Tuesday, August 20th
The kids, well, the adults too, we're very much looking forward to Tuesday's plan to visit the island. We didn't have a set departure time but the general consensus was that we'd get up and get out the door as soon as possible in the morning. After a quick breakfast we loaded the cars up and headed to the very end of the strip in town to board Shepler's Ferry.
Our timing happened to be perfect. We got into the parking lot, grabbed our tickets, and just as we turned around the ferry was arriving from the island and it was time to line up to board. We also happened to get on a ferry that took us for a little tour under the bridge instead of heading straight to the island (it's my understanding that not all of the boats do this, but I might be wrong), this could not have made my bridge adoring boys any happier.
As Mackinac Island came into our sights the enthusiastic chattering began from little voices. What is that, Mom? Is this the i-yand? Where are the horses?
One of the things that makes Mackinac Island so special is that there are no cars allowed; transportation consists of: by foot, by bike, by horse, or by carriage. The moment you stepped out of the ferry landing and into the street the clip clop of hooves echoed in your ears - it's almost as if you have stepped off the boat and instantly stepped back in time.
We had already purchased our carriage tour tickets (bought them as a package deal with our ferry tickets - I recommend this) and so we decided to make our way down to the carriage stand where you trade your tickets in for a departure time. The morning lines had already started and we ended up having about a 40 minute wait before we could board our carriage. Knowing the kids had just sat through the boat ride we figured they should run off some energy before having to sit again; so we took them to this beautiful grassy park that sits at the base of Fort Mackinac.
Em and I watched the kids as they ran and ran and ran; up to that little white bench nestled in the trees, while the guys went out in search of some food. They ran up and back and they raced and raced. Keaton came back on one round and told us, "you should see the view from up there!" Em took a trip up with Lily and came back to say "he's right, you really should see the view from up there." Just as their little legs were getting tired Collin and Drew showed up with hot dogs, mozzarella sticks, and bottles of water. It's probably a good thing we had time to run and eat because the kids gobbled that food up faster than I imagined. And it was perfect timing; as we arrived back to the carriage tour stand our departure time was being called.
The first leg of the tour takes you through town to see things like the courthouse and police station...
beautiful gardens and residences...
and the Grand Hotel, all while explaining the history and significance of each building.
Our first tour driver was....just okay...we were sitting in the back and had a hard time hearing everything he was saying - although Drew seemed to be the first to answer all of his questions so maybe we really just need to have our ears checked, who knows!
After climbing a little hill and stopping to have an official picture taken of our carriage tour, we departed the carriage at the Surrey Hills Carriage Museum and Wings of Mackinac Butterfly Conservatory. We were able to spend as much time here as we wanted before boarding a new carriage to continue the tour. That was good because the kids were already in need of another snack. Freshly made donuts and another hot dog later (this hot dog was mediocre after tasting the morning's dog, fyi) and we strolled down to the conservatory.
As many of you know, butterflies have been on our heart this summer so this chance to see them up close was not only exciting for the boys but special to Collin and I as well.
The conservatory was a little room with a stone pathway lined on both sides with the most gorgeous flowers. There were so many butterflies in such a small area that you really had to watch where you were walking as those little buggers liked to land anywhere and everywhere.
On our way out there was this adorable fairy garden, a fairy garden is on my list of things to make with the kids and so I thought it would be fun to take a picture of the big boys with it.
Except, do you know how easy it is to take a nice picture of these boys? Answer: not very.
The photo attempt outside was a little better.
As Collin and I were frantically waving our hands, "guys! guys! look here! look here, guys!" a nice lady was standing by watching and when we were done she offered to take a family picture for us. Of course, we had to fish Hutton out of the bushes first because two seconds after that last photo was taken he was off.
After the conservatory we checked out the old carriage museum and then got back in line to board our second carriage of the day. This portion of the tour wound it's way through the forest, past an old cemetery, and by the avenue of flags. This was probably my favorite part of the tour. Although there weren't as many sights to see and Nolan had a very difficult time sitting still, it was breezy and cool in the forest, our guide was excellent, and the sound of the horses moving along the path was so peaceful; so peaceful in fact that Lily was lulled to sleep almost instantly.
There was a brief, 5-7 minute, stop at Arch Rock in the middle of this ride.
The views from up here were stunning, albeit a little terrifying for this 'afraid of heights' mama.
After a final call for the passengers of our carriage we headed a little further down the road, which was leading us back into town, to the final stop of the tour - Fort Mackinac. Collin and the boys and I were the only people to depart our carriage to tour the Fort (Em and Drew, with a still-sleeping Lily, and the rest of the crew headed back into town).
It was getting to be later in the afternoon, and with no formal lunch having been had it was hot and we were all getting tired, so we moved through the Fort rather quickly, but not without checking out a few of the buildings and some beautiful views.
The various bunkers were probably the highlight of the Fort - the boys loved looking out the holes, the same holes the soldiers would use to prop their guns to watch for the enemy coming near.
The canon was also a hit. Although we didn't get to see one being fired here, we did hear it.
The Fort has one building dedicated to children play - which the boys loved. As tired as they were they sat behind props and dressed up as soldiers.
The main reason the boys held out so long is because they were hoping the fort would have the thing they had traveled all of this way in hopes of finding: raccoon hats.
Unfortunately we scoured the gift store to no avail. Without a raccoon hat to be had Keaton was done and ready to head out - no other souvenirs for him, please. Meanwhile, Hutton had found a basket full of forest animals and even after Collin's talk with him (again) about spending his money he declared he "yoved" this skunk and had to have it. And Nolan, who had not yet shown an interest in any souvenirs, snapped up a wooden snake and marched right up to the counter with it.
One skunk and one snake later, we found the entrance/exit and made our way back down the big steep hill and into town.
We met Em and Drew and the girls at the bottom, oh!, and look! there they are in the picture - I don't think we had even spotted them yet...
...and because the boys were still raccoon hat-less we made out way down the city streets in search of the Trading Post. Unfortunately, we were heading the wrong direction. Fortunately, it gave us more time to take in these views.
We did finally find the trading post and the boys, very happily, finally found their raccoon hats. On the walk back to the dock Nolan fell asleep in Collin's arms and at the end of a long day we waited in line for our boat to take us home.
The island was definitely a highlight of the trip; Collin and I agree we'd like to go back when the kids are a little older with the plan of biking around it and maybe staying a day or two on it.
With some exhausted kids in tow, we made it home in time for dinner and bed. The sunset on Tuesday night was incredible, Em and I both commented on it, but unfortunately we forgot to grab our cameras until it was already down.
That night the four of us sat around the table, drinking a little too much (again!) (I could have sworn this second helping happened later in the week, but my texts tell me otherwise!), and talking about our dreams. Not dreams of the nocturnal variety, but dreams of the life variety. And if anything can keep Em and I up talking, it's our dreams. It was 4:00 a.m. before our heads finally found their way to the pillows.