This past weekend I had the fun of staying on an uninhabited island with my sister and two female cousins. It is a unique experience, something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.
There is something about being away from everything and unconnected from the world — no TV, no radio, no telephone (cell phones only worked down by the water, not in the lodge), no electricity, no indoor plumbing except for non-consumable water at the kitchen sink, no air conditioning, no street lights, no cars, no other humans on a 263 acre island. There is an operating lighthouse and you may see ships and other boats passing in the distance on Lake Huron. It is a peaceful existence.
Captain Mike transports us from the boat dock to the island. Photo by Grace Grogan
Our journey began at a boat dock in Alpena, Michigan. It is there that Captain Mike met us. He loaded our luggage and coolers packed with food for the weekend onto a boat and transported us 2-1/2 miles out to Middle Island. The Middle Island Keepers’ Lodge where we stayed is a former U.S. Coast Guard foghorn building that has been transformed into a beautiful and comfortable lodge. The lodge is a 2/3 mile walk from the boat dock down a trail through the woods. Captain Mike loads up and transports all luggage to the lodge for you. If you are unable to make the walk you can hitch a ride in the small 4-wheel vehicle he keeps there for providing luggage transport.
Walking from the boat dock to the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan
Ready to begin our adventure in true fashion, we all elected to make the walk. On the journey we walked past a more rustic cabin that is also available for rent on the island, and another trail that leads down to where there is a sinkhole in Lake Huron. The trail to the lodge is peaceful and quiet, the perfect beginning to our weekend. Once everyone has arrived at the lodge and the luggage is unloaded Captain Mike gives a tour of the lodge and shows everyone how to operate the propane lighting inside the lodge and the propane heated shower out on the deck. While we get settled in Captain Mike goes out to cut and deliver firewood to the campfire area down on the beach. Captain Mike then leaves us on the island and will return on Sunday to provide us with the opportunity to tour and climb the lighthouse before transporting us back to the mainland.
The dining area of the lodge. Photo by Grace Grogan
The lodge is roomy and comfortable with a large modern kitchen. The range and refrigerator/freezer are powered by propane. There is running water in the sink that can be used for washing dishes, bottled water is provided for human consumption. The sink and shower water is pumped in from Lake Huron. A comfortable dining area, a couch and two chairs, plus a bar area with four stools provides plenty of seating.
In the main area there are propane wall-mounted lights. A small free-standing fireplace is there for use in cooler months, but there was no need to use it during our stay. Large windows, a front door, back door and sliding door provide plenty of cross ventilation to keep the cabin comfortable. For families there is a loft accessible by ladder that holds another table and chairs, a single bed and bunk beds, making this an ideal family retreat. For eating and socializing there is a picnic table on the grass out the “back” door, a table and four chairs on the back deck, and a bench and washline on the main entrance deck where the shower is located. Even the porta-potty just off the main deck area is clean and contains a battery operated light for nighttime use.
Sunset as seen from the fire pit area on the beach. Photo by Grace Grogan
As the golden hour approached we ventured down to the beach and fire pit area to light a fire and watch the sunset. The beaches here are not sand, they are covered in limestone/shale rock. As we watch the sunset over Lake Huron we notice that a huge flock of seagulls nest on a strip of land that juts out into the lake, and they periodically take off in large groups for a moment before once again landing on their nesting area.
As night falls we are able to watch the lighthouse come to life, with its beacon reflecting into the water. Without the distortion of city lights the sky is pitch black and the stars are crystal clear. A beautiful sight. Our flashlights came in handy making the walk back up from the fire pit to our lodge. When you are used to always having some form of unnatural lighting around it is amazing how absolutely pitch black nighttime is.
Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan
You may think you sleep soundly, but when there is absolutely no sound except the distant sound of waves on the beach you learn how soundly you really can sleep. I live on a state highway and am used to sleeping with the sounds of cars going by off and on all night, plus the vibration of ships going up and down the river and the occasional sound of their fog horns. On Middle Island when you go to bed and there is no sound. Quietness envelopes you into a deep and peaceful sleep.
Our first night on the island we stayed up late socializing, but Saturday night we made sure we went to bed at the reasonable hour of midnight and set an alarm to watch the sunrise Sunday morning over Lake Huron. I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but that was a beautiful and peaceful sight as well. The sun rose at approximately 6:08 am and there was only one lone sailboat out on the water at that time of morning. A sight definitely worth rousting yourself out of bed early for.
Sunrise over Lake Huron. Photo by Grace Grogan
What do you do on an uninhabited island? Spend time talking to people, really talking without the interference of tv, computers and text messaging. Read a book or the newspaper articles that Captain Mike keeps on hand that tell about the island and special events that have happened there. A small selection of games, puzzle books, and cards are on hand. Read the journal books that people have written notes in talking about their stay on the island. Everyone loves the time they have spent on the island and there are repeat visitors who have made journal entries over the years during each visit. One thing is certain, everyone enjoys their time spent on Middle Island. That was one of our Sunday activities, each of us wrote our own short paragraph about our stay on the island, and it was fun to read each entry. Although the majority of our time was spent together as a group, our thoughts and experience the things that inspired us about the island, varied slightly.
Walking the trails on Middle Island. Photo by Grace Groan
If you are physically able to do so do not miss out on walking the trail on the island. Allow about four hours and take a water bottle with you. If you have any physical challenges a walking stick or in my case, a cane are also important…and don’t forget to take your camera. This is mostly a walk through the woods, but there are areas were Lake Huron is visible, and you will encounter nature in various aspects. I personally could have done without walking my face into a few spider webs, or the large daddy-long-legged spider that I noticed crawling on my chest, but those things are minor compared to the beauty of nature experienced throughout the walk. Huge butterflies, live snails, and spiders spinning webs were some of the things viewed. The sound of birds singing up in the trees provided beautiful background music. We were told that there are several deer on the island and did see their tracks but were not lucky enough to encounter any. Nature has its own way of creating unique beauty, from gnarled upturned tree roots to wild daisies trying to take over the pathway. There was always something to capture our attention.
Middle Island Lighthouse. Photo by Grace Grogan
Had someone told me I could survive and enjoy life without tv, radio, internet/computer, telephone, motorized transportation, electricity and indoor plumbing I would have questioned the intelligence of their statement. What I found is that when eliminated from my life for the weekend I did not miss them. A stay on Middle Island is the perfect getaway. We are used to being connected at all times, we operate on a schedule and are always checking our watches, crowding activities into our busy lives. A weekend on Middle Island eliminates those things from your life. From Friday afternoon to the time Captain Mike picks you up on Sunday you are free to relax, not pay attention to time or schedules and enjoy the beauty of nature as it was created. We all left certain that we will return again some day.