Grand Island National Recreation Area lies a 5 minute ferry ride across from the small town of Munising, MI. Managed by the US Forest Service, it is part of the Hiawatha National Forest and essentially undeveloped. The island has only mountain bike trails, campsites, beaches, and a few (grandfathered) private vacation cabins. So we hopped the ferry with our bicycles and headed over to check it out!
The island itself is approximately 3 times the size of Mackinac Island. Although you CAN ride a trail all the way around, it consisted of over 25 miles of hilly trail – not a paved path. That was a bit too ambitious for me, so we elected to stick to the southern half of the island, which held most of the interesting and historic features anyway.
We headed off on the bike paths. Some are wide gravel roads that are (mostly) solid, while others are more like typical single track mountain bike trails. Being a sandstone island, there is a lot of … sand. Slogging through sand is a lot like biking uphill, continuously. Although I love my hybrid bicycle, it is not ideally suited to this type of terrain. Adding to the fun were the swarms of biting flies, seemingly undeterred by copious amounts of DEET. At one point, reduced to walking my bike up a never-ending hill while being attacked by biting flies, I believe the words “I Hate This!” emerged from my lips. It wasn’t exactly what I had bargained for.
It wasn’t all bad, of course. The forest and lake views were beautiful. We explored a cemetery with gravestones dating from the 1850’s to very recent. I suppose family plots were grandfathered in when the land was purchased by the Forest Service a decade or so ago. We passed old cabins, remnants of a time when the island was a private vacation retreat. We toured the small nature center by the boat dock and walked the beach. It WAS peaceful. I can see the appeal if you really want to get away from everything.
However, after making a round of the lower half of the island, I was ready to head back to civilization!
And a shower.