The reason we'd pressed so far north? Isle Royale National Park.
Isle Royale is the sixth least-visited national park - the least visited outside Alaska and American Samoa. The reason why? Well, first, it's kinda out of the way - in the middle of Lake Superior, requiring a three-hour boat ride to get there. Second, it's expensive. The ferry fee alone means if you're headed to this park, it's because you've scouted it out in advance.
Most people come to Isle Royale with serious gear, planning to hike along the island. My family is more the 'enjoy nature from your comfy cabin' sort. After being dropped off at Rock Harbor, we checked into our lakeside room at the lodge. The whole place had a slightly 'bougie summer camp'-vibe.
Eager to explore the wilderness beyond, we headed out on our first hike. I picked the 3.8 mile loop out to Suzy's Cave. I was on the lookout for my wolf, as Isle Royale has a couple of small packs. In fact, the island is the only place in America where wolves and moose live together without the presence of bears. Both animals come and go on the ice bridge that occasionally forms between the island and the Canadian coastline - a great indicator of how cold it can get in winter.
We made it out to the cave before my parents had to take a long break. They had misunderstood me when I'd said it would be about two miles there and two miles back - thinking I'd meant two miles total. Oops. We did, however, see this curious mark in the dirt. Battered wolf track, or a hiker hand-plant?
Deciding to take it easy for the rest of the afternoon, we relaxed at the lodge and enjoyed sunset down at the 'America' dock. Some of us in our pajamas.
The following day, we set out to go canoeing on Tobin Harbor. We'd seen a bit of this inlet the day before, sparkling through the trees. While we were told it's one of the better places to see moose on the island, they weren't out that day. The strong wind on the water made it difficult to navigate, so we pulled up on dry land within half an hour, in time to watch a seaplane land.
We were better prepared for the 4.2 mile loop out to Scoville Point that afternoon. While our previous day's hike had led us through the woods, the hike out to the point was a nice mix of trees and coastline, as well as practically every wildflower known to man.
Mom and I splurged and had a pizza dinner at the restaurant. About the time the late afternoon ferry rolled in, so did the fog. It was a very peaceful, firework-free fourth of July. I wondered who'd won the World Cup games I'd missed, as aside from the park rangers' radio, the island is totally cut off from the world.
The next morning, we had time to attend a quick ranger program on local wildlife before hopping back on the ferry. We had an interesting conversation with a guy who'd been to the 2006 World Cup and insisted the whole thing - from ticketing to results - was rigged. As our boat pulled in to Copper Harbor, we were greeted by the Harbor Haus waitstaff, ringing the bell and dancing a little can-can for us.