I had heard my niece talk about visiting Mackinac Island, that staying at the Grand Hotel had been on her husband's bucket list, and they had enjoyed it so much. I hadn't thought about going myself until this cruise's itinerary listed it. The carriage rides sounded like fun, and the brochure pictured the Grand Hotel. A community exuding wealth and exclusiveness, not something I usually value, I didn't expect to be charmed.
We were loaded into twenty-person carriages like the one above and whisk off to tour the island with carriage drivers who were also guides--of varying abilities. As on any commercial venture, our rest stop afforded purchases of varying types. Our ride through the woods with a driver who thought constant talking made her a good guide made me want to walk back after lunch. At our next stop many headed for the bathrooms and back to the carriage, believing it seemed, that she really would leave if everyone wasn't on the minute she said to be. They missed this beautiful sea coast and the scene below.
At another stop, we had the option of exploring Fort Mackinac, which we did--a bit. Then on to the Grand Hotel for a sumptuous lunch, not on the cruise schedule. Greens (yeah!) with more than a dozen additions, shrimp, crab legs, seafood and chicken salads, and more. A table for two, better wine (that on the ship was budget varieties), quiet conversation and then back to the long table of varied tiny desserts plus slices of pie, cake, and cheesecake.
It had been a good morning and delicious and restorative lunch, and I was ready for a ramble through
the upper island and the woods while my companion wound his way down through town and to the ship. First I found a street and then a path that took me by the large white board homes that lined the higher edges of the island. Many had lovely garden, and the one below was a favorite.
A local woman directed me to the woods and explained that the wooden stairs I saw plunging down the hillside was the way the locals went into the village. I decided that I would return to those stairs when my time in the woods was up.
As I wasn't certain of the ship's departure time but knew it was earlier than I wished--5 or 5:30--I took trails that were close to the narrow roads, knowing I could easily become taken with the woods and forget the time. When I needed to get back down the hillside, I luckily found the stairs and enjoyed taking them from one set to the landing and on to another set of stairs. I was convinced that older locals took the stairs when I met a ranger coming up, passed the time of day, and he said nothing about being careful or wondering if I knew what I was doing. At the bottom, I realized I didn't know how far away the town was.
A family bicycling stopped to read a sign, and I asked how far it was to the village, explaining that I needed to get to the ship. A mile or so, the man said. Then he offered to tote me back to town. I declined, saying I walked fast and would be fine. It turned out that I didn't need to be on the ship until 5:45 for a 6 pm departure. I wandered through the town's streets crowded with tourists and as many shops filled with tourist junk as in Gatlinburg! I found an ice cream and candy shop and enjoyed a huge one-dip cone of peanut butter ice cream, one of their specialties. From that vantage point, I didn't mind walking out to board our ship.