In early March 2015, I crossed Lake Superior at Munising in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit the fabled ice curtains of Grand Island. It was a chilly and risky trek over a mile of snow and ice. My photographer friends, Neil Weaver, Craig Sterken, and John McCormick made the crossing as well. The experience was so memorable that I wrote an article for Pure Michigan's website featuring images from each of us.
In Search of Superior Crystal
by Aubrieta V. Hope
(originally published on Pure Michigan's website)
In the heart of winter, when the drifts are as high as houses and snow-dusted pines line the roads, photographers travel to the Upper Peninsula in search of crystal. Not antique-store crystal, but Superior crystal, the kind that occurs when the north wind turns every drop of open water into something sparkling and new. During the coldest months, the great lake freezes, heaves and breaks, forming mountains of crystal rocks, so tall they seem like permanent landforms. Ice bergs and volcanoes rise in the harbors and bays, reflecting all the colors of the sky. Waterfalls slow from a rush to a trickle, building columns that bubble and sing. And, on the sandstone cliffs, springs that flow unseen in the summer months create glittering ice curtains.
During winter’s last stand, at the very beginning of March 2015, I headed north to find Superior crystal. My trip was inspired by winter photographs of the U.P. that I’d viewed online. I’d seen dramatic images of enormous frozen waterfalls, great Superior ice fields, and shining rivers wreathed in morning mist. I wanted to experience and photograph all those scenes, but more than anything, I wanted to see the legendary ice curtains of Grand Island in Munising Bay. These immense, aqua blue ice curtains form when cold temperatures freeze the springs that seep from the island’s rocky cliffs. It can be tricky to get to the ice curtains, though. The island is not accessible most winters because the currents are strong in the bay, preventing adequate ice buildup. During 2015's historically cold winter, the bay froze sufficiently to allow foot traffic. For awhile it looked like Grand Island would not be accessible, but February’s arctic blast arrived just in time.
When I heard that people were safely crossing from Sand Point, I got ready to go, too. Some were crossing on snowmobiles, others on foot or on cross-country skis. I donned snowshoes and piled my camera gear into an old plastic saucer-sled rigged with bungee cords. The crossing took me about half an hour, but I expect the memories to last a lifetime. My photographer friends, Neil Weaver, Craig Sterken and John McCormick made the crossing too. Here’s a glimpse of what we discovered.
Aubrieta V. Hope is a landscape photographer with a special interest in northern Michigan and a life-long, incurable affection for winter! To see more of her images, visit her website, www.michiganscenery.com.