The Progress of Spring

It's still spring, even in late June, in some areas of Isle Royale. I had a fascinating visit to Edwards Island last week, in which I walked through spring as I moved away from the lakeshore on this small, narrow island up near Blake Point at the farthest northeast reaches of Isle Royale. I walked in from the stone beach I had pulled my boat onto and found that the plants were just coming out, as shown in this first photo, which also shows many spruces blown down by the winter winds, as is so common near the edges of the main island and its outlying islands.

As I moved northeast toward a pretty cove on Edwards, I found the plants higher, though still in a stage that I would call spring-like. This next shot is of the cove, looking northeast toward North Government Island, the next island up the chain that forms Rock Harbor. You see that the vegetation has progressed toward a stage that we could call late spring. The day I was there, you could feel clearly how this works. Near the beach, the cool wind off cold Rock Harbor, water temperature about 40 degrees, was sharply cooler, perhaps 15 to 20 degrees, than the air up amid the spruces.

Big Ships

What a gorgeous morning to make the crossing to Isle Royale. This shot was taken on a recent weekday morning when I was serving as captain on the family ferry. In the distance was the Paul R. Tregurtha, the Queen of the Lakes -- which means the largest ship currently sailing the Great Lakes. I told the passengers in the cabins that she was passing in front of us and a couple dozen people came out to get a look and take a photograph of their own. Quite a sight on quite a morning.

Butterfly Season

Butterflies have been all over Isle Royale of late. The Monarchs and other varieties have been passing through and filling the woods. Sadly, yet necessarily, plenty of dead Monarchs have been found on the shores all around the island and its surrounding islands. Here's a shot of a Swallowtail on the Rock Harbor Trail recently. As most everyone knows, the major wildlife, what my zoologist daughter calls the Charismatic Megavertebrates, is down on the island this year. There have been a few sightings of a pair of twin calves and their mother in the Snug Harbor area (that's where the Queen IV docks and the Rock Harbor Lodge is located). But this is the best I have been able to do on wildlife shots since I've been out this year on my three crossings as captain of the Queen IV.

The Queen IV

I'm taking my regular shift at the helm of the Isle Royale Queen IV now that I've been up in Copper Harbor a couple weeks. This is a shot of me standing on Hunters Point across the Harbor from the dock in the center of town. That's the Queen IV, of course, in the distance. June is a great time to go to Isle Royale. People often ask -- almost every phone call -- about the best time to go. June is great because the lake weather is generally placid (though we did have a couple rough trips last week) and the weather is great for hiking -- and the island has fewer hikers and visitors and the bugs ain't bad at all and our prices are lower, too. But still people favor those last weeks of July and the first weeks of August despite all we do to get them to see that June is a great time to go. Think about it next year.

Low Water in Tobin Harbor

Here's a shot of Tobin Harbor a few days ago. You can see the water level is very, very low. It's not at record levels, but seems to be getting awfully close to the record, which took place in the 1920s. I've never walked in the spot I'm taking the photo from. Usually, the water is up to the level of the grass on the left of the photo, but now the edges of the bottoms of the harbors can be seen all around the island. I think the water has come up a bit in the past few days, maybe about 6 inches, but we have a long way to go before we come close to average lake levels. You will see some unusual sights when you visit the island this year because of the low water. By the way, the photo was taken on Tobin Harbor down near Suzy's Cave.

Captain Don R.

The 5 days-a-week runs have begun on the Queen IV. Here's a shot of my brother Captain Don R. Kilpela on the Queen Dock one eveing this week. That's our nephew Sam Eberhard behind him. Sam is working as a deckhand this year on the Queen, the third and last of the Hancock Eberhard boys to work for us in the family business. That's the Queen IV in the background, of course. Special day-trip prices for the month of June are now in effect, just $31 (!!) for a day-trip over to Isle Royale during the whole month of June. Come on up and join in the fun. It's a great day, 3 hours over, 3.5 hours there, and 3 hours back. We'd love to show you this great American wilderness, along with a great boat ride across the world's largest body of fresh water.

My next shot is of the Queen IV in the distance coming in past the Habor Haus restaurant this week. It had reportedly been a fabulous day on the Lake this day, with calm seas almost the entire way. We love these days as much as our patrons.