The Iceman Cometh

Bald eagle couple above the caves

Bald eagle couple above the caves

Ok, more like the Iceman and 5,000 of his closest friends. After 5 consecutive weeks of being thwarted by temps unwilling to ascend from the depths of thermometers, days with merciless cold that will freeze extremities, if left exposed and vulnerable, defenseless, to a state of frosted rigor mortis, days when -40 air sears your lungs to the point of revolt, we finally made it to the ice caves on Lake Superior's south shore. Friday's weather was dismal, so we were forced with much grumbling to head out there on a Saturday, and believe you me, the hordes were of the likes I've never seen. All told during the season, over 100,000 souls walked from the Meyers Beach trailhead to see icicles.

But know this, regular ol', drip-from-the-gutter icicles these are not. Along a crescent in the sandstone cliffs, and past a raggedy and crevice-slashed promontory topped with spikes of white pine and birch and maple, the lake's eternal surges and violent, moody batterings of waves have scoured and sculpted a collection of mesmerizing natural art.

Wholly within the boundaries of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, just west of Bayfield, theses sea caves and arches and caverns are typically only accessible by water, and are justifiably impressive from whatever form of watercraft brings you to them. But in the grip of winter, the myriad creeks, springs, and rivulets leaking from the mainland form a phantasmagorical scene of frozen sculptures, three-story-high caverns of ice, and hidden corridors and tunnels that beg to be explored. I saw just as many moms and dads wriggling into icy portals as I did little kids. Put the caves on your go-to destination life-list.

It's winter. Embrace it; you'll thaw out later.