The Keweenaw Approaches

Oh, these wonderful summer days, the dog days as they say. Here's a shot over the bow of the Isle Royale Queen IV on the daily return trip from Isle Royale to Copper Harbor. The two gentlemen in the photo were both taking a day trip to the island with their wives, and they had a great time during their 3 1/2 hours on the island in the Rock Harbor area. How can you not have a good time, when the weather has been so darn perfect day after day, as it so often is at this time of year. We offer day-trip specials all summer long, sometimes really low prices, sometimes just moderately low, but always a darn good price for going over and back on the same day. It's a great way to find out something about the island before you make the expense of going to stay overnight. I've marked the location of Copper Harbor in the distance as we look at the Keweenaw Peninsula as the Queen IV approaches from the northwest. The boat was about 15 miles off the coast. The air temp was about 48 degrees, but the sun was so warm on this day, like so many others lately, that one of the guys was out on the bow in shirt-sleeves.

Young Moose in Snug Harbor

Moose are down on the island this year, as you know from the annual Moose-Wolf survey conducted each winter (a link to the press release on the survey is available on this blog in an earlier post). Consequently, people are seeing moose much less often than in previous summers. But there have been a few very interesting sightings. One was the occasion of a pair of twin calves with their mother crossing right through the Snug Harbor marina and dock area, the developed part of the Isle Royale. I wasn't there, but Isle Royale Queen IV crewman Jaime Engstrom was, and he took the shot you see of the two calves over by the Rock Harbor Lodge dock. Their mother is just up ahead of them in the photo, at the foot of the dock in the shadows. Jaime took the shot from the deck of the Queen IV across Snug from the Lodge Dining Room, which you see in the background. I still haven't a moose myself this year

Two Islands Now One

On a recent day out at the island, I took my canoe across Rock Harbor to Shaw Island, just to the southwest of the main dock in Snug Harbor. I pulled up on a large stone beach, which is shown in the photo. The Isle Royale Queen IV stands at the big main dock in Snug about a mile away from this beach. The interesting thing about the photo is that this stone beach has been completely under water for nearly a century before low water exposed it this summer. I have canoed right over this beach between Smithwick Island and Shaw Island many, many times. Now these islands are run together as one. The water level of Lake Superior has come up a little over the summer. Someone from Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north side of Superior, told me that that area has has been having a lot of rain. Copper Harbor and Isle Royale have not seen any more than average rainfall, and some parts of the Upper Peninsula remain in a semi-drought.

Canoeing along Rock Harbor

Foggy days, rainy days, windy days -- they were suddenly gone this past week, and Isle Royale became the glorious northwoods, lakeshore wilderness that it is most of the time in the summer, especially in July, the month with the very best weather on this great island. Here's a shot of the cliffs on one of the outer islands along the edge of Rock Harbor. It was taken from my canoe as I easily cruised along the islands one fine day recently. This was one of those days that just make you glad that you're alive and spending any amount of time at Isle Royale. It was in the 60s, the sun was amazingly bright, the winds were calm, the water was stunningly clear, the birds were swooping and diving and calling. What a day!

Rainy, Foggy Days

What a strange summer for weather so far. We've had lots of very cool days and lots of wind, which is pretty unusual for July. There has even been a good deal of fog, which has been almost non-existent for the past 10 years during the summers. A few days ago we had one of the worst days in July that I can ever remember. The high temp was about 55 and the wind was blowing about 20 mph and a steady rain was falling. It was a day of that icy dampness that makes life up in the north country miserable. And yet when it all passed, quite suddenly, the sun came out and the following days turned positively glorious. Yesterday, I was out at the island and had a wonderful time canoeing in Rock Harbor under a brilliant sun. The photo was taken about a week ago at Rock Harbor. It is a shot of the Queen IV at the main Snug Harbor dock where both the Queen IV and the Ranger III, the NPS boat out of Houghton, moor when they are at the island. Obviously, the photo was taken on one of our foggy days of late.

Tadpoles on Smithwick Island

On a day I was captain recently, my niece Elaine Ronan, from Laurium, went over to Isle Royale with me for a day trip. It was one of those great Isle Royale days, so common in June and July. The sun was high and bright, the air clean and clear, the humidity seemed about zero. The temps were running in the 60s. The water was crystal clear. I took this shot on Smithwick Island, which Elaine and I went out to in the captains' runabout. This island stands in the line of islands that forms the south side of 15-mile-long Rock Harbor. We hiked along the Smithwick shore to a couple of beaches about half way down this island.
On the hike back to the runabout I was talking to Elaine about a pair of researchers I had met on Smithwick one day a couple weeks ago. They were doing a tadpole count on Smithwick Island in the pools near the edge of Lake Superior. Elaine found a few tadpoles that took part in the researchers' annual count in the warm waters just back of the cold, cold waters of Superior. At this time of year, even at the lake's edge at Isle Royale, the water temp can be in the 40s. Here's a shot of one of these tough creatures in Elaine's hands. She doesn't like to have her picture taken (she's 17 this month, but she has always given me trouble when I try to take her photo), and so I cut her some slack and didn't put the one I sneaked of her face on the blog.