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

Day 3

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Our third day on the island began around 7:45 a.m. with an overcast sky and a steady, cool breeze. I couldn't help wondering if the day's forecast would hold true or not. Since we didn't feel like hiking in the rain we resolved to pack up quickly and get on the trail as soon as possible, hoping to get at least a few miles behind us before the precipitation started falling. In just over an hour we had packed up all our gear, eaten a couple granola bars and were moving down the trail.

The trail remained pretty much the same as the last two days, wide open, dirt and sand mix with a little grass thrown in here and there, except the theme for today was uphill. As a matter of fact, it seemed that most of the day was spent going up, again, nothing strenuous, just a constant uphill hike.

In barely over a mile we arrived at the beach that Ken had hiked to the day before in his quest for water. This appeared to be the day's most convenient place to fill our bottles so we left the trail and walked down to the shoreline. A quick scan to the left and to the right revealed that we were the only humans around. The pale-colored sand stretched for a great distance in either direction and would have been a nice place to stop and relax or eat lunch or swim had it not been so gloomy and cool. Lake Superior is the coldest of the Great Lakes with an average surface temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so when Gabe took off his shoes, rolled up his pants, waded into the frigid water and offered to filter for everyone, there was no argument to be heard.

After departing the north shore much of the rest of the day was spent hiking under a thick tree canopy without many scenic overlooks or even views of the lake. All the trees, however, turned out to be a blessing in disguise when it rained for about an hour beginning at 11:00 a.m. Fortunately, the tree cover did such an excellent job of keeping the rain from reaching us that I never even bothered to stash my camera inside my pack. Although the rain was not bad, the mosquitoes were obnoxiously ferocious. Their constant biting and buzzing about our ears and face ultimately led us to stop and seek relief by applying a couple sprays of DEET.

When we got up this morning Derek discovered that his feet had developed some fairly annoying blisters. As the day wore on, the blisters became even worse and his pace decreased. He insisted that we not slow down or wait for him, so Derek brought up the rear most of the day. By the time we made our DEET stop, Derek was quite a ways back, so we waited for several minutes until he caught up before resuming the hike; after all, he was part of our group and we didn't want to leave him too far behind.

The rest of the afternoon was fairly blasé -- not many overlooks, fairly monotonous trail without much variation in terrain or grade and not many people, just a couple mountain bikers and a single guy on a bike pulling a small cart. It turned out that the guy with the cart was placing blue flags and yellow flags at various distances along the trail for Saturday's Great Lakes Endurance marathon on the island.

When we reached the Trout Bay overlook we stopped for some snacks and to wait for Derek who was once again lagging far behind and whose feet we figured must surely have been on fire. The overlook is perched about 100 feet above Lake Superior and is situated near the southeast part of the island just north of the tombolo. It was a nice location for a break due to its spacious, open area and great views of Trout Bay, Lake uperior and the Pictured Rocks shoreline. Derek had packed about 1300 granola bars for the trip, so when he arrived he began pawning off some of his food to help lighten his pack. With a restful break behind us we headed off in search of Murray Bay which is where we intended to spend the night. Along the way we passed Duck Lake which supposedly used to be just a lagoon on Lake Superior, but is now a small, 20-acre lake just off the trail, west of the tombolo. There is a small trail that leads out to the lake, but we were more in the mood to reach our destination than to see what the lake had to offer so we kept moving south.

Within a couple hundred yards of Murray Bay we began to hear loud noises emanating from the area south of us. As the distance between the bay and our location diminished we realized the noise was coming from a bunch of crazed teenagers. Unbeknownst to us, our day-long plan to camp at Murray Bay was about to change. As we rounded a corner in the trail the bay came into view and the noise from the obnoxious teens reached a crescendo. "Not cool", I thought to myself.

Murray Bay has a large, open day-use area complete with picnic tables, a couple grills and a long stretch of sandy beach. It also has two campsites and a group site. We left our packs on a table and walked east down the path leading to the campsites in search of an unoccupied site. To our dismay it appeared that each site was already taken. Things were not looking good.

We returned to the picnic table a little dejected and began to discuss our options. Park regulations regarding off-trail camping were pretty stringent - at least 100 feet from any home, trail, river or lake -- and it didn't look like there would be any place around here that would fit the bill. Hiking back in the direction we had just come would add many miles on to our day and even then, we were not sure if we'd find a location where we could camp and avoid a pricey $5,000 fine. There were a couple campsites near William's Landing, but that was another 1.8 miles away. Besides, what if we got there and found those sites to be full? We would then be forced to hike another one to three miles to the campsites along the western side of the island. Can you say, "Not interested!?" What to do? We decided to eat lunch while we contemplated our decision. As lunch was cooking I took another wishful walk down the path to double-check the sites. Sure enough, they were all filled and it appeared that the group site was loaded with eight to nine rowdy, obnoxious boys between 16 and 18 years old. Even if we had found a place to camp, we would definitely not be enjoying any peace and quiet here!

We ate lunch, washed our dishes and decided to continue on to Williams Landing where we would catch the ferry back to the mainland and then "wing it" from there. As we filled water bottles at the camp spigot we spoke with a husband and wife who had kayaked over to the island and had been unfortunate enough to occupy the site next to the rowdies. They seemed pretty aggravated. They had been taking an afternoon nap in their tent, but were rudely awakened by the high-strung, out of control adolescents. What happened to the Leave No Trace ethic of being considerate of other visitors? Oh, that's right, they probably weren't paying attention to that speech. Go figure! We wished them luck, retrieved our backpacks and headed out, feeling more and more confident with each passing second that we had made the right choice. Just as we hit the trail I heard yelling and splashing out in the bay. When I turned around I observed two teens running out into the water from the shore. They were completely naked, and apparently, the water was too cold to submerse themselves because they only went far enough for the water to be just shy of their family jewels. They then yelled at each other like giddy little girls as they flailed their arms and hands in the bay, splashing cold water on each other, all while their buddies were hooting at them from the shore. Weirdoes! Well, I actually had a few other choice terms, but I'll just leave it at weirdoes. I guess it had all worked out for the best after all.

We covered the remaining 1.8 miles to Williams Landing in under an hour. Along the way we passed several historic homes including the Stone Quarry Cabin and the Farrell Cottage. The Stone Quarry Cabin, one of the oldest structures on the island, is situated along the shore about 1.5 miles north of Williams Landing and was built around 1846. It apparently got its name from a quarry on the island which produced stone that was used to build a charcoal furnace for manufacturing iron on the west side of Munising Bay. The Farrell Cottage is a six bedroom cottage made of stone and brown wood siding. It was built during the Mather Era but is now owned by the Forest Service and is used by staff and students of the Grand Island Archaeological Program when they are on the island.

We didn't even bother checking on the status of the of the nearby sites when we finally strolled into Williams Landing, but instead, chose to wait for the next ferry off the island. We set our packs down and sat at a picnic table near the dock enjoying some down time and watching the odd swirling cloud formations over the mainland. The ferry arrived around 5:30 p.m., and within a couple minutes we were back at our vehicle in the parking lot.

We took a quick drive over to the Munising City Campground just west of the ferry parking lot only to discover that, they too, were full to capacity. Now we were really beginning to wonder where we would be spending the night. We began calling local motels only to find that they were full as well. Apparently, Munising is a happening place in the summer. Gabe spotted a Holiday Inn Express just down the road so he pulled in and went inside to speak with the clerk. He exited the building a few minutes later and informed us that he had literally secured us the last room; as he was filling out the paperwork another guy came in looking for a room and they told him they were full. Boy, had we lucked out!

We took some clean clothing up to the room, cleaned up and then drove over to the Dogpatch restaurant in downtown Munising for dinner. We then returned to the hotel where we finished off the night playing Uno and euchre and devouring several bags of not-so-healthy snacks.

Final count for the day: One cormorant flying laps over the water and diving for fish near Williams Landing, one pile of bear scat, thousands of mosquitoes, a couple people on mountain bikes and two too many obnoxious, naked jerks.

Miles Covered Today: 11.8
Total Trip Miles: 23.6

Day 4

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