Grand Island, Michigan 2012

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Location: Clarkston, Michigan

Grand Island, Michigan 2012

Post by michigandave » Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:52 am

I had the opportunity to head up there solo for 4 days, 3 nights July 26-29th, 2012. First of all, the weather was perfect....70's & 80's during the day, mid 60's at night and I never used my deet, but I did use my mosquito net at night with my hammock. Good information is available at this link: and at the Hiawatha National Forest website. Note, the map you download from the site is not up to date. There has been a new rustic site added called "Shelter Ridge" immediately east of the new North Light Creek Bridge. I didn't find this out till I walked by it the next day. Also note, bears are an issue! Take precautions. I never saw one, but I did see fresh claw marks on trees near campsites, lots of droppings, footprints on the beach and trails and even fresh prints right near my campsite while I was out getting water. A few years ago, my cousin was on the island and had a bear go through their tent and gear while they were away from camp. Note on cell service: I had ATT coverage on only the south side of the island. I lost it just north of Mather Beach and got it back the next afternoon near "Roads End".

Day 1: Left Clarkston, MI at 4:10 AM and had blinding rain until north of Bay City. Uneventful drive and arrived at the Munising ferry at 10:20 AM. Ferry fee was $15 and included park access. I had my gear on the dock, ready to go at 10:30 for the 11:00 scheduled ferry and since the boat was there, the operator took my right over. What great customer service! The island has a basic visitors center, but no ranger was around, as well as no maps (note-this was the updated one with the new site...I had the older downloaded version that I used. I found out later that no maps were out because of a trail race the next day). Got on the trail by 11:00 and headed to "Gamefence" at Mather Beach. 90 minutes of walking and 4.29 miles I was there. Of the 3 sites, this was the best one. Open, good air movement and a view of the beach across the road. All sites have bear poles (or boxes), wilderness toilets, benches and fire pits. The forest service also stocks cut and split firewood under cover nearby. The sand beach out front has some cool rock formations, private coves and great swimming. The campsites also have a post where you're supposed to be camping within 15 feet of. According to the rangers, they do enforce it, even though I never saw a ranger in the backcountry. I had a hammock, so I did my best to be as close as practical.

Day 2 took my north to "Preservation Point", 6 miles and 2 1/2 hours away. The trail was more of a 2 track, like most of the trails on the island and did climb for a good part of the hike. Lots of scenic overlooks too! "Gull Point" is west of "Preservation Point" but Gull seemed kind of brushy and closed in. My choice for the night was perfect. Up on the high cliffs (80 to 100 feet above), great ventilation and all the amenities. Didn't bother with a campfire since it was still pretty warm. There's a stream nearby in a gully for water, but I didn't see a safe way to get down, so I decided to go to the North Light Beach area, a 20 minute walk away. This sand beach was beautiful! Probably over a mile in length with big walls of sandstone cliffs on either end. Big waves, great swimming and cool clean Lake Superior water. I did see a group way down the beach and figured they hiked in for the day, since there were no sites nearby (found out later they were in Shelter Ridge). Got back to my site and only contact with a person was a mountain biker coming. Had another restful evening, with the sounds of the water hitting the caves below the cliffs, even though I had fresh bear tracks through my site. Took precautions and hung my entire pack that night. Other nights I kept it in the bear boxes. FYI, "Preservation Point" has a great view and there's a bench right at the top of the cliff.

Day 3: "Preservation Point" to "Driftwood". It was Saturday and the day of the Grand Island marathon. I would end up passing lots of runners, but there pretty much done and gone by noon. Was packed and on the trail by 7:30 and worked my way south along the Rim Trail. Total distance for the day was 11 miles in about 4 hours. It was more of the 2 track/road trails and the hiking was easy. Some nice overlooks and views across the bay to Pictured Rocks. I'm glad I got going early, since I knew it would be hot. Ended up hitting 80 degrees later that afternoon. Got in the Trout Bay area by noon and followed a boardwalk past a restroom and woodpile, to the Trout Bay use area. At first I went down the path to my right to the "Little Duck" site and found it empty. It would work, but it seemed a little to exposed, plus a access road was nearby. I left my pack to save it (even though it was Saturday and I'd seen no other backpackers since Thursday) and went to check out "Driftwood". Steve, The occupant was coming my way and we started talking. He was just packing up and said to take a look at his site. It was perfect: secluded, private, quiet, good tree cover, lots of trees for the hammock, great views and close to the beach. I was sold, so I moved in when he headed out. He'd been on the island for 10 days, riding & camping with a old Schwinn LeTour bike with a frame pack strapped on the rear rack! Spent the day lounging, swimming and exploring the nearby cliffs. I did walk down the shore to check out the "Dunes" sites which I'd read about. 1 of 2 was open and they were very exposed with not alot of cover or hanging options for the hammock. Glad I picked "Driftwood". Since it was Saturday, there was alot of boat traffic coming into the beach. I had already staked out my spot on the beach, so the closest boat was maybe 200 yards away. Across the bay, near the "Dunes" sites, there were quite a few boats right off the beach in front of them. According the Ranger, there's issues with some local boaters & campers over usage. I was grateful for my spot, because it was perfect!

Day 4: "Driftwood" to Williams Landing". My last day (Sunday) would be about 4 miles and a nice leisurely walk to catch the 11:00 AM ferry to Munising. More easy walking with a side visit to Duck Lake and the Murray Bay campsites. Murray Bay has a large group site plus some rustic sites and a water pump. These were all filled and had a view of mainland Munising. Lots of boat traffic too! I stopped to check out the old cemetery, cabins and other buildings along the shore. There's some info boards posted giving the history of the island. I did meet a gentleman coming out of a house that had been coming there for almost 70 years to the family cottage. Got back to the Visitors Center and met the Ranger and spent some time with her talking about my trip and impressions of the island. It seems that most usage is from day use and mountain bikers. Large groups of campers come over to the use the 2 group sites at the south end, but the north end doesn't get alot of use. Kayakers come over but stay mainly on the "thumb" part of the island. There's 2 sites over there that are water access only.

Total trip was around 26 miles and 8:40 of walking time. As my first solo trip of 4 days (I've done shorter ones) it was perfect. The hiking and views were good and the campsites perfect. According to the DuFresne book on Michigan hiking, this is on that top 10 list and I can see why.
Even though there weren't alot of backpackers that I saw, the park service is doing things to improve the sites and really make it a destination. I have a feeling the secret is getting out about Grand Island and that in the future, the usage will increase. I'll make this a yearly destination

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