Inside the Apostle Islands Ice Caves

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My oldest son went on a school trip a few weeks ago.  The main purpose was to participate in the Barnebirkie, the children’s version of the largest cross-country ski race in North America.  It takes place in northern Wisconsin every February.   This is the twentieth year that the school has done this trip with middle grade students, so they have become experts at making it an enriching experience.  In addition to skiing in the race with more than 1,000 other kids, they spend some time doing joint educational programming at the local middle school (this year, there was some kind of amazing science theme) and have a traditional meal with a Native American tribe.  They also somehow fit swimming at the local community center into the packed agenda.

A week before the trip, a note came home in my son’s backpack that there would be a slight alternation to the schedule.  The group would be able to visit the ice caves on Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands.  For those not familiar with the Upper Midwest, the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin is a true gem of a national park.   There are 21 islands, windswept beaches, rocky cliffs, and lighthouses.  In the summer, you can hike the 12 miles of lakeshore wilderness and paddle or boat around the islands. You can even camp on 18 of the islands, which are only accessible by water.    You can even explore by kayak the  amazing sea caves at the western end of the mainland part of the park.

In winter, the sea caves become ice caves.  And in extremely cold winters, when Lake Superior freezes over, the national park service allows people to walk out over the ice and experience the ice caves from the inside.

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As I have never been to the Apostle Island ice caves, I was excited that my son had this opportunity to visit them.   It has been five years since the ice caves were last open to the public.  One of the impacts of climate change has been that Lake Superior hasn’t been frozen enough to make access possible.   Since the ice caves opened to the public on January 15, more than 125,000 people have made the two mile roundtrip trek over frozen Lake Superior to experience the  ice caves.

My son sent took these pictures of his visit and texted them to me.

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It’s an odd feeling – usually I’m the one who is traveling and sending the pictures back home to the rest of the family. But I really appreciated his willingness to share the experience of being inside the Apostle Islands ice caves with me.

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With warmer weather, the ice is degrading and it is becoming unsafe to be on the lake.   The National Park Service plans to close the Apostle Island ice caves to the public by 12:01 am on Monday, March 17.

 

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With special thanks to my son Sevrin for the photos!

For more responses to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside, click here.

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36 thoughts on “Inside the Apostle Islands Ice Caves

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  7. Nickoel

    His first picture is really impressive! I would guess we didn’t walk far enough to see that one, or missed it. How great that they were willing to take them, especially since it isn’t the “safest” trip ever for a school trip.

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    1. It was a carefully picked group of middle school students (and mostly 8th graders) on this trip. Sevrin said it was slippery in the caves, so they had to be careful. But he thought it was really cool and was glad they changed the schedule to take advantage of the opportunity. I enjoyed your photos of the ice caves, too. Bummed that I couldn’t make it up there!

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  9. Janet Worel

    This reminds me of Tarjei Vesaas’s book, Is-slottet. I was fascinated by the frozen ice castle he described. Severin’s picture helped me visualize them better. I may have to read that again. Thanks Jennifer!

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  13. Jenny

    Thank you Sevrin for sharing your photos of the Apostle Islands ice caves. Very cool! The Apostle Islands are a wonderful place to visit in the summer, too! We love to camp on Stockton Island during the summer. The campsites are along the beach so we enjoy wonderful views of Lake Superior from our picnic table.

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