The Ice Caves.
I must hear about them once or twice a day. When I hear the words uttered from the mouths of visitors they come out upon the winds of excitement. I can hear the wonder in their tone, and the Goonies-esque images that they have conjured in their minds.
In 2014 that’s exactly how the media portrayed the caves. Seemingly out of nowhere, attention built up over the ice caves, reaching national news. Suddenly, the Ice Caves became a phenomenon. The Ice Caves went on for eight weeks that year. That may not seem like a lot of time, but over the course of those eight weeks, the park would sometimes garner 10,000 people in single day! Additionally, the summer season for the park is approximately three months. From mid-June until labor day. However, during that time, the park employs around fifty seasonal employees. During the winter, the number of employees drops down to somewhere in the twenties. An eight week period of seasonal visitation proved problematic for the park.
A major aspect of my time here as Centennial Volunteer Ambassador during the winter will be helping manage the ice caves. The park will be exploring volunteer options for the event. Discussion are already in the works for opportunities such as a hot chocolate table with the Friends of the Apostles. There will certainly be need for trash cleanup and parking assistance as well. We will be looking for adventurous and loyal volunteers to assist us during a time in which the park desperately needs all the help it can get.
In what is sure to be another extensive winter, the Apostle Islands will gladly extend a hand to any volunteer wishing to assist and, at the same time, experience the Ice Caves for themselves. It may be as simple as watching visitors in the caves to make sure they are conducting themselves safely, and helping individuals who may become injured. During discussions with the Chief of Protection, he made special note over how many people get hurt during the ice caves.
“People don’t realize how cold and slippery out there. It can be a skating-rink, no joke, and we saw too many people out there with just a sweatshirt. It’s below zero out there! So, yeah, we somewhere between six to eight trailers out there with ambulances constantly rushing to and from the caves. It is a huge community effort to manage these caves. We work with the Red Cliff tribe, the Bayfield, Washburn, and Ashland police departments, Emergency Medical Services, you name it. At the same time, we are working six days, ten to twelve hours a day. It is a huge undertaking and evidently it is supposed to be a similar winter. So, in short….get your winter gear ready.” – Chris Smith, Chief of Protection at the Apostle Islands