A few weeks ago I was contacted by Northern Initiatives to help with a Pure Michigan visit. Travel writers from across the U.S. were coming to the Upper Peninsula to experience winter. Real winter.
The interest and their requested destination peaked my interest immediately. They wanted to visit Grand Island.
If you’ve been to or through Munising in the summer months you’ve likely looked out over Grand Island possibly unaware that a 13,000 acre adventure playground is at your fingertips.
Winter presents a handful of challenges. Challenge #1: Let’s make sure that ice is stable, eh!?! Challenge #2: Let’s not run into issues on our sleds out on Grand Island. Challenge #3: Let’s not run into issues on our sleds trying to figure out if the ice is stable… eh!?!?
You get the idea.
Two weeks prior to their visit I shot over to the Island with Kristian, Co-Founder of U.P. Overland. We made a counter-clockwise loop of the island, scouting the best ice and snow drift formations for the Travel Writers to see. The Grand Island cliffs offer ridiculous Ice Curtain experiences. 100+ feet of ice, often more with shelf ice. The Michigan Ice Fest was in town the first weekend of February and I was happy that some of the more adventurous climbers were able to bury their axes in Grand Island ice.
The island was phenomenal on our first scouting run. Kristian, whether he’ll admit it or not, loves to snowmobile.
Last week, my brother came into town and I twisted his arm convincing him to play a support role for me to scout the island again. Running the outer rim of the island is actually a pretty quick task, I can knock it out in about an hour. My mileage the first scout was right at 26 miles, but that including some dinking around. When we set out last week my goal was to survey the drifts along the West Rim Trail, as well as figure out if we could get close to the shelf ice in Trout Bay.
The crossing from Grand Island Landing has been perfect for a few weeks. The trails were lightly traveled and powder filled two tracks from long forgotten logging jobs are all over the island. We made quick work of getting to the West Rim of Trout Bay.
I knew if we had a great day of weather, the Pure Michigan guys would love the overlook over Trout Bay. Leaving it up to Mother Nature, we shot north, toward the North Light.
The North Light on Grand Island is an interesting conundrum. It’s posted private. I respect the property, but it’s ridiculously awesome and impossible to avoid. To that end, I can only hope that the owner understands this. Truthfully, I check the North Light each time to see if it’s been messed with. I wouldn’t hesitate to report anything fishy to the USFS. Unfortunately, year after year, more people head out to the North Light on their sleds. I’m concerned that eventually access will be physically blocked.
The North Shore is rugged. Battered, sand blown drifts, bare ground shy of snow due to unrelenting wind. The landscape never fails to remind me that I don’t ever want to be out there unprepared.
At the furthest Northern shoreline, ice curtains often go the season untouched. I can imagine that many an ice climber would love the opportunity to rope in and climb back up this ice. I’d shuttle service out, just for the chance to photograph the fun.
From the North Shore, we make our way to the West Rim Trail. The North and West shore trails are awesome fun on sleds. The winds delivers impressive snow drifts, not to be taken lightly considering the proximity to an average 200 foot drop to Lake Superior!
There are no words to describe the West Rim Trail. You just have to get out there and see it for yourself.
The trip winds down the further south on the West Rim Trail you go. There are so many other areas of Grand Island to explore it is impossible to mention everything in this blog post. Echo Lake, in the center of Grand Island, is missing from many early maps of the island. Echo Lake offers some of the most remote and amazing fishing in the U.P. Touted as the ‘largest beaver created lake’, it is a must see.
Let’s not forget about the Pure Michigan guys. Dave Lorenz and Steve Cook met up with Kevin Cotey and myself at the Grand Island Landing at 9am on the 10th of February. Bill Ramsey, owner of Munising Snowmobile Rentals, had donated two sleds for the day for Dave and Steve to use. Kevin and I used our own personal sleds.
Steve hadn’t snowmobiled much. I offered simple advice; the sleds are engineered for this terrain, you’re just there for throttle control.
The Pure Michigan tour was awesome. We had a cold morning, but amazing weather, clear skies, bright sun and smooth trails. We stopped at Mather Beach to let Dave and Steve truly experience the rugged winter shoreline of Grand Island.
At Trout Bay, we stopped to enjoy the silence, the sun rising and the glass flat waters of Lake Superior. Typically, the bay freezes thick enough for a couple weeks worth of ice fishing. That isn’t likely this year.
I really enjoyed meeting Dave and Steve and showing them Grand Island by snowmobile. After our ride we met some of the other travel writers at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore, where a great lunch was sponsored by the owners Jeff and Nancy Dwyer. We had good discussion with Dick Anderson of the USFS and Gregg Bruff of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
The feedback from the Pure Michigan experience in the U.P. was remarkable and we feel lucky to have been a part of it.
We’ll be sure to share links to articles and blogs as they become available.
Be sure to check out Interactive Discussion Forums to learn more about other adventure opportunities in the U.P.
You can learn more about Pure Michigan on the Pure Michigan Website, and Pure Michigan Blog.
If you live here, you’re lucky. Now Get Out!!