The last time I can remember West Grand Traverse Bay freezing over was in 2009. This year, about 90% of all the Great Lakes are frozen, and I am thrilled to experience winter the way I remember it as a child. While it's unsafe to go explore them now, the Lake Michigan ice caves will live on in legend. Never before have we Michiganders seen something like this, and hundreds of people visited these magnificent natural beauties. Lucky for us, YP Kelsey Lauer and her boyfriend took the trip out and snapped some incredible pictures. Read on to hear about (and see!) their adventure. (All photos by Colin Johnstone.)
By now, most of the people in Northern Michigan have heard about the spectacular ice caves that formed on Lake Michigan in Leelanau County near Northport.
I was alerted by these amazing pictures that were popping up all over my social media news feeds, and after hearing someone call them a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I decided I had to go check them out along with boyfriend Colin and his camera on a sunny but FRIGID afternoon.
A once in a lifetime opportunity was a total understatement. I've never before seen such majestic jagged ice sculptures that stretch towards the sky, looking like a giant hand had reached down and sculpted the ice.
Arugged, frozen landscape set off by the icy blue sky looked as if it could have come from another world.
We weren’t alone in our adventure, either; it looked as if a few hundred other people had accompanied us out onto the ice, complete with one very small dog wearing a hooded coat and bright pink booties. The huskies, on the other hand, looked right at home.
The very texture of the ice was fascinating, with bumps and divots where spray from the waves had frozen. An occasional handy foothold or handhold made climbing some of the slippery slopes quite irresistible (although that is not recommended!).
Others, however, offered a myriad of nooks and crannies to explore—including some skylights!
After spending a wonderful couple of hours exploring the caves, however, the sun started to set and we decided to head back to shore while we could still see.
Saying farewell to the ice caves was almost bittersweet—especially now that the ice conditions are no longer safe to check them out. It was truly an honor and a privilege to see them while they were accessible, something far more than a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
The caves are a stunning reminder of the power and beauty of Lake Michigan and Mother Nature in all seasons—even in the frozen depths of winter, there is still amazement and joy to be found by going outside.
I challenge you to head outside this winter, try out a few new winter activities to see which strike your fancy and most of all, have FUN. Let’s make the most of our nearly 17 feet of snow this winter while we can!