Thank You for Waiting! 8/10/17


Ok.  I know I said I’d be here on Monday with a blog.  And here it is Thursday.

I’ve never had a year on Mackinac start off like this one has.  I’ve coughed continually for four weeks, and on top of that I slightly sprained my ankle in the woods this past weekend.  I’ve pumped myself full of over the counter drugs that basically have done nothing but make me want to sleep all day, and basically that’s what I’ve done.

So – Monday – after volunteering at the Stuart House for four hours and coughing almost continually, I dragged myself down to the Medical Center and said, “Help.”

I saw a young female doctor who was on her first day of a two week rotation on Mackinac.  I swear to you she wasn’t old enough to drink adult beverages, much less dispense medical advice and drugs.  But she listened to my sob story and examined both my swollen ankles (the one I sprained only slightly more swollen than the other one). Her diagnosis – one ankle is slightly swollen due to injury, BOTH ankles are swollen because I’ve obviously been getting a lot more exercise since I arrived on the island than I was getting in Florida, and my body is retaining water.  The cough is from a virus that is sweeping the country and lasting anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks.  She added a cough medicine to my over-the-counter regime and said, “This might help, but probably not.”

So, I’m four weeks into the 8-12 week cough cycle and in a compression bandage on one ankle.  I’m drinking lots of fluids, elevating my feet when I can, and trying to talk myself into a better frame of mind.  I know I’m being a whiny baby.  I. KNOW. IT.

I promise to try and do better.  I promise.


Even when you feel bad you can appreciate beauty, and right now the island is at its full summer blooming peak. Here’s a little of what’s been happening since we talked last!

We were in on a surprise birthday party for friend Patty one evening at the Gate House. Her husband Buz did a great job of keeping it a secret, and several couples from Little Stone Church gathered for good food and fun.  (That’s Patty in the white jacket and Buz beside her in the turquoise shirt.)  Thanks, Jill, for this pic!

After dinner the birthday girl, Buz, Ted and I stopped for an ice cream at Sadie’s. What a great day!

Bodie got a chance to make friends up close and personal with one of the West Bluff horses. He continues to amaze me with his bravery around things that might scare a less secure dog.  He seems to have the attitude that the whole world is his playground, and if I’d just give him a chance he’d be “king of the island” in no time flat.

I walked him over to Governor’s Residence the other night and had him “up” onto the bench that sits at the top of Turkey Hill. Love how proudly he sat there overlooking his domain.

Passing by the Grand Stable at dusk the other night, I happened to find a farrier still at work.

Starting down Fort Hill. This view is one of the best on the island.

Blooms, blooms, blooms at The Cottage Inn on Market Street.

A West Bluff cottage that always has beautiful gardens. (Photo: Jill Sawatzki)

Another West Bluff cottage. This one is for sale!

Sunrise at the marina one morning this week. (Photo: Tony Boom)

A backyard gate behind a West Bluff cottage.  Doesn’t it made you wonder what’s on the other side?

Gardens on the Governor’s Summer Residence property. (Photo: Ted Horton)

Hedge-clipping at the Governor’s Summer Residence.  Maybe he’s coming this weekend!

Full moon and the beautiful Grand Hotel. (Photo: Annie Lockwood)

Hollyhocks on the West Bluff.

Poppies on a road going toward Brown’s Brook – in the interior of the island. (Photo: George Piliouras)

The gardens of the Metivier Inn never fail to be jaw-dropping in beauty.

The top of Fort Hill just as dawn breaks.  (Photo: Ted Horton)

Bodie, on a final walk of the evening.  He’s getting this posing stuff polished to a fine art!

Hoping you all are doing well and thanking you for your patience with me this summer.

Love, hugs, and God bless.

Throw Back Thursday – A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Taxi Drive – Part II 3/23/17

Personal Note:  This is Part II of a blog about shadowing a Mackinac Island taxi driver one morning in July of 2009.  _________________________________________________________________

You know all the clothes I had put on for my morning with Jeanine?  Not one single piece came off during the morning.  I never put on the rain gear, but I wore the earmuffs the entire morning and still had them on when I climbed off the taxi at 12:30 back at the barn.  It amazes me (and even more so now) the conditions the drivers work in on the island.  When you take into consideration that their year begins in April and runs roughly through the end of October, you can bet that they will have experienced rain, sleet, freezing temperatures, freezing rain, winds blowing up to 40 mph (and more), and possibly some snow.  Carriage Tours provides their drivers with very nice uniforms including shirts, turtlenecks, vests, warm coats, and caps.  The drivers provide their own rain gear, khaki pants, shoes and gloves.  The taxis all carry blankets under the seats for passengers, but I have never seen a driver use one for himself.  They are much more concerned about how the weather conditions may be affecting their horses than how it is affecting them.

Jeanine and I left the horse barn and went the rest of the way down the hill into town.  The streets at 7 a.m. were quiet and IMG_0970empty.  Our first pick up was a taxi driver in a leg brace.  He can walk down the hill to the barn, and he can still handle his team.  What he can’t do is walk back up the hill.  We picked him up at the taxi stand, where he waited with a cup of coffee for Jeanine.  I jumped off and ran into Marc’s Double Oven for  caffeine for me and climbed back on. 

By the time we got back to the horse barn and dropped off our rider, we had a call at The Grand.  At  The Grand, we pulled up under the porch, and a porter came out and said the people had decided to walk down the hill.  He asked if we would take a cart full of luggage down to the ferry dock, and Jeanine said yes.  We pulled around to the side of The Grand, and a worker hooked the packed cart to the back of the taxi.


IMG_0978We pulled the luggage cart down to the ferry dock where a porter was waiting to unhook it.  We left the docks and started down the street to park and wait on another call, but we never got to stop.  An employee of Wings of Mackinac (a butterfly house next door to our condo) needed a ride up the hill to work.  We turned around in front of Marquette Park and picked up the lady at the taxi stand.

Market Street was empty too at that time of morning.  Later on, after the first ferries arrived, the street would be teeming with visitors, but now it was quiet and peaceful. 

We dropped the worker off at Wings of Mackinac just as another call came in for the Annex.  Jeanine drove the taxi down the road in front of our condo, where Ted was out on the balcony with Maddie and Bear.  I had called him coming up the hill, and he had jokingly asked if I wanted him to meet us at the boardwalk with coffee, bacon and eggs.  Since I knew he was kidding, I declined even the coffee since I had already had a cup.



I loved the annex run.  We turned into the state park on the same road where we walk Maddie and Bear.  Driving annex runthrough the woods on a chilly morning is almost surreal.  It is so quiet you could hear your heart beating if it weren’t for the horses hoofbeats covering that sound in your chest.  Jeanine handles the reins like a professional, and Thunder and Andy respond to her every touch.  We talked for a moment about the things that can spook a horse.  Since they wear blinders, they can only see straight in front of them.  That’s why you always approach a horse in blinders from the front, or if you can’t do that, you start talking as you walk up beside them to let them know you are there.  On the island, like anywhere else, the horses get used to where everything is supposed to be.  If something changes, it startles them.  Jeanine said a plastic bag flying across the road is the granddaddy of  “horse spookers”. She said that is why you always see workers picking up any bags that have been thrown down as litter.  A spooked horse in a street full of walkers and bikers is a scary thing to behold.  It does happen – not often, but it does.  Basically though, Jeanine said, the horses on Mackinac Island are what she calls “bomb proof”.  They can handle most anything that comes their way.  That is the way they are trained.

annexluggageWe arrived at a rental house in the annex to find a family group that wasannexpeople heading home after a month’s stay.  They had their luggage out waiting.  The men in the group loaded everything up under the back luggage compartment and strapped it all down.  I knew that we had always loaded and unloaded our own luggage, but I didn’t know until today that the drivers are not allowed to leave their seats.  Can you imagine a spooked horse with no driver? 

Everyone got on the taxi, including Winston – a very cute dog, who his mom said was ready to go home.  I don’t think this family was though.  There were five brothers and one sister (who didn’t make it this trip) and their respective spouses, children and grandchildren.  They have been renting this same house for the last 11 years, spending precious time together, making memories that will live into the future, and just enjoying being family together once a year in this special place.



One lady in this group (Susan)  followed us on her bicycle.  One of the women riding the taxi explained that the biker was preparing for a biathlon (1/2 mile swim and 5K run) in Delaware.  Susan has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Senior Olympics and has appeared in Sports Illustrated.  She was awesome, and you could tell the family was so proud of her.


I had explained to the family why I was riding along and asked permission to take pictures and write about them on the blog.  They were excited, and everyone wanted the blog address.  When we dropped them off at the ferry dock, one of the ladies told me she couldn’t wait to get home and read the story because she taught writing.  My face fell.  I was wondering how I could get back the address I had given them, because the thought of an English teacher reading this made me ’bout have the vapors.  But she explained she wasn’t an English teacher of writing.  She taught writing from the heart.  “Oh”, I said, “that’s what I do.”  She wrote the kindest comment to me today after reading the blog – I confess it made me cry.  I hope I get to see this family again next year when they are on the island.  Friendships could definitely grow there.

Back in town we got a call to pick up a lady at the Lakeview Hotel going to the Governor’s Summer Residence.  Now if you ride a taxi alone, you are charged for two people so it was going to cost this lady $9.50 for that ride.  Right after we picked her up though there was another call for the Governor’s house from a lady at the Cloghaun Bed & Breakfast.  The fare was instantly cut to $4.75 for each lady. The Governor’s Summer Residence is a popular spot for tourists on Wednesdays during the summer.  They open the house to the public in the morning hours, and guided tours are conducted through the first floor of the mansion.  And it’s free!  Ted and I have done the tour, and the house is absolutely beautiful.  I will blog on it one day soon.

With permission granted to photograph them and with blog address given out, I learned that one of the ladies was from Michigan and the other was from Maryland.  The Baltimore lady had stayed on the island an extra day just to see this house, and when we arrived there was a long waiting line. 



We went back to town by the East Bluff mansions and down a VERY steep hill – so steep that carriages without brakes are not allowed.  We had brakes, but Jeanine assured me that Andy and Thunder could stop the carriage even if the brakes failed.  Good to know.  We stopped to water the horses, letting them drink their fill.


I had the cutest comment this week from another taxi driver’s (Alyssa) grandmother.  She told me all about Alyssa driving taxis, and that she thought Alyssa and Jeanine knew each other.  She was right – they were roommates at one time.  While we were parked waiting on a call, Jeanine saw her coming up the street.  Alyssa parked right across from us, and I jumped off to run over and take her picture.  Her grandmother had already been in touch with her, and Alyssa knew she was going to be so excited to see the picture on the blog.  So this one’s for you, proud Grandmom!


After about a 10 minute wait for our next call (during which I dashed into The Pancake House and got Jeanine and I a MacMuffin with sausage and onions), we were sent to pick up a couple at a hotel on Main Street who wanted to be driven out to British Landing and dropped off.  When we arrived, Jeanine explained that British Landing was the farthest point on the island that a taxi goes, and the cost would be $29.00.  That was fine with them.  They wanted the experience of walking half-way around the island, but because of the weather didn’t want to chance being gone long enough to do the entire 8.2 miles.  We started out on M-185, the highway around the island, and I did my “blog talk” to this nice couple from Kentucky.


They were so cute, all snuggled up together in the back seat.  I told them the story of how we ended up on Mackinac, and they told me a little about themselves.  They asked Jeanine what had brought her to the island, and Jeanine said, “the ferry”.  We all cracked up.  Jeanine said she doesn’t use that one a lot, but it does get a laugh every time.  Then she told them the real reason she was here – her love of horses.  As we covered the four miles out to British landing, the clouds over the bridge looked threatening, but the rain never came.


westbluffWe passed the West Bluff with its “cottages” and went around a drive-it-yourself buggy.  The Kentucky couple asked if the companies used the oldest horses for those carriages.  Jeanine said yes – a lot of people who rent the buggies have no experience at all in driving horses, so they try to put a safe, calm horse with them.  That led to a discussion on the ages of the horses on the island.  Jeanine explained that most horses come to the island at about 5 years of age and will usually work until they are 15 or 20, depending on the horse.  Andy and Thunder are eight or nine years old, so they are just getting started.  The majority of the horses are bought from the Amish who have already trained them to pull loads.   The horses are switched between taxis, livery, tours, and drays each year.


We let the couple off at Cannonball, the half-way point and a great place to get something to drink and their famous fried pickles.  The lady who runs Cannonball was out the door like a shot when we pulled up – she knows the drivers can’t get off, and she knows they are on a tight schedule.  Those pickles were ready in a flash. 


As the last pickle was going down, we got a call to pick up at Pinewood, behind Stonecliffe.  We took the road going up through the center of the island (one of my favorites), and were rewarded by woods filled with blooming wildflowers.


We waited for nearly 10 minutes for the riders at Pinewood, only to find out that they had decided to take the hotel shuttle downtown.  By then it was 12:15, so Jeanine headed for the barn to switch out her team.  Andy and Thunder would not work again until the next afternoon, have the whole next day off, then begin the cycle again the next morning.  Aiden and Donny were waiting to unhitch the tired horses, and they were led into their stalls, where Jeanine checked to make sure they were ok and had started eating.    The new team, Anna and Newt, were ready and waiting for Jeanine.  When it’s time to switch horses, it doesn’t matter if the taxi has riders or is empty.  The horses are switched on time.  Because of that, the driver cannot get her second team ready, so that is done by the barn workers. 




After Jeanine leaves, Andy and Thunder will be unharnessed, curried, brushed and given another bath.  Jeanine climbs aboard for the second half of her shift and starts back downtown.  When she returns to the barn at 7 p.m., she will unharness Anna and Newt and repeat the process the barn workers did for the first team.  She won’t go home until she has done everything she needs to do to make sure her horses are comfortable, fed, and settled in for the night. When that is accomplished, Jeanine’s shift will be over.

I gained a tremendous amount of respect during my ride for these men and women who handle the big horses.  They have to have strength, control, and a calm spirit to accomplish what they do with the horses.  They also must be honest, kind, and patient to deal with the riders they transport.  It’s not an easy job, and on Mackinac Island it is a very important one.  Thanks to Dr. Bill Chambers for allowing me to ride along on a taxi.  And a big, special thanks to Jeanine for allowing me to tag along and ask dozens of questions, and for not making too much fun of me when I couldn’t lift the two tons of harness off my head.  I loved every minute.  See you on the streets!

IMG_1102Taxi Tidbits: 

1)  The morning shift is generally easier on the horses.  In the morning, the majority of the people are going toward town, so the heavy load is going downhill.  In the afternoon, the majority of people are going home, so the heavy load has to be pulled up the hill.

2)  The horses get new shoes every 4-6 weeks – unless they throw one in between.  The front shoes are rubber because the majority of the weight is taken on the front legs, and the rubber gives more bounce.  The back shoes are steel, which contain a gritty substance to give the horse more traction.

3)  What a taxi driver never leaves home without on Mackinac Island?  Raingear, a jacket, and sunglasses.

4)  The island is divided into taxi zones. 

5)  Silly tourist questions:  Does the water go all the way around the island?  When do they swing the Mackinac Bridge over to the island? 


Another Personal Note:  Spending as many summers as we do on Mackinac Island and writing about our adventures there tends to link us to folks who love the island as much as we do.  Reading back over this story, I realized I’ve been Facebook friends with several of the people in this blog since 2008 and earlier.

First – Jeanine, the taxi driver.  Jeanine left the island and moved to Savannah where she drove carriage tours in that city for several years.  Ted and I looked her up and took one of her tours in that city when we were there for a class reunion at Paula Deen’s house (Ted graduated with Paula from high school).  I connected with Jeanine again when she drove to Sylvester GA (my hometown), to adopt one of the shelter dogs I’d written about at Best Friends Humane Society.

Jeanine now lives and does taxes in upstate New York. This photo is from her Savannah days with one of her all-time favorite horses,Charlie.

Second – Sue from the family we picked up at the house in the Annex (not the Sue on the bike, but the Sue who taught “writing from the heart”).

As recently as a few weeks ago I received this beautiful SoulCollage card Susan had created in memory of Bear.

A few years ago I interviewed Susan’s granddaughter Devon for a blog story.  The then 15-year old had written and published a youth novel (“Get Over It”) about a boy and girl who meet on the island.  She used her memories of spending a month each summer on Mackinac to give authenticity to the story. 

Third – Alyssa, the other taxi driver in the blog above.  Alyssa lives on the island as a year-round resident now and drives for Carriage Tours.  We see her every summer!

Fourth – Alyssa’s grandmother Alice.  Alice contacted me after she read Part I of the taxi driver story and told me she had a granddaughter who also drove taxis – and she thought she was friends with Jeanine.   It became a regular thing for me to snap a photo of Alyssa each time I’d see her and send it to Alice.

I feel so continually blessed to have met each of these precious folks – and hundreds like them – who share my love of Mackinac.

God bless.

Come Walk With Me! 9/17/16

Oh. My. Gosh! What beautiful weather we’re having on Mackinac this week!  All the humidity is gone, the temps are in the high 60’s during the day and low 50’s at night, and we’re beginning to see a red leaf here and there.  I can feel Fall standing just behind the curtains – waiting backstage for just the right moment to appear in all her glory!

With that thought in mind, I set out with my camera on a walk a couple of days ago.  I didn’t capture too much in the way of fall colors, but I sure had fun looking!  My photo idea for the walk was to focus on Mackinac fences, and I did that some, but it really just turned into one of my “happy walks”!


Just past the new condos is this tall wooden fence.  There is one on both sides of the road here, and they hide some of Grand Hotel”s maintenance equipment.  The gates are seldom open, but if you happen by at the right (or wrong) time, you might spot someone leaving on a riding lawnmower!


This open fencing borders the back side of the first nine holes of Grand Hotel’s Jewel Golf Course.  Since we’ve moved right across the street from the course, Ted has been “climbing the fence” after the flags are removed in the afternoon and trying to improve his golf game (yes, it’s ok to do that – I promise he won’t get in trouble).


This beautiful team of horses came by while I was at the golf course fence.  Pretty sure they are Percherons.


Looking across the golf course to Little Stone Church.


This serpentine white picket fence surrounds the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence.  Wonder where that bench on the dray was going?


The Governor’s residence is to the right of this photo.  I’m standing at the summit of Fort Hill, looking out over the harbor – a fantastic vista!


I turned left, walked up a small hill, and spotted a team of dray horses through the trees.


Sometimes a fence can be a living thing – like this hedge at the back of Fort Mackinac.


The North Sally Port entrance to the fort.  On July 17, 1812, American troops marched through this gate to surrender to the British.  This is not a public entrance but is used by State Park and Tea Room employees, tour groups with a State Park escort, and service vehicles.  And it’s handicap friendly.


I cut through the open area beside the fort and passed several private residences on my way to. . . .


. . . the Somewhere in Time gazebo, scene of dozens of island weddings each summer.


The view from inside the gazebo.


From the gazebo, it’s just a short walk over shaded dirt paths to Anne’s Tablet, where you can stand at that split rail fence and see . . .


. . . the entire marina, the bay, Round and Bois Blanc Islands, and both lighthouses.


There are many short trails that meander near Anne’s Tablet.  One takes you to . . .


. . . the edge of a cliff that drops straight down.  Careful on that one!


Another leads to a fence-bordered set of very steep stairs leading down to the back of Marquette Park in town, and one leads to . . .


. . . . the East Bluff, where Victorian cottages reign over . . . .


. . . what could possibly be the best of all views of town and the Straits of Mackinac.

I retraced my steps to the back side of the fort, then took a shortcut through the State Park Maintenance buildings area. Love this old building that has probably know many uses over the years . . .

I retraced my steps to the back side of the fort, then took a shortcut through the State Park Maintenance buildings area. Love this old building that has probably known many uses over the years . . .

. . . but right now is mostly used for storage.

. . . but right now seems to be mostly used for storage.

Beyond the maintenance area I come to this fork in the road I know so well.

Beyond the maintenance area I come to this well-known fork in the road.

Picking the road on the left and walking just a few steps, I come to the Cupid's pathway sign. Directly across from that sign is the shortcut path we would take through the woods going home to Surrey Hill.

Picking the road on the left and walking just a few steps, I come to the Cupid’s pathway sign (on the right). Directly across from that sign is the shortcut path we would take through the woods going home to Surrey Hill.

I've found myself avoiding this path all summer because it was one of the most frequently walked paths Bear and I. We'd choose it as the shortcut for one of our adventures and as the shortcut for our way home from anywhere.

I’ve found myself avoiding this path all summer because it was one of the most frequently walked paths for Bear and I. We’d choose it as the shortcut to one of our adventures and as the shortest way home from those adventures.  I knew what was going to happen, but I turned down the path anyway.  Just a few steps, and tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

That tree up ahead (the one on the left and closest to the path) is the one I'd slip behind and hide while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked on ahead. As soon as Bear would look back and not see me, he'd fly down the path to find his lost mom.

That tree up ahead (the one on the left and closest to the path) is the one I’d slip behind and hide while Ted, Maddie and Bear walked on ahead. As soon as Bear would look back and not see me, he’d fly down the path to find his lost mom.  And then he’d dance happily all around, and sometimes . . . .

. . . many times that would be followed by one of his famous "Bear zooms" through the woods at full speed.

. . .  that would be followed by one of his famous “Bear zooms” through the woods at full speed.

My heart has been so heavy this summer without my sweet boy. I love this photo of us taken several years ago on a beautiful Fall day.

My heart has been heavy this summer without my sweet boy. I love this photo of us taken several years ago on a beautiful Fall day.  I’m praying for many years ahead on Mackinac, sharing this beautiful island, with Bear’s blessing, with Bodie.  Just the thought of Bodie makes me smile

That special path takes another fork toward the end. One way leads to the back of the carriage museum at Surrey Hill and the other, which I took, comes out behind the building which houses one of the island's fire trucks.

That special path takes another fork toward the end. One way leads to the back of the carriage museum at Surrey Hill and the other, which I took, comes out behind the building which houses one of the island’s fire trucks.

Behind the fire truck building, a walk across the area which houses the offices of the electricity company, out into the open in front of Grand Hotel Stable . . . . and I'm back to the condo!

Behind the fire truck building, it’s a short walk across the area which houses the offices of the electricity company, then out into the open in front of Grand Hotel Stable.  And I’m back to the condo!

Can’t tell you how excited we are to have dinner planned on Monday evening with a dozen or so blog readers.  Right now my reservations list includes Lowell & Faye, Kem & Ed, Yvonne & Tony, Hilde & Bud, Joleen & Bruce, Pam & Mike Day, and Jill.  If you’re a blog reader and going to be on the island Monday, Sept. 19, and want to join us at the Chippewa at 6:00 p.m., please email me at so I can add you to the list!

God bless.

49757 Postcard #10 9/12/16

Dear Friends,

Ted flew off the island with a bunch of buddies to play golf for two days on Drummond Island, so I went to church solo yesterday.  After joining the rest of the Little Stone Church congregation for lunch at the Gatehouse (a farewell gathering for our wonderful pastor Fred Zobel and his wife Mary), I decided to walk on downtown to Doud’s to pick up a few items I needed. We (the folks who have so far moved into the new condos) were planning a “thank you” grill-out for the condo construction workers we’ve all gotten to know so well this summer.  I thought my corn salad would be a good contribution. 

There are three ways to get back to the condo from downtown.  The easiest hill to climb is the one by the Grand Hotel, but that would have meant walking all the way back down Market Street to make that turn up Cadotte.  The other two ways were the much closer (and much steeper) Turkey or Fort Hills.  With a purse and a pretty heavy grocery bag, I decided to bite the bullet and climb Fort Hill – the steepest, but the shortest route. 


The Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence sits at the top of Fort Hill.  That’s where I was heading.


Totally amazing what a grocery bag with only two cans of corn and a few other items can weigh!  My first stop – looking down on my alternative route, Turkey Hill – not as steep a climb, but longer.


Fifty steps later – an official rest stop under a great big, shady tree!


Almost to the top!


At the summit I walked about 50 more steps over to the top of Turkey Hill – in time to say hello to some horse riders!


A few steps later I turned at the sound of horses behind me, and a friendly driver called out, “Hey! I know you!  Hop on board!”  Thank you very much, I sure will!  I was dropped off at the corner of our condos, as he made the turn up to Surrey Hill.  I love it when that happens!



The grill-out today in the backyard.  Craig manned the grill, and his wife Meredith helped workers Joe and Ken fill their plates.


Another of our favorite workers is Steve.  He’s from Jamaica, and we all wonder when in the world he ever sleeps.  He works around the condos all day, then works downtown until three in the morning.  Superman!  That’s neighbor Eugenia sitting with Steve.

The weather is going to be great the next couple of weeks – highs in the 60’s, lows in the 50’s!  There’s a crispness to the air, and I can’t wait to experience another Fall on Mackinac!

Grand Hotel cupola in the fog a few days ago. (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Grand Hotel cupola, in the fog a few days ago. (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Sunrise from Windermere Point. (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

Sunrise from Windermere Point. (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

Wish you were here!

Through the Eyes of Fudgies – Part I 8/28/16

Writing about and photographing Mackinac Island has been one of my main passions for a lot of years now.  Sometimes I feel there can’t be a single blade of grass I haven’t held in my lens or a single adjective I haven’t used to describe my happy place.  I go through periods of feeling as if I have nothing new to offer and no story left to tell.  And then something happens, or somebody encourages me, or I see something differently – and suddenly all is right in my world again.

That happened this week, and through these next two blog posts I want to share how seeing the island through the eyes of four people visiting Mackinac for the very first time had me seeing the island as a “fudgie” again.

Two couples, Debra and Glen Phelps and Kim and R.D. Harter, visited this week from Albany, GA.  We’re all connected through the Dougherty County School System where five of the six of us spent a lot of years working in the business of educating children.  Kim and R.D. arrived last Saturday by plane and stayed with us at the new condo.  Debra and Glen arrived the next day by car, after three days of driving, and stayed at Park Place Suites on Market Street with their precious furbaby Tessa.  Both couples filled their Facebook pages with photographs and words describing their week here, and I want to share some of their photos and some of their words.

Tonight – Mackinac through the photographs of Kim and R.D.


From Kim’s Facebook post after they got home:  “A few things we learned on Mackinac Island this week: 1)  Taxis aren’t always cars.  2)  Horses always have the right of way. 3)  Bicyclists can be ticketed for speeding or blocking sidewalks.  4)  Hills can hurt going both up and down.  5)  Great Lakes water is salt free, shark free & quite chilly.  6) People help one another.  7)  Wind jackets are for wind, not rain.  8) August isn’t always hot.  9)  Customer service still exists some places.  10) Farewells are painful.  11)  Friends are appreciated.”

Now I could write a story about how Kim arrived at each of these  statements, but in the interest of time, I’ll just pick a couple.  Number 4 – A truth learned after your hosts have you – on the very first day – hike around for over eight hours up and down hills.  The next morning it hurts just as much to go down a hill as it does to go up one.  And Number 6 – Learned after watching a dray drop off several rooms of furniture and large appliances, and then watching any and every man in sight converge and work the next few hours carrying every bit of it into a neighbor’s condo.  Not paid workers, just men who happened to be around and saw the need.

Here are some of the Harters’ photographs – in no particular order . . .

Kim and R.D. at Arch Rock

Kim and R.D. at Arch Rock

When you leave south Georgia at 6 am, and it's already in the 80's and wake up the next morning in Michigan to 55 degrees, it's quite a shock - but a very welcome shock!

When you leave south Georgia at 6 am, and it’s already in the 80’s and wake up the next morning in Michigan to 55 degrees, it’s quite a shock – but a very welcome shock!

Through special permission from Grand Hotel our group loaded on a beautiful carriage drawn by gorgeous Hackneys and driven by friend Ben Mosley for a whirlwind tour of Mackinac.

Through special permission from Grand Hotel management, our group loaded on a beautiful carriage, drawn by gorgeous Hackneys and driven by friend Ben Mosley, for a whirlwind tour of Mackinac.

A little rain has to fall to make you appreciate the sunshine more! But this group was a foursome of troopers who kept going whether through sun or rain or fog or wind.

A little rain has to fall to make you appreciate the sunshine more! But this group was a foursome of troopers who kept going whether through sun or rain or fog or wind.

Mission Point - across a grassy lawn.

Mission Point – across a grassy lawn.

A yellow beauty from Grand Hotel's Rose Walk.

A yellow beauty from Grand Hotel’s Rose Walk.

The view out the front door of the new condo.

The view out the front door of the new condo.

The Island House's magnificent flower gardens

The Island House’s magnificent flower gardens.

A busy day in front of the Iroquois Hotel.

A busy day in front of the Iroquois Hotel.

Well, of course we took them to the Pink Pony!

Well, of course we took them to the Pink Pony!

All the shots in the rain were taken the same day - it was beautiful the rest of the time. This is looking down Mission Hill.

All the shots in the rain were taken the same day – it was beautiful the rest of the time. This is looking down Mission Hill from the East Bluff.

Trying to take a nap while waiting on the girls to arrive to tour Grand Hotel's gardens.

Trying to catch a nap while waiting on the girls to arrive to tour Grand Hotel’s gardens.

Amazement at the blue, blue water!

Amazement at the blue, blue water!

Bikes in Grand Hotel's bike lot.

Bikes in Grand Hotel’s bike lot.

Looking down from the top of Fort Hill.

Looking down from the top of Fort Hill before the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence tour.

Approaching Grand Hotel.

Approaching Grand Hotel.

Dessert at Woods Restaurant.

Dessert at Woods Restaurant.

Crabapples in Grand Hotel garden.

Crabapples in Grand Hotel garden.

Girl Scouts raising the flag at the Governor's Summer Residence.

Girl Scouts raising the flag at the Governor’s Summer Residence.

The doors to St. Anne's.

The doors to St. Anne’s.

Mission Point lodging - through a screen and through the rain.

Mission Point lodging – through a screen and through the rain.

The Chippewa Hotel hot tub.

The Chippewa Hotel hot tub – overlooking the marina.

Kim and R.D. at Woods Restaurant bowling alley . . .

Kim and R.D. at Woods Restaurant bowling alley . . .

. . . and later at dinner.

. . . and later at dinner.

The Little Stone Church parsonage.

The Little Stone Church parsonage.

Last day goodbyes . . .

Last day goodbyes . . .

. . . came too quickly.

. . . came too quickly.

Leaving us with Numbers 10 and 11: Farewells are painful, and friends are appreciated.

Leaving us with Numbers 10 and 11: Farewells are painful, and friends are appreciated.

We’re hoping these sweet friends will return to Mackinac again soon.  And remember, next time we won’t call you fudgies!

Stay tuned for the next installment from fudgies Debra and Glen!  Their story and photographs are coming on Tuesday!

God bless.


Back on Mackinac 6/5/2014

My face is so sore from grinning all day – every day – since we arrived on Sunday afternoon, I will probably have to have face therapy when we get back to Georgia.  At first it was a little rainy, then a little windy, then a little chilly – but we couldn’t care less.  We have been on a permanent Mackinac high, and it could snow for all we care – wouldn’t faze us a bit!

All the clouds and showers and wind disappeared this morning, and it was one of those sunny, crystal clear Michigan early summer days.  There’s been very little indoor time – all we’ve wanted to do is get outside and enjoy every minute.

There’s so much to talk about!  I’ve been very busy with my free lance work with Original Murdick’s Fudge, and for those of you who’ve been checking their web site each day for blog postings, just please be patient.  I’ve submitted one already, and it should go up soon.  I’ve also submitted quite a few photographs for them to use on their Facebook page.  Those will begin posting soon also, so please go to their Facebook site and “like” it, so you’ll be notified of activity there.

Ok . . . what have we been up to – besides work?  So glad you asked!

We’ve spent an unbelievable amount of time just talking to friends!  You know Mackinac.  A walk to the Island Bookstore turns into a three-hourSAM_1242 meet and greet trip.  It’s so much fun seeing everyone again after being away all winter.  Ted and I have felt so much love this week we are totally blown away.

We arrived on the Island in time for Ted to help out again at the Community Foundation Celebration in Turtle Park last night.  Bob Benser and the crew from the Chippewa Hotel are in charge of the food each year, and Ted has joined the crew for two years now.  They packed up a dray in front of the hotel yesterday afternoon, stopped at the Grand for more equipment and supplies, then rode to the park to set everything up and start grilling.

Coolers full of food, a grill, and other necessities - waiting for a driver!

Coolers full of food, a grill, and other necessities – waiting for a driver before heading to Turtle Park.


Over a hundred folks gathered for hamburgers and all the fixins'!  The kids enjoyed pony rides and games, and one lucky child won a new bicycle!

Over a hundred folks gathered for hamburgers and all the fixins’! The kids enjoyed pony rides and games, and one lucky child won a new bicycle!


Bob Benser

Bob Benser makes sure the food table is stocked and chats with a community member, as Rich Lind looks on.

Since Ted rode up early on the dray, I was in charge of the afternoon dog walk and feeding.  With the celebration scheduled to start at 5:00, I knew I’d have to leave downtown by at least 4:30 to get to the park.  As usual things didn’t go as planned, and I walked out the door at 4:50.  I started off, dialing the taxi stand as I walked.

Once again, Dean answered the phone.

“Dean, it’s Brenda Horton.”


“You have any taxis headed up toward Turtle Park?”

“Nope, don’t have a thing.”

Big – very big – dramatic sigh from me.

“Where are you, Brenda?” Dean asked, and I could just see him shaking his head, wondering why I don’t plan just a little ahead for things like this.

“In front of St. Anne’s.”

“Sit down on the steps at St. Anne’s, and I’ll get something to you.”

Yeahhhh!  Two minutes later I’m on a taxi headed up toward the top of the island.  I arrived in plenty of time to eat and enjoy all the festivities . . . and talk, talk, talk!

I walked home alone, leaving Ted helping with clean-up.  I confess . . .  I could not walk by the condo.  I took a path through the woods that brought me out at Surrey Ridge, where I turned down the hill without ever looking up toward our old place.  Just couldn’t do it.

The woods are full of Trillium!

The woods are full of Trillium!


The Grand Hotel and Carriage Tour Stable and Carriage Museum looks beautiful against all the springtime green!

The Grand Hotel and Carriage Tour Stable and Carriage Museum looks beautiful against all the springtime green!


The corral was full of horses, but I liked the way this one looked standing alone under a beautiful white-blooming tree.

The corral was full of horses, but I liked the way this one looked – standing alone under a beautiful white-blooming tree.


How many times have I walked this road . . . . too many to count.

How many times have I walked this road . . . . too many to count.


Around the next curve.

Around the next curve.


Looking through the trees, across the Grand Hotel Golf Course to the Straits.

Looking through the trees, across the Grand Hotel Golf Course to the Straits.


The back porch of the Governor's Summer Residence (no one was home).

The back porch of the Governor’s Summer Residence (no one was home).


A crow stands guard atop the gate at the top of Fort Street.

A crow stands guard atop the gate at the top of Fort Street.


I will never, never, never tire of this view.

I will never, never, never tire of this view . . .


. . . or this one!

. . . or this one!


The ticket booth at the lower level of Fort Mackinac - at the bottom of Fort Hill.

The ticket booth at the lower level of Fort Mackinac – at the bottom of Fort Hill.


Market Street at twilight.

Market Street at twilight.


At the bottom of Fort Hill I ran into a group of Village friends.  So good to see them!

At the bottom of Fort Hill I ran into a group of Village friends. So good to see them!


Our castle for the week - in the heart of the Mission District.  We love it!

Our castle for the week – in the heart of the Mission District. We love it!

 I could keep going, but it’s midnight, and my eyelids are closing between each word.  More to come as the week goes on, and I’m sure I’ll still be writing about this week after we get home.  We are so blessed to have this opportunity to be here right now, and I love being able to share it with all of you.

God bless.

Oh. Oh. Oh!  Guess what happened today????!!!!!

The first lilacs of the season bloomed . . .

The first lilacs of the season bloomed . . .

. . . at the Mackinac Island Marina!

. . . at the Mackinac Island Marina!  Just in time for the Lilac Festival which begin June 6!



A Nice Perk! 7/20/2011

Note:  I was unable to attend, but I’ve heard that the Mass at St. Anne’s for the two sailors who lost their lives this weekend to the storm in the Chicago to Mackinac Race was stunningly beautiful and  inspirational.  St. Anne’s was filled with families and friends who were on the island for the races, as well as island residents and visitors.  It was a wonderful tribute to Mark Morley and Suzanne Bickel.


Before I officially start the “perk” story, I just want to remind everyone the Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse begins Wednesday evening, July 20, and runs through Sunday morning, July 24.  The festival has been named one of the top five horse festivals in the world by Equitrekking and is one of only two in the United States to make the list.

The days are packed – and I do mean PACKED – full of exciting equestrian events.  If you are planning to be on the island during this time, please head up the hill toward the Grand Hotel to the Burroughs Lot (just below the Grand), where you’ll see the riding arena and tents set up near the island school.  Just for starters, there will be a Saddle Horse Parade, Pony Rides and Fun & Games for Children, a Carriage Parade, West Bluff Historic Stables Tours, the Breeds of Mackinac Show, and Musical Kurs by our very own Mackinac Island Friesian Force.  There will also be lectures on equestrian topics by nationally-known horse trainers and island experts, For a complete list of the festival events, please click here:


Too bad I can’t run for Governor in Michigan.  Being a Georgia resident, I don’t qualify (I also don’t qualify because I know nothing about Michigan politics – or politics in general for that matter – but that’s a whole different story).

If anything could make me consider becoming politically-minded, it would be the Michigan Governor’s Summer Residence, which just has to be the absolute best “perk” of any job anywhere – my opinion, of course.

Cathy had never toured the residence, which is open from 9:30-11:30 a.m. each Wesnesday morning during the season.  Admission is free, and we were among the first in line.

Cathy and I left the condo, biked over to the residence and parked across the street.

As you know from a post I did last year, photographs aren't allowed inside the residence. Last year, when I visited with Blake, the weather was cloudy. Wednesday couldn't have been more beautiful, and I just wanted to show you the glorious views from the front porch of this beautiful home. Here, we're looking southwest over the Straits, and you can just make out the steeple of Little Stone Church.

Southeast is the harbor, the breakwater, and both Round Island lighthouses.

Scouts are stationed all along the porch (and outside on the street) and are always willing to snap photos of your group. They must earn badges in camera operation because I've never heard them ask how to work anyone's camera.

I wonder how many U.S. presidents have had their photograph taken on this porch? It's quite a popular spot for Presidents to visit - on invitation from the Governor, of course. The white structure in the distance is the Grand Hotel.

My favorite spot on the porch - this beautifully furnished, covered area with white wicker furniture. Loving that swing!

Oh yes! I'd love to be Governor of Michigan! And if I was, every Wednesday morning during the Mackinac Island season - if I happened to be visiting - I would come downstairs and greet each visitor to my home - just like new Michigan Governor Rick Snyder did two weeks ago when he was on the island!


We were eating out at the Gate House with Cathy and Charlie for lunch last Friday when a young man passed our table and then, doing a double-take, asked if I was “Bree”.  He and his whole family – including his mom, siblings, and their families – were visiting the island and eating out on the Gate House patio.  I had the opportunity to meet this delightful group, who come to Mackinac Island as often as possible.

Mike and Kathy Fillmore and their beautiful daughters, Danielle and Devin. They were visiting from Saline, MI.

I worked this morning at the Stuart House, and several Bree Blog fans stopped by.  Charlotte DeBroka and her husband Jim came in, and I apologize profusely, Charlotte, for not getting a photograph.  My brain had obviously not started functioning this morning while ya’ll were visiting.  I did post this wonderful couple’s photo last year when they visited, so maybe Charlotte will forgive me.  They were staying at Small Point Inn, just below Robinson’s Folly, and Charlotte shared that there were some trees down across the road out there after the big storm on Sunday evening.  Before arriving on the island, they visited the U.P. and had their copy of South of Superior signed by author Ellen Airgood, who works in a diner in Grand Marais.  It’s on everyone’s “got to read it” list up here this summer and is getting rave reviews!

Also stopping by (after my brain “clicked” on):

Georgette and Larry Ryan, who read the blog from Chicago (Larry took the photo).

This is part of my sweet friend Alyssa's family. Alyssa drove for Carriage Tours when I first met her and now works at Doud's Market. Since she didn't make it home in December, her whole family showed up to have Christmas in July. This is only four of them - Mom and Dad, Lori and Bill Henes, from Lambertville, MI and Alice and Fred, Alyssa's grandmother and granddaddy.

I loved, loved, loved seeing all of you!

More tomorrow on Cathy and Charlie’s visit.  See you then.

My Perfectly Ordinary Wednesday 9/23/2010

Walking to work Wednesday morning, I figured how many more nights we had left to spend on the island before heading back to Georgia.  When I counted them up on my fingers, I was shocked to only come up with 25 – less than 4 weeks!  I simply cannot believe how fast this summer has flown by.  When we talk to folks at home and hear that it is still in the 90’s everyday, I just roll my eyes and hope that in the next 25 days, Fall at least begins to find its way south.  If not, I plan to roll some of it up in my luggage and take it with me!

My Wednesday volunteer job at the Stuart House gets me out of the house earlier than on most mornings, and today I left even a little earlier than usual.  I began shooting photos of ordinary things as I walked by the golf course, then down Turkey Hill to town.  Here’s a sample:

This white picket fence runs all the way around the Governor of Michigan's Summer Residence and yard.

As I started off down Turkey Hill, I looked straight up into these birch trees that lean over the road. When the wind is blowing they moan as they sway against each other. Really - it sounds just like someone moaning - very eerie at night. Every year I wonder if they will survive another Winter of snow without falling. So far, every Spring they are still there.

I know this is really weird, but the tree roots on the Island fascinate me. With so little top soil, the trees have to spread their roots out shallow, instead of seeking water and nutrients deep in the earth. Some of these roots seem to have sent out root "fingers" to find a little patch of soil with life-giving essentials.

These trees on the bluff rising above Turkey Hill Road seem to be growing straight out of the rocks.

This apple tree along Turkey Hill is filled with ripe fruit. Since horses don't travel down this hill very often and haven't relieved the tree of a lot of its apples, many are now falling to the ground, lining the grass and road.

This past Sunday we were in the fort, photographing the town and harbor below. Today, I stood at the base of the fort and photographed up.

I'm beginning to see more drays like this now. As Fall advances and maintenance and renovation work begins, the trash that work produces fills drays and is transported off the island. This dray was packed with what was the front porch of the Trinity Church Vicarage. The porch is being replaced this fall.

I turned the corner onto Market Street, finding it empty except for a gentleman walking his dog. There seemed to be some activity way down at the end of the street, but I couldn't make out what it was from this far away.

I always laugh when I look up at the weathervane on top of Weber's Florist. I love the whimsical "When Pigs Fly" character.

As I walked nearer the Stuart House Museum, I realized what the "end of the street" activity had been - horses. They'd been led down Cadotte Avenue and were making the turn toward Main Street and the ferry docks.

This little turtle "hood" ornament, perched atop a bike's handlebars, caught my eye as I walked past the post office.

Candy was waiting for me to take her place at the museum.  She hurried off for a few minutes, then returned with boxes of candy treats.  She told me that about 45 school children – kindergarten through 7th grade – would be visiting the museum around noon.  They were walking down from the Mackinac Island Public School, with their teachers, to tour the building.  Thank goodness Candy had arranged for Dale Gensman to take them through.  Dale knows that museum like the back of his hand.  He personally built all the historic building replicas and the models of the Mackinac Bridge and the Titanic that are housed in the museum.

It turned out to be another great day for blog buddies!  A young mom and dad, Tina and Jeff from Ubly, Michigan – and their precious little boy Joel – dropped in to say hello.  They had been vacationing in Mackinaw City for a few days and came to the island on a day trip.  Tina has just started reading the blog, but she remembered that I work at the museum on Wednesdays.

Tina's husband, Jeff, took this pic from the street in front of the museum. That's little Joel in his mom's baby-pack.

You remember the couple I told you about yesterday who had come over while we were having coffee at the Carriage Museum?  I knew I had his name wrong!  It’s Dennis – not George!  He and wife Rose stopped by the museum today, and I’m so glad they did so I could get his name right this time!  They’re from Austin, Minnesota.

Jill took this pic - she popped in to give me a two minute break, and I grabbed her to take the photo.

Dale Gensman, his wife, and friends of theirs arrived to greet the school children, who were a little late getting there. It was such a gorgeous day that we all just went out on the porch to enjoy the sun.

Here come the kids! Ranging in age from five to 12, these children make up 2/3 of the school's enrollment. Just like children everywhere, they were excited to be out of the school building and going on a field trip! What a bunch of cuties!

After work, I ran by the post office than slipped over to Main Street just to see if anything interesting was going on.  It seems all I look for now are the changing leaves, but really – once they start turning,  it’s just hard not to photograph them!

This Dutch Elm at the corner of Fort and Main Streets is already beautiful - and about to be glorious!


That same tree, which shades this corner of Marquette Park all summer.

One of my favorite "Jewel" trees - on the golfcourse.

As I’ve been sitting here pasting photos into tonight’s blog post,  my mind has been semi-focused on what I want to do with the days we have left on the Island, and I want to ask my readers for your help.  Is there anything that you’d like me to write about or photograph that I haven’t already covered – or is there a subject you love so much, you’d like to see more of it?  I want to make these last weeks really special, so whatever you want, let me know.  If it’s possible (well, if it’s close to possible), I’ll try my best to get it done.  Now don’t go asking me to hang upside down under the Mackinac Bridge and take a picture of the underside!  But, hmmmm, if a ferry happens to be going out there under the bridge, I’d sure be glad to ride along.  I could get the underside that way!

Let me know what you’re thinking.  Let’s see what you come up with and just how far I’ll go to make you happy.  I love a good challenge!

NOTE:  Mary from the Grand was up much, much, much earlier than I was.  She was on the docks at sunrise seeing off the West Bluff Friesians as they left the Island for the winter.  Thanks to her for the header – it almost makes me want to get up that early . . . . almost!