Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mackinac Island

August 8-11, 2012

When we left the Les Cheneaux Islands, we had a short and smooth ride to our next destination, Mackinac Island, a place we have visited several times before and always enjoy. The only marina in Mackinac is the state harbor, which is so popular you have to reserve in advance and are limited to a maximum of 4 nights.  We were able to reserve only 2 nights, but were told we could get on a waiting list when we checked in for a possible third night.  As it turned out, we stayed 4 nights because the wind and waves out on the lake continued to be rough, and some boats that had reservations cancelled.  Most of the Loopers who came into port over the next couple of days reported very uncomfortable conditions on Lake Huron. Lucky for us, the weather was never a problem in terms of preventing us from doing anything we wanted to do, but was rough enough in the open water to keep us in port.  So we had a wonderful 4 day stay in Mackinac that felt more like vacationing than Looping.  There were lots of other Loopers in the harbor but for the most part we all did our own thing during the day.  One downside was the rockiness of the harbor, with the constant ferry traffic right past our boats. Small price to pay for being able to spend time in such a lovely spot.


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We pulled into port right behind Marc’s Ark, so after we got settled, we had lunch with Marc and Michele on the waterside patio of the Chippewa Hotel.  It’s funny that even though we are living on the water, when we get into port we always look for a restaurant with a water view.  Can’t get enough of it, I guess!


After lunch, we walked down Main Street a bit and Craig made his first fudge stop.  The 4 or 5 blocks of Main Street are generally crowded with tourists, bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles of various types.

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When we got back to the boat we picked up the dogs and went for a good walk past Mission Point to the Arch Rock.  We were happy and a little surprised that the dogs tended to ignore the horses that are everywhere on Mackinac.

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Along the shore we saw lots of stone cairns (piles of rocks) that people had built. Since the Mackinac beaches are all rock, it’s a great place for them.


We took such a long walk that we missed docktail time (imagine that!), and went out for a late dinner by ourselves.  On the way home, Craig was excited to discover that the fudge shops stay open until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., so he was able to add to his supply!

The next morning we got the bikes out and rode clockwise around the island. It’s a beautiful, flat, 8-mile ride, beside the water all the way. Once you get past the touristy 4 or 5 blocks of Main Street, there is a short stretch of lovely older homes, and then you enter the Mackinac State Park, which covers most of the island. The color of the water is just gorgeous – shades of crystal clear blue.

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About halfway around we stopped at the Cannonball, a little roadside place where you can get hotdogs, drinks, fried pickles – and ice cream!  We ran into Marc and Michelle (Marc’s Ark) and Michele’s visiting sister Patrice.  They were riding the island counterclockwise.  We joined them for ice cream and then continued on our way. We passed many more stone cairns, including a really tall one.

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After our ride, we went back to the boat to get the dogs and walked to the Jockey Club for lunch, a pretty, outdoor, dog-friendly restaurant across the road from the Grand Hotel.


While we ate we watched the red-jacketed staff in front of the Grand Hotel turning away visitors who tried to walk up to the hotel without paying the $10 fee to do so. Yep, that’s what it costs to walk onto the front porch of the Grand Hotel these days. We had no interest in going into the hotel – we have done that in prior visits – but we did hope to walk past the big front porch to the road beyond that leads past the beautiful old homes on the West Bluff. So after lunch we walked over to the hotel to see how far we might get.  The red-jacketed lady petted Joey and Bailey, wished us a pleasant afternoon and raised no objection to our walk. Afterwards, we decided that it was probably our dogs who got us through. The guard must have known that there was no way we would try to sneak into the hotel with the dogs, so she was happy to let us walk past.  Bailey stopped to pose for a picture.

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We enjoyed our walk along the bluff and further inland on the quiet back roads.  We walked over 3 hours on a warm day, and all four of us were tired by the time we got back to the boat.

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The next day, having received the green light from the marina staff to stay two more nights, we rode our bikes up to Fort Mackinac and spent a couple of hours exploring the fort and having a glass of wine at the outdoor cafe at the fort. The cafe has a beautiful view of the harbor, the town and the Mackinac Bridge in the distance.

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We continued our bike ride to the top of Arch Rock and through the hilly middle part of the island. Looking down into the clear shallow water below Arch Rock, we could see that someone had spelled out in rocks “USA 2012” with the Olympic rings. (The Olympics were in full swing at that point.)  Pretty cool.

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That night we had reservations for dinner at The Woods, a Grand-Hotel-but-no-jackets-required restaurant somewhere up in the woods that you’d have a hard time finding on your own.  No problem – a horse-drawn carriage picks you up in town and takes you for a half-hour ride up to the restaurant and back.  Great meal and a really fun experience.


The next morning we all woke up to the shock of seeing several police officers at the far end of our dock and learning that a man’s body had been found laying at the bottom of the harbor, right next to several of the boats. Not the sort of thing you’d ever expect to happen at an idyllic place like Mackinac.  We later learned that he was an employee of one of the island hotels.  The death was preliminarily ruled accidental drowning, but rumors abound in situations like that.  We may never know the whole story.

Having no interest in hanging around the dock while the police investigation continued, we jumped on our bikes and rode around the island again, this time counterclockwise to get a different view.  We stopped at one of the stony beaches and built our own cairn.

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That evening we had a big Looper docktail gathering on the dock and celebrated Passport’s anticipated completion of the Loop the next day when they crossed to their starting port of Mackinaw City.  Congratulations, Mary and John!


Our last night in Mackinac we had dinner with Marc and Michele (Marc’s Ark) and Mike and Kathy (Queen Kathleen). We all agreed we’d had a great time, but the weather forecast for the next day was good, and it was time to go!

Next, Beaver Island

(Real time update: Since our blog continues to be so far behind, we’ll provide updates of our actual current location each time we send a new blog.  On September 5, we are in Grafton, IL, where the Illinois River meets the Mississippi. Tomorrow morning we head for Hoppies in Kimmswick, MO on the Mississippi.)

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