Isle Royale National Park Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Desor (1,394 feet)

Dates: June 16-17, 2008
Author: Adam Helman

Mouse-click on any photograph for enlargement.

This effort was part of a larger journey collecting state, national park, and Canadian provincial highpoints in June 2008.

The ferry from Grand Portage departs only every other day and returns the following day.

Furthermore, Isle Royale is by-and-large not accessible in the winter months since the ferries do not operate.

our island access mechanism

Bob Packard and I were upset that our primary dates were untenable since the return ferry was full. We agreed to wait-out the time by visiting the Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin state highpoints (largely for my sake); followed by an outbound Monday boat with a Tuesday return.

Three hours and 6.5 miles from the dock, at the backcountry trail junction leading to camp we hide our overnight packs and walk the remaining 2.3 miles to the nondescript "summit" of Mount Desor. This saves an 0.8 mile round-trip to/from camp.

Mosquitoes are an issue - as is the muddy ground at camp. To keep Bob's tent bottom clean I place a log near the entrance on which we sit and remove boots. Entry is rapid to mitigate mosquitos doing the same.

Our backcountry dinner includes creamy chicken alfredo pasta - frankly more enjoyable than reaching the highpoint with its swarms of mosquitoes.

Adam at the highpoint
with a mosquito issue

I carry five quarts of water so that I don't have to use any backcountry water of questionable contents (possible tapeworms not killed by iodine). I never used anything close to that amount.

I arise at 4:37 a.m. (already getting light) to "get out'a there" and easily make the return boat time at 12:30 p.m. During our late morning wait I purchase a green tee-shirt that glows in the dark with "footprints" of various park animals - including the moose and wolf which are intensely studied here for their predator/prey relationships.

Note: The boat arrives at Windigo Harbor at 10 a.m. and is followed by a mandatory ranger orientation. One can start hiking by 11 a.m. at the latest. Given that there's light until roughly 9 p.m. (mid-June), it should be possible to do the 17.6 mile round-trip, completely on-trail, before darkness. Hence one can do Mount Desor as a dayhike in the early summer. That said, one still would have to wait until the middle of the next day for the mainland-bound boat.

Coffee is free on the two-hour boat ride; candy bars are $1 each on an honors system with money placed in a tin.

narrow path leaves camp
Adam atop a board
avoiding damp ground.
closeup At camp, mud suggests
a plank for many items.