Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mackinac Island

Friday (Oct 2) - Saturday (Oct 3):

On Friday morning we got up early and made the 2.5 hour drive to Mackinaw City. Our plans were to stay overnight in Mackinaw City and visit Mackinac Island on Friday afternoon and Saturday. The drive north took us along US Hwy 131 to I-75. We were hoping to see some fall colors in the trees, but only saw a few trees that have turned. A quick explanation on the spelling of Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island: Mackinaw is the British spelling of the word while Mackinac is French. They are both pronounced as "Mack-in-naw".

Once we arrived in Mackinaw City we starting looking for a hotel room for the night. Connie had picked out the Clearwater Hotel, but they had no vacancies for the night. The desk clerk recommended a couple of other small hotels in the area and we called the Beachcomber Motel which did have some rooms available for the night. We booked one of their larger rooms with a king bed, a view of the lake and a large jacuzzi bathtub.

View out our hotel room of Mackinac Island
We did not spend much time on the porch.

We went into the main part of Mackinaw City and booked our two day passes on Shepler's Ferry. The only way for the public to get to the island is by ferry. There are three companies that run boats over to the island: Shepler's (the oldest and largest), Star and Arnold's. On Friday the ferry boat left the dock on the half hour, so we had about 45 minutes to grab a quick lunch. We ended up eating "fish and chips" at Scalawags Whitefish & Chips which was about 1.5 blocks from the dock.
Inside Scalawags - Freshwater Bass poster

The fish and chips was very good here.

Ferry boat at Shepler's dock. The waves on the lake were 3-6 foot swells
so everyone sat inside rather than on top of the ferry.
The island is located 7.2 miles from Mackinaw City and the ferry rides takes about 15-20 minutes. Transportation on Mackinac Island is by walking, bicycles, horseback or by carriages. The island banned automobiles in 1898 after an island resident brought one over and it spooked the horses on the island. There a few gasoline powered vehicles on the island: ambulance, fire fighting equipment and some road repair equipment.

Once we arrived on the island we booked a "carriage" tour with the Mackinac Island Carriage Tour Company. The carriage tour usually lasts about 1.75 hours but ours was the last of the day for our driver/tour guide so it ended up being a little over 2 hours.
Anna was our tour guide/carriage driver. She has been doing this for several years
and was an excellent guide. She is a college student working on her undergraduate degree.
The tour starts off with a ride through the main part of the town of Mackinac Island.
View down one of the roads along the tour.
From there we passed the Grand Hotel. The hotel was completed in 1887. It was built in 4 months by over 300 carpenters and masons.
Rooms are about $400 per night
We continued up the hill away from the harbor to St. Anne's Cemetery. The cemetery was originally located in "town" next to the St. Anne's Catholic Church and was one of the first sights for visitors to the islands. In the 1920's the cemetery was moved to its current location and expanded. For the cemetery entrance a mason was hired to create an archway. He measured the size of the hearse and made the arch big enough for the horse drawn hearse to go through the arch. He forgot about the driver of the hearse who sat on top of the carriage, so the archway was never used. A path to the left of the arch is the entrance into the cemetery.


We proceeded to a stone arch (Arch Rock) that was created thousands of years ago when the lake was much higher than it is today. The Native Americans believed that this arch was a portal into the next life and was controlled by one of their deities. Once a person died their soul had to pass through this portal to make it to the next world.
Connie in front of the Arch Rock.


Standing on top of the Arch Rock.
Mike in front of the Belgian Draft Horses that pulled the carriage.
The one closest is 18 and the other is 7 years old. They work 6 days a week
and are always with the same driver.

After walking around the Arch Rock for a few minutes, we proceeded to the East Bluff. This is an area with great views of the lake and the town. Several Victorian summer homes have been built along the road.
Victorian summer houses along East Bluff.

Taking a break on East Bluff.

View of the harbor.

Our "carriage". The horses wear a hard rubber shoe on their front hoofs
and a traditional metal shoe on the rear. This helps the horses from sliding on the
asphalt roads.

View down the East Bluff.
We returned back to the main street in Mackinac Island and got off of the carriage. We walked around the town for a while before we took the ferry back to the mainland.
The Bark Chapel. This recreation of the type of "church" built
by Father Marquette and the early French Catholic missionaries.

View of Fort Mackinac. The area below was used by the fort to grow crops and corral animals.
After the fort closed down it was turned into a city park.

Connie in front of the statue of Father Jacques Marquette. He visited
this area in 1671 and taught the Native Americans about the
Catholic religion.
We grab a bite to eat at the Keyhole Bar and Grill (had appetizers that were so/so) in Mackinaw City and then returned to our hotel room. We enjoyed a long soak in the jacuzzi tub before calling it a night. Sorry, no pictures of us in the jacuzzi.

On Saturday morning we ate the continental breakfast in the office of the hotel. We met a couple from Indiana who used to take extended trips in their 5th wheels (they owned several) over an 18 year time frame. They told us about some of the trips they had taken in the Upper Michigan area and gave us some tips of what to see.

We got in a long line to board the ferry and had a nice conversation with two couples (one from Michigan and one from Alabama) who were traveling together on a trip to the island. The temperature was around 50 degrees with a 25-30 mph wind, so we were trying to stay warm. Connie had 5 layers of upper clothes on while I had 4. The wind chill factor made it feel like it was 32 degrees.

Once we got to the island we spend several hours visiting Fort Mackinac. The fort was originally built by the French in 1715 and located at Mackinaw City. In the 1760's, ownership was transferred to the British who moved it to the island in 1780. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the fort became the property of the United States. During the War of 1812, the British captured the fort with a single cannon shot (they occupied the hill above the fort and out numbered the American troops 10 to 1). The British held the fort until the end of the war when it was returned to the Americans by the Treaty of Ghent. The fort was used as a training facility until 1875. In 1875 most of Mackinac Island was made into the 2nd national park (the first being Yellowstone in 1872). The soldiers located at the fort became the "rangers" for the park and their duties now included taking care of the park. In 1895, the fort was closed and the national park was given to the State of Michigan to become the state's first park. Most of the houses located outside of town are inside the park. The houses are owned by individuals who "lease" the land from the state each year (they are all on long term leases).

Map of the island and the state park

Connie at the entrance to the Fort

View of harbor from the fort.

Mike outside of the Guardhouse. This is where prisoners were kept.

The Parade Ground in the middle of the fort. There were several "soldiers" dressed
in 1880's uniforms who gave talks and demonstrations while we were there.

Quartermaster's building.

One of the soldiers about talking life at the fort.

The club for enlisted men. included a billiard's table and an
original "pinball" machine located to the right of Mike.

The "bar" inside of the enlisted men's club. Beer was sold for 5 cents a glass. They
tried selling coffee but since no one was drinking it they discontinued serving it.
The views from the fort are spectacular.
Park and harbor below the fort.

One of the churches in town with golf course behind.

Golf course with Mackinac Bridge in background. The golf course has 9 holes next
to the Grand Hotel. You take a 20 minute carriage ride to the other side of the island for
the "back nine".

Another view of houses in town.

Another view of the golf course and lake.
We finished up our visit to Fort Mackinac and then walked around the town for a while. It was so cold that we decided to head back to Mackinaw City for a late lunch and then return to our campground.
The lighthouse in the foreground is still in use. The older one located to the left
was closed a number of years ago but is now being restored.

Wave breaking along the boardwalk on Mackinac Island
We ate a hot late lunch (Connie had clam chowder and I had chili) at O'Reilly's Bar and Grill and then made the return trip to The Duchess. On our return trip we took Hwy 31 which goes along Lake Michigan from Mackinaw City to Traverse City. After a quick stop at Walmart, we returned to the campground and settled in for the evening.