S.E. Livingston: Sea caves best seen with a small child (or someone who thinks like one)
Dear Family, "On Saturday let's go visit the Mawikwe Sea Caves outside Cornucopia!" Ernie said this week. "It will be an adventure." "Oh. OK. Yeah." I tried to sound excited. I envisioned walking miles on unpredictable Lake Superior with my small...
"On Saturday let's go visit the Mawikwe Sea Caves outside Cornucopia!" Ernie said this week. "It will be an adventure."
"Oh. OK. Yeah."
I tried to sound excited. I envisioned walking miles on unpredictable Lake Superior with my small children tempting frozen entombment. I wasn't going to tell Ernie what I was thinking because I didn't want him to call me a sissy. My fears might eventually kill my family with boredom.
Because, if there's anything a family needs on a dull Saturday in February, it's an adventure breaking up the routine.
We parked at Meyers Beach, a National Park Service site. About 200 people were there already. I figured if that many people were there it wasn't that dangerous. We paid the $3 parking fee and toddled down to the frozen mega-lake.
The hike from the parking lot to the sea caves was an easy mile and a quarter. The flat path was well worn. As we were walking we passed scores of people. I looked at them closely because I needed to know how difficult this was going to be. What I noticed: most of the people walking back were smiling. Everybody looked happy. There was something in those sea caves that made people feel good.
When we got to the sea caves my children were thrilled with the natural arrangements. As we rounded each corner, whoever was out front would yell, "Mom, you've got to come see this!" -- and we would find an open cave surrounded by an ice-fanged mouth. Everybody would start climbing and dipping and exclaiming, and then another child would round the next corner and yell out, "Dad, come see this!" and we'd all move on to another cave. This went on and on.
What fun we had! Danny found an opening so small that the he had to get on his stomach to slide in. Everybody else in the family did the same thing -- and disappeared. As I stood outside the cliff wall I could hear them hooting and hollering underneath tons of rock.
Then I heard something that gave me goose bumps: slight cracking sounds. All of my family was in an under-rock cave over several feet of hypothermic waters, a mile away from help ... and the ice was cracking. Did I scream at them to get out? No. Telling myself that ice does make that sound in the winter, and then operating on the "ignorance is bliss" philosophy, I walked away from the cracking sound so that I didn't have to stand there frantic.
Then Ernie crawled out from the cave exit on the other side of the cliff and said to me, "You better go in or you're going to regret it for the rest of your life." I shrugged my shoulders, pushed the catastrophic thoughts to the recesses of my mind (i.e. thought like an 8-year-old), got on my stomach and slid in. Choruses of "Yay! Mom's in here!" rang out.
I had crawled into the most beautiful cave. Walls, ceiling and floor were coated with blue, white and gray shades of ice. Sunlight filtered through holes in the wall -- and even from the water underneath. It was an alternate reality in that I couldn't move in the usual sense. There was very little friction, nothing to hold on to or bolster against. If I wanted to move I had to find a wall to propel myself from or scooch along like an earthworm. Our awestruck family of seven sat in the cave and talked about camping inside there, friction and light, and then slid out.
There was much more to do, many more caves to explore, but we had to get back before the sunset. We were wet and a bit cold, but as we walked back we had warm smiles on our faces too.
If you want to visit the sea caves, they are only open for a small portion of the season. Here's some advice:
1. Go to the national park service site www.nps.gov/apis/mainland-caves-winter.htm to check on ice conditions before leaving for Cornucopia.
2. Take ski poles to help your traction.
3. Wear waterproof snow pants, not jeans.
4. Take a small, adventurous child. If one isn't available, then try to think/act like one.
E-mail S.E. Livingston at email@example.com . Livingston writes once a month for the Budgeteer.