I first discovered the Lake Superior Ice Caves in College and have been returning every year the Park Service deems the lake safe enough for people. The caves are a short trip from the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus and there were always people headed to the caves. During the winter season, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore offers a popular attraction in the dazzling shoreline ice caves at Mawikwe Bay along the mainland. The winter adventure of seeing the beauty of the ice caves will take your breath away. Lakeshore cliffs along Lake Superior form crimson red borders to create an arctic landscape. Pillars of ice extend to the cliff tops where waterfalls have hardened in place. Frozen Lake Superior water encrusts the base of the cliffs.
2014 is the first time the caves have been open in five years. The National Park Service credits social media for increasing the numbers of visitors to the caves. In on weekend close to 30,000 people made the 1.5 mile trek across frozen Lake Superior to view the spectacle of snow and ice. One must bundle up if they deem themselves brave, walking on the frozen lake is no easy task. I would recommend ski poles to help stabilize your steps and super warm boots to keep your feet happy.
This year I made the trek with my Mama and Pete. We set out on a 5 hour drive to the frozen north shore, with each mile my anticipation grew and my excitement had become contagious. I was mainly building myself up for one of the coldest walks I’d ever take, -2 degrees is something to take seriously. This is skin freezing weather and well I want to keep all of my skin.
The most common way to get to the Lake Superior ice caves is to hike out to them from Meyers Beach Road, which is well-marked on the Bayfield Peninsula’s Highway 13. Park your vehicle and hike approximately one mile east to the ice caves. This was the first year that I have ever seen a shuttle service to the caves. My parents and I parked in Cornocopia and took a bus to Meyers beach. From there we walked down the road, through the bustling parking lot, down the steps, and on to the frozen lake. I looked at my Dad and said “Hey Pete! Look I’m like Jesus, I’m walking on water!” My Dad cracked a smile and we set out towards the caves.
Although each year hundreds of visitors trek out to experience the fantasy, hikers are warned that conditions can be dangerous and appropriate hiking boots are needed as the ice can be slippery and bumpy with snow cracks and ice and snow mounds. There have been years where people go out, only to never be seen again. Lake Superior keeps her dead and her power should never be underestimated or challenged.
If you find yourself with wanderlust I highly recommend that you act on it and take a trip to the caves. Your face will freeze, you will be in awe, you will get tired, and curse a few times, yet you will not regret that you did.