Thursday, October 11, 2018

Mackinac Island

I've known since we returned from vacation in September that I wanted to share some pictures. I decided between being busy and the dreary fall weather to come, showing them in October would be a good idea, a way to bring up my mood.

Ha! We've had the most beautiful October I think I've ever seen. Sunny, warm, with bright red and yellow trees. We've been lucky, especially since we're getting a new roof (that's a whole other story, and actually a reason to need a pick-me-up, come to think about it).

So…onto our trip! One of the places we went on vacation was Mackinac Island, Michigan. Usually we've visited the island on day trips, but this time we stayed overnight.
View from Mackinac Island, with lighthouse and ferries.

Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, and the only ways to get there are by ferry or a small plane. We love taking the ferry: the water, the wind, the sun.

Evening view from the island to the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan's Upper & Lower Peninsulas

Mackinac (pronounced mack-i-naw) originally stems from the Ojibwe word meaning big turtle (Mitchimakinak). The French changed the pronunciation and spelling, then the British shortened it until the name Mackinac was kept. If you're interested in more information on the etymology of the name or more about the island's history, Wikipedia has details.

Mackinac Island was a summer vacation spot in the 19th century and has a number of beautiful, historical houses. The island itself is listed as a National Historic Landmark. A fort was established there by the British during the Revolutionary War – you can still visit it today. Even our hotel's origin was fascinating: the retirement spot for Odawa/French Magdelaine La Framboise, prominent business woman and fur trader in the early 1800s.

The Harbor View Inn, our hotel
One of the most unique things about the island is that motorized vehicles were prohibited in 1898 – and outside of a few very rare exceptions, it's still valid today. In fact, the island's home to the US's only state highway without motorized vehicles: M-185. About 80% of the island is preserved as the Mackinac Island State Park. So how do people get around the island? By bike or horse-drawn carriage.

This is what a "garbarge truck" looks like on the island.

Besides the lack of motor vehicles, the people who live on the island have some pretty unique hurdles in daily life. While there is one full-time doctor and a small grocery store, anything but the basics means a longer trip. Need to see the dentist? Have to go to the mainland. Need to buy supplies? Get on a boat or airplane.

One of the most interesting things I learned was about how the approximately 500 year-round residents feel about the winter. I'd expected it to be scary and isolating. But once the ice bridge forms between the island and the mainland (they mark the safe path with old Christmas trees!), the islanders have a few weeks of freedom. They can get on snowmobiles and go across to the mainland anytime they want. They consider winter and the ice bridge freedom.

We biked around the island on M-185. This is about ten steps off the road.

Want to see more of the island? Look up the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time. It was filmed there, although they brought cars to the island so you will see some. And no, we unfortunately didn't stay at the pricey, Victorian-style Grand Hotel pictured in the movie trailer.

If you're looking for a place to go and have the chance, I highly recommend Mackinac Island, especially if you can manage it outside of school vacations.

All pictures by me or my family