Isle Royale: Day 9 (Taking Tests and Heading Home)
Sunday, May 30
This is it. The final post of this epic Isle Royale saga. Thanks for sticking with it.
Here’s the Voyageur II, in her overnight berth at Rock Harbor:
We were up at 5:30, broke camp and had everything at the dock by about 6am or so, and then we had breakfast. Our last 24 hours on the island were on the ‘eat as much as you can!’ plan.
We spent the couple of hours before leaving wandering around Rock Harbor. Here’ s Patrick, looking out at the lake:
We also visited the historical dock that served the America, a ship that sunk in 1928. On the path to the dock, we found an odd CCC memorial. It was an old lockable display case under a big shelter, with the names of the CCC companies that were stationed on the island. We decided that it looked as if a veteran of the CCC donated $5000 for the creation of a memorial to the boys who worked on Isle Royale, and although the National Park Service wasn’t wild about the idea, they didn’t turn down the money, and built this out-of-the-way memorial and hasn’t done a thing to it since then.
Well, finally it was time to board the Voyageur II for the ride home. Since this was a class, an assessment of our learning was required – our final exam! It was broken into five major sections, and we drew on all the different things we had learned to tell the stories of Isle Royale. Here are Nathan and Andrew, mid-exam:
Having an exam on the boat is a good way to spend the ride. We left Rock Harbor, sailed around the south side of the island (about five hours), and stopped back at Windigo before heading home to Grand Portage (another 2-3 hours). You can see our route on the dotted line around the southern side of the island on this map:
What a unique and fun experience, to do your final on a boat. There were a few times, out away from the shelter of the island where the chop made writing a little difficult, but even that experience was cool. Another unique aspect of a very unique class.
We pulled into the last stop – Windigo – which is where the whole trip started. We spent a few minutes here, so we were able to leave the boat, which was nice. I never did get seasick, but it was nice to walk around a bit, one last time before the crossing. We also got a brief visit from Sean, our classmate and a summer ranger on the island. Here is our boat, from the Windigo ranger station:
As I was walking back, I saw this small NPS boat, and had to laugh at its name:
This is funny, because we saw red-breasted mergansers the length of the island, but we never did see a common merganser. The common wasn’t so common.
I don’t know why, but I didn’t take a picture of this welcome sign on the way in, but here it is on the way out:
And with that, we were off. Back on the boat and heading home.
Here’s the lower interior cabin:
The little stairway leads up to the wheelhouse. And immediately below the wheelhouse, you can see the head and galley.
Here is the last picture, the final place where island and lake are still together. After this, it’s only lake and sky:
One of the things I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about was the idea of ‘Place Based Education.’ From this brief encounter, I found that learning the wildflowers, animals, history and relevance of a place – while in that place – was a much more profound way to learn than a traditional classroom experience. This is what I am finding especially valuable with my outdoor/environmental education. I don’t see a lot of other departments spending a lot of time with so much experiential learning. I don’t know if there’s something called ‘deep learning,’ but if there were, this would definitely be an effective method for using it. Before we left for Isle Royale, I remember thinking, ‘boy, people sure do make a big deal about this place.’ But I think that the big deal comes from the intention required to be there. Unlike with most other places, you need to make an investment to be on Isle Royale. When you combine the intention for wanting to be there with the place-based education that happens when you are there, this is where the deep learning happens.
And thus ends this travelogue. Thanks for reading!