Today on Museum Bites we’re continuing our ramble through Mackinac Island with a hike to Arch Rock. This tiny, car-free isle—just 3.8 square miles—is a wooded wonderland, boasting spectacular rock formations and breathtaking views.
Arch Rock is the island’s crown jewel, stretching 146 feet (almost 15 stories) above the eastern shoreline. Formed by receding glaciers over 4,000 years ago it was once a solid wall of limestone breccia but, the constant beating of Lake Huron’s waves gradually washed away its core. A craggy arch, resembling Star Trek’s Guardian of Forever, was left behind.
Arch enthusiasts can access the rock by horse-drawn carriage, bike or on foot. I’m embarrassed to admit I pedaled past Arch Rock on a previous trip to the island and missed it entirely. On this trip, I opted to take the 207-step wooden staircase to the summit. The steep climb through the lush woods was an excellent opportunity to savor the scenery and burn off some the island’s famous fudge.
When I finally dragged myself over step #207, I was eager to see the elusive Arch. Unfortunately, several loads of cheery and fresh-legged tourists had arrived and were vaulting out of their horse-drawn carriages. Hurrying to the observation point, they took turns snapping selfies with the Arch. I hung back, wanting to savor my first glimpse. Would it be worth the aches and pains I’d surely feel tomorrow? The hordes and horses eventually clip-clopped back to town and I took my turn at the guard rail.
Standing before this massive and ancient stone, high above the crystal clear waters of Lake Huron was nothing less than exhilarating. I will cherish the memory of this adventure for a long, long time.
Despite centuries of wind, waves, ice, and more recently, tourists, Arch Rock has withstood the test of time. Perhaps it is a Guardian of Forever.
Fun Ford Facts: Long ago, thrill seekers could venture out onto Arch Rock, and business-minded photographers were on hand to capture the moment. In 1929, 16-year-old Eagle Scout, Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) threw caution to the wind and scrabbled out onto the arch. A photo capturing the moment resides inside his presidential library. Considering Ford’s reputation for klutziness, this is an alarming bit of information. Today, a fence and KEEP OFF sign discourage this type of risky behavior.
Next week, I’ll share the gut-wrenching tale of Mackinac Island resident, Alexis St. Martin. Have a great week!