IRNP, Day 4 Siskiwit Bay to South Lake Desor, 9.8 miles

A beaver does not, as legend would have it, know which direction the tree will fall when he cuts it, but counts on alacrity to make up for lack of engineering expertise.

Ann Zwinger
The less traveled Island Mine Trail gave me flashbacks to the Te Araroa.
The less traveled Island Mine Trail gave me flashbacks to the Te Araroa.

It’s drizzling and my clothes are damp from dew even protected inside the shelter. The good news is that in spite of the gloom, I can see the ridge I’ll walk ahead, double humps of tall trees. 

Jamie walks past and tells me there’s a 30% chance of thunderstorms. Christian packed the weather radio from his boat. They bring so much gear, no wonder they decide to take the day off and stay here. 

Not me! Thunderstorms aren’t going to stop forward progress as I almost immediately meet sloppy, black mud. I have the rain pants on again for the bushwhacking nightmare I’ve been warned about. Not many walk the Feldtmann Loop to begin with, and this year, the trail has seen fewer hikers and even less maintenance.

Last night, I had the most awesome dream of friends, not any I have now, just made up dream–like friends – lovely, funny, interesting and interested people who make me laugh and make me think. I love that feeling. 

The beach is flat, red rocks gorgeous in the morning light, the sun beginning to burn through the clouds. I lean down careful not to tip over with my pack on and send one skipping. I can see out to the islands all in a row at the point, then frighten a flock of mergansers, running on the water and flapping wildly just to get out of range. 

The view out to tiny islands off Carnelian Beach.
The view out to tiny islands off Carnelian Beach.
Morning selfie with the Greenstone Ridge behind me.
Morning selfie with the Greenstone Ridge behind me.

The trail ducks on and off the beach, sometimes entering a confusing bit of grass matted down with dark coffee colored water below. Why not just send me on the beach, I wonder in a particularly deep section. 

I backtrack out of this mess, my shoes and socks completely soaked. Picking my way on the sand, I notice moose tracks. Even the locals don’t bother with this crappy trail! 

It feels a bit like New Zealand all over again, mud and wetlands with one small plank to cross them, then depositing the hiker back into more of the same. I laugh out loud thinking of my friends from Whanganui who suggested using the code word ‘high grass’ to their Te Araroa visitors just in case they got into trouble or are about to lose their minds and want to quit. 

The tall grass here gets tangled on the very few boards, causing a tripping hazard. A big, beautiful frog leaps in my path and I try to get his photo. He leaps away, so I grab his leg and return him to his ‘sitting.’ He will have none of that, thank you very much! and hops out of my reach.

A copper mine on Isle Royale. Don't drop your camera in there!
A copper mine on Isle Royale. Don’t drop your camera in there!
The Greenstone Ridge Trail was full of funky mushrooms.
The Greenstone Ridge Trail was full of funky mushrooms like this highly poisonous Fly Agaric.

I cross a large creek on a bridge and eventually find my way through a boggy area and back on another beach, this time of pebbles sinking under my steps. At the end, a sign points to Island Mine and I say goodbye to the beach, and hello to mud, moose and wolf tracks leading the way. 

The trail changes almost immediately, heading up on a gradual slope through maple, oak and birch, widening with the brush disappearing completely – as well as the mud. My stride is long and full, my breath rhythmic. 

I come to a small wooden fence protecting a deep hole. It’s lined with boulders and I want a photo, but am very careful not to lose my camera. A few steps later I come to a pile of tailings, then it’s up and up some more, before heading down steeply. 

I know I should be coming to the campsite soon but first hit a small stream. People complained the water source was poor here and I see someone has tried to remedy that by creating a boulder dam. It’s easy to collect water and I quickly down an entire liter. 

Up the hill I reach the campsite junction, but move on to meet the Greenstone Ridge Trail. A better name might be Green Tunnel since it’s all forest with very few views. Still, it’s incredibly easy walking after the past few days and I cruise through noticing the sky clearing. 

Happy hikers on their way home.
Happy hikers on their way home.
Puffballs on a fallen birch.
Puffballs on a fallen birch.

At my feet are thousands of mushrooms, nearly all in bold bright yellow or stoplight red like clown noses. I pass a couple making a loop and warn them about the overgrown areas. Another couple and a single man are headed my way and I feel like I’ve finally arrived on trail as cruisey as the PCT, so pass them to get to the summit of Mount Desor. 

I reach rock outcroppings and see bright blue water below a bright blue sky. But the view is obscured and I assume I must not be at the top yet. I walk on and on, up and down, in and out of dense forest until I finally realize that spot where I could see a small corner of blue water was the summit. 

Not exactly dramatic, but I’m certainly happy to be in bright sunshine with the air dry and the wind blowing. I consider moving on since it’s so early, but decide to at least check out South Lake Desor. 

The sites are crowded high above the water. I set my pack and take a look around. Since this is a weird year with Covid, the ranger told me I am welcome to take a group site. There are three quite a distance from the singles. 

I notice two young men wading at the water and see stairs built to a beach. Perfect! Their site is across from the access and I take the next one, just 100 steps away. Neat guys, on their very first backpack trip, entering grad school when they return. They’re sharing a two-man tent so a bit crowded, but loving the adventure and share beta about what’s ahead, especially that the next lake is not so great. I made a good choice to stay. 

My campsite looking out to the lake.
My campsite looking out to the lake.
Sunset from the sandy beach at Lake Desor with a big A in the sky.
Sunset from the sandy beach at Lake Desor with a big A in the sky.

They leave me alone to swim in crystal clear water with a sandy bottom. Not much swimming as only up to my hips far off shore, but so refreshing to dunk. I nap and read under quaking aspens, then swim again. Dinner is at the beach on a log, my feet crushed into the sand as waves gently touch my toes. 

Dragonflies hunt for bugs, one not afraid to buzz close to my face. The sunset show is directly in front of me, the clouds spelling a giant A and an arrow, pointing where, I wonder. Everyone is absolutely quiet and I have the beach all to myself. I hate to leave the magic, but mosquitos send me off. Just as I pack up, a beaver starts swimming across the lake, a deep purple now. 

One time, someone asked me what animal would I like to be. I think a beaver. They always have projects, they have a lovely home and community and they’re very much in charge. Have you ever heard the slap of a tail? 

The wind is gentle in the trees, crickets chirping and waves lapping. The stars are brilliant and I am all cuddled in. And just how did the beaver get to this island 15 miles off the mainland, you might ask. No one knows for sure, but my guess is, they swam. Talk about grit! 

Published by alison young

Alison Young is the Blissful Hiker, a voice artist and sometime saunterer. 📣🐥👣🎒

Reader Comments

  1. In addition to a story in which prose flows like poetry, the pictures are always stunning. I actually asked if Alison was taking them from her I-Phone or was she schlepping a high-end camera along, which I truly doubted. They are from her phone and magnificent in detail of the flora and fauna of the area where she hikes. In the podcast, the music sets the mood for that day’s narrative marvelously. Lots of pitch-perfect coordination goes into this blog and podcast to make it memorable for readers and listeners.

    1. thanks so much Micki! I gave a presentation yesterday and the first question usually is what I used for a camera. It’s my iPhone Max and has a really awesome set up. Not a fantastic telephoto, but some god features. I also spend a lot of time planning the shots and am very observant!

      The phone also stores the sounds I collect. It is very right/left brain to switch from sights to sounds and which to pick up in the moment.

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