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......