Every fall, we head to Mackinac Island for a long weekend with the family.

We love the island in the summer, of course. It is, after all, thanks largely to the marketing efforts of the verable and elegant Grand Hotel, known as America’s Summer Place.

But a week or so before it shuts down for the season – usually the last weekend of October – we try to make an extended visit. The summer crowds are not so large, the trees are ablaze with color and, for the Wendland family at least, a visit to the island has become an annual pilgrimage.

There are no motor vehicles allowed. The RV is usually parked in the ferry boat lots over in Mackinaw City. We walk and ride bikes and take our chances with the weather. Some years, it’s sunny and in the mid seventies. Other times – like this year – it’s a bit more challenging.

This year, we had temperatures in the 40’s with blustery winds, a bit of sunshine and, because of the high water levels, some flooding of highway M-185, the 8/3 mile shore road used by cyclists, hikers, runners and horse drawn-carriages.

The weather is part of the experience and it certainly didn’t stop us…. as you can see in this video.

The island IS open in the winter, though in years when when the Straits of Mackinaw freeze over and the ferry boats shut down, you need to either fly in on a single engine airplane from St. Ignace (just over the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula), or take the snowmobile trail on the ice marked by Christmas trees between the island and St. Ignace.

Snowmobiles are allowed on the island in the winter and one hotel and one restaurant is open. The uidge shops, alas, are closed in the winter.