by Mike Terrell
My companions and I had been following a snake-like trail that hugged
Drummond Islands rocky shoreline. At times we would dart back into
the snow-covered cedars, maneuver around a few boulders, and bust back
out along the shoreline.
It was beautiful, and we were going slow enough to appreciate it.
Along the shore the contrast of gleaming white snow and bright blue
water created a stunning picture, especially when you first emerged
from dark stands of cedars crowding the shoreline. Gliding through
the cedars on your sled was like going through a series of strobe
lights with shafts of sunlight streaming through the thick cover.
Wow, said one of my companions. That was great. Riding along the
shoreline is a blast; very scenic. One moment youre in thick cover,
and the next, riding along the open lake.
The best is yet to come, I remember being told by a couple of local
riders after talking about the same thing a few years earlier as we
paused at the same location. They werent overstating either. I just
kept quiet and let the ride speak for itself.
As we left the shoreline after the rest stop, we began to slowly climb
inland. The landscape changed to rolling, open hills dotted with
I led them off trail as we approached a high point along the eastern
end of the island. The trail does a U-turn and heads back down, but
you maneuver through a rock garden, over a rocky knoll and down the
other side to a flat shelf-like area along a bluff. Here youll find
one of the most incredible views in the eastern U.P. While its not
officially part of the trail, theres normally a well-worn path
leading to the popular view spot.
THE NORTH CHANNEL
Standing on top of a 200-foot limestone bluff called Marble Head you
look over Lake Hurons North Channel. The Canadian mainland stretches
as far as the eye can on the other side of the channel, and Canadas
Cockburn Island, just to the south, looks no more than a stones throw
away. Beyond that Manitoulin Island, also Canadian and the largest
island in the Great Lakes, floats on the blue horizon. Its a spot to
linger and just enjoy the panoramic view.
While it can be pretty busy on winter weekends, we were there midweek
and had the trails mostly to ourselves. Traveling a little over 50
miles that afternoon, we encountered only three or four other sleds.
We also took a ride across the Maxton Plains, which offers a glimpse
into one of Michigans rare alvar grassland prairies. Its an odd
combination of flat grasslands, limestone bedrock and large boulders
left by the last glacier; much different than the Marble Head area.
The local riders I encountered a few years ago used to crow about the
fact that Drummond Island may be the best kept secret in the UP for
snowmobiling, but thats changed in the last decade or so.
Drummond Island Resort, by far the largest lodging facility on the
island, has seen a steady increase in its winter business over the
It depends a lot on how winters are going in the Lower Peninsula,
said Amy Hoffman, who works for the resort handling calls and
reservations. Our snow is normally fairly reliable. Snowmobilers
can usually count on good conditions from late December through
Drummond, often referred to as the Gem of Huron, is the largest
American Great Lakes island. Its 150 miles of shoreline supports
some of the finest fishing and waterfowl hunting habitat in the UP.
Its long been known as a sportsmans paradise. In addition to
plentiful deer, some of the deep wilderness areas on the island are
home to moose, bear, coyotes, and a few wolves that have crossed the
natural ice bridges that form in winter.
Snowmobiles used to cross ice bridges to access Canadian mainland
trails, but thats not very popular anymore, according to Hoffman.
Crossings used to be simple and quick. Now with the borders being
much tighter, its much harder to do. A bit of a hassle, she added.
Most snowmobilers stay on the island. Theres over 100 miles of
marked, groomed island trails, and we have maps. Its easy to find
your way around.
The resort, once a private hunting preserve, offers a unique blend of
modern convenience in a rustic, lodge-like setting. You can access
the island trail system right from their parking lot. Winter nightly
room rates, based on two people per room run $119, and they also rent
snowmobiles. The resort also offers about 10 miles of groomed cross
Its a short ferry ride about a mile across Detour Straits but a
world apart from the mainland. The 850-some year-round residents that
live on the island are a friendly lot that wave as you pass by. They
love to talk about their beloved island and always lend a hand with
Its a slow, relaxed pace of life. Youre on island time now. Enjoy
the trip, they will tell you.
For more information visit:
www.drummondisland.com and www.drummondislandchamber.com.