Mackinac Island Off-Season Weekly Update – Vol. I – 11/01/2010

Hello!  And welcome to the first Weekly Update of Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog!

Writing about Mackinac Island while living in Georgia is always a little challenging, but with the help of friends on the island, I hope to be able to keep you posted on what’s happening there on a regular basis and pass along some winter photos as I receive them from those lucky enough to be staying on the island year-round.  I’ve already received the first off-season newsletter from friend Greg Main, and I’m be including it later on in this post.  Greg is always on top of island happenings, AND he takes some great photographs.

Jill left the island about a week after we did, and she sent these four pics before she left:

I think Jill took this about 10 days before we left the island. She took the exact same shot right after we arrived in the spring, with Bear and I standing in front of those beautiful tulips. About a week after this shot, these flowers were all pulled up, the ground readied, and 20,000 tulip bulbs were planted - one bulb at a time - into the design you will see next spring.


The trees got even more beautiful after we left - like this one at the stables behind a West Bluff home.


Metivier Inn - all dressed up for Halloween!


West Bluff homes are closed for winter - it seems strange to see those empty flag poles.

Some of you already know that a huge storm blew through the Upper Peninsula last week.  All of the weather forecasters were calling for barometric pressures as low as the storm that sunk the Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.  The storm was a big one, but did not reach the predicted severity – thank goodness.  Even so, ferries cancelled their runs after 2 p.m. on the second – and worse – day of the storm

A shot of the island shoreline during the storm. Mary Stancik from the Grand grabbed this photo.


The Shepler Ferry dock in Mackinaw City, as one of the squalls passed through.


Waves crashing against the Mackinac Bridge. Thanks to Katie Cederholm from the Mackinac Island Historic Parks for this pic. Winds were clocked at the bridge at 78 mph.

I received an email this afternoon from a blog fan asking if I’d seen the photos on the Grand Hotel’s Facebook page of the trees being removed from Cadotte Avenue.  I quickly opened that page, and here’s what I found:

I immediately called Mary Stancik from the Grand, and we talked for about 15 minutes about the Grand’s plan for the trees.  Twenty of the trees lining Cadotte were removed this week – 10 on each side.  That leaves 24, and those will be removed at the end of the season next fall.  Some of you may remember that last fall there was a huge storm on the island at the end of October, and several of the trees were so damaged they had to be removed then.  The trees lining Cadotte – all Norway Maples –  are over 70 years old, which is about the life expectancy for that particular tree.  Of course, those of us who have visited the island for years and years only remember seeing the trees at full maturity, and the sight of that lined boulevard is one of my favorite visuals of the island.  Unfortunately though, those trees have become a hazard.  With age, they have become diseased and weakened.  Last fall, during that storm, one of the huge branches that fell missed a taxi full of people by only 5 feet.  So, as much as we love those trees, the time has come for them to be replaced, and that is what the Grand is doing.  During this next week, 20 Autumn Blaze Maples will be replanted where the removed trees stood.  They will be 14-16′ tall – the largest they could find, and they will grow rapidly – 2-3′ each year.  Mary said they are beautiful maples, with gorgeous fall foliage, and are a much hardier and healthier tree than the Norway Maple.  Here’s a pic of a couple of them I took off of a Google Search:

Mary also said that the overgrown yews that have masked the beautiful steps up from the Tea Garden have also been cut back, and that area will have beautiful landscaping next spring. 

Yes, the old familiar trees will be missed, and I’m so glad I’ve photographed them so many times in the past years.  And 24 of them will remain through next summer, so if you’re coming to the island and don’t already have pics of those trees in your photo album, be sure and get a few shots to preserve your memory of them.  It will be amazing to be able to record the growth of the new trees over the next few years! 

Here’s Greg Main’s Newsletter, written after the fierce storms of last week:

     “The seas are much less angry now.  After enduring a full two days of relentless wind, rain-filled squalls and gusts equal to hurricane force, the Straits area and Mackinac Island are a bit battered, have a lot less trees, tree limbs and roofing shingles but, overall, I haven’t heard of any major damage to any structures outside of downed electrical lines and one missing pane of window glass of which I’m personally aware.  It was almost as if Mother Nature was using this wind barrage to let us know that the unusually warm, dry weather we’ve enjoyed for most of the month of October is officially over.  Now, it’s time for typically cool and/or cold temperatures at night with day-time highs struggling to reach mid-40’s. 
     The last big “hurrah” on the island was last weekend.  Over 2,000 runners and walkers were here for the annual 6K and Half-Marathon events.  Bars, restaurants and lodging places which were still open were packed.  Tour carriages and tourists once again filled the sidewalks and crowded the streets.  It was quite reminiscent of any typical summer day.  The island’s business district was prepped for our annual Halloween parties/costume contests.  Venturing out this year sans costume – wasn’t in the mood, I suppose – I came upon standing room only in both Horn’s and the Mustang Lounge.  Many people I recognized but even more I didn’t. 
     Every place I visited was loud and filled with ghosts, goblins, witches, cowboys, freaks (for lack of a better description), clowns, crossed-dressed cheerleaders, spooky get-ups, fancy get-ups, green-haired, orange-haired, blue-haired and no-haired combinations of people adorned with glitz, glamor, extra teeth in the shape of vampire fangs and missing teeth, whether real or not.  I even saw Superman in two different places wearing two obviously different sized costumes.  I guess on Mackinac Island, there is room for more than one Super Hero, huh?  
     Turning the page, the other side of Autumn life on Mackinac has slowly progressed over the past couple of weeks, as the business district has begun closing its’ doors for the winter.  Very few lights illuminate store fronts now, awnings have been removed and stored away, scores of luggage carts, packed to overflowing, have made their way to the boat docks, awaiting transport off the island, and only one taxi is currently making abbreviated rounds throughout the island.  The Village Inn will be closing, as usual, for the month of November, leaving the Mustang and Patrick Sinclair’s to bear the brunt of the social drinkers and diners.  With deer hunting season just a couple weeks away now, the island will become even more ghost-like (in keeping with the Halloween theme), as many island residents leave for places known and unknown in search of the oft-elusive White-tail.  
     Up on the bluffs, the lights are out, shutters are being applied to guard many of the original wavy-glass windows, flower boxes, planters and vases are emptied, annuals have been pulled, perennials cut back, one large turtle is tarped, screens removed, porch furniture and miscellaneous outdoor paraphernalia are moved inside for winter storage, water is drained and anti-freeze is poured into the necessary places, as most of the cottages have been or are being, put to bed for the winter. 
     This is always a bittersweet time for me.  I enjoy so much the idea of, once again, being able to walk or bike the island’s interior wooded trails, stopping at familiar places to sit and listen to only those sounds that Nature provides.  Even to walk or ride the island’s perimeter is a joy as there are no gawkers, stopped in the middle of the road and no crowds at all the usual places to slow the pace or to be forced to meander through, around or, worse yet, cause me to come to a complete stop!   How sweet.
     On the flip-side, it’s also time to say “good-bye” to so many people I’ve come to think of as family.  Whether they are here as summer cottagers, seasonal employees, business owners or frequent visitors, those who are dear to my heart always have to leave at some time and even though it’s always been a ‘given’ that I’ll be welcoming everyone back to their respective cottages, businesses and homes the following year,  I’ve been reminded over the years that I cannot always count on seeing all of them again the following Spring.  As such, my good-bye hugs, kisses, hand-shakes and well-wishes  for a “good winter” over the past few years have come more from the heart. I have so many fond and fun memories of the many people I’ve been privileged to have met, to know and to think of as family over the years.  Those will remain with me for a long, long time and even though the face of the East Bluff may have changed a lot over the last 15 or so years, as have some of the cottages owners,  it will always be a very familiar place for me.
      Unless you’ve been in a cave for the past month or so (or simply don’t keep up with island happenings)  the “big” news, I suppose, is what’s taking place regarding the ferry boat franchises and the possibility of the City of Mackinac Island purchasing a boat dock or two and some other properties on the island and in St. Ignace.  I’ve been to all of the meetings regarding this issue, the public hearing last week, read most of what’s been written online and heard a lot of the rhetoric/rumors/gossip/facts that have been making the rounds. I’ve often used this mass email to spout my opinion on other topics of local interest and, at first, I was reluctant to write anything now about the current issue at hand, but . . . what the heck! 
       In a nutshell, I say, give franchises to both Shepler’s and Northern Ferry Company (the proposed joint venture of Arnold Transit and Star Line) and if, as we were all told by City Council, one of the major problems with the current system is the high price of ferry tickets for island residents, then that issue has already been addressed publicly by Bill Shepler, as they’ve proposed a $75.00 yearly pass, unlimited rides for all island residents.  I’ve also been made aware that Northern Ferry proposed a $100.00 yearly pass.  Now, I just bought a 40-ride commuter book (20 round-trips) from Arnold for $250, which works out to $12.50 per round trip.  If the proposed passes were to become fact, those same 20 round-trips via Northern Ferry Company would only cost me $100.  Also, I could buy yearly passes from both  ferry lines and make use of unlimited round-trips for $175.00, which is less than what I just paid for only 20-round trips from Arnold and I could choose which ferry line to use based on when I wanted/needed to get back and forth.   As far as giving island residents a ‘break’ on ticket prices, these proposals seem to answer that request.  Of course, there are other issues too, which will take far too much time for me to address right now.  So . . . until the next time I find time to sit down and tap the keyboard, I hope all is well with everyone.  Take care.  Greg”

Like Greg, I have not used this blog to express my opinion on the ferry line controversy, which is still ongoing on the island.  Ted and I both have made our thoughts clear at Council meetings and to individual Council members.  I will say that I totally agree with Greg above, and pray that long-term franchises will be given soon to all ferry lines, and that next spring we will be seeing Shepler Ferry Line and the newly formed Northern Ferry Company boats coming and going as always.  Anything less would be a travesty of the American way . . . and that’s all I have to say about that.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful shot from Fort Mackinac taken a couple of weeks ago and posted on the Mackinac Island Historic Parks site.  Have a great week, and I’ll see you back here next Monday, Nov. 8.  God bless.

Note #1:  Received this email from Hilde this morning:  “Hi Brenda. I just wanted to thank YOU, your wonderful friends and blogging fans, you all are the BEST!  Please tell them thank you for me for keeping me in their prayers. I know the prayers were heard because I am feeling so much better today. I feel a lot stronger and am able to get up and about much better.  I know every day it will get easier and easier.  Bud is taking real good care of me and my kids have been doing their share, bringing me soup, flowers and lots of phone calls to see how I’m doing 🙂 . Talk to you soon…Hilde”

Note #2:  Blake spoke with the church in Nashville and has been told they will try to reach a decision by the end of November.  Please continue to lift him up as he continues to network and research other job openings, as he waits for word on this one.

Note #3:  For a glimpse of our life in South Georgia, be sure and check out the blog from Lake Blackshear at


16 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off-Season Weekly Update – Vol. I – 11/01/2010

  1. Gorgeous pictures! This is also my favorite time of year, when the Island becomes its own self finally, lost in introspection, whipped by storm, then blazing brilliantly in sudden autumn clarity. And you (with the help of Jill and Mary and all!) have captured it beautifully.

    The picture of the Grand sans Norway Maples was a bit of a shock! Reminded me of the early postcards! Those trees were barely ten years old in my earliest recollections. I think I have written here already about remembering riding home down Cadotte in the evening in the basket of my father’s bike and watching the stars overhead – an impossibility now with the trees grown so large. Shock or not, I’m glad to see the Norway maples going as they are extremely invasive and are choking the native species out in the forest. There has been an ongoing effort to eradicate them in the State Park and to convince landowners to choose native trees when landscaping.
    So it’s sad to see them go, but in the end it will be better for the whole community.
    So glad Hilde is feeling better!

  2. Blessings to Hilde. Glad she is feeling better. Prayers have been flowing.

    Oh, Brenda ….. Joyce Kilmer would be amazed and humbled by the TREES as they dramatically evolve and prepare for winter.

    I followed “The Storm” via various web cams … my head & heart filled with thoughts of the Edmund Fitzgerald and her precious cargo of 29 souls. Was amazed one night when the Mackinac Bridge/MDOT authorities were “escorting” high profile vehicles across the Bridge at the height of Mother Nature’s fury. I would have slept in my car before being “escorted” across the Bridge last week!

    Special hugs to Bear and Maddie from Colorado.

  3. Oh, this was the time of year that I began exploring Mackinac, and those first memories are so sweet.

    I’m with Irene about the Norway maples, and glad they’re replacing them with a native variety (they are, aren’t they?) Just imagine that blaze of red up Cadotte in a couple of years! Wow!

    I remember crossing on water that looked a lot like that shot with the waves! Scary is only a word until you’ve been on a boat in water like that! Once again, you bring back memories I’d completely forgotten, and I’m grateful.

  4. Brenda,

    What a wonderful update. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Especially enjoyed the picture of the stable and the trees on the West Bluff. Those Norway Maples on Cadotte must have been only about 15 years old when I was working on The Island. I did not know they weren’t native trees. My dad would have known, but then he knew every tree in the woods, or at least it seemed that way to me.

    Hilde, I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I knew you would, but recovery is sure not fun at first. I know about that.

  5. Love the update and the pictures. I’m glad that I have some pictures of Cadotte with the tress. It will be interesting to see it over the next few years.

    I agree too on what both you and Greg stated in regards to the Ferry lines. I hope to see all of them running next spring. Plus an annual pass for the island residents should be included there somewhere.

    Glad to hear that Hilde is feeling better.

  6. Brenda & Associates, thanks for all the good reading and interesting photos. Gives me lots to digest.

    Hilde, hope you continue to heal quickly. I think what you need is a big slab of Mackinac Island fudge. That always makes me feel better. 🙂

  7. Now it will take getting used to the “new normal” on Cadotte. Those trees have always been beautiful but it was time to say goodbye. The new maples will be beautiful. After all–this IS the Grand we’re talking about. How could it be anything other than spectacular.

    • Hoping to have some Halloween pics on the Nov. 8 update, Karen. There is always a costume contest (for the adults) the weekend before Halloween at the Pink Pony and Horn’s – trying to collect some pics now! Then on Halloween (or in this case, the Saturday night before Halloween, the school children trick or treat in the Village. Great fun!

    • My sister and her family live on the island and I had the good fortune of being able to take my 5-year-old nephew trick-or-treating downtown in 1983. The setting was perfect for Halloween: it was dark, but the sky was full of stars; the air was cool and filled with the smell of cedar, horse poop and burning pumpkins; the wind made the trees creak overhead; there were dry, crunchy leaves underfoot; the bats, spiderwebs and spiders were REAL; and most of the shops and hotels were shuttered, so they looked spooky and foreboding, especially the Island House.

      The islanders were very generous with their treats: Doud’s gave out full-size candy bars, the Mustang gave my nephew a bag of chips and a bottle of juice, and a wealthy woman in a home along the boardwalk presented us with a beautiful plate of petit fours.

      Everyone greeted my nephew by name, which I guess is pretty typical for a small town, but we all know that this small town is anything but typical. It was a wonderful experience and gave me yet another reason to love Mackinac Island.

  8. Barb, your post is so sweet. What fun they must have had.

    The picture of the Grand without trees looks so sad.
    What a change next spring will bring! It is always sad to lose a tree, my Ash in the back yard was killed by the Ash Borer. What beautiful burgandy leaves it had in the fall. This is third Ash loss. Sad

    Every time I see a “foggy” picture I think of London. I’ve never been there, but have seen a lot of movies!!! As always, enjoyed ALL of the photos!

  9. Thanks so much for the update Bree! And also thanks to Greg! Loved the pictures and I am sure those new trees will look spictacular in front of the Grand! Good luck to Blake! Beautiful blog!

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