Good Lord willing, Ted and I (and Bodie) are on Mackinac Island through October, and the strangest thing has been happening. Over the last four weeks I’ve had a few encounters with people who shared how much they enjoyed reading Bree’s Blog and how they have missed it. I’d never met any of these folks before, but they were nice enough to shout at me from a carriage, or speak to me in church one morning, or even to approach me in the Pink Pony one evening – just to share an in-person hello and chat.
To be honest, I’d already been thinking about writing again this year for two reasons: 1) it may be our last long-term visit to the island and 2) because I frankly miss writing and connecting with all of you so much.
You may have been hearing rumors that Mackinac is changing. And you know what – it is! But the changes Ted and I have noticed since we arrived July 1 have done nothing to diminish the Mackinac Island we all know and love. A few businesses have changed owners, but it seems those owners are trying their best to enhance the visitor’s experience. The charm of Mackinac Island remains alive and well, and my goal for the next three months will be to share our favorite spots, tell some island stories, and maybe open up the magic of this island to folks who are on the cusp of deciding to visit.
For those of you who need no encouragement and are already island devotees it will be a time to reconnect. It’s been a crazy two years, hasn’t it? We’ve all gone through a lot, and if you’re like me, Mackinac was one of the places you’d go to in your mind when things were at their gloomiest. I could close my eyes and be back on a ferry crossing the Straits, or following a shady path through the woods, or strolling into town for a great meal and a fun night. As with many of you, Mackinac is my happy place, my peaceful sanctuary, my heart’s home.
So the Horton clan will be out making Mackinac memories for the next few months, and we so hope you’ll join us. I’m struggling a bit with getting back into the technology of blogging (it has DEFINITELY changed), so please bear with me while I relearn.
When we arrived home from Mackinac Island this October I decided to take a break from writing until the first of the year. I confess to having an ulterior motive.
For at least two years now, I’ve been thinking the lifespan of Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog has really more than run its course. When I began the blog in 2009 it was just at the beginning of the social media era. Bree’s Blog was one of only a very few places on the web where folks could go for information about Mackinac, and I slid myself right into that special little niche – reserved for the dear folks who believe Mackinac Island is magical and the most beautiful place on earth. The blog blossomed, and at its peak nearly 2,000 readers a day stopped by to see what was happening with the Hortons and their pooches on the island.
You followed us home to our precious lake house in Georgia for winters and packed up with us for the move back to the island for the season. You gave us support and love through so many hard times – selling the condo on the island and our home in Georgia, moving into a rental while we built a new home in Florida, my hysterectomy, Bear’s knee surgery and two years later his death, hurricanes – the list goes on. But for every hard time, there were hundreds of good times – endless summer days exploring the island, listening to the trees sing their song in the up north woods, riding hundreds of ferries back and forth across the Straits, horse and buggy adventures, nights at the Pink Pony, the discovery of Ted’s birth mother’s family . . . the list again goes on and on. Even when we weren’t on Mackinac you traveled with us – a trip to Colorado to a ski resort, a trip to Alaska, a trip to Key West, a trip to an amazing little island in Canada, and numerous trips to Flagler Beach as we built our home.
The decision to post the “Throw Back Thursday” posts has given me so much joy – looking back at those first few years and remembering things I haven’t thought about since they happened. But they also gave me the strength to say . . . .
I’ve told almost a thousand stories about Mackinac Island, and there are many other excellent blogs being written about the island. All you have to do is Google “Mackinac” and hundreds of resources appear. Through blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and all those other media channels out there that I don’t even know the names of, Mackinac is now an open book.
This past summer on Mackinac was a little bit of a wake-up call for Ted and I. We seemed to spend a lot of time recovering from spills – and we blamed most of them on Bodie. But, being totally honest about it – and although Bodie did play his part – a lot of those falls and spills were because our reaction times have gotten slower, our ability to heal quickly has slowed down. Since returning home we’ve begun to think about the time we would no longer be able to return to Mackinac on an extended time line. We’ve begun quietly searching for other places where my need for cooler summers would be closer than 1300 miles away.
Until that time comes, and we pray we’ve still got years ahead of us before we have to get serious about it, I selfishly want to enjoy every minute on Mackinac without those self-imposed blog deadlines. I just want to go and enjoy every second of its beauty and peace and magic.
So, it’s time.
What’s next? The ending of Bree’s Blog certainly doesn’t mean I won’t be taking photos and posting to Facebook – about Mackinac, and about anything else either serious, mundane or silly that happens in our lives. So, if you haven’t already, please follow me on Facebook. Just search for “Brenda Horton” and you’ll find me.
And – there is certainly a possibility I will one day (maybe soon, maybe later) find my way back to blogging about something completely different. But, that’s just a thought now – not a decision. I do know writing is in my blood, and if I do go in another direction, I will let you know by posting the info here on this blog – so please don’t “unfollow” me here. I’ll also let you know on Facebook.
Bree’s Blog will live on forever on the web. I hope in the years to come newcomers who are just discovering Mackinac will click a key and discover a little blog about the Hortons spending part of their time on magical Mackinac. And I pray they know each and every word and each and every photograph is filled with love and thankfulness and the awe of the discovery of my heart’s home.
I can’t even begin to thank you all for the happiness writing this blog and sharing Mackinac with all of you has brought me. It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing about the island for almost as long as I’ve been retired. I began it on a whim, and that whim has buoyed me up over all these years and brought the most amazing people into our lives. As half-year residents of Mackinac, we were given a behind the scenes glimpse over the years to what makes Mackinac tick, and I tried my best to share it all with you – so you could love it as much as I do.
Thank you to everyone to provided photographs over the winters when we weren’t on the island. Your generosity and willingness to share your talents kept Bree’s Blog up and running over the cold season. Thank you to readers, friends, and business owners who allowed me access to stories that wouldn’t otherwise have been told. Your love of Mackinac makes my heart smile.
And a very special thank you to my dear friend Jill. Without you there wouldn’t have been a Bree’s Blog. Thank you for all the insider information over the years, the story ideas, and the thousands of photographs. Thank you for being my sidekick, my always-willing-to-get-up-early partner in crime, my confidant, my shoulder to cry on, my “no-you-can’t-write-that” editor. But most of all – thank you for being my forever friend. You are beautiful and amazing, and I love you to the moon and back. Ok – make that to the sun and back.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written and rewritten this post. If I’d let myself I would have turned into a blubbering baby and sobbed my way through it. But I want you all to know I don’t have one regret about the years spent here with all of you. You all became friends – many of you close friends – and I love you all immensely. You let me into your homes and lives by reading this blog, and that is the greatest gift writing this blog has given me.
I’ve been having a blast this week looking at all the winter photos folks are sharing from Mackinac Island. So – instead of Throw Back Thursday – I wanted to share some of those photos with you tonight!
If these don’t put you into the Christmas spirit, well – I just don’t know what will!
I confess. I want to be there.
But – the last two weeks we’ve had some pretty darn chilly days here in Beverly Beach, and I’ve gotten more in the Christmas spirit because of it. Haven’t gotten out my snow pants yet, but I have put on a vest AND a jacket to walk Bodie the last few days!
Hope you have your shopping done! I finished mine yesterday!
Personal Post: Part I of a 2-part post from 2011. I was counting down the days until our return to Georgia and trying to chronicle the beauty of Mackinac in the fall.
Header Photo: Thank you to Jocelyn Kazenko for the beautiful Christmas season header shot. Photo taken the evening of Dec. 4. It was the calm before the storm, as today the U.P. is being hit with snow storms and high winds!
How Beautifully Leaves Grow Old – Originally Published 10/13/2011
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” – John Burroughs
Oh geez. I’m down to counting DAYS now. 19 to go before we’re out of here. Where did the summer go? It seems like three minutes ago we were right in the middle of watching the horses come off the ferry and walk up the hill to the big barns. Now the horses are almost all gone back to Pickford in the U.P., where they will kick up their heels and enjoy a much needed rest.
I’ve asked Ted to get my suitcases out of the attic and put them on the beds upstairs. I’m going to try and get organized (don’t you dare laugh). All my days are filling up, and before I can say “fudge”, the 30th will be here, and Ted will be standing in the street next to the taxi yelling, “No, we can’t stay another week!”
Many of our friends have already gone south – or east or west – for the winter (don’t know any who go further north, which would be Canada). Each day brings partings on the ferry docks and promises to stay in touch by email, or Facebook, or Skype or cellphone, which certainly makes the “partings” a little easier.
The next three weeks’ calendar is already almost full – lunches and breakfasts with friends still here, meetings with a couple of blog fans, and three days next week I’m volunteering at Shepler’s in Mac City for the Winsome Women conference. What a great group of ladies – almost a thousand each day will be catching the ferry to and from the Island. I think they have me greeting cars at the entrance gate and showing them where to park. I have to remember not to talk too long to the women in each car!
But – that’s all about what’s happening in the next 19 days. For the last three days, I’ve been out on the island with the camera – and that’s what I want to share with you today and tomorrow. Oh my goodness, I could stay out there from sunrise to sunset – it’s that gorgeous.
Arrowhead Stables, as we were riding our bikes home from church Sunday. It was Little Stone Church’s last service of the season, and Vince and Molly (our pastor and his wife) left the island on Tuesday for their winter home in Florida.
We stopped to talk with Barb, a Village neighbor, who was walking Topaz (their family pony) down the hill. Topaz was scheduled to leave the island for the winter the next morning.
Maybe the last mowing of the season. Our weather is supposed to be changing drastically by Friday, but these last two weeks could not have been more beautiful.
Trees in front of Barn View – where many of the Carriage Tour employees reside.
Two of our neighbors, walking their bikes home on the road that runs in front of our condo.
Chief Duck’s little poodle, Star – dancing in the leaves for a treat I was holding right over her head.
Still beautiful weather on Tuesday morning, so we sat outside for coffee. The tree just outside out bay window is changing into its fall dress – one “sleeve” at a time.
We went on a long walk Tuesday afternoon. We really don’t have to go much further now than our own front yard to find color – it’s everywhere around us.
Bright red tree over what used to be the goat petting shed at Carriage Museum.
Maddie – straining against her halter. When you say “walk in the woods”, she is ready!
“Why can’t I go in this tree trunk!?”
“I knew I’d find it! Fox poop – yeah!”
View from in front of the Captain’s Quarters at Fort Mackinac.
I think I’ll stop right there for now, but I’ll have even more to share on Friday. As I sit and type this, it’s Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve just returned from town. I left in a 3/4 length sleeve cotton shirt thrown over a short-sleeve t-shirt and some khaki pants. Half-way down the hill, the wind changed direction, and cold air hit me like an iceberg. The fog rolled in over the harbor and flew up each street – replacing warm, bright sunshine with cool, wet air – and the fog horns have been blowing ever since. I had to stop and buy a sweater in town to wear back up the hill. And THAT’s how fall arrives on Mackinac Island! LOVE IT!
Thanks to Sue Randall for stopping by to see me Monday at the Stuart House. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my last day working there for this year, as they decided today to close the museum for the season.
Sue and her husband were at the Grand for a few days for a Christian Marriage Retreat.
Personal Note: Come on back tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 8) for Part 2!
Personal Note: This post from 2011 made me laugh. Of course anytime Bear wrote a blog I always laughed. Bear published this one the day after Maddie had somehow hurt her back – and he’d had about enough of us pampering her.
ALL BETTER – First Published August 5, 2011
Hi. Bear here.
Mom wanted me to write ’cause she’s exhausted from having to babysit Maddie all day yesterday and today.
I really felt sorry for my little sister – at first. Yesterday she was pitiful. When she’d walk around – which wasn’t much – she’d have her skinny little tail tucked all the way up under her belly (she does that when she doesn’t feel good). The way I really knew she was hurting though was because I didn’t hear her bark one single time all day. Dogs would walk by the condo, children would walk by the condo, people would ride bikes by, pulling those cart thingys – any one of those is usually guaranteed to get a good barking fit out of Maddie. Yesterday – nothing.
Mom and Dad trudged up and down the stairs all day, carrying Maddie. They’d put her down in the grass, she’d do her business, then she’d sit down and look at the door. They’d pick her up and climb the steps with her again. She’d curl up on towels that Mom kept warming for her in the clothes dryer. They even brought her food dish over to her bed, so she wouldn’t have to walk to our dinner spot.
This morning when we all woke up, Maddie was still acting weird. Dad put her on the floor (out of their bed, where I don’t get to sleep), and she just sat there, looking up at Dad with those sad little eyes. Then dad walked out of the room, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Maddie’s tail wagging. Huh? Dad came back in and picked her up, and we all went outside. I watched real close. When Mom and Dad weren’t looking, Maddie was walking around just fine, sniffing out stuff in the grass. Then as soon as they’d turn around, she’d sit right back down again and look pitiful.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, when I got on Mom’s computer today, I read the seven gazillion messages from readers saying how much you hoped Maddie was feeling better, and “poor little Maddie” this and “sweet little Maddie” that. That’s just a little . . . bit . . . too . . . much . . . attention . . . being . . . shifted . . . away . . . from . . . . . . . . . . . . . ME.
So, I just want to tell everyone that Maddie is feeling a lot better. After Dad had carried her up and down the stairs a hundred times today, he caught her running down those same steps when she thought he wasn’t looking. BUSTED!
Seriously, Mom said to let everyone know that Maddie is feeling a lot better, and Mom wants to thank everyone for all the good thoughts and prayers. They worked!
However . . . .
I’ve had a BAD day and could really use some TLC. I’d appreciate dog bones, lots of hugs, a “pass” on going to the groomer’s next week, and I’d also like to be able to eat my dinner in the den by the couch. I think that will do it. Wait . . . . maybe ya’ll could drop me some cards in the mail – preferably with coupons for Beggin’ Strips. Whew! I’m feelin’ better already.
Personal Note: Sunday was our last day on the island for Winter Festival, and we were scheduled to fly home on Monday. We had already had more fun and seen more snow than I could have ever imagined. The fairytale world of Mackinac in the winter lived up to all my expectations!
First Published February, 2010
Where Saturday’s activities were all held outside at Turtle Park, the majority of Sunday’s activities were inside at the school. Here is our group’s day in pictures and captions:
This is actually a photo from Saturday – or Friday (I can’t remember). Nikki, who lives on the island year-round, and I say hello at the Mustang.
Getting ready to go out Sunday morning – hand warmers and toasty toes!
Walking up Cadotte Avenue to the school, we passed the very lonely looking Gatehouse Restaurant. So strange to see it like this. In a few months, the tables will be out on the patio, the flowers will be blooming, and there will be happy people everywhere.
Dawn – posing on a snowmobile, under a “No Snowmobile” sign.
Barb, who is the school’s office manager, Dawn and I. We had just noticed that Barb’s cup matched her sweater.
Smi and I – Smi and his wife are our neighbors in the “village”.
As soon as we walked into the gym, 2 -3 tables full of home-baked goodies were sitting there tempting us to start munching. Whenever one little space was cleared, another baked good was brought straight from the kitchen. The island ladies must have been baking all night!
Sign-up tables on the left. Then table after table around the room filled with silent auction goodies – the majority homemade. I bid on several items, but it was the rag rug made from sheets that I really wanted – and it was the only one I was high bidder on. Ok – I admit it. I entered my last bid 2 seconds before the buzzer rang ending the auction, then defended that bid sheet like an all-star hockey goalie.
Dawn and I playing bingo.
Voting on 2012 Mackinac Island Recreation Department Calendar photographs. How to choose only 12!
Talk about Mackinac Island celebrities! Beside me is Jeannette Doud, who writes the Mackinac Island column in The Town Crier. Next to her is Margaret, who has been the Mayor of the island for the past 37 years.
One of several pairs of homemade mittens I bid on at the silent auction. They were all made from donated wool sweaters and the left hand mitten did not match the right hand mitten. So cute! I was not the high bidder on any of them. Darn!
After we left the school, we walked up Cadotte to our condo. Looking back over my shoulder, we could see the ice in the Straits.
Going through the snow fence to our condo back door.
Standing on the street in front of the condo. That’s the Carriage Museum in the background. Everything looks so different covered in snow!
The empty horse corral below our condo.
Starting back to town – down Turkey Hill, next to the Jewel Golf Course.
Where Turkey Hill Road blends into Fort Street, we met a couple attempting to get up the hill on cross country skies. They finally stopped, took them off, and walked up the hill until they hit snow again.
Mike – pretending that he is about to “take the plunge” into the icy water.
On our way to The Village Inn for dinner Sunday evening, we passed Cindy’s Livery Stables – locked, quiet, and dark for the winter.
On the other hand, the Village Inn was ablaze with lights. You can see in one corner of the restaurant the cross country skis available for rental.
Mike took this photo at the Village Inn Sunday night. I promise we did not plan our color scheme for the evening – it just worked out that way. The lady on my right is Mary, who with husband Ron, owns the Village Inn.
Thank goodness the supply closet was right next to our room. We had to “borrow” the vacuum cleaner Monday morning so Dawn could suck all the air out of the bag where she packed some bulky items. Those vacuum bags are amazing!
My blogging corner in our room at The Cottage Inn.
Personal Note: This should have been the last entry on our Winter Festival trip. We were set to get a good night’s sleep and fly off the island to St. Ignace early Monday morning. We still made that flight, but the tragic events that began shortly after the above pic of me in my pajamas was snapped will forever be linked in all of our minds to our trip north that winter. Because Mackinac in the winter is more beautiful than you can imagine, it is easy to forget that there is another side to all that beauty. We were all impacted by that other side throughout our last night on the island. Tomorrow – that story.
Personal Note: Our third day on the island for Winter Festival, 2010, was a Saturday, and it was filled with everything we could have hoped for – fun, adventure, laughter and tons of community spirit. We had a blast!
Hal Borland, a former writer for The New York Times, once said, “To know – after absence – the familiar street and road and village and house is to know again the satisfaction of home.” My readers are well aware that I have two homes – one at the lake, with ties to my southern roots, my family, my friends, and 61 years of history. Then there is my heart’s home – this island.
Returning here on Thursday afternoon once again filled the space in my heart reserved only for this village and these people. Winter Festival is basically a community celebration. In a place cut off from the mainland during the winter – unless you fly in and out – this small community of residents pauses for a weekend and celebrates what makes them special – their children, their bond with each other, their home on this island.
This afternoon when we arrived at Turtle Park, I felt as if I was being welcomed home by family. So many people who I had last seen at the end of October called out a “welcome back!” They asked “Where’s Ted?” They hugged me. They chatted. They made me feel that making the effort to travel to Michigan from Georgia for a four day visit was very special to them. I wanted to tell them all that there was no effort involved – I had simply come to my heart’s home.
We have once again been outside all day. It was two degrees when we awoke this morning, but luckily the winds have been calm. We put on layer after layer (at last count we three girls had managed to pull on and zip up seven layers above our waists and three below). We wore snow boots, wool socks, toe warmers stuck to the bottom of our socks, and hand warmers inside our gloves. We were warm, but we also looked like inflated robots. If we had tipped over, there is no way we could have ever gotten up without help.
Here’s our day in photographs – with captions.
Ice in the marina has broken into large pieces.
We left The Cottage Inn around noon. I kept hoping for a snowmobile ride, but Jill insisted we walk. I’m so glad we did.
At the foot of Fort Hill, Jill was already snapping photos. I think, between the two of us, we took more than 400 pictures today.
The trees are beautiful, standing against the white snow.
Dawn – trying to hide behind a tree. In seven layers of clothes!? I don’t think so!
A fork in the road – but they both end at Turtle Park.
Pointing out the path Ted and I take through the woods to our condo.
Marge and Rich (and Joe Cocker) caught up with us toward the end of our hike. They were going to the Winter Festival also.
The Winter Festival was in full swing when we arrived.
One of the many activities was sledding – a favorite with the kids.
There was also snow golf . . . .
Human sled dog races – where the “sled dog” was blindfolded and had to mush around a marked route to shouted instructions from the person (or persons) on the sled . . .
Face painting for the children . . .
Broom hockey – a children’s match and an “over the hill” match . . .
And then there’s Bowling with a Frozen Chicken, the only game in which I participated. You are given a frozen solid, hard as a rock chicken, wrapped in cellophane. You have to hurl it toward the bowling pins at least a thousand feet away. I did not win or place. In fact, I never touched even one of those darn pins. By the way, the prize for the winner of that game was the frozen chicken.
The totem pole at Turtle Park is crowned by – what else – a turtle!
Me with Penny – one of Andrew and Nicole’s sweet dogs.
Mike, who has been filming all weekend, talking with Karen from The St. Ignace News.
Jack, with his wife Terrie, own the Cannonball Restaurant at British Landing. They were grilling hotdogs and brats for the crowd.
Chloe gets in a little sledding, making it all the way down the hill without a crash.
The crowd seemed to continue growing throughout the afternoon, tapering off around 3:30 p.m.
Dawn and I watched some of the games from the bleachers, which were facing the sun. A beautiful day!
An island friend’s little girl – Madison.
Cute Miss Madison again.
We took a break from the festival, and walked over to Trillium Heights, a subdivision behind the Village.
We went by and visited for a moment with Don and his wife Karen. Don and Ted work together at the Visitor’s Center on the island during the summer.
Jill went back to the Festival, while Dawn and I started back downtown.
When Jill started back to town, she walked by the Fort Cemetary. Always a quiet, peaceful setting, today it was a study in beautiful tranquility.
White birch trees, white snow.
Dawn and I walked to town down Cadotte Avenue, past our condo. I will probably return tomorrow and go inside.
The last “to do” item on our agenda today was to find a patch of perfect snow and make a snow Angel. Dawn did it first . . .
. . . and then it was my turn. So funny! Getting ourselves up out of that snow was a sight to behold!
We were very happy to see The Cottage Inn late this afternoon. We had been gone from noon until almost 6 p.m.
Jill, bless her heart, ran to the Mustang and picked up a “pizza to go” for supper, then left to help Leanne with some details for the second day of the Winter Festival. Dawn and I ate pizza, watched a movie (while I should have been blogging), and now, once again, everyone is sleeping as I finish writing.
It has been another wonderful day on the island – we could not have asked for better weather. We have been plenty cold, but the winds have been calm, and the days have been so beautiful. Tomorrow we have more Winter Festival activities. There is a brunch planned at the school with pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, potatoes, biscuits & gravy, cinnamon rolls & fresh fruit. Oh, yum! Dawn and I are helping run a silent auction table, and there will be bake sales, a cookie contest, turtle races, and the selection of photographs for the 2010 “Seasons of Mackinac” calendar. The Superbowl is tomorrow night, with parties planned at both the Mustang and Patrick Sinclair’s Irish Pub. A very busy day!
Please come back tomorrow for the final day of Winter Festival, 2010.
Personal Note: The blog post below is from our first full day on Mackinac – a Friday – during Winter Festival Weekend in 2010. I can look at these pics and remember every second of that day. It was amazing!
Island Winter Day – First Published February 6, 2010
When I talked to Ted this morning, it was a cold, rainy day at the lake in Georgia. It was cold here also, but the snow was white, the sun was shining (for a minute anyway), and we were determined to stay outside as much as possible to enjoy every minute.
Friday was an “extra” day for us. The Winter Festival activities don’t start until Saturday at noon, so Jill, Dawn, Mike and I spent the day roaming around downtown taking photos. Mike was officially “on business” for this trip, shooting video for The Cottage Inn and background footage for his ever increasing video achives on the island.
If you read this blog last summer, you know that Ted and I stayed at the Chippewa Hotel every year we came to Mackinac until we bought our condo. We love the Chip! Now I have another place I can personally recommend – The Cottage Inn, a bed & breakfast on Market Street. The rooms are all beautiful and decorated in different styles. We are staying in the Victorian Turret Room, which has a queen bed, a sofa sleeper, flat screen TV, private bath, and pillow-top mattresses. Marge and Rich Lind are the innkeepers, and as soon as you walk in the door you become their most important guest.
Dawn and I wore our pj’s downstairs for breakfast this morning (after we found out that the four of us were the only guests at the hotel that morning) and found a breakfast casserole, fruit and yogurt, assorted breakfast breads, cereals, hard-boiled eggs, coffee and four different juices. Everything was delicious!
A great way to start a day on Mackinac Island – good food and good friends!
Here’s the rest of the day in photographs – with captions. Pictures tell the story so well when you are on the island.
The first stop of the day was our 11 a.m. appearance on the web cam. So many people watched and sent comments – or called! Mary, one of my readers, sent this photo she had “captured” off her computer screen.
And here we all are waving to the camera. That’s Dawn, Mike, Jill, and Joan (an island resident).
Main Street on a winter day. We were so excited to see this much white stuff. Everyone keeps saying, “We’re so sorry there’s not a lot of snow.” And Dawn and I kept saying, “But, to us, this IS a lot of snow!”
Jill, Dawn and I standing in front of The Cottage Inn.
Around noon everyday, the island residents arrive at the post office to pick up their mail.
The Geary House is located across the street from The Cottage Inn. Mike and his family will be renting it this summer. It is available for rental through the Mackinac Island State Park – monthly rentals only.
We walked down Market Street to the water, stopping in front of this beautiful cottage – still decorated for Christmas.
As soon as we walked across the street to the boardwalk, away from the shelter of the houses, the wind hit us full force. Suddenly, it was much colder. Round Island Lighthouse stands a lonely watch over water half-frozen in the Straits.
There is a lot of ice at the edge of the lake. We spent quite some time trying to talk Dawn into taking the “plunge”, but she kept saying, “Maybe later.”
We stopped in at the library to check out some artwork by Tim Leeper and other local artists.
Dawn spent some time back in the Used Books sections, where paperbacks are $1, and most hardcover books are $2.
Can you believe all three have cellphones attached to their ears!
I kept saying these were snow clouds, but I guess the clouds weren’t listening.
Dawn – all bundled up to roam around in the snow.
A bundled -up Jill with her camera.
Rich, who with his wife Marge are the innkeepers at The Cottage Inn, looks out the door as we head out again into the snow.
As we left, Marge and the Cottage Inn mascot, Joe Cocker, were coming back from a walk.
Mike – filming snowmobiles.
Walking down toward the Mission district, where the traffic is less, there was even more snow on the road. The path on the right is kept clear for walkers.
Leanne had promised us a sleigh ride, and when we arrived at the 4-H barn, she was harnessing Blaze, a small Haflinger.
Jill put Gingersnap into the barn, so she wouldn’t get upset seeing Blaze leave.
Blaze is harnessed and hitched almost exactly the same as the big Belgian horses who pull the taxis in the summer.
One horse plus one sleigh equals a sleigh ride!
While Blaze was being hitched to the sleigh, we were visited by Max, Major and Lily – three Shetland Sheepdogs from up the road.
Blaze and Lily have a little mutual admiration society going on.
Dawn, Leanne, and I leaving the stable.
Riding behind Blaze
Leanne and Jill arriving back at The Cottage Inn.
Liz, from The Quilted Turtle blog – who teaches on the island – was going out to dinner with us. She offered to take me on a snowmobile ride, but first had to help me get my hood on straight. I think I heard her say something along the lines of, “You Southern girls don’t know how to dress for cold weather.” But we’re trying, Liz!
Liz drove me up to the Mission District, then went into a house to get something. When she came back outside, she said, “Do you want to drive?” Are you kidding me!!! She let me drive from in front of St. Anne’s back to The Cottage Inn. Oh my gosh! I loved it!
We headed for the Mustang for dinner – Jill, Mike and I walking – Dawn getting a ride from Liz.
Dinner at the Mustang.
Another fabulous day on the island. Tomorrow, the Winter Festival begins. As I finish writing tonight, I am sitting by a window in our room, and outside I can hear the wind whistling around the corner of the inn. A cold front is coming in tonight from Canada, and tomorrow night the forecast low is 7 degrees – and that’s without the wind chill factored in. We might not have tons of snow, but I think tomorrow we will get plenty of COLD! See you then!
Jill snapped this beautiful photo while she was out in the sleigh this afternoon. Personal Note: Come back tomorrow for our adventures on Saturday – the first official day of Winter Festival, 2010!
Personal Note: I had to laugh when I read the first paragraph of this post from 2010. I could have written those same words this afternoon, after leaving you hanging on Thursday. But here’s the rest of the story – one of my favorites from “back in the day”!
TO FRESH WOODS AND PASTURES NEW
First Published October 11, 2010
“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.” . . . John Milton
It was almost cruel to leave you as I did Friday, wasn’t it. I thought about that as I was ending that post. Should I go ahead and finish – add 30 more photographs and give you what you really wanted – the farm with the horses grazing free. I did think about it – I promise.
And then I smiled. And I thought about the anticipation that built in me on the ride over on the boat last week with the horses. When we docked, and I watched that first gelding step off the boat, my heart did a little flutter-step. I watched them load up and the trailer doors swing shut. And as we rode those 50 miles to Pickford, my heart continued to beat a little faster than normal. The anticipation of the moment when the horses would be led into that big pasture, when the halters would be lifted over their heads (their halters are never off on the island), and when they would realize they were no longer bound by any means to man – that moment of anticipation was one I wanted you to feel with me. It wasn’t meant to be cruel – on the contrary, aren’t the good things in our lives we have to wait for all the more treasured because of the wait?
But, now as I sit down to write the rest of this journey, I worry that I won’t be able to give you all the joy and emotion of what that day felt like when we did reach the farm. But I will try, and what I miss in words, perhaps I can make up to you in the photographs.
tp://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/1randy.jpg”>First, let me introduce Randy Hall. Randy was my “go to” person for this part of the trip. He was the driver of one of the two horse trailers waiting to transport us to Pickford. I learned later that Randy does a lot of the Carriage Tour driver training on the island in the spring. He grew up with horses in the Upper Peninsula, and his passion for them is evident in how he talks about them and how they respond to him. He owns a horse farm himself and also grows hay.
://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/2randy.jpg”>Most of these horses are geldings – in fact there are very few mares on the island, although there are some. A majority of the island horses are purchased from the Amish, when they are 3-6 years old. The Amish have already trained and worked them around machinery in the fields, so they come to the island with basic training completed. The Amish keep most of the mares for breeding and sell the geldings. There are no stallions on the island.
/bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/3loading.jpg”>Loading and unloading into the trailers is old business for most of the horses. They have done this for years, and the nervousness of the few new horses is tempered by the calm of the older ones.
ree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/7horserandy.jpg”>Randy secures this big Belgian in the trailer.[/caption][capt
e1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/8horse1.jpg”>It was so amazing to watch the horses as they came off the boat. Their eyes were wide and bright, their ears pricked forward, their nostrils flared. If I could have read their minds, I think the words would have been, “I know this place. Next is the trailer, a little ride, then freedom!”
972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/4loading.jpg”>Last one into this trailer. We were transporting 12 this first load – 6 in each trailer.
[/caption]And, we’re off!
I’m sure Randy thought he had been given the worst duty of the year – having to put up with Bree the Blogger for two 100-mile round trips to Pickford. The photos above are a combination of the two trips – the first one over on the 9 a.m. ferry, then another one when we came back to pick up the second group at 11:30. I’ve also combined the photos from the two trips to the farm, meaning we released the first 12 horses, then went back to St. Ignace to pick up 11 more and took them to the farm.
Randy was very gracious and friendly and answered all gazillion of my questions, although at times I’m sure he was thinking, “Good grief! Is there anything about horses that this woman DOES know?” Here’s a few of the new things I picked up on the trips back and forth:
1) The Pickford farms – there are three of them – are the winter home of the Carriage Tour horses, as well as the Grand Hotel “omnibus” and State Park horses.
2) Randy does a lot of training with the horses before they are ever brought to the island. He does this winter and summer because horses are brought back and forth all season. A horse may just not be working out and will be returned to Pickford for more training. There has to be a horse ready to take its place.
3) There are about 20 horses on the island all winter. Two are used for the taxi (only one taxi in the winter), and the rest are used to pull the drays because even in winter, the work of the island continues. Mail has to be brought from the ferries (or plane if the Straits are frozen), as do supplies for the grocery store, restaurants, hotels, and school that remain open.
4) Additional horses are brought to the island over the winter during peak times – Christmas and New Year’s – when more visitors arrive.
5) Let’s say a horse learns to be the right-hand side horse in a two-horse hitch team. Can he also work on the left? “Sometimes,” Randy said, “but there are some that can never change over.”
6) Not only do the horses know where they’re going when they are turned out into the pasture on the island without their shoes for the first time, but they also know by the changes that occur toward the end of the season. Randy said they know that when the weather begins to cool, and they are working an easier schedule, their days on the island are coming to an end for another year.
7) I asked what determines which horses remain on the island for the winter. “Some of it is temperament,” Randy said. “They have to be able to adjust from the relative ‘quiet’ of bikes to the ‘racket’ of snowmobiles. Some can make the adjustment, some can’t. When we find a horse that isn’t bothered by all that extra noise, we tag him as a possible winter horse.”
8) Only the draft horses (Belgians and Percherons) stay outside all winter. The others are brought in at night and during really bad weather.
/10/9truck.jpg”>We’re at the farm! This was a 60-acre pasture that was a part of what is called “9-mile farm”, one of the three owned by Carriage Tours.
0/10gate.jpg”>Irvin, another Carriage Tour worker who stays in Pickford, was there to open the gate.
<figure id="attachment_10046" align="a
11firsthorse.jpg”>I walked through the gate and was standing in the corner (out of the way) when the first horse was led off the trailer . . .
[caption href="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/13b id="attachment_10049" alt="" width="500" height="375"]idleoff1.jpg”>And here’s where I choked up the first time. Watching Randy remove the halter, I envisioned the horses immediately taking off into the freedom of the pasture. But these are horses so used to human companionship, so in tune with their lives around people, that their main interest was not first to “make a break for it”, but to taste the wonderfully abundant grass . . .
[caption ref="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/15rol id="attachment_10053" alt="" width="500" height="375"]11.jpg”>. . . and then to roll.
[caption f="https://bree1972.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/15roll2 id="attachment_10054" alt="" width="500" height="375"]jpg”>Can you image the horse joy of rolling around – not on the dirt of the horse corral below our condo . . .
[caption id="attachment_10055" height="375" title="15roll3" alt="" width="500"]g”>. . . but to be scratching your back on green, sweet-smelling grass! Talk about kicking up your heels!
[caption ttp: id="attachment_10056" height="280" title="18horses" alt="" width="500"]g”>On the second trip, I went further down the pasture road to photograph the horses as they came in.
Personal Note: I’m often asked where the horses go in winter when they leave Mackinac Island. Several years ago I wrote a two-part blog that followed a group of horses on their journey from the island to their winter quarters. I was privileged to be allowed to travel with them on the ferry to St. Ignace and then in a caravan of trucks (pulling horse trailers) into the upper peninsula of Michigan. Below is the first part of that blog, and I’ll post the second part, “To Fresh Woods and Pastures New”, on Sunday. Hope you enjoy!
DO THEY KNOW? (First published October 8, 2010)
“Do you think they know what’s about to happen?”
That was one of dozens of questions I asked Wednesday and Thursday. I’ve always wanted to go to the Pickford farms, where the horses of the island go to spend their winters, but I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen – at least not this year. Then a few days ago I put a bug in Doc Al’s (the island vet) ear that I’d like to do this story, and he asked all the right people, and all those people said “ok”.
So there I was at the big horse barn on Wednesday afternoon, where I’d been told by Dale Peterson (who runs the barn) I could watch the blacksmith remove the shoes from some of the horses leaving the island on Thursday morning.
Ted set the alarm clock for 6:30 Thursday morning, and I grumbled myself awake. I needed to be at the barn (a five-minute walk from the condo) at 8 a.m. so I could watch the workers catch the horses in the corral. I figured an hour-and-a-half would be plenty of time to get myself awake enough to make sense when I got down there. Silly me. I’d forgotten how many months it’s been since I had to get up at 6:30 (almost 2 hours earlier than I’ve been getting up lately). I needed to wash my hair (don’t ask me why – I just felt like it needed to be washed) – which I did. I needed two cups of coffee so I wouldn’t growl at anyone (I made the coffee and didn’t have time to drink a drop). I couldn’t decide how many layers to wear (after checking the Weather Channel for Pickford – an hour north), I decided on three, saddling myself with two too many – it was a gorgeous northern Michigan Indian Summer day.
I left the condo at 7:50, and arrived at the barn to find taxi and Carriage Tour drivers busy washing and harnessing their horses for a regular day.
It was while I was watching the horses in the corral that Dale walked over, and I asked, “Do you think they know what’s about to happen?”
He smiled. “Oh, yeah – they know”, he said. “We have 36 going today, and yesterday all of their shoes were removed. They are never put into the corral without their shoes. So they know something is different. And the ones who have been through this for a few years learn to anticipate it.”
On Sunday, we’ll travel to Pickford and watch the horses unload into what – to them – must feel like Heaven on earth. You will love it!