We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend to enjoy Winter in northern Michigan. There seemed to be a festival in every town. But event planners around the region were trumped by mother nature as thousands made the trek to see the ice caves on Lake Michigan.
My social media circles have been buzzing for days with stories and some spectacular photos showing 20′ and 30′ ice cliffs just offshore near Leland, the pinky finger of our mitten state. After reading the story on MLive.com I just couldn’t pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these formations.
This winter has been uncharacteristically cold, snowy, and now ice-filled. In fact, Lake Michigan is likely to break the all-time ice coverage record of 95 percent. Our frigid temps and windy weather are the perfect storm for creating these ‘ice castles’ just 500 yards off shore. They’re far from common, so it became my mission this weekend to make the migration.
Mission completed. Although at times it felt more like Mission Impossible. So I wanted to share a few tips in case you’re planning to make the trip to see the ice caves.
Tips to know before you go
- Park close to the lake. The top viewing area is off of Onomonee Rd and N. Gills Pier Rd. Do not make the same mistake we did and park the moment you find a space. We parked on N. Gills Pier Rd near M-22 since there were so many cars. It is an HOUR walk from there! Keep driving, even if the going is slow. You’ll find a space.
- Don’t forget to bring water. I know, obvious right? If it were summer and I were headed out on a big hike I’d have packed smarter. But I had no idea we’d be out there so long, or have to walk so far. I was ready to eat snow.
- Bring your camera, not just your iPhone. Guess what? iPhones don’t love the cold and snow. If you want to capture the beauty of this trip to share with those who didn’t join you, bring a point-and-shoot camera along with your phone.
- Wear good boots with traction. The terrain is a mixture of hard pack slick snow, smooth ice and sloping, unpredictable grade. It’s incredibly easy to lose your footing. Consider wearing crampons, or yaktrax if you have them. And just be slow and careful on the ice.
Was it amazing? Absolutely! But after traveling with my two kids, and my two parents we all agreed these tips would have been nice to know beforehand. I’m not sure how long the weather will permit visitations to this spectacular show of mother nature’s beauty and power. So get out there if you can, but be safe!