Shelby: This winter has been severe and pretty terrible for many. But thanks to all this freezing cold weather, one of nature’s hidden beauties, the Apostle Islands sea caves, has been accessible to the public for the first time in five years. Check it out.
Each step is a challenge for the thousands making this mile-long hike across ice to an isolated stretch of coastline on Lake Superior. And here is what you get: caves that look like they are covered in crystal and icicles dangling from cliffs two stories high.
Jim McLaughlin: It’s just fantastic! It’s a lot better than we thought it would be.
Shelby: Jim McLaughlin is from Hayward, Wisconsin. And if he had to describe it in one word?
Shelby: The 1-billion-year-old sandstone is full of cracks. Lake water crept in and froze on the walls and ceilings. James Fuchs has come here twice from Shoreview, Minnesota.
James Fuchs: It’s unique to see water in so many different forms and different colors, and the way it’s sculptured. It’s just incredible! And you couldn’t dream this up. You couldn’t have a mind’s eye to almost create this. You have to come and see it. You have to come and see it.
Shelby: Winter access to the caves is only possible when the ice is thick enough to walk on safely, something that hasn’t happened in five years. In the last 30 years, the Great Lakes ice pack has decreased by 70%. Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker says it is climate change.
Bob Krumenaker: We are referring to the ice cave experience as a truly endangered national park experience because, like endangered animals, we can’t predict its future and it may not be there.
Shelby: But for those lucky enough to enjoy this year’s show, it is a moment frozen in time.
James: It’s in my mind. I won’t forget this. It’s too special…too special.
Shelby: A spectacle that will end when winter does.
The Apostle Islands sea caves have set huge attendance records this year with more than 20,000 people visiting in just one weekend.