We were so blessed to be greeted by warm, humid weather and the sun in Mackinac City. While we were there, the temperature stayed planted at a balmy 95-100 degrees. This is a perfect temperature for swiming and wading in the lakes (which is what the kids were excited to do). The drive from Houghton Lake to Mackinac City proved to be an adventuresome route, but gorgeous at the same time. We were routed through Charleviox and Petosky (where we stopped and enjoyed the pristine park), and from there, we drove on 119 through Harbor Springs and Cross Lake Village. This route is called the tunnel of trees for a good reason; we were driving on a hill (or cliff or dune) along the lake but the views of it were few and far between. When we finally arrived to our destination, darkness was creeping over the land, so we settled down for the evening.
The following day we visited 6 beaches, and at 9am, the temperature was already 88 degrees. We explored many beaches I had not visited before, including two at Wilderness State Park. It was so isolated and secluded and quiet. It was magnificient. After church, we visited Fort Michilimackinac for a brief time (for the kids were getting hot and anxious) and spoke with some of the “residents” who taught us about life back then. After our rest, we visited Mill Creek Discovery Park and watched the woodsman demonstration and afterwards, the working of the saw mill. My husband was fascinated with the saw mill, and the complexity and intricacy of the mechanism. I will admit, I appreciate the genius of the mill more now than I did as a teenager.
As the sun begun to dip into the horizon, we visited another beach in Cheboygan to peak at the lighthouse. At Gordon Turner Park, the Cheboygan Crib Lighthouse stands proudly as a testiment to the faithful residents. When the lighthouse shifted upon the crib foundation, so much so that the lighthouse crashed into the water, the residents rescued their lighthouse from demise and built it upon the concrete foundation it is on today. From this fanatastic beach, we saw the sunset and felt the gentle cool breeze. However, we didn’t stop there! I was on a mission to find yet another park, Cheboygan State Park. It is about 4 miles out of the city and when we entered it was quiet and isolated. The beach was lovely and I could see the automated lighthouse with the binoculars. Dark was approaching quickly so we hurried to depart to the main road.
The next day we planned to go to the fort again after being refreshed from a nice long restful sleep. This time, the kids enjoyed it immensely. We went on a “scavenger hunt” and saw pretend people, costumes, hats, crosses, real people. The “kids museum” there made the history come alive for them. One of the last hands-on activites was a “black hole”. It is a small closet sized space that was completely dark. I asked the kids if they wanted to try it out. After we all tried it, the kids decided they didn’t like it much, so I threatened to put them in the black hole if they were naughty….. Mitchell assured me that he wouldn’t be naughty.
After all the excitement, we rested, then did a bit of shopping. Mitchell received a 4D puzzle (which is an engineering feat) and Anja received a beautiful knitted sweater.
The last day (which is always the hardest) we explored Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse. It was foggy and damp, so we weren’t able to see the bridge one last time.
However, our adventure was not quite done! I was on a mission to see some lighthouses I had never seen before. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the southern route on 31. After passing through Traverse City and seeing the bay in sunny weather, we continued west toward Empire. There we found the memorial lighthouse at the end of the public beach. It was a privately built lighthouse for a man who always wished that a lighthouse would guide him in from his fishing trips.
Our next stop was a bit further south. This lighthouse was well marked and easy to find. When I saw Pt Betsie, I was amazed at the beauty and care this lighthouse has been treated to. At the entrance, there was a sign thanking all the people who contributed to the repairs and maintenance of this landmark. Even though the lighthouse was closed, there was a small path to the pristine beach which the kids waded in merrily while I took pictures. Pt Betsie was occupied by the coastguard until 1997 when the boilers stopped working and they had to evacuate. She is very well maintained and stands proud on her spot, and there is a concrete wall surrounding her so that she will remain there for a good long while.
Driving along the lake, the next lighthouse we came to was Frankfort. This lighthouse was also on a large public beach. The original lighthouse from 1914 (which did have a catwalk) was placed on top of a steel base in 1932.
All of these lighthouses have unique personalities and I am fascinated by the craftsmanship and the ideals and histories of these once sought over lights that were so critical to survival of the great freight vessels. It was much fun and exciting to “chase” these pieces of Michigan history and meet them at last.