Michigan Part I: Pictured Rocks and Pretty-As-A-Picture Mackinac Island

Michigan’s slogan is “Pure Michigan” …. purely beautiful, purely magical, and purely different from Arizona, that’s for sure!  The FORMER slogan, however, was “Great Lakes, Great Times” and that even better describes our time in Michigan, because our folks met up with us for a week of great times.

Before that, however, Philip and I spent a few days at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, near Munising, MI.

If you weren’t paying attention in 8th grade Geography class, Michigan is divided into two distinct peninsulas, the upper and lower.  Pictured Rocks is located in the Upper Peninsula, more commonly called “Da U.P.” by all the cool kids.

Da U.P. comprises 29% of the total Michigan land mass, but only 3% of the Michigan population (called Yoopers)!

Pictured Rocks is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but verrrry spread out …. 35’ish miles of rugged, difficult- to-access coastline.   Here, the rocks are throwing up Lake Michigan … must have been a rough night last night.

Pictured Rocks also has a huge area of sand dunes …

… waterfalls, inland lakes and streams, and of course Lake Michigan ….

… and most importantly, miles of dog-friendly beaches!

Sprinkles reminds everyone to “live like someone left the gate open!”

Our campground just outside Pictured Rocks was in Christmas, MI.  My Christmas-Freak-Husband was delighted!  Hanging out at the corner of St. Nicholas and Christmas Aves. was right up his alley!

Leaving the U.P. (Upper Peninsula), you get to the L.P. (Lower Peninsula) via the M.B. (Mackinac Bridge)! 

It’s 5 miles long and the longest suspension bridge between two anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.   

The imaginary dividing line is right under the bridge …. Lake Michigan on the left, Lake Huron on the right!  With lots of government-approved watery co-mingling in the middle!

View from the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse porthole.

Once soon as you cross into the L.P., you’re in Mackinaw City, the gateway to Mackinac Island.  Both of those names are pronounced the same, “Mack-uh-naw.”  Say “Mack-uh-nack” and you are branded a tourist (gasp!) as surely as a Scarlet A (or would that be a Scarlet T for Tourist?) upon your chest.

Here, we were joined my parents, Kay and Don, as well by about 3 trillion “midge flies.”  What are midge flies?   They are alive for only about 2 weeks, having one massive midge orgy, before the females lay their eggs back into the lakes and all the adults die, and it just happened to be during the two weeks while we were there.  They look just like mosquitoes but don’t bite or sting, but huge swarming clouds of them were everywhere.  It was awful.  Here they are coating the Lucky Charm, but it wasn’t just vehicles … humans were coated just as thoroughly, if they stopped moving.

Accessible by ferry only, the famous Mackinac Island is the stuff of which million-dollar-dreams are made.  Removed, exotic, expensive and oh-so-beautiful.

My mom was eager to join us in Mackinac Island because over 70 years ago, her parents used to bring her here each summer, where they stayed at the luxurious Grand Hotel.  

Her original plan was to relive childhood memories by staying at this hotel again.  THEN she found out a room now goes for almost $1,000/night. (Side note, you do get meals included, so minus $52 lunch buffet and $100 dinner, it’s almost … not quite …. OK, still not reasonable.) 

Although the Grand is the most famous Island residence, in actuality it has only about 380 of the 5,000 available rooms on the Island. So, there are other overpriced hotels also available to you.

But the nightly rate didn’t mean we couldn’t visit.  They get so many visitors that they charge $10 just to let you walk in and look around the lobby, but if you partake of their excellent $52 lunch buffet, you don’t have to pay the $10 to soak up the colorful, unique decorating.

And the food was just as much of a treat for the eyes as for the stomach, too!

Touring the extensive grounds and gardens of the Grand Hotel is free, and gorgeous.  The tulips in full bloom seemed to go on for acres!

The 1980’s-era movie “Somewhere in Time” with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed entirely at this hotel and on this island.  We watched the movie on DVD later that day and it was fun to pick out all the places to which we’d just been.

The Grand Hotel has the “world’s longest porch,” and Mom was eager to try out their famous rocking chairs.  She had heard they charged $5 just to sit in a chair, which would not have been surprising, but that turned out to not be true, so we enjoyed one of the few cost-effective activities on the Island.

The entirety of Mackinac Island is car-free, lending a quaint charm to the atmosphere.  Everyone is walking or bicycling, greeting each other with the warm friendliness that only being on vacation in an expensive locale can produce. 

The only other available mode of transportation is by horse-drawn carriage.  Even homes being remodeled on the Island had all the materials being brought in by carriage.

But where there are lots of horses, there is also …. well, you know.

Besides horse poop, the other thing is great quantity is fudge shops, one after another, next door to each other, across the street from each other, fudge, fudge, fudge, oh fudge how I grew tired of you.

Here, the historic Pink Pony Bar lives up to its colorful moniker.  Mackinac Island is a wonderful day trip!

Back on the mainland, Mackinaw City is famous for their Weinerlicious giant hot dog.  Not really,  I just wanted to type the word Weinerlicious.  Michigan has lots of other giant things, including the World’s Largest Roadside Cherry Pie, but I wasn’t quick enough to grab a picture (or a slice) of that.

In our campground, one site had been roped off with police tape.  A murder?  Campground argument gone wrong?  Nope, a bird called a “kill deer plover” had a nest on the site, and if she felt threatened she would abandon the nest and the eggs, so she was being protected.

Also on the mainland, Colonial Michilimackinac is a cool restored 18th century fort and fur trading village, and awesome mix of history and archaeology.

History comes to life here, with costumed characters, themed talks and tours, artillery firings, and more.  We had a lot of fun and my love-to-learn family was very satisfied.

It is an active archaeological site (one of the longest ongoing excavations in North America), where they are still pulling out bits of 18th-century history which were covered long again by the huge drifts of blowing sand. 

It will take many multiple decades to fully excavate the entire fort.  While we were watching, the excavator pulled up half a dinner plate from this area, which they have determined was a fur trader’s house, making us actual witnesses to history!  Why, we can practically take credit for the find.

 Michigan is well-known for their excellent “Roadside Parks” (basically, super-deluxe rest stops) and everywhere we went, there were spacious and beautiful places to stop the Lucky Charm for a break, with scenery like this!

Everywhere in Michigan, Green …. Green …. Green!!!  The desert rat in us is Green with envy!

I call this photo “Study in Green.”

Buppa got the honor of adding the Michigan state sticker to the Lucky Charm map, but we’re not done just yet!  Part II of Pure Michigan will cover Petoskey, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Grand Rapids,

plus the addition of two more family members — our cousins John and Judy!

See ya later, from all of us!

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