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Another destination on my bucket list was the Eben Ice Caves. So, while we were in Munising for the Michigan Ice Fest, we decided to drive over to visit the Ice Caves. When we arrived there were about 10 cars in the parking lot so I was worried that it might be a little crowded in the caves. From reports I concluded that they were not very big so it wouldn’t take many people to make it difficult to photograph in the caves. We also found a few snowmobiles parked along the trail which made me more apprehensive.

More photos from the visit can be found on my website.

When we reached the caves there were a few people in the caves so I started taking photos outside. The first few photos give a bit of perspective as to how large the caves are.

It was a bit tricky to get into the caves. This photo shows my wife climbing into what was the largest accessible entry. The only problem was you landed in about 4-6 inches of slush which you had to walk through to access caves from behind. The second photo shows a small opening but it was difficult to make it through it.

These are a few shots from inside the caves. I was lucky because I was the only one in the caves at the time.

This is a shot from inside looking out through the largest opening. Because it was so icy it wasn’t possible to access the caves from this opening.

Access to the caves is on private land. the first quarter mile is across an open field next to a snowmobile trail. The hike into the caves follows the snowmobile trail for a short distance. It was really sad as we walked by some snowmobilers who were concerned that they couldn’t drive right up to the caves and the kid whining that he didn’t want to go if he couldn’t ride the snowmobile. In fact, kids would have a blast walking to the caves and climbing around the caves.

The next section of the hike is relatively flat and winds through some beautiful woods. As you can see it is a well worn trail.

However, working you way down over the cliffs poses some problems, particularly if it is icy. I would strongly urge that you take hiking sticks and wear ice cleats. We met a couple who had made it to the caves without them but they really had problems and it wasn’t even icy on the trail.

The trail winds along a beautiful stream in the valley.

As you walk along the stream you can see the tops of the Ice Caves. It was a challenge getting to them because of the ice. In total it is a bout three quarters of a mile to the caves.

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One of the things on my bucket list has been to attend the Michigan Ice Fest. It has always been a problem because it was on the same weekend as the Hudson Hot Air Affair and the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. This year the all took place on separate weekends so my wife and I decided to headed over to Munising for the Ice Fest. It had been a cold two weeks prior to the start of the Ice Fest but wouldn’t you know that on the first day of the Fest it was 40+ degrees. Still climbing conditions were good. We stopped at Fest headquarters at caught a shuttle out to the climbing areas. Although we are frequent visitors to Munising in the Spring and Fall we had never visited in the winter so we didn’t know what to expect. We had hopped that it would be possible to get to some of the spectacular climbing areas along the shoreline or at Grand Island but that wasn’t possible so we were confined to the climbing areas along Sand Point Road. The shuttle dropped us off at the Curtains where some climbing classes were being held.

More photos from the Michigan Ice Fest can be found on my website.

At Opening Curtain we watched for quite a while. Looked like the climbers were having fun. It reminded me of my climbing days but that was 50 years ago. I might have caught the bug again and since they hold classes at the Sandstone Ice Festival and I may give it a try again.

We walked down to the Curtains and watched a different climbing class work on the ice walls.

Our final stop of the day was Dryer Hose. Dryer Hose was open climbing so climbers who were a little more experienced were climbing here. We watched a couple of climbers go up the wall. The last one was carrying ropes and webbing. Apparently there was a climber rigging at the top of the climb and he had forgotten some gear he need so another climber was bringing up what he needed.

After checking out the Ice Fest we walked down to Canal Park to check out the first ever Cold Front Celebration 2018. The road where the horses and carriages are in the summer had been turned into an ice skating rink. It was a popular spot. There were several sparks in use.

It was cold and blowing and the lake was covered in ice.

There were fat tire bikes available for test runs but it was so cold folks didn’t go very far on them.

A sledding hill was setup in one of the parking lots and it seemed to be a popular spot with the kids.

There were tents setup with displays and food and beverages and fire pits. One display asked for input on the future of the Duluth waterfront. Folks in Duluth just don’t seem to get it. Duluth would be a great place to turn Canal Park in to a walking only location with cars relegated to parking lots outside the area. Auto congestion is a major distraction during the summer.

No snow storms recently so I’ve had to photograph birds on bright sunny days.

Northern Cardinal

Black-capped Chickadee

Dark-eyed Junco

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

We were the only people out skiing yesterday. It was cold again, around 4 degrees when we exited the car. We noticed a lot of frost on the trees and skied down to get some photos. While we were taking photos the wind came up and blew the frost off of the trees and we ended up in a blizzard of frost.

We then skied down to look at the ice wall and check for Bald Eagles. No eagles in sight but we did see a couple near the trail head when we drove into town. The ice wall is looking the best that I can remember.

On Saturday it was snowing and blowing in Duluth and it was expected to get worse during the day. We had planned to stop in at the 2018 Duluth Ice & Mixed Fest being held at Casket Quarry. This was our first visit to the Ice Fest now in its third year. It was snowing hard when we arrived so it was difficult to take photos. The camera was getting wet and automatic focus was not working all that well. There were a few climbers on the wall when we arrived. What sets this venue apart its the the fact that it combines rock and ice climbing on a 100 foot wall. The ice results from water seeping out of the rocks although the climbing club plans on farming ice on a section of the wall so they can provide a training ground for climbers. More photos from the day can be found on my website.

There was a fire going and some folks were gathered around the fire watching the climbers.

This climber was working up a crack on the face of the wall.

This climber worked his way up a crack and under the ice before making his way onto the ice to finish the climb.

On the way out we stopped to talk to some folks and asked where the name “casket quarry” came from. Apparently a business next to the quarry made vaults and stored them along the trail to the quarry. When climbers were asked where they were going to climb they would say “at the casket quarry”.

The Bjornson Education-Recreation Center is a project of the Menomonie Public Schools. It is open to the public and is a place I like to visit on a cold winter day because of the frost photos. It was about 0 degrees when we woke up and was just the kind of day I was looking for knowing there would be a lot of frost along the spring fed streams in the Center. An added bonus was the fresh snow covering the grounds. More photos from the Bjornson Education-Recreation Center can be found on my website.

There was a lot of watercress in the stream. During some of the harsh winters the deer will eat it but it is not high on their list of food sources.

Most of my time was spent photographing close-ups of frost on various objects. I used my 600mm lens for the close-ups so I didn’t have to wade in the stream.

 

We were looking for an outing so we drove up to the Chippewa Moraine Segment of the Ice Age Trail for a hike. We didn’t bring our snowshoes hoping the trail would have been packed down by snowshoers. It was in some places but others it was still soft enough to make things difficult. It was a bit like walking on the beach and we were pooped by the time we finished the 4.5 mile trail. Not a lot to photograph. We found this large popular tree that a beaver must have been working on. He should have tried for a smaller tree.

A few leaves had fallen in the snow.

A number of places we found that Pileated Woodpeckers had been busy on the trees. It doesn’t take them long to make short work of the tree.

This past week we drove up to Ironwood to do some cross country skiing. We knew the temperatures were going to be in the single digits but that was fine with us. We like it around 10 degrees when we ski. The one thing we forgot to look at was the winds. As we neared Ironwood we noticed a lot of blowing snow. When we checked the weather the temperatures were around 0 degrees with a wind chill of -15 to -20. Forty years ago that would have been fine but over the years we’ve acquired a little more common sense. We both concluded that we needed to find something else to do and came up with a visit to the Stormy Kromer factory. We had visited once before but had missed the daily tour. We checked and the tours were sill being given so we drove over for the 1:30 tour. Apparently quite a few other folks had the same idea. An entire ski club decided it was too cold to ski and came for a tour and just as the tour was going to start a bunch of downhill skiers arrived. They didn’t realize there was a tour but joined in anyway. There were so many people they had to divide the tour into two groups. As you can see in the first photo it was snowing and blowing outside the factory.

 

I always like to visit factories. It is amazing to watch how things are made. In addition to the hats the parent company also does contract production for a number of other companies so we were able to see how other products were made. These were a couple antique Stormy Kromer hats.

If you are ever in the Ironwood area and have an hour to spend it is well worth taking the tour.

 

I took a short drive around the countryside looking for frost and found a few places where it was still hanging on the trees.