Thursday, October 4, 2018
We drove north from Petoskey to Mackinac and caught the 11:00 ferry over to Mackinac Island. It was a chilly 45 degrees with the winds blowing 20 miles an hour. I was beginning to wonder about this trip with ferries going over every half hour, carrying a hundred or so people each. Of course they come back every half hour too. As we entered the harbor 16 minutes later, I saw a cruise ship in the harbor. It wasn’t like a big ocean-going cruise ship, but it was a cruise ship. We had planned to take the bikes and ride the 9 miles around the island, but it was a bit too chilly and windy for us.
As we got off the boat and walked up to the main street, it felt like we went back in time when horse-drawn wagons were the means of transportation. Clydesdales and other workhorses were all over the place, mostly carrying people on an hour tour of the island. There are no cars allowed, so it either ride a bike, ride a horse or hire a wagon. It is a beautiful downtown with well-kept stores, hotels and beautiful houses. An old fort sits on the top of the hill. Every block had a fudge store, where it is all hand-made.
We started walking west on the street, gawking at the homes, with flowers everywhere. Shortly, we decided to maybe not walk all the way around the island, but cut across the middle and back along the other side. We walked up a big hill to find the Grand Hotel, and grand it is! A golf course sits across the street, while the hotel has a superb view of the bay and lake below. Continuing past the hotel and around a corner, we entered a state park of woods with trails crisscrossing everywhere. After all that rain we had the night before, we stuck to the roads, passing the airport sitting on top of the island. A horse-drawn wagon passed us with one passenger with his golf clubs in the back. A sign designated it as a taxi. Cool!
Walking through the park on these roads had a bit of the taste of Acadia National Park. I’ve never been to Bermuda, but the town felt like I imagine Bermuda, with pretty hotels and homes and flowers everywhere. When we got to the other side of the island, we picked up Tranquil Bluff Trail, walking along the edge of a bluff overlooking green and blue waters of Lake Huron. We were sure we saw two whales cruising that side – maybe killer whales with white bellies, but there are no whales in the Great Lakes. Martha remembered a guide telling us there is a place on the St. Lawrence that blocks them. This is a very pretty trail through the woods overlooking what looks like an endless Caribbean Sea.
We were starting to get tired as we came to the east side of the town, walking a crushed gravel road along the water. Beautiful Mission Point Resort overlooks the lake. As we came up to main street, we exchanged pleasantries with a couple walking the other way. The gentleman came right over, asking if we had been here before. Then he told us all the things we should see as well as the best places to eat. They had been here for three months and I think come every year. How nice!
Walking back through town, we passed a Mackinac moving van – two Clydesdales pulling two wagons loaded with someone’s furnishings. We took our new friend’s recommendation and went to Milly’s on Main for Whitefish stew and whitefish fish and chips, and both were good. After getting some ice cream and fudge, we caught the 4:00 ferry back. It would be great to spend three months here and explore the island more. There are many options for staying here and it is a gorgeous place that handles the tourists well.
We drove to Wilderness State Park, now a bit tired. Martha thought she saw a sign that said there were no vacancies. Thankfully she was mistaken. One of the advantages of traveling this time of year is you can drive through the park, find a campsite you like and then go register. In Michigan this means picking up the yellow phone and calling some central office somewhere and giving them your site, license tag, length of stay, etc and payment. After doing it a couple of times, it’s pretty efficient, and they don’t have to man every campground. This is a very busy place in the summer as it is right on the lake with 26 miles of beaches, lots of hiking trails, lakes and bike trails. The sites on the water were pretty full, but we went to the Pines section, where it is open, grassy and only 6 other campers – perfect!