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Backpacker Magazine – May 2000

Apostle Islands: Lake Superior's Icy Magic

Wisconsin: Explore 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland shoreline where strings of cliffs and caves are bejeweled in ice.

by: Jeff Rennicke

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"If there is magic on this planet," wrote poet Loren Eiseley, "it is contained in water." Each winter, that magic is on glittering display in Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. As temperatures drop and the crystal blue waters of Lake Superior splash and slosh on the sandstone cliffs of the 21 islands and 12 miles of mainland shoreline that make up the national lakeshore, something wonderful happens: ice. Waterfalls freeze into white fangs, cliffs glitter as if wrapped in sparkling robes, caves are set with icicles that shine like diamonds. It is artistry in ice.

The best spot for ice viewing is Squaw Bay Caves on the western edge of the lakeshore, where for nearly a mile a string of cliffs and caves are bejeweled in ice. Snowshoe, hike, or ski the 6-mile Mainland Trail, or brave the frozen lake itself. Although it is only a short hike along Squaw Bay, you can-if the ice conditions are right-combine it with a more adventurous journey across the frozen water to one of the nearby islands, such as Basswood or Oak. There you'll find more hiking trails and endless shorelines of cliffs, caves, and more magical ice. Some years you can walk right out to the ice formations. Other years you can only gaze at them from shore. You never know. That's part of the magic.

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