Isle Royale National Park, Michigan, 2002 – Part XII

Part XII

And so it was over; we were back to the comfortable ways of life. The first thing we did was to take a shower – $3.00 for 5 minutes, which proved to be plenty. Funny how so much of the experience seems to disappear down the drain with the dirty water. We changed into the clean, comfortable clothes we’d carefully preserved over the last 6 days. I was glad that I hadn’t given in and wasted my extra socks.

After that, we walked up to the store and got something to eat – sandwiches with chips and a pickle. Needless to say, they were delicious! We bought some souveniers – well deserved, I thought.

When we were done, we walked down by the dock to wait. There were quite a few other backpackers there, also catching the Wenonah that day. We all sat, relaxing in the sun. We watched, with some amusement, the folks who had come in on the ferry for their 3-hour stay on the island. They wandered around the area, taking pictures, getting a taste of Isle Royale. I am glad for anyone who has the opportunity to go out to Isle Royale, but am truly appreciative of each memory Andy and I earned with each step, from Rock Harbor to Windigo.

It was a bit before 3, I suppose, when the loading of packs and passengers began. Before long, we were on the ferry, and Windigo was slipping away behind us. The captain took us by a few of the landmarks of the area. His was one of the original fishing families who first lived on Isle Royale. He showed us homes of fishermen, hotels of days past, even what used to be a bowling alley in the island’s heyday. We spent the next couple hours watching the waves, the seagulls, and talking with some of the other passengers.

It was before 6 when we landed at the Wenonah’s dock. All the day-trippers got off, but a few of us were able to stay on the boat. We, along with some others, had taken the other boat (from the Voyaguer marina) out to the island, so our cars were a few miles away from this dock. One of the attendants on the boat told us they needed to refuel over at the marina anyway, so we could stay on and get a ride over. On the way over to the marina, he told us a bit about the captain of the boat and the history of the fishermen on Isle Royale. He told us how families were forced out of their homes by the Park Service, even how one man’s house was burnt down during a hospital stay. There are two ways to look at it, I suppose. There are the fishing families who were there first (but not before the Indians, right?), and then there is the Park Service who has protected the island from development and made it available for all to enjoy. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the families on Isle Royale, check out http://www.isleroyalefamilies.org/menu.htm.

In minutes we were at the other dock. I put on my pack for the last time of the trip, and somehow, it didn’t feel like a burden, but a comfort. We walked up to the car, and I thought about how odd it was to be back. What had we really done over the last 6 days? Nothing, it seemed, except walk and eat and sleep. What had we accomplished, besides walking 50 miles? What would we take away from the time we’d spent except memories? Was there any way to give it all a purpose, to make it meaningful? I didn’t have an answer for any of those questions.

As we put our packs in the trunk of the car, I thought about the ridges, the rain, the restless nights, and the seemingly endless miles.

I couldn’t wait to do it again.