Mackinawesome: the one-word summary of my weekend. Much longer summary to follow 😉
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Jim and Jess treated me (and Tony) to a night on Mackinac Island (pronounced Mack-in-awe…you know, that common silent “c” and all) at a sweet B&B two blocks up from the lakeshore in honor of my thirtieth birthday. I might as well warn you now that even though it may not appear so, I have, in fact, been judicious in my photo-sharing choices: I’ve posted 37 in a thumbnail gallery (out of ~250!) so that you may choose to look at any – or all…or none – of the pictures larger, but hopefully they’ll still load quickly for most and not take ages to scroll through.
The four of us, plus Jackson, took off work Friday so that we’d arrive on Mackinac Island early enough to do some touring before bed. Two hours after packing the Clifton’s Subaru, we were in Mackinaw City (I have no idea why it has a “w.” Perhaps for confusion?) unloading our luggage in advance of the ferry ride across the Straits. The TSA could learn a thing from the folks at Arnold Transit. It was so unbelievably stress-free and easy that I simply must provide details. Parking for the vehicle we left behind was free – in an outdoor lot – all weekend. We were asked no questions about our luggage (presumably if you knowingly were acting criminally, you’d lie anyway, right?), and we were given no limits on how much we could take. Signage indicated that any luggage could be searched, for what that’s worth. We explored the area around the nearby Mackinac Bridge and Fort Michilimackinac before our ferry departed at noon. Passengers queued up along the ferry, a ticket-taker scanned our tickets, we boarded, and away we went. No seat assignments, no pre-
flight float checklist. We were free to move around three decks, which all had open-air spaces.
Our arrival to the island a scant sixteen minutes later went much the same way. Judging solely on the Captain’s finesse berthing the whale of a catamaran, I am convinced he’s the best parallel-parker I’ve never met. To top it all off, Arnold Transit had a porter deliver our luggage – via bicycle! – uphill to our B&B.
We spent two nights at the Cloghaun (“Clah-han”) bed and breakfast, which was downright pleasant. The rooms were charmingly decorated, and well-appointed. Marti, the innkeeper, was perfect in her post: knowledgeable, kind, welcoming. I couldn’t recommend this place highly enough. It was close to “the strip,” but away from all the noise, with easy access to bridge views and the fort. Also, the front porch was cozy and inviting.
To my thinking, a B&B is the best way to overnight on the island. If you’re unfamiliar, there are no cars on the island, save emergency vehicles. All traffic is limited to pedestrians, bicyclists, and equestrians – which you could certainly smell, making me question how strongly aroma-ed towns of old were. Mackinac Island measures only eight miles in circumference, so we chose au naturale transport, putting one foot in front of the other…for around twenty hours.
We investigated the many buildings of Fort Mackinac Friday afternoon. Period housing quarters, block houses, and hospitals, along with copious background info, invite your perusal. History nerds would be utterly delighted by the bountiful display. I found myself being keenly appreciative of modern medicine, sleeping arrangements, and local lack of war. After exploring many other locations on M.I., I maintain that the fort has the best views.
Saturday we trekked most of the inland roadways, discovering a some of the island’s unique limestone formations, as well as a couple of old cemeteries. (Because of M.I.’s limited space, there are requirements for who can be buried in the cemeteries there, and we actually stumbled across the plot of the family in whose B&B we stayed!) I’m told that if we had come a few weeks later, lilacs that the French planted in the 1600’s would have been in bloom island-wide. As it was, gardens were awash in tulips, which don’t seem to draw too many vespids, so I’m not complaining.
We did go shopping Sunday morning, because I love a tourist T-shirt, and we did buy a half-slab of fudge (the fudge shops on the island make 5 tons daily…is your mouth agape too?), but most of the remainder of our time was occupied with feats of relaxation. These mostly consisted of lolling in the grass, or sitting on the rocky shore soaking up views of the Mighty Mac, the Round Island lighthouse, or the passing ferries.
Mackinac Island is an astonishingly beautiful and quaint place to visit, and I am glad we did – once. I am sure the people there have many more secrets to share, and I am positive I missed some of the abundant beauty, but I did feel hemmed in by the crowds. And this weekend was practically opening weekend…before all the tourists arrive. I will say though, that if you get the chance, you should definitely spend at least a day there, in the strange place that’s a step back in time with wi-fi ties to the present. But I’d recommend you go before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.