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Drive-it-Yourself Carriage on Mackinac Island

Drive it Yourself Mackinac Carriage

After walking the 5-mile span of the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day, we got to sit down and relax on the ferry to Mackinac Island. This has become a family tradition for us, walking the bridge and visiting the island on Labor Day, with a stop at the Mackinaw Bakery in between. Not only is it a way for us to get from the opposite end of the bridge that we started on without having to turn around in the middle, but it also allows us to avoid the traffic that builds up while the bridge is closed for the annual walk. Even though it’s a holiday, the island is not too busy since most visitors start heading home on Labor Day.

Once we got off the ferry, we headed for Jack’s Livery Stables which advertises Drive it Yourself Carriages. My brother and sister-in-law are both into horses so we let them drive. Before we could get behind the horses, we picked out a route based on the amount of time we had (and how much we wanted to spend), and then they got a short lesson in driving. Before doing it, I assumed this was one of those things where the horses have a specific route they walk and you are just kind of along for the ride, but that really wasn’t the case. Our horse used to be the left horse on a team and he kept pulling to the left and when we corrected him, he went too far to the right! There were a few moments I thought we might go off the road.

This was a fun experience and one you can’t have very many places, but I would not recommend it to a first-time visitor. The traditional, large-group carriage tour gives you a lot more information about the history of the island and a better lay of the land. If you like horses, have been to the island before, and you’re looking for a way to see it differently, this is a fun way to do it and it is less work than riding a bike (you’ll notice that in our two years of walking the bridge, we haven’t decided to rent bikes after). If you are interested in trying it yourself, check out Jack’s Livery Stable!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Camping Straits State Park

Mackinac Bridge

For the Labor Day long weekend, we headed to one of our favorite campgrounds in Michigan, Straits State Park near St. Ignace. I got lucky and managed to score two waterfront sites for the holiday weekend since we had some family that was camping with us. Straits was the perfect home base since we were planning on walking the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. The campground is right next to the base of the bridge and even has a trail to the bridge walk for campers. From Straits, we also took day trips to Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw City, and Mackinac Island (more on those trips in upcoming weeks).

Mackinac Bridge at night from our campsite

The view of the bridge from our campsite

The first time we camped at Straits one of our neighbors walked up to us and told us that he thought we had one of the best views in all of Michigan State Parks and he is not wrong. Being able to see the Mackinac Bridge from the campfire at night is pretty special. The waterfront sites don’t have electricity, so in the past, it has limited them to just tents and popups, but with solar and battery technology, bigger rigs are utilizing them now, which makes them harder to get. It also makes the view from sites farther back in the campground not as good. I booked exactly 6 months in advance (on Fat Tuesday, to be exact) and I wasn’t able to get two sites next to each other, but the sites weren’t too far apart.

Even though it was a holiday weekend and the campground was full, it was a quiet, calm camping experience. We had the last site on the end which is actually very close to where the Bridge Walk starts in St. Ignace. We could hear the announcer and even the Lt. Governor giving his speech before the walk began as we were getting ready at our campsite. We had such a good time, we plan to do it again this year. I have my countdown going for when to book this year’s campsites. Maybe this year we will figure out a shortcut to get from the campground to the base of the bridge for the bridge walk!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Mackinac Bridge Walk

Walking the Mackinac Bridge

Every Labor Day, people flock to the Straits area to walk across the Western Hemisphere’s longest suspension bridge. The rest of the year, the only way to get across the bridge is in a car, so the Labor Day Bridge Walk is a big deal. The walk is a Michigan tradition dating back to 1958. Of course, it was canceled in 2020 so I was excited when they announced the walk would happen again in 2021!

The bridge is over 26,000 feet (almost 5 miles) long so it is recommended that people be in fairly good shape to make the trek. In the middle of the bridge, it is about 200 feet above the water, so the walk is not for those afraid of heights either. As this was my first bridge walk, I was surprised to see people of varying abilities making their way across. We also saw a lot of people who have clearly been doing this for years with Bridge Walk patches covering whole backs of some denim jackets.

Traffic is closed on the bridge for safety so walkers have the option to turn around at the halfway point or walk the whole way and find their own way back. In the past, busses have carried people back across the bridge, but due to COVID (and honestly, logistics), that was not an option this year. We chose to use the Mackinac Island ferries to get back to St. Ignace, by way of the island.

Fort Mackinac This was the first time my sister-in-law had been to Mackinac Island so we hit all the highlights. We took a carriage tour and explored the fort. Since we had just walked five-plus miles, we skipped the bike ride. But, we ended our little mini-adventure at our Mackinac favorite, The Pink Pony!

When it comes to Mackinac Island ferries, we have always been loyal to Star Line, but starting the bridge walk in St. Ignace, it would save a lot of steps to use Shepler’s ferry instead. Their Mackinaw City dock is right at the base of the bridge. Walking to Star Line added probably another mile to our walk that day. Did I forget that and already buy our ferry tickets through Star Line for next year during their Black Friday sale? Yes, I did. Maybe I will remember this tip for 2023.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Mackinac Bridge Pinterest Graphic

2021: Year in Review

Logan Pass

Glacier National Park in June

2021 goes down as one of our best travel years yet. Despite COVID and all the precautions that go along with it, we were still able to get out there and explore these United States. Yes, my passport has been gathering some dust (that’s the nature of traveling during a pandemic) but I was able to see some sites this year that I have been dreaming about for a long time!

This year started off with a bang, and by bang, I mean snow and a cold snap in Texas.  We tasted Texas wine and visited the home of a former president. Of course, the fun was only just beginning when our connecting flight got canceled and we were stuck in Orlando for two days! This whole ordeal still has me kind of nervous to fly. Not so nervous that I won’t do it, but nervous enough that I build in extra time and buy trip insurance before I get on a plane.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park

Of course, in 2021 we took the biggest trip of our lives spanning three weeks. We visited 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We saw Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier, places I have been dreaming about seeing for myself for a long time. It was a wonderful journey, but I hope I can say that it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I want to continue traveling like that and seeing all the places that make America beautiful!

Disney World 50th Anniversary

I don’t know if I can call the big trip the highlight of the year though, because I also got to be in the Magic Kingdom on October 1 for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. This has been a dream of mine for the last 10 years. It was a whirlwind trip where we had a hotel room we barely saw and got by mainly on caffeine. We also got to see Galaxy Edge in Disney Hollywood Studios. I know it’s not super new, but this was the first time I had seen it. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I have to say, it was so cool! I still have to recap it officially on the blog, so that is all I will say about it for now. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for the details!

Runaway Camper Setup

We took some weekend trips around Michigan in the spring and summer and spent some time in our new mini camper. We finally kayaked out to Turnip Rock and walked across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. We have some big plans for 2022 as well! I can’t wait!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our latest trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Flashback Friday: Mighty Mac

Wordless Wednesday: Boat & Bridge

Wordless Wednesday: Mackinac Past & Present

Mackinac: Past & Present

Wordless Wednesday: Mighty Mac

Mighty Mac

Wordless Wednesday: Bridge View from Lighthouse

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Chris Corner #12: The Tent Shot with the Mackinac Bridge

Tent at the Mackinac Bridge by Christopher Mowers on 500px.com

From the moment I knew we were going to stay at Straits State Park in St. Ignace, and that we would have a campsite right on the water, I knew that I wanted to take a photo of my illuminated tent with the Mackinac Bridge in the background. This post will walk through the process I took to come out with this image.

Planning:
I took the photo during late blue hour because I wanted a relatively even exposure between the lights on the bridge and the illuminated tent. I considered using my speedlight in the tent, and that may have yielded a better illumination, but in the end I decided to use a few LED flashlights, as I didn’t want to be obnoxious in the campsite with a flashing tent. I walked around the site to get the best composition, and then set up my tripod.

Shooting:
It would be very easy to get all of this (and more) in frame with a lens on the wider end of the spectrum. This was my first instinct; however, my first peek in the viewfinder reminded me of a very real issue: when shooting below approximately 50 mm, background objects appear increasingly smaller as compared to how they are viewed by the human eye. In other words, at 18mm, everything is in frame, but there is a huge tent and a tiny bridge. This is no good.

The solution to this problem is to go telephoto. Above 50mm or so, objects in the background appear larger than they do to the human eye, and the greater the focal length, the closer one will get to a point where background and foreground are nearly identical in perceived size.

The telephoto presents a second issue though, and that is that I could not back up far enough to get everything in frame. We have a technological solution to this though, and a relatively easy one to execute since I was on a tripod. I started on the left and took an exposure, then I panned until I had about 2/3 of the frame as new stuff and I took another exposure. I repeated this process until I had everything covered, with a decent amount on either side in case I had to crop due to my technique not being perfect.

My exposures were at f/11, ISO 400, for 30 seconds.

The Lightroom Editing:
The first step was to stitch everything together, which is easily accomplished in Lightroom. Then I cropped, and made simple exposure and contrast adjustments, as well as some color corrections.

The Photoshop Edit:
This was the time consuming bit of the edit. I’m just going to list everything that I did.

  • Using content aware fill, I removed the branding from the tent
  • Using luminosity masks, I did the following
    • Corrected some exposure issues in the bridge and water
    • Brushed noise reduction into the shadows
  • Using a high pass filter, cloned and emphasized texture in the tent
  • Using the camera raw filter, I added vignette and other minor finishing touches

 

So that’s how I got the shot. It’s not perfect, but I think it tells a great story and I learned a lot. I am confident that the next time I am in this kind of situation I can come out with something even better.

Date Taken:
June 26, 2016

Thank you for reading. You can see my best work on 500px and can also find pictures of the “trying my hardest to be good at this” type on Flickr or Pixoto.

Also, be sure to like the Go See Do Facebook Page, and follow Ashleigh on Instagram and Flickr! Check out our Gear page to see inside our camera bag!

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