It is just after 21:30 and already this adventure has had plenty of ups, downs and stalls. I should have known it would but I did not. maybe I should start believing in omens then at least I could say I would have, or should have, something to blame. After all the very first flight out of Detroit to Minneapolis-St. Paul ran rather late and that some would say set the trend. I eventually reached my hotel sometime past midnight and between re-packing and (justified) nerves I did not fall asleep until nearly 04:00. The sleep I did get was hardly the best.
I got to the airport for 10:00 seaplane flight in plenty of time and found a couple waiting too. Lisa and Nick were on their first Isle Royale visit and had an ambitious 3-night visit planned. Murphy's Law would intervene in the form of a bad seaplane muffler and that would throw a monkey wrench into their plans. We spent the next two hours talking about backpacking, Nick's musicianship, Lisa's retinal photography (more between her and Paul, the maintenance man at the airport), and other stuff. As we talked they changed their plan to a loop hike that was about the same length but would have a much shorter first day. We all will likely meet at Lane Cove.
We did not reach the island until about 13:00 and then between one thing and another, getting permits, checking gear (and finding some in less than working order), and a bite to eat I did not dip my kayak blade into Tobin Harbor until nearly 15:30 (inflating the Alpacka packraft definitely took longer than it should have).
What a great day though to be out. I had been having a terrible time staying awake during the seaplane flight over but once I got going on the island I felt alive and invigorated. An Isle Royale concessions employee (taking a break, day off) was relaxing at the seaplane dock as I worked on the boat and she got some hopefully good shots of me getting ready to paddle slowly across the harbor to my first, and likely worst, portage of the trip. It was warm, bright, with a breeze (headwind and cross wind for my purposes, less than 7 MPH) and I was ready to go.
The paddling did not feel hard though I will not be surprised if my body disagrees with that feeling in the morning. I found the portage, a lovely little beach, without trouble and began the task of getting set for the 0.8 mile hike (about 170 feet of ascent; 170 feet of descent). It takes time to undo the restraining ropes that help hold my pack in place. I had way too much rope and have already shortened the rope considerably. As I finished a kayaking duo, father and child maybe, came by to say hello. We chatted for a bit before going our separate ways. I would not be surprised if they were not only back at Rock Harbor Lodge before I reached Duncan Bay but that they had time to both shower and change. It was awkward carrying the packraft over the slightly steep and slightly rocky ground. It is light but hard to hold and you need tot take care not to puncture it. The Alpacka isn't some 75 pound Grumman canoe you can just manhandle. I think I took nearly an hour to reach the put-in point at Duncan Bay and then put myself in. I hope I get more efficient at this as time goes by. No doubt I'll learn more about what the Alpacka's skin can take and that will make a big difference too.
The paddling was again easy though very slow. I moved slowly down the bay first crossing to a central island that I first mistook for the bay's northern shore and then slowly, sedately, down the shoreline. I would pause at promising spots and reject them. I wish I could say it was because of great navigation skills but it was not. When I reached the end of the island and understood my error I also knew I had to be close. I paddled through 2 small islands, getting stuck on a submerged rock for a bit which served as a fine place to pause. I moved on south through a wonderfully weed filled area (tall brown stalks that if they were fuzzy might look a lot like cat and nine tails. Though I suppose they're just some sort of grass.).
I was starting to wonder where the portage was by now. I thought it was right in that area, maybe just south but I did not see it. I had learned by now that I was going even slower than my first guesses about speed had me believing but this was worrisome. You really need to use the portages because they are the few spots that do not have precipitous drops to the water line (which does not mean they aren't rocky).
As I moved along the shore I also started to look for the campground. In this I was really off because though I knew it was on a point I had forgotten it was just west of me. Then I heard voices drifting across the bay almost directly across from my current location and I went to seek them out. I found a handful of friendly canoers and we hit it right off. They showed me how I had probably just missed the portage by a meager bit when I went between the two small islands. But maybe it was for the best because the waters off the next bay were likely choppy with the winds from the southwest. I will not go to Lane Cove. However, Duncan Bay is quite nice and I am not really unhappy. The people are friendly, the shelter good, and the loons remarkably loud across the now glass smooth bay. Tomorrow I will likely re-trace my steps to the Duncan Bay-Tobin Harbor portage and hike to Daisy Farm or Moskey Basin.