Grand Island is a National Recreation Area one mile off shore from the town of Munising situated in the 52 degree waters of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. This island is uninhabited by humans and is said to belong to the mosquitos. For a fee, you (and your bike and gear) can be dropped off on the island to explore the dozens of miles of trails, steep cliffs, remote beaches and hidden cabins. The locals say that when they return at the end of the day to pick up the tourists, those still alive can be seen frantically flailing their arms trying to kill the insects; a gesture they call the Grand Island Wave.
Not to be bested by a minuscule insect, even en-masse, we channeled the local vibe, sported our best full body cover up and prepared for the adventure. Our goal … to circle Grand Island on the Comos and not be eaten alive in the process. The friendly staff at the dock shuttled us the mile or so over to the island on the ferry. The only other guests on board with us were a cute couple dressed in shorts and flip flops, carrying an even cuter dog under arm. As we de-boarded we wished them luck – lots of it.
The heavy rain the night before had left the trails difficult, pushing our e-bikes to their limit as the paths transitioned from rocky to swampy, and back again. Picking our way along the edges of the single track, we joined the West Rim trail for a 10 mile back country run to the cliffs on the north side of the island.
The enchanting island of old growth forest and rugged coastline was actually well marked and maintained. Still, the storms the night before had left a challenge or two to overcome. The mosquitos and black flies were intense. They swarmed stationary objects and had no trouble keeping up with us on bikes at 10 mph.
Safe riding in our locals inspired clothing, including mosquito netting over our heads, we took in sights of Pictured Cliffs from overlooks along the coastal trail. We re-nourished with our patented Almond Butter/Minnesota Jam/Daves Good Seed Bread sandwiches 150 feet above the crystal clear waters of the lake.
On the north shore, the weather which had been threatening rain swallowed the coastline, cliffs and trail as we found ourselves biking through a low-level cloud. The temperature dropped 20 degrees and precipitation formed on our glasses. For once, the mosquitos were no where to be found.
Finishing the perimeter tour, we made it back to the launch with 15 minutes to spare. The cute couple was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps they had given the boat crew the Grand Island Wave earlier and already returned home.
Finishing off a perfect Yooper day, we took the boat operator’s advice and dropped in at the Moose Lodge for the Friday Fish fry. A packed house of locals were dining on fresh caught fish out of Lake Superior. For $11 each, we had the Whitefish two-piece, fries, corn, coleslaw, and rolls. Included with dinner was homemade lemon cake, chocolate cake, carrot cake, and coffee. We sampled all three, if only to be fair to the cooks.
Had we figured out how to adapt to our environment? Bring another piece of carrot cake, refill the coffee, and we’ll let you know.