One Magic Weekend on Mackinac Island

When I think about the word magic, there is only one person, and one place that comes to mind. The place is Mackinac Island. The person is the girl I have been walking beside nearly fifty years.

On our third date, I asked a beautiful girl to go with me to Mackinac Island for a church-sponsored conference attended by hundreds of youth from across Michigan. We were already together for three months before the special time arrived. The magic of that Memorial Weekend in 1971 changed the course of our lives forever.

We spent the day enjoying the sights of the Island, visiting shops, eating fudge, and riding bikes. The weather was heaven-sent with a perfect temperature, clear blue sky, and bright sunshine.

We decided to carve our initials in a tree to attach our hearts to each other and to Mackinac Island forever. We went into one of the shops and bought this souvenir knife. We rode a short distance out of town, climbed some steps, and carved our initials in a tree. As I was cutting, the blade closed on the tip of my finger cutting it. The scar remains to this day. We were surprised to discover we both had scars on our index finger in the same spot.

That evening we enjoyed a formal banquet at The Grand Hotel. During dinner we stared at each other as if in a trance. I know how corny that sounds, but it’s true. The magic is real. One of my friends said, “Would you guys stop that?!”

Late into the night under a beautiful starry sky, we stood in the garden of The Grand, wanting the moment to last forever. We have never forgotten those magic days on Mackinac Island. The imprint of the Island on our hearts is indelible.

The weekend was over much too soon. As always, Mackinac Island was difficult to leave.

I told this lovely girl I was going to ask her to marry me before we had been dating for a month. She changed my life forever.

We have returned to Mackinac Island more times than I can count. I tried to find the tree that held our initials, but couldn’t. I’m sure our initials were high above what I could see.

The magic of Mackinac Island is real. It’s no wonder so many couples begin their engagement on Mackinac and return for their wedding celebration. Those same couples will return again and again, and eventually bring their children and grandchildren to experience the magic of Mackinac Island. Just like we do.

A Week on Mackinac Island, a Boy’s Dream Come True

The closest he had ever been to the Island was the Mackinac Bridge. Twice during family trips to Marquette to visit friends. Twice on the way to Wawa, Ontario for fishing and hunting.

It was actually his father who did all the hunting and most of the fishing. The hunting wasn’t successful and the fishing wasn’t much better. To be honest, there were actually three trips to Wawa. One hunting, and two fishing. The second fishing trip lasted one day. His father, for reasons only a person with concrete for brains would understand, decided it would be a good idea to include the young boy’s mother and little sister on the trip he knew would include blood-sucking black flies and an outdoor toilet. What could go wrong? The family spent one night in the cabin, packed everything up and returned home the following day.

It was the summer of 1964. This time, instead of heading to a cabin in the middle of nowhere with only vampire flies to greet them, the family’s destination was Mackinac Island. The family had a friend who was a Michigan State Trooper, a man the young boy loved and admired. That summer, the Trooper was assigned by the Michigan State Police to be part of the law enforcement staff on Mackinac Island. Not only would the boy’s family be staying on the Island, their accommodations would actually be inside the big fort on top of the hill, Fort Mackinac!

For an entire week, the boy and his older brother were free to roam the Island, and roam they did! The Trooper arranged for the two boys to use bicycles from the police department. One belonged to the Chief of Police! Since the boys had never been to the Island before, everything was new and had to be explored.

Every day there was a different fudge shop to visit. The boys quickly discovered there were samples to be enjoyed. Horses, buggies, wagons, people and bicycles crowded the streets. The shops were endless, lots of great things to want. The boys wandered the Island and loved the long ride around it. At first, it seemed like the bike trip would never end, but just when it seemed like they couldn’t go any farther, they were back in town.

There was an odor in the air that was different, but not unpleasant. Not having been around horses much before, the boy soon discovered the source of the fragrance. The horses didn’t seem to mind, so why should he?

The boy never wanted to go home. There was so much to love about Mackinac Island it seemed to make perfect sense the family should stay forever. There were lots of people working, his father could get a job, maybe driving one of the wagons, or carrying suitcases on a bicycle up to the big hotel on the hill. He remembered seeing a school, so he could just go there.

The day the boy dreaded finally came. His mother packed his suitcase and the family left the fort for the last time. They walked down the long pier toward the waiting ferry. He felt like his heart would break. He couldn’t stand the thought of leaving.

During the trip back to Mackinaw City, the boy’s mother said, “What’s the matter? I can read you like a book.”

“I just hate to leave the Island,” the boy said.

“Don’t you know all good things must come to an end?” his mother asked.

Somehow that didn’t make him feel any better.

Life has a way of making good things come back. And Mackinac Island, one of the greatest experiences of the young boy’s life has returned. Many times. Even though he’s much older now, he still feels the same way about the Island. There must be some way he and his wife could live there. Maybe he could drive one of the wagons, or carry suitcases on a bicycle up to the big hotel on the hill. He’s too old to be a Michigan State Trooper now, even though he had a deep desire to be a Trooper that started back in 1964.

A week just isn’t long enough for someone who loves Mackinac Island as much as this boy does. It never gets old. From the very first time he stepped foot on the Island that seemed so much like a dream, the dream stays new. Each time he steps off the ferry again, he is young, excited, and can’t wait to sample the fudge again.

Mackinac Island. Just can’t get enough.

They have great coffee there, too.

Magical Mackinac Island, Michigan

One of our absolute favorite destinations rests between the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of our Great State of Michigan. It is Mackinac Island.

Mackinac Island is a perfect combination of shopping, eating, walking, bike-riding, sight seeing, and history.

The beauty of the Island is hard to describe, but very difficult to match. Less than a thousand people live on the Island year round, but many hundreds of thousands visit each year. There are no motorized vehicles allowed, so bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and your own legs are your choices.

There are many beautiful privately owned homes on the Island. Some are open as Bed & Breakfasts. Many amazing hotels are available, but booking far in advance is recommended.

We have enjoyed many trips to the Island and wish we could return more often. There is nothing quite like waking to the sound of horses clip-clopping along the street. You won’t really catch a sense of the ambience of the Island unless you spend at least one night. When the last tourist has taken a ferry to the mainland, the feeling on the Island changes. It is truly magical.

Grand Hotel is perhaps the best known destination on Mackinac Island.

We love riding bikes around the Island. The village is usually busy, but when we ride past Mission Point Resort the crowds disappear. The beauty of the lake is indescribable. It is an easy nine-mile ride to complete the trip around Mackinac Island.

When we stay on the Island, I love getting up early in the morning and riding my bike along the quiet streets. The workers are delivering items to stores and restaurants. The horses are moving along slowly, seemingly oblivious to the excitement that will be bursting in just a short time.

This is our favorite spot on Mackinac Island. J.L. Beanery Coffee House. They offer a fantastic menu of sandwiches and soups, and of course a wide variety of coffee drinks. It’ a wonderful place!

Our love of Mackinac Island began nearly fifty years ago when, just two months into our nearly life-long relationship, we spent the weekend with five hundred other teens in a church-sponsored junior-senior celebration. We’ve been going back ever since.

We found this 1968 Mackinac Island bicycle license in an antique store and had to have it. I painted the Round Island Lighthouse on a rock from the shore. These bring back memories of Mackinac Island.

Round Island Lighthouse may be the best known image of Mackinac, after Grand Hotel. Tourists are not allowed to visit the lighthouse, but cannot miss it as they approach Mackinac Island on the ferries.

Whether you visit Mackinac Island for a day, a week, or just a few hours, you will be hooked. Mackinac Island will capture your heart, as it did ours, and will become part of your family forever.