Today I’m going to share an adventure my husband and I went on last weekend in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. Last year the ice caves were open for the first time in 5 years, and we didn’t make it there to see them. When we heard they were open again this year, we made the spontaneous decision to go for it and take a quick trip to see this amazing natural wonder. Because we only had one night, we decided to go all out and spend the night in the most beautiful inn in Wisconsin. We stayed in the fabulous Old Rittenhouse Inn, our room being the Turret Suite in the La Chateau house.
Our room was absolutely beautiful with 4 rounded windows and an amazing view overlooking Lake Superior, the harbor, and the ice road going to Madeline Island (that’s our room was at the top of the tower with the pointy roof). This is the view out our windows and you can see a bit of the ice road heading out from the harbor (you can even see a car on the road). Residents of the island take a ferry back and forth to the town of Bayfield in the summer, but in the winter they have to either drive on the ice road across frozen Lake Superior or take a kind of air boat until the ferry starts running again in the spring.
We had time to do some exploring before dinner, so we drove across to the island on the ice road and around the island a bit before experiencing the sunset on our way back to the mainland, dinner at the Pickled Herring restaurant, the full moon coming up over the lake through our windows, and a nice fire in our room to cap off the evening.
We spent our 10th wedding anniversary at the Old Rittenhouse Inn (21 years ago), so it was fun to see how much (or how little) things had changed. The next morning, before heading out to the ice caves, we had a beautiful and hearty breakfast, even sitting at the same table where we had breakfast all those years ago!
We packed up, loaded up, and dressed up for our adventure onto frozen Lake Superior. The Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is just west of Bayfield and their website has some very useful information and helpful hints about what equipment you’ll need to make your trip to the ice caves easier and more pleasant. We found a place to park and headed down the road, and then trail, down onto the lake for our hike to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.
Little did we know how we’d regret where we’d parked. It seemed like it was a shorter hike to the ice caves than from where we were SUPPOSED to park, hmmmm, we seemed to be walking downhill the whole way. That last 1 1/2 mile hike back UP the hill would prove to be a physical challenge unlike anything I’d ever done before.
We finally found ourselves on the frozen shores of Lake Superior and on a trail across the ice with thousands of other visitors to the caves. We jokingly called it the “sidewalk” because that’s what it looked like. All these people were walking either to the caves or back to their car, basically single file. Our plan was to head to the farthest ice that we could see and work our way back instead of starting at the first ones and then maybe not getting as far as we might have liked.
The caves are sometimes hard to see, but they line the lakeshore and islands. You can explore them by kayak in the summer, too.
I’m glad we have some people in these photos to show a little bit of perspective and how huge these ice formations are.
This cave was huge and the formations really were gigantic.
We had gorgeous weather and a beautiful 2 days for our trip. We calculated that we hiked approximately 5-6 miles and that was in snow and over ice, with heavy snow boots on (YakTrax and trekking sticks highly recommended), winter gear (we were overdressed and got overheated), and hiking UPHILL for the last 1 1/2 miles back to our car. Thankfully, my husband had read the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed and counseled me to count my steps (like she did) as we went. Seriously, I don’t know if I’d had made it without that advice, it was so physically demanding. I actually cried when I saw our car, I was so happy to have made it and to be there. But I did it! I wasn’t the only one who got their butt kicked, my husband was tired, too, and we were both sore the next couple of days. If we had parked where we were supposed to (Meyers Beach), we would have walked a bit farther, but not UPHILL and for the LAST mile and a half.
This sunset was the perfect ending to a perfect trip. It was an amazing adventure. If you ever have a chance to go and visit the Apostle Islands Ice Caves, we highly recommend it, and maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend the night AFTER you hike to the ice caves. I would recommend the Old Rittenhouse Inn, preferably one of their rooms with a Jacuzzi! You don’t get to see these natural ice formations every year, only when Mother Nature feels like showing it to you (they were only open 9 days this year). It was a real challenge, but it was so worth it.