Once a year Round Island Lighthouse is open to the public. One of the best known lighthouses in Michigan, Round Island Light nearly collapsed from neglect and the effects of a storm in 1972. The original lighthouse was built in 1895, complete with a keeper’s apartment, and it was used continuously for 52 years. In 1947 it was replaced by the “space-age” white automatic beacon that now guides freighters through the Straits of Mackinac. The picture below shows the state of disrepair the lighthouse had fallen into before a group of dedicated individuals took on the task of restoring it to its original beauty.
Today was the day that the lighthouse was to be open. Private boats had been recruited to ferry people over, and Freeland Boy Scout Troop 323 would be on hand to conduct the tours. We were excited! Ted, Jordan and Matthew had ridden downtown Saturday morning and found nearly 200 people in line to go over to Round Island. They came back to the condo and reported that the best thing to do would be have lunch and then go back and get in line. Or, if we were lucky, maybe the line would have gone down by that time, and we could go right over. The Heikkila’s, friends from the condos (Laurie, Matt, Kelly, Megan, and Dana), were going with us. We met outside at 12:30 and walked downtown.
Unfortunately, this is the closest we got to the Round Island Lighthouse (that’s it between Ted and Julie as it appears today, after renovation). By the time we got to the boat dock, the wind had come up, white caps had formed on Lake Huron, and it was considered too dangerous to cross the straits in small boats. Boy, were we disappointed!
So we had to come up with Plan 2 for the day. After a family conference, we decided to go back home, unload some of the gear we had brought with us for the lighthouse tour (coats, backpacks, water bottles, etc.) and take everyone on a walk over to Pontiac Trail. Neither the kids nor Julie had been on the trail, and the views are so beautiful. We just had to show it to them. On the way back to the condo, Matthew wanted GDaddy to try walking across a log people sit on in the open space behind the island school. He took a few steps, and then got tickled at Matthew and fell off. The picture looks like he is walking on air.
Sometime on the way home, we decided to take Maddie and Bear with us since we were only planning to be gone an hour.
We changed into shorts and walking shoes, leashed up Maddie and Bear and left again. Little did we know that our hour-long walk was going to turn into a 3-hour hike on trails even Ted and I had never seen before.
Isn’t it great watching children in the woods. Those little imaginations start taking flight, and suddenly logs are balance beams, and weeds become beautiful flowers for the picking.
Ted asked Julie if she had ever been to Sunset Rock. Her answer was no, so Ted said we would just take a little detour by there. But instead of the usual path we take, Ted found a “new way to go” we hadn’t noticed before. Jordan and I said we thought we were on private property, since we entered this “new way to go” through some iron gates (they were open). But Ted said, “No, it’s fine.” We walked down this long, woody trail until we came to an old house that had fallen in on itself. You had to crawl around fallen trees and underbrush to get to it. A foundation stone read 1909. We all had a hundred questions. Whose house was it? What had happened to it? How long ago had someone lived in it? Why was there a huge hole outside of the house that looked like what we call a sink hole in Georgia? Jordan peeked in the door and didn’t like what she saw. She said it was “spooky”.
We left the house and walked on through the woods a little further before coming to a sign that said “Private Property” (Jordan and I didn’t comment). GDaddy said he thought he knew a shortcut from there to Sunset Rock, so we went even further into the woods. When we came to a fence that we couldn’t cross with the dogs, we finally turned around and went back out the way we had come in. This time we went to Sunset Rock the way we knew, passing Stonecliffe Inn. We stopped in the inn’s beautiful yard and took pictures of Jordan and Matthew.
We finally made it to Sunset Rock, and Julie and the kids couldn’t believe they had never been there since this was their 6th visit to the island.
By this time, we had been walking two hours, and we weren’t anywhere close to Pontiac Trail, although every different path we tried out, Jordan or Matthew would ask, “GDaddy, is this Pontiac Trail?” Bear was tired out and found a shady spot he could take a little rest. Maddie, of course, was loving all the new places to explore.
Matthew and Jordan walked down the steps leading up to Sunset Rock – not on the steps, of course, but on the rocks BESIDE the steps. The kids let GDaddy know that they were ready to find Pontiac Trail, and then they were ready to go home!
The long walk turned out to be worth the wait. After only a few minutes on Pontiac Trail, we came upon a bride and groom and their wedding photographer taking advantage of the gorgeous views from the bluff for some special wedding memories. We slipped by them and stopped to take a few pictures of the view ourselves. When we came out at the end of the trail, we found a wedding carriage and its driver patiently waiting for the newlyweds to return so he could take them to their reception.
As we made the last turn for home, we stopped to pet some horses who were out of their stalls, enjoying the sunny weather in their corral.
We arrived back at the condo at 5 p.m. – tired, happy and hungry. Maddie and Bear immediately dropped on the floor and practically went into comas. Jordan was asleep on the couch in five minutes and didn’t wake up until supper. Matthew had seen a horseshoe outside by the trashcan that some horse had thrown during the day. I told him he should go get it, and tomorrow we would clean it up so he could take it back home with him to Arkansas. He wanted to know if he could take it to his school’s next “show and tell”, and I said I thought that would be an excellent idea. That led to a discussion on horses and how and why they wear shoes, and how often are they changed, and does it hurt to put them on. I found myself rattling off the answers to all his questions, based on information I had learned riding around with Jeanine on our taxi day. I even told Matthew that tomorrow we could visit a real, working blacksmith and watch him shoe a few horses.
Mackianc Island offers so many unique experiences to share with children and grandchildren. Yesterday we had all leaned over a half-door down at the horse barn while I introduced Jordan and Matthew to Thunder and Andy, the two horses I had gotten to know when I rode the half-day with Jeanine for the “Day in the Life of a Taxi Driver” story. Tonight, Julie walked them down to the same barn so they could visit the horses again. One of the barn workers talked to them for ten minutes about how to be safe on the Mackinac streets, emphasizing the importance wearing their helmets when riding their bikes or riding horses. Tomorrow, we plan to ride our bicycles the length of the North Bike Trail, a beautiful, winding path through acres of woodland that will take us by Sugar Loaf.
It will be a full week, including a special day on Tuesday, Matthew’s birthday. We have a surprise gift for him that I will tell you about on Wednesday. I’ll give you a hint – it will happen at Fort Mackinac.
So, even though we didn’t get to tour Round Island Light today, we certainly made up for it – and their visit has only just begun!