. wear boots because they are in style - not because there is snow on the ground.
- Michigan's U.P. was never considered as a site for the state capital; however, it does have a town named Ralph.

-- from some Michigander's humor site