Pilgrimage to Lake Michigan in Photographs: Day 27

Pilgrimage to Lake Michigan in Photographs: Day 27
February 14, 2014

It's Valentine's Day on Lake Michigan with a glowing full moon suspended overhead. Three or four boats out beyond the breakwater surprise me. They're sitting still, so I imagine they are there because of Valentine's Day. A quick search online indicates there are quite a few Valentine's Day "cruises". "Nothing is more magnificent, romantic, vibrant", etc.

A different adjective comes to my mind. Cool. That would have been cool to do. What I mean is not so much that it would've been cool to be on a valentine cruise. I doubt the food is fantastic and the champagne might give you a headache. Rather, it seems like a good way to get on a boat out beyond the ice where the water is still open.

The Odyssey site says it cruises year-round and has climate controlled decks. Hmmm. Something to do with my valentine perhaps, even after the romantic weekend ends.

OK. Back from my reverie, the moon reflects on the frozen lake and I am startled to see a path in the snow heading straight out away from the shore toward the breakwater. The path is wide, giving the impression of a nature trail into the darkness.

A young couple strolls along the lakefront past me, and a few minutes later I see that they have descended the stairs and ventured out on to the ice. The guy entertains the girl, wiggling around in a goofy dance. After a few moments he stops and leans towards her. They canoodle for a moment in the full moon light, then scale the stairs and continue on their way south.

My own valentine is skiing this weekend up near the southern shore of Lake Superior. He told me he'd learned some things about the ice caves on Lake Superior, which he knows I find fascinating. A waitress at the local cafe said that in Ashland, Wisconsin people are lining up in their cars waiting for a turn to hike out to the caves. A weekend shuttle has been set up to manage the traffic taking folks back and forth.

Ice caves form annually on the Apostle Islands near Ashland, but it's not every year that the lake freezes solid enough you can walk out to see them.

People from all over the world are coming; from Sydney and China as well as more near-flung places in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. According to the waitress, 4000 every weekend.

There are ice caves on Lake Michigan too, on the Leelanau peninsula. These are being described as "once in a lifetime", which while it may not be exactly true, is probably close. The ice cover on the Great Lakes is now 88%, and coming close to breaking the 1979 record when coverage was 95%.

What I take from all this is the strength of the human desire to experience wonder. I guess for all the hyper-development and inter-connectivity of our world, people are honestly intrigued by the genuine. We want to bear witness to the beautiful and the natural.

Personally, I am drawn to the idea of going to see the ice caves, though I hesitate at the prospect of joining the hordes.

Never-the-less, and at the risk of increasing the traffic, you might want to get yourself on out there. The caves may not be accessible by foot much longer due to the approaching spring. If you want to go, better make your plans soon.

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As a footnote I give you this from Tom Skilling,

Snow's still on for Monday--just what the area needs in a season which has already recorded 62.9" of snow---245% the normal 25.7" and 5.9-times the 10.7" which had fallen by this date a year ago!



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