An Island Getaway That Takes You Back in Time

View of Mackinac Island's downtown

View of Mackinac Island’s downtown

There’s something to be said for the summer getaway to northern climes … and this must be my summer for it.

Maybe it was my imagination, but after I got used to the slight tang of horse manure, I preferred breathing the crisp, fresher air of Mackinac Island, MI, to the usual humidity and sludge so familiar to Washingtonians in August. Travel guides tended to tout the “frozen in time” aspect and the old fashioned way of getting around the Mackinac Island. (Think: no automobiles.) But to me, it was the quintessential upper Midwestness of the place that made it refreshing – quite literally.

Start with the weather: it was perfect. Sunny, 75 degrees and no humidity. There was a clear Midwestern openness on our drive from Pellston Airport to the ferry. Followed by the the sparkling blue waters of the lake, a lake that looked as big as an ocean. Everything in the physical environment seemed so different from the usual East Coast bustle.

Now consider the physical and psychological sense of getting away. First from the mainland to an island via ferry. Then to an island where everyone moved on foot, bicycle or a variation of a horse-drawn carriage … Add to that the slight disorientation of not really knowing how long travel time would take – after all, who could really tell how long it would take to bike or walk to a certain site on the island – and so even the concept of time became more elastic.

The Arch

The Arch

A great example: G and I rented bikes at our hotel and headed for the arch, a key point on the other side of the island. The general plan was to meet up with my parents and sister who were walking there. Well, naturally we got lost, biked around the interior of the island, found all sorts of interesting places (look, what a cute restaurant! look, the local airstrip! wow, a big hill, I need to downshift!) and ended up making it to the arch just as the walkers got there.  But along the way, we saw some beautiful scenery, biked by lovely houses and dodged other bikers and horses. If only some enterprising kids had set up a water and lemonade kiosk at the arch for the steady stream of walkers, bikers, horse-drawn tours …

But really, there was nothing to complain about. The entire trip was about getting away, enjoying fresh air and nature and immersing yourself in the quaintness of Mackinac Island. In other words, enjoying the Upper Midwestness of it all.

As we gear up for the Fall bustle in DC, what I’ll miss about our getaway is the remoteness of it all – and of course, the faint scent of fudge and horse.

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