Walking on Water: An Appreciation of Winter and Ice – Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

The trip to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore to witness an event that has been inaccessible since 2009 was planned pretty quick after the “ice caves” were deemed open to the public on January 17, 2014. This 1000+ mile round trip club event is the first of its kind for the South Bend Adventure Club, and was a lot of fun for the four members that ventured out into the cold of Northern Wisconsin.

We learned that the caves were nearly opened last year, however, during the last day of a two week wait for the ice to be frozen solid strong winds tore the ice apart and whisked it away.  These aren’t caves in the same sense that you’d find in Southern Indiana or Kentucky, but caves formed by water freezing upon rock formations along the National Lakeshore on the Wisconsin border of Lake Superior.

 The four adventurers managed to leave town a little early, enabling them to do a historic tour of the “Best Place” Pabst Blue Ribbon Historic Tour in downtown Milwaukee. We all agreed this is one of the best brewery tours we’d seen. It had more of a focus on the history and the “tour” guide was down to earth, friendly, and obviously enjoyed his work there. The focus is on historic preservation and the tour was fascinating.

 We then stayed at the home of an extended family member of the group where we had wonderful spaghetti for dinner and got a good nights rest – much needed as we needed to leave by five am for the drive north to the Apostle Islands (a five hour drive.) We arrived to a nearly full lot at Meyers Beach, put on our gear and hit the ice.

 What an amazing scene. It was a 1.3 mile trek to the first formations, and then we covered a mile or two on the lakeshore and the 1.3 mile trek back to the parking lot. There were people of all ages out on the ice, as well as a few furry dogs. The way the ice hung on the rock was gorgeous. The rock itself was impressive, and all the trees, and tree roots that survive, grow, and thrive despite the cold. There were nooks and crannies, passages, ice stalagmites and stalactites. The color in the ice itself changed from white, clear, red, rust, to purple and even gray. It was a chilling hike, but we were prepared with extra cold gear and crampons. After about 4 hours of hiking around on the ice we headed back to the car for our five hour drive back to central Wisconsin.

 On the way we stopped in Ashland, WI at Deepwater Grill & Brewery. The local beer was tasty as was the dinner. Two of us had a crazy ruben sandwich that consisted of typical ruben ingredients between two pumpernickel and swiss grilled cheese sandwiches.

 We spent another night with our wonderful hosts (who also cooked us a spectacular scrambled egg, toast and bacon breakfast,) before heading back to Indiana after a snow emergency had been declared for the area. Luckily, we left late enough to let the snow plows do their job and ran into minimal slow downs on the Indiana Toll Road.

 The trip couldn’t have gone better and was quite possibly a once in a lifetime experience for all of us. I doubt any of us could have found a better way to explore this area of the country at this time of year.    

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Photo Credits: Myles Robinson, Joshua Hickam, Paul & Lara Latshaw.

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