On 7/11 I got to run a marathon on majestic Isle Royale National Park. Isle Royale is one of the least visited parks however, according to Ranger Kim, has one of the highest repeat visitor rates in the entire park system. People who come to Isle Royale keep coming back.
Why do they return? Solitude. Quiet. A feeling of ancient strength. That area of the country is very old. You can feel it. My friend Rob and I were talking with a family during lunch. Ends up the father is a geologist. He was excited (like a kid) because you can find rocks in Isle Royale from the time on earth before there was little to no oxygen. That is OLD.
And, it is not like it is easy to get to. There are two options, seaplane and passenger ferry. We took the Isle Royale Queen IV passenger ferry out of Copper Harbor, Michigan. According to the captain at 3.5 hours it is the longest passenger ferry in the United States. The conditions on Lake Superior change drastically from day to day. On the way over, smooth as glass; on the way back, almost barfing. My good friend Rob accompanied me on the trip. He and his wife Elizabeth were very gracious to sponsor my stay at the Rock Harbor Lodge and it was nice to have company.
I worked with Ranger Kim and Ranger Chris to map out a course. The rangers have been extremely helpful at every park I’ve visited. There are over 165 miles of trails on the island but I needed a route that got me back to Rock Harbor. I ran the Tobin Harbor trail to the Mount Franklin trail to the Greenstone Ridge Trail. From there I ran straight to East Chickenbone lake and turned around. On the way back I diverted down to the Daisy Farm trail to the Rock Harbor Trail and back to the lodge.
I didn’t see too many people on the run. The terrain varied from single track to hard rock surface. What I really liked about Isle Royale is that it is completely runnable. There are some technical spots and a little climbing but if you want to trail RUN, really get your stride, this is the place.
Normally I run to enjoy myself, no pace, no target time. I mostly did this in Isle Royale but I was chasing the weather. It was 58 degrees when I started and not expected to get too much warmer. There was also a threat of rain. I got through the run in around five and a half hours. I only got spritzed on once or twice by the cloud cover. It was a perfect day for running. Mother Weather saved it up because that night we had a hell of a thunderstorm.
While it was a quick trip I loved the time in Isle Royale. It does have an ancient feel even more than some of the older mountains I’ve visited in the east. You feel like you are running with old, old spirits; the animals, the plants, the earth. I can now add my spirit to that land.