Saturday, August 30, 2014

Heading into the Upper Peninsula and Mackinac Island

Leaving the "mitten" we drove across the Straits of Mackinac into the Upper Peninsula and our first stop in St Ignace.

Our first view of the bridge was on a very foggy day.  Heading north across the bridge, Lake Michigan is on the left and Lake Huron is on the right.

Built in 1957, the architecture is impressive and so is the bridge. 
The Mackinac Bridge, spanning the Straits of Mackinac, is the third longest suspension bridge span in the United States and the 16th longest suspension span worldwide.
Later in the week we were able to get better pictures to show the span of the bridge. 

The fog would roll in and out during the day so taking a picture could be difficult.

On this beautiful day we took a ferry ride to Mackinac Island and were able to capture a splendid view.

 So which is it, Mackinac or Mackinaw?  The first Europeans to the area were the French and they interpreted the American Indian name for the area as Mackinac with an "ac" but pronounced it as "aw".  When the British arrived they heard it pronounced "aw" so they spelled it that way.  So we have the Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island, and the Mackinac Straits alongside the City of Mackinaw.  Whichever way it is spelled, it is always pronounced "aw".  

We stayed outside the town of St Ignace where you can catch the ferry to go over to Mackinac Island.

I thought we had humidity in South Carolina!

St Ignace is a tourist town and it wasn't very busy.  The cooler weather has really affected many of the businesses.

Tour boats sitting in drydock alongside the harbor in St Ignace.
As Easterners and new immigrants pushed westward, St Ignace expanded to serve these travelers.  Great docks were built to accommodate the many ships passing through the Straits.  Large hotels and boarding houses along the waterfront provided shelter and food.

Not much is left of the old piers or the town of St Ignace today.

Right after we moved to our camping spot at St Ignace we met the Hollands, Keith and Christine.  They are originally from New Zealand but have lived in Australia for many years.  Each summer they fly over to the United States and pick up their truck and rig from storage and spend three months touring the USA and Canada.   In the evenings we sat and talked with them about all the adventures they've had both here and in their homeland.  Meeting people and making new friends is one of the nicest things about RVing.  We plan on meeting again in the future, who knows, maybe here in the states or possibly New Zealand.  Wouldn't that be a blast!  Go All Black! (New Zealand's rugby team). 

The main attraction in the area now is Mackinac Island and the day we went over the weather was splendid.  Our ride on the ferry included the pups.

They were nervous at first but adjusted during the 30 minute ride.  

You could also take a jet boat over to the island if you wanted to get there more quickly.

Lighthouses were visible along the way. 

As you enter the harbor you can see Fort Mackinac which was built by the British Army during the American Revolutionary War.  Located on a bluff 150 feet above the harbor, the Officers Stone Quarters, started in 1870, is the oldest building in the State of Michigan. 

Another magnificent sight you see from the ferry is the Grand Hotel.

There are also many impressive homes nestled in the hills above the town. 

Horses are everywhere on Mackinac Island.

That's because the only types of transportation allowed on the island are horses and bikes. No cars or trucks are allowed, not even commercial. We got there in mid-morning so it wasn't as crowded as later in the day.

In 1670 a Jesuit priest, Fr. Claude Dablon, wintered here. In 1781, the British made it a center of their military and fur-trade activity.  The island was occupied by the Americans in 1796 and it was held by the British during the War of 1812.  From 1817 until the 1830's it was the hub of John Astor's fur empire and later became a popular resort area.

Market Street is the main shopping area on the island.  During the peak of the fur business Indian traders and trappers by the thousands came here from throughout the Northwest.  Furs valued at 3 million dollars went through Astor's American Fur Company.  After 1834, the trade business moved westward.

The homes along Market Street are still stately and beautifully landscaped.

Many are inns where a tourist can spend the night.

Leaded glass windows are visible and the views from the front porches show the bridge and the straits.

Walking on the island you'll find wooded areas that are covered with beautiful old cedar trees.

Higher up on the island there are many beautiful homes found in an area called the West Bluff.  Tourists can take carriage rides to view the area.

In 1875, Congress named Mackinac Island our second national park, three years after Yellowstone became the first.  Soon tourism became the main economic strength.

The homes are beautiful and look like small estates.  Surprisingly, most are only used as summer homes.

One of the most popular attractions is the Grand Hotel.

The Grand Hotel was built in 1887 by two railroad companies and a navigation company.  It is built of Michigan white pine and its colonial porch is the largest in the world.  An outstanding landmark on the Great Lakes, it is the world's largest summer hotel.

The hotel is still quite active.  I checked the rates to stay there and an average room for two cost around $800 per night depending on room view.   If you are not a guest staying at the hotel they charge $10 per person just to walk in and see the lobby area!

Some of the gardens and the swimming pool at the Grand Hotel.

A sign reflecting the dress code for the hotel.  

The entranceway to the Grand Hotel.  Besides the carriage rides, one can also see the island on horseback.  We noticed with all the horse activity on the island there was a good deal of horse "waste" on the roads.  Around the Grand Hotel there were several employees walking the main entranceway continually scooping up the waste.  It must have been an entry level and never ending job.  

The Little Stone Church on Mackinac Island was built in 1904 of Mackinac Island stones.

It is still being used today.
The island post office.  Very quaint.

St Anne Church.  Built in St Ignace it was abandoned in 1706.  British troops relocated it to Mackinac Island in the winter of 1780 moving the entire church in sections across the ice to its current location. 

The harbor on Mackinac Island.

The island even has its own newspaper aptly named.

For lunch we stopped at the Bistro on the Green.  The restaurant features outdoor seating with views of the Round House Island, Lake Huron, and passing ships.  Dogs are allowed and soon we were joined by other furry friends.

Our lunch was quite tasty and the pups enjoyed some french fires, too.

The view from our table was splendid.....disregard the tourist on the left.

Para-sailing was also being enjoyed on this sunny day on the island.

Besides visiting Mackinaw Island we also drove to a town called Petoskey on the southeast shore of the Little Traverse Bay at the mouth of the Bear River.  It is a very nice town with many shops, bike trails, and fun things to do.
While we were there we stopped at the local farmers market and the Captain purchased some exotic looking mushrooms.  Exotic for us, that is.  We purchased several types and had to ask the vendor how to cook them just to make sure.  Well, the Captain whipped up a few dishes with them and they were delicious!    

An interesting artifact we also found in the town is the Petoskey Stone. Around 350 million years ago the land we know as Michigan was located near the equator. Covered by a warm saltwater sea, a coral called Hexagonaria Percarinata thrived with other marine life in tropical reefs.  About 2 million years ago, glacial action scraped the earth and spread fossils across the lower peninsula depositing major concentrations in the Petoskey area.

A Petoskey Stone consists of tightly packed, six-sided corallites, which are skeletons of the once living coral polyps.  The dark center (or eyes) were the mouth of the coral.  The lines surrounding the eyes were once tentacles which brought food into the mouth.  The stone was named for the Ottawa Chief Pet-o-sega (Rising Sun) because the stone's pattern looks like the rays of the sun.

When dry, the stone resembles ordinary limestone but when wet or polished the mottled pattern of the six-sided coral fossil emerges.

In 1965, the Petoskey Stone was named the state stone of Michigan.  There were several jewelry stores in town where local artists had designed lovely jewelry using the stone, and since this was a fact finding excursion, I had to bring back a few pieces to remember the area :)  The Captain is always good about those things!

Mackinac Island is a great place to visit.  Although the weather in the Upper Peninsula has been overcast and cool, we were blessed with a beautiful sunny day which made our ferry trip to the island even more enjoyable.  We didn't have time to explore the fort on Mackinac Island but there's always next time.........  If I had to voice one negative about the island it would be the smell from the horses. As the afternoon sun heated up Market Street, the area became quite odorous from all the animal waste and I was glad to get back on the boat and head over to the mainland.   That evening we still had clear enough skies to allow the Captain to take these great pictures of the sun setting over the Great Lakes.  Peace!

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