Ladies and gentlefolk, thank you for coming to Mackinac Island!
Please step up on the carriage, careful now, there you go, have a seat.
Let’s start our tour, shall we?
First, let me introduce you to the horses pulling this carriage today.
Our first horse is Fudge. Say hello to Fudge, everyone!
The other fella up here is Biddle, named after one of our famous island houses, say hello to Biddle.
The third horse, to the right, yep, that one, is Don Juan. Don’t ask where some of these guys get their names. Someone has a sense of humor, don’t they?
Oh come on, Don Juan, don’t do that during introductions!
OK, folks, glad to see you on your carriage ride around Mackinac Island.
I’ll point out the sights as we go.
(Disclaimer, OK, OK, you newbies to Lake Superior Spirit, I am not REALLY a carriage driver on Mackinac Island. I’m a creative blogger living in the Upper Peninsula who enjoyed a carriage ride on the island during a visit last week. But it’s fun to pretend, isn’t it? Don’t you love to pretend?)
First, some general history.
Mackinac Island lies halfway between Michigan’s Lower and Upper Peninsulas. Yep, in Lake Huron, in the eastern end of the Straights of Mackinac. It is about eight miles in circumference and 3.8 total square miles. After our carriage ride, consider renting a bicycle and touring around. You will thoroughly enjoy!
They even rent bicycles built for two. You and your lovely partner will enjoy cycling together, yes you will, don’t hesitate!
You must rent bicycles, instead of cars, because motorized vehicles have been prohibited on the island since 1898, with the exception of snowmobiles in the winter, emergency and service vehicles.
Giddyup, Biddle! Giddyup, Fudge! Giddyup, Don Juan!
I would like to introduce myself to you. My name is Kathy and I am your carriage driver today. I work with these horses every summer, no, no one else drives them, they are my horses, c’mon Biddle, don’t worry folks, these horses love to take folks ’round the island.
The population of Mackinac Island grows considerably each summer, as you know. As many as 15,000 visitors can visit us in a single day–we appreciate all of you! In the winter, the population of the island declines to about 492 residents. (More than the population of Arvon Township in the western Upper Peninsula, where whence your driver hails.)
I’m sure you know that Mackinac Island was home to Native Americans before the European exploration in the 1700’s. Some folks even refer to this island as Turtle Island, because a turtle holds the land above water. OK, I know many of you may not believe you’re riding on the back of a turtle. That’s OK. The turtle doesn’t care if you believe. C’mon, Biddle, don’t dally! Let’s keep a’going!
You all know the ways you can reach the isle, don’t you? You can swim. OK, I know many of you aren’t up for the six-mile swim. Most of you rode a ferry or boat to reach here today. Perhaps some of you arrived by aircraft. I know none of you appeared via snowmobile–as current 75 degree temperatures do not create the ice necessary to form an ice bridge from the mainland of Michigan.
How many came across on Shepler’s Ferry Service? That’s the ferry I used to get to the island. Lots of mainlanders from St. Ignace and Mackinac City utilize the ships daily to work in restaurants, the fort built during the Revolutionary War, the shops. Did you enjoy your ferry ride? Safe and efficient, wasn’t it? Hey Fudge, c’mon, Buddy, keep a’going!
Where were we on our carriage tour? Ah yes. Eighty percent of the island consists of Mackinac Island State Park. An eight-mile road covers the island’s perimeter. That’s where you’ll go on your bicyle-built-for-two ride after we finish our carriage ride. You’re all up for an eight mile bike ride, aren’t you? You’ll remember this for the rest of your lives; don’t be hesitant!
Before you leave the island, be sure to buy some Fudge. We’re famous for our fudge. OK, we may call you “fudgies” after you’ve left, but that’s because you buy so darn much. We love you. We really do. Please buy fudge for Aunt Marge and Uncle Scott. Don’t eat it all on the ferry before you dock at St. Ignace or Mackinac City, no. You will get sick. One is meant to eat fudge slowly. Slowly. Make your fudge last until next summer when you return to us!
Shall we resume our history lesson?
Pre-historic fishing camps existed on the island. Archeologists have discovered fishhooks, pottery and other artifacts from at least AD 900 (700 years before European exploration, mind you!) It is a sacred place to the Anishinabe (Ojibway) natives who consider it to be the home of Gitchee Manitou, the Great Spirit. The natives say a Great Flood washed through the region, and Mackinac appeared first above the receding waters. They say the Great Hare created it.
(I do not know how to reconcile the Great Hare and the turtle stories. You decide. It’s either a turtle, a hare, or both. Personally, I vote for both. In my story the island is held up by the back of a turtle who has an agreement with a hare. Do not quote me. I am an innocent carriage driver who really has no clue.)
The first European to visit the turtle/hare island, you ask? He was Jean Nicolet, a 1634 French-Canadian explorer. Jesuits formed missions here in 1670 and the region soon became an import French fur trading center.
OK, I have to fast-forward past the Treaty of Ghent (Google it, history buffs!) to John Jacob Aster because we have, no kidding, a daughter living in Astoria, NYC. John J. Aster’s fur trading company was centered on Mackinac Island after the War of 1812 and made rich, I say rich, from beaver pelts.
Here is the rumor. Shhhh….don’t tell. One of John Jacob’s sons came to the isle and within a few months made himself filthy rich with pelts of wild animals. He sent so much money back to his papa living in NYC that MY daughter can now proudly proclaim that her burg in Astoria, Queens, shimmers in wealth created by Mackinac Island (and Upper Peninsula) fur pelts.
Go figure. It’s a small world. Giddyup, Biddle! Giddyup, Fudge! Giddyup, Don Juan! C’mon, you guys, we’re almost home.
OK, any questions from you riders?
No questions at all?
If you get home and want to review more Mackinac Island facts and history, please check out Wikipedia. Or check out MackinacIsland.org. Or Pure Michigan’s site about the island. Or maybe Mackinac.com. Or maybe you can subscribe to Bree’s Mackinac Island Blog, don’t you think?
We’re coming up on the Grand Hotel now! Three hundred eighty-five rooms and none are the same! If you don’t want to take that ferry back to the mainland of Michigan tonight, how about staying at the Grand or one of our other wonderful hotels?
You can enter the hotel and ooooh and ahhhh for the reasonable cost of $10! (Unless, like your tour guide, you come with a baby and four-year old about 25 years ago, and appear so bedraggled with exhausted children that they THINK you’re staying there and let you enter for FREE.)
Thank you for accompanying me on this carriage ride. You guys are the BEST! Please come again. Please enjoy the rest of your time on our island. It’s OK to pet the horses as you leave. Just make sure they see you first–don’t approach from behind.
It’s been my pleasure to serve you today. If you have any questions–well, if you have any factual questions–please contact Bree at her Mackinac Island blog. I am headed outa here, 4 1/2 hours west of this turtle island toward the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Goodbye Fudge, Goodbye Biddle! Goodbye, Don Juan! It’s been great knowing you.
(Dear readers, you should always allow yourself the opportunity of pretending to be something other than yourselves. It’s tons of fun! And now I know what it’s like being a carriage driver on Mackinac Island.)
I’ll leave you with more photos to remember our trip: