Grand Island N.R.A. & Beaver Lake
July 2011

Day 2

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The sky was blue and essentially cloudless when I awoke for the day at 8:30 a.m. I emerged from the tent, placed some tinder and small branches into the darkened metal fire ring and with the heat from some well-insulated embers, was able to ignite a small fire. The flames danced and crackled and soon thin sheets of smoke wafted through the forest, highlighted by spears of light that pierced the tree canopy above. We ate some granola bars for breakfast and packed up all our gear. By the time we hit the trail at 10:00 a.m. there was a cool breeze blowing and the temperature was probably 60-65 degrees; well on its way to the expected high of 80.

The trail stretching out in front of us consisted mostly of sand and packed dirt interspersed with clumps of trampled grass. The terrain under our feet made for an easy hike and the trail was virtually vacant except for the four of us. Before too long the grade began a gentle, albeit constant rise as we pushed on to the north. As we moved along we would occasionally pass by clearings in the tree cover that revealed spectacular vistas of the sheer, striated, sandstone cliffs and vibrant blue water out in the distance. These views usually caused us all to pause for several minutes as we gawked and took more pictures.

Around 1:00 p.m. we approached a girder and cement bridge spanning a small gorge. It seemed like the right time for an extended break and the perfect place for some off-trail exploration. We left our packs on the bridge and followed a narrow path to the underside of the bridge and then continued further down the steep grade to a small trickling stream. The stream flowed out of the forest and ultimately made its way to the edge of a sheer cliff overlooking Lake Superior. We tested the loose rocks under our feet and made our way as close to the edge as was safe. From this location our vision was filled with a spectacular, wide open view of the lake, the banded, jagged cliffs to either side and large boulders, which had at one time been part of the cliffs, but had since broken free and tumbled to the shoreline far below where they were slowly morphed into smoothed and rounded pieces of rock by the relentless pounding of the crashing surf.

The last couple tenths of a mile passed quickly and before we knew it we were entering the Preservation Point campsite. The site was not as open and roomy as the Game Fence site, but it was more than adequate to accommodate the four of us. The site sat about 35 yards off the West Rim Trail and had a fire ring and a bear pole, but no bear box. A second trail continued on past the tent area for about 120 feet and Gabe went off to investigate while the three of us began to unpack. Gabe returned a couple minutes later and excitedly announced that he had staked claim to the place where he would be spending the night. We followed Gabe to the western-most point of our campsite where our jaws all dropped in amazement. There, at the path's terminus, were two large pine trees perched at the cliff's edge. This area stuck out a bit from the rest of the island, thus the name, Preservation Point, and it overlooked colorful, banded cliffs to the south and an open expanse of water as far as the eye could see to the west and the north. And, strung between the two trees was Gabe's hammock. I have never seen a finer sleeping location in all my years of hiking. It was spectacular!

While lunch (fettuccini and chicken) was cooking we finished setting up our tents and gathered a hefty pile of wood which would fuel a campfire this evening after the sun had set. Our water supply was all but gone after cleaning up from lunch. With no water available at or around camp, Ken volunteered to walk over to the beach which was east of our campsite. He said he would see how far away it was, whether it was nice enough to hang out at and then report back to us. If it was fairly close then we would all head over to the beach to filter water and partake in another relaxing afternoon at the lakeshore.

Ken disappeared down the West Rim Trail, Gabe went to test out his hammock and fell asleep, and Derek and I cleaned up the camp area and enjoyed some good conversation. Ken returned about an hour later with good and bad news. The good news -- the beach was phenomenal and currently was baking in brilliant sunshine. The bad news -- it was probably over a mile away and none of us were prepared to make a two-plus mile round trip for water. Ken and I volunteered to hike the couple tenths of a mile back to the bridge and filter enough water to fill everyone's containers in exchange for the use of Gabe's much more efficient (4:1 ratio) water filter. We walked back to the bridge, made our way back down to the small stream, filled seven containers and were back at Preservation Point in no time at all. Now, all that was left to do was relax and enjoy our surroundings.

For the rest of the afternoon we checked out the areas toward the point north of us and explored a nearby rock and sand outcrop which could only be reached by very carefully climbing down a rather steep, dicey, loose sand slope. Looking back, it was probably not the wisest thing to do because one wrong move would have resulted in a long plunge off the sheer cliff to the water far below, but the adrenaline rush was fun, nonetheless. We also sat on the wooden benches at the point and talked about the trip's progress thus far as we worked our way through a bottle of Leelanau Cellars Great Lakes Red wine that Ken had packed in. The lake was a bit more restless today, especially here on the north side of the island - no whitecaps, but steady rollers that made a lot of noise as they met the shoreline far below. Over the years, wave action had eroded some large depressions in the base of the soft sandstone cliffs, so periodically we would hear deeper, bass-like concussions as the water was forced into those mini "sea caves". The concussions, surprisingly, were strong enough for us to feel if we were sitting or lying on the ground near the edge of the cliff.

We each brought our own food for the trip, but during the planning stages, Ken and I volunteered to prepare two of our favorite trail meals that would feed all of us - spaghetti and soft tacos. We usually pack tortilla shells for soft tacos, dehydrate a jar of spaghetti sauce, and then dehydrate enough pre-cooked hamburger for the tacos and spaghetti. A pasta dinner appealed to everyone tonight so we began cooking the spaghetti noodles. There was too much pasta to fit in one pot so we cooked the two portions separately. When the first batch of noodles was fully cooked, I took hold of the pot with the gripper, placed a lid over the top and drained the steaming water into the fire pit. I didn't want to drop an entire mound of pasta so I made sure to keep a tight grip on the makeshift handle. My hand soon began to tire and I decided to switch the gripper to the other hand to finish draining the water. I knew enough to keep constant pressure on the gripper as I switched hands, however, I must have let up a little too much, and the weight of the fully cooked spaghetti was just enough to cause the pot to slip from the jaws of the pot gripper. You know what happened next. Before I could blink, the entire pot of spaghetti fell, upside-down of course, onto the edge of the grate over the fire ring and I watched as our dinner landed with a muffled thud in a large pile of ash and sand. This caused a few laughs and a, "If you really didn't want that spaghetti, I would have eaten it" quip. Fortunately, we had not cooked all the noodles and there was a small amount left. I began the cooking process again and fortunately, the second time went off without a hitch; we just had to eat a little later than expected. The consolation was that we got to wash down the pasta with the remainder of the Great Lakes Red.

After dinner we cleaned our pots and silverware and walked over to the benches on our private wilderness balcony. With such an unobstructed view to the west we fully expected to witness a spectacular sunset, but a fairly thick layer of clouds clung to the horizon and the sunset was rather lackluster at best. We stayed at the overlook until the last vestiges of daylight were devoured by the approaching blackness of night before returning to the main camp area. We started a fire and talked about the island, the views and the hiking until retiring for the night at 11:15 p.m.

The temperature was forecasted to bottom out around 57 degrees overnight and there was a "good chance" of scattered showers throughout the day tomorrow and into the evening. The bugs had been a little annoying on the trail today, but were not bad in our camp area, especially with the camp fire smoke acting as a natural bug repellant.

Final count for the day: One deer on the trail near the bridge, eight people all on mountain bikes, plenty of great views and still no bears (bummer).

Miles Covered Today: 6
Total Trip Miles: 11.8

Day 3

This page last updated on 02-25-2016 @ 11:27 AM