Grindstone Island is always part of summer on the River: camping with my son, walking to Picnic Point to recall the story (or one of them) of Thousand Island dressing, unpacking bicycles from the boat to ride from the dock at Aunt Jane’s Bay. For several years I had wanted to tour Grindstone island on foot. A new sign on the trails behind Canoe Point points the way to the Grindstone Island Winery, and one afternoon in August I decided to follow it.
Grindstone Island seems much as it may have been a hundred years ago. Few vehicles use the gravel roads, and much of the landscape is preserved either through conservation easements or Land Trust ownership. The remains of the cheese factory still stand, though the days of Grindstone Island Cheese, which in bygone days was for sale at the TIP grocery, are long gone.
In the middle of the island, beside the upper schoolhouse and community center, is a glorious pirate ship play structure. TIP once had one of these, but like the see-saws it was deemed too dangerous and taken away.
At the west-end of the island, the road becomes a track through forest and active farmland that TILT refers to as “old fields”, looping past Mid River Farm (another TILT preserve) to the northwestern shore. On a muddy part of the track, what appeared to be a profusion of yellow flowers turned out to be scores of butterflies—sulphurs, as I was later informed by the good folks at Minna Anthony Common Nature Center—congregating or “puddling” until I disturbed them.
Hot and thirsty by now, I turned off the road to emerge from the 19thto the 21st century for a brief swim at the crowded and cacophonous Potter’s Beach. Saving a side trip to the old Scottish quarrying community of Thurso for a later date, I continued, by way of the pirate ship, back to the winery. Julie, the Winery Manager, was still conducting tastings, but the first three drinks I asked for were all glasses of cold water.
I was delighted to find that a 100% Baco Noir, not mentioned on the website, was available. Julie offered me a side-by-side tasting of this, with one of her Baco Noir-Merlot blends; though both were good, I resolved right away to buy as much as would fit in my backpack: two bottles of the 100%, and two of their Grindstone Island port, for TIP family members—presents for which the giver has made the pilgrimage to buy from the source.
It’s an hour of easy walking between the vineyard and Canoe Point; as the evening was approaching, I strode off at a brisk pace until the couple from Grindstone caught me in their golf cart and brought me to the entranceway to the Grindstone Island Nature Trail. A mile of grassy trails later, I was packing the wine into my kayak for a gentle paddle across Eel Bay, through the narrows, and back home to TIP.
[Photos by Stewart Dutfield]
By Stewart Dutfield, Thousand Island Park
Stewart Dutfield has been coming to the Thousand Islands since 2000. At Thousand Island Park he divides his time between kayaking, swimming at the rocks, running in the Minna Anthony Common Nature Center, and riding old Indian bicycles.
This is Stewart’s second excursion in his kayak, be sure to see Indian Takeout by Kayak, July 2017. In addition to find more hiking trails be sure to see Patty Mondore’s Hiking the Thousand Islands, August, 2018.