The Apolstle Islands Sea Caves in Wisconsin are able to be accessed via a trail on Lake Superior for the first time in five years. HERE is news about the caves from WDIO in Duluth, MN, which is about a 90 minute drive from the caves.

Yesterday I took advantage of a break in the frigid weather to drive over and have a look.  For the first time in a long while the temps were near freezing instead of below zero. And forget windchill, here in MN we only count temps on the thermometer: above or below zero. Above zero we go out to ski or walk, and below zero we think about it until it gets too dark to go unless we are snowmobilers or those crazy people who go out surfing on Lake Superior in below zero weather.

The trail is a mile or two and the caves stretch along the shore. During our harsh winter storms and before the ice freezes on the lake the waves crash on shore and the water freezes on any solid surface it can cling to.  So then mother nature creates these masterpieces–all one of a kind, all impermanent. As I drove by the lake to get to the caves Lake Superior was all open water. Ice conditions change abruptly on Lake Superior.  I have often seen ice houses (tents with open bottoms for fishing) out on the ice in the Duluth harbor and two hours later there will be all open water.  That is why it is common to see a canoe or kayak pulled up by the shelter.  Today there was some slush if you stepped off the packed trail, but this only sits on top of the ice below because the weight of the snow pushes the ice down. Not fun to get your foot wet though.

Initially I was a bit upset because it was cloudy, but it turned out to be one of those days where I had about an hour of great light–not great to the eye but great to the camera.  Without the harsh lighting of sunshine many more details seemed to pop out. In about 45 minutes I took 84 photos.

There were lots and lots of people, dogs, snowshoes, skis, backpacks, cameras and a lot of kids. Everyone was happy to be outside after such a bitter winter.

You can see how high the waves came.

Teddy Thompson  One of the most beautiful voices on the planet

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The weather has been lovely, like May, with temps in the 50s and 60s.  All of our snow has rapidly melted.  Days like this are rare here on the shore of Lake Superior, where winter can stubbornly hang on and on.  I have seen snowstorms in May and I have hiked in 95 degree temps.  Not everyone likes to live here because of the trouble these discrepancies present.  You have to like change, and you have to be resilient.  When I went to Hawaii I was bored to death.  Every day was the same: hot and humid. Here one day can be 30 degrees and rainy and the next 70 and sunshine.

Living on the shores of the big lake one has to only drive to the other shore (either Minnesota or Wisconsin) to enjoy a completely different climate, depending on how the wind is blowing off the lake. Lake Superior’s waters are around 40 degrees all the time, so if the wind blows over the water in the summer it is our air conditioner; when it blows over the water in the winter it can create huge storms like we witnessed a couple weeks ago, or it can bring early summer.  And if the wind is stuck blowing towards the opposite shore, then we might have summer temps in the mid-eighties which for us is sweltering because of the 70% humidity.  Not too many of us need central air conditioning, but “when you need it you need it” as Duluthians are known to remark. I can attest to that.

This week my travels have taken me to both the north (Minnesota) and south (Wisconsin) shores.  It is crazy that they call it north shore and south shore when in actuality Wisconsin is east of Minnesota, and Canada, not Minnesota is north of Wisconsin. Just try to figure out our streets in Duluth: they often follow the lakeshore but are designated east and west even though you are traveling on a north and south (sort-of) trajectory (Highway 61 North goes to Canada, but as you drive that road you keep seeing, one after another, streets that say 36th Ave. E; 50th Ave E.).

I found a beach I had not visited before.  Father Baraga’s Cross, an hour or so up Highway 61, has been a local Minnesota landmark for a long time, and I remember visiting it when you had to walk a little trail and it was a wooden cross that jutted up and faced the lake. Now it is all professionalized and touristized and the best part of it all was my visit to the beach where I was all by myself with my camera.

The beach at Wisconsin Point is much more isolated and a long way from highway traffic.  You never know what you will find when you go on an adventure.  I was also all alone on this excursion except for a pickup of fishermen who had their fishing rods sticking up like antenna from the box of their truck. This is the Superior entry and because Duluth also has a shipping entry off the big lake, we are called “The Twin Ports.”    This is the Coast Guard icebreaker Alder, having just come from breaking ice in the Duluth harbor and now headed to the Superior entry to break ice.There hasn’t been any real ice all season on the big lake, but the harbor has been frozen. Our shipping season will start soon when the

St. Lawrence Seaway will open up for our ocean ships to visit  us. ”"

The Alder sounded its horn as she signaled to come into the channel.  ”"Some of the crew were in shirt sleeves, a rarity for March on Lake Superior. I followed her as she made ”" her way towards the ice. My camera didn’t like the western sun, but you get the idea.  I was lucky that my visit coincided with the Alder’s route.  Later, when I headed back into Duluth over the Blatnik Bridge, I could see the Alder had made her way into the Duluth port again. Life on board is not always this easy for the crew.  A couple years ago there were a couple “lakers” stuck in the spring ice and the Alder was working nonstop to try break them free.

I was happy to find these ice formations.  Imagine the waves from the 68 mph winds we had in our storm earlier.  The force of the big mother (when mamma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy) threw debris and eroded the beach. I would have loved to have seen it over here, but alas, traveling over the Blatnik Bridge in a blizzard is not recommended, even by us crazy ones. ”"”"

Sometimes, you can see the most interesting formations.  Like this baby polar bear, and this strange puzzle.

The ice was four feet deep in places, at least 15 feet from the shore. In places I could get down to the beach and there I searched for “fairy tears,” the bottle glass that gets polished  and thrown up on beaches.  What a wonderful day to explore and rejoice in the energy of the lake.  Thank you “Mother Superior,” queen of all the lakes in the world.


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