Our day off. We had a respite from cycling to take the ferry from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor on Isle Royale National Park. Rich was like a little kid, he was so excited. It was his first time on Isle Royale and he’d never crossed the middle of Lake Superior before. My anticipation took a slightly different angle. I was looking forward to returning to Isle Royale after a visit 40 (ouch!) years ago. And I was game to take the ferry, even though I have consistently been prone to seasickness. After all, it was an adventure.
The first sound I heard upon waking this morning was the lines of a nearby sailboat clanking against the mast, and the wind whistling through our open windows. I chose to think positively and put my faith in the Bonine that I took prior to boarding the boat. The sun was shining, we watched in amazement as they hoisted our bikes, panniers and all, with a single hand up to the top storage deck, and mingled with the hearty hikers boarding the boat.
It was a four hour crossing, and I made it less than an hour inside the cabin. As soon as we cleared the harbor, we were in deep swells. I watched wide-eyed as the horizon alternately dipped then rose out of sight on the opposite side. Wow, I’d never been in seas like this before! But my confidence remained high, and surprisingly I was not scared as the boat pitched and tossed at wild angles. Before long, however, I took stock of my body and gamely trained my eyes on the horizon on our side of the boat. It was much more stable in comparison. But the water won.
Soon I was dashing out the door onto the back deck of the boat. There I firmly gripped the railing and leaned over the side as advised by the crew. When that first wave of retching subsided (and it was only the first of many) I determined that I was there to stay. I firmly planted my feet apart, tightened my noose-like hold on the railing, and set my sights on the disappearing Michigan mainland straight being us. I used my legs to absorb the sway of the boat, desperately working to keep my upper body as verticle as possible. The fresh air that blew around me felt good, if only it hadn’t been tainted by diesel fumes.
It was an interminable three more hours. I found weak fascination in watching the clashing waves and gusty spray that created myriad patterns behind the boat. But that’s about all I had to engage my brain. Looking left or right was not an option, nor was talking. Not that my companions were interested in lively conversation. I had plenty of company out there, all in the same state. It’s no wonder, as we were in 6 foot swells. The crew described it as “worse than average” but not out of the norm for this time of year. If standing under the trees shivering in the pouring rain was miserable, this was abject agony. I would much rather have been cycling, even struggling up the steepest hill.
Rich suffered no such affectation, wouldn’t you know. On his visit out to commiserate with me, he was bouncing all around, looking at everything and clearly enjoying himself. All I wanted was to block him from my peripheral vision – I couldn’t handle the additional motion. He spent time out on the front deck, hanging on for dear life, getting hit by the spray, but loving it. I had to rely on his pictures to relive the scenic entrance to Isle Royale after the fact.
It took a nap and a few bites of salty crackers to restore any semblance of normalcy once we reached shore. But I was relieved to rally enough to get outside to explore our small area of the island and take a canoe out with Rich to paddle the pristine waterway in Tobin Harbor. Ironically, I didn’t mind being back out on the water. It was flat and calm there, and shore was only a few strokes away. We paddled in search of the cabin still owned by a friend, the last generation of his family to be allowed to hold private property in the park. In the vast expanse of wilderness here, we saw little harm that the remaining cabins posed.
Isle Royale is a beautiful place. Its deeply forested terrain and rocky shores bordered by deep blue waters were especially nice on a sunny, warm day like today. I would like to have gotten out for a short hike, but Rich was dedicated to keeping it a rest day, and certainly my body needed it. So like the other lodge guests, who are staying in relative luxury compared to the hikers, we took advantage of the amenities while still appreciating the nature all around us.
Tomorrow it’s back to cycling again. But not until I brave another ferry ride over to the Minnesota side. Some travelers who arrived on that boat today clued me in to the first mate, Kirk. They vouched for him as a venerable seasickness coach. Kirk, I’ll be looking for you tomorrow morning.