Sunday, October 19, 2008

Backpacking Grand Island National Recreation Area:

Day Four: Trout Bay to Williams Landing

On day four we found ourselves ahead of schedule. We had planned to spend 2 nights in the North Point area so that we could have a day of relaxation and enjoy the beach. However, since the campsites weren't overlooking the water, we had decided to move on. Now that we had a perfect beach campsite, we needed to decide whether to stay on Trout Bay another night or to finish up on the fourth day. Williams Landing and the ferry dock were only around 5 miles away, and we didn't really see the point in packing up and staying at another campsite along that route for our final night since the Little Dune sites were so good. I voted to stay put and spend the day reading on the beach with periodic breaks to go swimming or nap in the tent. Craig is more stir crazy and wasn't sure if he could relax all day without getting bored. In the end, we compromised and planned to spend an unhurried morning eating breakfast, drinking coffee, relaxing, and eventually leave for Williams Landing around noon.

Just as we started to break camp, I spotted a couple of backpackers making their way down the boardwalk with the look of hoping against hope that our site was available. We occupied the last one, and we knew everything else was full. Upon spotting me, the woman's shoulders sagged and she turned to her male companion who pulled out a map and looked depressed. Remembering how Craig and I felt the day before, after trudging all the way to this very place, I ran over to let them know that we were clearing out and the site was theirs. They nearly cried and immediately dropped their packs and set off for the shore. A half-hour later we waved goodbye to the couple on the beach and began the last leg of our trip.

Unfortunately, we had to walk back down that stretch of road which was unprotected from the sun, now high in the sky and beating on our heads. While making our way down the road with our heads down, a shadow suddenly floated across the trail in front of
us. We both looked up in time to see a magnificent bald eagle soar directly over us just above the tree line. I missed this perfect photographic opportunity because for once I did not have my camera in hand. The eagle was a beautiful sight, gliding silently against the clear blue sky, and it's presence brightened the slightly boring stretch of trail.
The trail curves sharply south and runs past Duck Lake - a small inland lake with a viewing platform – before reaching Murray Bay Beach which features picnic areas for day use and campsites for overnight stays. Various historic sites grabbed our attention along the shore of Murray Bay. The Stone Quarry Cabin, built in 1845, is one of the oldest standing structures on Lake Superior and was home to various workers such as stone cutters in Michigan's early history.

It is near this spot that we encountered the largest pile of bear scat we have ever seen. The size of a small mountain, it held evidence of a diet of berries and seemed fresh. Would we be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the undoubtedly huge fellow who released this impressive bomb? Did we really want to? Was he, right at that moment, hiding behind a tree and watching the ridiculous humans gawk at his excrement, wondering how we made it to the top of the food chain? We looked around nervously but saw no sign of a large omnivore lingering to receive praise for his accomplishment.

Further south we passed the decrepit remains of tennis courts which used to be part of a resort operated by an iron mining company in the early 1900s. The main hotel is gone, but some of the cottages still remain and are privately owned.

Once back at Williams Landing, we again encountered the forest service volunteers from the day before and chatted about our trip while waiting for the ferry that would return us to Munising. When the boat reached the dock, it unloaded a new group of visitors including a couple of backpackers with their dog who was suited up with her own pack.

We nearly broke down on the water when a huge tree branch that had been floating in the bay lodged itself in the pontoon boat's motor causing us to stall halfway to shore. Thinking fondly of showers and whitefish sandwiches, we returned to town and spent a few days relaxing before beginning the long drive home.


B-Rad said...

I enjoyed your Grand Island blog. As a fairly new backpacker (2 previous trips) I am hoping to make it to Grand Island this summer. Living in WI and only a few short hours from Munising, I hope to visit there more then once this coming season. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

My wife nd I are thinking of doing your same route. My wife was wondering how steep the hills are going from Mather beach up to the Northern campsites and how steep they are going from the Northern sites down to Trout Bay?

Nina said...

This trip is not so fresh in my memory anymore, but I do not remember the terrain being difficult at all. I remember that going from Mather Beach to the north side of the island had some uphill stretches, but they were not steep - just a gradual, steady uphill walk. Same on the way from the north side to Trout Bay - some steady uphill, but nothing steep, and I don't remember any significant, steep descents as we got close to the bay.

Overall, this was a really nice and fairly easy hike. Will this be you and/or your wife's first trip?

Anonymous said...

This will be our first trip to Grand Island. But we have done numerous hikes in the past to the Porkies, North Manitou, SHT, Parts of the NCT, etc. Thanks for the info and all of your great trip reports.