Kim, Day Hiking Ambassador
Is it Winter yet?! I realize it isn’t even officially fall yet, so why am I so pumped up about winter and snowshoeing already? Well if I had to blame someone I suppose I would have to blame Tubbs Snowshoes and my beloved Michigan for making a complete winter snow lover out of me. 😉
Truth be told, I used to be one of those people who dreaded the colder temps and the winter snows soon to follow, until I discovered snowshoeing. Snowshoeing opened up a whole new world for me and my family, taking us places we had never been before, especially during the winter.
One specific day that comes to mind and really gets me Snowked (Snow + Stoked) for winter, is a random adventure that happened while visiting family in the UP (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan last year. That’s when a completely spontaneous snowshoeing adventure occurred.
It was the end of February when we had to make an unexpected trip north to visit our daughter (away at school) who suddenly needed us. We packed up our truck as we normally would for a long winter road trip. Extra food, water, warm clothes and outer wear “just in case”. Anything can go wrong while traveling Northern Michigan roads during the winter. You should always be prepared to be safe. Of course we threw in our Tubbs Snowshoes and gear, because you never know when there may be a need for snowshoes, Right?!
After a quick trip north, spending quality time with family and life was once again “as it should be” we packed up and headed back home. As we meandered our way down the highway following the Lake Superior shoreline we noticed how beautiful the now completely frozen, icy lakeshore was. There was something even magical about it. How could we leave without checking out at least a frozen waterfall, or two?
Rounding the bend into the small town of Munising, we pulled up Google Maps and located the nearest waterfall. Munising Falls! It had been a while since we visited the falls and we had never seen it frozen. After parking we headed down the trail, opting to leave our snowshoes behind, as the pathway appeared well packed by visitors before us. The falls did not disappoint. We managed to hike all the way up to and behind the falls, and to our amazement could hear the water still falling deep inside the frozen waterfall. What an amazing experience!
On our way back we chatted with locals who told us about the Grand Island Ice Caves. We had heard about the ice caves many times but never dreamt that we would have the opportunity to see them ourselves. Or could we?! So off we went in search of the Grand Island Ice Caves and a prime location to view them from across the shore.
Known for its colorful 200 foot sandstone cliffs, Grand Island has water that seeps down from the top of the Sandstone and when temperatures are just right, the water freezes and forms spectacular ice curtains of more than 30 feet tall, stretching hundreds of feet wide, creating ice caves beneath. BE WARNED! Lake Superior is not always frozen, is extremely dangerous, and unpredictable. So use caution if you decide to venture out on the ice. Understandably, The National Park Service is reluctant to encourage visitors to walk, snowshoe, ski or snowmobile across the nearly mile’s worth of frozen lake. To cross it is to risk your life and possibly that of others who may be required to rescue you.
Down the road we spotted numerous cars parked along the shoreline and what appeared like a mass of ants on an ant hill (people) and snowmobiles crossing the lake towards the colorful ice curtains. Surely the lake must be frozen and strong enough for us to cross? Knowing it was a chance in a life time and we may never have the opportunity again, we decided to strap on our Tubbs FLEX RDG Snowshoes and proceeded to cross the big lake. Trekking across the ice our excitement grew driving us further and faster. Many people we encountered along the way commented on how they wished they had snowshoes like ours to make the trip safer and easier. We nodded, smiled and continued to trek onward until we reached the island with its huge ice pillars and ice curtains spilling down and over the rocky cliffs. The colors ranged anywhere from yellow and light pinks, to the bluest of blues and greenest of greens/ It was stunning! Exploring in and out of a few caves and snapping up many photos we decided it would be wise to not linger. The winter winds had picked up force again; ahead of a big snow storm and we knew we had many more miles to travel to bring us safely home, however, the photos and the memories would stay with us forever.
Additional Resources and Links:
Munising Visitors Center: http://www.munising.org/
Survival in the Ice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gOW8ZaYqHA