Mackinac Island Off-Season Update – Volume XVII – 2/28/2011

Hi everyone!

Reports that the ice bridge from Mackinac Island to St. Ignace is already gone are coming in from the island, but the chance that it might re-form is a subject of discussion around the island also.  Before we get to Greg Main’s discussion of that, here are a few “good things” you should know about!

  •  One of the first things Ted and I did when we began going to Mackinac Island in the summer eleven years ago was to subscribe to The Town Crier, Mackinac Island’s local newspaper.  A one-year subscription is $25 for 22 issues a year, or an on-line subscription is $20.  You can mail a check for either subscription with your name and address (include zip) to Mackinac Island Town Crier, c/o The St. Ignace News, P.O. Box 277, St. Ignace, MI 49781. 
  • If your taste buds are pining for fudge, and you just can’t wait for the spring and a visit to the island, you can order fudge from Murdicks and Joanne’s with a phone call or by ordering on-line.  Joanne’s:  (906) 847-3707, and Murdick’s: (906) 847-3530,  
  • Martha’s Sweet Shop is going to be offering new menu items in the spring.  They already make the best cinnamon rolls in Michigan.  Can’t wait to see what’s new!
  • Stop in and visit online with Nicole at Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island over the winter.  Her website for the store and her blog is

The Shepler Ferry 2011 Lighthouse Cruise Brochures are now available.  Shepler’s has added more extended cruises this year, so there are more chances to see all the lighthouses that you’ve always wanted to see! Email with your address, and they’ll send one to you so you can start planning your summer vacation!  Ted and I already have this on our “must do” list for this summer.

Winter has been a busy time for Mackinac Island State Park employees.  One of the late winter chores for five guest service reps and museum store clerks is checking in merchandise, looking over catalogs, and critiquing orders.  These “markers,” as they’re called, are responsible for price tagging all museum store merchandise for the  six museum stores. Over 200 vendors ship multiple packages each, and these “markers” have received shipments from over 100 vendors already.  When the stores open in the spring all will be in order, and I can’t wait to see all the new items!  Our island condo is partially decorated from Sutler’s Store at Fort Mackinac.  I love that little store!

These two photos are from last summer . . .

. . . so some of the merchandise you see here may be not be available this summer.

Below is the latest newsletter from Greg Main:
The ice bridge, which came to us unexpectedly early this year is, as of the time I’m typing this, battered and broken. The warm weather that we experienced for several days over a week ago was only the beginning of the assault Mother Nature laid onto it. First, all of the snow covering the ice, making for easy handling of snowmobiles, melted. Still navigable, albeit a bit slower for most due to a more slippery commute, it wasn’t until the wind began blowing hard from the northwest on Friday, the 18th, that people began to take notice and speculate on the bridge’s future. For three consecutive days, the wind remained consistent in strength and direction. Bad news this, as ever-so-steadily the area of open water, which had been confined to the shipping channel, began expanding at a fast pace along the shore toward the school and, ultimately, the end of the boardwalk where our ice bridge began.

As is typical with a north/northwesterly direction, ice is pushed well to the east of Mackinac, and a view from Arch Rock a week ago Saturday, showed only a thin line of white lining the shores of the St. Martin Islands to our north, Bois Blanc and Round Island to our south, and nothing but open water as far as the horizon to the east. On a walk to Sunset Rock and beyond a week ago, a view from Pontiac’s Trail showed open water still about 100 yards away from the boardwalk; however, the overlook from Sunset Rock was a bit more dramatic as open water had also overtaken the ice from Point Aux Pins to the shore directly below Stonecliffe, obliterating the short-lived trail of Christmas trees marking a second crossing route ( the “usual” ice bridge crossing point) and which had been put in place barely 10 days prior.

Directly below Sunset Rock, a huge field of broken, floating ice spread out from the shore in three directions.  Looking through binoculars, this broken ice encroached ominously close to a couple of the trees marking the trail. The ice was definitely bobbing up and down with the waves, and although I’m sure this broken ice was further away from the trees than it seemed from the perspective I had, there was something tell-tale about the way things looked given the white-capped water constantly beating on and over the edge from the north and also being pushed along underneath the ice, wearing it away from below.

With no change in the weather forecast expected, the days of this years’ ice bridge were definitely numbered. Walking back to town along the bare shore road, I was absolutely taken aback to hear, then watch, as a lone snowmobile screamed across the ice at a high rate of speed toward St. Ignace. Whether this person was aware of the ice conditions at that time and was purposely going fast hoping to lessen the amount of time on the ice or whether this is the speed at which that person normally operates his/her machine, I remember, at that moment, hoping that my perspective of the broken ice in relation to the trees was not as close as it seemed.
Given the expected demise of the ice bridge, rumors about the Coast Guard intentionally breaking up what remained out there and the earlier-than-expected return of ferry service were bantered about the island early last week. Since then, however, two days of steady easterly winds have pushed ice back into our area, completely surrounding the island, filling in our harbor and, with a recent dusting of snow covering the ice, nothing but white can be seen as far as the Mackinac Bridge and all areas in any direction as far as one can see. These broken slabs of ice, pushed together and re-cemented by temperatures staying below freezing both day and night this past week, prompted one person to comment about the possibility of crossing the ice again. Who knows if there will actually be any takers again once we’ve had all of this open water so late in the year but I would not be surprised to hear that someone has already given it a try again.
We seem to be in that annual ‘lull’ period. Still close enough to being heaven-like due to the fact that we’re on Mackinac Island during the quiet winter months yet, also somewhat purgatory-ish, given the recent clearing out of the ice, talk of possible ferry service by the middle of this month, then subsequent re-claiming of the Straits area by miles of ice in every direction. Thirty days from now, we’ll have a different perspective on all things Mackinac but, for now, we’ll take what remaining days we have of this off-season to do what needs to be done, relax and enjoy life from this small pile of rock in northern Lake Huron.”  Greg 
Marta, a Mackinac Island friend, and her family attended the Pond Hockey Tournament in St. Ignace a couple of weeks ago and posted some great photos: 

This southern girl has a problem comprehending how cold it has to get to produce this much ice . . .


. . . and that they are playing hockey where the ferry boats run in summer - directly on frozen Lake Huron.


I. Love. This! Good ole American ingenuity.

Mackinac Island Trivia QuestionWhat makes the Mackinac Island fire truck special?  AnswerBased on specifications provided by Fire Chief Dennis Bradley and other island firemen, the fire truck was custom-made for the island.  According to Bradley, “We’ve got narrow roads, big hills, and it’s hard to turn.  So we had them build the fire truck for Mackinac Island.”  Bradley also commented that “each year the department sends four members to firefighting training in Indiana.  About half of my department has been trained by some of the most experienced fire commanders in the entire country.” (Source:  The Mackinac Island Town Crier in an article by Karen Gould – Feb. 12-April 8, 2011). 
That’s the update for another week.  Hard to believe that in eleven weeks, we’ll be back on the island and reporting live!  Have a great week, and God bless.

7 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off-Season Update – Volume XVII – 2/28/2011

  1. It seems like it’s been a long Winter but yet at the same time, it is going by fast. Even though it is still icky here I know that it will be Spring soon and I look so forward to it. I can’t imagine being that far out on the lake to play ice hockey, I would have to stay a little closer to shore, but it sure looks like fun! If there is a second ice bridge would it really be as strong as the first? That last person that Greg mentioned going out…I don’t know…brave person that’s all I can say.

  2. Brenda,

    What an interesting blog. It brought to mind something that I don’t remember if I have mentioned. When I was a teenager, living in Cheboygan, a man and his two sons, who lived in Cheboygan in the winter to go to high school (The boys were in my grade), and my dad and my brother walked 3 – 3 1/2 miles on the ice from the shore northwest of Cheboygan to Bois Blanc Island, which the locals call Bob Lo. It was snowing so hard that it was a “white out” all the way across. However, the father of the two boys must have had a perfect sense of direction because we arrived at exactly the place we were headed for on the island. Would I do it again? No way!!! Not even if I was physically able!!!

    Hilde, I don’t think that fellow was brave at all. I think he was foolish. Of course, I don’t know the whole story or what he was thinking, but that’s my opinion.

    By the way, I’m more than ready for spring and garden planting time.

    • Lowell, great, interesting story of your crossing the ice. There are so many things we would do as kids that we would NEVER think of doing now lol! And yes, that is a foolish thing to do, crossing the ice bridge at this time.

  3. I enjoyed these pictures. I just love the blue sky and frozen lake, so pretty. It reminds me of skating on Lake Erie when I was young, living at the beach year round………..wonderful for kids loving the outside, no matter what season!

    Your eleven weeks will roll around very fast! Ours snow was melting slowly, now we are in for a few more days of cold, then another warm up!! Snow still piled up.

  4. I am soooo ready for Spring Bree! Thanks again for the pictures of the Island and to Greg for making it all come alive. Eleven weeks will go by so fast. I can’t wait to you get there because I love your daily updates!!!

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