September 18, 2017 (by Angela)
Mackinac Island in Michigan is a place I’d hoped to visit for quite some time. The idea of an island that doesn’t allow motorized vehicles on it was intriguing to me. Because of our stop in St. Ignace, located at the Straits of Mackinac in the southern portion of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I was able to check off this Bucket List item.
Since Jim had to fly away to a client location for most of the week, I busied myself doing other things while I waited for him to return. As soon as he could break free on Friday, he and I bought our round-trip ferry tickets and enjoyed a 35 – 40 minute classic ferry ride, which included a little bit of history and geography relative to the area. If in a hurry, you can take the Hydro-Jet Ferry, also shown below. I must say that even though it was late August and the sun was shining, I was thankful for my raincoat. I’d have been more thankful for a heavier jacket while on the boat.
As soon as we disembarked the ferry, I was immediately amazing by the young men working as bicycle porters. How the heck do they do that?! I have no idea how they are able to stack and balance as many of the bags and suitcases as they do and then ride with all intact to the various hotels on the island. I saw several with stacks of luggage higher than the one pictured, but I was too busy gawking to think to snap a photo. These guys certainly earn a nice, big tip for such skills.
The main street was packed with visitors and bicycle porters. Instead of motorized cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the streets are filled with cyclist, horse-drawn carriages and wagons, and the occasional battery-powered golf cart. I knew horses played a huge part in the daily life on the island. Yet, it wasn’t until I saw horses being used to pull the trash and delivery wagons, both jobs normally performed using trucks, that it really sunk in that this is a way of life.
The captain of our ferry shared with us that the horses who work on Mackinac Island are cared for well, and that was pleasing to me. According to him, the horses spend 10 months of the year grazing on the mainland in open fields; they only work 2 months out of the year. When brought back to the island to work, their first day “back on the job” is a short one; they only go one round. Even when back in full stride, the horses are limited to three rounds before they are returned to the stables where they tag another team.
Mackinac Island is 80 – 82 percent state park, depending on who is telling you. Fort Mackinac is available to tour, but we did not have time to do it justice, and there is a cost involved. If you like sweets, this is the place to be. I think every third building houses fudge and candy made fresh. The tempting aromas follow you as you walk, tempting you to slip inside one of the sweet shops. Hotels, restaurants, clothes and gift shops, along with sweet treats – those are the prominent things you will find along the main street. However, if you just go one block up, the pace slows down. Institutional buildings of city life such as a bank, the courthouse, and police station (complete with police bike parking) may be seen mixed among the lovely homes of the year-round inhabitants of Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island, surrounded by the waters of Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac, is simply beautiful.
I’m so blessed to have been able to visit. I’d love to come back at some point when not too terribly cold yet mostly free of tourists, so I can experience what it might be like to be a local.