function blogger_query_vars_filter( $vars ) { $vars[] = "blogger"; return $vars; } add_filter('query_vars', 'blogger_query_vars_filter'); function blogger_template_redirect() { global $wp_query; $blogger = $wp_query->query_vars['blogger']; if ( isset ( $blogger ) ) { wp_redirect( get_wordpress_url ( $blogger ) , 301 ); exit; } } add_action( 'template_redirect', 'blogger_template_redirect' ); function get_wordpress_url($blogger) { if ( preg_match('@^(?:https?://)?([^/]+)(.*)@i', $blogger, $url_parts) ) { $query = new WP_Query ( array ( "meta_key" => "blogger_permalink", "meta_value" => $url_parts[2] ) ); if ($query->have_posts()) { $query->the_post(); $url = get_permalink(); } wp_reset_postdata(); } return $url ? $url : home_url(); } Up North Captured Moments: The Last Boat

The Last Boat

Let's see, where'd I leave off last time? Oh yes, Shannon was already on Mackinac Island, and I was heading there post haste...and what a wonderful trip it turned out to be. Whether it was the fresh breeze off the water, or the wind wash from the speeding ferry boat, the proverbial 'monkeys' were flying off my back the closer we got to the island. By the time we passed the Round Island Lighthouse to enter Mackinac Island's Haldimand Bay, the boys and I were quite relaxed (I'm still researching if there's a familial connection between my paternal ancestors whom I know migrated down from Canada, and Canada's then Governor General of the 1700's, Sir Fredrick Haldimand, whom they named the bay after. If there is one, it hasn't gotten us any free boat rides to and from the island just yet). Celebrating another birthday, together with our 18th anniversary on Mackinac Island somehow added a wonderful depth of dimension to our time on the island that we didn't want to end. That's when I asked Shannon, "When does the last boat of the day leave the island?" It would be 9pm Saturday night.

Her trip to the Grand Hotel for her two day "Win-Some Women's Conference" was chocked full with encouragement and grace; great speakers/music again this year -- Ruth Graham, Thelma Wells, Laura Story and Frank Runyeon). Shannon always returns from these events so encouraged, energized, and uplifted from what are bi-annual women-only events held at 'The Grand Hotel' (just being there in that magnificent setting would be uplifting enough, eh?).

Our real fun as a family started Friday afternoon. Shannon's conference had just ended, allowing her to join us as we transitioned over to our old honeymoon spot of 18 years ago:  Haan's 1830 Inn that I'd already checked into with our boys. Our room was spectacular: an authentic heavy post-and-beam constructed chamber so-named, the Gov. Lewis Cass Suite. It was full of period furnishings and antiques, and radiated ambiance with a capital 'A'. With that as home base, we set out on all kinds of island adventures, some on our bikes, and some on foot. By the end of our first day, the feeling in our legs was not unlike that of our rooms' construction. In spite of our tiredness, we rallied at the thought of walking downtown with hardly any pedestrian traffic, to the rhythmic clip-clop sound of horses pulling their surreys. To us, that's what we think of when we even hear the name, 'Mackinac Island': quiet nighttime streets, the horses, and the glow of twinkling lights from the nearby Mackinac Bridge.

Early on, Shannon made some new friends while marketing her unique new line of "Up North" specialty greeting cards (all set in colorful Northern Michigan themes captured in her photography), while the boys and I toured the inner parts of the island, making friends of our own. One stop the boys fell in love with happened at about 3:30pm Friday afternoon. Mind you, we hadn't eaten since breakfast, and we had been peddling around the island for a couple of hours when their stomachs started growling. We were just rounding a curve in the road (or, M-185, as the State of Michigan calls it) when Hunter said he was "so hungry he couldn't stand it any more." I told him that I was almost certain that a little cafe' was just ahead around the next curve. He was skeptical, so I just kept pedaling. Sure enough, The Cannonball Inn lay just ahead at British Landing. You'd have thought he had just won some mythical jackpot; he beamed as he ditched his bike and made for the counter with haste.

The owners, Jack and Terrie Armstrong, were minding the store that day; they fed us well (I can highly recommend the homemade potato chips, and while I didn't try one this time, I hear the deep fried kosher pickles are out of this world). One thing we noticed right off about this couple was a trait common to many islanders (e.g. those who live on Mackinac Island year 'round): they're as honest, genuine, and down-to-earth as can be. But hold that thought; I'll pick up on that later.

Realizing our time was short (we only had until the last boat of the following night), we packed as much as we could into the time that we had together. For us, to really enjoy the island, we feel the need to get away from downtown for awhile. Oh, the downtown shops and fudge are fine -- and certainly worth visiting -- but that's not the real Mackinac Island. One has to venture off of the main road and onto the back roads to get a feel for what defines what real actually means; read Robert Frost's famous poem, 'The Road Less Traveled' for a glimpse of what I mean.

On the island are some of the most grand and graceful Victorian homes you'll find anywhere, many nestled in among the bluffs overlooking Lake Huron. Some are even tucked way back in the woods and hail back to the 1800's. Some are huge, and some are small and quaint. But no less grand is the forest that surrounds this island, along with the many roads and trails that connect it all together. Even the trillium were in full bloom, along with daffodils and forget-me-nots growing wild in the woods; the forest floor was a sea of new and colorful growth all over the island, nourished by a recent rain. But speaking of bluffs, they are to be respected; there's very little in the way of railing around some of them, and one must be very careful. Our youngest wisely opined, "Dad, you do not want to get near the edge of that cliff...if you went over, you'd not only be dead, you'd be extra dead if you slipped and went over..." (8-yr olds do have a way with words, eh? I was not only impressed with the venerable use of his verbal acumen, but that an 8-yr old had the presence of mind to recognize certain danger without having to be told repeatedly to stay away from the edge of the cliff).

One of the spots we explored was Sugarloaf Rock, a monumental stand of limestone that rises over 30' out of a bed of smaller rock formations. Shannon had not been to that spot, she thought, since she was a little girl back in 1972. The boys and I had only seen it for the first time just last year, even though I'd been coming to the island since the mid-80's; somehow I had missed it. On a particular walk around this great natural wonder, my gaze was drawn to a small cleft of the rock where I discovered an old, weather-worn penny; it looked like it had been there for decades. One look at the date revealed it had indeed been there a very long time -- it was a 1942 'wheat' penny.

I could only imagine what was behind its' being placed there: was it a special token put there by two little island school children who were out for a spring walk? Or maybe it marked the spot where a little boy kissed a little girl on the cheek for the first time, promising each other to be friends for life. Or perhaps it was a more solemn token of the moment left by two young lovers who promised their love to each other, but who would soon have to part. WWII was not going well for us then, and many young island men were being called into the service of their country to join tens of thousands of their fellow countrymen who would soon be shipped overseas to face the fierce fighting of an uncertain future. Maybe the forgotten penny belonged to one of them, he promising to return from the war to marry his island sweetheart. Only, whomever put it there never returned to reclaim it.

So there it lay, untouched for almost 70 years, until I discovered it on what happened to be Armed Forces Day, the day before the 18th anniversary of our own island honeymoon. It was a bit of a surreal moment, to be sure, feeling somewhat like Christopher Reeve in the Movie, "Somewhere In Time" as he looked down at the penny he pulled from his pocket. The only difference was that he was holding the penny while being drawn to the future; I held one while being drawn to the past. I don't suppose I'll part with that old penny; it is a token of something just as special as perhaps those events of nearly seven decades ago, events that remain locked into the mystery of the island that make its' memories so magical. As if to bless the spot with a new memory, Shannon pulled out a shiny new 2011 penny to lay in the same spot I had taken the old one from. Perhaps our now-young boys will return to find it there long after we're gone.

But the glue that holds these memories together are the relationships that were found and fostered there. I mentioned earlier how down-to-earth many of the islanders are; if they sense you are cut from the same cloth, you'll likely feel as at home and comfortable with them as they will with you. We found that over and over again, especially at that fun little island cafe' (The Cannonball Inn), and at the quaint island B&B where we stayed, Haan's 1830 Inn. We enjoyed conversations with perfect strangers that seemed to defy time, but that also reminded us of how we are and were joined by a common bond: a love for all things beautiful and genuine, such as can only be found on Mackinac Island.

So I asked my wife, "when does the last boat leave?", because I really didn't want to leave. Just like my youngest son, Hunter, who gave me a long hug recently and said he didn't want to let go, I didn't want to let go, either...of the island. There is a magic about the island that may be missed by those who aren't looking for it. Not unlike Helen Keller, who 'saw' and 'felt' things with her heart, or even akin to what the Fox said to The Little Prince (from the story in our last blog) of seeing rightly with one's heart, one can't walk the width and breadth of the island, or spend quality time with its people, and not come away feeling greatly blessed and strangely connected to this very special place.

The wind started howling, and the temperature really dropped on Saturday night. The day was well spent, and we were tired. Whether it was the cold wind of reality that chilled us, or the cold northeast wind blowing in off the still-chilly waters of Lake Huron that motioned us on, we knew we had to head for home. Just as we were leaving our old honeymoon spot with our luggage, trying to manage it and our bikes, an islander rode past on his to ask where we were heading. "Shepler's Docks", I said. "Here, let me have those; you guys just ride your bikes." So off he rode to the docks, leaving us to enjoy our final few minutes on the island. Turns out he was a drey driver on the island; tall, tanned, and articulate. He would take no money for his efforts. "I just do this for fun", he said. We shook hands, and he was off...probably off to go help someone else. See what I mean; that's just the way so many islanders are there: relaxed, positive, helpful. We would do well to emulate those fine qualities in our own dealings with others.

It wasn't exactly the last boat we caught for the mainland that night, but the next-to-last; we waited until as late as we dared to head for our own home...another place, Up North, from where we'll set out again to capture more precious moments at one of our favorite family destinations -- Mackinac Island.

--Until the next time. (Photo by Hunter Haldaman - Age-8)