by: Matt Simerson
Saturday 03 Dec 22

Twas the night before Christmas <smack> Owww. Oh sorry. It was a brisk October day in the late summer of '94. A couple really good friends of mine, Joe and Jordan Romberger and I packed up Joe's Nissan and headed North. We arrived in Munising just in time to catch our Ferry ride to the island. There was 6 people besides ourselves on the ferry. We would have the island to ourselves, just the way we liked it.

We were a little surprised to learn that there are actually people who live on Grand Island. The few houses that are there are all down around the Southern coast where they get some protection from the storms that come rolling across Lake Superior. We packed up our mountain bikes and decided that we would first set up base camp and then go exploring. None of us had been to the island before so we decided to just bike up the Western coast and drop camp where is looked the most pleasant. The Southern tip of the island is the lowest part of the island. As we progressed along the Western island, we found that quite similar to North Manitou island, the way North is uphill. This picture was taken just as the trail we were riding hit the coastline. From there, we progressed further North and kept climbing as witnessed by this picture. The coast is all loose slate that is not very easy to climbing. So, we stayed on the the trail :-) This photo is of a neighboring island. Pay careful attention to the elevation at which we took the shot from. You'll notice later that we get high enough on Grand Island to see over the neighbor. About halfway up the Western coast, we happened upon a little deer trail that ran down a steep embankment to the little peninsula. The peninsula was about 8 feet above the water and was all rock. It was the perfect spot for, you guessed it, base camp. We were just above the water which we all enjoyed listening crash onto the rocks. After the tent was put up, latrine built, and wood gathered, we hopped on the bikes and cruised up the Western side of the island. It was uphill almost the whole way. Notice that we are now above that little island. <wipe sweat from brow> When we finally reached the Northwest corner, It was getting close to dusk so we high-tailed it back to camp. We found a fallen tree and scaled down it the the sandy beach. Here's Jordan and I standing on a couple of rocks washing our dishes. After the long drive and the killer ride back, we sat around the campfire boiling water for our water bottles and roasting bratwursts. We were on the Western side of the island so it got a little chilly overnight. My tent has a full fly that kept us warm but it was still 35 degrees outside the tent. Fortunately, Joe rose bright and early and built a campfire. Thanks Joe. I didn't want to wait for the sun to get out of my sleeping bag :-) After a hearty breakfast, we saddled back up and headed South to circle the entire island. From the Eastern side of the island, you can see pictured rocks. It was really neat to see the pictured rocks across the way and then look down the cliff you're standing on the see the same thing. Very very unique. Here we found a nice little tree to sit on while we ate lunch. Nothing like a buck knife, a block of sharp cheddar and a log of sausage to curb that trail hunger. Both of these pictures are of the mainland showing pictured rocks. Here, we're rounding out the Northeast corner of the island. It significantly lower than the Northwest corner but it's still a descent elevation. This is the trail along the North face of the island. It obviously gets the most abuse from mother nature. Here we are down on the beach on the Northern face. It was the strangest beach I've even seen because the entire East, West, and North sides of the island are all rock. Then the trail just drops all the way down to the coast and turns to sand for a couple hundred yards. I've never seen anything like it. As we continued along the North side, we found a two-track (well trafficked) heading North. We had seen the lighthouse from the beach so we just had to go see it. Perched high atop the highest point on the island was this lighthouse. I can't recall the date but it has a plaque on the door telling a little about it. I'll have to go back and record that info sometime. A quick peek inside the open windows revealed that it was all still furnished with the original handcrafted table, chairs, and wash basin. I doubt that the lighthouse itself is still operational. The Coast Guard has replaced it with a new light pole that is solar charged and and not much bigger than a street lamp. There is very little evidence of human presence other than the driveway and the solar panels that are now atop the lighthouse. We did clean up a few of the apples that had fallen from the trees at the lighthouse. That's a fringe benefit of camping during the fall :-) We continued back to camp across a couple very old bridges. They had obviously been there since the island was first settled over a hundred years ago. They were surprisingly, still in fairly good shape. We marveled at how they could have even moved the huge steel beams with just horses. By the time we got back to camp, we were exhausted. We pulled all our food down from the trees and had a had a supper. The next day, we got up early and broke down camp. We packed back to the dock arriving an hour ahead of schedule. We know why about 10 minutes later. As we laid on the beach, warming in the sun, we got to watch a pair of bald eagles circling the bay for fish. As we left, all three of us swore that we would return......