Monthly Archives: August 2015

Chippewa Harbor-Bats, Hiking and Fine Dining

On August 30 and 31, we anchored in Chippewa Harbor on the south shore of Isle Royale, We navigated into the Harbor with me standing on the bow to look out for the shallow reefs that pockmark the channel. Our warning system consists of me shouting at Howard to steer clear of obstacles. This usually works if he follows my directions.

We motored the dinghy to a nearby hiking trail, where we walked through thick forest and swamp. We visited a one room log cabin, in a very dilapidated state, which was once a school house for the island’s children in a bygone era. And we found this little guy sitting in a little nook above the door. I never knew bats had such cute little eyes.

After hiking, we swam in the severely cold water. And then cocktail hour arrived followed by a steak dinner. To top his just-made apple pie, Howard whipped cream by shaking it (I never knew cream could whip by just shaking). A very quiet day for us.

The Beauty of McCargo Cove, Isle Royale

We spent a couple nights anchored in McCargo Cove, hiking during the day and jumping in for a swim/bath before dinnertime. The water was 49 degrees so we didn’t linger there. Our mast became a clothesline for our wetsuits. A family of loons lived in the cove where we were anchored and we enjoyed watching the parents and offspring.

Severe thunderstorms rumbled over the island around midnight on our first day here. For hours, thunder and lightning crashed all around us. In my sleepy state, I figured that the lightning would hit the tall trees surrounding the cove, and didn’t give it much worry.

Sailing Isle Royale, Finally

August 27, 2015: The Rock of Ages Lighthouse greeted us on reaching the waters surrounding Isle Royale. Rock of Ages sits on an isolated reef about two miles from the entrance to Washington Harbor on the west side of the island. This isolated reef  lies in the open waters of Lake Superior and is a tiny rocky outcropping with water depth less than four feet circled by lake waters of over 300 feet. Prior to the lighthouse’s completion in 1910, several big steamships ran aground here in storms.

Each year, when we see the Rock of Ages, I feel it as a foreboding presence like a ghost of a long past era warning travelers that danger lurks in these waters. Despite the lighthouse’s powerful beam, lake conditions can make it useless in warning ships. In a heavy fog on May 27, 1933, the George M. Cox, a 270 foot steamship, struck the reef and grounded with its bow jutting into the air while its stern flooded. The 127 passengers survived to spent the night in the safety of the lighthouse. The George M. Cox eventually broke up and joined the previous shipwrecks in the deep waters of the Lake.

August 25, 2015, Still Weathered In and A Visit to the Naniboujou Lodge (With Artwork Like the Sistine Chapel!)

Naniboujou Lodge Dining Room

Naniboujou Lodge Dining Room

On our third day in the storm, we rented a car and drove north with no destination.  A few miles north of Grand Marais, on the banks of Lake Superior, we came upon the Naniboujou Lodge and walked in. Definitely a psychedelic experience. The Lodge, completed in 1929, remains true to its history with no modernization in sight.

Naniboujou began as a private lodge for the rich, with charter members who included Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ring Lardner. The main dining room displays Cree Indian designs (allegedly)  over the walls and the 20 foot high domed ceiling is said to resemble a canoe.  A French artist named Antoine Goufee did the painting, of course. Naniboujou has been called the “North Wood’s answer to the Sistine Chapel.” The Lodge fell on hard times in the Great Depression that immediately followed its opening. Fortunately, it was saved and currently operates as a lodge during the warmer months of the year.

Naniboujou’s dining room left me feeling hallucinogenic, and its silent ghostly worker in the corner reminded me of “The Shining” so we didn’t stay for lunch. But I did buy $32 worth of a bright blue hand-made bar soap from the gift shop because it was advertised as made from Lake Superior ice.

We also stopped for a few minutes at a solitary overlook on a cliff from which Lake Superior’s islands and shoreline could be seen.

Postscript: When we drove home in early September, the Naniboujou  soap started melting in the heat of the car (because it was made from Lake Superior ice!) So I put it in our freezer at home to solidify it again. I had planned to give away the soap to the pet sitters and friends  but as I write this I realize that I forgot about it in the freezer where it remains frozen.

Grand Marais, MN, August 23, 2015, Weathered In.

"Beaver House," Grand Marais, MN

“Beaver House,” Grand Marais, MN

After the long sail on Saturday and a night of howling wind, we spent Sunday hanging out in Grand Marais, taking in the sights. Including the “Beaver House” which sells live bait and “beaver flicks.”  I spent hours at the Java Moose drinking thick black iced coffee, hunched over my laptop and writing about the north. At dusk, we walked to the Pie Place Café overlooking the harbor where I caught Howard stealing my triple berry pie.

We discovered something wonderful-the best hot tub in the world can be found in Grand Marais! This is in contrast to the “worst shower in the world” also in Grand Marais. The new community YMCA, right in town, offers this amazing experience. For $5, guests from the marina can enjoy a beautiful new infinity pool and this huge hot tub. What makes it so great? Strong jets everywhere-from low to high that feel like a massage. I luxuriated in it for far too long every day we were at harbor and this made for late dinners. It sure beat the marina’s “worst shower in the world,” that I posted about in September 2012.

World's Best Whirlpool at the YMCA in Grand Marais, MN.

World’s Best Whirlpool at the YMCA in Grand Marais, MN.

Sailing Lake Superior: Isle Royale

  At dawn on Saturday, August 22, 2015, we set sail from Cornucopia Wi, the marina where we keep San Francisco, traveling to Grand Marais, MN. We had originally planned to sail first to one of the outermost islands in the Apostles, spend the night and then head to either Grand Marais or Isle Royale.  On my urging, we chose instead to make the long trip to Grand Marais to avoid the heavy weather forecast for Sunday on the western side of Lake Superior.

I started the sail, actually the trip, in a funk, anxious about the possibility of thunderstorms ( the forecast called for “isolated” storms) and the potential for high winds with rough, rock and rolling waves. But nothing happened and we arrived in Grand Marais in the early evening that day.

Getting to Grand Marais a day early turned out to be the right move as Sunday brought three days of gale force winds, rain, cold and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) warnings of waves dangerous for small watercraft.

Through it all, the boat remained cozy. But not quiet. One night, Monday I think, as we tried to sleep the wind screamed and howled over the boat, rattling the rigging and jerking us back and forth even though we were securely tied to the marina’s dock and within a breakwater. As I laid awake, all I thought about was having a good cup of coffee in the morning because it meant that we were through the night okay.

The lingering storm must have scared Grand Marais’ tourists home because the town became a remote, forlorn outpost under threatening skies.  Howard and I captured these photos as we remained weathered in at the dock.