“Here we are. Ready for our 8.5 mile hike to Feldman Lake. Fish are waiting to be caught.” Photos submitted
By Ruth Hanson
Linda Walbruch had hiked on Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior for many years before her hiking partner decided not to go again.
Linda's husband, John, had two hip replacements and their only child, a daughter named Sarah, had undergone knee surgery.
She turned to her grandson, 9-year-old Jason. He was going into fourth grade. That was last year.
"We took a harder trail this year," Walbruch said.
She explained that Jason pays his own way. He earned $20 from Grandpa John for running the 5K with his grandmother during Mantorville Marigold Days and then $15 for helping his grandfather in the garden. He saved his birthday and Christmas money for the trip.
"It teaches him to focus," Walbruch said. "'Jay' has a deep love for wild places. This year he saw his first moose. He wasn't a bit scared. He always walks in the front on the trail. So far I can keep up with him. I am 62. Jay saw his first wolf tracks and identified them. There are no dogs on the island to confuse you."
Walbruch had driven her little Honda from Kasson to a parking lot where she could pay by the week. She made reservations online to ride on Voyageur II out to the island.
"Jay learned how important it is to check equipment and to make sure not to leave anything behind - like the stove or the water filter or the tent pegs or other gear," she said.
They slept in a tent. Jay carried about 20 pounds in a pack on his back and his grandmother, about 35 pounds. They had to carry a week's food, mostly dehydrated. They used filtered water out of the lake.
"This year I used an air mattress for the first time," she said. "But I forgot it and left it behind one place. Somebody found it and left it at the visitor's center for me - pretty sweet. It is self-inflating."
Jay learned a lot about ship wrecks from what he could see in the water. He identified plants and ate a lot of thimble berries.
He identified moose skat.
On Saturday they met a woman who was part of a study group from Michigan who had audio taped bats the year before. This year they were catching seven species of bats.
"They had gotten rabies shots," Walbruch said.
Her daughter told her that the hike was much like an Outward Bound trip she had taken in the Boundary Waters as a 15-year-old.
Looking back, Walbruch said that the tricky part of saying goodbye to the island is "leaving my heart there and bringing the island home with me. I cry when I leave the island behind. I can't find words to explain the feeling."
She said she doesn't want her age to be a limiting factor in her life.
She referred to a book by Richard Louv called, "The Last Child in the Woods," which deals with the staggering divide today between children and the outdoors. She said she doesn't want her grandchildren to be the last children in the woods.
She smiled and said that their trip had been during the last few days of July and the first few days of August. She trains all year, lifting weights and swimming at the Rochester Athletic Center twice a week all year. She starts training in earnest during June and July.
"Jay is planning to go again next summer and is already saving money," she said, smiling again. "I appreciate his mother's trust. He has a younger sister, but he is her only son."