August 13, 2017
We crossed the Mackinaw Straits Bridge after a quick drive from Saginaw. We headed for one of the ferry services that shuttles tourists back and forth from the island. We left the port of St. Ignace (Ignatius of Loyola). The Jesuit Marquette discovered what the local Indians had long known that the Mackinac Strait linked the three large Great Lakes – Superior, Huron and Michigan. He quickly established a mission and soon set off with his colleague Joliet to find rhe Mississippi.
The island of Mackinac was soon fortified by the French, the British and finally the Americans after 1795. It’s central location made it a key part of the fur trade. John Jacob Astor had his fur trade centered there even though Astor never visited the locale. After the beaver fur hat fell out of fashion in the 1830’s, the trade collapsed. The army continued its base there until 1895.
From 1875 to 1895, Mackinac Island was our second national park after the creation of Yellowstone in 1872. The army acted as the Park Rangers until they withdrew as there was no reason to fear any attack on Mackinaw. The Feds turned the park over to the State of Michigan on condition that the island would remain open to the public. By the late 19th Century, Mackinac was a summer draw for Midwestern vacationers. It remains so today.
After a lunch and a walk along the tourist “Bicycle” street, we started to explore the historic buildings. First up was the old Astor fur warehouse that was built in 1817. Today it is a museum staffed by a life long resident. She was delightful and entertaining. We didn’t visit the fort on the hill but had a nice walk along the shoreline out to Arch Rock. The squadrons of bicycle tourists were well behaved. I need to mention that there are no cars or trucks on the island. Tourists an deliveries and trash pickup are conducted by horses.Unfortunately, the horses leave their signature smell everywhere. I guess the horse drawn charm out weighs the odor. That is only real problem that I had after visiting the place.
Despite the sticky availability of fudge from 40 or so stores and vendors, we bought none. We did buy our share of souvenirs anyway. The best of the town was the Victorian architecture that remains from the earlier waves of tourists. It is part of our history that has been saved for the price of excessive fudge. Good trade.
We returned to the mainland and enjoyed the indoor swimming pool and the beachfront location on Lake Huron.
Over the years, we have visited Mackinac Island several times and hired the bikes with the boys. The last time was three years ago when we were visiting our good friend Dr. John Beck in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It is a long drive.