Mackinac Island Winter Update – Vol. 1 11/09/2011

Hello from Georgia!  We’ve been home a little over a week, and we’re slowly settling into our “lake house” routine.  It seems strange to say “we need milk” and then have to get in the car and drive a few miles to the nearest store, instead of jumping on a bike and riding down the hill to  Doud’s Market  But, we’re adjusting, and the good thing about that is . . . we don’t have to ride the bike back UP the hill!

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous – with temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s – and sunny, blue skies.  Ted and I are catching up with lake friends and enjoying our sun porch on the water.  It’s good to come home to my roots . . . . and to Georgia friends, porch swings, gnats (yes, they’re still here), and a yard already sporting dozens of deep holes Maddie has dug to dispose of all the moles that took over during her absence.  Those moles don’t stand a chance now that Madame Terminator is back.

So – what’s been happening on Mackinac Island since we’ve been gone.  Quite a lot!

  • Leanne Broder, the director of the island Recreation Department, escorted the last of the 4-H horses off the island last week to their winter home in Mackinaw City.  Now is the time to think about sponsoring one of these horses for the year.  A full year’s sponsorship is $2,500, but they will gladly except any amount donated.   Donations cover winter boarding, vet bills, shoeing costs, blankets, feed, supplements, and trailering.

Jody Barna stands with Blaze on the ferry ride over. On her left is Grey, with owner Trish Martin, and on her right is Wingdingo. another 4-H horse.

Prancer is a 4-H horse also. Here he and Blaze check out their new digs.

Little Gingersnap (on the right) is a 4-H pony who has been in Mac City a few months this summer, recovering from a digestive problem. Her pasture mate there has been Tom, the big brown Belgian cross in this pic. Here Prancer (on the left), who was Gingersnap's pasture mate on the island, came over to say "hi". Tom was having none of it, protecting his little charge from a horse he didn't know - even though Gingersnap did! Horses are such wonderful creatures!

  • As mentioned a couple of posts ago, McNally Cottage was in danger of being demolished, and this week it happened – and it happened fast.

A few days before "D" day, the island Fire Department practiced drills at McNally Cottage . . .

. . . and on Monday, in a matter of hours, the cottage was gone. I haven't seen the renderings for The Bicycle Inn, which will stand where McNally was, but Mary Slevin with the Tourism Bureau said in an interview it will be a beautiful building, in keeping with Main Street's other architecture.

Several days after the cottage came down, and during the excavation of the site, an ancient burial site was uncovered, and three almost complete human skeletons were discovered. Interlochen Public Radio interviewed several people on Mackinac Island concerning this discovery, and you can listen to or read the interview here: Very interesting!

The big news just before we left the island was the opening of the Lilac Tree Suites for New Years!  Ted and I have tossed around the idea of returning for that holiday, but right now no definite plans have been made.  For those of you looking to ring in the New Year on the island (hopefully snow-covered by then), you’ll have several choices for reservations:  The Lilac Tree, The Cottage Inn, Pontiac Lodge, Bogan Lane Inn, Harbor Place Studio Suites and Mission Point Resort. Of those, Lilac Tree and Mission Point are only open for that one holiday; the others are open year-round.  Year round restaurants are the Mustang Lounge and Cawthorne’s Village Inn, opening under new management December 1.

Two Photos of the Fort by Mary Slevin

Mary snapped this photo the afternoon of Halloween from Marquette Park. Boy, would Bear like a chance at those geese!

Mary threw in some special effects here and turned Fort Mackinac into something resembling a postcard from Ireland.

There’s a small chance that the island will see it’s first snow of the winter season later this week, but no accumulations are expected with this fast-moving storm.  I can just about promise you though that everyone who owns a snowmobile has already gotten them out of storage, tuned them up, and they are sitting on ready!  Come on, snow!!

That’s all I have for this week, friends  I’ve been saving some wonderful, beautiful, magnificent, awesome photos of Steve Fridley’s to use during these first updates.  Here’s three to end this post – the last one is today’s header.  Thank you, Steve!

Multi-color lights illuminate the Mackinac Bridges, and the town is bathed in the soft lights of evening.

Trinity Church under a blanket of fleecy clouds.

Just breathtaking.

Have a great week, and see you back here on Wednesday, Nov. 16.  God bless.

We’re Home at the Lake! 11/04/2011

(Big sigh)  . . . bags are all unpacked.  Two shipped boxes have arrived and been emptied.  Hanging clothes are in closets, and folded clothes are in dresser (all of that needs pressing, but that’s not happening this week).  Ted and I have not stopped for a single second during the day (or so it seems) since we arrived home, but we’re now able to say, “We’re home!” and really smile about it.

Our trip from Michigan to Georgia was the smoothest we’ve ever had.  We left Mackinaw City at 8:32 Sunday morning (ice on boardway and ferry docks) and drove to Richmond, KY.  We were out of there by 8:10 the next morning and home around 5:30 on Monday afternoon.  Smooth sailing the whole way – even through Atlanta!

Although the fall colors had peaked, there were still a lot of burnt orange, golden yellow, and rusty red leaves clinging to the trees in Kentucky.

And once we crossed over into Tennessee and the Great Smoky Mountains, there were even more miles of late fall color to enjoy.

When the skyline of Atlanta came into view, it meant we were only 3 1/2 hours from our front door . . .

. . . and we cruised through Atlanta without ever once slowing down - a minor miracle!

I wanna talk!  I wanna talk! 

Hello – Bear here.

When mom and dad got all those storage things out of hiding and packed them for days and days, Maddie and I knew something was up.  We stayed pretty close that whole week – never letting them out of our sight.  We knew a trip was coming – we just didn’t know where.

Maddie slept in mom's lap practically the whole trip, but I was dad's co-pilot (since mom slept the whole trip too, somebody had to be alert!)

As soon as we turned off that big path with all the cars and trucks and bunches of lanes, even Maddie woke up.  Suddenly the air just smelled different, and we finally knew where we were going . . . . HOME to the LAKE!

When dad turned on our street, Maddie and I just went crazy! Maddie was whining so loud mom fussed at her, and I was running back and forth from window to window in the back!  Just when we thought we couldn’t stand it another minute, we turned INTO OUR DRIVEWAY!

When mom opened the truck door and the fence door, I just fell to the ground and started rolling, saturating my body in good ole Georgia grass smell . . . .

Lemme tell it!  Lemme tell it! 

Hey – Maddie here.

As soon as I hit the yard I thought to myself, “Dang it!  You go away a few months, and the moles just take over!”  So . . . .

. . . . I did what I had to do. Mom and dad were so busy carrying in stuff they didn't even notice - well for a little while anyway.

I’m back now – sorry about that – sometimes you just have to let ’em talk.

As smooth as the trip was, we should have known there would be a few little problems when we got here.  Here’s the short list:

  1. My car battery was deader than the first mole Maddie caught.
  2. My laptop wouldn’t connect to the internet, although Ted’s notebook and our old iMac connected perfectly fine.
  3. I spent 4 hours (no exaggeration) on the phone with a tech person in Lord knows where while he talked me through a thousand and one “things to try” – none worked.
  4. Ted made an appointment for me to take my car to the Ford service center in Americus for a new battery on Wednesday morning and an appointment with our internet provider to send someone to our house Wednesday afternoon.
  5. Ted jumped off my battery and was following me to Americus when his cell phone rang.  It was our alarm company saying our house alarm was going off.
  6. Ted turned around and went back to the house – false alarm.
  7. Battery installed, groceries bought.
  8. Internet person arrived and figured out what was wrong . . . .  YEAH!!!
  9. Maddie ate too many moles and got sick all over the carpet . . . UGHI

There was already a Girls Night Out planned on Wednesday night at Booger Bottom, and I was determined to go.  The theme for the night was “Sell Your Gold”, and a jeweler we all knew was there to buy any old gold and silver jewelry anyone wanted to sell.

Sally - waiting for the dollar value of what she was selling.

Lake Ladies - so good to see them all again!

My turn again, mom!

Maddie and I hung around while mom and dad unpacked all their stuff - making sure things were coming OUT of those bags instead of going IN!

When I could finally relax, I assumed my favorite sleeping position at our Georgia house - on my back, neck turned so I only have to open one eye to see what's happening, and one leg anchoring myself under the couch cushion (mom would have a fit if I did this to the couch in Michigan).

I've said hello to that big dog that never moves on the back porch - it's too bad he doesn't get to travel with us, but I don't think he would fit anyway. He's not very friendly either - didn't even say "welcome home".

My turn!

I've laid off the moles for a while - everything in moderation, you know. But since we've gotten home, I like to sit on the back porch and make sure everything is as it should be. Mom and dad depend on me for that.

Bear and I have been waiting for the squirrels to come back, but mom says it will take a little while. Dad put up the bird feeder yesterday, and as soon as the birds and squirrels smell all that seed, they'll be all over the place again. The great furry one and I LOVE to chase squirrels!

Ok – maybe I can finish now.

Is it good to be back?  Oh my goodness, yes.  I told someone last night at Girls Night Out that what we do is a different way to live.  We really have two lives, each of them wonderful, with marvelous friends in both places.  The magic of Mackinac Island will always call me back, but the joy and peace of returning to my roots is special in a totally different way.

Our homes aren't big or fancy in any way. But they both fit us perfectly and offer us water and woods - the two things we love about nature the most.

Our first morning back Ted stood on our dock and took a photo of our house as the sun rose (the header photo is from that morning also).  The sun’s light was reflected in our windows, turning each of them golden, and when I saw his photograph, I thought “We have magic here also.”

It’s good to be home.

I’ll begin posting the Mackinac Island Winter Updates on Wednesday, November 9, to this site.  I hope you’ll return here each week to find out what’s happening on our favorite rock.  We’ll try and get through the snow season together, and we’ll be returning for spring on the island before you know it.

See you Wednesday from Mackinac – through the eyes of the lucky ones who remain there, and I hope you’ll join us for winter in Georgia at

God bless.

I’m Hurrying. I’m Hurrying! 11/03/2011

Horton Update:

We’re home, but definitely not settled.

I’ve just today (Wednesday) been able to get online with my laptop – and believe me, that story is a post in itself!  Combine that with still trying to get unpacked and get everything else working like it should.  So . . . . this Friday I’ll post the same blog on both the Mackinac Island Blog ( and the Lake Blackshear Blog sites ( – you can find it either place.  After that, the Lake Blackshear Blog will be where you’ll find the Horton clan.

EXCEPT (there’s always an “except”) . . . beginning Wednesday, Nov. 9, I’ll start the Mackinac Island Winter Updates (on Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog site –  I’ve decided to do those on WEDNESDAYS this year, instead of Mondays.  Are you totally confused now?  If so, here’s the schedule – as it stands right now – and subject to change at any second.

Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog:         Each Monday and Friday

Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog:        Each Wednesday

I’m off tonight to Girls Night Out at the famous Booger Bottom, and I can’t wait to see all the ladies of the lake.

See you Friday with all the happenings from Joy-Ja!

I’m so excited to be back online!  I’ve missed ya’ll!

Header:  Sunrise over the lake Wednesday morning (photo by Ted).

We’re Home!

Hello from Georgia!

We arrived home around 5:30 this afternoon, and this is the first time I’ve taken a second to sit down.  Having trouble getting online with my laptop, so I’m posting from Ted’s tiny notebook – therefore, you know this will be short and sweet.

Thank you all for your safe travel prayers.  We had an amazing trip with no problems whatsoever – we even zipped through Atlanta in record time!

I’ll write more when I figure out what’s wrong with my laptop (seems to always happen when we change houses).  That might be tomorrow, but could be a couple of days.   I won’t change over to the lake blog until I’m up and running on the laptop, so keep clicking on Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog for now.

Got to go get some more unpacking done and eat some of a delicious looking shrimp and grits casserole Ed and Sally made for us.  The header is the sign they’d placed on our gate, so it was the first thing we saw when we drove under the carport. 

It’s great to be home!  Talk with you tomorrow or the next day!

We’re in Richmond, KY! 10/31/2011

Hi everyone!

We reached Richmond, KY around 6:30 this evening, and we’re at our usual Holiday Inn Express.  When I called around noon today to make our reservation (we briefly – VERY briefly – considered trying to go further), I said, “I’d like a room for two adults and two dogs – a miniature dachshund and a golden retriever.”  The girl on the phone said, “We only take small dogs.”

“Did you say you take ‘all’ dogs?” I asked.

“No,” she answered, “We only take ‘small’ dogs.”

“Hmmmm,” I said, “We’ve stayed with you for the last four years on our trips back from Michigan, and we stayed with you in the spring this year.  We had both dogs then.  When did your policy change?”

“Oh,” she said, “It’s ok, we take big dogs too.”

Well, all righty then!

When we ordered our taxi for 7 a.m. this morning (several days ago), we mentioned that we were leaving the island for the winter, and we’d have two dogs and about a gazillion suitcases and totes (even after Ted had already carried over a gazillion suitcases and totes on Friday, and I shipped two huge boxes to Georgia.  At 6:55 this morning we were standing on our porch listening for the sound of horses coming up the hill.  Instead, we heard voices from about a block further up from us – a lot of voices.  Ted walked up the street and found out EIGHT people were also waiting for the taxi – with all their luggage AND two dogs.  There was no way we’d all get on that taxi (only one taxi was working this morning).

Five minutes later the taxi arrived, and the other folks and their stuff went down the hill without us.  The driver promised he could get back up to pick us up and have us to Shepler’s by the 8 a.m. boat.  And he did!  Yeahhhh!

We've had frost the last three mornings, and today there was ice on the boardwalk when we were loading the taxi. There was also ice on the ferry dock. Slippery walking!

Not a lot of people were leaving the island on the early ferry.

Ted stood at the back of the boat to take this parting photo of the sun coming up through the clouds over Round and Bois Blanc Islands.

We drove in very dense fog for the first hour or so. Ted and I both kept a close watch out for deer.

"Are we there yet?"

"Who cares?"

We’ll try to get an early start Monday morning and hopefully be home before dark.  I’ll check in with you Monday night – IF our service provider took care of reconnecting our DSL this week.  If not, I’ll talk with you once more on this blog when our online connections are turned back on.

Thank you for all your safe travel prayers, and please keep them going until we are safely at the lake.  Love and hugs to you all – and yes, Lowell and Brian, I waved to you both as we flew through Ann Arbor.

Note:  Ted took the header shot on Saturday as we returned from lunch at the Village Inn – our last day on the island for the season.

Full Circle 10/30/2011

Let’s finish that walk . . . .

The Lilac Tree is getting some touch-up painting done. They are opening for New Year's this year.

The Big Store still had open doors, but Saturday, according to a store employee, was to be their last day open.

Hmmmm . . . . there are usually hundreds of bikes parked here for visitors to rent. Today, only three (and I think they belong to employees who are cleaning up).

Doud's Market is open all winter. Andrew Doud does a fantastic job making sure islanders have whatever they need all winter - including fresh produce!

In the summer this brick pathway between Market and Main Streets is packed with people waiting to board Carriage Tour wagons.

I stopped in to say goodbye to Marge at Cottage Inn. She and husband Rich (the innkeepers) will be open off and on through New Year's. She also told me they were spiffing up the rooms over the winter - new paint and carpet.

An empty Marquette Park.

One lonely taxi heads down to the Mission District. There are only four taxis running now. Soon, there will only be one.

Our little island drugstore, Alford's, will be open all winter. It's right next door to Doud's, so that's a busy corner during the snow season.

Horn's Bar - closed until spring.

The Village Inn, which was recently bought by the Grand Hotel, will be closed during November for renovations. After that, they will be open the rest of the winter.

It was really chilly behind the library, but the view was awesome, and the chairs were still set up for brave souls who wanted to sit and just be still for a while.

Round Island Light from the boardwalk.

Wish I was going to be here to see all this covered in snow.

Are you ready for this one? Cadotte Avenue - without the big trees. All together now . . . breathe deeply. I took this standing in the street in front of the Gate House (on the left), so the difference in the view of the Grand is amazing. Little Stone Church sits back from the road just past the white house on the right. Now don't panic. This next week 31 trees will replace the 24 that were removed, and they will even be a little bigger than the ones planted last year. Yes, it takes a little getting used to, but it was something that had to happen for safety's sake . . . .

. . . and you can see that the trees planted last year have done well, grown several inches, and have been a wonderful shade of red this fall.

The snow fence is up around the Jewel Golf Course - and the geese are back by the hundreds. The little goose-chasing Australian shepherd has gone home for the winter.

Ron - coming down from a run to Surrey Hill. Monday is his last day on the island.

I decided to end our walk with this photo because it kind of sums up what I've been saying about coming full circle. The tools were lined up on this log bench as I walked by - used by the Grand gardeners to clear away the debris left from the trees that were removed. These same tools will be used next spring - to prepare the soil, to plant flowers, to begin the cycle of the seasons again on Mackinac Island.

Some of you will read this Saturday night, others sometime on Sunday.  If you’re reading it on Sunday, you know we’re already off the island, if all has gone as planned.  The taxi will have picked us up at 7 a.m., allowing plenty of time to load what was left from the condo, get down the hill, then unload it all onto a cart to be shrink-wrapped and put on the 8:00 ferry.  In Mackinaw City, we might have been the only ones leaving, so they’ll be no scurrying crowds or waits at the luggage tent.  We’ll have pulled out of the parking lot without a hint of the summer traffic to deter us from a fast departure.

I know once I’m snapped into my seat belt and out of sight of the island, I will be ok.  My thoughts will turn toward home in Georgia and all that awaits us there.  From Georgia, our grandchildren are only four hours away in Florida, instead of thirteen hours away in Arkansas as they’ve been for the last eight years, and we will go down often to watch ballgames and dance recitals.  The whole crew (we hope) will pile into our lake house for Thanksgiving – what a joyous weekend that will be!  Girls Night Out is the Wednesday after we arrive home on Monday.  I’ll be there!  Cannot wait to see all the ladies of the lake!

We have some “renovation” plans for our lake house over the winter – new flooring, replacing rotting window sills all around the house, maybe some more painting.  After a two-week lull, Bear and I will fit ourselves back into the Paws Patrol in Albany and start our therapy dog visits again.  This year we’ll be visiting schools in a reading program, as well as hospitals, nursing and assisted living homes.

I’m hoping to visit Blake in Colorado sometime after the first of the year.  And, of course, you’ll all be invited to go along!

It will be a busy winter.

I’ll try to check in from the road on Sunday night (if we have wireless in our room) – if not, I’ll let you know on Monday that we’ve hopefully arrived safely.  After that, the Mackinac Island blog will get updated each Monday (beginning about two weeks after we get home, if all goes as planned), but other than that, it will all be about Georgia and the lake at – Bree’s Lake Blackshear Blog.  I sure hope you’re coming to Georgia with us for the winter.

Thank you for all the offered safe travel prayers – they are much appreciated.

I’m typing this around 9 p.m. Saturday night, after a full day of cleaning.  My back hurts, and I’m tired, so please forgive me if my writing tonight has been all over the place.  I’m also sad, but I was sad when I left Georgia also.  I know when we turn into our driveway at the lake, and I see our sweet little house on the water, I will be grinning as big as I was when I saw the condo this spring.

Full circle.  We are so blessed.

Chris Ann snapped this pic while we were waiting on racers to finish a couple of weeks ago. Boy, if that doesn't capture me - cell phone in one hand, camera tucked under my arm, and grinning so big my eyes are all scrunched up! See you in the spring, Mackinac - if not before!

Walk With Me 10/29/2011

Thursday and Friday have been surreal.  At times the hours spiraled past so rapidly I had no awareness of the work I was doing – until I’d stop for a moment and see the result – bags packed, linens washed, beds remade, two boxes shipped home – and much more.  I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot, but Ted has worked three times as much, and what he’s done is the really hard, messy stuff – carrying his kayak back up the hill on his bike (wish I’d been around to photo that), cleaning and forcing four bicycles up two flights of stairs to the top floor, taking the first load of luggage over to the truck – and much, much more (and all on a bad leg he’s not had a single chance to rest).  We still face a day of general cleaning (on Saturday), but the hard part is behind us.  We’ll mop and vacuum and dust and clean bathrooms.  Piece of cake.

At other times these last two days the hours slowed down – creeping by in slow motion – my senses aware of every moment, every scene I passed, every word someone spoke.  With the exodus of the Grand employees, the island takes on a completely different feel.  Except for a few workers who will continue to come to the island as long as they can get here on the ferries, it’s mostly the islanders who are left- that hearty, almost 500-strong group who will hunker down and pray for lots of snow (so snowmobiles can be used) and really cold temperatures (so the Ice Bridge will make, allowing them to travel by snowmobile from the island to St. Ignace).

In the midst of the packing and cleaning, we’ve found time to walk around a couple of hours – both Thursday and Friday – and what I saw through my camera lens is what I offer for Saturday and Sunday.  It’s a different Mackinac than you’ve been seeing all summer and fall.  Come on . . . walk with me.

Even though the Island Bookstore sign reads "Closed" . . . .

. . . . Tam will still be working a few more days - doing inventory and boxing books.

At the Pink Pony, all the chairs are piled on top of the tables . . . . .

. . . . and the bar is empty (I think Brian is going to have that second chair from the middle inscribed with a plaque that reads: "Reserved for Ted" before next season).

Ted - outside the closed Pony, talking with Bobby and Roy.

Little Luxuries of Mackinac Island is closed, but I ran into Nicole a little later, and she said her store would be open some during the winter - for Christmas Bazaar weekend, during Christmas, and during Winter Festival.

Thunderbird Gifts is all locked down. Someone asked today why the windows are papered, and I asked that question downtown. Two reasons really - 1) if merchants leave stock in the stores, the sunlight through the windows could fade themerchandise, and 2) if work is being done on the inside of the store during the winter, it makes for a good "surprise" in the spring when the paper comes down.

Remember me saying the Grand moves its administrative offices downstate during the winter? These two Budget rental trucks (which came over on a freight ferry) are being loaded from drays filled with everything the Grand will need to operate during the winter.

Two of a few businesses which will be open and always busy during the winter are the Post Office . . . .

. . . and the bank (where the flag is flying).

Last day open at Nephew's on Mackinac . . . . still some bargains to be had.

And - oh my goodness - last day sale at Joann's Fudge - $4.00 per slice!

Jesse's Chuckwagon was already done . . . . .

. . . and so was Martha's Sweet Shop.

Walking toward the boardwalk, we passed the closed Lakeview Hotel. The only person on the street was a man sweeping up, after smoothing out a spot of uneven sidewalk . . . .

. . . . which is being done in many places all over downtown.

The lovely Iroquois Hotel is closed . . . .

. . . . and the gardens leading to The Carriage House Restaurant are accented by a giant pumpkin.

Through the windows of the Windermere Hotel, the white sheet-shrouded furniture is visible. I wonder if they painted the hotel to blend with that gorgeous tree!

The Round Island Passage Light looked close enough to touch from this angle at Windermere Point.

We made a stop at the library (open during the winter Tuesday-Saturday from 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.). We had a ton of books we'd read this summer that we added to the used books the library sells.

Another shot of the empty streets from the west end of Main Street.

The beautiful old McNally Cottage. Unless a miracle occurs, this building will be torn down beginning November 1. Planned to replace it is a three-story hotel.

Cindy's Livery Stable is closed. It's strange to go by there and see the door closed and no saddled horses waiting in the side lot.

The Cloghaun Bed & Breakfast, closed and ready for winter.

Looking down Market Street through the empty windows of La Galerie.

When I stopped to take this pic of Doc Al, our island veterinarian, I asked him (again) if I might write a story about him next summer. He just smiled and said, "We'll see." He's a shy one, our doc.

At the closed Gatehouse, they were having an impromptu hamburger cook-out for the employees - that's one way to clean out the freezer!

Snowmobiles are returning on ferries from St. Ignace, where some are stored during the summer.

One place absolutely not closed is the island school. Lots of bikes there by the playground.

I wonder if the famous island ghosts play tennis during winter nights, while ghostly spectators watch. Remind me to go on the Midnight Ghost Tour next summer. THAT should be an interesting post!

The last time I will photograph the big trees further down the hill. They were removed the next day - so beautiful and regal - but old, diseased, and a danger to people and horses whenever the wind blew. They'll be replaced by the same beautiful Maples planted last fall when the first of the diseased trees were removed. Pics tomorrow of the new, wide-open boulevard leading to the Grand.

All the Grand horses have left the island, and I walked inside the old stable one more time . . . .

The Grand omnibuses were parked and polished, and the antique carriages were lined up side by side. By the time we return in the spring, the new stable up near us will be open.

The horse barns - all closed up.

Are you tired yet?  I hope not!  Join me tomorrow, and we’ll do a little more walking!