Kayaking From Beaver Island to Hog Island

After enjoying ourselves and learning so much from Ken Bruland of Inland Seas School of Kayaking, we decided to return the following year and take more lessons and explore more of Beaver Island. (note: Ken has since retired and the school is now closed)

On this trip to Beaver Island, we took advanced classes covering advanced paddle strokes and advanced rescues. We also signed up for an all day trip to Hog Island.

When we arrived on the island, the weather had become threatening. Thunderstorms and high winds were in the forecast for the rest of the day and most of the next day when our classes were scheduled. This of course threatened whether we could hold classes, as paddling during thunderstorms is never a good idea. Luckily, we were greeted the next morning with clear skies but with near gale force winds. This was favorable as we could still hold class in the shelter of the harbor and the wind would only make the classes a bit more realistic and challenging. Ken took us to the sheltered side of the bay and we ventured from time to time into windier areas for additional challenges.

The next days’ forecast of gale winds however would not permit us to paddle to Hog Island so we rode our mountain bikes to the far south tip of Beaver Island and explored much of the interior rather than paddle in gale force wind and waves.

Beaver Island is a beautiful place. Nicknamed Michigan’s Emerald Isle for both its lush forests and that the vast majority of its year round population is of Irish ancestry, it can indeed conjure up images of Ireland. Unlike Ireland though, Beaver Island has harsh snow filled winters. Its summers are mostly mild but be prepared for occasional hot and humid days in the high eighties. Of course, a trip to either the Shamrock or Donegal Danny’s Pub can bring some good old-fashioned Irish relief. On a hot day a trip to Daddy Frank’s for ice cream a must do!

The weather cleared and our trip to Hog Island was on! It was sunny and hot and unlike the last few days, there was no wind – at all. There were also no waves. Lake Michigan was smooth as glass, very unusual for being thirty miles from the coastline of Michigan! We started out early but we were soon warm. Dipping one’s hat into Lake Michigan brought relief, as did dragging one’s hands and wrist into the cool water.

On the way to Hog Island, there is a tiny unnamed island, really more of a rocky reef where we had planned to paddle to for our first rest stop. As we approached it, we could see, hear, and smell hundreds of sea gulls. Accompanying the stench of guano were swarms of tiny flies. In the becalmed air, the combination was rather unattractive and decided to press on to Hog Island.

Ken decided to make for the reef between Grape Island and Hog Island. There we found a gentle breeze and solid land. We rested there awhile before continuing.

On the shore of Hog Island
On the shore of Hog Island

Hog Island is located five miles Northeast of Beaver Island and is the fourth largest island in the Beaver Island archipelago. At approximately 3 miles long and just 1.7 miles at its’ widest, Hog Island is the last piece of land you would depart from if you were daring enough to try to paddle to the mainland of the lower peninsula of Michigan.

We arrived at Hog Island and made our lunches. Ken had packed snorkeling gear, as there is a shipwreck about fifty yards off shore in about 10 feet of water. It is rumored to be an old steam powered Schooner that caught fire and run aground during a storm as an attempt to save her.

Snorkeling over the shipwreck was a pleasant diversion as the air temperature had climbed into the high eighties and the lack of clouds and wind made it rather uncomfortable.

We packed up and set course back to Beaver Island. Luckily, the wind had picked up, we had a gentle tail wind, and we made good time averaging almost 4 knots. Overall, we paddled nearly 16 miles. An evening at Stoney Acres Grill and Donegal Danny's Pub was well earned!


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