For our 32nd wedding anniversary, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity the extra cold winter of 2013/2014 had given us to see the rare frozen ice caves of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. We flew into Duluth, MN on Thursday night, after both of us worked a full day, arriving at 11:30 p.m.
For our rental car, we were hoping for a 4 wheel drive, but we were given an Impala with the verbal assurance that they handle “great” in the snow. On our drive along Lake Superior to Bayfield, WI at 1:00 am, we had 3 deer run out in front of us. We managed to miss two, but one was not so lucky. We finally arrived at our Bed and Breakfast, Lucy’s Pace, at 1:30 a.m.
Lucy’s Place is a really nice little Bed and Breakfast in an old rustic house where you can see the lake from the upstairs bedrooms. They go over and beyond making their guest feel comfortable and serve great breakfasts. When we arrived we had trouble finding it because the snow was higher than their sign by the road. We quickly learned that snow was a way of life in the north and did not hinder any activities and learned to enjoy a totally new experience.
On Friday morning, Valentine’s Day, we headed out to the Ice Caves from Meyer’s Beach after we got the accident report handled for the Impala. We were now hoping to get the 4 wheel drive, but they brought us another Impala with the verbal assurance that they handled “great” in the snow.
Since we had a late start, we were fortunate to get a close parking spot along highway 13 at the entrance of the beach parking lot to hike out to the ice caves. The beach has a large parking area, but because of the popularity of the rare ice caves, cars would park along the highway for up to 5 miles on either side of the beach entrance. It was estimated that 7,000 people were on the ice this day. All ages and sizes were out for the possible once in a lifetime experience. We even saw people turn the baby bike trailer in to a sleigh so they could take their little ones with them. The hike from the beach to the ice formations was another 1 1/2 miles. We were cautious to have layers of fleece lined clothing, trekking poles, and ice cleats for our boots. in spite of the 12 degrees, in the sunshine, we stayed toasty.
Paul is not afraid to go out of his way to get “the picture” We have our youngest daughter to thank for this. When she found out about our dream of photography, she informed us that we needed to learn to “get down and dirty” to get the picture that others miss.
As I said before, we did stay warm and was thankful for all the preplanning and research.
We kept telling ourselves that we wanted to be off the ice before sunset. We knew it would get really cold really fast out on the ice. But after each corner we went around we saw a new formation that we just had to explore. The picture of the sunset through the arch on the home page was worth hiking out in the dark.
As we were hiking out, we turned and saw the full moon coming up over the caves. Unfortunately we did not have our tripods with us to get really good pictures, but again, it made it worth hiking out later than we had planned.
We cannot express enough on what a wonderful, magical day we had. We made new friends and saw wonderful sites that are rare, even for the locals to see.
We spent an total of 6 1/2 hours out on the ice. The water bottle in our insulated cargo pants pockets were frozen solid by the time we reached the car and Paul had ice in his beard. Again we were thankful for the late start to get the closer parking. God is good!
We ended our day with a wonderful supper of fresh caught whitefish at Greunke’s First St. Inn.
On Saturday we drove across the ice bridge to Madeline Island. It was 1 1/2 miles on ice 27 inches thick over 190 feet of cold Lake Superior.
We hiked the island along the lakeshore at Big Bay State Park. We had a picnic and was surprised to see the friends we made on the ice cave hike. With likeminded adventurers it is indeed a small world.
OOPS! Driving along in the snow, thinking we were on the road, and woosh! we were off the road and going no where. There was a deep ditch that the deep snow prevented us from sliding into. Thank God, again!
The first truck along was the Island’s sheriff. He informed us that he had been trying to convince the folks plowing the roadsides not to plow past the edge of the road. Wish they would have listened. He was able to call to go get someone to dig and drag us out of the deep snow.
While we waited for help, with the threat to not let anyone else help us because the guy the sheriff was getting would take it personal, a truck stopped by to offer help. Paul was standing between the truck and our Impala talking, another truck came along and did not see the parked truck in time. (Things can really happen fast and seem to be in slow motion at the same time.) The oncoming truck locked his brakes, hoping to slide to the left and away from the car, but slid in between the car and the truck towards Paul. Wow! I never knew my husband of 32 years could fly. When he realized he could not run out of the way, he jumped over the end of the car into the deep snow, buried to his chest laughing hysterically. The sliding truck slid into the buried car, but again, thanks to God, there was not a scratch on the Impala. All it did was knock the dirt off, and gave Paul a good laugh and a snow bath.
On Sunday we drove back to Duluth, MN while exploring a couple of WI state parks on the way. Amnicon Falls State Park has a beautiful covered bridge over the frozen waterfalls. We tried to get into Pattison State park but our “great snow handling” Impala could not navigate in the deep snow on the unplowed roads within the park.
On Monday, our last day, we had planned to hike Goosebury Falls and on up to Cascade river. The snow forecast was to be accumulating up to 8 inches. In Ohio, that would shut down the state. When ask if we could go out, they just look at us funny and said, “why not?” “Just be safe”. On the way we stopped by 2 light houses, Two Harbors and Split Rock, hiked 5 miles in the deep snow at Gooseberry Falls, and did the short hike to the frozen waterfall at Cascade River.
We ended with a wonderful dinner at a the Tycoons Ale House, that used to be the City Hall in downtown Duluth. A very old establishment with lots of history. Even though they were closing early for an employee appreciation party, they made sure we had a great meal without rushing us. The manager even gave us a private tour of the building including “The Cellar” where the bootleggers hid the booze during Prohibition and the grand ball room on the top floor.
Tuesday we visited the Duluth Aquarium while waiting to go to the airport and fly home.