In July we boarded the Isle Royale Queen and churned slowly out of Copper Harbor, past the Harbor Haus and the lighthouse, into the open water of Lake Superior toward Isle Royale. It was just the two of us, the teenage chic and me. The Finn stayed behind with the dogs, fishing for trout in the Keweenaw, roasting green Nicaraguan coffee beans in the garage.
The chic forgot her hat, so the Finn tossed her his. “You better only try it for a few days,” he warned me. “There’s your back, your knee. It might rain.” The hat thing worries him. “Take care of the chic and put your Seabands on. We’ll eat trout when you come home.” He’s spent the weekend tutoring us on the water filter, the camp stove, weighing which knife we should carry, stuffing our packs with plenty of bug dope. My pack is 35 pounds; the chic is carrying 30. We protest any addition, but bug dope has gotta come.
The Seabands turn out to be overkill. Lake Superior is calm, resting up for September, perhaps. The three-hour trip is long, uneventful, except for the diversion of an obnoxious father whining continuously at his child, “David, stop that. Please sit up.” They won’t be littering the trail. They’re staying at the lodge. We slide away from the family and dig out the map, burying ourselves in its details, tracing our route again and again while the Keweenaw melts from view.
An hour out from Rock Harbor, we pack up the map and head for the cool air of the bow and the first hazy views of the 45-mile island. The bow fills as we near the shore. The Captain gives us each our instructions, day trippers, lodge guests, backpackers, canoeists. I’m hoping the Finn has told me all I need to know.