Friday, July 15, 2022
Temperature 69 Degrees, Overcast
Our first big sightseeing trip was to Mackinac Island. But first, the way to pronounce Mackinac was somewhat in question so the first thing I did was ask for the correct pronunciation. I was told that the c is always silent so the correct way to say it is Mack i naw. Ok now that that is cleared up.
So, now the question became what was the best ferry company to use, and how best to get to their dock. There are several ferry companies in St. Ignace but based on local recommendation we chose
a company that has been providing ferry service for over 75 years. Now, we could of course drive to their parking lot but no need to because
they provide free shuttle service there and back. How about that!
Once at their dock we joined the many others going to the island.
Soon enough we were under way but taking a slight detour. We were going to go under the Might Mac first before heading to the island. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water but a bit cool for sitting topside – which is of course where I took us on boarding!
Under the bridge and back then we were on our way to Mackinac Island. It was quite something to look up and realize that you had cars, tucks, RV’s and so much more whizzing over your head!
This was our first glimpse of the Grand Hotel, one of the island’s principal landmarks. It was built in 1887 to accommodate the many summer visitors who came to the island by railroad and steam-powered passenger boats. The prominent feature of the hotel is its 660-foot front porch where wealthy patrons would parade back and forth dressed in their best.
Time to disembark and visit the island.
OK, disclaimer right up front. There is so much to do on Mackinac Island that I can’t possibly post it all in one, even two, or even three blogs. So I’ll try to hit some of the highlights of what we did and where we went. And we, unfortunately, didn’t even get to all that we wanted to.
The one, and probably the only thing, we knew about Mackinac Island was that cars are banned. That wasn’t always the case we discovered but as the story goes after a few incidents in the early years between cars and horses the city council permanently banned all automobiles. It makes for an interesting experience, no honking horns, no road rage, exhaust free air, as well as quaint and narrow village lanes.
That means to get around you have several choices: the two feet that God gifted you with
or how about a bicycle – by the way this is nothing in terms of a load for this young man, later we saw him on the same bike with a load that towered over his head. He had to stand and pedal and peer over the top of the luggage that he had strapped to the front of the bike. Speaking of bikes, you could either bring your own over or there were a multitude of shops that would rent you one.
Then there is real horsepower available. There are horse drawn carriage tours,
as well as horse-drawn taxis . I also learned later that you could, if you wanted to, rent your own horse, or horse and carriage. Oh no, not me.
Speaking of horses, that is the way that everything moves on the island. Supplies, luggage, you name it comes in at the docks and then is taken where it needs to go by a horse- drawn wagon. Hey, even the garbage truck is horse drawn.
One thing I quickly learned is that you don’t want to walk in the street like these people. As the day goes on bicycle traffic as well as horse-drawn carriage traffic increases and you take your life in your hands by venturing off the sidewalk.
A quick glance down Main Street with its many shops. This was early morning just after we got off the boat. All looks calm, but that was not the case an hour later.
Later at the Visitor’s Center we learned that two years after Yellowstone, Mackinac Island was declared a United States National Park. Fort Mackinac soldiers served as the first park rangers. However, with the closing of Fort Mackinac the island lost its caretakers. Concerned citizens successfully lobbed to have the national park transferred to the state. The Mackinac State Park Commission was created to care for the park. Today the park has grown to include over 80 percent of the island and the park commission is always looking to add to that amount.
Remember the Grand Hotel and its front porch that I mentioned in the beginning? Here is a better look at that front porch. If you wanted to walk it today and were not a registered guest, you could do so for a fee of ten dollars. Really? Count me out. Oh, if you wanted to become a registered guest, rooms range in price from $500 to $1200 per night.
There was a most impressive flower garden at the entrance to the hotel.
Remember I mentioned those horse-drawn taxis? They were our chosen means of transportation to
Fort Mackinac which sits
150 feet up there on top of a limestone bluff. Now for some that would be an enjoyable walk. But for the two of us, well that is why we went by taxi. Not to mention, the taxi ride is really relaxing and enjoyable.
The view from the Fort looking out over the town and bay.
These are just a few of the structures that make up the fort. .
Now for a bit of history. Fort Mackinac was founded during the American Revolution. The Fort served as a military outpost for British and, later, American soldiers from 1780 to 1895. The role of the military took many forms during the fort’s 115 year history. In the beginning it was a crucial Great Lakes border post and its soldiers helped to protect the lucrative fur trade. By the late nineteenth century it had outlived its military importance but when in 1875 Mackinac National Park was established its post commander became the superintendent of the park and its soldiers assumed new duties as park rangers.
You are free to roam the fort buildings in any order that you wish. There are a total of 14 original restored buildings, exhibits, cannon and rifle firings, and more. Every building in Fort Mackinac was originally built by the army and used by its soldiers during their post there. All have exhibits within them and are well interpreted and complete in themselves. It is one of the best, if not the very best of all the forts we have visited over the last four years.
The largest building of Fort Mackinac is the Soldiers Barracks which was home to the enlisted men.
Across from the Soldiers Barracks were the Officer’s Quarters.
This was the Parade Ground that separated the two.
During the day there were many demonstrations of various sorts. We were lucky enough to in the right place at the right time to witness
the ceremonial firing of one of the Fort’s cannons.
Truth be told there is so much more to the Fort than I’ve been able to share here. We spent several hours there and still missed several significant exhibits and movies. If you have a bucket list of places to visit this one definitely deserves to be on that list. But be prepared to spend a significant amount of time there.
The same goes for Mackinac Island. It definitely deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list. There are so many wonders to explore. There are the sights of the downtown area to the scenic beauty of the park. My only advice would be to arrive early in the day. And plan on doing a lot, a whole lot of walking or maybe a lot of pedaling. We are already talking about a return visit in the future.
Thanks again for spending some time with us. It’s always great to be able to share our story with family and friends. Comments? Feel free to share them with me. And always remember, cherish every moment of every day that God gives you and live those moments to the fullest.
Our continuing mission remains the same: to explore as many new states as possible, to seek out new acquaintances and make new friends, to boldly go where we have not been before.