For the love of Isle Royale

HOUGHTON – In the summer of 1965, Dan Kemp was working on Isle Royale as a bellhop. While he had worked there the previous year for a month or two as a dishwasher, Kemp knew that he wanted to come back and the job as a bellhop just sort of fell into his lap, so he took it.

“It was just one of those things,” he said. “I always loved Isle Royale.”

But a paycheck wasn’t the only thing that Kemp got out of his summer there. He would also gather material for a book that Kirkus Reviews called “a lighthearted novel that makes for a fun summertime diversion.”

The idea of putting pen to paper came when, after telling his stories, people would tell him that he needed to write a book.

“Every time I told a story about some event on Isle Royale, somebody said, ‘Man, you got to write a book,'” Kemp said.

That book would eventually become “A Yooper’s Summer on Isle Royale,” which is available to purchase now at bookstores around the Copper Country and online.

One of the stories that Kemp tells was about the time he and a friend took a 14-foot aluminum row boat across Lake Superior. Kemp estimates that he crossed well over 100 miles (but not all at once) in that boat, always worrying that they might not make it back alive.

Kemp first went from Copper Harbor to Isle Royale in the boat, planning to get to his job as a bellhop a day earlier than all the other workers.

But although Kemp thought it would be smooth sailing, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Kemp encountered unexpected wind and ice, as well as a large ore boat that Kemp thought would be the end of him and his friend.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “You could hear the motor, but you couldn’t see the boat.”

Fortunately, that was just the beginning of his adventures.

Kemp said 96.7 percent of his book is true. He leaves that wiggle room in case there is anyone out there who might want to sue him over what is described in the book.

“There are people who will sue me over this stuff,” Kemp said with a laugh.

Kemp began writing the book about two and a half years ago and said it was a long and involved process involving many rewrites.

“Half the time you spend a couple of hours writing and then in the morning you wake up and throw it all away,” he said. “Some days you’re cranking it out and it’s fantastic.”

Kemp said he didn’t want to let his book go until he got to a point where he was happy with it.

Kemp eventually self-published through iUniverse.

So far, the feedback he’s gotten from the public has been overwhelmingly positive.

“I was up at Eagle Harbor and some of the vendors bought the book,” he said. “The next day, three of them had my book on their vendor table saying, ‘You’ve got to go and buy this book.'”

Kemp is also planning a second book, which he said will deal with his adventures going south.

“We’ve had enough of the cold.”

Kemp said the book would also be another mostly non-fiction account and filled with the same unbelievable stories.

“We’re still crazy Yoopers heading south,” he said.