The Outside World, In and Around Duluth

Isle Royale: Day 8 (Hot Blueberry Soup)

Saturday, May 29

Every morning, I’d wake up and immediately pack up my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, etc. Here was my typical morning view, as I’m about to leave the tent:

Morning in the Vestibule

Today, we were making the relatively short hike from Three Mile to Rock Harbor:

Our Last Move

On this map, you can see the word ‘Rock’ and a line. The Rock Harbor area was a huge series of campsite and docking areas. A megalopolis, in comparison to everywhere we had been so far.

The hike was right along the shore, and was cool and rocky, and very enjoyable. We stopped at Suzy’s Cave for one of our last lessons, this one on geology. Suzy’s Cave was not formed by mining, as so many of the other caves on the island have been. Suzy’s was carved out by geologic forces, similar to (but much smaller scale than) the Apostle Island Sea Caves.

We pulled into our last campsite, at one of the Rock Harbor group sites, and set up camp. Holy cow, luxury of luxuries – there was a spigot with clean running water, only about five minutes from our site! Oh, the decadence.

Once camp was set, we headed over to hike Scoville Point. Before getting there, we stopped at the gift shop and gawked at all the clean, new stuff. I normally pick up a memorial coffee mug when I do trips like this, but the time wasn’t right, and none of the mugs there were doing it for me anyway. So on to the Stoll Trail:

Albert Stoll Trail

Albert Stoll figured heavily in my CCC presentation. He was the Detroit newspaperman who really championed the idea of the creation of the Isle Royale National Park. I think of Stoll in the same was as we might think of Sam Cook today. An outdoorsy guy who used his influence at the paper to make things happen.

Here’s another interpretive trail sign about the lichens of Isle Royale:


The reason I bring up the interpretive sign thing is that there really hadn’t been any on the whole trip. This little section of trail was specifically different in that regard – the Stoll Trail had several interpretive signs like this. The National Park Service has a lot of guidelines about when and where to intrude on the nature experience, and when and where to step back and let the environment speak for itself. We had a number of conversations during our trip about the National Park Service’s method of delivering interpretation, via signage or through human interpreters. It would have been nice to have had the opportunity to have seen more interpretive presentations from NPS staff, but we were there so early in the season, that their schedules were still getting ironed out.

Another neat aspect of the Stoll Trail is that it was a condensed version of our entire trip. The various interpretive signage distilled in a paragraph all of the presentations that we had given during our trek across the island.

And speaking of presentations, Tom kept telling Matt that Scoville Point was where we were going to hit the orchid motherlode. Not so much, as it turned out. It had been so warm so early and for so long that all the wildflowers were weeks farther along than normal. And for all these spring ephemerals, the trees were leafing out, and the wildflowers were just about wrapping up their show for the year. All that in mind, we did find a few orchids – here’s a crummy picture of the Calypso Orchid:

Can You See the Dreadlocks?

I actually prefer another of its names – the Fairy Slipper. This picture doesn’t show it, but you really can see the slipper shape. And what a nice image, isn’t it?

Here we are, continuing on, farther out onto Scoville Point:

... Lake Superior on the Right

We finally got out to the end, and Tom had us all explore, journal or nap while he prepared a special treat. This picture shows Tom below, getting water to heat:

Fetching Water

We think this little house is where the artist of the Artist in Residence program stays. Whoever stays here, this would be an awesome place to be during a big storm.

Here’s Matt, journaling with Lake Superior:

Matt and Lake Superior

It was a little windy, and the water took a long time to get to a boil. Here’s Tom, watching the pot:

A Watched Pot Never Boils

But eventually, it did.

In Sweden, during cross country ski races (and many other endeavors, I’m sure), you eat, among other things, hot blueberry soup. Because there was a cool wind blowing off Lake Superior, a hot soup sounded tasty. And it was.

Here’s Tom, scooping soup:


BLÅBÄRSSOPPA is, of course, Swedish for Blueberry  Soup. How do I know? Because IKEA told me so. And if you would like some of your own Blueberry Soup, you can pick some up from your local IKEA. A really great treat as we were starting to wrap up and wind down.

On the hike back to camp, we saw lots of Old Man’s Beard. Do you remember its family name, from the lichen sign? Hover over this picture for the answer:

We Called it Old Man's Beard

We called it Old Man’s Beard, and it’s also called Methuselah’s Beard, or Beard Lichen. It would more correctly be called an epiphytic usnea. The word ‘epiphytic’ means that it derives all its nutrition directly from the air. Usnea is its taxonomic genus. Here’s the full run-down:

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class: Ascomycetes
Order: Lecanorales
Family: Parmeliaceae
Genus: Usnea (and then there are a whole bunch of sub-variants that scientists continue to classify and re-classify)

It lives on the trees, but does not draw any nutrition from them. I just think that’s darn cool. These types of lichens (usnea) are strong indicator of air quality, since it is taking in everything in the air. When you see these lichen, you can know that the air in that area is clean. When there is pollution in the air, these lichens die and disappear. Even around Duluth, the only place I see usnea is out at my folk’s place on Little Alden Lake, which is about 25 miles out of Duluth.

We finally got back to camp and made dinner – macaroni and cheese with mashed potatoes:


Some foods are improved by combining. Some are not. This was definitely the latter. Still edible, though.

And cheesecake for dessert:


I’m not sure why, but this cheesecake was not as good or as quickly devoured as the Todd Harbor Cheesecake.

And finally, a few days earlier, Matt had us all collect Bog Labrador leaves to make a tea:

Bog Labrador Tea

The tea itself was nothing special (at least, to me), but the conversation we had drinking it was very interesting.

As it got dark, we stood around, talking about culture, technology, education, and how it all fit into place. How Facebook was a good thing and a bad thing. How iPods helped learning and isolated people. Current events and future trends. It was a wide-ranging, and too-short conversation. I’d like to get in more of those.

Here ends our final night on the island.

Next Up: Taking Tests and Heading Home


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