On Tuesday, July 29 th, 2003 executive members of the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club and guests enjoyed a fine day of discovery and hiking at Griffith Island. Griffith Island lies some 5 km. offshore at Big Bay and is easily visible from the Trail at Dodd's Hill and Skinner's Bluff. Our day began with a fine crossing from the Big Bay dock at 9:00 a.m. Lots of sunshine, a steady breeze and the expertise of our captain, Ron Fenton all helped us to relax in the sturdy little boat, the Islander. Ron Fenton is the manager of the Griffith Island Hunt Club, has a wide range of responsibilities and is also a most gracious and informative host. He gave us an overview of the history of the island as well as a description of the makeup and activities of the Griffith Island Hunt Club. After hiking with us to the Lighthouse road, our group of 18 headed out to explore some of the nooks and crannies of this beautiful island. Our first stop was at the Lighthouse which is in very good condition and is a working lighthouse. Nearby, the lighthouse keeper's house has been abandoned for some time; roofless and open to the elements, it is a nostalgic picture of an era now gone. From the lighthouse we carried on hiking a trail that circumnavigates the island. We passed through beautiful, mature hardwood forest.
Although the island has had lumber removed at various times (including recently), it seems that a responsible and selective process was used and the natural environment of the island is a variable Eden. There are various lookouts offering lovely vistas of Hay and White Cloud Islands, Cape Croker and Skinner's Bluff on the mainland. One of these lookouts became the site for our lunch break and what a joy to enjoy our food in an almost bug free atmosphere. Before we knew it, we had almost circled the island and Ron Fenton came to meet us and we did a bit more touring from the back of a pickup. He told us a fascinating story about the many bald and golden eagles and their taste for the island's pheasants. No, they don't shoot the eagles! Actually, traditional hunting is losing ground to skeetshooting and target practice is growing in popularity. While the Hunt Club has existed in various forms since the early 1950's, Griffith Island was actually home to many farming families in the early part of the century (they even had their own school). The Thornley family was the first to settle there and, judging from the memoirs of Lillian Thornley in her book on Griffith Island, had many happy years of farming and family life. Our visit gave us a glimpse of that past world and a better understanding of new one at Griffith Island.