» ice world
I'll get to the good part eventually, but the worst part of this trip was that after Kai and I finished our day long journey while not having a proper meal all day, we looked forward to doing some extreme eating at the Wendy's which was about an hour away. Or, it should have been an hour away, if we didn't get stuck behind some truck that insisted on going 45 MPH. So, we are starving by the time we pull into the parking lot and then we notice that there is a bus in the parking lot. NOOOOO!!! please don't tell me that some high school team has stopped here ahead of us and the line will be overflowing the corral! Yes, the line was full of high school students, and then 3 old people. Pure torture. We were getting close and all of the old people ordered seperately but one was very short so I accidentally ended up placing my order before her. I blame the Wendy's employer for making eye contact with me and then prompting me to order, and for the old person for being so short, effectively out of my field of view.

Imagine single digit temperatures, constant blowing wind, snow squalls, and nothing but ice for miles. This is apparently not everyone's dream vacation, which explains why my venture travel company "Arctic Getaways" failed, but personally, I have a hard time thinking of any place more appealing. You might think you have to go all the way to a polar region to see such a thing, but no, every winter, the Great Lakes become a world shaped by cold, ice, wind, and waves. Note that I am not suggesting everyone should run out onto the lake ice in the winter, ice on the Great Lakes poses many dangers. You can often enjoy many ice formations from shore.

Prior to this trip I only had a vague awareness that there were some small cliffs in the "thumb" area of Michigan. I was looking for some photos of ice on Lake Huron when I came across a photo of Turnip Rock. I was dumbfounded that such a thing existed and I had never seen it before. The reason for this is that these cliffs are privately owned. However, since all of the Great Lakes shoreline is publicly accessible up to the high water line (a vague marker) and I knew there was thick ice in the area due to the cold winter, I figured it would be easy to get a look at Turnip Rock by skiing to it on Lake Huron. In the summer you can check it out by kayak (see my trip report or the Tip of The Thumb Heritage Water Trail site for more info).


Kai on the "Thumbnail" with Turnip Rock in the foreground.

Pack ice and a pressure ridge of blue ice near the lighthouse. The ice is stacked up on the reef that sits just under the water here. There was open water a few hundred feet to the east of the reef.

So you all know Michigan is shaped like a mitten, but do you also know that at the tip of the thumb there is a rock formation that looks like a fingernail?

A pressure ridge on Lake Huron.

The Port Austin Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits on the end of a rocky reef that lies just under the surface of Lake Huron. The platform is 30 feet high and the lighthouse tower is 60 feet high. It would have provided an amazing view I'm sure but the stairway is raised and locked (the lighthouse is currently in the process of being restored after being overtaken by birds and weather for many years).

The Thumbnail. Looks more like an index finger to me but...

The sort of ice people dream about. Well, I do anyway!

Ice bound.


Broken, and re-frozen. At first I thought this spot (near the lighthouse) was open water, but no, turns out it was all frozen solid. The water is not very deep here.

Part of the iced over lighthouse platform, about 2 miles from land.

In some spots, the ice was so clear you could see the lake floor below. It was kind of freaky when you could see rocks 20 feet under you. The white streaks are from blowing snow.

A pile of blue ice.

Kai approaching the cliffs.

Ice piled up along the shoal near the lighthouse.

A large ice volcano.

Left: Birch trees and Turnip Rock. Right: Behind a cliff icicle.

Frozen fish (brown trout).

Left: Clear ice reveals the lake floor, about 10 feet below us. Right: Ice chunks frozen together.

Exploring the ice.


As we started towards the lighthouse we couldn't even see it due to a snow squall, but eventually the weather cleared, although the wind never stopped.

I've never been happier...except on my wedding day, if Megan is reading this (Photo by Kai).

An icicle overflowing onto a tree.

This is one of the mysteries of our exploration. What are those white things on the horizon? Huge icebergs? Ice covered rocks or small islands? Some kind of man-made structures? This could haunt me until my death.

The cliffs are severely undercut, creating caves, like this (Photo by Kai).

Pressure ridge.

Patterns in the ice.

More slabs of blue ice.

Me below the lighthouse (Photo by Kai).

These are our tracks. My GPS batteries died near Turnip Rock so there is some missing data in that area. 8.1 miles total.

Video of the lake ice and blowing snow as we neared the lighthouse.

This is a wide angle view of the cliffs, Turnip Rock is on the far left and above the cliffs you can see some rich people have built some houses.

View Kai's Photos


< Back to Photos & Trip Reports

» all photo reports from lower michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fall 2012 - Summer 2013
Photos from around town in different seasons.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fall 2011 - Summer 2012
Photos from around town in different seasons.
Fall in Ann Arbor, Michigan
October 2011
Fall photos, mostly from around the University of Michigan campus.
Lake Michigan
September 3, 2010
A windy, wavey day on Lake Michigan brings the surfers out.
Nordhouse Dunes, Michigan
February 27 - 28, 2010
Winter camping in the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness along Lake Michigan.
Lake Erie, Michigan
February 6, 2010
Checking out the ice on Lake Erie at Sterling State Park.
The Thumb, Michigan
September 6, 2009
Kayaking along the rocky shores of Lake Huron near Port Austin.
Spring in Ann Arbor, Michigan
April - May 2009
Photos of bright colors returning to campus and town.
St. Joseph, Michigan
February 8, 2009
Checking out the ice around St. Joseph before it melted away.
Fall in Ann Arbor, Michigan
October - November 2008
A few attempts at capturing the beautiful fall colors.
Frozen Coast, Michigan
February 16, 2008
Exploring the frozen shores of Lake Michigan, from Warren Dunes to South Haven.
Northern Michigan
October 19 - 21, 2007
Enjoying the fall colors in northern Michigan.
West Coast, Michigan
July 21, 2007
Checking out a couple of the beaches and towns of Michigan's west coast.
Northern Michigan
June 21 - 22, 2007
Canoeing the Pere Marquette River and checking out the Sleeping Bear Dunes area.
Northern Michigan
July 1 - 4, 2006
Checking out Grand Haven, Silver Lake, Sleeping Bear Dunes, and Traverse City.
Michigan Spring
April 2006
Spring pictures from around the Ann Arbor area.
Michigan Winter
December 2005
Winter pictures from around the Ann Arbor area.
Northern Michigan
July 2 - 3, 2005
Hiking the Manistee River Trail, canoeing the Jordan River, and making a brief stop at Wilderness State Park.
The Arb, Ann Arbor
January 2005
Pictures from the first big snowfall in Ann Arbor in 2005 when I skied from home to the Arb and fell into the river.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
May 2003
A visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
My favorite photos from Ann Arbor.
Michigan Law Quad
My favorite photos of the University of Michigan Law Quad.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
October 12 - 14, 2012
Unrelenting rain drenches our fall weekend trip.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
February 24 - 27, 2012
Winter photos from the Leelanau area, including Pyramid Point, Empire Bluffs, and Crystal Lake.
Spring in Ann Arbor, Michigan
April - May 2011
Flowers erupt and warm weather returns to open arms.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
February 28, 2010
Exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes in the winter.
Frozen Coast, Michigan
February 20, 2010
Checking out the frozen lakeshore of Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes, St. Joseph, and Holland.
Fall in Ann Arbor, Michigan
October 2009
Fall color viewed mostly from a few tall buildings around town.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
May 16 - 17, 2009
Enjoying springtime in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Detroit, Michigan
March 7, 2009
Making a quick and rare trip to Detroit, checking out the haunting Michigan Central Station and a few other places.
The Thumb, Michigan
January 31, 2009
Hiking along Lake Huron to see the rock formations and lighthouse near Port Austin.
Nordhouse Dunes, Michigan
July 26 - 27, 2008
A quick overnight backpacking trip into the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area.
Winter, Ann Arbor, Michigan
January 2008
Winter photos from campus, town, and city parks.
North Manitou Island, Michigan
August 11 - 12, 2007
Backpacking on North Manitou Island, enjoying the sunset, and watching storms roll off from Lake Michigan.
Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor
July 14, 2007
Checking out the flowers and interesting plants of the Univeristy of Michigan Botanical Gardens.
Ice Storm, Ann Arbor
January 17, 2007
Pictures from around town after an ice storm coated all the trees in ice.
South Manitou Island, Michigan
July 2, 2006
Hiking to the sand dune bluffs on the west side of South Manitou Island.
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
February 27, 2006
Hiking and skiing around the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
Michigan Fall
October 2005
Pictures from around the Ann Arbor area.
Sleeping Bear Dunes Area, Michigan
May 27 - 29, 2005
Kayaking on Lake Michigan near Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Winter Camping, Northern Michigan
December 2004
Winter camping near the Pine River.
My favorite photos from Michigan.
Turnip Rock, Michigan
My favorite photos of Turnip Rock, from both summer and winter.
Ross School of Business
My favorite photos of the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.