By David Fleet
Isle Royale — Earlier this month seven scouts and three leaders from Troop 340 out of Goodrich, made the 570 mile trek to Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, followed by a three and a half hour boat ride on Lake Superior northwest to Isle Royale. “The scouts wanted something a little bit more challenging for a high adventure, said Alex Sennabaum, assistant scoutmaster. “Backpacking is about the most physically demanding of all the high adventures you can do.”
Michigan’s only National Park, the island is about 45 miles long, and 10 miles wide, spanning 570,000 acres of forest. Isle Royale National Park is only open from mid-April to the end of October, with June-September considered prime hiking and camping months. The island is about 30 miles from Thunder Bay, Ontario
“We hiked a loop half way around and back, a shade under 50 miles,” said Sennabaum, a Goodrich resident and Clarkston Junior High teacher. “It’s rough terrain, you’re going up about 500 feet and down. It’s very rustic, the rocks are about knee high that must be climbed over. Some trails are boards over beaver swamps. We all had blisters and sore knees. Our packs weighed about 50 pounds and all we carried in we carried out.”
At one point during its history, commercial fisherman, copper miners and lumberjacks had ventured to Isle Royale, but today the isolated outpost remains wilderness. The archipelago includes more than 400 islands. According to the park service there are about 1,300 moose on the island and 28 wolves.
“We did not see any moose until the fourth or fifth to the last day,” he said. “Bull moose and cow and calf. Then we saw many. However, we never encountered any wolves although some scouts heard them in the night.”
The scouts experienced an environment where darkness did not arrive until 11:30 p.m., and then only lasted for about four hours, he added. There was no cell service and the entertainment featured fog rolling in off Lake Superior.
“They realized the isolation,” he said. “There was a sense of no help on the way, it’s true wilderness.”
All surface lake and stream water on the island is considered contaminated with pathogens. As a results, all drinking water, even Lake Superior was filtered by the scouts.
A few remnants of open pit copper mines remain. A commercial fishing company is active on the island and there are two hotels open June-September.
“If you want to see the true wilderness of the island, you need to backpack,” he said.
“It’s a great trip,” said Sennabaum. “These sorts of high adventures are a culmination of what Boy Scouts is all about. You learn all sorts of skills and knowledge about the wilderness, patriotism, citizenship and service to your community. But when you’re backpacking with your fellow scouts whom you’ve known since elementary school in an isolated environment, it’s a learning experience that kids will remember for the rest of their lives. They all wanted to go back.”
By David Fleet