This past week we made our third trip to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. This was our first trip since the caves became so popular. In 2009 when the caves were last open they attracted a little over 8,000 visitors. This year, so far, the caves have attracted over 100,000 visitors. Last weekend when the wind chills were -35 they still had 10,000 visitors.
We noticed a number of changes in the caves. A lot of the beautiful ice that was on the face of the caves has deteriorated over time and appears to be rotten.
On the other hand the ice flows in the caves have become massive as they have continued to build as the season progressed.
The frozen falls that created pillars from the lake to the top of the bluffs have also become massive and some of them have fallen giving the appearance of ancient Roman ruins.
The number of folks visiting the caves has increased. We visited midweek and arrived about 9am. The parking lot was already almost full. I had no problem with folks getting in the way of my photography as we walked several miles along the shore. However, on the way back the crowds were too large to engage in any meaningful photography.
We realized that it was spring break and there were a lot of kids at the caves. It was fun watching them play on the ice. They probably went in every small cave they could find.
I have never seen anyone from the park service around on previous visits but they had a huge presence on this visit. Snowmobiles, a command center was setup and a number of park officials could be seen. One ranger was riding out in the lake on an air boat.
The small town of Cornucopia has been overrun with visitors. There are no parking and bathrooms are for customers only signs all over town. In spite of the problem this has been a huge boom to the local economy. With all of the people discovering the Apostle Islands bookings are way up for next summer.
More photographs from the Apostle Islands Ice Caves can be found on my website.
After driving up to Fort Wilkins Historic State Park we decided to drive back to Calumet so we could ski at our favorite ski trails. It was bitterly cold with the temperatures hovering around zero and the wind chill quite a bit colder. Still one of the objectives of the trip was to ski Swedetown. We dressed warm because we knew it would be cold out on the trails. We were a little surprised to find only three cars in the parking lot.
As I had mentioned in an earlier blog the Calumet area had been hit by a major Blizzard a week earlier with fifty mile per hour winds and a foot and a half of snow. This was reflected in the winter wonderland that we found along the trails.
We were curious as to how deep the snow was and we found out when we stopped at a shelter at a crossroads in the trail. I took my wife’s photo by the shelter. When she looked into the shelter the dirt floor was about three and a half feet below the top of the snow.
Swedetown has received almost three hundred inches of snow this winter and many of the trail markers are just about under the snow.
More photos from Swedetown can be found on my website.
The next morning we had an early breakfast and heard to Eagle Harbor to watch the start of stage two of the CopperDog. It was a beautiful clear cold day. Again the temperatures were below zero. A great day for the dogs but cold for the spectators.
When we arrived the mushers were getting ready for the day’s events. The dogs had been fed and they were out of their houses. On the second day the number of dog teams was smaller since only those doing the full CopperDog 150 were racing.
As we walked to the starting line I noticed someone was using a drone with a GoPro camera attached. It was the same couple I had noticed the night before using a GoPro to film the race. They had all sorts of cameras and camera mounts to give them the best chance to catch the events from the best angle. I suspect this will not be the last time I see GoPros and drones since they are starting to become popular.
We walked around watching the mushers get their teams ready for the race.
Since there was a much smaller crowd for the start of the second leg we were able to move about freely taking photos and watching the progress of the race.
More photos from the CopperDog 150 can be found on my website.
On Friday Afternoon we headed up to Calumet, Michigan to watch the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race and to so some cross country skiing at the Swedetown Ski trails. This year there were over 40 teams involved in the two races. The trip took a little longer than expected. The roads in our area as still covered with an inch of ice and some of the main roads had icy patches on them.
We arrived just in time to get our cold weather gear on and head over to the start of the race. The first stage of the CopperDog is run at night and involves teams racing all three stages as well as teams racing the CopperDog 40 which is the first stage of the race. While my wife, first photo, was intimated by the very cold conditions apparently not everyone else was.
Before the race we like to walk around and watch the mushers get their teams ready for the race. This involves getting the dogs out and feeding them. Once they are fed they are put back into their houses until race time. I was watching one racer chop up frozen meat to heat up. It makes something like s soup for the dogs. All of the dogs were attached to a single chain along the side of the truck when one end of the chain came loose and all of the dogs ran down to the next truck to visit. It took the mushers a while to get them untangled.
The CopperDog is run on 150 snowmobile trails in the Keweenaw. Just before the race starts a team of snowmobilers head out onto the trail to make sure the trails are clear and signs are posted to watch out for sled dog teams. It is also necessary to make sure the sled dog teams safely cross the roads.
The start of the race takes place on the main street of Calumet. The day before the race they bring in snow and cover the street with snow. This year it wasn’t a problem getting snow since they have had almost 300 inches.
We took up a position right across from the announcers booth where the race starts. When the teams arrive at the starting line the dogs are out on the course and the sled is held at the starting gate. The sled is then hooked at the starting gate so the dogs can’t take off. Since the dogs are raring to go the sled can spend some time in the air as the dogs try to head out onto the course. In addition to being cold it was also snowing. It takes a lot of volunteers to make a sled dog race happen and sometimes the dogs are a handful in their exuberance to get out onto the course.
We watched about half of the race from the starting line but then started to get cold feet standing for over an hour so we decided to get a hot drink and walk around watching some of the preparation activities. Some of the dogs were still waiting to get hooked up while others were already on the course.
This is a volunteer trying to hold an exuberant dog back before they headed to the start of the race. In the background you can see a dog with a red light on its harness. Most of the lead dogs have lights so the musher can keep track of where the dogs are.
After the start of the first stage of the race we headed back to the motel for a hot meal. More Photos from the Race can be found on my website.
I have a few Blue Jays around the farm. During the last few snowfalls I’ve been able to get a few pictures of them.
I’ve Just finished processing my photos of the Nelson’s Rush River Ice Formations. This is a really unique place to visit. Don’t visit just after a heavy snow storm because the formations will look like a snowdrift.
An article on Ice Climbing on the Wisconsin Trails website features and interview with Jason Cook, owner of Chicago Rock & Ice Guides. Jason is using one of my photos from the Sandstone Ice Climbing Festival on his website.
A couple of weeks ago we drove to Duluth on a cross country ski trip. The next morning we planned on skiing the Boulder Lake Trails.
It snowed overnight and the reports were that the roads were really bad. Duluth is built on an escarpment and has very steep hills. We had some things we had to do in downtown Duluth so we combined them into a single day and postponed our ski trip to Boulder Lake. A good thing we did. Everyone was talking about how bad the roads were and as we walked through the skywalk we could see they were in bad condition. About the time we were leaving the condo there was a 30 car pileup a couple of blocks away.
The next morning it was cold but the roads were clear. We headed out to Boulder Lake. there were only a couple of other cars in south the parking lot. We had skied ad Boulder Lake earlier in the winter but had only done one of the loops. Our first trip had been on a Thursday and as it turned out it was dog day. Every Thursday dogs are allowed on the trail.
The trails had been freshly groomed and we were one of the first ones to use the trail. It was a beautiful but very cold day. Probably why there were very few skiers. The groomed trails had not setup yet so it was tough going. The wind was blowing so it was really cold in the open areas.
On a recent trip to the northland we stopped at Houghton Falls State Natural Area. This is the first time we have visited in the winter.
We have been having lots of snow this winter. It isn’t often I get shots of cardinals because they come around early in the morning or late in the day. It just happened that they turned up during a snowstorm and I was able to get a few shots.