Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016-08-10, Hike on Isle Royale

Holly A. Rife / Norman E. Gibat   -USA

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day? (Average?)

Houghton, MI
908  Miles / 1,461 Kilometers
Distance Walked: 5.8 mi / 9.3 Km Elevation gain: 804 ft / 245 mtrs
In US $.  Food 0     Petrol 0.     Lodging 0     Fees 0     Misc. 0. 
Donna and Norman check out a campground shelter at Daisy Farm
Donna fixed us a great breakfast of freshly picked blueberry pancakes. We then took a boat across the bay to Daisy Farm Campground and hiked up to the Ojibway fire tower. The view from the top of the tower was expansive. While you couldn’t see the entire length of the 45 mile island, it was enough to give you a sense of just how huge it is. 
Isle Royale -The largest island on the largest lake in the world from the Ojibway fire tower

 One thing that immediately caught my eye was the large number of lakes. One lake that I don’t think we could see has a few islands in it, and one of those has a small lake on it. That distinguishes it as being the largest lake on the largest island of the largest lake of the largest island of the largest lake in the world! I would have liked to go there but I didn’t want to carry a kayak that far in order to access it, Ha! At the Ojibway Tower, we met a mountain dulcimer player entertained us 
Mountain Dulcimer at the top of a mountain!

and a music minister from a church and a professional classical guitarist, Dave Martin. Dave plays with the Grand Rapids Guitar Quartet and the Lake Michigan Duo.

As we descended, I decided that I needed more exercise to prepare for Yellowstone, so I ran about half the distance back to the trail head. Surprisingly, we didn’t see a single moose all day. There was a lot of fox scat all along the trail, so it was obvious that the foxes were using human trails to expedite moving about. We had light sprinkles and occasional rain through most of the morning.

Donna crossing a large bog on the way up the mountain

Back at the fishery that afternoon, two men, Mike and Bill, who are volunteers studying loon populations on the island. Points they made that limit loon success were:

1. water clarity – as they visually hunt for their food so need to see the fish they consume

2. water levels – loons can not walk so they make their nests at water level. Big waves or water levels increase or decrease it can have a serious impact on their viability

3. predators – for example, eagles have increased in number

They said that loon numbers seem to be up this year, especially when compared with population since 1989.

A Birch tree with eleven trunks!

Tree damage from moose rubbing their antlers.

2016-08-09, Trip to Isle Royale on the Ranger III

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day? (Average?)

Houghton, MI
908  Miles / 1,461 Kilometers
Distance Walked: 2.9 mi / 4.7 Km Elevation gain: 156 ft / 47.5 mtrs
In US $.  Food 33.43     Petrol 0.     Lodging 0     Fees 126 (Ferry)     Misc. 0.

0815 hrs. - Getting ready to head out on the Ranger III, a special purpose ship built for the National Park Service in 1958. It is 165 feet long by 34 feet, carries 128 passengers and 125 tons of cargo. This boat has three different U.S. Coast Guard certifications.

1. Passenger ship

2. Cargo ship

3. Fuel Tanker
The Ranger III

So while it does take passengers and Park personnel to and from the park, it also has to carry the food, supplies, boats, tools, and anything needed by the park staff to live and operate in a remote wilderness environment. It also has to carry fuel for the generators at park headquarters and for all the boats used by personnel to move around the park.

Visitors can also have items shipped to the island on the Ranger III. For instance, there were three motorboats and a dozen sea kayaks loaded on the bow for different people at the island.

While we were waiting for the Ranger III to finish loading cargo and start boarding passengers, I counted 98 people waiting to board, so with crew and park personnel, the ship must be full. Holly told me that when she paid for our tickets she was told that they were sold out.

From Houghton Michigan, It takes the Ranger III an hour to work it’s way through the waterway to open water on Lake Superior at about 5 knots. Once on open water it speeds up to around 12 knots. At that speed it takes a total of about 5 hours to get to the island.

In calmer seas on the approach to Isle Royale
On this trip we had a following sea with five or six foot swells. Every five minutes or so, there was a large swell that would flood the lowerr deck on wave side of the boat. Once a wave come so far up the side it got my fingers wet at the top of the lower floor guard plates. Since this is a fairly large ship, it handled the seas well with only one person getting mildly sick. On some of the tourist boats going to the island that day and the next, the majority of the passengers were sick, so we were glad to be on the Ranger III.

Our friends John and Donna Buckley were waiting at Isle Royale park headquarters on Mott Island when we got there. While we waited for our luggage, we watched them unload all the cargo, including the motorboats from the bow and the sea kayaks. We loaded all our gear into their boat for the trip to the area where they worked, Edisen Fishery.
We were assigned a small 100 year old cabin that was built by a one legged man. We removed the mosquito netting over the bed as it was late enough in the season that it was unnecessary. The setting is beautiful and remote with only a solar powered cabin for them and an outhouse privy.

The Rock Harbor Lighthouse
We took a short hike with Donna and John to the other side of the peninsula where the Rock Harbor lighthouse is located. The Isle Royale National Park had set up a nice display of famous shipwrecks that had happened around the park in history. We climbed up the lighthouse to the top and took some photos. This the third lighthouse in a national park that we have climbed to the top of. The others were Boca Chita Key in Biscayne N.P. and Fire Island N.P.

After climbing down the lighthouse, we went to the shore where there was a group of about 20 Merganser ducks feeding in the water. After a few minutes, the ducks suddenly all swam together into a tight grouping known as a “raft”. We wondered why when John noticed that an eagle had started flying overhead. After a short while the eagle flew off and the ducks returned to their feeding. Later that evening, back at the fishery, John and I were sitting at fish house when the entire group of ducks came around the point and swam to within 20 feet of where we were sitting.
Holly and our friends Donna and John Buckley at the top of the lighthouse

During the night, I got up to go the outhouse. When I opened the cabin door I was staring right at the Big Dipper constellation shining bright and crisp on the horizon. All the stars were so amazingly bright and clear it didn’t seem real. I hadn’t 
Holly an Norman with John in back at the top of the lighthouse
seen stars so clearly since we left Yosemite N. P. fifteen years earlier. I would have spent more time looking if I had realized that this would be the only clear night while we were on Isle Royale. But nature called, and I missed my only opportunity!

I decided to pee in the woods instead of going all the way to the outhouse. So, in the dark I found a dark area that I thought was a bush. I immediately knew that the drumming sound wasn’t right, that I had found John’s canoe instead of a bush. Oops! Sorry John! I took a jar of water out the next day to remove any evidence!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

2016-08-08, Houghton, MI

Holly A. Rife / Norman E. Gibat   -USA

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day.

Houghton, MI
908  Miles / 1,461 Kilometers 
In US $.  Food 23.43     Petrol 16.87     Lodging 60.00     Fees 19.61     Misc. 0. 
 Houghton is our launch point for the ferry to Isle Royale National Park.  It will leave at 8 tomorrow morning and not return until Saturday late.  So don't expect any posts until Sunday, but then we should have a HUGE post!
We will be staying with friends from the everglades that now live in the back country of this island during the summers, so goodby internet!
 Last nights camping spot.  Very nice and remote.  We slept in the back of the Subaru without the tent attachment.  Not as comfortable, but workable.
We got up very early and did a long hike through the woods before any (other)  tourists got out.  It was a great walk in the cool air.  We walked about 3 miles.  There was a secluded waterfall at the end that was impossible to get a clear photo of.  But we enjoyed it!

Monday, August 8, 2016

2016-08, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

2016 - The Big Trip West -  USA

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
418Miles / 636 Kilometers
In US $.  Food 36.26    Petrol 3109     Lodging 0.     Fees 0.     Misc. 0.

 Our first full day in Pictured Rocks, and what a full day it was!


We used our tent last night.  Sort of to compare the Subaru "Tent" to our traditional camping mode.

 A couple views of Pete's Lake in Hiawatha National Forest close to Painted Rocks.  It was a nice well kept campground with a friendly host working very hard to keep everything spiffy.

 Miners Castle on the coast of Lake Superior in Painted Rock N.P.

 Top of a huge dune along the shore.  This area was used as a log slide.  It is a long 512 feet to the beach at the bottom

Can you see the people swimming at the bottom?

 Pebbles in the beach at the bottom of the dune.  And some of the many miles of sandy roads we traveled through Birch and Maple forests

And Holly always thought SHE was the big wheel!  
This is the rig used to move logs to the slide.


2016-08-06, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Holly A. Rife / Norman E. Gibat   -USA

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI
395 Miles / 636 Kilometers
In US $.  Food 31.83.     Petrol 22.95.     Lodging 9.     Fees 4.     Misc. 0. 

The worlds only known scenic overlook to see the highway you just drove down

Travel in Michigan was not bad but heavy.  I saw2 moose alongside the road and at a rest area there was a scenic view of the highway! 

The Mackinac Bridge in upper Michigan

Last night we arrived in Munising, MI after 5:00 pm during what we found out later is the busiest week at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  With no reservations, we got a tip that there might be spaces in a US Forest Service campground, "Pete's Lake".  Hosts Gwen and Ken were great and found us a spot for the night.  It was a very pretty campground and our site was within walking distance of a very pretty lake.  We are having to be creative to find wifi and so went to Forest Glen store to write our blog.


Being a Saturday night, the campground was noisy but still nice.  Nightime forays to the bathroom rewarded us with amazing glimpses of the stars.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Holly A. Rife / Norman E. Gibat   -USA

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day.

Ovid, MI
195 Miles / 314 Kilometers  (No travel today)
In US $.  Food 0.     Petrol 0.     Lodging 0.     Fees 0.     Misc. 0. 

 Stayed with my brother George, his wife Stephanie, and their two kids for the oldest one's birthday.  

We slept in the Subaru tent combination for the first time last night.  It turns out to be very comfortable.

Tomorrow we travel to the Michigan Upper Peninsula and to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Holly A. Rife / Norman E. Gibat   -USA

2016 - The Big Trip West

-To visit all the places we have lived through the western USA and all the friends that have scattered. For under US $50. per day.

Ovid, MI
195 Miles / 314 Kilometers
In US $.  Food 42.     Petrol 24.     Lodging 0.     Fees 10.     Misc. 0.    

Quik trip to my Brother's family to go to a county faire and test our camping rig on the new Subaru Outback we got for the trip.
3 weeks old and already 3,500 miles / 5,600 kilometers

As for the camping setup,  We don't anticipate needing it more than a couple times a week, but from different vendors we found a tent structure that fits over the lift tailgate of the Outback and an inflatable mattress with lift panels for the wheel wells.  With a Thule cargo carrier for stuff we don't need every day, it makes a kit that is comfortable for traveling and camping.