Cookery Maven Blog

Au Revoir Ice Road, You Were Fun While You Lasted

Ice road conversations have a particular cadence— a) is there going to be an ice road this year? and b) is the ice road still open? In between those conversational poles, there are cars traveling back and forth and enjoying free and easy access to Madeline or the mainland. While the appearance of an ice road isn't a given, the death of the ice road is assured. On April 3rd, the United States Coast Guard Cutter ALDER came through and delivered the fatal blow and we said au revoir to the 2013 ice road.

The ALDER is a big boat— 225 feet long, 46 feet wide and way, way bigger than any ATV, wind sled or human on the ice that morning.

The ALDER and I have something in common— she gained her 'Great Lakes Cutter' status on my birthday, October 12th. A Libra ice cutter, who knew? I always thought ice cutters were Aries or Sagittarius, it's amazing what you learn on an April morning at an ice road funeral.

The ALDER stopped in front of the entry to the Apostle Islands Marina, turned around and headed back towards the big lake. I guess it had done all it could to unlock the ferry and fishing boats from their winter irons and was headed back to Duluth. It was hard to believe just six weeks ago, Will and I were on the ice road, headed to Madeline for our Sunday photo safari (read about it here).

She made quick work of the road, breaking up sheets of ice that had carried Islanders and Mainlanders back and forth for six weeks in the spring of 2013. It was a good road while it lasted but I wasn't sorry to see it go. Summer is coming and that means beach days, Long Island Cocktail Club, gardening, farmer's markets and bonfires. Plus, there's always the 2014 ice road to look forward to, right?

Madeline Island Ice Road

Every year, once the bay has frozen, there's a row of Christmas trees between Bayfield and Madeline Island. That's the sign that maybe, with the weather gods blessing, there will be a two-mile ice road connecting Madeline with the mainland. It's taken seven years but on February 24th I did it— I drove over the ice road to Madeline all by myself (and Will). We wanted to go to Big Bay Town Park if the ice road re-opened for business for our Sunday photo safari. Since Ted went skiing with Jack and Charlie at Whitecap, it was up to me to get the car (with all the windows down and seatbelts off) across the ice in one piece. I called Madelaine to inquire about tips and pointers for our voyage— she said drive slow and go between the orange cones (the road had cracked earlier in the week and the road had been re-routed prior to opening). I followed her directions to a 'T' and we made it across in one piece.

About half-way across we saw this guy fishing on the side of the ice road (officially Wisconsin County Highway H)—adds another dimension to the term 'road kill'.

The windsleds were parked at the Madeline Island approach, waiting for another chance to ferry people across in the window between hard ice and flowing water.

Of course, we brought George along for the ride. Will and I have decided he is the official dog of the Dougherty Photo Safaris. He brings elements of joy, vigilance and snowman manicuring skills to the adventure.

Big Bay Town Park didn't disappoint, it was definitely worth the ride.

The reflection of the shoreline in the water was framed by ice and snow. Everything seemed to be differing shades of grey, white and dark green but glimpses of the water outside the bay gave me hope for the eventual return of summer.

Since it was a monochromatic day, I decided to capture the delicate, crystalline structure of the ice and icicles.

The orange moss seemed eye-poppingly bright after spending ten minutes kneeling in the snow photographing icicles.

We decided to head back and my first thought was, 'what time does the ferry leave'? Then I remembered, we drove across the ice road and could leave when we wanted— a pretty unusual feeling on Madeline Island. We rolled down our windows, unbuckled our seatbelts and pointed the car towards Bayfield and home. It was another beautiful afternoon with Will and George, I'm a lucky, lucky girl.

Eagles On The Madeline Island Road

Last week, Ted and I went over to Madeline Island on the ice road for an afternoon excursion. Midway across, we saw two eagles waiting for a snack from the fishermen pulling their nets up. They are beautiful birds and I've never been lucky enough to capture a decent picture (before our Madeline ice road adventure). Talk about a happy dance, I was finally in the right place at the right time with the right lens on my camera. Life is good.