Mackinac Island Off-Season Update: Vol. XI 1/17/2011

Feast or famine!  Last week I couldn’t find anything to write about.  This week I could write a post a day for a week and still not cover it all.  So, I’m going to write till my fingers give out, then save the rest for next week – when there might be another famine!

  • I can’t WAIT to see the new front of the Chippewa Hotel when we get back in the Spring, and – in case you haven’t heard – they are taking reservations now!  Also new at the Chip this summer will be built-in air conditioning units in each of the Main Street rooms AND blown-in insulation throughout the whole face of the building for better sound insulation on the street side (in case you want to sleep late during your vacation).  Although why you’d want to “sleep in” while on Mackinac Island is beyond me – mornings are one of my favorite times on the island – especially downtown! 

Harold Dunbar Corbusier, 1882, age 9

OnFriday (Jan. 14) the diary of 10-year-old Harold Dunbar Corbusier – started on the same date in 1883 – began to be posted on Twitter every day by Mackinac State Historic Parks from the feed 
@BOYatFtMACKINAC.  The diary, published by The Corbusier Archives and Mackinac State Historic Parks as A Boy at Fort Mackinac: The Diary of Harold Dunbar Corbusier, 1883-1884, 1892, recounts the daily fun, chores, work, and adventures of the second of five sons of Fort Mackinac Post Surgeon Dr. William Corbusier and Fanny Dunbar Corbusier.
Harold and his family lived on the west end of the fort, in what is today’s “Major’s Quarters.” It was there Harold began his diary on his tenth birthday, and it gives a unique glimpse of a child’s life in a late nineteenth-century military post.

Harold’s two-year stay on the island ended on September 30, 1884. He and his family returned to Mackinac Island in the summer of 1892, when his father accompanied a detachment of the 18th Infantry from Detroit during a target practice encampment. Even during that time, Harold kept his diary close at hand, but then the entries were longer and focused on young ladies and dances rather than the amusements of a ten year old. He left the island for the last time on August 6, 1892.

One hundred years later, in August 1992, Harold’s grandson, Warren O’Brien, visited Fort Mackinac and piqued the interest of fort historians when he spoke of the diary. In response, A Boy at Fort Mackinac was published. 

If you aren’t a “twitterer”, you can order the book by clicking here:,1,4,36,398,399

  • Here’s a random bit of information I found while surfing around on the Mackinac Historic State Parks website.  I’ve been aware for years that over 80% of the land on the island belongs to the State Park.  But I’d never seen a map that showed exactly where “Mackinac Island – the town” ended, and the State Park began.  You can check that out here .

Yeahhhh – a letter from Greg Main!  I’ve edited it a bit for length, but as usual, Greg writes with a true insider’s eyes about all things Mackinac:  “I cannot believe I forgot to mention one particular event when last I emailed everyone.  I usually have a small pocket notebook with me in order to jot down ‘reminders’ of  things or thoughts that come within eye sight or somehow appear, ever-so-briefly, in my brain as I meander my way through the off-season days on the island.  The purpose of this notebook is, of course, to use it!  Relying  entirely on memory cells to function properly each and every time they’re called upon has become much more of a gamble lately than a sure thing.  However, I completely and ashamedly forgot to mention the going-away party for Dr. Karen which took place at the Village Inn on December 21.  It was a house full of good food, music and well-wishers.  One thing about Mackinac Island which can be counted on is we know how to put on a good party, regardless of the reason.  Best wishes to Karen!

Since New Year’s Day, we’ve received little more than several dustings of snow and, as of today, it might . . . . . . might be possible to find 3 inches of snow lying around somewhere on the island, but pavement and grass are still showing in many areas.     

I’ve been told of two very recent sightings of a Gray Wolf on the island.  The person telling me this also said he could have easily hit one with his snowmobile as he was riding the back road near the Carriage Tours barns.  By the time he stopped, hoping to be able to use his phone to take a photo of it, it was too late.  I just realized how strange that last sentence would have sounded to my grandparents . . . taking a photo with a phone!  Anyhow, this same person also told me that one of the wolves had been shot.  I also was told, by this same person, that 5 coyotes have also been shot this winter.  I am not making accusations, mind you, and I can’t confirm any sightings of either a Gray Wolf or any dead coyotes, but I would hope that the shootings are not true.  We have far too many rabbits running around each summer, and we need these critters around to keep them in check.  Just my opinion, as always. 

On New Year’s Day my thermometer still read 41 degrees and remained there until just after the noon hour, when very clear skies could be seen west of the Mackinac Bridge – indicating an approaching cold front – and the slightest of westerly breezes quickly strengthened, ushering in a rapid, twenty-degree drop in temperature.  Snow flurries preceded the clear skies, and the soft snow and wet pavement quickly solidified.   The wind continued to intensify all night and, by daybreak, the ground was snow-covered again (barely), and huge breakers were crashing onto the western shore, sending spray up onto the boardwalk at times.  Long lines of ice, apparently freed by the wind and waves from some mainland shore,  appeared in the Straits, some of it piling up along our shore, some of it passing through the shipping channel.  Wind chill was 5 degrees.  Winter was back.   Lacking somewhat in the snow department, but the cold air was here again and has been with us since. 

We had a fresh fall of snow (maybe 2 inches) during the night of January 5th, and that was all the impetus I needed to head for the interior trails in search of fresh wildlife tracks or anything else that would interest me.  It was also good to see, while walking along the East Bluff, that there were no human tracks in the snow ahead of me.  Lots of rabbits and several tiny, tiny trails from some rodent, I believe,  snaked back and forth from cottages to cliff.  Finally, about half-way between the Murcko cottage and Arch Rock Road, I encountered tracks as fresh as anyone could hope to see.  So fresh, in fact, that I watched the coyote make them as it bounded across the road, east to west, about 50 feet or so ahead of me.  Unaware of my presence, it didn’t seem to be in a hurry but sure did seem interested in something on the other side.  As I got to its’ tracks, I saw no evidence of rabbits or anything else that it may have been pursuing.  That was the first coyote sighting for me this season and, I hope, not the last. 

Eight, count them, eight swans were bouncing around in the waves along the outside of the west break wall Monday afternoon, and two more were floating around the marina docks in the harbor.       

As it’s been so cold lately, ice has been forming at a fairly good rate around the boat dock at St. Ignace and the word went out on Monday that . . . ‘any day now’  we could be done with ferry service for the remainder of this winter.  Given this news, I ventured to the mainland on the last boat Tuesday to stock up on a variety of items.  Coming back to the island on the second boat Wednesday, I was truly surprised at how much more ice had been blown in to Moran Bay.  By the time we pointed the bow toward the island, it was a full 13 minutes of plowing through broken ice before finding clear water.  At last night’s City Council Meeting, Arnold Transit’s owner, Jim Wynn, confirmed that, ‘it was a bit tough getting out this morning, so we’ll see what happens, but we’ll run as long as possible.’

The group working with our local Historic District committee is nearly done with their report on historic buildings and other aspects regarding possibly setting up one or more historic districts on the island.  However, in order to give them time to finish this and to allow our local committee time to fully study the report, the demolition moratorium, which was put in place last summer, has been extended for another 6 months by a 5 – 1 vote.   Patrick Sinclair’s will be closing soon in order to make interior repairs, and they hope to be open again for St. Patrick’s Day.  This leaves the Mustang and the Village Inn for your dining and drinking pleasure.  It’s hard steering snowmobiles around town right now, and the long-range forecast for us promises little more than snow showers.  Our annual Winter Festival will be upon us before we know it, and we truly need a lot more snow to make things enjoyable for all.  Any snow sculpture for the annual contest will have to be miniatures if conditions do not improve.   Well now, it seems I’ve rambled a bit more than usual, and this is a rather long email.  Time to stop for now.  Until next time, take care!”   Greg Main

As an addendum to Greg’s letter:  Dr. Jennifer Shockley is the new physician at the Mackinac Island Medical Center, replacing Dr. Karen Miljour.  Dr. Shockley and her husband, Mike, and their three sons arrived on the island Dec. 29, and she began seeing patients January 3.  Can’t wait to meet this new family in May, although I feel like I “kinda” know them already.  I received a comment a couple of months ago from Mike Shockley.  He said that when they were considering their move, they “googled” Mackinac Island, and Bree’s Blog popped up.  He was kind enough to say that reading back over our two summers on the island gave them a lot of insight into the island and its people.   Welcome, Shockley’s!

Ok – my fingers are wearing out, but before I stop I want to post a series of pics from something I had never seen, and I bet a lot of you out there haven’t seen either!  Last week a group of mainlanders crossed the Straits on Shepler’s Sacre Blue to attend the City Council meeting on the island.  Among those on board were Ami Woods and Kim Hagen, two new Facebook friends, who gave me permission to post their photos of a practice Search and Rescue (SAR) drill the Coast Guard was conducting.  If these pics don’t make you go put on two more layers of clothes, nothing will!


From Ami: The Sacre Blue, Shepler Ferry's workhorse and the only ferry in their fleet that could make the crossing this late in the year, with as much ice as there is in the lake.


From Ami: The Coast Guard works its way onto the ice from the St. Ignace shoreline.


From Kim: Ok - I am shivering just looking at this photo. One of the men has gone into the water, so he can be rescued.


From Ami: The Rescue


From Kim: Here the Coast Guard has moved further out onto the ice to practice other SAR skills.


From Kim: On the Sacre Blue for the trip over. Ami and Kim reported a couple of times they had to stop, back up, and try another "route" through the ice. And remember, they came back to St. Ignace that evening after dark.


From Kim: Approaching the beautiful village of Mackinac Island. As you can see from this shot, there is a lot of open water in Lake Huron. It is the ice that forms along the shoreline at the island and in St. Ignace that first causes problems. Then as that ice thickens and spreads outward, there eventually comes a point when boats can no longer get through - unless you happen to own an icebreaker - like the Coast Guard.

 Here’s a few more random shots for the week:

A webcam shot from Barb - taking down the Christmas tree.


From Ami: Lots of snowmobiles parked along Main Street on Monday.


A coyote spotted on the ice by staff at the Shepler Ferry winter office.


From Mary at the Grand: A beautiful, peaceful, foggy shot of Round Island Light as she approached the island in December.

Wow!  Are you tired of reading??  Good, cause that’s all I’ve got tonight.  Come on back next Monday for more of what’s happening on the island during the winter, and if you’re interested in reading about what Bear will be up to this week, take a look here: Take care, and God bless.

13 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off-Season Update: Vol. XI 1/17/2011

  1. Tired of reading? What are you kidding me…bring it on…I can read your blogs all day! 🙂 Love reading Greg’s emails, they are always so interesting. Do any of the coyotes ever stay on the island all year long or do they just come over when they can on the ice? Always love the pictures and the diary (I’m not really a twitter fan) sounds like something I would love to read!

      • Hmmmm . . . it works for me, Hilde. You can also get there by going to , type “books” into the search box, then about half-way down that page (under “Fort Mackinac books”), you will find it. Let me know if that works for you.

    • Hi Hilde! I think the coyotes come and go on the ice. It seems like I’ve heard that occasionally one will wait a little too long to cross back over and have to spend the summer on the island. Then we hear all kinds of “coyote sighting” stories.

      • Morning Brenda, I was trying to see the map of the State Park of the island. That’s the one giving me a problem.

      • I just checked that out. Click “ok” on the “drawing error” alert, then change the setting on the page to 100%. I think you’ll get it then. Thanks, Hilde, for letting me know these problems – Sometimes the links that work for me don’t work for everyone for some reason. You’re my “outside editor”!

  2. I would NEVER tire of reading any of your blogs!! Awesome pictures! Thanks also to Greg Main for his increadable reports from the island. We are so lucky to have him share his experience with us through the winter. I have plans already to go to the Island in August! I am also taking my sister and her family along who have never been there. I am so excited and proud to show them how beautiful Mackinaw Island is and tell them that I know someone “famous” from the Island! Thanks for the update Bree!

  3. Pingback: Macinac island | ZuiDot

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful blog site Bree. I just found it 2 days ago and I have been reading ever since…I am already back to 2009! I will be buying your book when it is released as I love all that has to do with the Island. I have not been up to the Island for about 7 years and it is so nice to be able to take a “mini” vacation through this blog!! When my children were young, we would travel up there every summer and loved it when we could spend the night on the Island. No place compares with it!! Thanks again and I will continue to be a faithful reader!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s