Famous Lake Michigan Ice Caves

I may have talked a time or two (or every.single.recent.blog) about my wanderlust. On even the dreariest weekend, my feet pull toward the door, itching for an adventure. Yesterday, we awoke to clear skies, and before we had even started breakfast, I told Tony to hurry it up, because we were leaving.

We grabbed sandwiches from a little place in town, careful to avoid the Winter Comedy Arts Festival, which was probably fun, but not on our agenda. Instead, because of the brilliant blue skies, we were headed out for what’s become our weekend tradition: to find some ice caves on the Lake Michigan coast.

At some point in our travels, I checked the internets, and an acquaintance had suggested I head to a particular location on the Leelanau Peninsula, because it had been featured on the news. As luck would have it, we had been aiming in that general direction, and decided to stop. The first place we tried was so busy that we were afraid we’d end up getting blocked in, so we did a U-turn while waiting in a long line and instead set our sights a bit farther up the beach. That spot was busy, too (the road we opted for crossed our first attempt), but there was ample parking and room to move. Normally we eschew busy places, because we are hermits, but this time we decided it would be fun. And also, decided that like going to the beach up here in warm weather, even if it seemed busy we’d be able to find some space to call our own.


Given that we normally run into a scant handful of folks while we’re out winter-adventuring, it was astonishing to see people of all ages and walks of life pouring out onto the ice. The news piece must have really talked up the incredible ice formations. After jostling around a few people who obviously thought they were the only ones headed out, we struck out for a bit of solitude.


Tony and Petey and I walked up the coast a bit, and then crossed the first layer of ice mountains heading toward open ice (what would normally be open water beyond the leading edge of ice, but is now frozen solid thanks to this bitter, bitter cold winter). We explored mini-caves and overhangs. We climbed to the very edge of the exceptionally tall ice and wondered how we’d get down. Eventually we found a spot that the three of us could safely traverse and made it to flatter ground ice.

We walked north along the huge ice cliffs, exploring the edges, looking at the overhangs and caves. We examined the ice under our feet (yep, very thick and sometimes clear enough to see into the water). And then I saw a heap of ice farther out that called for closer examination.

Petey didn’t much care for walking on this ice; the upheaved sheets were tricky to find footing on, and required careful foot placement. Don’t worry – I may look like I ventured far afield, but I didn’t go anywhere that I didn’t see lots of footsteps, and there were folks much farther out than I would have fathomed.

After his time out on Tony’s lap, we decided to delve into the crowds we had avoided at first. Along the way, we stopped for a few in-cave photo ops. I do generally prefer to have nature outings to myself, but even I’ll admit that the crowd generated a festive atmosphere that surely rivaled anything we’d missed downtown. Petey kindly kissed a couple dozen admirers, and cheerfully greeted about a dozen dogs. I offered to take photos of four or five different couples who clearly hadn’t been on such a high adventure in ages (based on things they said; not on their demeanor). Everyone was gracious and cheerful, and while I wanted to begrudge the news for publicizing something we previously enjoyed nearly alone, I instead found that I was grateful that all these people were out enjoying something I so dearly love.

After two hours out in the blazing sun (seriously, I didn’t zip my coat at all and still found myself sweating despite the 14F [-10C] temps), we climbed off the ice and trekked back to the car. As the day was still young, there was still exploring to be done.

I took nearly 200 photos, and will probably keep around 150 of them. I don’t expect I’ll share all of them on the blog, so if you want to check out more, check my Facebook page or my photography site. <–New and I’m very nervous and excited about!
Since I’ve already written enough words for a three-page essay, I’ll leave the rest of the day’s explorations for another blog. :)

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22 thoughts on “Famous Lake Michigan Ice Caves

  1. Heather!!! That was well worth the wait!!! And before I go all gushy over the AWESOME pictures…let me just say CONGRATULATIONS on the photography site! About time Girl :D Will head there some time during the day for my daily dose of Arctic Awesomeness…uh huh…that’s what I’m calling Up North during this winter, coz seriously…these panoramas are like what I imagine the Poles to be, only better coz there aren’t the wild winds to go with!

    Oh and I want a few of those Petey kisses please ;) I’m glad you found joy in sharing your favourite places with fellow humans, but I know only too well the feeling of wanting to keep a sacred space, secret :) Beautifully done as always mon ami!

    • My cup overfloweth! I wish you lived closer; I would give you the biggest hug! (And Petey would surely share kisses!) Your kind words and support are much appreciated, nay loved. Thank you, thank you, thank you :)
      We often have brutal winds – that’s what I suspect created these huge walls of ice – but Saturday it was blessedly calm. Nearly that same place on the coast has recorded straight-line winds over 100mph! I’ll stay inside for those, thankyouverymuch, but we do often venture out to watch the lake surge if the winds are in the 40mph-50mph zone.

  2. Absolutely incredible – both your photos and the subjects of those photos. In all my winters in Midwest frozen zones, I have never seen anything like what you’re experiencing in Michigan this year.

    • I guess if it’s going to be this cold, the water might as well do something beautiful as it freezes. It has been interesting, and I’ve loved all the ice formations, but I won’t miss it when it’s gone ;)

  3. Breathtaking! Wow! And now I am off to Snap Happy Gal. Exciting…

    And you have done a beautiful job with the website…(I forgot to “post comment” before I went exploring your exploration photos..

  4. You? Wanderlust? No, I can’t imagine it. :)

    I DID check out your photography site the other day–it’s soooo cool! How will you decide how much to charge for your creations? Also notice you changed your name, you Snappy Happy Chick. (Can’t remember the exact name…that’s as far as this memory will go right now.) tee hee PS. It’s 40 degrees!!!!

    • I knew you’d be shocked, but it’s true ;)
      Thank you for checking out the site and letting me know! The site works in conjunction with MPIX (a photo lab whose stuff I really like), and I just did a very low percent over their base printing price, rounded to the nearest dollar.
      40? You were warmer than us! We got to 37 and *loved* it! The air felt so good to breathe!

  5. What a wondrous winter wonderland! So glad you’re such a snap-happy gal :) I’m checking out galleries in your photography site right now (waiting for the page to load properly as I type this) and may I just say…how exciting!!
    Lovely post, as usual! Looked at each picture closely, imagining myself there :)

    • Even though it’s dragging its heels a bit this year, it really has been a wondrous winter wonderland! It’s been warm the past two days, so there’s a layer of fog floating over the snow – and we still have blue skies. It feels *very* Narnia out :)
      Thanks for checking out the site. Although I did check and there’s not a way for me to let people shop in your part of the world :( I can do the UK and some of Europe. Sigh. At least you can join me on some of my adventures and say these nice things that make my day :D

      • Pored over the ‘nature’ gallery, and may I just say your pictures are like jewels? Seriously! That gallery is beautiful! SO MANY PHOTOS!!! All of them stunning!! I mean, of course I’ve seen most of your photos that you’ve shared on your blog, but somehow they all look even more impressive and gorgeous all together like that.

        • Thank you!!! For taking the time to look and comment and be generally sweet :D Have you checked out Flickr recently? They’ve upped their game on photo displaying, and you get a similarly-nice gallery feel from it. I also love looking at them all on together like that – so much color and variety :)

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