The 52 Places Traveler went searching for Ontario’s ice caves, gorgeous creations born of frigid climate now threatened by local weather change.
Our columnist, Sebastian Modak, is visiting every vacation spot on our 52 Places to Go in 2019 checklist. His journey to the Ontario Ice Caves required a 12-hour drive from Detroit in whiteout circumstances.
The ice caves of Ontario, Canada, accessible through the Trans-Canada Highway that skirts the shores of Lake Superior, are on the 2019 checklist of 52 Places to Go for a disheartening purpose. Like any phenomenon depending on ice, chilly and climate patterns, the caves are underneath menace from local weather change. This, although the lakeshore will get reliably pounded by snow yearly because of a lake impact that sends wind hurtling towards close by mountains, which then spark heavy precipitation. The International Joint Commission, a binational group that manages and protects boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada, predicts that Lake Superior might be fully ice-free within the subsequent two to 3 many years.
For now, most winters, the wind, waves, and bitter chilly mix to type the ice caves, although there have been winters after they don’t occur in any respect and others when a large number of them soar 20 ft excessive.
To see them now, earlier than they’re gone, felt like an immense privilege — at the same time as I used to be compelled to confront the contradictions that come up from the quantity of carbon I expended attending to them. Searching for the caves was a journey expertise that’s more and more uncommon for different causes. There aren’t any signboards. I didn’t come throughout any organized excursions to the caves and going out on the ice searching for them is harmful. Mother Superior, as I heard a couple of native check with the lake, has sunk a whole bunch of ships — she’d don’t have any qualms, I’m positive, in sinking me too.
Ice caves aren’t the one formations sculpted by Lake Superior. I noticed piles of cracked floor ice that regarded like discarded home windows, basalt rock partitions slicked over with thick layers of ice, and delicate snow-covered formations like this one at Flour Bay.
If you go
Even many locals don’t know easy methods to discover the ice caves, so going with an skilled information is significant, as is ensuring you’re correctly geared up with extra layers than you assume you want and snowshoes. Ellen Van Laar, a musician and visual artist who lives on the shore of the lake near Coppermine Point, runs Arts and Adventure, a retreat center. She provides parking for a fee and will occasionally organize tours around the lake.
Some lessons learned? Don’t walk on anything you aren’t 100 percent confident is either land or very thick ice; wear snowshoes and, if you have a guide, follow in their tracks from a safe distance; and always err on the side of caution.
Accommodations near the ice caves are scarce. Some of the closest hotels and lodges are closed for the winter. But Stokely Creek Lodge, a collection of rustic cabins surrounded by 60 miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, is about 30 miles from the nearest ice caves.
Some ice caves, like this skull-like formation in Coppermine Point, are rock caves that over time are covered by layers of ice.
Jeff Dixon, a Sault Ste. Marie-based photographer who creates stunning pieces of art from photographs of the caves, took me out in search of them one day and warned me about the bridges. “You don’t even know you’re on them half the time — you think it’s a solid 30-foot mound of ice and it’s not. If it breaks, you fall and there’s no way to get out,” he said.
The cross-country ski trails near Sault Ste. Marie are some of the best on the continent. “Once you’ve skied here, so many other trails become underwhelming,” said Gaylen Byker, who along with his wife has owned the Stokely Creek Lodge since 2007 but has been coming to its trails for 40 years.
The winters are still bitterly cold along Lake Superior, the cross-country trails are still refreshed daily with falling snow, and the ice is still there. But to watch the ice caves, like this one at Coppermine Point, forming serves as a poignant reminder of how fragile their existence is.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.