Mackinac Island August 2




Saturday morning we took the Shepler’s Ferry from Mackinaw City across to Mackinac Island to meet Johnny and Liz(Anchor Down).  Mackinac Island can only be reached by private boat, ferry, small aircraft, and in the winter by snowmobile over an ice bridge.  The ferry ride only takes 16 minutes to cross Lake Huron they fly.   This was the fastest boat ride I have been on in over a year.

There are no vehicles allowed on the island only horses and bikes and there’s a good supple of both.  The exception is snowmoblies because they travel on top of the snow not the land and therefore are not traveling on the island.


Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron at the eastern end of the Straits of Mackinac in Michigan.  The island covers 3.8 miles with 80 percent of it preserved as Mackinac Island State Park.  Ancient seas, ice age glaciers, and 10,000 years of rising and falling lake levels formed Mackinac Island.  In recent centuries the climate, erosion, and human activity have shaped the island.  The island was home to a Odawa settlement before European exploration began in 17th century.  Mackinac Islands name derives from a Native American Language because of the Turtle look shape of the island.  Maehkaenah is the Menominee word for turtle.  In the late 19th century the island became a popular tourist attraction and summer colony.  Motor vehicles were prohibited on the island since 1898 with the exception of snowmobiles during the winter, emergency vehicles, and service vehicles.  This was because of concerns for the health and safety of the islands residents and horses, after local carriage drivers complained automobiles startled their horses.  It was so different to see the side of the streets lined with bikes instead of Automobiles.  From a horse-drawn taxi to lively carriage ride to trail riding on horseback, horses are a way of life on Mackinac Island.


Horses first arrived on the island in 1700 they were used to haul Fort Mackinac from the mainland across the ice and over to the island.  In the 1800 horses were given as gifts to families on the island, by 1850 businesses began to use them as means of transporting goods.


Then in 1887 with the Grand Hotel being built brought sightseers to the island so In 1901 the creation of horse and buggy sightseeing rides became popular.  After WWII ended Stewart Woodfill owner of the Grand Hotel began the promotion “Horse is King ” and in 1948 he established Mackinac Island Carriage Tours.  During the peak summer season the island is home to roughly 500 horses.  When the seasons draws to an end nearly every horse leaves for farms on the mainland.  More than 100 horses end up at the Gough family farm in Pickford.  Some go to other farms in the upper peninsula and the famous Grand Hotel Hackneys the famous high-stepping horse reserved for VIPs winter at a ranch in Mackinaw City.  The horses are transported across Lake Huron by Arnold Transit Co. who can fit 30 horses in the belly of the boat.  The stable managers start shipping them the day after Labor Day.

Kent and I walked to Johnny and Liz (Anchor Down) boat at Mackinac Island State Marina.  It was nice to see them again.  We wanted to do the carriage ride of the island and Johnny and Liz weren’t interested so we agreed to meet at the Grand Hotel when we were done with the tour.  Mackinac Island tour takes a 1-3/4 hr and started downtown. Rachel was our driver, very informative with a good sense of humor, and our horses were Jamie & Helen.

Our tour started on Market Street past the Courthouse and Police building, Biddle house believed to be the oldest on the island, past Chamber’s Riding Stable, and continued up the hill on Cadotte Avenue heading towards the Grand Hotel.  Most of the buildings on Mackinac Island are constructed of wood and a few are stone and have clapboard siding.


We went past Little Stone Church a Union Congregational church built of local field stone in 1904 by local builder Frank Rounds and his crew.  The granite cut stones used for the buttresses and courses surrounding windows and doors were transported as they are not indigenous to the island.

Our first stop was at the Surrey Hills Carriage museum featuring century old carriages, and a mini-mall including light food service.  This is also a transfer point on the carriage tours.



Kent and I walked the short distant from Surrey Hill to the new 8,700 square foot Grand Hotel Stables, home to 12 horses.  They really have a top of the line stable with fresh air being vented in and a big red chandelier.

We could see the horses in their big stalls with their own personal name plates above each stall.

This building also has 20 antique carriages from both the Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island Carriage Tours that you can see.


When we were finished at the stables we were ready for our second part of the tour on a larger carriage.  Our driver was Leonard powered by three horses named Butch, Michael, and Gordo called the mafia.  They have been a team for 12 years.  Lenoard gave us some information about his job.  Not only is he a driver but also responsible for his team of horses such as grooming, checking their shoes, hitching and unhitching them each day.   Each horse is named and have their own personality for example Butch is a mixed breed and an escape artist and all around stinker.  They usually only keep the horses up to the age of 20 and then retire them to the main land except for one horse.  Each time they try to retire this horse he will stop eating until returned to the island.

The second part of our tour continued through the Mackinac Island State Park  established in 1895 as Michigan’s first State Park.   The park from 1875 to 1895 was Mackinac National Park the second national park in the United states with Yellow stone being the first.  The park had historic landmarks, breathtaking vistas, spectacular rock formations, quiet forest, and inspiring nature trails.  It even has fire hydrants because if a fire ever broke out the island would totally burn in 24 hrs.  Everything in the park is protected flowers, trees, and even the rocks so if you decide this would be a great savior think twice as you will be fined.  I guess a rock from the island is out of the question.

One of the stops on the tour was Arch Rock, a geologic formation of natural limestone formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period when Lake Huron levels followed the end of the Wisconsin glaciation.  To this day Arch Rock stands on Lake Huron shoreline 146 feet above the water.  Limestone breccia is not an ideal material for natural bridges, and this type of formation is quite rare in the North American Great Lakes region.   The Native Americas saw Arch Rock as a place of numerous power and told many stories and legends about it.  The picture doesn’t capture the amazing beauty we saw looking down.

Our tour continued and we reached the stately stone palisade Fort Mackinac, located on a southern bluff overlooking the majestic Straits of Mackinac.   The fort was Built in 1780 a former British and American Military outpost during the American Revolutionary War, to control the strategic Straits of Mackinac.  Fort Mackinac later became the scene of two strategic battles for control of the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.  It served as an outpost of the United States Army,  also a fur trading post, until it closed in 1895.  The fort is now a museum with 14 origin buildings filled with interactive displays and 1880s period furnishing  We didn’t stop to tour the fort as not enough time.

Then we went past Michigan Governor’s Mansion and summer residence a three story structure located on a bluff overlooking the Straits of mackinac.  It was orginally built as a private residence for Chicago attorney Lawrence Andrew Young.  In 1944 Mackinac Island Sate Park Commission purchased the home for its original coast of $15,000.  We were told that a stipulation was written with the sale that if eversold it had to go back to the Young family for the amount it was bought for $15,000.  I guess it pays to be an attorney when selling your home.  They use to fly the state flag under the American Flag when the governor was at the mansion but decided for security reasons to only fly the American flag.


With our last stop at the Grand Hotel the crown jewel of Mackinac Island which we had to pay a fee to enter if not a guest, but so well worth the cost.  We called Liz and Johnny and they met us at the hotel. It was nice to have them enjoy the Grand Hotel with us.

We all walked around the interior of the Grand Hotel hotel and we had a drink on the top floor.   What a great view from there of the pool, bridge, and grounds it was breathtaking.


Tipping is not allowed at the hotel and there is a dress code with dress suggestions.

We had a nice time and took pictures of each other on the porch.  It was so exciting to be on the porch of the Grand hotel the closest I will get to staying here.


This is a picture as we were navigating towards the island of the Grand Hotel it shows you how big the hotel is.  The Grand Hotel is a historic hotel and coastal resort on the Mackinac island.   In 1886 the Michigan Central Railroad, Grand Rapids, Indiana Railroad along with Detroit and Cleveland Steamship Navigation Company formed the Mackinac Island Hotel Company.   The group purchased the land and hotel construction began based upon the design of Detroit architects Mason and Rice.  The Grand Hotel opened on July 10,1887 and took a mere 93 days to complete.  Charleton Varney a protegé of Dorothy Draper designed the Grand Hotel decor including Pelargonium geraniums.  Varney purposely designed the hotel so that all the rooms are different in a least one aspect.  When it opened the nightly rates ranged from $3 to $5 a night, a lot different from todays price at $319 to $2,425.  Mark Twain lectured at the hotel in 1985 and the west wing was added to the hotel in 1897.  Michigan Historical Association selects the hotel as a State Historical Building in 1957.   W. Stewart Woodfill hired as a desk clerk in 1919 purchased the hotel as a sole owner in 1933.  R.D.  Musser hired in 1951 as hotel staff  purchased the hotel in 1979.  Six named rooms opened in the west wing in 1998 in honor of the first ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy, to Barbra Bush.   The Laura Bush Suite is added in 2011 as the seventh First lady named room.  The hotel has always embraced its rich history while keeping up with current times.  The hotel offers their guest Victorian hospitality, exceptional service with fine dining  in a first class setting since 1887 which includes a strict dress code.

The hotels front porch is the longest in the world at 660 feet long and lined with white rocking chairs.   It overlooks a vast Tea Garden and the resorts scale Esther Williams swimming pool.  There are 393 rooms & suites of four different types.  The Grand Hotel has a residential suite located in the center of the hotel with a balcony over the porch.   Before 2007 air conditioning was only available in public rooms, such as the lobby, parlor, and Salle a Manger (main dinning room).  Air conditioning was installed in 170 guest rooms after water heat exchangers in the bathrooms were added.  The hotel offers a beautiful golf course, ten different restaurants including the main dinning room, spa, and many specialty shops.  Five famous U.S. presidents have visited the Grand Hotel Clinton, Bush, Ford, Kennedy, and Truman.  Other notable visitors are Russian president Vladimir Putin, Dmitri Medvedev, author Mark Twain, and inventor Thomas Edison.

IMG_8130The Esther Williams swimming pool hold 500,000 gallons of water.  It was named for actress Esther Williams who starred in the 1947 movie “This time for Keeps” shot at the Grand Hotel.

The 1979 film “Somewhere in Time” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was also filmed on location at the Grand Hotel.  This was the only time motor vehicles were permited on the island.

Some facts about the hotel there are more than 130,000 guest per year, one ton of bulbs are planted every fall including 25,000 tulips and 15,000 daffodils.  The famous porch includes 2,500 geraniums the hotels trademark flower.  The hotel served more than 50,000 Grand Pecan Balls most popular dessert served each season.  During the winter months, when ice prevents ferry transport from the mainland, the hotel is closed.

When we left the Grand Hotel Kent and I walked down the hill to the Yankee Rebel Tavern while Johnny and Liz rode their personal bikes to the tavern.  They have traveled with these bikes aboard their boat since they left home in September ( with very little use) so they decided to donate them to the Mackinac Island.  We all had lunch together then Liz and I decided to go shopping while the guys rode the bikes back to the boat.  Kent looked pretty funny riding a girls pink bike.  Liz found the gifts she was looking for and I wanted some island made fudge.

Mackinac Island is well known for its world-famous hand-made fudge.  Skilled candy makers have been making fudge on Mackinac for millions of customers for well over 130 years.  As the legend reveals it all began back in 1887 the year Grand Hotel was built.  Henry Murdick a canvas sail maker was hired by the Grand Hotel to make canvas awnings.  Murdick arrived with his wife and two sons.  Their oldest son Jerome opened a shop downtown and began making and selling candy and fudge using his mothers recipes.  The business stayed in the family for several years until it closed in 1940 due to sugar rationing during WWII.  Murdick sold the candy business to his chief candy maker Harold May who changed the name to May’s Fudge and is the longest continuously run fudge shop on the island.  In 1940 sugar was rationed but at May’s Fudge people waited in line for hours to make sure they got their fudge. 1970 Murdicks reopened and once again began selling his famous fudge and candy.  I stopped at his store and watched then make the fudge, of course I had to buy some it’s wonderful.  I’ll even share it with Kent if he’s nice.  We were informed that all 15 of the fudge shops give out samples and if you stopped at each one for a sample you would need emergency care which is closed on the weekend.

These are random pictures of Mackinac Island and main street early in the morning when we first arrived.  More bikes lined the street as the day went on.  It was sad when we had to leave such a quiet beautiful place minus the horse smell.

We will not be traveling with Anchor Down as they have to be back in Gallatin, Tennessee the first week in September.   It was hard to say goodby to such a special couple Liz and Johnny (Anchor Down) that we had the pleasure of meeting and traveling with most of the great loop.  We have become very good friends and hope to see each other again when the trip is completed.  We wish them safe travel and the best of luck during the rest of the trip.


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