Friday, May 10, 2013

where stamina meets serenity: Mackinac Island

I had no idea May is National Bike Month. Not until today when I was looking for another obscure ‘holiday’ on the calendar. What I did know, though, was my intention—our intention, if I may speak for Chris as well—to bike Mackinac Island this summer.

There are so many things to enjoy about living near the Great Lakes, but one of our favorites is in visiting this historical gem located in Lake Huron along the Straits of Mackinac, right between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas. The ferry ride alone is worth the trip, providing stunning views of the mainland and the Mackinac Bridge, and the cornucopia of summer scents as waves lap and freshwater breezes brush our cheeks on this half hour voyage. That boat ride is also our only motorized transportation related to the island, for motor vehicles are banned on the landmass that makes up this National Historic Landmark. 

Instead, visitors get by on foot, via horse drawn carriages, or on bicycle. When Chris and I visit—which we aim to do at least once per year—we walk. In the downtown area (where tempting tourist traps await), a casual stroll takes us into independent shops and eateries, through historic buildings and pristine gardens. Beyond the tourist town, though, an incredible 8-mile path follows the island perimeter and here walkers and cyclists share the road while taking in a bit of nature. This road is M-185, the only state highway in the US that does not allow a single motorized vehicle on its route. 

We have not yet walked the entire perimeter. Since the island is a seasonal destination, Chris and I usually end up on foot sometime between July and August when the sun is beating down upon us and, even with the shade of tree-lined paths, we wear ourselves out after just four or five hours of walking and climbing, diverting in and out of the off-shoot 'inland' paths. Every year we talk about taking our bikes along for the trip. Until now, we have not done so, but I am scheming. I am plotting. I am working myself up to the challenge.

Eight miles may not seem like a hefty bike ride. It’s not. Well, not when it’s on flat land, or accomplished on a stationary cycle. Yet the M-185 route is anything but smooth. This is a good thing. There are curves and hills and oncoming (and experienced) cyclist traffic to consider. There are little hidden dips into the woods and, of course, unchartered paths through the woods. So, an 8-mile perimeter can quickly turn into a 20-mile adventure.

In preparation for our planned biking trip, I have added to my daily routine an 8-mile bike ride and a 2-mile walk, minimum. While my neighborhood does not provide a like-for-like terrain to truly train for our plans, this stamina-building exercise should at least prepare me for a breathe-easy day of exploring historical landmarks and waterfront views.

And, at the end of the day, as we take our weary bodies back to town, we’ll relax and restore with a little book shopping, a pleasant meal of local whitefish, and the requisite fudge the island has become known for over the years.

Want to visit? Here are some useful links to help plan your trip:

  • Mackinac Island tourism bureau link
  • Mackinac trip planner on link
  • The Grand Hotel link
  • State Park info link
  • Mackinac Island Bike Shop (and rentals) link
  • Island bike routes and maps link  
  • The Best Up North dining guide link

No comments :

Post a Comment