Exploring the Frozen Apostle Island Sea Caves

Some of the best experiences I’ve had on “bike trips” haven’t been related to cycling at all. Case in point: in the early talks of the Frostbike agenda, Jeff from All-City recommended that we drive 4 hours north of Minneapolis to the southern shore of Lake Superior.

In this frozen land, there were caves, which during the summer months, held many great alcoves and vistas out over the lake, but in the winter, when it’s cold enough, they became in chrysalis. This isn’t an annual occurrence either. This year was the first year in a decade that the water has been cold enough to freeze.

Everything is frozen, even the water that typically seeps through the sandstone cliffs, causing cascades of icicles, many of which are big enough to deliver a fatal blow if they were to fall. Behind these curtains, lie numerous caves, most of which are covered in a solid 3″ of ice on all surfaces. It’s really something else.

Tuesday morning, Jeff, Kyle and I ventured out into the madness and at some point I expected to see 7′ tall albino penguins or at least a shoggoth. But alas, the Old Ones are long gone.

See more in the Gallery!

  • chris campbell

    One of your very best sets yet John! Incredible!

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      Thanks dude!

  • rmdub

    So damn good. This one is up there with the alps sets.

    • http://theradavist.com/ John Watson

      It was sooooo cold!

  • Richard Dreyer

    Damn man, really really great photos.

  • Ace Metric Cycles

    INSANE! Been anticipating this gallery. outer space

  • boomforeal

    wow, just wow. incredible shots john, trip looks like it was a trip!

  • Pearl Velo

    Beautiful photos John. Jealous I missed that portion of the trip.

  • Tony McCue

    Favorite set on the site.

  • Jamie McKeon

    the cathedral of metal!

  • Justin

    Awesome sights to see! Went on Monday and despite it being damn cold, it was still fun crawling in and out of the caves (at one point even crawling through a cave to another entrance…).

    According to page 7 of this FAQ (http://www.nps.gov/apis/upload/Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-FAQ-2-19-14.pdf), the Ice Caves were last accessible in 2009.

  • Brendan Lauer

    Made the trip there a few weeks ago, so incredible. I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life and I don’t think I’ve ever been that cold. We took a lot of similar photos, great minds think alike! http://www.flickr.com/photos/71162916@N04/sets/72157640401118545/

  • schue113

    Superior is amazing in winter but has a force and presence that only can be appreciated in the Summer months through November. I’ve spent many days sailing out of Bayfield, WI, to the Upper Peninsula and the likes. In winter it is almost like the beast that is Superior hibernates, especially in the years the lake freezes.

    • .,`

      there is some really awesome biking up past the porcupine mountains, even up past Houghton. its like Alaska.

  • .,`

    my heart aches for my home state.

  • aarn

    I never really went up there during the winter, but some of my best memories are from the shores of Lake Superior in the late summer months. Thanks for this set. Really awesome photos.

  • Alton Richardson

    Looks like some great ice climbing to be had there. Really enjoyed your ice textures and perspectives. Thank you!

  • Stan Washlesky

    John: That is a lot of exceptional photography in a beautiful but a miserably cold environment! I grew up 80 miles north of that area in Minnesota. I have done a fair amount of sailing around the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior years ago during the summer months. I am leaving with your father headed to the gulf stream early am tomorrow. Again, outstanding job! – Stan Washlesky

  • DODGERDISCIPLE

    John, Your best post yet! So cool and so pretty. Keep up the good work!