The Spirit of Isle Royale, Part 1: Living and Breathing Island Life

TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson spent a week on the island at the end of May 2021.
A unique perspective to what makes Isle Royale unique
Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 9:34 AM EDT
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ISLE ROYALE, Mich. (WLUC) - Isle Royale is the country’s least visited national park, yet the most revisited.

About five years ago, TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson explored the island for the first time and just a few weeks ago, at the end of May returned to share the experience with all of you.

She set off on an eight day backpacking adventure with three other women. Their goals, to reset and tell the stories of a national park, so remote, there’s no cell phone service, WIFI, or vehicles. It takes a ferry ride and a lot of planning to make a trip to Isle Royale National Park a success. It’s not something you decide to do on a Friday and take off for on a Saturday.

In part one of her series, The Spirit of Isle Royale: Living and Breathing Island Life, Elizabeth dips into that magic from a woman who knows it better than most. We begin on the last full day of her trip in Rock Harbor.

Meet Marina Alexander, she’s an administrative assistant for Rock Harbor Lodge. She does a little bit of everything on the property, but her favorite title is boat captain. When she’s not helping out at the marina, restaurant or gift shop, she’s running the island’s fishing charters and water taxi.

“Besides the beauty and all the fun things we get to do out here,” says Alexander, “Are the people, I really enjoy working with people and interacting with them.”

At 25 years old, you could say Alexander grew up on the island. During the winter her family lived in Kentucky, but every summer for her entire life, she’s been in the middle of Lake Superior with her parents who manage the property.

“It was great, I have an older brother and an older sister,” added Alexander, “so growing up with them here, was just incredible. I mean this our back yard.”

It’s a place she’s proud to share, coordinating rooms at the lodge for visitors and offering her best tips on how to make a trip to Isle Royale a success.

“I think people’s anticipation from not being able to this year to now, it’s definitely very high - they’re looking forward to it a lot.”

So much so that the lodge with its 53 rooms and 20 cabins, all boasting unmatched views, are full for the season. They’re now booking into 2022.

Beyond the park’s backcountry campsites, Rock Harbor Lodge is the only lodging available on the island, and after a year with no guests, Alexander and the 60 other employees are anxious to get back to doing what they love.

“When you’re in the business of serving people and there’s nobody to serve, it’s really weird,” admits Alexander.

While visiting the island, Alexander took Elizabeth and her friends on one of her spirited boat rides, full of Isle Royale history and stories that can only be told by someone who’s living and breathing island life.

They’d spent eight days looking for a greenstone, Alexander found one in seconds.

They’d have missed the Rock Harbor Lighthouse entirely, one of the most iconic structures on the island.

The rocks, illegal to remove from the island, by the way and the structures, they’re all gems of Isle Royale, carried forward and preserved by a true island treasure.

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