Where: Mackinac Island, Michigan
Trip Date: 6/20-6/24/17
Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse
After departing Traverse City we headed even farther north towards Mackinaw City at the very tip of the Lower Peninsula where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron come together. Although we were only in Mackinaw City for one afternoon, I did—of course—manage to visit one of the many lighthouses in the area. (Yes, only one, but don’t worry, I will be back in a couple of weeks to see more.)
We actually found Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse unintentionally when we happened to see a sign for it while on the highway. Since we had a few hours to kill we decided we might as well visit. The 50-foot lighthouse was built in 1892 as a navigational aid for ships passing through the Straits of Mackinac (I should take this opportunity to mention that Mackinac is pronounced exactly the same as Mackinaw for some reason, despite the spelling). It was decommissioned in 1957 when the Mackinac Bridge was built, from which new navigational aids were much more visible.
The stone construction of the lighthouse was very reminiscent of an old castle, very different from any other lighthouse I have drawn, even in Michigan.
The next morning we repacked our bags and caught a ferry over to Mackinac Island, a popular resort island located between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. After a quick twenty-minute ride across the straits we were walking up the docks to Main Street. The town was quite a site—people everywhere, bicycles lining the streets, horse drawn carriages slowly trotting by. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. All transport is done on foot, bicycle, or horse. Walking through town there was this strange, ever-present juxtaposition between new and old. I could see crates being loaded on to a horse-drawn cart for delivery, and in the shop window next door was a sign advertising fidget spinners. It definitely took some getting used to.
We located our hotel some time later, a little way out of town next to a beautiful old Sainte Anne Church. The building itself was constructed in 1874, although the parish can trace its roots back to the foundation of Roman Catholicism in the area in 1670.
Later that afternoon I set out on foot to wander around the island a bit. At a little less than four square miles Mackinac Island is a place in which it is hard to get lost. After an hour or so I found myself at Arch Rock, a beautiful natural rock formation formed over thousands of years by the slow trickling of water through the limestone.
However, it is still eroding, and it is estimated that the arch will collapse within the next thirty years. While this is sad, it is also nature.
A Carriage Tour
Our first full day on the island was a bit dampened by a persistent rain, so we spent the first part of the morning wandering through shops downtown and sampling fudge. There were at least six different fudge shops within a quarter mile stretch of Main Street.
Once it had failed to stop raining by mid-afternoon we decided to take a carriage tour in the hopes that we could see some more of the island and still remain somewhat dry. That plan was somewhat successful, although it was hard to see much with all the rain. While waiting for a carriage change at the midway point of the tour I managed to do a quick doodle of an antique horse-drawn hearse that was used on the island for many years.
The weather cleared up immensely the next day. With hardly a cloud in the sky, we rented a couple of bikes and took a ride on the eight-mile long road that circles the island. It has been years since I have ridden a bike for any length of time, especially one with such a stiff seat. Lets just say that my butt was not pleased.
About half way around the island we made a four-mile detour to find Fort Holmes, a reconstructed fort located at the highest point on the island (reconstructed after the previous two or three had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground). The view was gorgeous—nearly a full view around the entire island.
Round Island Lighthouse
When I first arrived on Mackinac Island I was very excited to see a lighthouse (of course) sitting on a tiny spit of land across from the docks. I was much less excited to discover that this spit of land was not actually connected to Mackinac Island and I had no way to get to it without chartering a private boat. So I spent the rest of the trip photographing it from every point at which I could see it across the water.
I was able to discover a bit about it, however. Round Island Lighthouse—located on Round Island (an island that is not actually very round)—was built in 1895. Parts of its machinery were used for scrap during World War II, and it was eventually decommissioned and abandoned in 1947.
I was finally able to get a decent picture of the lighthouse from the ferry on the way back to the mainland. If the ferry had sat still long enough I would have done my sketch from life, as I normally like to do with each light. But alas, that is not what ferries do, so I had to settle for using a photograph.
Back to my usual quota of lighthouses, and maybe even a sunken ship.