Okay, all you friends of mine who keep posting your tan beach vacation pix on Facebook…..
The sea caves on the western shore of Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin, have
been forming over thousands of years as the action of the water carved out vast caverns in the sandstone cliffs. They’re typically reachable only in summer by boat or kayak. The caves are remarkable enough in the summer, but in winter they’re frosted with thick icicles, hoar frost and fanciful ice formations. Problem is, you can’t usually see them. Right now, for the first time five years, due to the consistently frigid weather, the ice is sufficiently thick for frozen nature lovers to make the trek out to the caves. The Great Lakes in the last week reached its broadest ice coverage in 20 years at 88 percent, with Lake Superior at about 95 percent.
To some people, going to ice covered sea caves on Lake Superior must seem like a trip to Siberia. But this year, the caves have received huge media attention. So despite the fact that the trip isn’t for the underdressed or infirm, thousands of people are making the hike. At times the bundled up figures silently trudging in the same direction through the vast expanse of white looked like they stepped from that Dennis Quaid movie, The Day After Tomorrow. You expect to find a frozen-over New York City just around the bend, but the destination is far more like the place you’d Santa’s workshop in the movie Elf, or maybe a scene from Frozen.
You can’t just hop out of your car to see the caves. The round-trip trek takes about three
hours or more over a well-packed and slippery path with little cover to break the sometimes fierce winds. The caves are part of the Apostle Islands National Seashore and their web site offers an Ice Line to check on current conditions. (Or, you may want to just enjoy these photos from the warmth of your computer.)
The popularity of the caves has been a huge bonus for the area’s winter tourist business. If you want to avoid the crowds, go on a weekday. And if you’re looking for a cozy place to stay, check out the Rittenhouse Inn B&B in Bayfield. The little shops in Bayfield are happy to welcome visitors to the area and sell you any extra warm weather gear you may need and the Apostle Islands Booksellers offers terrific books to hunker down with when you return from your trip.