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Take me there Tuesday: A Tale of the Ice. Mackinaw City and Munising.


Mackinaw City, home to the Mackinac Bridge and the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. This stunning city offers so many different activities to do in both the summer and winter months. Come on a tour with MichiganScapes as we take you to the cold tundra of the Winter, no jacket required!


Mackinaw City


Most People think the city shuts down after the warm weather fades and the cold creeps in across the Straights of Mackinac. While you might see closed signs in some windows of local area shops, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy. If you're a photographer, or even a night sky enthusiast which you probably are, since your reading this article, then prepare to have your camera out. In December you can still take the ferry across, but after that it might be challenging to get to based on weather conditions, but you can always visit the ferry website for all the times and openings. (sheplersferry.com)


Most of the restaurants in the city remain open, as well as places that carry some of the best fudge in the US! It's simply a tradition to leave with a piece, or five, and not even make it home with any left. The downtown area also offers multiple storefronts that remain open for your holiday shopping. If you are nearing the end of winter, keep your eye out for the schedule of the USCG Ice Cutter which you can tour.



Headlands International Dark Sky Park


As the night falls in the shortened winter days, the astrophotographers come out to play. Headlands offers an incredible view of some of the darkest skies in Michigan! This 550 acre plot of land offers views unlike any other! City folk, are always blown away by how many stars twinkle in the skies above. On a great cloudless night, you may be able to see the following phenomenon:


  • Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) when she is dancing

  • Thousands upon thousands of stars

  • The Milky Way Galaxy

  • A meteor shower or two

Sometimes we are even lucky enough to see a comet or shooting stars cross the paths of our cameras. The nights can get quite cold, but grab that cup of coffee, hot coco, or tea and take it all in because it is definitely worth it. If you have time, head over to McGulpin Point where you can take in the lighthouse or go down by the water to view the Mighty Mac from a different perspective!


Mackinaw City is also home to another lighthouse, just east of the Fort Mackinac. While the museum and tour is closed for the winter, you can always find photographers out and about, taking pictures of the property, capturing the exterior of the structure, and also aiming the camera over the straights of Mackinaw in hopes of capturing another natural phenomenon known as blue ice!


Blue Ice


When the temperature is cold enough, you can see blue ice staring to form along the beach of Mackinaw City. This process in nature is caused by a lack of reflected red wavelengths and in turn causes us to see the blue side of the spectrum. Many factors take place during this process, including how fast the ice freezes, water movement underneath the surface, and temperature fluctuations. The "ice shards" are knocked into each other, forming them to break into sharp blue plates of ice. While you may see many people out on the ice, always use caution if you go out, because the way our Great Lakes and currents work, there is always a chance for a ice volcano where you can potentially fall through into the water.




We are now going to take you across the file mile bridge of the Mighty Mac, 200 feet above the waters surface and across into St Ignace where there is always a great lookout of the bridge as you face south. If you are planning to cross the bridge for your travels, please be aware that it can close and disrupt travel. The reason for this is likely due to high winds, ice formations, and heavy fog. It's always good to have a plan B when traveling to the UP in the winter months. As you cross into the UP, you can head north west up to the Munising area where the winter activities continue for the active explorer, photographer and nature lover.


Munising


This small little town on the banks of Lake Superior is an excellent area for winter sports, exploring and photographing. If you're starting off your visit and need to grab some energy first, you can visit one of the local eateries. Eh! Burger is a fun atmosphere for the whole family to enjoy some chili, a cheeseburger, or some amazing cheese curds! This place is right by the dock where the Pictured Rock Tour leaves for its journey. The tour itself is closed during the winter months, however, you can still see Miners Castle and other waterfalls in the area, from up top at the state park overlook. If you are big into adventure, you can also book a class that teaches you how to climb on the "ice curtains". Speaking of ice curtains, not too far from Miner's Castle is the Eben Ice Caves.


Eben Ice Caves


The Eben Ice Caves are like a scene out of a fairy tale, due to the colorful hues reflecting in the wall of ice that comes down from the cliff above. You will not see them right away when you enter the parking lot. First, get your snow gear and ice cleats ready while you cross a field and head back into the snow covered forest. The 3/4 mile hike back to the main attraction can be filled with smiles, ooh's and ahh's and if you'r3 like me, probably a few ouches! The trail is a little on the advanced side, so those of you who might have a hard time with steep inclines, frozen tundra, and deep snow, might need to hang back. For those who enjoy the frozen toes, and rigorous landscape, then this is a perfect hike for you. There are a series of down trees, small man made bridges, and a very large hill which takes you down to an area below the ice caves, so unless you want to explore that, be sure to stay to your right to get to the ice caves themselves. Once you are at the final stretch, you might need to use your Spiderman powers and hang onto a tree limb or two, to maneuver to the actual base of the cave.



Once you made it, you can enjoy the views of massive ice formations coming down from cliff to ground. Sometimes based on what sediments and how much air bubbles are in the ice, you can see different colors shimmering through. For an experience that will leave you feeling like you're not in Michigan, but on another planet, go behind the ice and into the cave itself (only if you have the ice cleats on) and enjoy the views of a frozen winter wonderland. When I visited, the ice was green and gave off a very strong Superman vibe. The ice can be very slippery, so always use caution when walking on it, but let me tell you, the ice cleats really do help!







If you would like to see all of these things, but don't want to go out on your own, you can actually join MichiganScapes for their Blue Ice / Night Sky Photography Tour. This event takes place February 16-18 up in Mackinaw City where you will be able to witness the Blue Ice, Eben Ice Caves, and much more! During this workshop you have a chance to stay with MichiganScapes right inside the guest house within the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. We will go through a class based learning session multiple times over the weekend and teach you everything you need to know about photographing blue ice, winter landscapes, the night sky, forecasting aurora and much more! Within the price, no mater what package you choose, breakfast, snacks, giveaways and a whole lot of fun are included. At the end of the class, everyone also will walk away with an awesome gift (on top of the giveaways). To register for the class, click the picture below to be taken to the page.

MichiganScapes Ice Tour

Thank you everyone for joining us as we continue to visit another great Michigan city. Please share this article with your friends and family, so they can also enjoy it, while drinking some hot cocoa, tea or coffee and staying warm during these winter months. Have you visited one of the areas featured in this article? Let us know about your experience in the comments, or on our Facebook page at Facebook.com/groups/michiganscapes





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