Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 8

For some reason, I’m missing the Island more today than usual.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t written about it for two weeks.  Or maybe it’s because we’ve been away almost three months now, with more than 3 1/2 months to go before we return.  The winter – if you can call what we’re having in south Georgia “winter” – seems to be creeping by.  Our weather here is as weird as it is in most other places in the U.S. this year.  Last winter was really cold for the south – we even had snow!  This year it’s just been a long progression of warm days, with almost no lows below freezing and consistent highs in the 60’s and 70’s.  Now that the Island finally has snow and ice in the harbor, I’m longing to be there to see it – blanketed in white, with no cars and trucks to mar the beauty.  Ahhhh . . . . Mackinac.

The one good thing about taking a little vacation from blogging is that tonight I’ve got lots of news and pics to share.  First off, an update from Greg Main, penned January 10 – just before the serious snow began to fall.

     “What we’ve been experiencing of late as far as weather is concerned on Mackinac Island could easily be termed a January thaw, but something about that perspective just doesn’t sit well with me.  It isn’t so much this wacky, warmer-than-it-ever-should-be-at-this-time-of-year climate that has enveloped such a large area of the country so far; nor is it the pathetic bits of snow here and there on the island – snow which has been rapidly disappearing the past few days –  which gives me reason to hesitate referring to our current state of weather as a ‘thaw‘.  It doesn’t seem proper calling this a ‘thaw’ because we haven’t yet had a sustained period of cold, snow, skim-ice-in-the-harbor type of weather we’re used to seeing.  What hints of winter we did get now and then – single digit temperatures at night, wind-chill advisories – lasted barely long enough to warrant discussing, let alone complaining.                                         

     Not until December 28, the first day the water in the Straits ‘steamed’, a sign of very cold air and the first of seven such steams which many say are necessary before ice begins forming on the water, was there any indication of a beginning to what Mackinac Island is used to seeing regarding winter weather.  Main Street was bare on the 29th until flurries began falling at 1:30 that afternoon.  A very brisk southeast wind prohibited this moderate snowfall to accumulate on the streets, rather pushing it into drifts along the curbing.  Not to be denied by the lack of road cover however, I was not surprised to watch, as I rode my bike home from work  a few hours later, someone on a snowmobile taking full advantage of the small amount of curbside snow, screaming westward through town, a trail of snow dust in the wake.  Truly, when the ‘official’ beginning of snowmobile season on the island is November 15th and snow doesn’t arrive for another 6 weeks, well, a person can be expected to wait only so long before the need for transportation via the internal combustion engine takes over.  For a couple of  days, heavy travel on the streets caused the snow to be packed down so hard, biking was relatively easy.  It was by bike that I ventured out to the Myers’ home New Year’s Eve for their annual get-together.

     It’s always good to take a load off in (arguably) the most comfortable, inviting room of any house anywhere.  Burning logs in the fireplace, sink-your-body-into furniture, a beverage at hand, surrounded by the natural warmth of wood walls and ceiling, excellent craftsmanship, good company and ( the favorite of many) a window bed, combine to create a most relaxing atmosphere even though the boisterous party crowd are but a few feet away.  It’s always good to see Grace Armour again and to be introduced to someone new and while the crowd there consisted of mostly familiar faces, many of whom I see several times a month, it’s still nice to meet, greet and eat on New Year’s Eve at British Landing.

     You may recall, the usual exodus up to Fort Holmes for the midnight countdown was changed last year.  A beach fire at the Bogans was the chosen option, and that was also the case this year.  Many thanks to Jim and Mary Bogan for the use of  their beach.  I do have some videos of the fire and fireworks (shh!), and I will get them onto my youtube page as soon as I can find time.  They are rather long and require uploading patience, something I’m still working at.  Given that a possible ‘new’ tradition was started in town with the Great Turtle Drop,  Anneke Myers decided there should also be a British Landing turtle drop, of sorts.  Fashioning a turtle from snow and sticks, the countdown began . . .10 . .9 . .8 . . . and at 1, the snow turtle left her hand, arching upward, landing in the fire, perfect timing.  As for the event in town, I heard there was a large turnout for it, but the only other information I received was what I read in the St. Ignace News.  No first-hand account.

     Leaving the beach fire crowd shortly after midnight, the ride back to town along the shore road, guided by fresh batteries in my two-dollar flashlight,  the dark sky reminded me of the night after Christmas.  Needing to get some cleaning done at the Medical Center that night, I headed out the door around 7 o’clock, and my eyes were immediately drawn to the western sky.  A marvelous night-sky view of a bright, crescent moon with a sparkling Venus to the left of it, both of which were situated perfectly over the festive lighting of the Mackinac Bridge.  I’m sure others had to see it also both here and on the mainland.  Had it not been so incredibly windy at the time, some of my photos may have been keepers, but it was all I could do to lean into the wind down at the boardwalk in front of the Cable Cottage, let alone try holding a camera still enough to take good photos.  Even while using a tripod or leaning against the light pole, the wind buffeted the pole, the pod, the camera and me enough to shake the clarity out of any photo I took. An opportunity lost, for sure.

     The New Year ushered in the type of snowfall that movie-makers dream of.  Huge, heavy flakes, falling straight down, rapidly piling up on the ground, clinging to trees, fence railings, people and leashed animals.  It was the type of snowfall which bends the branches of conifers and piles straight up on branches and twigs, mirroring their respective shapes.  What a marvelous time to be out shooting video or taking photos.  I actually carried an umbrella as these flakes were so close to being rain, they instantly returned to a water state as soon as they landed on anything relatively warm.  The umbrella was used to protect my camera, and I’m sure I must have looked strange to some who saw me walking around with it during a snowfall.  The wind remained non-existent until just after noon.  The calm only added to the tranquility while walking the East Bluff and trails beyond Arch Rock.  These are some videos I hope to get posted online soon.

     January 3rd was another day of note this year as the morning arrived bearing a temperature of 10 degrees and . . .the second steaming!  Something else was notable about that day, but it was nowhere near as impressive as watching the steam out on the lake, moving back and forth by light, fickle, variable winds.  Two down, five to go before the lake sufficiently cools (so it’s claimed) to allow the formation of ice.  As of today, we’re stuck on two and the forecast for tomorrow, Wednesday, is more of the same until very late in the day when a cold front passes through, temperatures fall sharply and ‘a very significant’ (weather forecaster’s words) amount of snow is possible overnight, all day Thursday and into Friday morning.  Looking out at green grass, grounded snowmobiles and bikes a-plenty on the streets, a significant amount would surely come in handy right now.  However, we’ve missed out on several such events over the past few years so I, for one, am not holding my breath.

     Snow is certainly needed and wanted at this point.  Our ski trails are either bare pavement or muddy right now and don’t even allow for pleasant walking.  What remains on the sidewalks and streets in town is either wet pavement, slush or sand-covered ice, with just enough wiggly ruts rigidly embedded in it to keep bikers on the alert.  Many of us have a lot of trips to the dump on our agendas which also requires ample snow.  The forecast looks promising temperature-wise, with teens and twenties for highs through Sunday – but will the snow arrive?  Given our recent history, it’s a coin toss.
What little snow cover we did have on the streets was greatly decimated on the 5th during a sunny, 48-degrees-in-the-sun day.  Only a few areas which were truly cemented to the pavement survived that Spring-like onslaught, and even those areas are now nearly history as this past week has remained much-above normal for temperatures.

     I have nothing to pass along as far as City Council meetings due to not being able to attend any since they started beginning at 3 p.m. instead of 5.  This was started due to the airport being closed, which prevented some who were required to attend from being able to fly off after the later meetings.  With the last ferry leaving the island at 5 o’clock, air travel was the only way.  As of last week, the crew was still coming to the island to work on some of the new electronics at the airport, so I’m surmising flights after dark are still not happening.  The next question is, after night flights are allowed again, will the council meetings be changed back to 5 p.m. or has everyone become accustomed to the earlier start time?  If it remains at 3 o’clock, I won’t be able to pass along any more first-hand information  of what I see and hear, but anything noteworthy is usually printed in the local newspaper anyway.

     The few days we did have snow greatly benefited both the Mustang Lounge and Village Inn as travel time and ease was no concern with snowmobiles.  Now, however, both places are relatively quiet again at night, with only a couple bikes outside to indicate the lack of business.  Snow.  We need a lot of snow.  I think I wrote that in my last email, also.  The island truly comes alive when we have ample snow.  I guess there is nothing more to pass along at this time or, if there is, my memory fails me.  Until next time, I hope you’re all doing well, have as much snow as you need and want (or not) and are enjoying the early beginnings of 2012!”

Thank you, Greg, for sharing your insights into all the happenings on Mackinac!  What would we do without you in the wintertime??!!

Many of my readers sent emails after they received their Vera Bradley catalog a couple of weeks ago.  The entire photo shoot for the catalog took place on Mackinac Island!  I remember the 2-3 days they were there – mainly because good friend Jane Winston (who lives on the island in the summer and in Georgia during the winter) was asked to be in one of the photos (we now have a celebrity in our midst!).  You can view the catalog online at http://www.verabradley.com/catalog/shop_catalogs.jsp (when the page comes up, click on “2012 Spring Catalog”.  Someone said it’s almost like playing the “Mystery Spot” game on last summer’s blog, trying to guess all the locations.  By the way, the top photo on page 11 shows Jane walking with two models.  Jane’s the one in black (I had to point that out because she looks like a model herself, and you never would have guessed which one she is).  AND . . . . . there’s a Vera Bradley VIDEO – also shot on Mackinac this past summer.  View the video here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=rbBUz6tViQk), but be forewarned.  As soon as you finish with the catalog and the video, you’ll be on the phone booking your stay for this summer!  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful photography and video work.

Here’s another link I want to share.  I’ve talked with this young woman several times over the last couple of summers, and she graciously allows me to occasionally swipe one of her photos for this blog.  On January 19 she posted some great photos of the “blizzard-ish” conditions on the island (she and her family live there year-round).  Her blog is called Mackinac Mommy, and the address is:  http://mackinacmommy.blogspot.com/2012/01/from-blue-skies-to-blizzardish.html.

Ok – PICTURES!  Thank you, thank you to everyone who shared!

Sunrise over the ice on Lake Huron, taken by a cast member at Shepler's Ferry.

An otter plays off the Arnold dock. (Photo: Arnold Ferry Line)

Someone asked about the construction progress on the new Bicycle Street Inn on Main Street. Looks like work is going strong! What I've heard is that the Inn will open in Spring 2013, but shops on the first floor of the new building will be open this summer. (Photo by Island Bookstore)

Andrew Doud does a little snow blowing outside his store. The wooden structure at the front door is added each winter to keep icy winds from entering the store when someone comes in off the sidewalk. (Photo: Doud's Market)

Last ferries of the day - a little over a week ago. (Photo: Heather May)

Brrrrrr . . . this REALLY looks like winter has arrived! (Photo: Mackinac Bridge webcam)

A snow-covered Island House. (Photo: Island Bookstore)

A little bit of everything - bikes, sleds, snowmobiles, and construction equipment. (Photo: Metivier Inn)

The Metivier Inn is beautiful in her winter dress. (Photo: Metivier Inn)

The new Grand Hotel stable (at Surrey Ridge) is really going up fast! From what we hear, Grand Hotel horses will be housed there beginning in April. (Photo: Metivier Inn)

A frosty Grand Hotel porch. (Photo: Grand Hotel)

That’s the update for today!  If you haven’t read about our trip to Colorado yet, you can click here for Part I (Part II will post Friday):  http:bree1976.wordpress.com.

Have a wonderful week, and I’ll see you back here next Wednesday!  God bless.

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17 thoughts on “Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 8

  1. Thanks Greg for all your updates! I bet things are a little different now with some of the snow you have had since then.
    Love seeing pictures of the island during the winter especially dressed in snow…beautiful! Thanks Brenda for the update on the new Bicycle Street Inn. Was wondering how far they would be by the summertime, especially since we will be staying right next door. 🙂 The Grand Hotel stables looks huge compared to the way they were. Hopefully they will keep the old stables intacked, it would be a shame to do away with it.

  2. Brenda,

    Glad you are back in Georgia, sound and safe! Sounds like you had a great trip. I miss Mackinac Island so much. My goal in life is to be one of those year-round residents. Thanks for keeping us posted on all the Island news. Also a shout out to Greg for his wonderful Island updates. I am counting the days until my visits in the spring, summer and fall.

  3. Brenda,

    Does Greg read your blog so he knows how much his words are appreciated?

    Thanks for posting the pictures. I especially liked the one ov the Metivier Inn in winter, but the one of the Bridge was enough to scare me, even though I had seen it posted on Facebook. No way would I get on that Bridge when it was snow covered like that.

    Although you had a wonderful time with Blake, I’m glad you & Ted have safely returned from Colorado.

  4. I really appreciate the update, Greg. Everyday when I see our forecast in Detroit I always look at the U.P. area to see what they are going to be getting and I always pray that they will get the cold and snow up there.

    I love the pictures too.

  5. A great, and much needed update. It does feel like it has been forever even thought just two weeks. I find myself often getting into the blog, knowing that there is not a Wednesday update yet, just to look at some of the past ones to get my “island fix”.

    • Good to hear from you, Steve. It seems a lot of folks were ready for an update. After I published last night, over 500 readers read the post, and already this morning, over 100 have signed on. My loyal readers . . . . I love them so.

  6. Between Greg’s word pictures and the actual photos, I can almost feel the snowflakes! Thanks very much for the much needed dose of Mackinac… Much gratitude to all who shared. Made my day once again!

  7. Always look forward to Greg’s update and I too have used an umbrella when it’s snowing, so don’t feel like you are alone Greg.

    I too loved the Metevier picture especially since it’s where I got married.

    Brenda, I take it the the ferry’s are still running? If the weather stays this mild this could be a winter where they run year-round possible?

    • Hi Karen! I believe Shepler’s ran their last boat this past weekend. As far as I know, Arnold’s is still running, but I don’t know for how much longer. The ice is really coming in now.

  8. Thanks so much, Brenda, for sharing Greg’s letter and these wonderful pictures! As you may know, I spend quite a bit of time on the Horn’s Main Street Cam (and the new Chippewa cone, too!) and have been following the weather in Northern Michigan quite closely. (since we don’t get much ‘weather’ in Southern California!!) I was happy to see all the snow last week, and then horrified to see the temps were in the upper 30s all of a sudden! I hope the ice ‘makes’ soon!
    Just think, you’re almost halfway through the ‘south’n’ portion of your year!!

  9. Hi Bree! I loved the Island update! The pictures were beautiful also. For a moment I felt like I was right there! Thanks also to Greg for his great updates! Hope all is well with you & Ted!

  10. The last ferry was Saturday. On Friday night, the ferry carrying the Grand Marais basketball teams was stuck in the Straits, and had to have help from the Coast Guard to make it to the Island. The kids had their homecoming festivities as the basketball game that night. Anthony Rickley and Zhan’e Nash were crowned King and Queen.

    The temp was 11 degree this am and we had no wind. This would qualify for one of the ‘steams’ we need for the ice bridge to form!

    • Thanks for the update, Mary Jane! Was keeping track of the Huron’s plight on Facebook and Twitter that evening with Jill. Social media is amazing!

  11. Thanks for the update…my heart goes out to the islanders not getting enough snow this year. It seems odd here in Ann Arbor looking so “spring-like” when there should be plenty of snow around. Enjoyed the photos. Good to know construction is going well. They probably enjoy the weather they have been having lately.

  12. I love the pictures! I have always wanted to visited Mackinac during the winter. My grandfather was in the Coast Guard and was also a good photographer…so I have always loved his pictures of Mackinac when he worked on the ice breaker. So beautiful.

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