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  • Writer's pictureSam Hageman

Exploring Michigan: Backpacking Grand Island (Siblings Week 2020)

Siblings Week was a tradition started with my brothers David & Ashton when I moved away to Grand Valley State University full-time in 2016. Every summer since we have planned different trip with just the siblings. This past summer our family planned our annual Siblings Week to backpack Grand Island in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Our first stop on our trip was Straits State Park in St. Ignace. We left after work & wanted a stop right across the Mackinac Bridge. We spent the first night buying some groceries, cooking on the fire, relaxing, & enjoying a calm night. The next morning we woke up & went into the little downtown of St. Ignace. After we picked up some rain jackets for the less prepared, we drove to some hiking trails along U.S. 2 trying to beat the rain. It rained while we were there, but we ended up loving the Cut River with the fog & cloudy Lake Michigan shores.

We went back to camp & hung out for the rest of the night, playing cards, & making food on the fire. We slept for the night & woke up to hike the Mackinac Bridge Overlook at Straits State Park. Once we finished our morning hike we packed up & headed out to Munising.

We arrived at the Grand Island parking lot & made sure we had everything we needed in our packs. We took a pontoon boat across Lake Superior to the Island with a few other people wearing masks. When we arrived we allowed the dogs to play in the water right by the docks to let them cool down during the hot sunny 90 degree August day. We checked the map for our reserved site & headed out. The trails were easy to follow, some elevation changes, & a little muddy as it had just rained the day before. Trail maps were at every cross section for guidance as well. Once there we hiked 5 miles to our campsite, taking breaks when necessary for water & the dogs. Dexter was carrying his pack & Alfred staying with us, but after a few miles Alfred needed to relax because he was hot. We carried Alfred for a few minutes before he was ready to get down. Along our route to our campsite we were able to fill our water bottles & water bladders to use at our camp half a mile away.

When we arrived at our campsite we set up camp, my brothers setting up their hammocks & rain tarp & Garrett, the dogs, & I setting up our tent. We were so hot after setting up & the long hike that we headed to the closest beach access. Sadly, due to high lake levels the two closest beach access points had their stairs blown out/destroyed, however it was a blessing as the next closest beach (0.5 miles away) had a beautiful small waterfall. The beach was a sandy/rocky mix where we were able to watch the sunset & the dogs had a blast running the deserted beach.

On the second day we went for an early morning swim at the waterfall beach & relaxed until a storm rolled in. When the storm rolled in we hid out under the hammock rain fly relaxing, my brother built a fire to cook lunch on, & the dogs hung out exploring around our amazing campsite. Our campsite was woods surrounded by moss, logs, pine needles, & a large distance from other backpacking sites. We had access to a pit toilet on our site & a bear pole/box in the woods nearby. Although it may not seem like luxury to some, it was the most luxurious backpacking site we have ever stayed at.

Once we ate lunch & the storm passed we hiked 4 miles to the other side of the Island. We saw some beautiful sights of Lake Superior, rock formations similar to Pictured Rocks on Grand Island, & relaxed on a very sandy beach for a while. We hiked the 4 miles back to camp, made dinner, then headed back to the waterfall beach to watch a beautiful sunset. It was absolutely breathtaking & we all loved seeing the beautiful colors of the sunset. That night we enjoyed our dinner over the fire, played some B.S., & hiked over to one of the beach decks to look at the stars. Sadly there were few stars due to the clouds, but it was a nice late night walk. Once we hiked back to camp we hit the hay, it was a great way to end my 27th birthday.

The next day we took our time packing up, enjoying the campsite, taking photos, & stopping one more time at the waterfall beach before we left. Then we hiked back along the shore of Lake Superior to the boat pick up.

We arrived just in time for the boat departure & went right on the boat. We got back to the mainland, packed up the car, & headed to the Hardee's in Munising for some chicken strips & burgers. We drove back down to the Mackinac Bridge & decided to take one last swim in the Great Lakes. We headed to McGulpin Point Lighthouse & the rocky shores of Lake Michigan for a swim in view of the Mackinac Bridge. The shore has mostly disappeared after years of rising lake levels, but we still were able to swim & sit on the shore to enjoy the day. Once we wrapped up we headed into the downtown of Mackinaw City for some ice cream & hit the road back home.

We have had some amazing trips for Siblings Week, but I think this was by far my favorite.

For more information on Straits State Park, click here.

FOr more information on Cut River, click here.

For more information on Grand Island, click here.

For more information on McGulpin Lighthouse, click here.


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