Thursday, October 1

Roadschool Trip to Mackinac, Michigan

Just before crossing over to the Land of the Yoopers, Mackinac, Michigan has much to offer!  Join us as we step back in time to the War of 1812 and battle icebergs on a Coast Guard icebreaker...

Fort Michilimackinac
On a cold, sunny afternoon, we parked up under the Mackinaw Bridge and stepped back in time to the early 19th century at Fort Michilimackinac.  (Guess how long it took me to spell that correctly....)

If you like Colonial WilliamsburgJamestown, or any other re-enactment-based historic attraction, you'll fall in love with this little slice of northern Michigan history!  With sixteen historic buildings, representing different time periods, a few movies, crafts and hands-on exhibits, an active archaeological dig, and several demonstrations...this is a perfect field trip for a day of immersion learning!
First and foremost, this was a military outpost.  The time period that we visited was 1814, when the British controlled the region, and thus the British flag was flying above it.  Here, we got a demonstration of the cannon and musket-loading.

The entrance to the fort is also home to the section on Native American tribes of this area.  We were able to crawl inside a home, get hands-on with some of the tools, and see what a typical day was like for these peoples.
We learned a bit about the different jobs that were held at the fort, visiting a merchant and a tradesman.  Each man was also part of the militia.
Peeking into the barracks, we saw how an average soldier would live.  The men worked in shifts, sharing beds and living space.  We decided that the daily rations may not be enough to feed these teenage boys!
We played dress up (of course) and walked around some more, visiting with other re-enactors.  One thing we found interesting was the rowhouses...these were like the first apartments of the area!  Each family had two small rooms and a plot behind the home for a family garden.
Blacksmithing is a fairly new interest for the boys, and so they were quite interested in the different types of shot and tools that were made in the forge.
I found the root cellar far more would be really neat to have one of these at the house, and I'm trying to figure out whose arm needs twisting to get one!  This is the original root cellar, and was part of the archaeological dig that is ongoing at the site.
From the walkway, you can see far across the lake.  It was such a beautiful day, too!  The youngest was more interested, however, in the cannon and how far it could fire...

Unfortunately, we did not have the time required to take the ferry over to Mackinac Island and visit Fort Mackinac, but as I've always wanted to venture into that step-back-in-time, it's definitely on our future stops list!
Just hangin' around.....

USCGC Icebreaker Mackinaw
By the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan, where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan, you'll find the Coast Guard Icebreaker Mackinaw.  No matter when you tour, we recommend a jacket - even in the summer.  It is so windy aboard the ship that you'll want one!  We got a quick safety lesson, then a history lesson, before being led on a guided tour by some nice gentlemen who had previously served on this ship.  They were full of fun stories about each room!
Our son really enjoyed getting to spend time with the mechanical engineer who worked in the engine room of the ship for many years.  The guy spent about two hours fielding questions, showing diagrams, and demonstrating how different pieces work and how to troubleshoot them.
Looking at pictures of the Mackinaw in the winter, my only thoughts were 'oh heck no....'  Just...NO.  Props to our brave servicemen and women for tackling this kind of work!
While our beach-baby wasn't thrilled that the water was too cold to swim (maybe not for the Yoopers, but for us it was!), he still enjoyed getting to be by the water again...

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed the beautiful view of Lake Huron and fought off a horde of hungry birds who just wanted our pizza and breadsticks!

Can't get there?  Take a virtual trip to the Mighty Mac here!

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