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"There it is!" someone exclaims. Rousing from a half-sleep, we part the curtains and look north across the wide gray waters of Lake Superior. Along the horizon floats a thin, dark strip—indistinct, almost a part of the water. From this point, halfway across the world's greatest lake in the lounge of the gently rolling Ranger III, Isle Royale is pure mystery.

(Photo by Robt. G. Johnsson)

We doze occasionally, and each time we awaken that thin line has stretched and widened. Finally we join the growing group on the deck. Like everyone else, we wonder what that remote island is like and what it holds in store for us.

As the vessel approaches Middle Islands Passage, the island begins to reveal itself. We see long outcroppings of gray rock. We see thick forest, pale green with birches and dark with the spires of spruce and fir. Across the water drifts the faint pungency of those firs, saying, as nothing else can, "North Woods." Entering Rock Harbor, we see the dark rocks along the shore, taking the lake's pounding below and wearing a band of orange lichens above the waves' reach. Herring gulls wheel against the backdrop of forest, rock, and sky. Ducks patter away at the vessel's approach.

But there are few clues to what is happening on this great, forested rock—the unfolding of petals under the trees, the burgeoning of young life, the deadly game between predator and prey. And there is hardly a hint about what it will be like to live on this wild island for the next small part of our lives.

To step onto Isle Royale is to leave behind one's old self and one's old world and to begin a new exploration into the nature of life.

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