with Raechelle Champoux
Wheeling on Michigan Drummond island Plans for this adventure started long before we finally ended up on Drummond Island, the first weekend in September. While sitting around our huge bonfire at Summer's campground at this years ZookiMelt in Attica, IN a few of us started a conversation with fellow wheeler and Michigan resident Brian Dow. Brian mentioned that Drummond Island had some great trails for wheeling. Some of the trails are used for the Jeep Jamboree every year.
That is where this all began. We had never met Brain before ZookiMelt and I think that we all agree that his suggestion of Drummond Island for a weekend was a great one! Once all of the plans were hammered out it was set for Labor Day weekend. We hit the road from Muskegon, Michigan following Jody and Lisa Ellsworth and Larry and Terrina Harris. After a pretty long drive up north we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge into the upper peninsula of Michigan and headed east, to a town called DeTour Village.
To get to the island from the mainland you have to take a car ferry and depending on if you are driving your truck or towing it can cost you 14.00 and up round trip. A short boat ride over and then it was another half hour until we got to our resort/campground. When we pulled in we all got a very pleasant surprise. Jim and Kim Mazzola and their son Brice had been able to make the trip after all and were already settled in for a weekend of camping and wheeling. Some folks that the Mazzola's knew were going to be meeting up with us to head into the trails the next morning. The more the merrier. We sat up camp and wound down for the evening and Brain Dow showed up in the late night hours of Friday along with a pal of his, Lucas. We caught up some and hit the tent for a cold nights sleep.
Early the next morning when I woke up I crawled out of the tent to find Jody Ellsworth and Jim Mazzola under Jody's Samurai installing a GRS1 in Jody's truck. I guess the three days of wrenching to install his new SPOA just in time for the trip to Drummond wasn't enough. 🙂 Jim is a great person to have around, that is for sure... you will always have a helping hand, a spotter, and you will never get lost with him with you in the trail. After the coveralls were shed and breakfast was eaten we hit the trails. Let me just tell you this, if you have never been to Drummond Island before, it is beautiful, peaceful and clean. The trials were the same way. We headed out with four Samurai's, the Mazzola's tracker, and a half of a dozen other vehicles, even a few stock ones, mostly Jeeps, CJ's, TJ's and two Cherokees. The trail that we ran on Saturday was on the East side of the island. The terrain was hard black dirt and rocky. A welcome change from the sand dunes at home. Good wheeling in the lower west side of Michigan is hard to find. The trails were a bit tight in areas but nothing that even the newest driver wouldn't have been able to conquer. On Saturday afternoon I even drove for the first time off road and if I could there I am sure that anyone could.
Saturday afternoon we happened along a very rocky beach and played for sometime there. We twisted the trucks up on some good sized rocks to check the flexibility of the new lifts on Mitch and Jody's trucks. On the way to Marble Head we encountered a rocky stair step with no by-pass. It did have two lines, the right hand side on the decent facing down, was less difficult. Some locals that were out in the trail were amazed that we were going to attempt to take our vehicles down that part of the trail. They all stood at the top of the hill that made up the obstacle and watched in awe as we all made it to the bottom with no problems. Once you get down the stair steps, it is just a few minutes more on the trail and you end up at a gorgeous look out point on the top of a cliff that lets you look out over lake at Canada. Someone had cleverly made a picnic table out of fallen logs and placed it close to the edge of the cliff. The view was incredible. After a short rest at Marble Head we turned around and headed back up the stair step and headed for Shale Beach.
The trail from Marble Head to Shale Beach was nice and winding with some moderately deep mud holes here and there. The kind with hidden rocks in the bottoms that make them even more fun to go thru. We arrived at Shale Beach late afternoon. I have never seen a beach void of sand like that. It was all rock, they were all flat and none of them were big. It wasn't like a gravel driveway by any means, just tons and tons of these gray smooth flat rocks. When you drive over them it sounds vaguely like breaking dinner plates. The day is getting long and we all are getting ready to head back in for the night. It took us about just over an hour to get from the beach back to "civilization." It was a great way to end our first day on the island. No one got stuck, no one broke down. That night we sat in the Mazzola-home (they have a huge motor home) and watched videos from this years ZookiMelt and from Jim and Kim's recent trip to Tellico. We all called it an early night hoping to get an earlier start to the trails Sunday morning.
It was around five A.M. when the rain started to pour down. Mitch made a dash for our truck and the Ellsworth's, putting on doors and tops to keep the rain out. We all were hoping that it would let up, and it did from time to time during the day. We tried to wait it out a bit, but it was still coming down. We all ate, said our good-byes to the Larry and Terrina and hit the trails again. The trails were not as rocky as the ones we were on Saturday. As you can imagine they were a lot more muddy than the day before due to the rainfall.
The trails on Sunday were much more narrow and densely wooded. The obstacles that we encountered were a bit more difficult to navigate due to the slippery nature of the mud and constant rainfall. After a while on the trail Jim Mazzola happened to notice an overgrown old trail. We assume that it was an old logging trail and it was obvious to us that no one had been down it in ages. We followed Jim's lead down this extremely tight trail. Our Suzuki's were barely fitting between the trees! All of us ended up with some new pinstriping on our trucks thanks to mother nature, especially Lisa's '72 Scout and Al's Cherokee. Finally, we met back up with the rest of the jeeps that had split from us earlier in the day. Jody took a side trip a long the trail into a small garden of huge rocks. After a while of trying to get his truck to climb out of it, his centerforce got too hot to try anymore. It was an excellent attempt on his part with the help of Jim spotting.
Back on the trail a while later, the trail made a Y, to the left was bumper deep mud and the right was a wide rocky trail. We opted for the rocks and headed back towards camp. Once back at the resort we dried out our soaking wet camp chairs and huddled around a blazing campfire in front of the Mazzola-home. We shared stories of wheeling and made some good friends. Thank you to Jim for the HUGE fire it was the only time we were warm all weekend! Thanks to Kim for the pizza rolls and Pina Coladas. We said goodnight and headed to our tents.
We all had one final breakfast together at the Bear Track and headed for the ferry. A short ride across the lake and we were back on the main land and heading south towards home and warm weather. All in all the weekend was a blast. We had a great time on the trails and had even more fun due to the people we shared the weekend with. Thanks to everyone who made the run a success. Lets hope that we can all get together again soon!