Apostle Islands Ice Caves, near Cornucopia, WI

Well, last weekend I was able to check something off my bucket list that wasn't  even on my bucket list.

It all started a few weeks back when I heard the phrase "ice caves" mentioned by a few co-workers and Northwoods folks. I had no idea what they were talking about, kind of like a lot of things "up here", so after some prodding and internet research (largely from HERE), I found out it was this:

Ice CavesThe caves' beauty varies dramatically with the season. In summer the red sandstone is sandwiched between sapphire blue lake and emerald green forests that grow right up to the brink of the cliffs. Large waves generate plumes of spray and thunderous explosions as they surge into the sea caves. While visitors must enjoy these scenes from a distance, such is not the case when the lake is tranquil. Under calm conditions, kayakers can explore the caves' deepest recesses while listening to the murmur of water against rock.
By February, an ice bridge might connect Sand Island to the mainland. The lake surface is usually a frozen white expanse. Lake shore cliffs form a crimson red border to this arctic landscape. Pillars of ice extend to the cliff tops where waterfalls have hardened in place. Frozen lake water encrusts the base of the cliffs. Inside the caves awaits a fairyland of needle like icicles. The formations change from chamber to chamber and from day to day.
I had no idea, and color me interested. I like finding things in this great northern forest that will allow me to put another "feather in my cap", so to speak. I felt like a solo trip to this icy escapade would be a fine feather to add. And too add some fire, to the ice?, this phenomenon hasn't occurred in 5 years up here (Global Climate Change?), so you gotta get while the gettin's good.
It took some planning and packing, plenty of white-knuckle driving on snowy roads to Duluth, my overnight stop, and then up to Cornucopia, but it worked out well. I also stumbled on the shuttle service that only runs the weekend I had chosen to go up. Now understand, you have to walk from your car to the shoreline, then a mile to the ice caves, then 2-3 miles of caves, then all the way back to shore, then back to your car. So, if I could get a ride back and forth from my car, why not? City folks ain't that dumb.
Enough words, here's some pics:
It's a funny sight to see the largest of the Great Lakes frozen over... this is a bay, but still

"Does anyone see Timmy?!"

"Lady, move your poles!"

They have an abundance of red ice from the iron ore in the area. They also had regular ice and blue ice

Way on the right... blue ice

A duck's quack does not echo... wish I had one here

Finally, some icicles people couldn't reach and tear down... seriously, people!!!
I pretty much thought I would know what to expect before getting there, but the sheer size of the area, long walk, and massive crowds were way more than I expected. I talked to a gristled local at the general store as I started the day and he mentioned that 11,000 people daily were visiting the caves in an area that's really just "in business" during the nicest summer months. And I don't feel like I'm in much shape anymore, but there were all kinds of folks on the ice... trudging along in snowsuits and looking like ripe tomatoes stuck in GoreTex. I only heard of one person that day with a medical issue, but that can't have been the only one.
You can get a sense of how big some of the sea caves are in summer... would be fun to paddle out and see them filled with non-frozen water. (oh, I was able to tag-along with a co-worker and his family for most of the walk and they're in this pic. He's in green, his wife and daughter in red and pink)

This thing looks harmless, until you realize it's about 5 stories tall... and eats trees


Victoria said...

wow!! neat time,experience and pictures!

Jes said...

That is so cool! I'm adding that to my bucket list.


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