A Ride on the Wild Side of Mackinac Island 8/31/2010

Before the traffic jam incident I wrote of yesterday, I took a wonderful two-hour bike ride around Mackinac Island.  Starting out, my only thought was to photograph anything that caught my eye, but it soon became more of an adventure into the wildness of this 8.2 mile-around rock.  The part of the island where we spend most of our time is very civilized.  Like most small towns in America, we have a grocery store, a city hall, churches, homes, a medical center, and a fire department.  We don’t have an auto repair shop, a gas station, a car dealership, or a car wash because – well, we don’t have any cars!  To me that makes the Island more civilized, not less.  But – that’s just me. 

The only place I stopped that is on the “must see” list of attractions for island visitors is Arch Rock.  I loved the way the sun was shining through the arch as I rode by.

Try to forget about that brilliant sun in the corner, and just look at the rays shining over and through the arch. It was beautiful!

Soon the city of Mackinac Island was a mile behind me, and now there was nothing to see on Lake Huron except Bois Blanc Island (pronounced Bob-Lo by the locals) and even further east the faint outline of Les Cheneaux Islands.  Not a single freighter was in sight.  It was a dazzling day – warm enough that I was riding in a sleeveless top, but with enough breeze to keep me cool, even when there were no trees to block the sun.  The only clouds were those little white, wispy puffs of cotton, and the sky and water were almost a perfectly matched blue.  

By squinching up my eyes, I could just make out a sailboat on the horizon. It looked so small that the possibility of people aboard seemed almost absurd.

There are very few houses on the beachside of the island and not that many more across the street from the beach.  When you ride the four miles to British Landing, all you see to your right are trees, wildflowers, rocks and water.  On your left are woods and a couple of marshes.  You really feel as though you could be the only person riding on the whole island at any particular moment.  After Labor Day, that perception will intensify.  It’s a feeling of freedom and joy that never fails to touch my heart. 

The wall of rocks that stretches around the island is quiet evidence of a time when lake levels were much higher than they are now.

I had a conversation early Saturday morning with a friend in Charlotte, NC who reads Bree’s Blog and encourages me on every level to continue writing.  He is from Michigan, has spent many glorious days on Mackinac Island, and on Saturday was lamenting the hot weather in the South.  His exact words were, “I wish I was on the Island so I could sit on a rock on the shore of Lake Huron and put my feet into that clear, cool water”.  I had been thinking about that all morning, and as I rode I began to look for a spot with an open bit of beach and some rocks close to the water. 

Almost to British Landing and four miles out of town, I spotted this solitary rock perched like a turtle by the water.

I pulled over, took my camera out of the basket, and began to carefully climb down the rocks to the beach. You can see my bike handlebars in the center of this photo. Believe me, I was being very, very careful!

I grew up going to the beaches on the Florida Panhandle, and they are nothing like this.

Grateful to have navigated over the rocks, I plunked myself down on the rock, pulled off my shoes, and stuck my feet in the water. It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be, but the sparkling clearness, as it covered my feet, came as quite a surprise. Looking at rocks through the water from the shore, I've always known the water was clean, but this was beyond clean - almost pure. I would have no qualms at all about drinking this water.

Instead of sand, the beach is made up of tiny pebbles, polished smooth by thousands of years of wave action. Underfoot, the pebbles are not sharp, but watershoes are a good idea.

Seagulls and ducks are plentiful.

I left the beach and continued my ride, passing British Landing and the Cannonball Restaurant without stopping.  In the 4-mile stretch back into town, there are more homes than on the “back side”, but still long sections of road with no buildings of any sort. 

No matter what the season, there are always wildflowers along the shoreroad.

In a history I read online of Stonecliff, I found this notation, " In the fall of 1971, bulldozers went to work to clear swathes of old-growth cedar and other tree life from sections of Mackinac Island's far West Bluff. In early 1972, the cleared strips of bluffland were redesigned into ski slopes, and a chair lift was erected." I've often wondered if this bluff where trees are beginning to take hold again was the location of those ski slopes.


This is another section of that bluff, topped by a tree that was probably struck by lighting many, many years ago.

Further down the road from those bluffs is a section of road where thick forests line the left side of the road . . .

. . . and the clear blue water of Lake Huron can be seen through the trees on the right.

When you come out of the trees, there is the Mackinac Bridge, heralding your return once again to civilization.

I pulled over to watch these two Star ferries on a seeming collision course toward each other. Of course, I knew there was plenty of room for them to pass, and it was just the angle that made their courses look so close.

A few seconds later, the pass was complete. One continued to the Island, the other to St. Ignace.

I continued on into town, my date with a traffic jam just a few minutes away. . . . .

On Tuesday, I’m spending the day in Charlovoix with Frankie, a friend from the Island.  She wants to show me the sights of this little city that sits on an isthmus between Lake Michigan and Round Lake, spreading out onto the shores of Lake Charlovoix.  It promises to be a wonderful day of sightseeing and (maybe) shopping.  Because I have no idea what time we’ll be back, I’m going to go ahead and say there won’t be a blog post on Wednesday, but I promise to show you all the sights of Charlovoix on Thursday morning.  See you then!

24 thoughts on “A Ride on the Wild Side of Mackinac Island 8/31/2010

  1. Nice to see that the back side of the island hasn’t changed that much in 40 years. The last time I rode around the island was June of 1970 on our honeymoon. I don’t know if I could ever do it again.

  2. Nothing but nothing, compares to the cool, clear water of The Great Lakes. Growing up sailing on Lake Michigan, we’d dip our Dixie Cups in the water and enjoy the cool, fresh water. Your stunning photographs fire the imagination and bring many memories to the fore here in land-locked Colorado. Never enough shots of THE BRIDGE. Thank you, Bree …

  3. Thank you for taking us along on your ride around the Island. My wife and I married at Mission Point in 2005. Now invested in two boys, we had to skip the Island this year on our way to the Keweenaw (the combination of cost, hassle, and time killed the Island idea). But reading your blog changed that, Although we live in AZ (my wife spends the summer in MI with the boys), we’re headed back up to the Island for a night on 9/15, minus two kids courtesy of Grandma! We can’t wait. Thanks for the site, it’s like an electronic cup of coffee in my day (energizing and motivating).

    Tom Wachowski

  4. Lovely pictures – it’s so nice just to head around the island like that – and the sounds you hear are the waves lapping against the shore and an occasional bird calling. So peaceful. Enjoy your day away and I can’t wait to read about Charlevoix tomorrow! Happy Tuesday!!

  5. We just got back from the island yesterday. Had a wonderful long weekend. The weather was beautiful – almost a little too hot! We arrived Friday on the 12:30 ferry; left Monday on the 9:00 a.m. ferry. Wish we could have seen the ‘traffic jam’. We were probably riding around the island at the time.

    The island is as peaceful as ever. Our son cried that he didn’t want to leave. Don’t think any of us were ready to leave. It was a great weekend to ‘charge the batteries’ until we return again next summer. Enjoy the next few months on the island before you head south for the winter. You are living many people’s dreams!

  6. Once again, I love that you show parts of the island that day-trippers might never see. Some have told me that they don’t understand what is so special about Mackinac, but your photos show so many of the things that I love about the island! Thank you!

  7. The ride around the island is wonderful. I’m really looking forward to doing it again someday. I love the pictures. I think my favorite is the water along the shore in the bridge shot.

  8. I love your blog! Great pictures. My husband and I are staying on the island the 2nd weekend in September. Would love to live there someday – even in the winter! Thanks for sharing island life with us!

  9. Wonderful pictures and your descriptions are fantastic. Great to see the beautiful parts of the Island that I haven’t gotten to experience personally..hubby has walked it a couple times and has loved it..my excursions have been on the carriage tours (several times)…so was glad to see your ‘up close’ pictures!! Years ago we rented a horse and buggy and enjoyed it so much!! Awesome post Brenda!! Enjoy your day at Charlevoix!! Blessings!

  10. Nice write up and pictures. I’m pretty sure you’re right about the ski slope. I remember the remnants of the lift being there. The towers were finally taken out about 15 years ago as I recall.

  11. Brenda,

    Thank you for today’s blog. It’s been so long since I rode around The Island and how wonderful it was via your pictures and descriptions. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Memories, memories! How wonderful they are.

  12. Hi Bree! Beautiful pictures! I live about 6 miles from Lake Huron and it is so beautiful also. Very clear water. Thanks so much for the ride around the Island!

  13. what great pictures that you took on what looks like a beautiful day there! Brings back wonderful memories for me from my college days working up there in the summers. I can’t wait until I get the chance to go back and show my family the island. Thank you!

  14. Hey Bree – I really love looking at your photos and reading your stories. I just returned from a great week on the island. Sad to be back home here in California, but still on a high from some great adventures on Mackinac. I was just wondering if you happened to see me and my cousin (Keith Croghan) Kitesurfing around Devil’s Kitchen and up towards town and the mission lawn last Saturday, not sure if you did, but by chance if you have any pics let me know. It was a blast and a dream come true for us, trying summer after summer, and finally the island spirits gave us the perfect combo. Keep up the great Blog, so fun to look at –

  15. Thanks, Bree. I found your blog while visiting Stu Stuart’s website. What a swell guy. We caught his act Thursday last week. My wife Arleen and I just came off the island, now back in good ol’ Milwaukee. We stayed at the Cloghaun B&B, where we shall return, God willing, next year in August (we have our reservation in for 2011). Love your pictures, and your writing is quite charming, as well. Cheers.

    • Hi Ron! Glad you and Arleen had a good visit to the Island! The Cloghaun is beautiful – great choice! Glad you found Bree’s Blog and hope you keep reading! B.

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