On the Road 8 x 30; 24 x 7

|Homepage| |Go to Daily Journal List|

08-07-2005 Mackinac Island--Welcome to Fantasy Island!

The Grand Hotel and Topiary GardensSunday, August 7, I was up early and did some correspondence. Bob and I left around 11:30 for Mackinac Island. We stopped in Topinabee at the post office to mail some letters and make a phone call. We continued up Hwy 27 through Cheboygan, all the way to Mackinaw City. We parked behind Embers Motel and took the 1:00 Arnold Ferry (a huge Catamaran) to Mackinac Island. The passage was $18.00 each (you could pay an additional $6.50 for your bicycle--there are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island) and took 17 minutes to cross the Straits on this sunny, gorgeous, breezy day. Arnold Transit is the largest ferry service on the Great Lakes, serving residents since 1878. They have three catamarans. These twin hulled passenger ferries are 82-100 feet long with a beam of 30 feet. The twin diesel engines provide in excess of 4000 horsepower and cruise at a speed of 34-40 mph. We overtook the Star Line ferry in our 'Fast Cat.'

Round Island Lighthouse in Haldimand Bay As we entered Haldimand Bay we passed Round Island Lighthouse built in 1895 at the tip of Round Island. It guided mariners passing through the Straits of Mackinac connecting Lake Huron and Lake Michigan for fifty-two years. It was manned by a crew of three until its beacon was replaced by an automtic light in 1924. A sole caretaker occupied and operated the station from 1924 to 1947. Following the construction of a new automatic beacon near the breakwater off the south shore of Mackinac Island, the lighthouse was abandoned. The U.S. Forest Service now supervises the structure which is located in the Hiawatha National Forest.

Horse-powered shuttle from the Grand Hotel As I looked out the window of our ferry down at the docks I saw horse-drawn wagons with dozens of kegs of beer. There are no motorized vehicles on the Island so the draft horses have to move everything. Later I saw them pulling a wagon of giant propane bottles. We walked west on Lake Shore Drive to Julia Point then backtracked to Mary's Bistro across from the quaint yellow Windermere Hotel. We ate inside so we could get the full menu. Bob had chicken salad with dried Michigan cherries. I had Cuban black bean soup and 1/2 of a turkey wrap that was skimpy and price, but tasty. We looked at our map of the Island and made plan to get fudge and ice cream, some postcards and then walk to the Butterfly House behind St. Anne's Church east of downtown. At Ryba's Fudge Shop ("Think Pink" is their slogan) I got Chocolate Peanut Butter fudge and Pistachio fudge and a pound of Hazelnut coffee. Bob got Mackinac Island ice cream. My backpack is getting heavier just as we're about to trek around the Island!

Our next stop was "Somewhere in Time" gift shop for post cards. I had forgotten they filmed that movie here on the Island. It is one of my favorites. I found 7-for-a-dollar post cards and added them to my backpack. Then we hiked to the Butterfly House, paid our $5.00 admission and started by viewing the butterflies behind glass in the lobby that were just emerging from their cocoons. The Butterfly House has over 1,000 of these colorful insects flittering around inside a huge atrium. A brown leaf-looking one (Rusty Tipped Page) glommed on to Bob's shirt and wouldn't leave. A little girl had a blue one that wouldn't let go of her shirt. You have to remove them before you exit.

Arch Rock breccia formationWe got a Coke for the road and walked up steep stairs behind the church to the bluff above. We went east on Huron Road, a narrow asphalt path just big enough for the horse-drawn carriages. There are spectacular views up here. We ended up at Arch Rock and Nicolet Watch Tower on the northeast side of the Island. The Arch Rock is the most dazzling example of Mackinac Island's breccia formations. It once stood as a solid mass 100 feet above the lake level. About 4,000 years ago the lake waters slowly dissolved the softer material that extended into the center of the formations. As the lake erosion cut away its base, the middle of the stack slowly crumbled into the water leaving the firm breccia limestone arch that you see in the photo. John Nicolet, in 1634 passed through the Straits of Mackinac in a birch-bark canoe, was the first white man to enter Michigan and the Old Northwest. There is no describing the views from up here at Nicolet Watch Tower.

Three carriage loads of tourists arrived and we headed down Rifle Range Road back south. We detoured up a huge staircase to Fort Holmes, the highest point on the Island (325 feet above the Straits and 168 feet above Fort Mackinac. Here in 1812, a blockhouse and stockade were built by the British soon after the capture of Fort Mackinac July 17, 1812, and named Fort George. It was the bulwark of British defenses in 1814 when the American attack was repulsed. After the war the Americans renamed the post in honor of Major Andrew Hunter Holmes, who was killed during the American assault in 1814. The Blockhouse was destroyed by the Americans after the war, but was later restored and then destroyed by fire in 1933. It is just a shell now. Several groups of cyclists were resting at the Fort, enjoying the majestic view of the Straits and Mackinac Bridge. Then we went back down past Skull Cave (hiding place of the English fur-trader Alexander Henry during the Indian uprising of 1763), took a shortcut through Great Turtle Park and zigzagged through a residential area (I think about 200 people live on the Island.) I can't imagine being here year round.

Old Studebaker Sprinkler Wagon at the Carriage House Hotel Iroqois on Mackinac Island; drinks on the veranda with Frank and Barb The houses had bicycle racks on the front porches, horses in the backyards and saddles on the porch railings. My friend Marilynn in Austin would be in heaven here. Soon we passed the Carriage Barns where we saw an old Studebaker Sprinkler Wagon (for firefighting, I presume) We found Cadotte Ave. and walked past Jewel Golf Club's Grand Nine and finally arrived at The Grand Hotel. They charge $10.00 now to go up on the porch if you're not staying there for $650.00 per night in one of the 343 rooms. We snapped pictures from the side railing and got a glimpse of the view. The Grand Hotel opened on July 10, 1887. It was built by the Grand Rapids & Indiana and the Michigan Central railroads and the Detroit & Cleveland Navigation Company. It is built of Michigan white pine. The magnificent colonial porch is the longest in the world with its great white pillars at 660 feet. One of the outstanding landmarks on the Great Lakes, it is the world's largest summer hotel. I got a kick out of the sign in front that said "Gentlemen after 6 p.m. must be attired in coat and tie; Ladie may not be attired in slacks."

Next we took Market Street back to Main and sat on the veranda at Hotel Iroquois right on the shore in the harbor. There was a private party at the tables to our right so they directed us to deck chairs along the water. We were about to leave when no waiter showed up to order a drink. But finally he came and we each ordered a drink ($15.00.) We were settling up our bill when our waiter shyly came by and said the young couple at a table to our left wanted to buy us a drink. We went over and joined them and spend a pleasant hour and a half chatting with Frank and Barb who were here for two days to get a break from their four restaurants in Petoskey. We enjoyed meeting them and sharing travel stories. What a nice gesture to share the late afternoon with us on the veranda. It is so important to us to make a connection with people since there is not much social life out here on the road.

We ran to catch the 7:00 p.m. Arnold Ferry (or we would have to wait until 8:00 for the next one) back across the Straits. Frank and Barb had 7:30 reservations at The Woods, a quaint local restaurant they found on the far side of the Island. Their horse-drawn Taxi was picking them up at 7:20.

After two drinks and our hike around the Island we were hungry and ducked in to the Embers Restaurant where the truck was parked in Mackinaw City. We each had a broiled Whitefish sandwich. Then we headed south on I-75 back to Indian River. A new episode of Inspector Morse was on PBS so we collapsed and chilled out.

It's 11:42 p.m. and 66.8 degrees.