I have just returned from the past. Over the last several days I was chaperoning a 4th grade class to a national treasure… Mackinac Island. It’s funny how one tends to forget the riches in one’s own backyard when they think of all the riches in the world.
The Grand Hotel… featuring the worlds longest porch.
The island experience truly cannot be explained without sounding like a Sunday afternoon PBS travel log. But I can confess to a transformational experience every time I am there. The only way to reach “the turtle” is by ferry or by plane… or by snowmobile if you brave a winter visit. But to make the trip more unreal you can cross over the Mackinac Bridge that reaches from Michigan’s lower peninsula to it’s upper and take a ferry from there.
8 miles and not one car to worry about… freedom to swerve when ever you want.
The Fort… still guarding the harbor.
The perimeter road of the island is 8 miles long and thus, the island is not very big… which works out well because the only mod of transportation once there is by foot, bike or horse… of which there are many.
When you arrive in the harbor your ferry will dock at one of many piers. As you stroll towards shore you pass carts full of luggage, bikes represented several decades of design and a wide variety of people. As you leave the docking area you typically pass through a building which serves as a dark transforming vestibule. Strangely symbolizing your rapid time travel. Stepping out of the darkness onto main street is like you have found some secret passage to a movie set for a Victorian mini-series that you play a role in.
Mackinac (pronounced mack-in-aw) has a real and rich history. The island is situated in the waters between Lake Michigan & Lake Huron. It was the trade mecca for the fur industry and served as the purpose of battle between the French, British and English over the years. It is our second National Park.
The forts that served as strong holds and geographic icons the early Indians cherished still remain in remarkable condition. This is the real thing Mickey… no Donald’s or Pluto’s.
There were hundreds of little insights the jumped up and slapped me in the face during this particular trip. Little things like how the kids didn’t know how to use the “coaster brakes” on the bikes we rented… and how fascinated that age group is with the road apples everywhere… and how fast they could circle the chuck of land.
Your best hope with these kids really, is to maybe, just maybe, help them encounter some form of intrigue that will pull them back to this place (and places like it) as the hand on our clocks go ripping by. Some cerebral bookmark that grows into a weekend itinerary but may take 20 years to harvest. And then you hope they still exist.
The original Big Mac… the worlds longest span between supports.
This is one of those places where you know living there would be a struggle but you wish you where a local…. it’s a secret that you want to share. So here’s to hoping the past is still there for our future.