20091211

Picture Perfect - Three - Ice Road


It's a THREE mile walk one way (or drive, we walked) on ice across this part of Lake Superior on Hwy 2 from Bayfield Wisconsin to Madeline Island, the only one of of the 23 Apostle Islands that is inhabited. 
The Highway Department maintains this Ice Road (US 2, it's on the maps) after the Ferry can no longer operate, until the ice is unsafe again in the Spring.  Notice the discarded Christmas trees that mark the way every 1/10 mile...because the visibility can instantly become zero feet if a wind kicks up and there is blowing snow.  It can be a risky trip even on a clear day. People have gotten lost and driven into open water miles away, or stuck out in the middle when they drove off the plowed road into deep snow.

We bundled up warm, to shield us from the wind and took food and water with us.  On Madeline Island we went to a restaurant and had lunch. When we started to walk back across the ice road we discovered they had closed the road because of dangerous ice conditions. BUT we had no other way to return and it was getting dark, so we went anyway.  Then it was even more uncomfortable when a car passed (people drove anyway).  But we made it and it was a very pleasant days 6 mile walk.

When walking to the island... when a car approaches, you can see and feel a "wave" approaching the same as if it was unfrozen water. As you stand there you can hear the ice cracking under your feet and feel the Ice rise and fall about 6 inches and see the wave of ice leaving when the car passes...a very uncomfortable feeling standing over 300 feet deep water, miles from shore... even worse if it's a bus or truck.  You can easily see the huge cracks in the ice and occasionally ice ridges occur so they must sometimes re-route the road slightly.
In winter, the population of the 18 mile long island drops to about 200 people. During the period after the ferry can no longer plow thru the ice, but before the ice road is safe, children take the air-boat (Ice boat / ice sled) to and from school each day in the city of Bayfield (A "boat" with an airplane engine and propeller).