This is part four in a series of articles covering adventures of 2018. Part one can be found here. Part 1 Gaylord MI to Mackinaw City
Part three of this series ended with the honor of having my picture placed on the wall of fame at Great Lakes Fitness in Escanaba Michigan. However, that is not the end of my Upper Peninsula related adventures.
Since they only wanted me for a week in Escanaba, I brought all my bikepacking gear, along with the bike, with the thought of doing a two-day ride Saturday and Sunday prior to returning to my regular station. Before the week was over they beg and pleaded for me to stay one more week. Not really but this is my damn story.
Did agree to stay but wasn’t going to let a weekend go to waste so I contacted my Airbnb host, Howie, who had been very instrumental in helping me explore this part of the state on my previous visit. With him being a cyclist too, I asked for his help in finding a place to do a two-day bikepacking trip for the coming weekend. His reply was that I should explore Grand Island near Munising MI.
The island is located in beautiful Lake Superior and a quick search brought up info stating the entire Island is part of the Hiawatha National Forest with over a dozen official campsites scattered around the island. Tried my darndest to find a spot that had not already been reserved for Saturday night, but this was Labor Day weekend, so I’m not surprised nothing was available.
As luck would have it, I came across a little tidbit of information that changed everything. Camping is allowed anywhere on the island as long as it fell within certain criteria. Essentially the only thing an official camp spot would afford me is the ability to make a campfire. Well, guess what. I’m not packing in firewood to make a stinking fire. Putting down my tent where I damn well please is much preferred anyway. There, saved myself eight damn bucks on a camping spot.
Getting to the island involves a short ferry ride, which departs on the hour. A few homes do exist on the island and people have cars there too, however, I quickly found the only ‘roads’ are on the southern part of the island making most of the island only traversable by bike or by foot. The loop around the island is only 23 miles long, something that can easily be completed in a half-day bike ride but I was going to take my time and make it a two-day trip.
Where the island lacked in size to make a notable bikepacking trip, it more than made up for it in beauty. Those familiar with the Munising MI area will automatically associate it with the Pictured Rocks Shoreline and Grand Island is part of that picturesque shoreline.
On the northern end of the island resides an awesome sandy beach and considering one can only reach this beach either by several miles of hiking or biking or by boat, it was pretty much desolate when I arrived. So most of the time I had a private beach.
The 3:00 ferry took me to the island. Even with multiple sightseeing stops, it didn’t take long to reach the idyllic beach. Glad I brought along my little camping chair as to relax in the sun and do a bit of reading just a few feet from the waters of Lake Superior. The only element missing from making a true dream spot was a couple of tanned bikini-clad babes bringing me drinks with tiny umbrellas.
Decided that I will camp nearby for the night and spend the remainder of daylight right here on the beach. Sure wish that camping on the beach wasn’t prohibited. That would have been the PERFECT camp spot! Babes or no babes.
My evening on the beach was cut just a little short due to a storm brewing over the lake slowly threating my little slice of heaven on earth. Not a bit of phone coverage exist at this spot keeping me 100% in the moment of enjoying my surroundings. No temptation to post pictures on social media to say; ‘look at me suckas’. That can wait until I’m back on the mainland. Although, some coverage to look at the weather radar would be nice. Not critical… Just nice to have.
With the storm ruining my zen moment on the beach I took out my cook gear to make myself some dinner before the weather arrived. After dinner, I set out to find a nice, level, sheltered, spot to put up my tent for the night. By the time camp was ready for me to crawl into the tent, it was fairly dark and thunder was close.
Fortunately, the storm just missed Grand Island to the west leaving only a bit of rain that barely got anything wet overnight. In the morning I broke down camp and made the short bike ride back to my private beach to make myself a hot, oatmeal breakfast.
Back on the bike to explore the other half of the island I had a moment that must have been the work of one of Gods angels. Riding downhill on a rutty rocky path, nothing that my bike and I haven’t traversed at least a thousand miles prior (no exaggeration) my tires suddenly made a quick exit from underneath me to the right. Before I could get a foot down to save myself from a certain uncomfortable meeting with mother earth, I was upright again on two wheels and rolling down the trail as if nothing happened.
Continued on around the remainder of the island. Even taking my time to stop and take in the sights I was back on the ferry to the mainland well before noon. If I had only brought a paddleboard, could be doing that once I got back to Escanaba.