Our final day in northern Michigan began with more rain and dashed our hopes of being able to visit Mackinac Island. Instead we drove down the coast of Lake Michigan from Cross Village to Charlevoix. The beginning of the drive was along a very narrow two-lane road (in fact, we had to check to see if there were signs facing the opposite way to determine that it was indeed a two-lane road) through “The Tunnel of Trees”. Thick strands of trees lined both sides of the road, blocking any but quick glimpses of the lake. Once we emerged from the trees we passed numerous houses and cabins, most of which seemed to have “For Sal”e signs in their yards. Some of the houses were small, nondescript cabins and others, especially as we continued south, were large, log homes.
Our drive continued through several very cute, upscale lakeside towns with gorgeous Victorian houses and quaint downtown areas: Harbor Springs, Bay View, Petoskey (where Ernest Hemingway spent 20 summers), and Charlevoix. The town of Bay View, with its many Florida license tags and grey-haired residents, was inhabited by a very obvious group of snowbirds (most likely of the Naples variety).
By the end of the day we were back in Mackinaw City. The rain had cleared and we actually had sunshine and blue skies! Mackinaw City looked completely different all lit up by the sun. We wonder around town and learned a little bit about the history of the area from the many plaques that graced the walkways. The city’s beginnings can be traced to the 1630s when the first Frenchman came to the area to make peace with the Indians. But it was not until 1712 that the French established Fort Michilimackinaw as a fur trading post. The Fort changed hands to the British after the French and Indian War and the British abandoned it in 1781 during the Revolutionary War in order to establish another fort on Mackinaw Island. Today, archaeological digs, which have been ongoing since 1959, continue to unearth artifacts from early French occupation.
Mackinaw City was established in 1857 and the city thrived with the arrival of the railroad. The lumber industry dominated Northern Michigan for 50 years (from 1837 – 1887) after which the forests had been completely cleared of trees. Other industries in the area included fishing (perch, trout and whitefish) and milling. Today, fudge sales, ferry service to Mackinac Island, and museums depicting early French history, lighthouses, and ice breaker boats all serve to make this little city a great stop in the summertime.