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

Day 4

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I got up around 8:30 a.m. and went down for breakfast with Ken and Derek. The bustle and commotion of the hotel dining room, complete with waffles, eggs, sausage, yogurt, juice, cereal and fresh pastries caused me to momentarily forget that this trip had begun as a rustic backpacking excursion. We grabbed several platefuls of food and found an unoccupied table outside on the back patio. I figured we would have been waking up at Murray Bay this morning, instead of in a crowded hotel, but if we had to be in a hotel, this was the place to be. The morning sun was shining brightly and we had a great view of Lake Superior and Grand Island from where we were sitting.

We made our way back to the room around 10:00 a.m., packed up and headed out. Our original plan was not exactly etched in stone, but we had tentatively planned to basecamp at Beaver Lake and complete an out-and-back hike on a portion of the Pictured Rocks Trail. Additionally, we had trailered two kayaks and a canoe in case we had time to paddle a portion of the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore. Ken, knowing that the Derek's blistered feet were still very sore, and that an old football knee injury had flared up, suggested that we forego the hiking portion, and instead, head over to Beaver Lake where we could just kayak, fish and take a day trip if we felt like it.

We hitched the trailer back to the pickup and drove over to the Park Service office to register our group. From there it was a few minutes drive over to Little Beaver Lake, located about 20 miles northeast of Munising. Little Beaver Lake has a small campground containing eight sites, an outhouse, a small boat launch and a couple parking spaces for vehicles with trailers. The kayaks and gear were offloaded, the truck was parked and soon we were paddling away in search of our next destination.

A narrow waterway at the northeast corner of Little Beaver Lake connects the small, 39-acre body of water to its much larger, 765-arce sibling, Beaver Lake, at its southwest corner. The channel is flanked by a small beaver lodge on one side and by a large pine tree on the other which hung out over the narrow passage. We did not have a very good idea as to where we were headed, so we just began to paddle across the lake. About a half mile across the lake we saw a group of people on the sandy beach and several more swimming in the shallow water just off the shore. It appeared as though they all knew each other which meant they were probably staying at the group site.

Gabe and I were quite a bit further across than Ken and Derek and we reached the shore first. We didn't see any signs of the individual sites so I jumped out and walked up toward the group site. There was a trail that led up to the group site from the west and continued on toward the east. I remembered looking at a map that placed the individual sites to the east of the group site so I headed off down the trail. It wasn't long before I was attacked by a couple rather large biting flies and a miniature swarm of mosquitoes. To keep from being covered in bugs, I quickened my pace to almost a run for the next 1/3 mile until I ended up at the individual sites where I found a side trail that led out to the beach. I made my way out to the water and waived in the rest of the group. As it turned out, there had been a tall post in the ground near the tree line, apparently to mark the location of the individual sites, however, it was partially covered by vegetation and the paint was so badly weathered that it was nearly impossible to see from out on the lake.

The four individual sites were set a distance apart from each other in a large, rather loosely defined circular area, the perimeter of which was composed mostly of tall trees. Central to the individual sites was a large area, basically devoid of trees, and filled with tall field grass. A fire ring was centrally located between the sites, but there was little, if any, dead and downed wood for a fire. We ended up picking site #2 which was next to a bear box, close to the water and not far from a couple wild raspberry bushes. There also was a small stream nearby which emptied into Beaver Lake. We later discovered that the stream was exceptionally cold so we filtered our water in the lake right at the stream's outlet.

It didn't take long to realize that we had arrived just in time for lunch. Unfortunately, the four of us were the only entrees on the menu and swarms of hungry mosquitoes and biting flies descended upon us in an instant, hungry and ready to feast. We attempted to set up camp without breaking out the DEET, but reluctantly, we ended up applying a few sprays to our necks, arms and legs because the bugs were so bad. This "bug thing" was becoming a recurring theme for our trip.

After camp was set up and food and sweet-smelling items were secured in the bear box, Ken and I paddled back to Little Beaver Lake to fish. The lakes are known to support populations of northern pike, walleye, large mouth bass, yellow perch and brook trout and we were hoping to discover which species favored our lures the most. We fished for probably an hour and both caught a small pike before heading back to camp.

Back at camp we discovered that two new people had arrived and set up camp just west of us during the time we'd been away. We ran into the two newcomers on the beach and struck up a friendly conversation. We learned that they used to be brothers-in-law until a divorce several years prior. Even though the marriage fell apart, their friendship had not. Both men enjoy the outdoors, backpacking and kayaking, so they still spend time together and make it a point to go on at least a couple trips together each year. This summer's trip had brought them to the Munising area where they kayaked a portion of the Pictured Rocks shoreline yesterday. They planned to spend one night here at Beaver Lake and then head out to a new location in the morning. I must admit that I was a bit disappointed when we returned to our site and discovered that we had neighbors, especially after our Murray Bay experience, however, it turned out that they were respectful neighbors who were quiet and pretty much kept to themselves.

We made tacos for dinner around 6:30 p.m. and then the four of us took to the big lake in our kayaks and canoe. We fished for quite a while in various locations but never got a single bite. With nothing else but time on our hands we zigzagged the placid lake from side to side and saw just about ¾ of the 2-mile long lake. The lake was very clear had a sandy bottom which allowed us to see a lot of freshwater clams in the shallow areas around the perimeter of the lake. At one point we heard a loon squawking somewhere close by and shortly thereafter it was diving for fish not more than 40 or 50 yards from us. The conditions this evening were astounding; the temperature was perfect, there was virtually no breeze and the water was so calm, and the reflections so clear and vivid that it felt like we were looking down into a mirror.

As the telltale hues of sunset began to wash over the lake and across the sky we realized it was about time to head back to camp. We beached our watercraft on the shore just in time to snap a few photos of a stunning purple and orange sunset. Unfortunately, by this time the tiny, flying lances had regrouped and were mounting an all-out assault. We had two choices. One, stay out and enjoy our surroundings, but become human pin cushions for the legions of mosquitoes. Or, two, retreat to the safety of our tents, but miss out on the amazing scenery all around us. We chose option two, but even that was not without a few minutes of annoyance. We fumbled around in the fading daylight looking for the couple items we wanted in the tents, all while swatting away hordes of the hungry pests. We then quickly sealed ourselves inside for the night, even as the blood-sucking creatures continued to swarm. In fact, the mosquitoes were so thick that even in the short 20-30 seconds that our tents were unzipped we let in about 15-20 of the buzzing creatures. We spent the next couple minutes locating and killing mosquitoes. The sleeping bags and tent floor were littered with the tiny corpses, but we would not be breaching the tent again to dispose of them until the morning, lest we start the entire miserable process over again. Even as I laid there I continually heard their high-pitched buzzing coming from just the other side of our thin nylon barrier as they massed around the exterior of the tent.

The forecast did not call for any precipitation overnight so we left the rainfly off for a better view and to let in the fresh air. Through the transparent mesh roof we were able to see some fireflies in the forest around us. At one point we saw some faint flashes of blue in the sky and heard a couple peals of thunder. But, the lengthy time between sight and sound, and the fact that the noise was rather muffled made us realize the storm, wherever it was, was quite a ways off. Eventually, the thunder and lightning disappeared altogether leaving us with only the sound of a gentle rushing stream nearby, and of course, a couple mosquitoes. Alright, more like a billion mosquitoes.

Aside from the bugs it had turned out to be another beautiful day. The temperature had peaked at roughly 80 degrees and was due to bottom out at only 60 degrees overnight. We had a relaxing afternoon swimming, paddling, fishing and enjoying the camaraderie that often accompanies a shared experience like this with friends. As the night wore on the sky lost all remaining remnants of daylight, and the thin layer of clouds which had previously formed began to dissipate revealing a mind-numbing amount of stars in the heavens above.

Final count for the day: A lot of fireflies, one loon, two pike, eight seagulls, hundreds of freshwater clams, only God knows how many stars, and did I forget to mention, a lot of biting bugs.

Miles Covered Today: About 4
Total Trip Miles: 27.6

Day 5

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