On the Ice at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse

Recap: We played on the ice for two hours at Gills Piers Road, where the news had apparently identified some awesome ice caves. We enjoyed the people way more than we thought, but our curmudgeonly instincts eventually kicked in and we left.

A couple of the kindly folk we met on the ice mentioned the clear ice they had previously seen at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. In four winters here we had yet to witness this phenomenon, so it was kind of a bucket list item. Considering the location of the lighthouse – not directly on the coast and exposed to the winds we assume created the massive ice formations there – we were shocked to see mounds of ice fairly close to shore. After all, we were just there a month ago, spying nothing quite so dramatic.

A few other explorers probed the ice, and before long we joined them on the slippery, knobby surface. It was a relief not to be surrounded with our fellow humans, but this also meant picking our own way among the treacherous ice mountains instead of following a well-worn path.

After viewing the ice from above, we decided to join a few others down on the flat ice below the giant formations we’d been climbing. Though we only spotted one good place to walk out, it was obviously the place as it was a wide clearing between walls of ice. We shuffled across the glassy surface, seeking possible caves to the south. Before long we were rewarded with two toothy finds. I clambered around as I do, but Tony and Petey declined to join in the fun instead remaining in the open with Petey’s new-found friends (Neville and Jasper, in case you’re keeping track). Farther south – a good bit farther – a larger possible cave beckoned, but north faced more into the wind, also calling. As the sun was lowering in the sky, and a group of boisterous adventurers headed to the cave (including Petey’s friends), we ventured north.

Shards of glassy ice I spied on the way in won my attention on the trek out. I stopped for a couple photos, and then we headed across the clearing.

We had previously watched the boisterous adventurers run and slide across the ice, and were able to see that it was about twice as thick as the recommended safe thickness, but it was still unnerving to stand upon such clear ice. (Mom: not only did we get close to the edge, but we kind of walked over it…)

We didn’t discover any caves during our northerly expedition, but the ice formations were still breath-taking. Large, fangly icicles twisted from the escarpment, hinting at the windy conditions under which they were created. Unlike the crystal-clear ice we had just crossed (which is also the strongest kind), these appeared to be frozen marshmallow fluff.

No caves, then, but still very cool stuff, including some icy overhangs that look like frozen waves from just the right angle. (I tried to set the gallery up so that each photo of me below is followed by the picture I was taking/my viewpoint.)

We wanted to continue both north around the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula (haha – that’s a long trek), and back to that ice cave that still tugs at my shutter finger, we knew we still had to climb the ice mounds to get back to the car. Though it was hard to drag myself away, it was the smart thing to do. And with nigh on 200 photos, it’s not like I needed to stay our there 😉 (Speaking of which, you’d think with 36 photos in a blog that I’d have shared them all, but I haven’t. I’ll be posting more on Facebook and my photography site in the coming days. After I sleep. Because even though it’s 1:00am, I just got word the aurora is doing its thing again, so off I go!)


24 thoughts on “On the Ice at the Grand Traverse Lighthouse

    • Thank you so much. Your kindness is truly appreciated!
      Be careful on the ice. We were out hiking yesterday, and the “heat wave” really has made things surprisingly less stable – lots of hidden pockets of frigid water hiding under some of that stuff!

        • We went to both Gills Pier Road (where the news mentioned) and Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Yesterday we stopped in Empire and over by the Maritime Museum in Glen Haven. The first two places definitely looked cooler, but it could have been because of the snow we got overnight Monday night/Tuesday morning. You could also try Peterson Park, or really any of the beaches in that area. Have fun!

  1. The apparent wrath of Old Man Winter and Mother Nature is providing some amazing landscapes, and you are doing an incredible job of capturing them! Just don’t become one of those people falling through the ice into the lake.

  2. Heather!!! I know you are all waiting on Spring but really…this Narnian hinterland is the stuff of dreams…well for the likes of me who never see snow unless we travel abroad in winters! Your winter has been a revelation and learning experience for me 🙂 just in case I haven’t said that like a thousand times already 😉

    I loved the shots of clear ice coz I’ve never seen anything like it before and the sunsets on ice are magical! I was imagining that it would be an ethereal setting for ice skaters performing…I don’t know…Swan Lake maybe! The thought came to me because I remembered when we were in Bali…we watched the Kecak dancers perform their fire dance in a little amphitheatre set on a cliff overlooking the ocean at sunset…It was surreally beautiful…just like this is 🙂

    Great going mon ami 🙂

    • I’m not exactly allowing myself to get wistful for spring. She’ll come in her own time, though I may get frustrated with her for dawdling. I’ve complained about the winter being so cold, but I really shouldn’t. If it weren’t for the frigid temps, these incredible ice structures wouldn’t have had a chance to form, and I would’ve missed them. And the clear ice! It is surreal, much like your fire dancers on the cliff. (Pictures?) I haven’t seen any skaters out on it, but I’ve seen goals set up for hockey and have heard of a few pick-up games on the bay.
      Thanks for the effusive commentary. It makes my day 🙂

    • This comment just about makes me weepy. I’m so happy to be able to capture the mood and feel of the place and convey it – across the world no less! Thanks for enjoying with me from so far away 🙂

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