The Outside World, In and Around Duluth

Isle Royale: Day 7 (Moose, Fish and Moose)

Friday, May 29

Remember when I mentioned the tick/moose problem? Here’s a decent view of the hair loss:

Good Morning Moose!

This cow has rubbed (chewed?) off a good amount of hair from her shoulders and front legs, but even so, she doesn’t look too bad.The problem the moose have with all this missing hair becomes evident in the fall. That’s when they are using energy to regrow hair that they should be using to get fat for winter. So they go into winter behind the 8-ball, and it turns into a vicious cycle. Some might even call it… a vortex.

Well, I had climbed out of bed and was heading down to the outhouse when I saw her. She was eating those poplar saplings (or are they birch? Can’t tell from here) you can see right in front of her, and it was pretty cool to watch. She would reach over to the right, grab a sapling with her mouth at about 3′ or 4′ high, then she would zzzzzZZZZIP! the rest of the tree through her mouth, swinging her head up and to the left, pulling off almost all the leaves. It was amazing how efficient and methodical she was. I just sat and watched her for a while, snapping pictures. This was the best of the bunch, sadly.

I eventually left her on her own, took care of business and set about to making my own breakfast – yummy muesli!

Mmmmuesli

So this next part still amazes me. We were at Daisy Farm, and we just had to get across the harbor, over to the Edisen Fishery. It’s less than half a mile from the Daisy Farm dock to the Edisen dock. Here it is – I’m standing on the Daisy Farm dock, taking a picture of the Edisen dock:

...and Yet, So Far.

Here’s the deal – you have to hire a water taxi to get you across, and the water taxi is not cheap. But you really have no choice. Here – check the map:

You can see Daisy Farm, and right across Moskey Basin is the Edisen Fishery. Swimming is obviously out – even such a short distance in Lake Superior is not going to happen without a wetsuit (although it might be fun to try!). A canoe or kayak would be perfect, but also totally unrealistic – you only have with you the things you carried in. Hiking around Moskey Basin would only be half-feasible, since there’s no trail on the Edisen side. And bushwhacking can be fun, but it also slows you down significantly. So… the water taxi.

And here she is – the Julie Leigh, and her Captain Jim, giving us the safety talk:

The Julie Leigh

The other amusing thing is that she could only carry six people… and our group was seven. So – two trips. Oh well. Nothing to be done about that.

Here we are, coming up on the Edisen Fishery:

Edisen Fishery

The left-most building is the fish house – where the cleaning happened. Going left-to-right, the white house was the Edisen’s home. The plain wood-sided building was the workshop. The help (or grown children?) slept in the last white house (the one with the green roof).

Seeing this winch attached to the boat made me smile:

Old Boat Winch

The smile because every year, my Dad, brother and I always try to figure out the best way to pull the dock at my Dad’s out of the water. This winch looks like it would be just the thing!

And speaking of cool old tools – here’s a hand drill press the Edisen’s used for reaming out wooden floats for their gillnets:

Hand Drill Press

Seeing these old tools cheers me up for some reason. It’s as if, whenever the end of oil finally arrives, and we all find ourselves living significantly more locally than ever, we will still be able to be a positive, productive society, albeit  much closer-knit. We did it once without Wal-Mart and Menards… and we can do it again.

While here, Nathan and Andrew did their presentations, on historical fishing families and historical fishing techniques, respectively. The Sivertson family, a fixture in Duluth and along the North Shore, figured more prominently than I realized.

At about where the letter ‘E’ in Edisen Fishery is on the above map is the Bangsund Cabin, which is also the international headquarters of the Isle Royale Wolf-Moose Research Project.

Here’s the welcome sign:

Welcome!

This is pretty darn cool. Wolves and Moose came to Isle Royale by either swimming or walking across the ice from Northern MN or Canada. Either way is a significant journey – the nearest land is 15 miles away as the raven flies. Consider that our boat took 2.5 hours to make the crossing.

Now imagine moose swimming in the cold Lake Superior waters. Obviously, they would take a lot longer than the Voyageur II. Three times as long? Ten times as long? I understand that they are good swimmers, and I understand that their bodies are well adapted to cold temperatures. Even so, it is very difficult to get my head around the concept of moose swimming to the island en masse. Part of my difficulty is that it would need to be a significant number of moose making this trek, since there were obviously enough to establish a viable population. An amusing mental image, but hard to imagine the reality of a moose flotilla making its way across Lake Superior.

All of the researchers are pretty well agreed that they must have swum, since moose apparently HATE walking on ice. We heard a report of a moose walking across snow-covered ice during a storm, and the wind blowing the ice away. Apparently, the moose stood there and waited… for days apparently, until new snow came, and the moose was willing to continue walking to the other shore. On the other hand, I Googled ‘moose ice’ and found… not a lot, but several images of moose on bare ice. And also a lot of images of moose having fallen through the ice. So obviously, moose occasionally do walk on ice.

Here’s the last thing that gets me about moose traveling to Isle Royale. They apparently have a good sense of smell and sound, but their vision is terrible. Could they even see the island?

Well, anyway, it’s amusing how difficult it has been for me to reconcile the moose crossing. Wolves? No problem. Moose? I have moose issues, I guess.

Here is the Antler Garden:

New Antlers Every Year

Actually, it should be called the Skull and Antler Garden, but that does seem a bit macabre. But since we’re halfway down the macabre road, let’s keep going. Here’s the skull and antlers of a moose that was killed by wolves in 2008:

Moose Skull

This is the wind turbine they use to generate just enough power to get onto the internet:

Wind Turbine

Our water taxi was on a schedule, so although it would have been great to hang around at the Bangsund Cabin, we had to keep moving.

We spent a short bit of time at the Rock Harbor Lighthouse, during Rob’s presentation:

Rock Harbor Light

You can see how fast the water drops off here:

Pretty Drop Off

That also means that it comes up just as fast underwater in other places, hence the need for lighthouses.

Finally, it was time to catch our water taxi. Here we are, back on the Julie Leigh, waving goodbye to the Rock Harbor Light:

Leaving the Edisen Fishery and the Rock Harbor Light

The water taxi was bringing us directly to the Three Mile Campsite. So finally, here’s our map route of the day, this time over water:

As we pulled up to the Three Mile dock, we had to call the National Park HQ to find out how close we could get to the dock:

Three Mile Dock

Apparently, ice had busted up the cribbing underneath this dock, and the stones had poured out, making a propeller hazard for the water taxi. So the pilot nosed us in at that far right tip of the dock, and we all hopped out. No prop-dings.

We hiked up into the campsite and found a little snowshoe hare with not enough sense to run away:

A Horseshoe Hare?

In my excitement, I took to calling it a ‘horseshoe hare.’

Dinner was mashed potatoes and broccoli soup with biscuits:

Another Yummy Dinner

Here we all are, enjoying dinner:

...Dinner Was Good

And finally, dinner just isn’t complete without a little Yellow Rocket to decorate the table:

After dinner, a few of us decided to go hike up Mount Franklin. It was a two or three mile hike in fading light, but it was totally worth it. I took pictures, but they just don’t do it justice, so I won’t even bother putting them up. You’ll just have to imagine a beautiful sunset over Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay, with all of Isle Royale at our feet, and Lake Superior spreading all around us. Very special.

We hiked back in the gloaming (which is a word I don’t get to use nearly enough), and made it back to camp as dark-dark settled in. And then – to bed.

Wow, this was a big day. Next up: Our Penultimate Day (and Blueberry Soup).

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