In the ten years that Ted and I have been coming to Michigan, we have covered a lot of ground on Mackinac Island. For the eight years we visited before buying last summer, we would stay at the Chippewa Hotel for two weeks and spend at least half of each of those 14 days hiking around the island, map in hand, making sure we had seen every little point of interest that was marked on that map, no matter how insignificant.
We visited Arch Rock, Sugar Loaf, Anne’s Tablet, Skull Cave, the Cave in the Woods, the Crack in the Island, and Devil’s Kitchen. For ten years, we have brought back the same (by now almost falling apart) map we had picked up on our first visit, and we have marked off the trails in red ink as we have walked them. There aren’t many trails left now that don’t have a red mark indicating the Hortons have been there.
Someone came into the Visitor’s Center while Ted was working one day last week asking about Friendship Altar. It is just a little speck on our map (believe me, we got it out and looked), but for some reason, we had never tried to find it. So this morning, we got the bikes out, put on our helmets, and went on a mission to visit new territory. In the back of my mind was this annoying little thought – how many steps would be involved? But no, I thought, we were on bikes, so steps were out of the question.
We biked through Harrisonville until we hit Annex Road, where we turned right. A couple of minutes later, we turned left onto British Landing Road and started out toward the northwest side of the island. We passed Wawashkamo Golf Course which was the site of a significant battle in the War of 1812. Now the beautiful course is one of the last few traditional Scottish Links courses in the country and is a great course for the golfer who enjoys golf in the rough.
When we had almost reached British Landing, we turned right onto Tranquil Bluff Trail, which is literally just a little dirt path. This trail runs near the coastline from here all the way to Arch Rock. We have hiked it a lot in the Arch Rock area, but I had never entered it on a bike from either end. Ted didn’t make me feel too confident when he told me that it was near here that Blake had torn up my bike last year when he and Ted and Matt had gone mountain biking. The shaft that the seat sits on had literally shattered. It is a very rough trail in spots.
We both walked our bikes in because the path was pretty rough, with lots of tree roots and rocks. But soon it evened out, and we could ride. We hadn’t gone very far at all when Ted spotted a wooden tower in the woods on our left. I would have never seen it, but Ted happened to be looking in the right direction at the right time. There in the middle of the woods was a tall platform sitting at the edge of a bluff. We parked our bikes and walked to it. From the top you could see St. Ignace.
Also from the top, I discovered the first signs of fall. Above our heads, the leaves of a sugar maple tree (could be wrong on that tree species, but it’s my best guess) had just begun to turn yellow.
While I was getting all excited about the fall leaves, Ted had already climbed down the platform and gone to explore further. A shout of “Hey, I found the Friendship Altar!” brought me down off the platform, but I couldn’t see Ted. “Where are you?” I called. He called back, “Come down the stairs!” I KNEW it!
At the bottom of the stairs was a huge rock rising straight up through the trees. A nearby sign explained that this, like Arch Rock and Sugar Loaf, was an isolated stack of brecciated limestone. Brecciated means that the rock has been fractured and recemented back together over thousands of years, and the reformed conglomerate is harder than the surrounding rock and soil. When this area was covered by the ancient Lake Nipissing (around 2000 B.C.), the water washed away the softer materials and separated Friendship Altar from the ancient coastline or bluff on which the overview platform was built.
As we climbed the stairs back to the top of the bluff, I noticed this tree that appeared to be growing directly out of a rock. The roots had to be touching soil somewhere, but I couldn’t see where from my vantage point.
We went back out to British Landing Road and turned right, then turned right again before getting to the Cannonball Restaurant. Now we were on Scott’s Road, and we followed that until we turned to come out at the 3-mile marker on the highway around the island. Almost as soon as we turned back toward town we came upon a group of people crowded around a lady who had fallen off her bike. She had injured her knee, but the worst injury was one of her fingers, which was very visibly broken. Ouch! They had already called 911, and the ambulance arrived within a couple of minutes. Before we reached town, it came around us taking the lady to the Medical Center.
We passed someone sunning on a rock at the edge of the lake. We have been blessed with perfect weather this week and, everyone has been out enjoying it. From what the weather people are telling us, it is going to be beautiful right through the Labor Day weekend.
We went into town and ran errands and stopped to talk to several people we spotted on the streets. Then we biked home. By Ted’s odometer, we had covered almost nine miles, which seemed further because we were on trails most of the time instead of paved roads.
It was a great day on the island,and I wish every one of you reading this right now could have been here to enjoy it with us. Maybe one day we should have a Bree’s Blog Reunion Week on the island. How cool would that be!