Mackinac Island, on our way to AK

Beginning our trip up Michigan’s sunrise coast we visited with Al and Darlene, good friends from wintering in south Florida. The visit was wonderful — they showed us their big garden, we lunched together, then the guys whupped the girls in ladder golf. No contest at all, we decimated em! Truth is, the girls led more often than we did but the guys finally lucked out putting enough scores together to end the game. It was a close call and I don’t know why Al and I didn’t realize we were supposed to let the girls win. Uh oh.

Looks like a good cheese stop

Leaving Al and Darlene, we drove a short while up to Bay City State Park on Lake Huron. It was okay, but a bit swampy so not a place we’d choose to stay much. The next day, on our way to we stopped in Pinconning for some tasty local cheeses to eat along our Michigan travels.

Sweetest campsite ever

After Pinconning we found our way to Harrisville SP, the nicest campsite we’ve ever enjoyed. We had a perfect view of the lake from our rear window and our chairs stayed at the beach side of the dunes much of the time. Our weather was perfect and sitting out there was great. The entire campground was well-maintained and gorgeous, and our campsite was one we could have enjoyed much longer.

It’s always fun to talk with other RVers and compare notes. We met a nice younger couple, Nick and Angela from Dearborn, with their 1966 26′ Airstream. They are newbies, always wanted an airstream, and are enjoying working through fixing up this old beauty. Although this isn’t the closest campground they have learned already to pick the best ones.

We wound our way up the Lake Huron coast on MI-23 to P.H. Hoeft State Park just north of Rogers City. Our third state park on Lake Huron, Hoeft was not the nicest one but was pleasantly memorable anyway. The campground looked like it had been ravaged by storms. A third of the trees seemed to have been cut and stumps ground. Erosion has exposed tree roots throughout the campground. The interior roads are hardly worth referring to as paved, they are so rough.

On the brighter side, Katie the interpretive ranger visited us and gave us sound advice about stopping at the nearby 40 mile Point lighthouse and travels to Mackinac Island and across the U.P., and reminded us to join in for doughnuts and coffee the next morning. And we did, meeting the camp hosts Bill and Mary Lou, and had a good time before driving off for St Ignace and Straits State Park.

very pretty lighthouse with duplex quarters for lighthouse keepers

Only two miles north of PH Hoeft SP is the 40 Mile Point lighthouse. This 1896 structure was lovingly and beautifully restored by a group from Rogers City and they keep it open for viewing. This is the nicest example of a late nineteenth century lighthouse we’ve seen, perhaps largely because of the donated furnishings.

They have placed beautiful furniture in all the rooms. We were able to visit the basement (laundry and storage), the top floor (bedrooms and washroom), the main floor (kitchen, dining, and living rooms), and the lighthouse lantern room. The restoration and furnishing was done so well we felt ourselves imagining staying with the lighthouse keeper’s family in their comfortable, if remote, home.

longest suspension bridge in western hemisphere

St Ignace is a very small town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and seems to serve primarily as a jumping-off point for visits to Mackinac Island. We crossed the straits on the Mackinac Bridge, at five miles (including approaches) the longest suspension bridge in the world from 1957 until 1998 and still the third longest. St Ignace has a couple of gas stations, a nice laundromat, two grocery stores, and other amenities.

Great view in Straits State Park

Straits SP provided us a wonderful selection of prime camping spots, many with fine views of the bridge and the straits. This is a very nice state park with a wide variety of sites in three separate camping areas. The campsites, washrooms, and roads are all first-rate, and the campground is close enough to St Ignace and a grocery store without being within earshot of the roads.

View of St Ignace from the straits

Three nights stay afforded us a day walking throughout St Ignace, and a day on Mackinac Island. We saw three different ferry boat companies operating between the island and the town and selected Arnold Transit. Only while crossing the straits did we realize this was a very fast ferry, delivering us to Mackinac Island in only 12 minutes.

Docks at Mackinac Island

Our minds eye sometimes has an overly romantic picture of a place. Not to worry, Mackinac Island delivers more than we could have imagined. We were assaulted with the perfume scent of fresh lilac and views of flowers throughout our walk on the island’s streets. The absence of automobiles in an entire community is rather foreign to most modern folk.

not a horseless carriage to be seen

Cars are not a pretty part of our culture and from their earliest introduction Mackinac Island banned automobiles. This creates a village more human, quiet, and probably much safer. Instead of dedicating curb space and many flat lots to parking for automobiles, Mackinac Island has thousands of bicycles parked along the curb and has minor traffic jams with horse-drawn wagons.

a really beautiful place

The primary occupation on the island, if not fudge-making, must be painting because almost all buildings are painted and many in pretty colors. Everything about downtown Mackinac Island is pretty. Flowers are blooming everywhere, lilac is perfuming the air, and we enjoyed walking all about downtown and out to Mission Point Resort and back.

imposing fortress above the town

We walked up to Fort Mackinac and spent most of our day touring the many exhibits and buildings there. Our bag lunch was extraordinary because we were able to dine on the officer’s building south porch overlooking the harbor. The historical exhibits told about the fort’s creation, purposes, significance to local community and war strategy, and transition to national park then state park.

firing rifles original to this fort

We were surprised to learn Mackinac Island was our country’s second national park. Several years ago we had visited the first, Yellowstone in Wyoming. I don’t think it ever dawned on us what was the second, or third, or fourth national park. And we stumbled into the second one. But this was only a US national park from 1875 until 1895, when it became Michigan’s first state park. They’ve done a great job with it and we enjoyed our time spent at the old fort.

Mission Church

The afternoon was waning and we still had several buildings to tour. An ice cream cone from Ryba’s Pancake House fueled another hour of walking about to visit the Mission Church, Biddle House, Benjamin Blacksmith House, and McGulpin House. Returning to Ryba’s we bought our fudge for the road, then a coffee from Double Oven Bakery (wonderful coffee and pastries), and boarded the ferry for our return trip to St Ignace.

smoothest, tastiest we could find

Only now did it begin raining, and we had rain off and on all night. What a blessing to have had such fine sunny weather all day for our touring and the rain start up only during our return. You can plan all you want, but sometimes you just get lucky.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

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2 responses to “Mackinac Island, on our way to AK

  1. Richard Hunt

    Enjoyed the photos and shared impressions of very beautiful Michigan. It brings back a lot of memories for us. We arrived at Sedalia, MO for the International Rally/Convention. We will miss you while also be envious.

    • Richard,
      Friends told us the Alaska caravan would be the trip of a lifetime. We feel like we’re already getting our money’s worth on the run up to Dawson Creek. As much as we will miss seeing you two and other friends at the annual rally, we’re sure this trip is the right one for this summer.

      Enjoy International for us, and we’ll keep you in our thoughts too.

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