Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in pictures

What a year!

© Huffygirl 2013

View from the end of summer

Two trees frame an azure pool,

One beacon guides us safely home.

One tree kisses the glowing sky,

And one moon rises over wherever we roam.

This is the end of my “View from the…” Michigan vacation photo series. I’ll be back to blogging my usual mix of musing, rants, photos, and satire by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I hope you check out this amazing photo story by fellow Michigan blogger,  White Pine Photo, of his once-in-a-lifetime climb to the top of the Mackinac Bridge. The photos are glorious – my heart was racing as I scrolled through, with palms as sweaty as if I were up there in person. This trip to the top of the Mackinac Bridge is a great wind-up to a pure Michigan summer. Just click the link below, or visit White Pine Photo from my Blogroll.

Climbing the Mackinac Bridge (whitepinephoto.wordpress.com)

1. Mackinac Island, bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

2. Round Island Lighthouse, Mackinac Island.

3. Lone tree, Mackinac Island, Round Island in distance.

4. Moonrise over airport, Mackinac Island.


© Huffygirl 2012


View from the back: The Grand Hotel

A visit to the Grand Hotel would not be complete without a tour of the gardens. After walking through the public parts of the garden that anyone can see from the sidewalk, I took a stroll back into the woods at the garden’s edge and discovered what I had long suspected existed, but had been unable to find before: the secret geranium burial ground, the Grand Hotel private greenhouse.

Reserve geraniums, waiting to be called up to the majors.

After having little success myself keeping potted geraniums thriving for an entire summer, and wondering how the Grand Hotel gardeners managed to keep their geraniums so robust, I finally deduced that they must keep a secret greenhouse  supply of geraniums to replenish the sickly ones throughout the summer. Turns out I was right, although I guess the greenhouse is not all that secret, since I was able to stroll right in.

Grand Hotel carriage, from the back of course.

© Huffygirl 2012

View from the front: The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island is one of the most lovely Victorian buildings in Michigan, and boasts the world’s longest porch.  The graceful porch with its light blue ceilings and yards of red geraniums is an inspiring  and relaxing place to sit on summer day, with a great view of the gardens, other island buildings, and the Mackinac Bridge. Although there are many fetching flowers  surrounding the property, the red geranium is the theme flower of the Grand Hotel, and is featured prominently on the porch and in the decor of the building throughout.

The iconic red geranium.

Looking up from the gardens below, guest room balconies and the Cupola Bar.

Wizard chess anyone?

© Huffygirl 2012

View from the bottom: The crack in the island

Visitors to Mackinac Island who are willing to venture off the typical tourist path, can see an interesting and isolated treasure – a 15-foot or so fissure in the  ground, deep enough for small to average-sized adults to walk through, though sometimes its more like wiggling through sideways. Commonly called “the crack in the island”, this fissure is the result of years of water erosion on the soft limestone surface of the island.

To get to the crack in the island, bike up the longish hill that runs through the middle of the island, British Landing Road. When you reach the back side of the airport, turn right onto gravel State Road, go about a quarter-mile or so until you come to a small woodland trail marked “Cave of the woods and Crack in the Island.” Leave your bikes behind and hike another  quarter-mile past the cave and up a small knoll to the crack. I sent best husband in first to make sure there were no snakes, then we both took our turns walking through this geologic icon.

Just make sure you don’t step in that one really deep part…

(This post is dedicated to my geology-loving sister. Happy birthday Linda!)

View from the porch: Island vacation

Busy marina.

Sit back and relax with me on a lazy summer day on Mackinac Island, Michigan. I didn’t have to move to get these photos: I just watched as the world of Mackinac Island passed by my vantage point on the wide veranda of The Island House Hotel.

Departing ferry and Round Island Lighthouse.

New bride’s ride.

Porch railing flowers.

Taxi driver.

No rest for a busy harbor bee (look closely!)

© Huffygirl 2012

Night Riders: Cycling Mackinac Island after dark

On our last trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan, my husband and I decided to take our first-ever nighttime bike ride. Mackinac Island is a small island located between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, in the Straits of Mackinac. It’s a picturesque vacation spot filled with old-fashioned Victorian homes and hotels, historic sites, natural landmarks , and touristy kitsch. No motor vehicles are allowed and all travel on the island is by foot, bicycle or horses. Since there’s no car traffic to contend with, it’s a great place for a night-time bike ride.

Dave, rechecking our gear.

We ventured out about 9 PM on a Saturday night. The island was alive with night life – music swelled from the entrances of the bars and restaurants. The streets were full of visitors out for a late night stroll or a bite to eat. We donned out bike clothes and checked out lights and bikes for safety. We didn’t want to end up trying to change a tire in darkness or discover that our lights did not work halfway around the island.

Once we left the congested six blocks or so of the downtown area, we were in the wild. The waters of Lake Huron on our right, and the woods and cliffs of the island to our left. Other riders were out  too. Mostly the island residents and summer workers,who ride big old coaster bikes with fat tires and wire baskets on the handlebars. A few were tourists like us. We stood out with our cycling clothes, helmets and lights. The island regulars don’t bother with those niceties. Anyone who spends a summer on Mackinac Island gets to know that eight-mile trip around the Island like the back of their hand and doesn’t need lights to find their way.

Still a little daylight over Lake Huron; ferry-boat in the distance (© Huffygirl 2012)

There was still a little light in the sky when we started out, but by the time we’d ventured a few miles it was pretty dark. We met a couple who told us there would be fireworks in St. Ignace that night. We were taking our time biking, afraid to go too fast with only our little headlights lighting the way, so we figured we’d be to the north side of the island in time to see the fireworks.

Huffygirl, wearing white for safety, and the last glow of the sunset over Lake Michigan (© Huffygirl 2012)

By the time we reached the far side of the island, it was pitch dark. We could barely see the lights of St. Ignace, about five miles away on the coast of the upper peninsula. Soon the fireworks started and we stood arm in arm on the rocky beach, watching the free show. The five-mile distance made for an unusual show. We’d see the sky light up with the colorful explosion in silence, then heard the booms of the fireworks as each display fizzled out.

The lights of St. Ignace, barely visible.

Once the show was done, we headed back to town. Small animals scurried across the road in front of us from time to time, but without mishap. Our headlights made eerie shadows on the trees. When the rocky beach on our right turned to wooded shores, we were plunged into a totally dark path, our headlights almost useless. Maybe that’s why the island regulars don’t bother to use them. If we were riding at night at home we’d have to worry about hitting deer crossing the road, but not a problem here. Deer no longer populate this island. Our biggest worry was running into another rider, as most bikes did not have lights.

Once back in the glow of street lights of the town, we headed up the hill for a nighttime look at the Grand Hotel. The “host” who stands guard during the day to keep the unsightly bikers away from the front of the hotel, had finally retired. The steepish downhill ride back down to the main street seemed more exciting in the dark, but probably safer with the clutch of daytime tourists and horse-drawn cabs gone for the night.

The grandeur of the Grand Hotel in daylight (© Huffygirl 2012)

This summer we plan to be back. We’ll be night riders again, but this time not so wary. This time we’ll venture farther from the safe island perimeter, up the hills into the deeper, more deserted  parts of the island. And we’ll bring a better camera next time to capture more of the adventure.

The night riders. (© Huffygirl 2012)

© Huffygirl 2012

Read more about Mackinac Island from huffygirl.wordpress.com:

The world’s best club sandwich

I’ve just eaten one-quarter of the world’s best and most authentic club sandwich. My only wish is that I had taken the photo before I started to eat it, so everyone could see what the world’s best club sandwich should look like: a  glorious presentation  on a delicate floral china plate, with a crisp pickle spear, and crunchy chips heaped in the center. Really, this is how it should be, but nowadays seldom is. What most restaurants (and by most I mean the dominant American restaurants, the dreaded chain restaurants) pass off as a club sandwich is this: toasted bread, only two layers, thinly sliced deli turkey, bacon, greenhouse tomatoes, and, the worst insult ever, American cheese. No, no no. A club sandwich should be like this one: a triple-decker sandwich with  thick slabs of real white meat turkey, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, crisp green Romaine lettuce, bacon, and never, ever, ever, cheese.

So where did I find the world’s best club sandwich? I’m sitting in the waterfront dining area of The Carriage House, a charming Mackinac Island restaurant snuggled so close to the Hotel Iroquois that we almost didn’t find  it. We discovered it on a nighttime walk, snooped around the back, saw the waterfront seating area, and decided to come back during the daytime for lunch. Besides a great atmosphere and the world’s best club sandwich, we had a terrific view of the harbor, Victorian homes on the east bluff, and a pair  parasailing. What could be a better lunch than that?

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© Huffygirl 2011

It’s historical! More backroads views of Mackinac Island

Historic Fort Mackinac and Marquette Park

There are plenty of historical sites to see on Mackinac Island, some dating back to pre-American Revolution. I’ll let the Visitor’s Guide the you can purchase on the ferry ride or visitor’s center (for only $1.00) fill in the details.

Fort Mackinac sits on the main street and is easily visible to everyone coming in on the ferry. It has historic buildings, museums, cannon firings and interactive activities.

The back of Fort Mackinac, a great place to exit.

To get to some of the out of the way historic sites, you’ll need to get to the higher interior parts of the island. An easy way to do that is to take the Fort Mackinac tour, exit at the back of the fort, and you’ll already be at the top of hill behind the fort. From there it’s a fairly short bike ride, then a short uphill climb via road or stairs to the site of Fort Holmes, the highest part of the island. There nothing left of the original fort, and very little left of the replica fort, but it’s a fun place to see with great view in all directions, and of course, a historical marker.

Historic Fort Mackinac Cemetery

On your way to Fort Holmes, stop at any of the three historic cemeteries, some with graves dating back to the 1820’s. At Fort Holmes, you’ll be quite close to Sugar Loaf rock, so it’s a good idea to stop there too unless you want to climb the steep hill into the interior again at another time.

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© Huffygirl 2011