Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greenstone Ridge Trail FKT

On July 10, 2012 I will attempt to set the fastest known time (FKT) on the Greenstone Ridge Trail (GRT) located on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  I will be running unsupported along the GRT from west to east.

The Greenstone Ridge forms the geologic backbone of Isle Royale, which is one of America's least visited National Parks.  The only way to get to the island is either by air or by sea as it is 90km away from the shores of Upper Michigan and 35km away from Grand Portage, Minnesota.  The GRT traverses this ridgeline for 40.1 miles along the entire length of Isle Royale from the western terminus at the intersection of the Minong Ridge Trail (0.3 miles away from Washington Creek Campground) to the eastern terminus at the intersection of the Lookout Louise trail.

I will be following the common sense guidelines proposed by Buzz Burrell and documented by Peter Bakwin on http://fastestknowntime.proboards.com
  1. Announce your intentions in advance. Like a true gentleman, pay your respects to those who came before you, and tell them what you intend to attempt and when. 
  2. Be an open book. Invite anyone to come and watch or, better yet, participate. This makes your effort more fun and any result more believable. 
  3. Record your event. Write down everything immediately upon completion. Memory doesn't count.
There are many reports of a park ranger from Amygdaloid (small island off of Isle Royale) who ran from Rock Harbor to Windigo in 2008 (documented in the personal log book of George Hite of http://www.eagleharborweb.net/) but did not traverse along the entire length of the GRT, but instead ran from Rock Harbor Lodge to the Windigo Campground.  Apparently the ranger also ran back to Rock Harbor on the second day, which is a tremendous feat!  There is also a claim posted on the BackPacker.com website of "bstearns" running the GRT in 10 hours and 12 minutes.  There are no other details of this report and while the aforementioned rules are mostly guidelines and since there is not sufficient information about this report, I can not validate the time.  I have spoken with the National Park Service, several authors of books on Isle Royale, and numerous people on http://isleroyaleforums.com/ and no one can substantiate any faster times for the entire GRT.  Therefore, based on my research, while I will be targeting a time of less than 10 hours and 12 minutes, this will be the first speed FKT attempt (many people hike this entire trail in 3 to 7 days) properly documented as noted in the guidelines above.  If anyone can  provide documentation of a faster time, I will certainly stand corrected.

I have to say that planning this trek has been very exhausting and exciting at the same time.  Traveling to an island across the treacherous waters of Lake Superior, then running from one end to the other, has presented some unique challenges.  Several different boats travel to the island, but only on certain days; other boats circumnavigate the island, but only on certain days.  A seaplane makes the trip to the island, but only on certain days.  Of course it is nearly impossible to line up all of these days but in my final itinerary I was able to make it happen in early July.

Along the way I will document all of my split times at each major trail intersection for proof of the FKT.  I will have witnesses at the start and their names will be noted.  I will then be joined at the eastern terminus by my Father, Dennis Charette who will witness the conclusion of the run.  I am excited that after the run, we will get to spend another day on the island, which will coincide with his 61st birthday.  Having lived in Michigan for a combined 80 years, this will be our first trip to the majestic island.

Figure 1: Trail mileage by section

LocationStart (Miles)LocationEnd (Miles)Total (Miles)
GRT junction at Minong Ridge Trail0.0Island Mine Trail5.95.9
Island Mine Trail5.9South Lake Desor4.810.7
South Lake Desor10.7Ishpeming Point3.514.2
Ishpeming Point14.2Hatchet Lake3.818.0
Hatchet Lake18.0Indian Portage Trail7.225.2
Indian Portage Trail25.2East Chickenbone Lake1.626.8
East Chickenbone Lake26.8Daisy Farm Trail4.231.0
Daisy Farm Trail31.0Mount Ojibway Trail1.532.5
Mount Ojibway Trail32.5Mount Franklin Trail2.835.3
Mount Franklin Trail35.3Duncan Bay-Tobin Harbor Passage3.438.7
Duncan Bay-Tobin Harbor Passage38.7GRT junction at Lookout Louise Trail1.440.1