Making the Rounds
Washington Island Travel Blog› entry 15 of 28 › view all entries
When I had asked the clerk at a nearby gift shop for the best way into town center, three miles distant, she offered a ride there. She was typical of the 'Islanders' who tend to be friendly, helpful, and generous and was one of about 700 year round residents. Though Potawatomi Indians had inhabited the area since 1635, most of the immigrants who settled Washington Island in 1850 were of Scandinavian descent and primarily from Iceland. Even today, the island remains one of the oldest Icelandic communities in the United States and one of the largest outside Iceland itself.
I made the rounds after a beer and a bite to eat at the Granary [See review].
Not usually superstitious - and primarily a beer drinker - I reasoned that taking advantage of any advise, suggestions, or tradition that the island had to offer would ensure a safe crossing of Death's Door. I reckoned renewing my Bitters Club membership at Nelsen's Hall was called for [See review]. The shot of Angostura Bitters reminded me of the genuine homemade schnapps that is common in the local restaurants of Germany. Its chalky, almost-medicinal taste, burned away a deepened fear and built my confidence for the crossing. Sarah the bartender signed, dated, imprinted a thumb print from the remnants of my glass, then handed me a new Bitters Club membership card.
The Uptown was the next stop along the main road. The small and quiet U-shaped bar has been a favored stop for mingling with the friendly locals. They often converge there to discus the day's events, exchange gossip, or shoot pool in the adjacent game room. A grill offers late-night snacks.
A fourth nightlife attraction on the main road is Karly's, another popular hangout for locals. But the small bar had no vacant stools so I walked back to the Granary. The band had started playing and the place livened with chatter, cheer, dance, and laughter to launch the Labor Day weekend. After a couple of beers, midnight approached and I began the long walk back to Detroit Harbor. The road was unlit and the night pitch black. I found my way by the starry sky visible overhead where trees had been cleared for the winding blacktop road. Had I paddled the shoreline into West Harbor, I could have gotten a room or camped there, about a mile away instead of three. Regardless, Washington Island is one of my favorite places in the entire country and, I think, one of America's best kept secrets. Check it out … but don't tell anyone.