Mackinac Island Off Season Update – Volume XX – March 21, 2011

Header:  Thanks to Steve and Tami Fridley for the amazing photo of Market Street at night.  They were on the island in October and took some beautiful photos. 

Hi Friends!  Lots and lots of good stuff to talk about this week, including a really amazing video I’ll give you a link to at the end of this post.  You will love it!

It’s all about the end of winter on the island these days.  The ferries were set to start running this past Monday, but there was still too much ice.  The Coast Guard was called in, and they’ve been busy all week cutting through what was left of the ice bridge and opening the passageway between St. Ignace and the island.  I’m thinking ferry service to the island is only a few days away. 

The Shepler Ferry photographer took an amazing photo this week that shows a phenomenom that appears occasionally on the Straits.  Shepler’s explained it this way, “A few times a year, the light hits the ice just right to cause this optical illusion.  It looks like there is a waterfall between the islands, and the islands themselves look taller than they actually are.  It sometimes happens in the summer as well.”   When I first looked at the photo, I thought I was looking at the Mackinac Bridge.  But that is actually Mackinac Island and Round Island.

Pretty cool, huh?

Molly, who is a friend of ours on the island (she’s an EMT and also drives a private tour carriage) returned to the island last week after several weeks in New York state visiting her dad.  When Molly travels, her dogs travel with her, and returning to the island in the winter – with no ice bridge – means one way across.  They all fly.  Great Lakes Air is VERY dog-friendly, and there’s no “size and weight” limitations.  Pets travel “first class”, just like all the passengers on the little 6-seaters.

This is Morgan, Molly's German Shepherd. Morgan was born on the island and has lived there all her life. She's a 13-year-old and enjoyed her flight going home, sitting just behind the wing. That other "furball" you see to the left of Morgan is Molly's 16-month old Dutch Shepherd, Mieke.

A super letter from Greg Main (WHAT would we have done without his wonderful reporting all winter!):

“Bust it up!  The first item (not on the agenda) at Wednesday’s special City Council Meeting was the Mayor informing everyone that she will ask the Coast Guard to begin breaking up the ice which remains in the area – as of this morning, it remains all around us as far as one can see – which may . . . . may mean ferry service before the end of this month.  As yet, however, no franchises have been issued to any of the three boat companies currently in the mix.  At this special council meeting, the revised ferry boat ordinance language, ferry boat franchise application and the franchise agreement were all discussed with all of these items being accepted by unanimous vote.

We woke up one week ago today to find the island covered with the most snow we’ve had at any time this winter season.  Unfortunately, by late that afternoon, the melting had already begun, and one week later snowmobiles are scraping along bare pavement around town (although, a good deal of snow remains in those areas not prone to sun), and bikes now outnumber gasoline engines downtown.  Given that rain is a good possibility for a day or so, St. Urho’s Day may have been the beginning of the end of our winter season this year.  Of course, anything can happen at this latitude during these transition months, but the feeling I’m hearing lately is that we’re all ready to get rid of the ice and move on to all things Spring.

The Coast Guard cutter, Mackinaw, has passed through the Straits the past couple of days, slicing a path along the shipping channel.  Evidence of how soft the ice is becoming became clear today as, after the cutter passed by in an easterly direction early this morning, a vast area of open water appeared by noon, reclaiming the lake from just outside the break walls over to Round Island.  Overviews from Arch Rock and Pontiac’s Trail show several open ‘holes’ in the ice sporting brilliant blue water.  From past experience and continued breaking up of what ice remains, it should not be long before the ice cover will be history.  One thing some of us look forward to with the break up are the piles of ice which accumulate along our shoreline.  With a bit of wind, broken slabs of ice have, in the past, created some unusual natural masterpieces as they’re pushed, prodded and shoved onshore.  Something to look forward to over the next couple of weeks . . . . maybe.

Last Saturday, the island community came together, as it often does, to remember, pay tribute to, and simply celebrate the life of Bob Roach.  Food was available by donation at the Village Inn during the day (all donations went into a fund set up in Bob’s name), and a huge bonfire was lit around 3 p.m. on the beach at the end of the boardwalk, with an appropriate piece of ’fuel’ being part of it.  It seems, from what I’m told, there was a piano in the basement of the Island House which was one on which George Stella used to play all those many years ago.  Bob, who worked for the Island House, expressed an interest in burning it someday.  Well, it was only natural that those who knew of his wish would include this piano as part of the bonfire.  Around 6:30 that evening, the island’s Fire and Rescue vehicles gathered at the fire for a brief time for photos before heading out on a circle tour of the island, lights flashing the entire time, sirens sounding out at intermittent intervals.  Following them on snowmobiles, despite the lack of snow on the road in many places, were many of Bob’s friends.  (Greg posted two videos on YouTube showing parts of the ride around the island.  The link to the second one is, which shows the emergency vehicles and snowmobilers coming back into town after the ride.  The link to the first video, which shows the processional riding past Devil’s Kitchen, pops up after you watch this video).

Shortly before the fire was extinguished at midnight, a special wine bottle, appropriately decorated for Bob, filled with written messages from a lot of people and sealed, was blessed by Father Jim.  It was placed in a hole in the ice just off-shore from the bonfire and pushed under the ice with the hopes that the current will take it to places we can only guess.  An email address . . . . email address, NOT a website, was established so anyone can access it to read messages or view photos.  The email address is: and the password is: bobbyroach.

Not much more to pass along this time.  The sloppy commute of late has curtailed much of my wanderings around the island, but I’m hoping that will change very quickly with continued warmer weather.  I do have one interesting note (interesting to me, anyhow) to end this email with. The Northern Cardinal, generally heard here year-round, has appeared in greater numbers recently, which prompted me to head up to the East Bluff yesterday to ‘play’ with them.  The Lenfestey family has a bird book which contains various melodies from 250 different birds of North America. Recording number 115 is the Northern Cardinal.  According to the text associated with this entry in the book, the recording is that of a territorial nature, telling others in the area to stay away.

Anyone who knows me would not be surprised to see me walking around in front of Wood End cottage, book in hand, repeatedly pushing the play button.  As previously experienced in years past and expected to happen at that time, two males began answering ’me’ almost immediately.  For the better part of half-an-hour, I moved around just enough so the birds would expose themselves, flitting from tree to tree, apparently trying to figure out where this trespasser was.  I know, it doesn’t take much sometimes to amuse me.  I’ll blame it on cabin fever which will hopefully have passed by the next time I write.  Until then, I hope all is well with you.”  Greg

Greg helped solve a mystery for us this week also.  Barbara Metting, an avid blog reader and fan of the island, sent me two photos she had “grabbed” off the Horn’s Bar webcam.  One was shot in 2009, and the other one is from last week.  Amazingly, both photos show a “mystery object” on the left side of the photos.  Barb thought both objects were owls. 


The 2009 photo - shot in November.

The photo from last week – shot on March 17.

Greg thinks the object in the second picture is definitely an owl – probably a Boreal Owl, as they are common on the island.  Not so sure about the first picture, but definitely something big and winged.  Greg and I both thought it was unbelievable that Barb happened to grab these two amazing photos. 

Last, and certainly not least, that video I told you about earlier!  For those of you who have visited Mackinac Island in years past, you might remember swatting a lot of flies.  You might also remember the horses being constantly agitated by the pesky insects.  BUT . . . if you’ve visited lately, you’ve probably noticed that the problem no longer exists.  And why IS that, you might ask!  Here’s the answer – a fascinating video about a natural remedy to a big problem on the island.  Mayor Doud is one of the narrators, and the star of the show – in my opinion anyway – is Doc Al, our wonderful island veterinarian.  The video is almost 15 minutes long, so open it when you have a few moments to relax and enjoy.  Not only is it a wonderful travelogue of the island, but there’s a really good science lesson involved also.  Take my word on this . .  you will LOVE this video!

That’s it for this week.  Hope all my readers up north are beginning to see the snow melt and the bulbs breaking through the cold ground.  Spring is on the way.  For a little look at what’s happening in the south with the weather, you can click here for today post on the Lake Blackshear blog:

Have a wonderful week, and God bless.


14 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Off Season Update – Volume XX – March 21, 2011

  1. What a wonderful blog this is. The video of the MI Fire Dept. on their tribute drive to honor Bobby Roach was touching to watch. My prayers go out to the family and friends of Bobby.

    The video on flies or should I saw lack of flies on the island was certainly interesting. I really hadn’t thought about what had happened to the flies. I do remember my early years of visiting the island and all the flies.

    Greg’s email is always interesting for someone who wanted to live on the island year round. I never thought about taking my bird book with the sounds of birds outside to see how the birds would react. Now I will give it a try.

    Thanks for keeping us informed on our favorite island.

  2. I too saw the video’s of Bobby Roach and thought they were very touching. I was wondering about that bottle when I saw it, now thanks to Greg I understand what they were doing. That’s a pretty neat idea.
    I love the video of the fly on the island and how they are taking care of it so naturally. Some beautiful shots of the horses for sure.
    Barb’s snaps of the webcam do look kinda like an owl. Not that I know anything about them, but especailly the second one.
    Brenda you will have to thank Greg for us for all of his wonderful letters. I love reading them and they are always so interesting.

  3. We actually woke up to new snow this morning here on the island. The only problem is I put my snowmobile away for the season. Now I have to drag it out again. But I won’t complain about being able to snowmobile for a few more days!! A problem that comes when we have a snow storm is no planes can fly until they have a visible landing. Julie, Jimmy and Jordan (plus the two big dogs) are stranded in St. Ignace, most likely for the rest of the day. Such is life living on the island. But we wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.

  4. I can’t thank you, and also Greg, enough for the Monday updates. It gives me something to look foward to on Mondays when usually Monday is not such a great day for us working folks.

    • So glad to give you a little something to look forward to, Karen. Hope your Monday is going well – I SO remember Mondays from my working days!

  5. Thanks for the videos and pictures of the island. It is just so sad about Bobby. If they could only find some sign of him. Love the pictures of Molly’s dog. Molly is such a great person. She is always our guide . She pointed out your condo when we were with her. Give her our love. How are you doing with the sleep mask?

    • Still struggling with the silly thing, Maryellen. I get about 4-5 hours a night wearing it, and then I throw it as hard as I possibly can on the floor (just kidding). A few hours is better than none, I guess! Thanks for asking.

      • Just for your info. Herb got an extra-long hose and is able to go from side to side with it. Would this maybe help you. It does get better with time. Patience is the key!

  6. Hi Bree! Thanks so much for the Island info., and thanks to Greg Main also. What a nice tribute to Bobby Roach. I am praying for his family. We are suspose to get about 7 inches of snow tonight, so don’t be surprised if it hits the Island also! Have a great week! Michelle

  7. Interesting post and pictures. Spring is trying to “spring” in MI. We have a possible ice storm coming tonight thru tomorrow. Hope the trees don’t ice up like they say is a possibility. My spring garden is starting to “spring up”, I hope they don’t “freeze up”.

  8. Thanks so much for all the updates!!!! I’ve been following your blog since around October. I’ll be up there living and working with my husband and 2 1/2 year old in about three weeks!!!! WE CAN’T WAIT!!!!! I’m sure I’ll see you around 🙂

  9. They burned Georgie Stella’s trick piano? What a shame… back in the 1990s, we used to make a special effort every summer to get to the Island to hear him play, until he wasn’t there anymore. A lot of oral history passed from us when George died — I think of him every time I hear Kay Kyser’s band (with George’s piano work) on jazz radio.

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s