Mackinac Island Off-Season Update – Volume XIV – 2/7/2011

The Winter Festival on Mackinac Island was this weekend, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot today.  Thanks to Greg Main, I even have a video I’ll share with you of a broom hockey game on Saturday.  There is a LOT more snow than last year when we were there, and this year the ice bridge is open (it never formed last year at all).  I would have given anything for a ride across Lake Huron on the Ice Bridge.  But, it just wasn’t in the cards for us last year, and this year none of us could make the trip.  But – there’s always NEXT year!

A newsletter from Greg Main is full of news:   “It’s hard to believe January is another turned page on the calendar.  As of the time I’m typing this, we missed yet another snow storm (only a few flurries in the air), but the cold air continues to blanket this area, which is good for the ice bridge.  At the time I last emailed everyone, I was unaware that 4 people had already crossed to the mainland and back which is all that’s needed to open the floodgates.   The ‘bridge’ formed remarkably quick this year, what with the ferry stopping service on Tuesday, the 11th, and people crossing by Sunday, the 16th.  I’ve yet had a reason to cross, but all of the reports I’m hearing from those who have made round trips is this is one of the best (as far as being smooth) crossings in a long, long time.

 So far, the bridge this year connects with the island at the end of the boardwalk.  During one of the few times I’ve been able to take advantage of the sun-filled days we’ve had recently and plan a long walking outing, I wandered out from the boardwalk  to the third tree which has been ‘planted’ in the ice, marking the initial  route,  in order to take some photos of various things and angles and such.  I’ve done this almost every year we’ve had crossable ice and, if memory serves me correctly, whenever snowmobiles would pass by as I’m on the ice – in years past – I could always hear the dull thud of the ice cracking somewhere nearby.  It’s a given.   When out on the ice this past Sunday however, with numerous snowmobiles passing in both directions, not once did I hear or feel anything in the way of the ice being stressed.  I can only consider this to be a good indication of a very solid surface out there right now.  It formed so rapidly this year and with frigid temperatures being so abundant for most of the last three weeks, it’s no wonder the ‘bridge’ is so solid . . . . for now at least.  This early formation of crossable ice has brought good business to the island every weekend so far.  Dozens of mainlanders have ventured over, bringing with them a welcome infusion of business.  

One last note on the cold air of late.  It’s amazing how we become accustomed to it after a few days to the point that the 22 degrees we experienced early Monday morning, almost felt balmy.  I finally strapped on the skis a week ago today and despite the lack of snow, those trails which could be groomed were in excellent shape, and the skiing was fantastic.  I never get tired of being the only one (seemingly) out on the trails, enjoying the opportunity to combine the exhilaration of a cardio workout with the absolute quiet and tranquility I often find while traversing the myriad trials of the island’s interior.     

The amount of daylight is rapidly increasing, which adds a bit of hope that the coldest days will soon (hopefully) be behind us.  In a normal year, we don’t see consistent  high temperatures around 30 until the end of this month anyway, but the simple addition of a few minutes of sun each week helps pass the winter months.  I’m told that the owner’s of the Mustang Lounge have signed papers today, buying Patrick Sinclair’s Irish Pub.  This rumor has been around for about a week or more, but I’m told it’s official, as of today.  

 Sunday was a great day to be out walking.  Although it was only 14 degrees, barely a whisper of wind and ample sunshine made for a fantastic winter day.  Just as I was reaching for my jacket, I heard a noise on the deck just outside the bedroom window.  Parting the curtain, to my surprise,  a mere 15 feet away was a coyote!  Carefully closing the curtain, I raced for my camera which sits by the entrance door, only to catch a glimpse of gray and brown fur running past the window in that room.  Too late to get a photo, I quickly opened the door to see it bound across the street and up the rise into Marvin May’s back yard, disappearing from sight.  After finishing dressing for my walk, I traced the tracks as far as Marvin’s yard, took some photos for posterity, then headed north along the boardwalk, destination: Humbard’s Hill.

 As I reached the end of the  boardwalk, several snowmobilers had gathered as four of them lined up in drag racing formation.  After watching three races in which the same person won every time, I continued on along the shore road.  But for the far-off sound of  machines on the ice, there was no noise other than the snow crunching under foot.  At one point, I came across another spring (several, actually, in the same spot), and I stopped to video what I believe is another of those natural wonders which most people would simply overlook were it not for the glaring way it was noticeable at this time of year – much like the way a hare turns white far before snow begins falling.  With this spring, if not for the snow surrounding this open water on the beach, as if highlighting it, saying, ‘look at me’, it would not qualify more than a quick glance.  I enjoy ‘finding’ these types of things on Mackinac no matter the season but it’s more satisfying in a way to come across them during the quiet season.

 The rest of my walk was as expected with nothing more out of the usual to catch my attention.  I climbed Humbard’s Hill, spent some time overlooking the Straits at Sunset Rock, watching the tiny specks in the shape of snowmobilers zipping back and forth far off and far below,  continuing on across the Stonecliffe property, following the road the Hubbard’s Annex, circling the commons area to be reminded of the numerous times I trimmed Audry Gallery’s hedge, now capped with snow which, from a distance, looked like a thick, white, cake frosting, dripping down over the sides.  Stepping on to Pontiac’s Trail next to the Straus’ cottage, I followed the West Bluff road, past the front of the Grand Hotel, to Cadotte, then home.   No sooner did I get undressed for the evening (so I thought) when a certificate for a Village Inn pizza, hanging on the refrigerator door, caught my eye.  Good idea.  Re-dressing for a walk down there, I was almost out the door when Steve Cotton called to tell me a plane had landed on the ice right off the end of Market Street.  With camera in hand, as I reached the sidewalk in front of the house, the plane was in plain sight, directly down the hill, on the ice.

 After taking several photos, I was off to the Village Inn for a pizza to-go.  As I was returning home, I saw two people spinning the back end of the plane around, facing it away from shore.  Quickly placing the pizza inside the apartment, I got down to the beach just in time to video the plane taking off, heading toward St. Ignace, then circling back over the island before jutting off in the direction of the Mackinac Bridge.  So, drag racers, a coyote nearly close enough to touch and a ski plane on the ice . . . . . . all in the space of about 4 hours.  An interesting day, to say the least.          Until next time, take care all.  Greg    

A bridge cam shot during some wild and blustery winter weather a few days ago.

  • Diets in Review has named Mackinac Island one of their Top Fitness-Friendly Honeymoon Locations.  In the piece on Mackinac Island they wrote: 
    Take a ferry or fly directly into the island for an experience of a lifetime. Personal vehicles are prohibited on the island, so bust out your walking shoes or your bicycle. Experience nature at its finest by riding around the island, or walk the streets and visit the small local shops and eateries. If you’re not completely worn out by the end of the day, you are doing something wrong.”   Other locations mentioned in the article were Las Vegas, NV, Catalina Island, Royal Canadian Cruises, Keystone, CO, and Acapulco, Mexico.
  • My friend Mary, who lives in Grand Haven, Michigan during the winter sent this precious photo of a possum that has been visiting her birdfeeder for about a week.  He’s almost the same color as all that snow they’ve been getting. 

In our yard in south Georgia, this cutie would have to compete with the squirrels for that seed!

  • Our friend and neighbor on the island, Smi Horn, posted some beautiful photos this week on his Facebook page, and said “ok” when I asked if I could share them.  Smi is such a good photographer!

Fort Mackinac - in all its winter beauty.


Sunrise and the East Bluff.


The town of Mackinac Island - surrounded by ice and blanketed by snow.

  • My buddy Greg Main sent this great photo of the plane that landed on the ice this week.
Greg talks about the plane landing in the newsletter posted above.  For a video of the plane taking off for its trip back to St. Ignace, you can click here:

I’ll close this week’s update with this great video from Greg Main of a broom hockey game on Saturday at the Winter Fest.  This was a group of young adults, and as you will see, you have to sometimes make do with slightly defective equipment!

Hope everyone is doing well and surviving all the crazy weather this winter.  We were in Atlanta this weekend to see Blake one more time before he moves out to Colorado next week.  We hate to see him go so far, but relatively speaking, it’s a heck of a lot closer than China, where he’s lived for the last four years.  He’s very excited about his new job! 


Blake and I in Atlanta yesterday at Jason and Blair's house (that's their wedding photo on the mantel).


Personal Note:  Those of you who were reading this blog a year ago remember that it was at the end Winter Festival 2010 that our friend Don lost his wife Karen and his sister-in-law in a tragic snowmobile accident on the island.  My thoughts and prayers have been with Don and his family all weekend, and I ask that you remember them in your prayers today.


23 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off-Season Update – Volume XIV – 2/7/2011

  1. Wonderful!! Thanks for the update. This was a busy weekend for me, but my head was still on the Island for the winter Festival whenever I got a break!
    BTW, clicking on the broomball link got me nowhere, but I simply cut and pasted the link to a new page and it opened right up. Such fun – and so many memories! We used to skate on the harbor, toward the eastern end. And I also remember the planes would land in the harbor to take us for dentist and optometrist visits on the mainland!

  2. I always love reading updates from Greg. It’s so cool (no pun intended) to hear what is going on during the quiet winter months. I’d love to cross the ice bridge…as long as a bunch of other snowmobiles went at the same time. 😉 That picture of the Mac Bridge during that blustery storm…do they close the bridge during that kind of weather? Looks pretty scary to cross.
    Beautiful pictures from Mr. Horn.
    Blake..good luck on your new job and send pictures of Colorado!
    Yes, I remember the accident on the island. My prayers go out to Don and his family also. Time just seems to go by so fast…

  3. Brenda, may I borrow Smi’s East Bluff Sunrise photo for our college website? That’s our end of the island!
    We played broomball on ponds in nw Ohio when I was younger. Maybe it’s a Great Lakes thing?
    I did remember the accident from last year, and had already offered prayer, and I’m glad you put it on the blog. Peace to all the friends and families.

    • Hi Barbara! I’m sending an email to Smi to ask his permission. I’m sure it will be ok, but I always like to ask. Will let you know as soon as I hear from him.

      • Thank you! And thanks to your friend! It reminded me of mornings and 8 a.m. German class. I am NOT a morning person, but I do remember some beautiful sunrises because of that class!

  4. Prayers are sent for the family on this one year anniversary. I do remember you blogging about it. I am thinking of them also. Greg Main is a super writer! Do you know what his main occupation is/was? I just wondered if he was a writer? Beautiful picture of Blake and you. May he have good luck in his new adventure in Colorado. Thanks so much for taking the time to share all of your insights on the Island with us. I sure appreciate you! Take care and see ya next Monday! Michelle

    • Always love hearing from you, Michele. I can’t answer your question about Greg, but I know he’ll appreciate your kind words about his writing. I love reading all his insights into island life also – he really makes it all “come alive”. Maybe if he reads your comment, he will answer your question himself.

  5. Hi Bree,
    You are right. I just got the dvd “Ice Bridge Mackinaw Island’s Hidden Season” and it is just awsome. I’ve watched it at least 4 times since I got it a few day ago. I wish I could spend a winter up there just to experience Mackinac during this peaceful season.
    Bree thanks for all the updates. I’m new to your site this year and I can’t wait until Mondays roll around so I can read your Blog.
    Greg does a wonderful job and I love reading his discriptions about the Island.
    I’m so sorry to hear about the accident last year. I will definitely keep Don and his family in my prayers.
    I picture this week are beautiful. Congradutations to Blake.
    See you next week.

  6. When we played broom hockey in college, it was with a softball size ball on an ice rink. If there’s snow on the “field”, it must be softer when you fall.

  7. I thoroughly enjoy each of your posts. Ever since our first visit last September, which only lasted 24 hours, my husband and I have been obsessed with Mackinac Is. You are putting us there through all the seasonal changes. Thank you!

    • Hi Celestina – what a beautiful name! So glad you found this blog AND Mackinac Island. That little rock just seeps right into your skin, doesn’t it? Hope you’re already planning another trip – and a longer one! Thanks for writing.

  8. Hi Bree, after visiting the island this fall, I started looking for blogs about Mac Island. That’s when I found you. I’ve been reading your blog off and on since our visit in early October. Just wanted to drop in and say thank you for your updates, pictures and a glimpse of life on the island. Living there in the winter is so intriguing to me. Your blog helps me experience that life. Thanks!!

  9. Don’t know if you’ll remember me or not, I talked to Ted a lot when he volunteered in the Visitors Center. My sister, Christy loved how he was a big help and it was fun listening to what he had to say about the island.

    I’m posting to ask if it’d be okay if I snagged a couple of your pictures to paint. The island is my favorite subject. I found one that has a great and different angle of St. Anne’s and one of the cannon in the cemetery that look fun to do.

    Looks like your winter is going great. Hope you and Ted are well!
    In my prayers,

    • Hi Cathy! I’m sure if I saw you I would recognize you, and I’ll make sure Ted knows you said “hi”. Of course you can use my pics to paint from . . . I am honored. When you’re done, I’d love it if you’d take a photo of your painting and send to me by email ( I’d love to see it! Hope to see you back on the island this summer – Ted will be in the Visitor’s Center as usual, and I’ll be working one day a week at the Stuart House Museum (at least I think I will)! Thanks for writing!

      • Wonderful! Thanks, I’ll be sure to send you pictures of what I paint.
        I got married a few wks ago and moved to OH, We’re hoping to be in WY by the summer so I won’t be working on the island anymore
        Maybe we’ll retire there someday 😉
        My sister is living there full time though so I’m sure we’ll visit. And we’ll be sure to say hi when we’re there.
        Thanks again!

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