67 Mackinac Island, MI to Ludington, MI

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Early each morning a Sysco restaurant delivery truck drives off a barge and onto the wharf at Mackinac Island. It travels about 100 feet and stops. Teamsters back their horses, positioning flatbed wagons close to the truck. Boxes of steaks, salad greens, fish and other necessities are transferred. The delivery truck, it’s mission completed, is barged back to Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island reverts to it’s motor vehicle free status.

Each delivery wagon with its cargo heads off the wharf and onto the freshly swept and washed main street. There the jangle and jingle of harnesses mix with the clip clop of hoofs adding a sound dimension to the colorful scene of horse-drawn wagons moving through a quaint town. For the few people up early, it’s a memorable experience difficult to recapture once the street is overflowing with people.

At 8 AM the first ferryboats arrive. For the rest of the day they show up at a rate of 12 boats/hour bringing ‘fudgies’ as the day-trippers are known to the island. Town overflows with pedestrians, rental bikes, carriage tours, and delivery wagons. It’s quite a sight, but too many people for us so we get out of town.

John and Nancy off Innisfree had joined us for the day. We walked along the boardwalk, past the library with it’s great reading chairs out on a deck overlooking the Mackinac Bridge. Bikers heading for the 8-mile ride around the island occasionally interrupted our view of colorful flower gardens beside summer cottages along the road. A walk through cool woods, up a hill and across the lawn of the Grand Hotel brought us to it’s magnificent porch, now so popular that non-hotel guests are charged $10 if they want to walk it’s length or enjoy the view from wicker rockers. We walked the road in front on our way further up the bluff to pass in front and later behind the perfectly-maintained Victorian cottages and carriage barns of lumber barons of the 1800’s.

By 8 PM most of the fudgies had left and town became quiet and sleepy once again. We snuggled into Tranquility watching the last ferryboats leave. As we turned in for the evening, the clip clop of passing horse-drawn taxis mixed with the sound of a bugler playing taps high above us at the fort. It had been a great day on Mackinac Island.

Mackinaw City provided contrast to the island. Here the auto reigns supreme. We walked to the pastie shop we’ve been visiting for 20 years and enjoyed a taste of my heritage. Pasties are meat, rutabaga, and potatoes baked in a pastry crust, a delicious Finnish tradition.

A rented Geo Tracker allowed us to explore the south end of Beaver Island for the first time. Woods formed a leafy canopy over the narrow road letting dabs of sunlight splash down on the gravel. Deer crossed ahead fading into shady sun- speckled woods. Narrow driveways lead back to cottages barely visible through the trees. At the end of the island, we climbed to the top of the abandoned lighthouse and admired the view.

A ruby-throated humming bird darted past an indigo bunting and chipping sparrow who were enjoying seeds at a feeder. Beyond framed by birches and pines, a stunning view out over Lake Michigan toward Beaver Island 22 miles distant formed a canvas for passing freighters. Our hosts, Jim and Helen Gillespie had charmed us with a leisurely lunch and fascinating tour of Harbor Springs and Petosky. Now we relaxed in the gracious comfort of their home in the woods high on a hill. Twenty years earlier, Ruth and I had enjoyed going over blue prints with my brother-in-law Steve of his parents planned retirement home near Good Hart, Michigan. Now after all these years, we were finally seeing the realization of those fascinating plans. We had planned to stay for only an afternoon. Our hosts convinced us to stay for dinner and the night. It didn’t take much convincing. Late the next afternoon we returned to Tranquility having had a wonderful time.

South Manitou Island, part of the Sleeping Bear National Seashore, allowed one last chance to enjoy wilderness anchoring before harbor-hopping down the Michigan and Wisconsin shores. We met the arriving ferry one morning and watched huge backpacks being offloaded. Eager campers struggled to reattach themselves to packs, some as tall as the camper. Off they hiked to distant wilderness campgrounds. We signed up for the truck tour of Island history. Seats bolted to bed of a pickup with the cab roof cut off provided transportation. Our guide, Mat threaded the truck along a sandy path stopping frequently to tell island history. We realized we knew the island history almost as well as Mat, however, his knowledge of island plants far surpassed us and we had fun tour.

Back in home cruising waters we’ve slowed to savor the beauty of the Michigan shoreline. High sand dunes march down the shore slowly disappearing in the haze toward the horizon. The mix of sand, grasses and trees provides a slow motion study of sand and vegetation trying to dominate the shore. The view to our port as we head south is ever changing and always fascinating. It has a beauty that has not been duplicated in any of our cruising along the Atlantic shore.

We’ve harbor-hopped through Frankfort, Arcadia, and Manistee. At each, vivid memories of our last visit a few years ago came rushing back. We walked each town refreshing memories, noting what had changed, and rediscovering things we’d forgotten about. It was nice to see all the towns doing well, with each one looking just a bit more prosperous than we remembered from our last visit.

We left Manistee in the predawn darkness joining the fleet of small boats heading out to fish. Fog closed in as we rounded Big Sable Point. The huge fishing fleet of charter and private boats disappeared from sight, but showed up nicely on radar. We steered a weaving course through the fleet as we headed for Ludington.

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