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The Spirit of Isle Royale, Part 2: Planning, Exploring and Reconnecting

TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson spent a week on the island at the end of May 2021.
Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 8:33 AM EDT
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Isle Royale, Mich. (WLUC) - TV6′s Elizabeth Peterson, along with Kristin Ojaniemi from Discovering and their friends Cindy Baker and Teal Rintala took off for eight days into the untouched wilderness of Isle Royale, each of them having their own unique reasons for going to Isle Royale.

“For the memories, for the minutes” said Cindy Baker. “To take the time to do something really wonderful with really great people and take a break.”

Kristin Ojanimi added, “It’s something that’s kind of in our backyard that I’ve never been before, it’s just one of those places you have to go and see and experience I think.”

Whatever the reason, once you decide, it takes planning and patience.

Their trip started with a three hour ferry ride from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor. On a calm, but cool and foggy morning, they showed up with eight days worth of dried food, the essentials for rain and possible snow and the necessary medical equipment in case of an injury. Each of their packs weighed between 40 and 50 pounds.

“I packed and repacked my backpack, I don’t know how many times,” laughed Ojaniemi, “but I think that was more to do with the excitement of coming out here, I was just ready.”

The four women were ready and were off! Their first day, backpacking just a few miles along the shore before setting up camp and settling in for the night. After a chilly start on the ferry they were thrilled to get a shelter to sleep in. Shelters on Isle Royale are on a first come, first serve basis. They ended up with one every night of their trip.

Just a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of their lives and already they were all feeling that pull from nature, the one that says, relax, we’re gonna spend some much needed time together.

“It allows you to totally connect with nature and be your true oneself with no distractions,” said Teal Rintala. “It’s total inner peace, when you’re here.”

“I think we all need those moments to just take a breath and sit in the quiet and this is a wonderful place to do just that,” said Peterson.

They woke up to make breakfast and take in the beauty of the island, it was as if they were the only ones there, and yet, tracks and droppings on the trail showed them, they were not alone.

They spent time sitting alone in the quiet morning. And they slowly packed up for their next hike, filtering water, preparing for another six miles.

“It’s just really beautiful, said Baker. “There’s so much to see, and there’s so many feelings to have, and there’s so many different textures to the land - when you’re hiking you experience everything.”

Once at their second campsite, they took off for a day hike, another four miles for the day. They talked a lot but they also hiked quietly. Perhaps waiting for that first moose sighting or perhaps to just soak it all in.

“We weren’t doing extreme hikes everyday”, said Ojaniemi, “and I think that really gave us a chance to look around and explore our surroundings.”

The beauty of Isle Royale was everywhere. It didn’t need to be searched for or sought out. It was there in every step, in the thunderstorm that night and in the beaver working on his dam that morning.

They woke up to catch a ferry to Windigo - the part of the trip Peterson was most nervous about - and watching the boat come through the harbor - she knew the boat ride, on a choppy Lake Superior would be the part of the trip most challenging for her.

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