Up North Straits of Mackinac Area attracts crowds, inspires a creative mind
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Mackinac Island, MI- It was a steady stream of cars heading Up North for the weekend last Friday. The traffic was a mix of hunters, fishermen, tourists, golfers and other adventurers.
Some braved the chill both in the air and in the waters of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron hauling kayaks, canoes, bicycles , seadoos and ATVs.
The ferries to Mackinac Island were packed full with people bringing their bikes with them. The waters in the straits were so wild that the catamaran rocked from side to side as the waves splashed over the panoramic windows.
In spite of the Friday rain, the Main Street on the island was lined with bikes. Some porters on bicycles carried the luggage in the baskets in front of them. I wondered how they could see.
Where horse is King
I discovered that on this island, where no motorized traffic is allowed except for snowmobiles, the horse has the right of way. And in peak season, there are 600 horses on the island. They are a way of life.
We did the one-hour buggy ride with horse Shorty inside the island.
“He was on a team, so he has a tendency to veer off to the left, just pull on the right reign,” said the friendly guy at Jack’s Livery & Stable located on Mahoney Ave.
After a while we found out, that Shorty was quite a character. Not only did he veer to the left, but he slowed downhill and went faster uphill. All the other carriage drivers knew him.
“Hi, Shorty,” they greeted him all around the route.
En route as we tried to make Shorty go left to the Arch Rock, Shorty wouldn’t do it and he showed it by whinnying. Having taken the long loop around the lake last year, it dawned on me that certain horses are trained to do certain routes. They won’t go any other way.
The horse handler back at the livery confirmed my insight.
“Yes, they are trained to go at walking speed and they will go only on their route.
Where lilacs take over
The staple event of the Mackinac Island is the annual Lilac Festival that takes place during the first two Sundays in June.
In search for the annual Lilac Festival poster, we stopped at the Island Bookstore inside the Lilac Tree Inn on Main Street.
“Some of our lilacs are 300 hundred years old,” said the clerk. “They come from Eastern Europe.”
“Yes, we had them in Czech Republic,” I said. “Now, we have them in our garden.”
Where projects abound
As a true newspaper woman, I buy local papers wherever I go. So, we bought the Town Crier and The St. Ignace News at the Doud’s Market. The oldest family owned grocery store in America, founded in 1884, serves as a lifeline for the 200-some permanent island residents.
Other than regular groceries, it has everything from kombuchas to a seafood case with octopus. This is where I rediscovered kombucha, a fermented tea made with cane sugar and yeast. The first time I heard of a kombucha was at the Calvin Festival of Faith & Writing in April.
When we got back to Murray Hotel, two buildings down the street, a headline in the advertising section of The Mackinac Island Town Crier struck me:
“Mackinac Island Harbor Beach Boardwalk Project.”
A full back page screamed: “Save our Island.”
Apparently, one of the freight operation owners, is proposing a boardwalk with access to the beach for all. The project would consolidate the freight operations into the two most historic docks, including the coal dock.
Mission Point Resort on the sunrise side
A short stroll from downtown took us through the alley to the beautifully restored Mission Point Resort. The last time I saw it, it was a dull greyish structure built in the early 1820s by a Protestant missionary Rev. William Ferry.
A couple from Texas bought the sprawling historic property and poured millions into it. Standing in the middle of the main lobby, I stared into the 51-foot tall teepee. Attached to it was a big library.
We watched weddings on the front lawn from the panoramic windows of the Round Island Bar & Grill. I took in the breathtaking views of Lake Huron with Bois Blanc Island.
Back in Mackinaw City, mainland
As the ferry smoothly navigated the waters of Lake Huron, I watched the Big Mac Bridge swing in the wind. The night before, we watched a documentary on the history channel about the building of the Mackinac Bridge, dubbed as a swinging water masterpiece.
The pretty “candy city” with fudge and candy shops was busy on a Sunday morning. My last goal was to buy fresh fish caught locally. Other than fudge and candy, there were a few shops with smoked fish.
A clerk at a smoked fish shop recommended Big Stone Bay Fishery. located on US 23. I’ve never heard of it even though we’ve been coming up to the Straits area for the last 25 years.
As we entered the fishery, I could smell smoked fish. But, the fishery dealt mainly in fresh fish: whitefish, walleye, coho salmon and trout. It was a fish lover’s paradise.
The paradise Up North always brings new discoveries and inspires a creative mind. The Mackinac Island attracted Hollywood twice. In 1947 Hollywood filmed “This Time For Keeps” and in 1979 “Somewhere in Time.”
The “Somewhere in Time” weekend is always on the last weekend in October, and it officially closes down the island for the season. A few properties, shops and restaurants stay open for the winter.
Winter is a magic time on the island.
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