Friday, January 24, 2014

Polar vortex = Sea Caves

Along the shore of Lake Superior about 18 miles west of Bayfield Wisconsin are the mainland sea caves of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.


During most of the year these eroded sandstone caves are only accessible by boat.


But when the winter is cold enough and Lake Superior freezes along the shore, a remarkable icy wonderland is just a short walk away.

Icicles of all sizes hang from the edges of high sandstone cliffs.
And inside the caves glistening icicles hang like stalactites from the ceiling.
Everywhere you look are beautiful shapes and designs.

It seems the extremely cold weather carried in by the much hyped 'polar vortex' was a gift for those of us waiting to get back out to these icy wonders.

According to a Jan 22nd article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this is the first time in five years that the sea caves have been accessible by walking over the ice in the winter.
Huge icicles hang from the ceiling of a cave with a circular opening or keyhole on one side.
Everywhere dramatic colors and shapes abounded.
I was surprised by the number of people that were out on the ice, but it was easy to see why they all came.
As the sun went down the families, kids, and dogs had mostly started the mile long walk back to the parking lot.

I stayed out there a little longer to make the most of my opportunity.
Until the sun slipped below the horizon.
The wind picked up after the sun went down and it got a little chilly as I walked back in the growing darkness. At first I could see the path beaten into the snow, but after about ten minutes it was no longer visible.  The snow was firm and packed on the trail, but as soon as I stepped off there was 6 to 8 inches of soft snow. I slowed my pace and felt my way along the path back towards my car. I could have brought a light, but where's the fun in that. 
I had a huge smile on my face as I put my cameras in the back and turned the key to fire up the car. What a great way to spend an afternoon. If you have the chance to visit the sea caves this winter it's certainly worth the trip.
and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore site here: