The Isle Royale Leprechaun

Logan, Logan, Logan. What am I going to do about you? My son Logan, now 15, has been up to his old tricks this fall, altering some of my photos of Isle Royale for fun. Last year, he made a nice alteration for the annual Isle Royale Slide Show, which you can find easily enough on this blog. In that one he added velociraptors to the Isle Royale landscape (2006 Slide Show, Photo 7). This year, he had some fun with me, portraying me as some kind of northwoods elf sitting on the blue beads of a blue-bead lily. The shot was taken somewhere in the woods down the Rock Harbor Trail at the end of summer, when the yellow flowers of this lily have become these blue beads (hence the name). Keep watching for more from Logan in the months ahead. I hear he's working on some new alterations.

Stones Neverending

One thing about Isle Royale: there are always plenty of rocks and stones to pick through and study. This photo is one of me, Captain Ben Kilpela, on a little nook of a stone beach -- I'm sitting in what is a semi-seacave -- on the north side of North Government Island at the north end of Tobin Harbor up near the very northern tip of Isle Royale, which is Blake Point. My son Logan and I were out this outer island for an afternoon, just exploring, when we came across this ordinary beach, just like hundreds of others in the national park. We spent some time just studying stones. What is it about stones and rocks that so interests people like us? I'll have to think more about that, but in thinking about it that day, I did realize that I spend a lot of my time at Isle Royale doing just what is shown in this photo, picking through and studying stones. As you might not realize, Isle Royale is a geological infant, almost what a geologist would call a newborn land formation. It came out from under the stupendously gigantic, miles-thick glacier that covered the Lake Superior region just 11,000 years ago. It was nothing but a big rock when the glacier melted and pulled back and alowed it to see the light of day, in the amazing ways glaciers do. But gradually the great Lake the glacier left behind in the Superior Basin begin to gnaw loose some cracked and loose sections of the rock -- and then began to tumble those loose chunks and pieces around -- and then began to toss the smoothed chunks and pieces up into nooks and crannies all around Isle Royale, where we find them now as stone beaches of all sorts of sizes and ages and formations. The stones I'm sitting on in the photo contained very few quartz-like pieces of silica and no semi-precious stones, no agates or greenstones, that I could discern. They were almost all pieces of basalt in an infinite number of shades of gray. I found even all those similar yet subtly different shades to be fascinating, as I always do. But why? Perhaps a little more thought will reveal an explanation. Rock-houding is one of the joys of Isle Royale.

Off on a Paddling Journey

Some folks were headed out across Tobin Harbor in canoes one day late in the summer. Though it looks as though rain might be in the offing from this photo, we would not see rain for a couple more weeks at the island. I am back home in southern Michigan now, but I will continue to post shots of the summer at Isle Royale over the next month or so.

The Future of Moose and Wolves on Isle Royale

Did you notice that there was a major article in the Detroit Free Press in August about how global warming might hurt the moose population on Isle Royale, and thus hurt the wolf population in turn? The article is available at this link, if you missed it:

Much the same information, in briefer, also appeared in a Backpacker magazine article that came out this summer about the biggest coming changes in America's national parks. This article might have prompted the Free Press to give John Vucetich, the leader of the moose-wolf research study nowadays, a call. Isle Royale made Backpacker's list of their Top Ten for the possibility that moose might die out on the island. The island has without question been much warmer overall, and year round, over the past few years, though there have been a couple hard, cold winters as well over the past 15-20 years. This year I saw more sign than ever before of the decline in the moose over the past decade. There were wide stands of young balsam, which moose have browsed heavily, in many areas. I even found several small American yew bushes on the main island and the outer islands of Rock Harbor in places where they would be easily acccessible to moose. The yew was long ago eradicated on the main island because of moose, which favor the yew over just about anything else. Well, the yew is starting to come back. I have a couple photos of the yews I found, but I don't have them immediately available as I write this post.