20 September 2016

The Most Charming Place on Earth: Mackinac Island

Our second day on Mackinac Island was filled with adventure from morning till night.

We started with a delicious homemade breakfast casserole and yogurt parfaits at our B&B. Then we hiked up Fort Hill to the Governor's Mansion. The view from the top of the hill is spectacular.
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My aunt was volunteering as a docent that morning and she gave us some history and a tour of the first floor of the mansion.
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The front porch of the mansion offered some not-too-shabby views as well.
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Since we had already made the walk up the hill, we continued on to another vantage point after the tour. Surrounded by tall trees in the quiet forest, we looked out on the bustling town below. 
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Anyone who goes to the island and sticks to biking along the shore is truly missing out. The 8-mile loop around the island is beautiful, but the greatest gems are only found by going up, up, up.
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My dad's family invented a term for lookouts. They are referred to as "Prime Perchin' Spots," or PPS's.
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PPS's always involve lic-o-ri-whips (licorice) and CAS's (caramel apple suckers). The Nash family is known for inventing unique terminology and Blake and Nash picked right up on all the phrases. My dad and his brother have such a unique, playful jargon that left us all laughing. Even if half the time we couldn't understand what they were saying. 
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We skipped the Fort Mackinac tour this time around but the boys were excited to hear the routine cannon blasts.


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Our water bottles had already run out by the time we made our way back down the hill, so my uncle suggested stopping for a quick sip from a random hose. I never considered drinking from hoses and "watering" trees would become frequent activities on our adventure, but such is life with boys!
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It was still mid-morning when we grabbed our bikes back in town, but it's never too early for Mackinac Island Moose Tracks ice cream.
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We needed to get fueled up for some bike riding out to Brown's Brook.
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Nash probably pedaled a ratio of 3:1 compared to us with his small wheels and he handled it like a champ. We logged 32 miles on our bikes in the three days we were on Mackinac and he impressed us all with his endurance.
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The wildflowers along the shore were as beautiful as ever.
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We pulled off the road for a break and the boys got distracted with rock balancing again. We learned that there is actually a term for those mounds of pebbles and stones; they're called cairns. Cairns are a relatively new trend on Mackinac and hundreds of towers can be found along the shoreline.
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What started as rock balancing ended as getting completely submerged in Lake Huron.
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It is always worth it to watch them jump into bodies of water fully clothed. Childhood is too short and it's refreshing to live in the moment without a care in the world.
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We eventually met up with the rest of our family at Brown's Brook. Four of my dad's eight siblings were on the island with us, along with several cousins. Brown's Brook is a little stream tucked in the woods that bubbles out to the lake. Our tradition in that spot is to rearrange the rocks to make the stream flow in a serpentine pattern. My brother used to spend hours there, carefully measuring and placing each rock.
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Blake and Nash gave up on rearranging the water flow and instead balanced on a tree stump that crossed the brook. Blake was so patient and helpful coaching Nash through the process. For brothers that usually fight like brothers do, I couldn't believe how absolutely kind, respectful and mature they were on this trip.
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We couldn't stay at sea level for long. We were itching to get back up to those million dollar views. After lunch, we biked up to Arch Rock.
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You can also walk up 207 stairs to get to Arch Rock, but then you don't have the joy of riding your bike downhill through the wind afterwards. Either way, the view is breathtaking.
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Arch Rock is usually filled with lots of tourists, so we headed to another PPS. My dad knows every back trail and unique lookout point that Mackinac has to offer. He guided us to what he lovingly named "Gary's Ledge." Last summer, he hauled a bench to that off-the-beaten-path location. We were happy to see it still standing since he anchored it to trees with bike locks. 
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My uncle is known for giving a lecture at Gary's Ledge. It goes something like this; "Don't you dare get close to that ledge or you will be very dead!" The boys were anticipating the lecture and quoting it before we even reached the destination. The drop-off is very steep and very beautiful. There's nothing like Lake Huron showing off its many shades.
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Visiting the Grand Hotel is always high on our priority list. The boys loved flying down the hill on their bikes and ending up at this famous landmark.
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Our water bottles ran out once again so we did what it took to hydrate. I had the boys change into swimsuits since the chances were high we would come across a water-related activity again.
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Nash couldn't resist jumping right in and giving me a nice cool-down.
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We played on the lawn for awhile which was surprisingly deserted.
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I had to stop and capture some scenes in town as we headed back to change for dinner.
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I was fascinated watching the sprinkler go off through the flag poles in a neighboring lawn.
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One of my aunts and uncle stayed at a different B&B than we did and the garden lining the fence was unreal.
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The boys couldn't wait to hit up the buffet for dinner again. Blake beat his pizza and ice cream eating record. We couldn't call it a night quite yet though. When the sun doesn't set until after 9pm, you soak up every ounce of daylight you have.

We set out on another "loopy" around the island and timed it so we could be on the west side for the sunset. But first, we had to stop and build more cairns. 
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I brought along a bluetooth speaker that we listed to as we accumulated bike mileage and the boys requested to listen to I Am the Doctor over and over. Nash had us all laughing with his dramatic dance moves.
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And what would a rock cairn building session be without another dip in the lake?
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It was short lived because we had to get to the other side of the island before the sun disappeared.
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We made it in the nick of time, for both the sunset and another round of swimming. I lost track of how many times the boys jumped into the lake.
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We only had one more day left to soak up the island and the boys were dreading our departure. I was right with them. Mackinac Island was pure magic.


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