Here in Missouri, it is cold…it is very cold. It is cold from the Midwest to the East Coast, all the way down to the Southeastern United States. It actually snowed in Florida last week. And as I sit here, awaiting the beginning of the freezing rain that has been forecast for later this morning, I think back to other experiences I have had with ice, some of them not such great memories. But then I remember Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the ice caves of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.
In February of 2014, we traveled to Minneapolis to be present for the finalizing of our granddaughter’s adoption. What a special moment that was. There are no words that adequately describe how much joy that little girl has brought into our lives.
It was a snowy winter, and as we drove north from our home in Missouri, we never once lost sight of snow along the way.
After spending what is never enough time with our grandchild, we were getting ready to head back south, and home. As we watched the local and national news on our last evening in Minnesota, we saw stories highlighting the ice caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin, Jim and I glanced at each other, and knew exactly what we needed to do. Our son-in-law looked at us and said, “You are really going up there, aren’t you?” Well, of course we were!
The trip up to the northern reaches of Wisconsin was beautiful…very snowy the whole way.
When we arrived in Bayfield, a point from which we might access the national lakeshore and the caves, I felt as if I had walked into a Currier and Ives painting. The scenes of the town and Lake Superior are pictures that will live in my mind forever. Just walking through town would have satisfied me that we were right in traveling north instead of south toward home.
Bayfield is very busy during ice cave season, (especially after being featured on the news), so if you ever decide to visit I would suggest you make better plans than we did. After searching for a room to stay in for some time, we finally found a condominium unit we were able to rent for one night. We made a quick trip to the grocery store, had some dinner, got some sleep, made a quick, but hearty, breakfast and headed out to the caves.
The caves were very busy, and cars were lined up for a very long way…forget anything like a parking lot. State patrolmen directed traffic, helping people find parking places, and we found ourselves parked on the side of a fairly narrow road hoping Jim’s door handle would remain attached to the door while we took our walk on the ice.
We walked about a mile to get to the official entrance to the caves (really happy we had that substantial breakfast) though some natives appeared to know short-cuts through the woods. But no matter the distance, or the cold, it was absolutely worth the time and effort.
I think the best way to describe the nature of an ice cave is to quote the FAQ page on the Apostle Island National Lakeshore website:
There are intricately carved sea caves in cliffs along the Mainland Unit of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. As ice was forming on Lake Superior, waves splashing against the rock began to freeze on the sandstone cliff. In addition, water seeping between sandstone rock layers froze to form a variety of features similar to limestone caves. There are large icicles and formations hanging off of the cliffs, curtains and columns of ice, and abundant ice crystals.
With that explanation, let me show you some of the magic that is the ice caves…
Our first views of the ice were these frozen waves…
We saw icicle formations as we walked along…
all the time knowing that if we could just pass the cliff in front of us…
the real magic would begin, and we were right. The ice itself is amazing…
as it forms caves inside of caves, as it hangs overhead, lining the walls of rock with long icicles and new walls of ice, creating slippery floors, and magnificent ceilings.
All of us wanted to get inside of the caves…
and we wanted to play in the caves.
Nor could we help staring from the outside…
The Apostle Island ice caves are amazing. If you would like to experience this magical world yourself, you can plan your trip by visiting the Apostle Island National Lakeshore website. I hope you do, I promise you will not regret it…the hardest thing is waiting for the ice to be thick enough for visitors to be allowed into this frozen wonderland.
Wisconsin Cheese and Beer Soup
Wisconsin Cheese Beer Soup
A quick traditional Wisconsin soup to warm a cold day, or to enjoy while watching a football game.
- 1 lg carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 med. stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1/2 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 lg clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 2 1/2 c. milk
- 1 c. beer
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- dash pepper
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 c. sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 c. medium Cheddar cheese, grated
- Place the carrot, celery, onion and garlic into a food processor, and pulse into small bits. You may make them the size you wish, dependent on how long you pulse them.
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan, and add the chopped vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
- Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
- Add the milk, beer, Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard powder, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in cheese just until melted.
We like to serve this soup with fresh soft pretzels torn to make croutons, and extra pretzels on the side. Enjoy!