Tag Archives: ice caves

Empire’s Sublime Winter Scene

A couple of Saturdays back we ditched household chores in favor of a trip to Empire when that elusive sun made an extended appearance. The pine needle debacle of Project Un-Do Christmas could wait – we knew we needed to remedy our sun deprivation.

Thus, out we went, happy for a reason to break out our long-neglected sunglasses along the way. (It’s the little things!)

At Empire, the beach was already sprinkled with about 10-15 other folks and the scene was surreal. Kids were crawling in and out of caves carved into the thick, massive ice formations built up along the water’s edge. Clouds intermittently descended and receded, offering up dramatic skies that beckoned you out.

Jim and I did our typical bit, taking turns exploring the beach while the other kept Jackson andΒ  Chance entertained at the playground. (FYI: You can get pretty decent speed going down the slide in snow pants.)

Once I finally convinced myself the beach was “safe” to venture out onto after watching about 14 other people successfully make the trek, I was off cresting mini ice mountains at a snails pace until I could finally peer into the water.

It was there that I finally got a sense of just how still the water was. Pancake ice floated gently on the barely breathing lake. The revelation of something so calm in such a harsh environment was almost jarring. (In a really good way.)

As the sun gained momentum slicing it’s way though the veil of clouds, we decided a winter hike up the Empire Bluff Trail seemed in order. (Which meant swapping our beach scene for one from a perch high up on the bluff towering over us. Viewing from both vantage points is a great exercise in perspective!)

We’ve yet to pull the trigger buying snow-shoes, so we hoofed it up the trail old-school (in our snow boots). It took us just over half an hour to make it to the top with the 4 year-old and the pup. Several other groups joined us, one offering to lend a hand with a family photo.

It’s pretty remarkable how much more snow and ice we’ve gotten this year. You can see the much longer ice shelf in this recent picture (on the left) compared to a similar image of the same place taken in January 2012.

More images taken atop the bluff…

Though it quietly killed me to leave before the sun actually set, we had little ones to get back to the car before the sun and temp sank. The pink glow of the clouds through the branches on our way down would have to suffice. I’ll still mark this one down as my favorite winter beach excursion to date.

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