Friday, August 5, 2016

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Reposted from November 19, 2013

Port of Mackinaw Island - a seasonal harbor.
Our trip to Mackinac (pronounced Mack-in-aw’), was arranged much the same as our trip to Washington, D.C. It was another day trip arranged by our travel club, the Ambassadair Travel Club. Day Trips were relatively inexpensive deals priced between $200-$225 all inclusive.
Tickets in hand, we boarded the ATA (American Trans-Air) Boeing 727 from the gate, fastened our seat belts and taxied to the runway. I love the thrust back into the seats as the plane accelerates, then noses upward and suddenly there is the ‘knock’ sound of the tires leaving the ground, followed by the whining motors that retract the landing gear. All the while, the cars along Interstate Highway 465 surrounding Indianapolis, Indiana grow smaller, while seemingly driving more slowly. Banking the plane to the right, we leave the take-off/landing pattern and assume a heading almost due North toward Michigan. It wouldn’t be a long flight – perhaps two hours – give or take.

In the days of May, 1995,  like many – if not all photographers – I used film, so my picture-taking ability was limited to the film stock I had on hand which amounted to about six, 36-exposure rolls of Kodak print film as I have 186 pictures in my digital conversion files – scanned from the prints. As the flight progressed, I cleaned my camera lenses, dusted out the camera body and that done, re-read the brochure explaining the “fun stuff” that the day promised to have.

We touched down at Pellston Regional Airport, deplaned and transferred to the awaiting buses then traveled to the pier where the Star Line Hydro-Jet Ferry awaited us and we didn’t want to miss that! Our short journey over to Mackinac Island would take us underneath the Mackinac Bridge.

From the top deck of the Hydro-Jet boat, we traveled under the bridge to the island.
It wasn’t exactly a balmy day – quite cool, in fact, but we were anxious to step back in time to the hay days of the Grand Hotel. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie, “Somewhere In Time”, starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. It was kind of romantic chick flick and I sat through it. I’m sure my date would have preferred to re-live it, but something happened along the way, which I’ll later explain.

We weren’t the only folks on the top deck, either. You can see, we had a plane load of people on that boat.
Upper deck of the Star Line Hydro-Jet Ferry.
After what seemed like a long time, but it really wasn’t, the excited passengers got a glimpse of the Grand Hotel. This photo is from a pretty fair distance, which I had to shoot from that position in order to get it all into the frame. This hotel is really grand! This would, be the highlight of our trip.

The Grand Hotel - as viewed from the Jet Ferry - about 1/2 mile from port.
As we got off the boat and once again onto the dock and dry land, I saw photo opportunities everywhere. I had to shoot everything. Even as I walked off the gangplank and onto the pier, I had to take this shot. It was not yet high season so many of the boats who docked at the island during the summer months, had not yet arrived.

This was our view as we walked off the Ferry and onto the pier.
We took a quiet look around. The tour guides told us, we were on our own until 5:00 pm. We had left Indianapolis early in the morning and it was still hours before lunch time. What would we do? Where would we go and see what first? We decided to see the Grand Hotel later in the day, but as we studied the map, we learned a few things. Life is for learning and maps always have some kind of “X” to mark the spot.

Okay, what maritime weblog would be complete without the obligatory Seagull on a post photo? Huh?

Jonathan?! Could that be you?
As we studied the map, we decided to get into the direct sunlight as the off shore breeze was beginning to make its presence known. In the sunlight, there was warmth.

In our study of the map, we learned that the island was once a highly contested British military installation, founded in 1780. Oh yeah, we must go there! Along the way, we saw another copy of the Statue of Liberty faithfully provided by the Boy Scouts. We have one in our small town in West Virginia, also. It’s a cool gift to the community. We also walked slowly by Sainte Anne Church founded in 1670 which maintains baptismal records dating from April 1695. It really is a beautiful church. Wait. I have a photo or two.

The oldest church dedicated to Saint Anne resides on Mackinac Island.
All motorized traffic is forbidden on Mackinac Island, so step back in time to ride in a surrey with fringe on top or a bicycle. I was having a good time, so far and really enjoying the trip until I made the fateful mistake. I wanted to get the big tour of the island via horse-drawn surrey. I am also allergic to horse dander, but I didn’t think it would bother me today. (It did.) We put off taking the ride for a while, but sooner or later our curiosity would get the best of us. “What would it be like?”

The little village on Mackinac Island. No motorized traffic allowed.
The town itself is quite quaint and the shops had wide pine floors just as one would expect as if literally going back in time. We didn’t shop much. There was too much to see and do and we still hadn’t had lunch yet.

My date wasn’t too keen on hiking, so the surrey-with-the fringe-on-top deal was high on her list. We walked past the Grand Hotel and I had to snap this photo. It was beginning to be even more clear that it was the surrey ride or nothing. Hiking in the sunshine wasn’t going to work out.

Road entrance to the Grand Hotel.
We walked back to the village, found the Surrey Ride Ticket Booth and waited for the next tour. I sat way in the back, thinking I would clearly be fine that far away from the horses. We drove slowly past Arch Rock, a medium-sized, two-story Cape Cod style white frame house that served as the Governor’s Residence, down farther we went past the Fort Mackinac Post Cemetery and each of the graves were decorated with small American flags. After all, it was Memorial Day, today.

We got off the surrey at Fort Mackinac, but kept our tickets for a convenient ride back to town after our visit.  You can see from this view, the commanding position this fort held at the entrance to the harbor.

I'm probably the only guy who photographs signs for their informational value. (click to enlarge)
Strategic viewpoint from the fort.
The fort was really interesting because our best “guess” as students of history is movies and books, but here we had period costumes on re-enactors, museum quality scenes of the close quarters these men lived under and some of the flintlock weapons they used. If I showed my entire portfolio of my trip, you wouldn’t want to go there yourself, someday. It is worth the trip for the experience of it alone. Enjoy yourselves.

The Parade Grounds in front of the soldier barracks.
Finally, we caught another surrey back to the village and arrived at the Grand Hotel. I have no idea about prices for staying there, but if I had to ask, they would know I couldn’t afford it. Besides, we had to be back at the docks by 5:00 pm for the trip back.

I have lots of photos of The Grand Hotel, but I can’t share them all. In short, it is grand and it is spectacular – first class all the way, back in the day – but it would certainly be a great visit today, as well.

A 19th Century carriage brings tourists to the Grand Steps of the Grand Hotel.
The authenticity of everything about this place told me that I had, indeed, stepped back 100 years in time. I couldn’t imagine the people who stayed here. This isn't a remade tourist trap, but historic preservation at it's finest.

Elegant way to travel and stylish way to arrive.
Were they tourists? Robber Barons? Industrialists? Visitors from Europe? I truly don’t know, but it was a beauty to behold. This is the way to go for the upper crust.

Here is another photo from the croquet courts down below. There was also a pool with hot tub, although a bit premature in the season for full utilization. Can’t you just imagine the women dressed in fine gowns with bustles and large feather decorated hats gentlemen wearing woolen suits and beaver fur hats?

Lovely water fountain view.
These are my favorite views of the Grand Hotel. Isn’t it just GRAND?

Our time was nearing an end so we slowly wandered down to the docks and waited for our ship to come in – literally. Well, our ferry anyway. Wait, here it comes now!

Our ship has come in!
Just as fast as we came to the island, so too was our trip back to the pier and the short bus ride back to the airport. None of us really wanted to go, but as tired as we all were from the day’s hiking around, we knew the plane ride home would be very quiet and still.  Our plane even looked tired and lonely sitting on the tarmac, but faithful to its job, we all flew home.

I always boarded planes from the gangway. This was different.
This was a first for me, boarding from the rear gangway. (Well, except for that time our Marine detachment boarded a C-130 for Puerto Rico.)

Well, that’s about it. This has been a long entry and I’m glad that WordPress automatically saves in Draft mode every few seconds or I would surely have been logged off by now.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my trip. Clearly, I’m enamored with American history and visiting the places that were a part of history not often heard in classrooms. Every one has their story to tell just as every place has its history. I have a long list of the places I want to eventually visit. I also have a list of places that I’ve already been. Before its all said and done, I hope I don’t bore you to sleep.

If you have any suggestions or wish to add or ask anything about any of my entries, please feel free to comment or drop me an e-mail. I also invite you to share your stories with others who might like to hear another point of view. The object of my blog here is to share my travel stories and meet other people who enjoy the same. Retirement will soon be upon me, so I must make plans for more trips. View suggestions are always welcome. Thanks again for your visit, comments and remarks.

That’s it.




  1. I felt like I stepped back in time too just reading this, thanks for sharing the story and the wonderful pics. :)

    1. It was a nice trip.. The Grand Hotel was the setting for a romantic movie called, "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.

  2. I think my traveling companion had designs on me. Nice girl, but I'm just not right for anybody, I guess.

  3. well I don't think that's true ... not even for a minute!