Cycling Grand Island

Grand Island lies in Lake Superior, just north of Munising.  It’s part of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.20140916_102955  Part of our grand plan for this trip was to take our mountain bikes to the Island, and ride the miles of roads and trails there.

Easy to get there – a $10 passenger fee, plus $5 for each bike got us a seat on the six-person pontoon ferry at 9am.  Ten minutes later we were deposited on the shore with the warning that return ferries were at 12:30 and 3:30.  Period.  Don’t be late.

We anticipated a pleasant gravel-road riding day.  What could go wrong on “carriage roads”?wpid-20140916_154821-1.jpgThe two-track road, or trail around the Island perimeter had suffered a lot of damage in the same storm we experienced in Tahquamenon.  Some of the “carriage roads” must have been raging torrents of water and debris.  There were deep gullies cut into many of the Trails, banked on either side by equally deep pockets of black mud.  I would describe my ride this way…..Pleasant – 86%.   Worrisome, needs lots of concentration – 10%.  The remaining 4% falls into the category of OMG!  I’m gonna die!

So, off we go…..

Up and down.  Many of the turnouts are right on the shore.  Small campsites for hikers dot the Trail.  Several sections involved climing up steep, rocky paths with wet sand impeding our tires grip.  The deep puddles?  We avoided the ones we could, walked around a few, and the others?…..Well, picture me pedaling hard, bogging down in the mud.  Eyes bulging.  Hoping to be able to rotate the pedals that last turn which would enable me to escape an unpleasant dive into the mud.  Ahhhhh – success! wpid-20140916_103223.jpg At one point, we came to downed tree, totally blocking our path.  “Stand back”, announced John.  “I’m going to bunny hop this”.  By the I picked myself up off the ground laughing, he had already started to lift our bikes over the obstacle.

It’s so beautiful.  We stopped at every turnout, and even devised a few viewing spots of our own.20140916_113339 The hardwoods are just beginning to smudge with color – we would catch a glimpse of yellow birch, and a flash of bright red maple here and there.

We found a great spot for lunch.wpid-20140916_122713.jpgWe were starved, having worn off our breakfast oatmeal several miles back.  I had packed turkey/swiss/pesto sandwiches, apples, and the last of some hummus and crackers we’ve been savoring on our trip.  Imagine my horror when I opened my pannier and found that the hummus contained had opened up and disgorged about a cup of sticky, gooey spread all over everything!  The inside of my pannier looked like a diaper horror!  If you know me, you’ll understand the brief, unhappy conversation I had with myself about my packing skills.

We spent about five hours cycling around.  We ran into the Ohio couple we came over on the ferry with several times.  Dave was an experienced cyclist who had borrowed his dad’s Walmart, flat-pedal Huffy for the trip to Michigan. Huffy Dave He gave that bike the ride of its life, I’m sure.  Everytime we saw them, they were all smiles.

We ran across a few kayakers taking a breather on the west edge of the Island.20140916_135201A waterfall runs right down to the beach.  Scenic views abound.20140916_08311920140916_130816wpid-20140916_132644-1.jpgAlthough a few private residences remain on the Island, most buildings are now owned by the Park Service.wpid-20140916_133722-1.jpgHow about this nifty outdoor shower?wpid-20140916_134449-1.jpgLots of the miles were flat and easy.wpid-20140916_125524-1.jpgThe upshot?  If you get the chance – GO!  Bikes can be rented on the Island, or you can bring your own. Or, what the heck – take a hike.  Just take the time and go.




Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Picture yourself standing on a cliff above a crystal-clear lake, which is pounding a rugged shoreline.  Maybe you can see a freighter in the distance, plowing its way toward the Soo Locks.  Along the shore is an old shipwreck, one of many that line the bottom of this enormous lake. A brilliant blue sky allows maximum sunlight to filter through the thick canopy of birch, maple, and pine.  It’s perfect. 20140912_114158 Now, take yourself out of the picture, and insert the Crankshaws.  Because….here we are at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.  Oh man, have we ever picked the perfect time to be here.  Solitude, great weather, and NO FLIES!

We’ve spent a terrific week exploring this area on foot and bike.  We selected the Lower Hurricane Campground, a rustic campground which is part of the National Lakeshore, for our first port.  Our Geezer Pass allows us to camp for just a few bucks a night.  We’re 100 yards from Lake Superior, which we can hear crashing around out there, although we can’t see it from our site.

I’ll spare you the step by step of our area exploration.  We took in Sable Falls,20140912_110231and the Logjam Overlook.  This is the area where where logs were pushed down a chute (of sorts) to the lake for transport.  20140912_114406We saw some of the old horse-drawn, big wheels which hauled the timber.20140912_113855One other day, we hiked to the 1874 Au Sable Light Station.  Imagine living in a remote cedar swamp, where snowfall totals each year regularly top 150″.  All supplies were brought in by ship every couple of months, provisioned by the government.  Adequate, but nothing extra.  Lots of hard work, punctuated periodically by surprise inspections.20140913_12283620140913_131903As well as the lighthouse keeper’s house (above), we did get to climb into the lighthouse tower, and go outside onto the narrow balcony at the very top.  What a treat, and what a fantastic view!20140913_140542wpid-20140913_140024.jpgOn the hike back to camp, we climb on 100 year old shipwrecks – three are washed ashore near the lighthouse.20140913_143328We hiked to Chapel Rock and Chapel Falls.  Chapel Rock is the “perfect Michigan bonsai”, as another hiker described it to us.  Two thick roots attach the lone pine tree atop this huge sandstone rock to the mainland.  The rest of the rock crumbled away in 1940, leaving the tree on its lonely rock island.  It’s spectacular.20140914_131623Chapel Beach is a great spot for lunch before we begin the 3-1/2 mile trek back to the Trailhead.20140914_132653So many beautiful sights in this 40 mile National Lakeshore.  20140912_130143Miner’s Rock.20140915_110843The UP is home to many waterfalls, and we have explored several, although my photographic abilities don’t quite match my enthusiasm.  So, you’ll just have to imagine….

We continue our coastal westward march to Munising, where we land at the Tourist Park, a busy RV park. 20140915_195049 Not our favorite kind of camp by any means, but a great jumping-off place for our next adventure – a day of mountain biking on Grand Island.  Stay tuned.