Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Lake Michigan Road Trip // Mackinac Island Part 1

After a most excellent time at the Bear Ranch, we headed towards St. Ignace, where we intended to stay another night in the van. We planned on taking a ferry over the next morning (my birthday!), however on the ride down, my cold seemed to take a turn for the worse and became a full blown fever. Rather than spend another uncomfortable night in the van, we decided to head right over to the island. I am so glad we did! Having almost another full day, albeit a sick one, on beautiful Mackinac Island was amazing. This place was just so lovely, and we were blessed with amazing weather the entire time.

This is the first part of three of Mackinac Island posts. One will be solely devoted to my stay at the Grand Hotel!
This is where we made our last minute reservations - Harbor View Inn. It was quaint and pretty, nothing too grand, but it was so so SO amazing to sleep in a nice clean bed, especially because I was so sick. On the way back there from town I bought a bag of epsom salt from the market and took a long relaxing bath before going to bed. It was heavenly!
There are no cars on the island, so there are lots of bikes and horses. There are horses pulling pretty carriages, and horses pulling delivery trucks. They're all so handsome, even the garbage cart horses, haha. The most popular way to get around was by bicycle. Look how pretty this one is!
 The harbor that was the view from our Harbor View Inn.
After having dinner at the Pink Pony, we walked around a bit before heading back to the Inn. On our way we came across possibly the happiest seagull I've ever seen. He had this whole waffle cone to himself! It was so cute to watch him carry it around between bites. 
The next day was my birthday! We packed up, had our luggage delivered to the Grand Hotel, and made our way to Cindy's Riding Stable. This was what I was looking forward to the whole time - horseback riding! We rented two horses for a couple of hours. The guides set us on our way on the trails, and then left us alone.
This is the best way to see the world - through the ears of a horse. My stubborn boy was called Sundance. 

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Lake Michigan Road Trip // Oswald's Bear Ranch

It was totally by chance that I found out about Oswald's Bear Ranch - I had popped into my local hardware store to quickly buy something for the van, and whilst examining my options I heard a commercial on the radio saying something about "baby bears," and "Upper Michigan," (They had me at "baby bears.") Right away I entered the name into my maps app on my phone and saw that this so called Bear Ranch wasn't going to be that far away from where I was travelling. So that was it. It became part of our plans.

After a hellish night in the van, we were excited to get on the road again. We drove for about an hour, stopping along the way at a pretty lake for photos, and then made it to Oswald's. I can't even begin to describe how awesome this place was. Very redneck, but very awesome. 

There were several large "habitats" for the bears (between a half mile and a quarter mile perimeter each), and we were able to walk around each one. The habitats were surrounded by two layers of tall chain link fence, which unfortunately made taking great close up photos impossible. However, many of the bears wait near the fence for visitors to throw them apples, so I was, like, three feet away from a bear at one point! It was incredible to be able to see such beautiful animals that close! I never really thought twice about bears as far as animals go, but seeing them up close and watching their antics has taken me to a Dwight Schrute level of bear fanatic. You guys, they are so damn cute. 

The ranch did have elevated towers where we could have an unobstructed view of the bears, so that made it easier to take some photos. Sadly, on the day we visited none of the bears felt like hanging out around near the towers, so there aren't very many good photos, but I'll share the best ones!

We tossed apple pieces over the fence and the bears would lumber over to them and chomp away. One of the bears walked over to one, abruptly sat down right on his bear butt, took the apple in his paws, and ate it. If there ever was a time to say I CAN'T EVEN, this was it. I literally started crying, that's how cute it was. The habitat with the male bears was probably my favorite, because they seemed to have the most personality. My faaavorite bear was a big black bear. He sat on his butt (ok, I thought only animated cartoon bears did this, but they really do sit up on their rears like that!) and watched us. He had a cream colored heart on his chest. It was the most adorable thing ever. (You can see this bear here on the Bear Ranch Gallery, I wish I could have gotten a better photo myself!)

Ok, one more thing. You had the option of paying a little more if you wanted to get your photo taken with a bear cub. So, duh, I had my picture taken with a bear cub. (The pictures the employee took aren't the best, but that's what you get when someone else handles your camera. I picked out the best one and added it to the post, because, again, I pet a baby bear and it was amazing.) His name was Brooks, and he was eating Fruit Loops. I held his paw and got to pet him, IT WAS THE BEST THING EVER. Seriously, I pet a baby bear, and it's the first thing I tell people when they ask about my trip. I can't even really get over it.

I am just itching to go back to this place. They're closed for the season now, but will be opening up in May. I already have plans to go back and pet the new cubs in the spring. Can't wait!
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