Across Isle Royale by Foot
Stepping off the ferry, I arrive on a hiker's paradise with 165 miles of trails offering everything from a one-mile nature walk to more demanding multiday treks.
The Greenstone Ridge is the longest and most popular of Isle Royale's"long" trails. The trail runs along the spine of the island, spanning some 40 miles from the northeast at Lookout Louise to the southwest at Windigo. "The Greenstone," as it is called by hikers, winds through forests of maple and birch, past swamps and bogs, and up 1,394-foot Mount Desor, the highest point on the island.
Anxious to begin the hike, I stride along the well-worn Rock Harbor Trail, which follows the shore of Superior over rocky terrain and past rather forlorn-looking spruce. The path runs for 2.7 miles to Three Mile Campground, my chosen home for the evening. The goal of my first night out is to relax and settle in, adjusting to the natural rhythms of Isle Royale.
In the morning, I break camp and head west to the Mount Franklin Trail, a two-mile spur leading north to, appropriately, Mount Franklin. Over swamp and water I travel, crossing Tobin Creek before climbing to the intersection with the Greenstone. Turning westward, I take my first steps onto the Greenstone Ridge, my home for the next four days, and begin the gradual ascent of 1,074-foot Mount Franklin. The summit offers spectacular aerial views of other islands within the park, and it is said that on a clear day the coastline of Ontario is visible.
A couple of miles down the trail begins the ascent of Mount Ojibway (1,136 feet), the site of the island's original fire lookout. From the tower, the trail runs fairly straight and true along the ridge. I enjoy the changes in scenery as the Greenstone continues its up-and-down ways. The trail takes me through thick woods and past boggy ground before leveling out and coming to a ledge with foot-stopping views of Ontario's Pie Island and Chickenbone Lake.
My journey continues for a few miles until the Greenstone crosses the Indian Portage Trail. Just to the north sits West Chickenbone Campground, where I spend my second night. All of the sites at West Chickenbone are fairly open and sit on Chickenbone Lake, which makes it a great place to break out the pack rod for a few casts for northern pike.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication