If you were to fly to Detroit and then get in a car and drive due north, you would arrive five hours later at the Mackinac Bridge, a giant graceful span connecting Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas. If you continued across the bridge and northwest from there another six hours, you would arrive at the tip of an isolated point of land that juts into Lake Superior’s vastness. From there if you continued by water for another three hours, you would arrive at one of the planet’s little known but most precious gems, Isle Royale National Park.
Isle Royale is the country’s least visited national park, and for good reason: It’s so ridiculously hard to get there. The wave-tossed boat ride over is infamous for forcing passengers to surrender their breakfasts over the rail. But the remoteness is key to the charm. There are no cars, no crowds, no (well, few) conveniences. I just returned from 11 days of backpacking on Isle Royale with my good friend, Pete Kelly, and I can say it was worth the logistical hurdles.
Pete and I have been backpacking together since we were undergraduates at Central Michigan University in the 1970s. Last year we spent a week on a backcountry trail in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. But this trip was extra special, something we have been talking about for the past thirty years.