The past few months in Bayfield have been incredible. The small communities of Bayfield and Cornucopia rose to the challenge (opportunity) to welcome over 120,000 visitors to explore the Mawikwi Ice Caves. A part of the Apostle Island National Lakeshore, these beautiful sandstone cave structures sculptured over thousands of years become an ice mecca in the winter. With the cold temperatures, the accessiblity for people to hike out went on for over 6 weeks. And they came.
Yes, it helped our business at Pinehurst Inn. We were as busy in February as we normally are in June – as were other lodgings and businesses. So the area gained financially for sure. But there was more happening than just financial success.
We met so many people who had never been to the area before. This was their first introduction to our great lady, Lake Superior. This was their first visit to the Apostle Island National Lakeshore – a treasure! This was their first opportunity to see first hand how Mother Nature presents amazing opportunities for humans to connect with true beauty — and awe. Standing looking at the wondrous ice formations, one can’t help but ponder that the coming warmer temperatures will once again change the landscape. These first timers hopefully caught the bug: the Lake Superior bug. It pulls you back, again and again.
Just as important as the visitors, we saw our communities rise to the challenge. Whether it was traffic control, pulling in volunteers to assist the NPS Rangers, providing a shuttle service, or creating accurate maps and information, it all came together. Weekly meetings involving law enforcement, EMS, tourism entities and others ensured that the visitors were provided what they needed to have a safe and enjoyable Ice Cave experience. We saw everyone working together for the common good.
Thank you to all the people who made this winter so special – visitors and locals. It has been a blast. And now we breathe a bit, go into our preparations for Spring and Summer. May the energy and cooperation that made all of this work so well continue forward.