Secrets of the Island
Mackinac Island is one of my favorite places on earth. I’ve worked in 13 countries and traveled to a couple dozen more, many spectacular; but, still, that speck in Lake Huron in Michigan, U.S.A., remains one of my favorite places to visit. A native Michigander, I’ve been going there since I was a kid.
The only way to get there is by ferry. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island, except emergency vehicles. Therefore, if you want to get around you walk, ride a bike, ride a horse, or hire a carriage. It’s like stepping back a hundred and fifty years in time.
The small Victorian-era village is charming as all get-out. American flags dot the landscape. There are many Queen Anne, Gothic, Revival, Shingle, and other styles of “cottages,” which range in size from small to huge. Quaint inns, B&Bs, churches, and shops abound. The Grand Hotel, with the longest veranda in the country, is king of the hill. With its panoramic views of Lakes Huron and Michigan, it attracts visitors from around the globe.
The popular 1980 timeslip movie Somewhere in Time, starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, was filmed at the Grand and still has a large following. If you’re a fan of the movie like I am, every time you step into that hotel you’ll be struck by the emotional story of two lovers from different centuries.
The history of the island is fascinating, as well. Native Americans were there first, of course, with evidence of semi-nomadic people as early as 1000 B.C. Anishnaabek tribes inhabited the area when French fur traders arrived in the 1600s. French missionaries followed, trying to save the souls of the native peoples and the rowdy fur traders. An assortment of scallywags showed up, too. In 1761, after the French and Indian War, the British took over Fort Michilimackinac, which the French had built on the mainland. In 1779 the British and civilians moved the fort to the island. After winning the Revolutionary War, the United States took over the island and the fort in 1796. But in 1812 the British captured the fort.
Rumor has it most of the American soldiers escaped to the mainland, with wives and children left behind at the fort. A few years later, 1815, when the American soldiers finally were able to take back the fort, not all the wives were happy. One or two liked the Brits better than their American husbands.
What all of the means is that the fort was orginally French, then British, then American, then Brithish, then American again. Whew. Think of how that impacted the native peoples.
Finally, that part of North America officially belonged to the U.S.A. and the rest is history. The fort still stands, with reenactments throughout the summer. Well, not of the unhappy wives, but of the soldiers.
It’s an 8.2-mile journey around the island, an easy bike ride, as it’s mostly flat along the shoreline. You can also ride through the hilly inland part of the island if you’re fit for a hefty trek. There are caves, cemeteries, rock formations, and other things to see along the way. It’s tradition to build a cairn out of rocks on the shorline, so make sure you leave yours behind. A cairn is stacked rocks that tell the world you were there. Weather knocks them down, so you have to come back to build anew.
A cairn is on the cover of my new romantic suspense novel, Secrets of the Island. You guessed it: the story takes place on Mackinac Island. I’m thrilled to have finally written a book about this fascinating place. It’s 1943 and a Red Cross nurse sequesters herself in her grandfather’s cottage to escape the ravages of what she experienced in the war. However, one family secret after another emerges to remind her that she’s not the only one with secrets to bear.
Here’s my invitation to you: go to Mackinac Island. Visit the Island Bookstore and get Secrets of the Island. Find a nice seat on a porch facing the lake and have a refreshment at hand as you read. If you can’t go in person, let the book take you away as you slip back in time.
This story will make you wonder: what secrets are buried in your family tree?