Deliverance! What a beautiful morning! What clear skies! We awoke this morning to nothing but good news. Not only was Captain Ryan still on course, but he was expected to arrive an hour early. This still gave us plenty of time to have a nice breakfast, pack up camp, purchase a magnet at the store and go sit in the sun with the rest of the expectant passengers of the Voyageur II. The morning was pleasant and unrushed.
Soon, the grey boat emerged from behind a smaller island. Did I cheer out loud? Captain Ryan collected his passengers and left as soon as we were all aboard. We stayed on deck at the bow, along with a couple in matching outfits, who we later learned, had spent 17 days on Isle Royale. This was their fourth visit. Every time made them love this park more and more. They shared their U.S. Geological Service map with us and we were able to follow the course of the Voyageur II around the southern half of the island.
They told us stories of their trip and we just listened. One morning among the mist, he caught a glimpse of a wolf. Before he could even blink, the wolf was gone, vanishing into the woods. His wife saw nothing. While he told his story, she had a what-are-you-gonna-do look while his eyes still shimmered with amazement. They had packed 17 days worth of food in their packs. “She plans the meals,” her husband said, assuring us with a wink that they only lost a few pounds.
They spoke of how the seasons changed in front of their eyes. We too had seen the fresh, pungent wildflowers. “The greens,” he said, almost overwhelmed, “those beautiful lime greens, the contrasts, they weren’t there when we arrived. They’re new.” Wow.
Their trip length was overwhelming to us. Our seven days seemed about average. We had met people gone for four days; we had met people gone for 10. We were one of the few people making their first visit. “What a time you picked,” we kept on hearing, “you saw spring, you had great weather, (but mostly) you missed the bugs.” This place is a destination. A place that calls you, keeps you, and enchants you.
We did not speak long with the 17 day-ers, even though we had so many questions. They had another look in their eyes, the same look we had: melancholy. They wanted to be alone with the Island. They did not want to lose one look. They love it here. They wanted to stay.
We felt the same way. Strange things happen when you are one your own in the middle of a Great Lake. You learn a lot. You see a lot. We had such a wonderful time. And no, I don’t want to see Isle Royale disappear over the horizon, and I am going to stay on the bow until it does. Don’t get me wrong, we do want to leave. We are tired, hungry and dirty. Very, very dirty.
Our boat ride is nearing its fifth hour. The voyage home consists mostly of skirting the entire length of the south shore. Isle Royale seems to never end. As we learned too well on the trip, a watched pot never boils. What a long island. I can’t believe we hiked across it. Are we nuts?
We are closing in on Grand Portage, Minnesota. The Nissan awaits. A hotel room in the lovely town of Grand Marais has already been reserved. We cannot wait for a hot shower and a cold beer. We have been imagining the rhubarb pie with a scoop of ice cream and homemade ice tea and sodas from the Angry Trout Café since Day Two. It’s almost 6:00 p.m. We are about two hours away. Let’s hope they stay open until 8. Bye.