Day 222 – The Scenic Sunrise Shore

Day 222 of Year Long Road Trip Along America’s Scenic Byways

This morning Petey and I began our tour along Michigan’s Sunrise Shore. Our day started in Mackinaw City where we boarded the 8:30 ferry to Mackinac (Mak-in-aw) Island.  The double-decker catamaran whisked us across Lake Huron in 18 minutes or less on a calm, clear day. 

Mackinac Island

We disembarked into a land of pedestrians, cyclists, and horse drawn carriages…no cars are allowed.  Even the island’s garbage truck is a giant wood cart pulled by horses.  For a brief moment I thought what a nice way to live…no noise, no exhaust fumes, and naturally exercising to get around.  Then I thought of the snow, the rain, and running late. I wander what the islanders do, especially in the winter.  Perhaps snow mobiles are allowed.

For this morning, however, the weather was perfect, and I enjoyed every minute of our time on the island. Upon arrival, we didn’t stop to inquire about the horse drawn carriages or bike rentals. Instead, we headed up the hill toward Fort Mackinac.

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac, once part of the mainland in modern day Mackinaw City, was moved to Mackinac Island in 1780 during the American Revolution by British commander Patrick Sinclair.  Sinclair chose the island due to the high limestone bluff that would protect his soldiers from an American attack.  The white fort, perched on the bluff, overlooks a grassy park and harbor of sail boats.

Petey and I walked around the perimeter of the fort, past the governor’s mansion, and toward the Girl Scout barracks where we found a cache hidden beneath a nearby tree.  I think there are at least eleven caches on the island, but my phone was going dead, so I needed to save my battery to navigate to the Island’s sites, the next being Skull Cave. 

Skull Cave

We turned the corner around the barracks and followed the signs to Skull Cave. It is said that English fur-trader Alexander Henry hid out in Skull Cave during the Indian uprising in 1763.  He claimed the cave was covered in human bones, thus the name. 

Skull Cave is one of Mackinac Island’s oldest geological formations.  It is located at the base of a limestone stack which was exposed 11,000 years ago as waves of ancient lakes eroded the softer material surrounding it.  The cave was formed as waves washed into its side, wearing a narrow opening.

skull cave on mackinac island

Cemeteries on Mackinac Island

Not far from the cave were a variety of cemeteries including St. Anne’s Cemetery, the US Post Cemetery – Fort Mackinac, and the Mackinac Island Cemetery.  The US Post Cemetery was the most interesting.  A white picket fence enclosed at least 100 matching headstones, each marked with a US flag like the ones a child would wave in a parade. The original wooden crosses which marked graves of American and British soldiers who fought in the War of 1812 have long since disappeared. 

The entry to the St. Anne’s Cemetery, however, was quite beautiful.  Trees shaded a stone wall topped with a cross which arched over wrought iron gates built in 1924.

St. Ann's cemetery on Mackinac Island

Lookout Point

We passed by the cemeteries and continued up the manure tainted roads to Lookout Point.  I use “tainted” lovingly as after having ridden horses my whole childhood, I find almost any horse smell pleasing. Ok, well manure might be pushing it, but I am used to trouncing through it. And the aroma brings back many fond horse memories, including memories of my first car, Priscilla the Prelude, that my mom claimed stunk from going to the barn!

lookout point on mackinac island

Fort Holmes

Upon reaching Lookout Point, we turned east toward Fort Holmes.  In 1812, the British built a blockhouse and stockade on the island’s highest point and named it Fort George.  The British were able to repulse the American attack in 1814.  After the war, the Americans renamed the post in honor of Major Holmes who was killed in the attack.

fort holmes on mackinac island

Arch Rock

While we had been walking the roads in the shade beneath canopies of trees, Petey was tuckering out. As a result, we made one last stop at Arch Rock.  I came so close to skipping this natural attraction. It added one more mile to our return to the ferry docks, and I wasn’t sure how long Petey would last. 

I am SO glad I didn’t, despite arriving simultaneously with two horse drawn covered wagons. Touritsts seated on five rows of bench seats slowly filed out. Petey looked like the next Olympic star compared to some of these carraige riders who for one reason or another couldn’t make the mile walk to the attraction.

Along with the fudgies, the locals’ name for tourists who can’t resist buying fudge in the plethora of fudge shops, we squeezed up the stairs to get a look at the sandy beach and aqua marine waters below.

Mackinaw Island Port

On the way back into the main shopping district we took in a few more sights:  a church, beach clubs, hotels, and the harbor. Additionally we watched some tourists wreck on bicycles, and listened to a guide tell some gullible wagon riders to lean to the right to help the horses make a left-hand turn up the hill. After they all leaned to the right, he said, “That was funny because leaning doesn’t help!”

Petey and I boarded the 11:30 shuttle back to the mainland.  This time the ferry was a triple-decker mono-hull.  I felt so lucky for the ferry times I chose.  Mobs of people flooded onto the island from the 11 a.m. ferry. I don’t think there was an empty seat, yet both coming and going for me, there couldn’t have been more than 15 travelers.

Mackinaw City

We arrived to Mackinaw City just in time for lunch.  I found countless fudge, candy, ice cream and popcorn stores, yet only one restaurant in a shopping center similar to Snider Plaza (for those of you from Dallas). The menu at the counter eatery featured a handful of fried fish baskets. I
ordered the one piece whitefish basket that comes with hush puppies, fries AND coleslaw.  It wasn’t as good as yesterday’s fish tacos, but the hush puppies helped carry the weight.

Lake Huron

After lunch in Mackinaw City, we headed back to Cheboygan, re-provisioned at Walmart, and turned down Michigan’s Sunrise Shore.  We stopped a few times to admire the Lake Huron’s sea green coast and watched some teenagers (girls and boys) shriek in a high pitch tone with each step as they immerged waist deep into the icy water.

sunrise shore on lake huron

Rogers City

Carrying on down the Sunshine Shore to the south side of Rogers City, we visited one of the world’s largest limestone quarries.  The pit is three miles long and two miles wide. Just after I arrived at the overlook another car full of people arrived. I had to wait them out to find a nearby hidden geocache. 

I didn’t think it would take that long given there’s not much to see in a rock pit, but three out of the four of them smoked and each of them lit up at a different time.  In addition, they took Muffy for a walk.  That dog got the longest walk around a ten car parking lot I’ve ever seen.

I was beginning to feel sorry for Petey. Parking lots call for a lift your leg and let’s go routine with me.  I was running out of emails, texts, and posts to write while killing time, but finally they left. As the fresh air returned, I logged the cache.

limestone quarry in Rogers City on Michigan's sunrise shore

Alpena

Continuing south along the Sunrise Shore, we stopped in Alpena where the choppy waters of Thunder Bay are home to 80 shipwrecks.  We walked around the harbor where I met the most polite three year old boy in the world. He asked if he could please pet my dog as he held up two fingers and claimed they had three dogs. When he was finished he promptly said, “thank you” without any reminders from mom!  Then he got on his two wheel bike, no training wheels, and rode down the sidewalk. 

Petey and I followed slowly behind on our way to the breakwater where we found one more cache. I passed a couple who clearly noticed the geocaching app on my iphone. When I stopped at the light post, they hollered, “Keep Going”. 

I moved onto the bench. They waved and shouted, “Next Bench”.  Judging from the log, their pen name was the “Trawlin’ Two”.  Wow, my second time in one week to run into fellow geocachers when previously I never had!

Alpena on Michigan's sunrise shore

Harrisville State Park

Nearing the evening, it was time to find a campground.  I tried Negwegon State Park, but it was very remote and required reserving backcountry permits in advance.  What a long three mile drive through the woods on a sandy road for nothing!  Well, I did see a porcupine and managed to get a “butt shot”.  Ultimately, we landed at Harrisville State Park further south on Michigan’s Sunrise Shore. To be continued…ETB

porcupine in Michigan

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

5 thoughts on “Day 222 – The Scenic Sunrise Shore

  1. Your blog today brought back many fond memories. We went there a couple of different summers when I was barely a teenager. I remember it well. We, of course, did the horse drawn carriage (several times) and our carriage was drawn by a huge, chestnut horse named Ben. We stayed at the world famous Grand Hotel. Did you go see the hotel. The hotel later got additional publicity when the movie “Somewhere In Time” was filmed there.

    I really think Mackinac Island is charming. I’m so glad you went there!

    xos M

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