Travel Destinations PILOTMAG
The Gilded Age, Fudge and one Grand Hotel
by Steven W. Ells
Photos by Steven W. Ells
The Mackinac Island airport (MCG) runway is humped in the middle but that’s not unusual in a 3500 foot by 75 foot concrete runway. It’s quiet and pretty but that’s not unusual at a rural airport. I was busy tying down and securing the airplane when the clip clop sound of horse’s hooves pulled me away from my tasks. Our taxi--our horse-drawn taxi--had arrived. That’s when we knew—this is not going to be the usual fly- in adventure.
very pilot should add Mackinac Island to their fly-in bucket list—in ink! Why? Because it’s a time capsule of America’s Gilded Age mixed with a sprinkle or two of early U.S. history, seasoned with a mouthful of fudge, and topped off with picturesque views of the natural wonders of the upper Midwest.
When was the last time you visited a village where the hum-drum throbbing of our automobile age was absent? Where the sounds of bird song and wave lap accompanies the wind-blown rustling of tree leaves. Or settled into a rocking chair on a 660-foot long porch to rock away a few hours? Or ridden a bicycle around an island? Or had 15 fudge stores to choose from? Mackinac Island is a oneof-a-kind destination.
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The Grand Hotel According to Robert Tagatz, concierge at the Grand Hotel, there were over 1200 large wood-construction destination hotels in the country at the turn of the last century. America’s Industrial Age was booming. Better wages for working class citizens helped stoke the beginning of a middle class. This eager class of Americans took to the tracks and waterways as railroad and steamship companies expanded. In 1884 two railway companies and a steamship