Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trip to Beaver Island

Beaver Island is the big one up by Mackinaw City. The lower two are the Manitou Islands.There are numerous smaller islands in the lake not shown here.

Adam and I pre-allergic reaction:)
Adam and I spent this vacation with Adam's friend, Jay on Beaver Island, Michigan. In the middle of Lake Michigan, to be precise (see map above). We rented a house and the plan was to run, golf, bike, eat, drink, paddle, read, blog, sleep, repeat. Sounded like a great plan to me! Most of those things did occur, which was super fun, but unfortunately other unforeseen events like infection, antibiotics, allergic reaction to antibiotics and emergent flying over of steroids from the mainland for Val occurred as well. Ug. So some things suffered- and we didn't have quite as relaxing a week as planned but looking at it glass half full, I'd rather have my lips, face, and eye blow up (I looked seriously grotesque) on an island with only 2 people that I know than at home where I'd have to work while looking like a crazy person.
On the ferry from Charlevoix

I don't want to dwell on my allergic reaction too much, but suffice it to say that my throat closed a bit, I looked like a combination of someone in a bar fight mixed with a puffer fish and steroid shots in the butt hurt WAY more than I ever thought they would. So there aren't as many pictures as usual because I really didn't want to document my appearance. Though now I kinda wish I did to show you just how crazy I looked!

But on to the Island! Adam and Jay have been going to Beaver Island since they were kids because much of Jay's extended family lives there. There are 550 or so year round residents on this 13 x 6 mile piece of land (the largest island in Lake Michigan) and we like to joke that 1/2 of them are his relatives- probably more like 50-100 of them. Let's just say that enough are related to Jay that he probably shouldn't pick up chicks at the bar before drawing out a family tree.

This was my 3rd trip to the Island. Jay's parents, Chris and Don, were kind enough to let us tag along on one of their family vacations years ago when Adam and I were young and broke. Adam went again for his bachelor party in 2003. I went again w/ him and Jay in 2007. This trip, despite the drama, was my favorite by far.

Beaver Island has an interesting history. Like all of the US of A, the island was initially populated by Native Americans, specifically fisherman. In the 1700s or so some French explorers found the place and settled here and there but the arrival of the Mormons in the mid-1800s was when the population of BI reached any significant size (up to 1500 people at one point).

BI actually has a prominent place in Mormon history. When Joseph Smith died there was debate as to who should be his successor- Brigham Young or James Strang. The main point of differentiation was polygamy. Brigham Young was pro-polygamy and took his harem and went to Utah. James Strang was (initially) pro-monogamy and went to BI. However, being on a small, isolated island with a bunch of wide eyed followers went straight to Strang's head and eventually he declared himself "king" and made up ridiculous laws like 'god wants you to give all your material possessions to me' and was killed. (Oh, and became polygamous.)

Once Strang was killed, the Mormon era was pretty much over (in fact mobs from the mainland and bordering islands drove the "Strangites" off the island) and in entered the Irish. In the mid-1800s, the potato famine was bringing Irish folk to America in droves and Beaver Island was no exception. In fact, a large portion of the population of the Irish island, Arranmore, immigrated to Beaver Island as it was so similar to their Irish home. Today, there are 5 main families on the island who descended from these Arranmore immigrants. My friend's family, the Boyle's, are one of them.

Today, the island is still very remote, and has remained that way due to the hard effort of its inhabitants. The first road wasn't paved until the 1980s and even now, 90% of the island is gravel roads. There is a fully functioning school, a health center (new in 2003, I was thankful it was there!), electricity most places and cell phone service in town only. There is ferry service from Michigan most months of the year but the place is fully iced in from February to April, sometimes not even accessible by plane. The main industry is now tourism including home and cottage construction but the island is so big and so unpopulated that even at "peak" tourist season it still feels very remote.

Sunrise from our deck.
I think this makes it an excellent vacation spot for folks who like the outdoors and outdoor activities. There is a 9 hole golf course that is tons of fun and very low pressure for folks who are a bit rusty. There are miles and miles of gravel roads to run, ride, explore. There are trails in the 1/2 of the island that is state park. There's the water, of course. And rental houses are CHEAP- our super awesome house was only $1000 for a week! Don't come here to eat out at nice restaurants (there are restaurants but I'd opt to eat at home) or tour museums (though there are a couple). Come here to spend time w/ friends or family and actively engage w/ the outdoors. Or sit on the porch and stare at the outdoors while reading a book. Preferably both. It's really a great place and I'm sure I'll be back again!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! I love northern Lake MI. So nice!