#TBT Fortress of Solitude Edition at the Grand Island Ice Caves

Grand Island Ice Cave

Grand Island ice cave, Winter 2012/13, photo by Ash W Photography

A cool site that really gives you to tools to have a lot of fun in the Upper Peninsula is Things to Do in the U.P. #64 is visiting the Grand Island Ice Caves. After providing very detailed tips & information about how to get to these spectacular formations on Lake Superior off Munising, Brian Marticcui writes (in part):

For an intimate look at nature’s awesome power, sidle up to one of the columns and peer into its core. Expecting a solid tower of frozen water? Not a chance. These columns, especially the newer and/or sun-exposed ones, are actually made up of tiny beads and icicle-like formations separated by vertical channels that allow water to pass through them. It’s one of those mind-numbingly complex natural things that’s simultaneously random and orderly – kind of like a geode, but mostly frozen and not quite as colorful.

Inside, things are a bit more stable – and a whole lot more interesting, if that’s possible. For starters, many of the “entrances” to the caves are little more than elevated holes between solid ice columns. Depending on how the caves have set during the weeks leading up to your visit, you may have to scramble up a mound and squeeze yourself through an opening to actually gain access. (Clip-on crampons might be a good idea.)

Once you get in, be careful, both for your own physical safety and for the integrity of the caves themselves. The floors are often mirror-smooth, making regular walking a major challenge. Meanwhile, the ceilings can be low and/or spiky, and some of the most intricate formations – the fuzzy, mold-like bits of “shaved” ice that project from the bare rock of the walls and ceilings – are extremely fragile. Don’t be the guy or girl who ruins a particularly awesome formation for everyone else – those things don’t reform in their original states.

Since the caves’ outer walls aren’t comprised of a single, solid curtain, and blockages abound, you’ll have to enter and exit several times to get the full measure of their interior spaces. Be careful each time you do; in particular, don’t lean on any dubious-looking columns. Ice is heavy, and you’ll probably see the chilling remains of spectacular collapses. You don’t want to be under an unsafe formation when it goes.

Read on for much more and also follow Jesse’s Things to Do in the U.P. on Facebook.

Ash took this shot at Grand Island’s ice caves a couple of years ago. View it bigger on Facebook and see more of her work in her Upper Peninsula of Michigan gallery at ashwphotography.com.

PS: If you’re in the Marquette area, Ash be displaying February 17 through the end of March at Sweet Water Cafe in Marquette from Feb 17th to the end of March, just a few doors down from Zero Degrees Artist Cooperative where she has her work.

PPS: For a little discussion on current conditions on the crossing to Grand Island, see this thread on Facebook, and before you go be sure to talk to someone who knows something about it. Feel welcome to use that advice for anything that’s possibly dangerous that you know little about.

#TBT The Ice Caves of Leelanau from Ken Scott

Ken Scott Ice Cave

Lake Michigan … crystal cave II, photo by Ken Scott Photography

“My creative eye is always on. It doesn’t get bored. A lot of people get stuck on seeing things only one way, like the wide view or closeup view … but there’s everything in between. Boredom would come when you’re getting stuck in seeing things only one way. You just have to shift it a little bit and it can open up a whole other world.”
~Ken Scott

Kudos to Michigan in Pictures regular Ken Scott, whose photography of last winter’s ice caves on Lake Michigan is featured in the Huffington Post today. They write:

Scott’s documentation of the ice caves last year on Facebook drew likes, attention and, eventually, the book deal. In Ice Caves of Leelanau, he shows numerous views of the caves, blue ice, volcano ice, pancake ice, the large sheet of anchor ice along the shore, and the rounded and smoothed chunks of ice known as ice balls. Meteorologist Ernie Ostuno captioned Scott’s photographs for the book, and nature writer Jerry Dennis introduced them:

The caves were the surprising thing. Many of us had seen similar structures during other winters, but never many of them, and never this large. These were big enough to stand in — for a dozen people to stand in — and as elaborate as caves in limestone. They were domes and keyholes and grottos. Wave spray and intermittent thawing and freezing had embellished them with columns and pillars. Their surfaces were so smooth they gleamed in sunlight, and from their ceilings dripped hundreds of daggers of clear ice, like crystal stalactites.

George Leshkevich, a researcher with the North American Ocean Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, noted that last winter was particularly severe for the Great Lakes, resulting in unique conditions where ice reached peak thickness two separate times in the season.

Different kinds of ice formations occur because of a confluence of reasons, Leshkevich explained, including meteorological conditions, the physical location and wave action, so they’re hard to predict and will vary widely along the shore.

Click through for more great photos. You can check out a short video or a long one from this particular formation, and definitely get a copy of Ice Caves of Leelanau if you can!

PS: I hope all this ice caveyness isn’t bothering you – I’m so happy to see Michigan getting some wintertime love.

Ice Caves Return to Lake Michigan

Ice Caves Return

Ice Caves Return, photo by Heather Higham

With a long run of temps in the single digits and teens and the mercury way down to -11 here in Traverse City this morning, I wasn’t all that surprise to learn that ice caves and other formations are starting to form on Lake Michigan.

Ice caves off the Leelanau Peninsula last winter created a sensation that drew thousands to the Leelanau Peninsula to view some fantastic formations. While they haven’t reached that level yet, the frigid temperatures from Polar Vortex II make it likely that photographers and lovers of the outdoors could be in for another fantastic & frozen feast in 2015!

Heather writes that while she didn’t go too far afield searching for ice caves, but there’s definitely some cool stuff to be discovered along the coast. She took this Esch Road Beach in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. View her photo bigger on her Snap Happy Gal Facebook page and see more in her ice formations slideshow at Flickr.

More ice caves on Michigan in Pictures.

 

Ice Caves of Leelanau: The Book

Lake Michigan ... ice cave sunset

Lake Michigan … ice cave sunset, photo by Ken Scott

Last winter some incredible ice formations piled up off the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula, and the photographer on the scene was my friend & Michigan in Pictures regular Ken Scott. Ken has published a book, Ice Caves of Leelanau, that features some of his best shots and essays by noted Michigan author Jerry Dennis. Right now his books are mostly sold out (reprint coming in July) but you might be able to sweet talk one out of Ken – email him here.

If you’re in northwest Lower Michigan you can catch Ken’s talk on the ice caves tomorrow from 4-6 PM at the Leland Township Library.

View the photo bigger on Flickr and see more in his Lake Michigan Ice & Caves slideshow. You can also see some videos of the Ice Caves on Ken’s site!

The Ice Caves of Leelanau

IMPORTANT SAFETY UPDATE! The Leelanau County Sheriff’s Department has declared the ice caves on Lake Michigan unsafe!! The winds have moved the ice and there is now open water within feet of the caves, and the strong winds expected today and tomorrow will continue to push water and ice inland. There are also large cracks in the arches and they are expected to start collapsing soon.

Lake Michigan ... ice cave sunset II

Lake Michigan … ice cave sunset II, photo by Ken Scott

Ken Scott took a trip out to the massive ice caves off the shore of the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City. You can see a fantastic video of his explorations and should definitely take a minute to watch his cautionary video showing the cracks that can form in these massive structures. There are few things less forgiving than the Great Lakes in winter, and with temps forecast in the upper 30s for tomorrow, things could get very dangerous.

View Ken’s photo bigger and see more in his Ice Cave slideshow.

Although ice caves and similar formations form every winter on Michigan’s shoreline, these ones are particularly incredible due to the greater than normal mass of ice generating more force. They have made it all the way to national news and have drawn thousands of visitors. A couple more features are at Huffington Post, another nice YouTube video showing the structures and the crowds and this mLive article with directions.

Shoreline Wonders

Winter ... shoreline wonders!

Winter … shoreline wonders!, photo by Ken Scott

As you may have realized from his last photo, Ken enjoys winter quite a lot – a useful trait for a photographer! He says that he crawled in here to get out of the arctic blast yesterday when he was exploring the ice by the Grand Traverse Lighthouse at the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. If you want to get a sense of what it’s like right now, he also shot a fantastic video!

View his photo bigger, see more in his Winter slideshow and if you’d like to chat with Ken about the photo, check it out on his Facebook page.

PS: I thought this photo was a nice counterpoint to Shawn Malone’s last pic.

Exploring the Eben Ice Caves

Exploring the Ice Caves

Exploring the Ice Caves, photo by Michigan Nature Photog

View Greg’s photo bigger and see more in his great Winter slideshow. Catch another shot of the ice caves here and here on Facebook. While you’re there, Greg is also holding a contest and giving a print to 2 winners!

Last year I shared a photo feature on the Eben Ice Caves by Nina Asunto. On Black Coffee at Sunrise, her excellent blog of explorations of Michigan’s wild places, she writes (in part):

During winter, ground water seeps over the edge and down through the sandstone where it freezes, creating huge curtains of ice and closing off the front of the outcrops to form caves.

We had both seen a few photos of the ice caves, but none of them really captured the size of this phenomenon. It was difficult to decide where to begin to tackle it photographically, and we immediately began climbing around the hillsides to get a more expansive view, and crouching and crawling around at the base of the ice to see every possible angle…

What we weren’t able to capture, however, was the amazing sound inside the cave. The drips of water falling from above created wonderful echoes and added to the cave atmosphere. There is much variation of color and texture to the ice in different parts of the cave. Some formations were smooth and clear, others were bumpy and hollow-sounding, and there were some columns that looked like dripping candle wax.

Read more on her blog and get lots more on this transitory Michigan wonder on Michigan in Pictures!