Mo & Terry Smedley


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Mackinac Island

Today, we took a (passenger) ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw).  The island is car-free - all transportation is by horse, bicycle, or foot.  Most of the homes date from the 1800s, and are Victorian in style.   John Jacob Astor played a key role in the history of Mackinac Island, making the Island the center of his Great Lakes fur trading fortune in 1822.  Northwesterners are more familiar with Astor as the namesake of Astoria, Oregon, where his fur trading company established an outpost in 1811.

We took a horse carriage ride to get an initial introduction to the town, then explored Fort Mackinac and the Island's other historic sites and shops on foot.  We ate lunch at the Grand Hotel, which has a covered porch 880 feet in length (almost as long as that Great Lakes freighter we saw at the locks yesterday!).  Fort Mackinac offered interpretive displays of the events that took place at this fort as far back as the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.  Mo and I, along with our tour guides Carl and Barbara Whitehouse, took part in a music and (line) dance demonstration on the grounds of the Fort (see pictures below).

The most unusual aspect of our visit was the absence of motorized vehicles.  You can see from the pictures that the streets are still very crowded, but with horses, carriages, bicycles, and pedestrians.  Even the US Postal Service and UPS use horse-drawn vehicles.  While automobiles are responsible for much of today's air pollution, the Island's streets are covered with another kind of pollution from the horses.   The main downtown streets are more or less continuously cleaned, but there is still plenty of fertilizer in evidence everywhere you go.

During the summer months, the Island hosts a large contingent of college-age tour guides and hospitality workers.   Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops have rotating summer assignments as guides at Fort Mackinac, and as the Honor Guard for the (Michigan) Governor's summer residence on the Island.

Note:  I will have a 180 degree panorama of the Mackinac Island Harbor, but the "stitching" software I need to put the individual images together is only on my computer at home.

Tomorrow we head North again on the Algoma Central Railroad, passing through the Agawa Canyon on our route between Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, Ontario.  I'm not expecting a high-speed Internet connection until we return to Toronto in four days, so there will probably not be further web updates until then.

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A hazy view of the Mackinac Bridge from our ferry.  It is the third longest suspension segment in the world.  The total length of the bridge is a whopping 26,372 feet (5 miles)!  By comparison, the total length of the Golden Gate bridge is 8,981 feet.  At one of the exhibits, we saw two Nubian goats playing on this barrel. Here's what you see all day if you're a carriage driver.  One of our drivers was a college veterinary student, who joked that she'd be switching from looking at their behinds to having her (well-gloved) hand up them. Arch Rock, with a view of the road and Lake Huron below.
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Mo standing outside Fort Mackinac, which was built in the late 1700s for use in the Revolutionary War. Incredible vistas can be had from the Fort.  This is of the Mackinac Island harbor. More views from the Fort. The Round Island Lighthouse, originally built in 1895.
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Another view of the Mackinac Bridge.  The distance between the main suspension towers is 3,800 feet compared to the Golden Gate's 4,200 feet, but the total suspended length is 8,614 feet compared to the Golden Gate's 6,450.  A view of the fort through a rifle hole in one of the blockhouses. Mo standing next to a cannon in the blockhouse. The fort walls look to be about eight feet thick (based on the length of my outstretched arms).
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Mo asked for a photograph of the "cute drummer" during one of the musical demonstrations.  This is it. These soldiers and civilians sang "My Darling Clementine" for us.  If you haven't recently paid close attention to the lyrics of the last verse of this song, you might want to check them out here.  Interesting stuff. Our tour leader, Carl Whitehouse, dances down the line with his chosen partner.  We were partaking in a demonstration of an American traditional dance called "The Rose Dance". Carl's wife Barbara is escorted by two partners to wrap up this dance.  Sorry, I couldn't take pictures of Mo and me.
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The next seven pictures show some interesting implications of the car-free environment on the island.  Here's the Grand Hotel "parking lot". The baggage transfer from the hotel to the ferry dock is done by horse, carriage, and trailer. The wide boulevard leading to the Grand Hotel is filled with horses, carriages, bicycles, and pedestrians. This is what a "rental car" looks like on the Island.  Seriously, these single-horse carriages are rented to those wishing to take their own ride.  Look carefully at the driver of this one.
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Here's a "fuel truck" coming up the hill to the stables. The US Postal Service delivers mail by carriage and trailer.  We saw the UPS man making his rounds with similar equipment. The streets along the docks are thick with pedestrians and horses. Sculpture on the grounds of the Grand Hotel.
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Gardens below the Grand Hotel. This is just half the porch of the Grand Hotel, where we gathered to go in for our lunch. Mo is checking out the dessert bar at our buffet in the Hotel. Victorian houses line the street above the Hotel.
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Looking at the townsite from the docks. We're always on the lookout for dogs.  This one was keeping a very close eye on his owner's ice cream cone. More beautiful Victorian houses line the streets near the docks. This is the only wildlife we saw on the Island.
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A closing view of the Grand Hotel from our ferry as we return to the mainland. Mo found a big bear at one of our stops on the Island.