We get up early because it’s a 50-mile drive to our 8:30 a.m. boat departure in Grand Portage, MN. And, we have to pass through U.S. Customs first. Walt and I are both the type of people who would rather get up extra early to make sure that we’re at the dock well ahead of schedule rather than face the stress of being rushed. I know people who sail through life perpetually late or just catching the boat/plane/train but that’s not us.
We both have Global Entry passes, which identify us as “trusted travelers” when we return from out of the country, so our time in U.S. Customs is less than 10 minutes, with no unpacking/repacking of the car, for which we’re very grateful.
We find our way to the Grand Portage (I keep pronouncing it the French way, “poor-tahge” but the locals pronounce it “port-tidge”) dock in plenty of time. There’s a lot of other overnight hikers in line for the boat and we’re in awe of the size packs people carry. Our HMG ultralight packs aren’t meant to carry more than 30 pounds or so, and that’s about what we’re each carrying. When we hand over our packs to Trent, one of the boat crew, he smiles and says, “I like you guys. You pack light.” There are many, many packs weighing 50 and 60 pounds (we know because Walt helps unload the packs when we reach the island).
The boat ride is fairly uneventful although chilly because it’s overcast and we’re in Lake Superior.
When we get to the island, we check in at the ranger station for our permit. It’s supposed to cost $7/day per person but thanks to Walt’s National Park Senior Pass – the best $10 he’s ever spent – we pay nothing. We are starting from Windigo Bay and had planned to hike some 40 miles down to Rock Harbor but we’ve realized that by the time we’re on the trail today it’s going to be noon and we really don’t feel like doing four 10-mile days just four days after having completed La Cloche.
Talking to the ranger, we decide to do the 30-mile Feldtmann Loop, with the warning that it’s been a wet summer and there are “lush trail conditions,” meaning ferns and grasses have grown into the trail in some spots. She assures us that the trail is otherwise in good shape and we’re unlikely to hit more than a very short spot of the boggy conditions that caused my La Cloche meltdown. OK.
Off we go up the Greenstone Ridge Trail, a gentle uphill six miles to a campground where we can pick any empty campsite, have a fire if there’s a metal fire ring and use a privy (with walls and a door).
I can’t help thinking that this trail is probably what most non-hikers imagine a trail to be: lots of pine needles, a few roots, a couple of muddy spots but essentially just a gentle walk in the woods. It may be easy but it’s boring! There are no views, just lots of trees overhead and all around us. Same goes for the Island Mine campground when we hit it.
We set up camp and have an early dinner; it’s been a long day and we’re in the tent before it’s dark.