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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Summer is the busiest season on Washington Island, Wisconsin, located north of the tip of the Door Peninsula in Lake Michigan, and understandably so. The climate, the serenity, the adventurous access make for memorable and pleasant summer vacations. And as much as I enjoy being on the island during the warm season, visiting during winter is in some ways even more enjoyable.

Activity on the island in winter is substantially and noticeably less than during summer. But the folks who live here year-round keep themselves busy. Sign boards in front of the school and the performing arts center announce an array of activities and programs going on throughout the winter. Snowmobile tracks, ski trails and snowshoe prints can be found everywhere one goes on the island. People here are not shut-ins during the coldest time of year.

My favorite thing about coming to the island in winter is taking the ferry through the ice. The random geometrical shapes created as the boat breaks up huge chunks of ice are absolute art, and the enormous ice sheets forced by the boat to slide over and under one another are awe inspiring.

Ice Shapes
Ice Sheets

But the most amazing thing about crossing the lake through the ice is the beautiful music created as the ice cracks and pieces slide away from the boat. More often than not, the ice that has formed is rough and uneven, a result of the wind and waves. Sometimes wind will cause uplifting of the ice, creating curious sculptures.

Ice Sculpture

On rare occasion, the wind might even bring in ice from elsewhere that becomes so thick that the ferryboat needs to be rescued by the Coast Guard!

Once in a while, though, the wind will die down long enough and the waves will calm so that when the ice forms, the lake freezes flat and smooth and clear like a pane of glass. As the boat propels its way across the lake breaking up this window on top of the water, jagged shards are sent skittering across the ice. Above the roar made by the boat crunching its way through the ice, these shards produce the music of a dozen wooden xylophones. The song is unexpected and beautiful and calming.

The Sounds of a Dozen Xylophones

If you’ve never had the opportunity to visit Lake Michigan in winter and travel through the ice, I recommend making the trip at least once. You’ll witness a small part of the world in a way you haven’t seen before.

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