I found that moose family. My luck is changing -- or at least it changed for one day. Right where my brother Captain Don had seen a moose cow and her twins several days before, I saw the same family. This was down the Scoville Point Trail on the Rock Harbor side. There are a number of small swamps and wet spots along the trail, and one of these about 3/4s of a mile northeast of the Rock Harbor Lodge has a wide moose trail alongside the swamp. The moose were nervous, but I stood and took photos from about 40 feet away for some minutes. Then they moved off up the moose trail. I tried to follow at about 50 feet, but the mother led me deep into a mossy swamp that was very wet with recent rains. My pants were quickly soaked, though my feet were dry. I couldn't keep up and had to abandon the chase. I'll be checking back over the next month and keeping my eyes peeled.
Here's something a little different. This is a shot of a filet of Isle Royale lake trout in the frying pan back home in Copper Harbor. This delicious -- unbelievably fresh and delicious -- pink beauty was caught by my brother, Captain John Kilpela. He fished just outside Rock Harbor last week, fairly closer to the Rock Harbor Lodge, and caught a three-pounder. He kept one filet and gave the other to my wife Marsha and me. We split it with my son Logan and had a great meal (son Drew doesn't favor fish). John doesn't like frying fish, but I think trout is just superb just about any way you can get them cooked, though I prefer breaded and deep-fried. I've been hearing on the island that the trout are coming very close to shore and are being caught in very shallow waters, especially for this time of summer, when the Lake is beginning, at last, to warm up a bit. The water is still very cold, of course. The nearshore temperatures are only 45 degrees or so, but that's cold for mid-June. Though spring is very late, we have had a great week of weather this past week. The long-range forecast looks great as well.
My brother, Captain Don, told me on Monday that he had seen a cow moose and two newborn calves, twins clearly, on the Scoville Point Trail on Monday afternoon while he was at the island on the Queen IV's regular run. On Tuesday, I served as captain on the run and went down toward Scoville Point to check out the many swamps along the way to see whether I could find those three moose. I criss-crossed several the the swamps down that way, a mile or so east of the Rock Harbor Lodge and marina, where the Queen IV docks. I went up the ridge toward Tobin Harbor, back down again toward Rock Harbor through the wetlands. The photo is of what it looks like to cross a swamp on Isle Royale. What you can't quite see is all the water lying beneath the grass and other vegetation. The trees, wickedly tangled as they are, are tag alders, typical of north-country swamps. The forest floor is covered with old blown-down trees which are now rotting and covered in moss and grasses and other sundry plants. It's hard work crossing these swamps, but the moose do it all the time. You can find their soggy, beaten trails throughout these areas. I saw lots of tracks, large and small (those young moose, presumably), but I had no luck finding the family of moose Don saw, which you might have guessed since I didn't post a photo of them. One has to have time and patience to see wildlife out at the island. Luck, too. Alas, I am pretty unlucky when it comes to moose hunting. But, wouldn't you know, two elderly ladies on a stroll saw a couple moose down the Rock Harbor Trail on the same afternoon.
During my first hike in the springtime this year at Isle Royale (last week, because spring comes so much later on the island than on the MI mainland), I ran across a patch of calypso orchids on the Tobin Harbor Trail down near Scoville Point. These little flowers can be difficult to find, but the vegetation is still low, making it easier to find them -- if the flowers have come out at all, that is. These are a little early for the late conditions on IR, but there they were, in full bloom. The blooms are very small, perhaps no more than an inch across, but they are very pretty. I laid down in a soggy meadow near the trail to get this shot of one of the orchiods in a small group that contained about 8 of the small flowers. Of course, wildflower season is one of the best reasons to take your trip to IR in June rather than later in the summer.
Lots of people love aspens in the fall., mostly for those gorgeous yellows that the aspen leaves turn, making such wonderfully golden photographs. But I like aspens a lot in the spring, too, a time that few people seem to focus on or notice. Isle Royale has a lot of aspens, especially on the rugged northeast end, and their new leaves turn a bright shade of light green in the spring. It's spring right now on the island, and so a lot of the ridges on the northeast end of the island are covered in spring aspens, like the one in the photograph, which I shot down near Scoville Point a couple days back. Wow, was it chilly out there along the lakeshore, even with the sun out. But that, of course, makes for great backpacking conditions.
I made my first trip out to Isle Royale this week. It is mid-spring out on the island right now, very different conditions from what most people expect to find at this time of year. It feels like summer across the Midwest (well, maybe not this year, what with May being so cool), but I would guess that the island is at least 2 weeks behind conditions on the Keweenaw Peninsula, which is 2 weeks or so behind the rest of the state. Here is a shot of a meadow on the Tobin Harbor Trail. You can see that the vegetation is just coming up. This meadow will be dense with tall and short plants of all sorts, including the 3-4 foot high thimbleberry plants that are just coming up in the foreground. In 2 weeks or so, this meadow will look very different. More shots of spring coming in the next couple days.