Winter in The U.P.
I've never been to the Upper Peninsula in winter, but Karisma had seen photos of ice caves and was interested in seeing them in person. We figured we would drive there and stop wherever else looked good along the way. I like to leave room for improvising when traveling, most definitely not because I procrastinate with planning!
We left in the afternoon and made it to the bridge in time to see the sunset. There was some ice, but very little compared to the average. I did notice a couple of fossils on the sandy part of the beach, but we were too cold and hungry for much beachcombing. With the combination of Covid, winter, and being somewhat picky eaters, it was a bit of a challenge to find a place to get takeout, but we did end up successful.
We stayed at a motel along Lake Superior to get an early start in the morning and got to see a beautiful sunrise. At zero degrees, it was probably a mild day for the people that live up there, but I've been trying to avoid winter for years and Karisma is from Texas, so we did find it to be a bit chilly.
Tahquamenon Falls was the first stop in the morning. There is a trail that goes between the upper and lower falls that was pretty appealing, but we decided to just walk out to both. We both had a fortunately mild case of Covid recently, and I still wasn't sure if I was up for a long hike. I've been to the falls before, but seeing them in winter was incredible. The lower falls are pretty for sure, and I especially liked seeing the sun on the snow through the trees. The upper falls are a little busier; its a closer walk and they are the more impressive view. By the time we started walking to the upper falls, it was a balmy fourteen degrees, and still sunny. You can see the ice from the splashing of the falls, and big icicles from the overhangs.
We went to the original destination next, some ice caves on private property outside of Munising. They were cool to see, although very crowded. We had spikes for our feet, so had great traction, but a lot of other people didn't. Some of the trail is steep and pretty slippery; I did feel worried that we'd see some injuries. They are very pretty caves, and its nice of the people that own the land to allow access.
On the drive back to the motel we saw a sign for some waterfalls so of course stopped to see. It was a short walk to a nice secluded spot after the caves. It seemed to me like there were a lot of snowmobiles up there, but we were told that with the below-average snowfall (16" at Tahquamenon) there were a lot less than usual.
The next day, we spent some time in Munising before heading back. We walked around a marshy area and saw some ice fishing on Superior. Some years you can walk far out onto the ice, but it looked like there was a lot of open water. We stopped to hike to some other pretty amazing ice formations and got to see a bit of ice climbing, although my general impression is that its been too warm for much of that. I did notice a lot of melting going on, and definitely didn't stand under any icicles!
I'd recommend travelling somewhere warm for winter, but if you're not going to do that, it can also be a lot of fun in the ice and snow with the right clothes. I'm still not calling winter my favorite season any time soon!