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  • Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Isle Royale and My Pilgrimage to See a Moose, Part Six
    - Numbers 75 and 42 on my life list.

    Part Six: Final Day in Paradise
    Click Here for Part 1

    I woke up early the next morning to watch the sunrise for one last time over Lake Superior. I went back to the deck. I expected to see others enjoying the view, but I again had the deck to myself. Only this time, I sat on the east-facing bench. I didn’t leave until the sky passed its peak of red and orange.

    A couple of hours later, I was renting a kayak for one final adventure before boarding the Isle Royale Queen IV once again. I spent four hours circling Tobin Harbor hoping to catch another glimpse of moose. I didn’t see any but I did see two loons. I tried closing in on them to take a picture, but as I approached they would dive underwater for a minute or so and pop back up in another location, like real life whack-a-moles. They made me look like a fool as I paddled back and forth helplessly.

    I passed several small islands, some inhabited by people staying in cabins. I tried to paddle closer to two ducks, standing on a log floating in the lake. I hoped to snap a quick picture, but before I could get close enough their fight or flight instinct kicked in and they flew away. Just once, I want a duck to choose fight. That should keep things interesting. If nothing else I’d find out what I’m truly made of.

    I took the kayak back to the beach and returned my paddle and life jacket. I still had over two hours left on the island and decided to go on the harbor walk with a small group lead by Ranger Marcia. I learned about useful and edible plants that I wish I had known about before the hike. Most notably a small feathery plant that is said to relieve the itch of mosquito bites if rubbed on the skin.

    When we returned from the informative walk, they were loading gear and kayaks onto the boat. A long row of passengers lined up along its side. I wasn’t anywhere close to being ready to leave but I didn’t really have a choice. I sat again in the stern of the ship and watched as Isle Royale faded away, a depressing sight.

    When we docked at Copper Harbor, I got back into my car and drove straight through for thirteen hours. I was surprisingly wide-awake for almost the entire time. Although when driving past Fort Wayne, less than 40 miles from my house, sleep deprivation finally started to set in. I started to hallucinate, more than normal, or maybe I was asleep for seconds and dreaming. I occasionally imagined that something was running out in front of me. One looked like an 18” tall Sasquatch, although I’m fairly certain it wasn’t. With only 15 miles to go, the road appeared to drop off on the left side until my lane looked like a plateau on a ridge overlooking a shear drop off.

    I couldn’t take it anymore. This was not good. I stopped at a gas station and slept for an hour. I woke up suddenly, feeling like I had just fallen asleep for a moment, and finished the last 15 minutes of driving.

    It didn’t take long to find myself back into my routine, but Isle Royale will forever be a special place to me, a significant part of my timeline. I already want to plan a second trip but I have too many other things on my list to do. It’s not a Yahtzee; you don’t get bonus points for doing it more than once. Nevertheless, there is something unique about this place. It’s the most revisited national park in the country and now I know why. I think I’m going to add, ‘Circumnavigate Isle Royale in a kayak’ to my life list. It would still be a new experience and an excuse to return.

    All life is, is the present moment and a collection of memories from past moments. If I fill too much of my past with those repetitive, ignored memories and am not living in the here-and-now, then it’s no mystery why time is flying by. I used to spend my vacations at home, or close to it, thinking I couldn’t afford to do the things I wanted to do. I was wrong. (This trip was just over $300, including gas.) I have no good excuse for staying home. Life is too short and too important. These six days will never be forgotten, blocked out or ignored as insignificant. Every detail will be with me forever.

    < Part Five