Friday, December 29, 2006

Gunflint Ices Over

Gunflint Lake froze over on the 26th. It is one of the latest freeze times we have even seen. As a result the lake ice is still not safe. In fact there have not been a lot of really cold temperatures, so we are not making ice fast. Everyone is very nervous about people trying to go on the ice.

Lee had a scare just the other day. One of our guests decided to go ice fishing without saying anything to us at the lodge. Lee saw him just as he was walking out onto the ice and quickly stopped the guest.

Several years ago Eric Thompson at Borderland (now Moosehorn) saw a snowmobile go out from the bridge onto thin ice. The machine and man went through. Quickly thinking on Eric’s part saved the man. Eric laid out a long extension ladder on the ice and crawled out to help the man. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to do that.

Even when the ice is “safe,” it is still possible to go through. As the air temperature changes, the ice expands and contracts. At the coldest temperatures the ice expands until the only way left is up. We will hear a loud bang as a pressure ridge explodes. These ridges can be 5’ high.

Many years ago Charlie Cook, our Native American neighbor, came over to warn us of a pressure ridge. This one had exploded down rather than up leaving a patch of open water. Overnight the open water skimmed over with ice but it was nowhere near safe. Because the lake was “safely” covered with ice, no one was expecting thin ice. Without Charlie’s warning, someone could have easily gone through.

When we look at a lake covered with ice, it is difficult for us to remember that ice is not a static thing. It is continually changing due to the air temperatures, snow load, and unseen currents. Even in the coldest part of winter, it is important to know exactly what you are getting into when you journey across a frozen lake.

As a boy Bruce went through the ice right in front of the lodge. He was quickly pulled out and hurried up the hill to his mother’s house. By the time he had made the 150’ trip, his clothes were so frozen that they had to be cut off. Bruce said it was the coldest he had ever been in his life.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Past

Like many of you, the Kerfoot family is gathering for Christmas. Eva’s sister, Nan, has flown in. Daughter Shawn along with Husband Kevin, Tanner and Emma drove up yesterday. We have a couple neighbors who will also be joining us for dinner tomorrow. It will be an overflowing table – just what I like to see.

Today I have been thinking about Christmas years ago at Gunflint. In remote areas like this, everyone who would otherwise be alone was invited for Christmas dinner. At Gunflint we always have dinner at 1:00. This allowed our Native American neighbors to snowshoe across the lake and return before dark.

Justine told me that about 12:00 she would see a single file line make its way across the lake. In addition to turkey, Mom always cooked a venison or moose roast. Netowance Plummer did not eat “store bought” meat. Mom figured she must have gotten sick from a bad piece of meat at some time.

Conversation consisted of lots of smiles since Netowance officially did not speak any English. Bruce told me that she would occasionally speak to him in English because he was a little boy and children didn’t count. After dinner, everyone would join around the table and play poker – a game that required a minimum of talking.

By the time Bruce and I were married Awbutch Plummer (Netowance’s daughter) and Charlie Cook, her nephew, were the only Native Americans still living full time on Gunflint Lake. Also by then they did not snowshoe across the lake, they came on their snowmobiles. We still ate at 1:00.

Neither Charlie nor Butchie could read or write but that lack should not be confused with a lack of intelligence or good manners. One Christmas I personally saw Butchie elbow Charlie as she reminded him to use his salad folk. Our friends were very polite and knew as much as we did about good manners. If in doubt as to which piece of silverware to use, they just waited to see what everyone else did.

One year we had a Chicago lawyer and his family for dinner. Bruce explained to Marlin the fact that Charlie did not read or write. He also suggested some topics that Marlin and Charlie might talked about as they waited for dinner. When those were exhausted, Charlie looked for something to read. The only available paper was the Wall Street Journal in the days when it did not have any pictures. Marlin was very surprised to see Charlie calmly looking at the Journal until he realized that Charlie was holding it upside down.

Tomorrow we will have a wonderful day and dinner but I miss having Butchie and Charlie at my table. Christmas dinner was a true treat for them. Once you learned to talk about woods topics, they had lots to say. I knew so little about the woods that Butchie pleasantly treated me like a 5th grade child. Once she told me the names of the trees and she had a story about each one. I could remember them much easier than if Bruce had just rattled off the names.

I am sure that all of you have memories of Christmas years ago. This is the time to bring out those memories and cherish them. Many of the people at those dinners are now gone but we should never forget them. I wish I had paid more attention to the stories those old timers could have told me. They were an amazing group of people.

From the Kerfoot family to your family, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It happened, kind of

This morning I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was so excited to see the lake frozen. About 1/2 of the lake has frozen over with only the Canadian side still open.

Here is the link to the webcam so you can check it out yourself

When I walked to work today the wind was blowing a little stronger then I would have liked so I'm a little nervous about the wind picking up and breaking up the ice we got last night. Hopefully the ice will stay.

We have been going on and on about the ice for a long time lately. The reason is because it really is symbolic of the beginning of winter on the Gunflint. And with this year, the timing is right on. We have all of the ski trails packed, the guests are starting to arrive for the holidays, and we have started to have some cold nights. Winter has arrived.

Yesterday I talked about the cabin renovations going on in # 20, & 21.

So far we have ripped out the old bathroom, sauna, fireplace, kitchen floor, all of the cabinets & counters, the carpet, and all of the furniture.

We have installed most of the new bathrooms which will feature a private room for the toilet, a new fancy 6-headed super shower by Jacuzzi, and surrounded the shower with tile work. The ceiling has been paneled over and now matches the walls. An awesome new fireplace has been built with local rocks. Ceiling fans have been installed in the living room and the bedroom. New carpet has been laid down in the bedroom.

We have almost finished putting up the paneling on the new bathroom walls. We still need to put in the new cabinets, counters, bathroom sink & vanity, paint the bathroom, put in the living room flooring, and install the kitchen island.

When we build a new cabin or renovate a cabin we always get nervous about finishing in time. This year is no exception! Does anyone have their renovation projects take longer then they expected, or is it just us?

Hopefully we will see you over the holidays.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Tonight could be The Night!


Last night was a close call. When I got to work this morning I saw thin sheets of it being blown down the lake. Right now it is pretty cold out and the temperature will probably be down to the single digits tonight. Best of all we do not have any wind. Tonight it might actually happen.

For those of you who are new to our blog you might not know what we are talking about, but if you have been reading it for a while you know we are talking about the ice on the lake.

The wind has died down, and it is cold out. So I feel pretty confident that the lake will freeze tonight. Check back tomorrow to see if it really happens...or look on our webcam to see for yourself.

The cabin renovations are moving along. They just finished the tile work in the bathroom and it looks really good. I'll try to post more of the pictures on our website so you can see how the cabin is coming along. We are working on Cabin # 20 & 21.

Here is the link to the cabin descriptions page.

Have a good evening.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Sunny Window

The temperature dropped a few degrees last night but the wind also came up. The lake was a charcoal gray mass of waves and whitecaps. I wonder if it will ever freeze. Meanwhile I was freezing on my walk with the wind in my face coming home.

It makes me realize that our Native American neighbors were pretty savvy people when it came to picking spots for their homes. On Gunflint their homes were all on the north side of the lake. It meant the cold, north winds were blocked by the trees behind them. During the short winter days, they also had sunshine the longest.

Now there was a little payback during the summer. They didn’t get the cooling northwest wind. They also were awakened earliest in the morning during our long summer days. Today, however, it seems to me that the north shore is the place to live.

It is interesting how being aware of weather patterns is helpful everywhere. For about 20 years Bruce and I had a home in the Florida Keys. In our first house we lucked into one that faced south and had a usable porch overlooking the canal. We lived on that porch eating meals there even during the winter. It was hot during the summer but the roof protected us from the worst of the sun.

Eventually we decided to buy another house. By that time we were really into this porch living stuff. The difficult was finding a real estate agent who truly understood us. We would tell everyone we wanted a large porch that overlooked the canal and faced south. Many agents couldn’t understand why we dismissed perfectly good homes that did not have these attributes.

We kept looking and finally found a house that fit us. Our second house had a 12 by 40 screened in porch looking south and overlooking the canal. On one side we had an eating table. On the other side of it were two very comfortable chairs for us to read in. Access to the porch was from a four-wide pocket sliding door in the living room and two regular sliding doors from two bedrooms. Because the rising sun was visible from the porch, we spent many early mornings just watching the sun come up. We sold the house but I still miss the porch.

So many people live totally inside their climate controlled homes. We enjoy the outside possibilities during every season of the year. A summer iced tea break on our north porch here is wonderful. When we can’t be out, our windows bring the outside in. The rising sun pouring into our kitchen is wonderful all winter long. The west exposure in my office keeps my orchid plant happy and blooming.

During these winter months, I hope you have a sunny window to bring the outside world into your life.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Trees

I just returned from a couple nights in the Cities. It is amazing how such a short trip takes so long with getting ready before and putting away after. The net result is that the spare bedroom is truly Santa’s workshop now. I am feeling pretty proud of myself because all the packages are mailed. Just like most of you, I am down to wrapping for people who will be here and baking cookies. Also today I get to decorate the tree.

Lee, Eva, Bruce and I cut trees on Sunday. It was Eva’s first experience actually cutting her own tree. Lee and she had spent part of a trip to Target getting all the necessary equipment for a Christmas tree. Now it was time to cut “THE TREE.” Bruce had already picked out an area of thick balsam that he wanted to thin out anyway. Christmas trees are one of the few reasons I can think of to cut down any tree. This is not a generally held opinion in our marriage.

At any rate the four of us walked around looking at the tops of trees. We always look for a good top and then cut as much off the bottom as needed to get the correct size. The tree must be examined from every angle. The trunk must be checked to make sure it is straight. Because the growth of branches is affected by nearby trees, one not so good side is allowed. That side goes against the wall.

Once the choices are made, it’s an easy job. Just zip with the chain saw and the tree is down. A little trimming and into the garage it does to thaw out. Lee and Eva put newspaper under theirs to soak up the thawing snow. That night they put on all the lights, ornaments and ribbons. On the bottom was a beautiful handmade skirt that Grandma June gave them for a wedding present. The tree looks lovely and I can see the glow in their eyes whenever we talk about it.

After all these years, Bruce and I are a little slower getting the tree up. We also have a few stories about getting trees. My favorite happened one of the first years we were married. On Sunday Bruce went out to cut the tree. I stayed in and was baking cookies. Suddenly the power went out. It was a beautiful, calm day. I thought, “No, he couldn’t have.” But, yes, he could have. The tree fell on the power line. Everyone from us up the Gunflint Trail lost their power. It was the most expensive tree we ever had.

I hope your tree is a pretty as ours. This will not be a stylishly decorated tree. For all I know, it may not even be political correct. Most of the ornaments have been with us for a long time. Many of them have stories attached to their coming into our lives. The tree skirt was a gift from Sheryl, one of our managers. I will have to get geared into watering the tree. It’s not something I remember easily.

But each night I will remember to plug in the lights. They cast such a warm glow in the living room and in our hearts.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unlimited Stars

The lake is not frozen yet. Bruce and I made a quick trip to Chicago. We expected to see solid ice when we got home but no luck. In the morning before the wind comes up, parts of the lake are skimmed over. As soon as the wind comes up, the skims break up.

We watch carefully for freeze up and ice out. Many years ago Dr. Kenton Stewart of the University of Buffalo started keeping track of this information for lakes across the country. First Bruce’s mother, Justine, and now I received letters with post cards each fall and spring to record our dates.

I asked him once if he could send me a printout of Gunflint Lake over the years. He replied that it’s just on bits and pieces of paper. Dr. Stewart needs an assistant to put all this into an Excel program. Someday he will be able to send the information out to me.

Meanwhile, we look each morning to see what happened overnight. Once it freezes, we watch the dogs carefully for a bit so they don’t go out on the ice before it is safe. Even for us it is tempting to go out but I just think about how cold going through would be.

Once the ice is safe, one of my favorite activities is to go out on it at night. On a clear night to stand and just look up is wonderful. We have so little artificial light here, that the number of visible stars is overwhelming. I feel sorry for city folks who don’t get the star show that we get each night. Somehow unlimited people and shopping doesn’t come close to unlimited stars in the sky.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Decorating for the Holidays


Today was the second "work" day of our Holiday Decorating Package. If you don't know about this package here is how it works: guests arrive on Friday, and on Saturday they "work" for a couple of hours (usually 4 hours) by helping us decorate the lodge for the holidays. Then the guests get Saturday afternoon off to enjoy the snow and northwoods. Sunday most of the guests checkout of their cabins but stay on the property to enjoy the facilities until the early afternoon.

Right now the lodge is in it's holiday glory with lots of garland and wreaths up all over the place. This year we bought 1,000 feet of new 16" garland. Somehow the guests have managed to put it everywhere without being overwhelming or overkill. It looks great. The lodge decorating really helps get us ready (and excited) for the holidays because the lodge looks fantastic, the christmas music makes us smile a little more, and the snow on the ground is fresh!

If you are coming up to Gunflint for the holidays I hope you enjoy the decorations as much as we do. If you don't like how it looks, then I encourage you to stay with us next year when we decorate the lodge. I'm only half serious, because everyone loves the decorations.

Seriously though if you are intersted in helping us decorate the lodge here is the link to the package. This has been a very popular package with families. Many families come back every year so you might not be able to book a cabin unless you plan far ahead. Today I even overheard one family asking a different family about something that happened two years ago. The guests really get to know each other (and so do the kids).

Much to my dismay the lake isn't frozen over yet. It has been cold the past couple of days but the wind was blowing hard enough at night to prevent it from freezing over. Now that the wind has calmed down the temperature has gone up. So maybe it will be cold enough to put a thin layer of ice out there tonight. If I don't post a blog tomorrow you can check out the ice on our webcam

I haven't made much progress on the Laurna Landvik book, Oh my Stars beecause we had a tourism conference here at Gunflint on my days off. Hopefully on my next days off I will be able to read more of the book.

If you have been here in the past during the winter months you will remember how many deer we have on the property. Well this year is no different. But what is different is that this year we have a 10 point buck roaming around. Hopefully you will be able to see him when you are here.

We are working very hard to finish the cabin renovations we are currently working on. We have been renovating cabins #20 & 21. Here is a link to see the progress Believe it or not these cabins will be totally ready to rent for the holiday season. We will post more pictures as soon as there is significant progress to update you on.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Webcam, snow, ice & Books in the Woods

Hi Everyone,
It is snowing at Gunflint Lodge again. We woke up to another couple of inches of snow on the ground. So far we have about 8-9 inches of snow in the woods. Nearly enough to start packing the ski trails. If you would like to take a look at what we are seeing, here is the link to our webcam

Right now we can barely see across the lake because that is how much snow is coming down. For most of the day on Saturday we could not see across the lake because it was really snowing hard. Hopefully we won't be able to see the other side of the lake for much longer.

Everyone who lives on a lake has been talking about the same thing for the past couple of days/weeks, "when is the ice going to arrive?". We are getting closer to having a frozen lake. My prediction is that guests who arrive for the second Holiday Decorating Weekend will see a frozen lake. It is a calm cold day today. The sides of the lakes have been freezing up for a couple of days, and we are starting to see chunks of ice floating around in the middle of the lake.

Last year the lake didn't freeze until pretty close to Christmas so we are much further along this year than last year. When the lake finally does freeze is when it feels like winter really has arrived, so we are all still looking forward to the ice and snow.

These are the days we have been talking about for the past 6 months. During the busy summer and fall months, when we are really stressed out, we keep telling ourselves that it is "one day closer to snow". We look forward to this because it gets quiet around here and we can enjoy life in the woods a little more.

Finally I want to tell you about some fantastic authors we got for our annual Books in the Woods package at the end of March. We have Laurna Landvik and Will Weaver. A couple of people really help find the authors. Those people are Lisa Wagner and our friends, Joci Tilsen and Jim Bour, at the Valley Bookseller in Stillwater MN. The three of them work for months to get great authors to come to Gunflint for this fantastic event.

Anyway, back to the authors and their books. I like to read business strategy books, or hi-adventure books by authors like Clive Custler, so when Lisa or Joci tell me the authors I usually have never heard of them. This year was no exception. So I went out to the book store and bought two of Laurna Landviks' books. I just finished Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. I must admit that the title didn't get me excited (remember I read business strategy and hi-adventure books), but the book was really good. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it, but don't worry I won't give you a book review because I don't think I'm totally qualified other than to tell you that I really enjoyed the book. Now I am really into "Oh my Stars", also by Laura Landvik. After reading two of Laurna's books I will have to read a couple of books by Will Weaver so I will feel prepared for the event in March.

If you want to know more about the package here is the link

Now that I have finished writing the blog I can clearly see across the lake (so it isn't snowing very hard), but the lake it smooth as glass. Maybe it will freeze up today. Maybe we will get snow all day long.

Have a good day.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

It Really is Here

I have been accused of falsely predicting that winter is here. Today I am telling you that it really is here. Yesterday we got 6-8 inches of beautiful white snow. Everything is gleaming this morning with a new coat of snow.

Even during the middle of the night, the moonlight showed us a winter wonderland. As people my age tend to do, I was up wandering around in the early morning hours. Without any lights on, the moon lit up the snow in the yard. It almost took your breathe away.

This morning the clouds have passed. The lake is steaming as it cools down before freezing. The wind had not come up when Eva and I were walking. It looked like there were several places in the middle of the lake where the water might have been skimmed over with ice. Of course, once the wind comes up, these skims will break apart.

In order for the lake freeze, we need a clear skies, calm winds, and cold temperatures. Large sections of the lake must freeze at a time. So now we have Magnetic Lake frozen. Some of the bays like Charlie’s Bay and the Summer Home Bay are also frozen. Next will be the bay in front of Moosehorn. Then the ice may start to work its way across from our side of the lake. My neighbor predicts that the lake will be frozen within a week. I think he is correct.

Last year the final freezing of the main lake happened during daylight hours. It took a bit before we realized what was happening because usually the freezing occurs at night. Throughout the day the ice slowly covered the entire surface of the lake. It was just fun to watch the process as the day passed.

Once the lake freezes, we have a period of time when it is not safe to go on it. Theoretically you can walk on new winter ice when it is only 3 inches thick. None of us would go before it is 4-5 inches thick. At that point we might send someone out to test the ice. We might also decide to just wait another week because there is no rush. The Native Americans who used to live across the lake were traditionally the ones who declared the ice safe. Now we just wait and wait until there is no doubt. The results of walking on unsafe ice (a cold bath at a minimum) make us all willing to wait.

Once the lake is frozen, it is not a static thing. Snow loads and varying temperatures constantly change the ice on our lake. But that is a story for another day. Today we will just enjoy the new snow and steaming lake.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Today we have an east wind storm with a combination of freezing rain and snow coming down. The weather is nasty enough that Tucker and I decided to not walk this morning. I am sure that Tucker thinks the weather is perfect but you are talking about a dog who loves to roll in the snow. In fact just last week he went (willingly) for a swim in the lake.

So today we are sitting inside looking out. From this vantage point it is fun. The lake is rolling and covered with whitecaps. It is definitely not boating weather. Gunflint is so deep (over 200 feet in places) that it is one of the last lakes in the area to freeze. Many of the smaller lakes are frozen over now. Gunflint usually freezes over between the 10th and the 15th of December.

Snow is intermittently coming down. Sometimes I can see the far shore and other times it disappears in the falling snow. We have just a dusting of frozen stuff right now. Everything is iced over and slippery. It’s nice that we don’t have to drive anywhere today.

After lunch I think we will start a fire in the fireplace. The fire not really needed for physical warmth. Today it provides a spiritual warmth that no electric heater can match. The living room will be so hot after dinner that Bruce and I will fall asleep in front of the TV for sure.

With any luck we will wake up tomorrow with several inches on the ground. At this point it will be the beginning of our base for the cross country ski trails. Hopefully we will get lots more in the coming weeks. There is nothing better than lots of snow for Christmas.

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Friend Visits

We are having very warm weather for this time of year. It was 38 degrees this morning and overcast. Bruce thinks is supposed to rain. I am hoping it will hold off until evening when the weather cools down and we will get snow instead.

In our home the earth is filled in on the exterior walls up to the bottom of the windows. It is like so many of our cabins. This extra insulation really keeps the house cozy all winter with very few drafts. It also cuts down the heating bills.

This morning I walked into my office where there is a large west-facing window. Who should be running right along the window but Freddy the Fox. I ran into the bedroom and watched him go along the bedroom window. Then he turned the corner and appeared across another bedroom window. I ran down the hall to see him go into the back yard by the bird feeders. He was moving pretty quickly -- must have been on the hunt.

We have lots of squirrels around too. Sometimes Freddy will chase a squirrel but with no luck. Behind the rock walls in our garden, the squirrels have built lots of little dens. The first sign of Freddy and they scamper into one of the dens.

At this time of year the fox are beautiful. Their fur is thick and their white tails stand out straight and thick. They must be really soft to feel. We are torn between putting bits of meat and bones out to attract the fox and thinking about when Tucker visits. Tucker likes the scraps too. He has already lost one tooth because he chews the bones so hard. At this point our grand-puppy comes first.

It is wonderful to live in an area where we can easily see animals in their natural environment. My children never got really excited about zoos. Why would they get excited about a scraggly moose or wolf in a zoo when they saw magnificent ones in the wild?

The Kerfoot family had a wonderful Thanksgiving and we hope that you did too.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Saturday Afternoon

I am just like many other Americans today. Bruce and I are about to sit down and watch the last half of the Michigan/Ohio football game. I'll start the fireplace and find some snacks. After the game we are going down to Lee and Eva's for dinner.

I can remember days when TV was not as available as today. When Bruce and I were first married, we had a directional antenna that gave poor reception from two stations in Thunder Bay. It didn't work very well in the summer because the leaves on the trees interfered with reception. We did, however, get enough reception to watch Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon. All the guests gathered in our home to share the moment. I also remember feeling very left out when we could not receive "Roots."

Our next venture into TV came with a Betamax -- you remember those as the alternative to VCR's. Our friend, Ron Malina, in Chicago would copy a bunch of movies and programs for the boys. They would watch them over and over and over again. At that time I think I could recite the entire dialogue from "Top Gun."

Eventually dishes made their way up the Gunflint Trail. Ours was 13' in diameter and gave very good reception. When we first hooked up, I remember being on the telephone with a salewoman. She told me to turn the TV on while she contacted the satellite. In just a couple of minutes we had a clear picture. I was amazing to me that I could be in Minnesota talking to a woman in Atlanta who was talking to a satellite above me.

With our irregular schedule, the greatest channel in the world was CNN. We could come home at anytime and get daily news. After a bit, we learned to fall asleep after one or two rotations of the same news. Robert's wife, Miranda, stayed with us the year before they were married. She learned the same trick.

About that time we passed a milestone in our life. We bought a brand new TV. Previously we bought used TV's. When the only way to turn our current TV on was with a pencil, I argued for a new one. Both boys were in school and I figured we ought to be able to afford one. Finally Bruce agreed to go to Sam's where we picked up whatever they had.

Today we have the little dish that gives us more channels than we care to watch. We tried to sign up for local channels earlier this fall. The only two white pines on the southern side of our home blocked the local channels. The white pines stayed and we will read local news in the paper.

We find ourselves watching less and less TV. I still like to watch football in the fall but only if it is not good weather. Otherwise I'm outside. Satellite TV reception does make us feel part of the country again but we have lost the desire to follow weekly programs. Books, magazines, and newspapers are more interesting. Also Rachel Ray on the Food Network. Last night we saw her cook Thanksgiving dinner for eight in 60 minutes. It looked good, too.

Well, the second half is about to begin. Talk with you later.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Home Again

After 5000 miles of driving, Bruce and I arrived home last night. Our own bed felt pretty good. In spite of all the driving, it was a wonderful trip. We got to visit with old friends and brought home some great display material for the Chik-Wauk Museum. We will be home until after Christmas now.

It seemed like the neighborhood prepared a special welcome for us. The new white snow on the ground looked particularly nice. Bruce was dying with the heat in Brownsville so he really appreciated the snow. It is late enough now that this snow may be here all winter.

Driving up the Trail in the late afternoon, we saw two critters cross the road some distance ahead of us. They looked like ponies. We finally figured out that they had to be huge wolves. One was completely black. Both were the biggest wolves we had ever seen.

This morning Eva, Tucker and I took our morning walk. Coming back a beautiful bald eagle flew overhead and landed on top of a snag just off the road. The eagle sat and watched us as we walked past. They truly are magnificent creatures.

Today we will fill the bird feeders and see what comes in. A squirrel and a chickadee stopped by during breakfast to remind us that the feeders were empty. Bruce will also put out some suet to draw them in. I don’t expect to see any deer until the hunting ends on Sunday. Then it will be time to put out some corn and see what happens.

It is good to be home. I will catch up on all the goings on and let you know what is happening here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weather in the Woods

On the 2nd we had a great crew up at the lodge for our first fall work weekend. They got lots of projects done and really helped us get ready for the winter. If you are coming up for the second work weekend, don’t worry, we will still have some other projects to complete.

Since my last posting we have gotten nothing but progressively warmer weather. On the 3rd it got a little warmer. Many guests checked out of their cabin, but stayed on the property to enjoy the perfect hiking weather. So we handed out orange vests and they enjoyed the afternoon. Everyone who is in the woods right now is wearing orange because deer hunting season has started. We have a large collection of orange vests for all of our guests to wear anytime they are in the woods during this time of the year.

The 4th and 5th slowly kept warming up enough that we started to actually plan some warm weather activities for yesterday and today. So we have been taking advantage of these last couple of warm days to paint our property sign, get more rocks for the fireplaces we are building in the cabins we will be renovating all winter, or doing other odd jobs to help prepare the resort for the upcoming winter season. Additionally we are building new staff housing right now so the construction crews are really taking advantage of the warm weather to get the outside work done as quickly as possible, knowing that eventually the temperature will start to drop again.

This warm spell has convinced us that it feels more like a warm spring day then one of the last days of fall. With all of the snow days we had been getting prior to the 40’s and 50’s of yesterday and today we had been getting out our winter jackets, boots, gloves, & hats to make sure they would be good for another season. But now with the warm weather we are looking around for those light jackets again.

Sometimes Mother Nature really has all of us confused.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Just a "Dusting"

Eva and I were enjoying the 31st when we got a knock on our door. Surprise, surprise we had one batch of trick-or-treaters. The key word is “one” batch. It was a total of 8 kids. So we let them take as much of the candy as they wanted because we knew it would probably be the only group of kids stopping by.

When I was growing up and we went trick-or-treating at the neighbors (all of the neighbors were resort owners), we used to always get the “big” candy bars. As a kid when we got the “big” candy bars it was a little bit of a downer because we really wanted the “little” candy bars that were made for Halloween. So Eva and I made sure to have plenty of the “little” candy bars for the kids. Plus we had to save a couple of these treats for us…because they are so small they can’t be bad for you, right?

After the kids had left I noticed that they had been wearing winter boots underneath their costumes. That reminded me of the Halloween of 1992. October 31st of 1992 we (my brother Robert, my best friend Aaron, Aaron’s Sister Tracy, and I) were driving home late from town. On the drive home it started to snow. About ½ of the way home we stopped the car to see how much snow was on the road. We all piled out of the car and determined that it was “only a dusting” and had nothing to worry about.

We made it home that night without any problems. The next morning we awoke to almost 30” of fresh snow, so much for just a “dusting”. The best part of November 1st was the phone call from the principle telling us that school was canceled for the day. Yes! A snow day! Unfortunately we had to shovel out our resort so we didn’t get much of the day off from school, but it didn’t matter because we were “snowed out”.

When Eva and I woke up on the 1st we didn’t see snow like November of 1992, but we did have a “dusting” of snow on the ground. I guess 2” is better than 30” because you don’t have to shovel out the resort in the morning.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On the Road

I am going to give you a vacation from my blogs. Tomorrow Bruce and I leave on a driving trip. I look at it as a mixed blessing. We’ll see lots of people but also have lots of driving.

Tomorrow we drive to Minneapolis in two vehicles. I have our car to drop off at the dealer for tires and minor repairs. The car’s computer needs some maintenance because it talks too much to us. Bruce is driving our big red van loaded with stuff (including a motorcycle) left by employees from 17 years ago.

By Sunday we will be in Destin, Florida with just one vehicle. Rick and Beth will drive over from Ocala to pick up their stuff. Bruce will teach some classes at an annual outfitters convention. I’ll attend some classes.

Wednesday we drive to Harlingen, Texas. There we will fill the van with some furniture from the old Chik-Wauk Lodge on Saganaga Lake. Ralph and Bea Griffis, the last private owners of Chik-Wauk, are donating this furniture to the new museum. I think the van is going to be filled to the roof.

Our last stop will be in Omaha, Nebraska, on the way home to see some guests who have become great friends of ours. Both of us are looking forward to seeing them. Then it is straight back home. We should be home on the 14th if all goes well.

Neither of us have really tried to figure out the total mileage of the trip. Luckily we travel well together. It’s our waistlines that we are really worried about. Traveling all over does tend to put the pounds on.

Of course, I can’t close without the inevitable note about the bird feeder. Last week we had a cardinal at the feeder! This is nothing new to anyone living in Grand Marais or further south. It is, however, the first time I have ever seen a cardinal up here. Even Bruce has only seen one once or twice. The bird must have been well and truly lost. One of the neighbors down the lake saw him at her bird feeder. He hasn’t appeared again so he must have figured out which way is south.

I’ll talk with you again in a couple weeks.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Foxy Lady

I have to tell you that at this time of year my bird feeder is about the most exciting thing going on around here. When Bruce’s mother, Justine, was writing her weekly newspaper column, this was when she would call pleadingly to say, “Have you got any news for the fish wrapper?” I thought about her today.

Saturday night we had an unexpected visitor to the feeder. As we were eating dinner a beautiful red fox came in. She walked down the steps as relaxed as could be. Coming around the corner, a squirrel caught her eye and the chase was on. The squirrel won.

Then the fox returned to help herself to some scraps of food that I had put out. I am trying to clean out my freezer and a few things have been in there too long. The theory is that it is better to feed the fox than fill the dumpster. At any rate the fox picked up a couple pieces, walked off to eat them and then came back for more. Freezer burned ham tasted pretty good to her.

The thing that amazes Bruce and I is how bold the fox is. We are sitting in a fully lighted kitchen with the window not 10 feet from the fox. She doesn’t seem to care about us at all. I wonder if the glare from the glass makes it difficult to see us.

All summer long we have been seeing fox on the Gunflint Trail. During the summer they all look scrawny and very, very thin. Well, partridge hunting has been particularly good this year and the fox must be getting their share. Just like our fox at the window, suddenly they are all beautiful. They’re fat, the fur is thick, and their tails are as full as can be.

Recently I was talking with a group of neighbors. They all had stories to tell about seeing animals. Tom and Melissa have several “pet” partridge on their road. Bruce doesn’t hunt there. Margit saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers on a walk. She was able to see where their nest was. Someone else has been seeing fox too.

We are blessed to live in a very special part of the country. Anyone who lives here can observe the local animals just as we do. It is a wonderful addition to the rhythm of our lives.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bird Feeders

We don’t feed the birds during the summer. If we try, the bears quickly and regularly find the feeders. Bears are not animals that you want to have around the house. Now that they are going into hibernation, the bird feeders have gone up.

It usually takes a few days before the birds find our feeders. This year the chipmunks and squirrels found them first. The chipmunks are really hungry since they will soon be hibernating. The squirrels are always hungry. They are also great fun to watch. This morning I stood for several minutes watching two of them chase each other around the yard.

We are also getting a couple of migrating birds at the feeder. Juncoes are stopping by in good numbers. Who knows how they find us out of all the places they pass during migration? Also the grackles are passing through. Neither bird will not be here much longer.

The regulars have found us. Chickadees and nuthatches are in every morning. Blue jays and Canada jays stop by. Pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, and purple finches have not found us yet.

I keep forgetting to buy suet when in town. Once that is up, we will start to get hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers and an occasional raven. My problem with suet is keeping it from the animals. We have martins and fox wandering around. They will eat the entire suet in one night. Tucker also tries to get at it.

By far our biggest raiders of the feeders are deer. They are plenty of them around and will be more after hunting season when the lodge starts putting out corn. Deer have learned to suck all the seeds out of a feeder. In one night all four feeders are empty. Even if I put out corn, the deer still empty the feeders.

So bird feeders (like all of life) present choices. We choose to feed whatever animals come along. With the flowers gone for the winter, every animal gives us entertainment outside the kitchen window.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Building A Cabin

It's a cold windy day today. Even though there are snow flurries in the air, the wind seems to be breaking up the clouds. Maybe the sun will shine. It would be a great improvement from the gray day we had yesterday.

The wind and the flurries brought to mind another fall in 1946. Dr. Katie Burns had finished her World War II service in the Navy at Great Lakes Naval Station. She along with her mother, sister, and brother-in-law were going to spend the fall and part of the winter building a cabin on Katie's property on Gunflint Lake. Much of the process was recorded in a series of letters that Katie's mother wrote to the youngest daughter who was in college at the time. Katie also wrote an essay on the project.

In the beginning of August, the family moved to the shores of Gunflint Lake. They camped in two tents on platforms until the house had a roof on it. A third tent on a platform served as their kitchen/living room. A fourth tent held supplies. Their luxury was a hand pump by the kitchen sink. It took them ten days to hand dig the well with a crow bar and trench spade.

Although there was a road down the south shore of Gunflint, it was 600 feet from the house site. That meant that every part of the house had to be portaged from the road. The other alternative was to bring supplies in by boat. Katie said they brought the first load of lumber down by boat and it took a day and a half to do it.

Construction went slowly because there was no electricity. Also no one had any real building experience. They had only read books about building a cabin. After seven weeks the cabin was enclosed with four walls and a roof. By then the weather had gotten to the point where camping was not much fun. The bears were also getting very brazen and had found their way into camp several times.

Although they continued to sleep in the tents for a bit, they were able to put the hand water pump into the kitchen of the house. Between that and the stove, cooking and eating were a little easier. With just the outside shell, the house was not too warm. Mrs. Burns writes that the inside temperature was "under 60."

The next most important project was to build the fireplace. You have to understand that none of them had ever done this before. All fall they gathered rocks. It took five weeks of work to build the fireplace. The really low blow was learning that the completed fireplace had to sit for two weeks before they could use it. You can imagine how wonderful that first fire felt!

The last step that winter was insulating and finishing the interior. Walls were erected. Stairs were built to the second floor. Flooring went in and was hand sanded before filling, staining and waxing. It was on-the-job training for all of these "carpenters" and they were very proud of the results.

Today it is hard to appreciate the difficulties that Katie and her family encountered building the cabin. Construction supplies were hard to get. Even grocery shopping was a major project. You called in a grocery order from the only phone at Gunflint Lodge and it was delivered by the mail truck which only came three days a week. They baked their own bread. Meat was in short supply. It was hard to find time to fish for food with all the demands of construction. At one point Mrs. Burns wrote, "My present problem is to conjure up a dinner out of 5 wieners -- our only visible meat supply." No electricity meant no freezer or refrigerator.

It was sixty years ago this fall that Katie and her family built the cabin. On cold fall days like today, I wonder if I would have been able to do it. Katie is now around 90 years old. She still summers on Gunflint Lake and is as sharp as a tack. Her stories of those early years have entertained and amazed me. Hopefully someone will say the same about me when I reach that age.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Brush With Winter

After my last blog, you know that we got a little snow around here. Thankfully, it was not as much as some parts of the East got. Nevertheless, we got about 6 inches of snow at Gunflint. There was more at the highlands around Poplar Lake.

Friday was the actual snow storm day. It was a the perfect day to be inside looking out. We had a blistery wind with snow coming down off and on throughout the day. Bruce and I
cranked up the fireplace. All of our outside garden projects were finished. We felt very smug standing in front of a blazing fire. Our homemade soup dinner tasted great and fit the outside weather.

Bonnie Schudy, our outfitting manager, had a little different experience on Friday. She and a friend from town were on a canoe trip to Long Island Lake. Coming home on Friday they had to go through Rib Lake. As you may know, the water in all our lakes is very low this fall. Rib is never very deep so the water in the lake was down to 3-4 feet in depth. Unfortunately for Bonnie, it was just cold enough so that a skim of ice covered the lake. They had to break ice all the way across the lake to paddle home!

On Saturday morning the temperatures started to rise. Bruce and I went to town on slippery roads. Coming home in the afternoon, the road was dry and bare. The sun was out.

Sunday was also nice and warm. The wind picked up in the afternoon. The staff had started to put the dock across the lake while there was no wind. We disconnect the entire dock from the main cribbing. Then it is pushed like a barge across and tied to the shore in Charlie Cook's bay. It sits there all winter. In the spring the ice totally melts out of the bay with no wind problems. When the ice leaves the entire lake, we push the dock back for the summer. But going over this fall, the guys had to fight the wind that came up in the middle of the project. It is finished now and everyone is happy.

With all the cold weather, some outside jobs got behind schedule. So the crew who is laying the cement blocks for our new staff building was working on Sunday. After the blocks are laid, then they have to pour the cement pad for the new building. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the warmer weather holds.

When Bruce was pouring the pad for cabin #24-25, the weather did not hold. They poured the cement anyway because there was no choice. Then the pad was covered with plastic. Finally the plastic was covered with sleeping bags unzipped to lay flat. The plastic and sleeping bags provided enough insulation to slowly cure the cement. It was a close call. It was also a mess to clean and wash all the sleeping bags.

Today virtually all the snow is gone. The wind has shifted to the east which is our foul weather wind. Bruce and I are going out to cover the small white pines so the deer don't eat them. I saw two deer at the top of the driveway this morning. We have already covered the maples and lilacs. Then I am going to cut down the last of the burdick seeds and get rid of them.

Tucker is coming down to spend the afternoon with us. He just loves to poke around outside. If he runs around enough, he may even go for a swim. The other day when we hiked into Mine Lake with snow and rain, Tucker took time for a swim in that lake. I can't imagine anything worse.

Have a good day. I know I will.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Adjusting to the Weather

Bruce and I had planned to go with Lee, Eva, and Tucker to Judge Magney State Park on the North Shore today. We were going to walk into Devil's Kettle and then visit some other spots on the shore that Eva had not seen.

As you may know, we are under a winter storm watch today. During our wanderings at night we watched the temperature drop from 47 degrees at 4:00 a.m. to 33 degrees at 8:30 a.m. There was a nasty wind on Gunflint and some of those fluffy white things coming down. It didn't seem like the time to drive 65 miles and hike along Lake Superior.

On the other hand we didn't want to give up on the day. The five of us don't get many days to do stuff together. So we came up with a plan that worked for the day's weather. First we all dressed warmly. Even though it is October we had on long underwear, hats, gloves, etc. Second we picked a hike that didn't expose us to the wind. In other words we stayed in the woods. Finally we picked a hike that was near to home. That way if the weather really turned sour, we didn't have a long drive home.

We ended up hiking in on the Kekakabic Trail to Mine Lake. Eva had never been in to the lake. There are still some remains from the mining operations of the Paulsen Mine in the 1890's to be found along the lake.

In its day things were really hopping at Mine Lake. People thought that it would become a center for iron ore mining. Geologically, this area is part of the Gunflint Formation which is the tail end of the Masabe Iron Range. There was a railroad built from Thunder Bay to the mine. They took out one carload of iron ore and discovered it was taconite. Edward Davis did not develope his refining process for taconite until many years later so that was the end of mining operations.

Today it was just a nice hike for us. Tucker had lots of sticks to chase. We threw snowballs like kids. Mine Lake is small and quiet but very pretty. It is hard to relate what we saw today with what we know happened in the past.

But my point is that no matter what your plan is, you can always find a pleasant way to spend some time in the woods. The key is to be willing to adjust to the weather. In many respects it was a stinky day outside but we had a great time.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Daily Encounters

One of the nicest things about living up here is that I have encounters with the resident animals almost every day. Now you realize that none of these encounters are a big deal. They just add a little extra zest to my days.

Let's take yesterday. The human part of my day had me taking my walk in the morning. Then I spent the rest of the morning at my computer trying to get caught up. The afternoon was in the garden getting a little section ready for winter. That night we drove down to a neighbor's home to look at movies from the 1940's on the Gunflint Trail. Nothing exciting there.

There was no wind at all during my walk. I don't walk with an Ipod or anything because I like to hear the natural sounds around me. The reward yesterday was hearing something rustling in the bushes along the side of the road. I stopped and finally located a grouse not 10 feet from me. He was not happy at being seen and quickly flew off. How many other grouse had I already walked by?

Part way into the walk I met Eva and Tucker. We walked the remainer of the road together. At one point a raven fly overhead and cawed at us. Even Tucker looked up to watch the bird.

At the end of the walk, I was coming down the driveway and noticed a squirrel alongside me. He was happily munching on a mushroom cap. I think it is one that we wouldn't eat but obviously he was enjoying it. It was easy to watch him for a few minutes.

My office at home has large windows that look out over some iris and the sky. About 11:00 the phone rang. While talking, I often look out the window to see what is going on. My reward yesterday was a bald eagle flying by. The bird quickly was out of sight but it makes your heart jump for just a second.

That afternoon we were out getting more of the garden ready for winter. As is often the case, Tucker was with us. He will run around for 3-4 hours while we dig, pull weeds, and spread horse manure. It was hard not to watch Tucker and the squirrels and chipmunks play tag together. Of course, Tucker always lost.

Finally last night Bruce and I drove to Hungry Jack. We saw several deer along the way. It's the usual about now. But we did notice that the deer are starting to change from a reddish brown hide to their more grayish winter hide.

So my day was filled with lots of small encounters. Each one was no more than a couple minutes. These encounters constantly remind me that there is another natural world surrounding and intertwining with the lives we humans lead. Sometimes it's hard to remember that in the middle of a city.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Taking Our Dog Tucker into a New "Wilderness"

In our family Eva gets the first walk of the day with our dog Tucker. The morning walk takes Tucker on the fringe of the wilderness down our side road.

Usually the morning walk is 2 mile round trip hike. Upon returning to our office Tucker takes a nap until after lunch time. Then around noon, My wife or I take Tucker on a walk down the side road for a much shorter walk so he can stretch his legs for a couple of minutes. After his mid-day walk he takes another nap until the late afternoon. Eventually Eva tries to coax me away from the office for a late-afternoon walk with Tucker. We take him into the wilderness, off all the roads, and only on the hiking trails.

When you are walking in the wilderness it is easy to see first hand how Mother Nature is getting everyone ready for the upcoming winter. All of the leaves on the trees are in peak fall colors, the grouse were on the trail eating trying to fatten up, and we saw some geese overhead flying. Tucker loves this hike because it is continually changing. Recently we have been seeing a grouse or two on the hike. Tucker usually sees the birds, stops, stares them down, then takes off full speed trying to catch them. He doesn't bark, or growl, just runs full speed. The grouse always see him and easily escape to nearby branches. Once they are safe in a tree, Tucker returns to the trail and eagerly waits for you to throw the next stick. Tucker's life returns to his normal routine.

This past weekend we took Tucker into a different “Wilderness”. It was a wilderness he had never seen before. We took Tucker to the Twin Cities. This was his first time into a city of any size. We were participating as a vendor in DoggiePalooza at Hyde Park, in Saint Louis Park. When we are getting ready to go on vacation, Tucker gets upset every time he sees us packing our suitcase. This time Tucker was going to join us, but no matter how we tried to get him to relax he didn't understand he would be joining us, until we let him jump into the car before pulling out of the driveway. We left "Our Wilderness" around 6:00 PM and didn't get to "Your Wilderness" until midnight.

When we got to our hotel room, Tucker immediately sniffed the entire hotel room. After the once over he decided that the bed we brought for him was unacceptable. He slept on the couch in our hotel room.

We got up early Saturday morning drove to Hyde Park and set up our booth. Tucker had never seen this many people at once. This was a foreign "Wilderness" to him. There were tables being set up, booths were being decorated, people we walking everywhere with their dog in tow. Dogs in all shapes and sizes were everywhere. A big giant Irish Wolf Hound was followed by a tiny dog being carried in a lady's purse. Needless to say Tucker did not get any naps in and was totally exhausted when we loaded up our booth into the back of our car and started the drive North. Tucker only woke up once on the drive home, and that was when we stopped for gas. Being a "New Wilderness" can be totally exhausting.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Morning Walks

After almost two weeks of overcast and rainy days, this morning dawned with clear skies and sunshine. As I started started my morning hike, Eva and Tucker plus one of the guests and her dog joined me. Walking down the bright sun was in our eyes and it felt wonderful.

Of course, we paid for sunshine with a hard frost last night. The frost was do to happen anytime soon. Most of us who live here love the winter and the first frost is just a step along the way to winter. Anything left in the garden is truly done now.

It was fun to watch the two dogs play as we moved down the road. I bet they covered twice as much ground as we did. Every so often Tucker to stop and stare into the woods. You wonder what he is seeing or perhaps smelling. All the time the dogs are walking and playing, their tails are wagging back and forth. Living on the Trail is heaven for a dog.

It wasn't too bad for the three humans either. Fall colors are at their peak. Due to the frost the air was freeeze and clear. I suppose the English would say it was "bracing." There is a slight fall smell to the air that is the smell of decaying leaves. To me it is a very distinctive part of fall.

Coming home the sun warmed our backs. The two miles evaporated as we talked and walked and watched the dogs play. Tucker flushed a partridge on the side of the road. A Canadian jay flew overhead. In the distance a crow told us what he thought. The slight breeze in the trees provided the background music. Our field of vision periodically opened up with views of Gunflint Lake.

I hope there is a place to walk in the woods near your home. Walking brings you truly "into" the country. It is entirely different than driving because now you are a part of the surrounding forest.

Bruce and I have made several trips to Africa. One of our favorite places is the Serengeti in Tanzania. We have spent many days observing game in the endless plain. On our last visit we had a coffee break in the middle of the plain. It was the first time we had gotten out of our vehicle. Physically standing (rather than being in a car) gives you a different feel for the vastness of this area. I loved it.

The same is true in the woods. There must be something deep within our ancestry that recognizes and responds to having nature surround us. Think about it the next time you take a walk.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Closing the Garden

We haven't had a hard frost yet, but Bruce and I are working at closing up the garden. Last Sunday we spent about four hours picking tomatoes. Even the green ones will ripen inside and be better tasting than those we buy in January. Chef Barry had his staff busy chopping and freezing everything that was ripe. They will be greatly enjoyed this winter.

When you start to pick everything, it is amazing at how much there is. In addition to tomatoes, we picked zucchini, jalapeno peppers, chile peppers, green peppers and parsley. The peppers and zucchini went to the lodge. I dried the parsley and had a big bag of parsley flakes for Eva and for me. They actually smell like parsley and are green not brown.

It's been a week since we did this and already things are growing back. There are more jalapeno peppers to pcik. Bruce brought in another dozen zucchinis. As long as there is no frost, they will continue to grow.

On Saturday I dug out the potatoes. Part go to daughter Shawn, part to Eva and part to us. We still need to perfect our growing technique for them but it is getting better.

The carrots are still in the ground. I'll let them stay there for a few more weeks. When we need carrots, I go dig them up. Also the broccoli are still growing. They have been providing us with food for almost 3 months.

Of course, harvesting is not the biggest part of closing the garden. Now I need to clean out all the leftovers from beds. That debris goes in the compost pile. Then the perennials like strawberries, chives, asparagus and rhubarb need a last, good weeding. We will plant garlic in one bed this fall. It will be the first up next spring. Once everything is cleaned and weeded, Bruce will cover it all with a thin coat of horse manure. That can sit all winter and enrich our beds for next summer. With 17 horses, there is lots to go around.

Other parts of the yard need to get ready for winter too. I will pull out all the annual flowers and put them in the compost pile. The perennials will be cut back and perhaps transplanted to another location. Then horse manure goes on top of everything. In our regrowing woods, small trees will be covered to protect them from the deer. I tried spraying them last year but was not satisfied so we will go back to covering.

Afternoons are when I do most of this work. The morning is spent in the office. I have also been trying to walk a bit in the morning. Down to one of the mailboxes and back is 2 miles. In January Bruce I will be be taking a trip to Australia. Part of the trip is a six-day hike at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. We have to carry about 15 pounds so I am practicing. This morning I put a 10-pound bag of sugar in my day pack. The hardest problem is to not find an excuse to skip the walk. Combined with working in the garden, the walk will (maybe) talk a pound or two off.

Mix in a few meetings and you know how our fall days pass. It is a quiet lifestyle but we enjoy it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fall Days and Animal Sightings

I went to town early this morning for a 9:00 meeting. Just driving down the Trail was wonderful. Some of the lakes were still steaming. The sun was just high enough to shine over everything. It was such a gorgeous fall day that even the morning sun in my eyes was welcome. On the way in I saw a partridge feeding on the shoulder and a red fox. The fox was thin but looked healthy and had a full, bushy tail.

Top honors for animals sightings has to go to the minnow trapper, Bruce. The first sighting this week was a pack of three wolves that just stood and looked at him. It has always been unusual to see any wolves during the summer. They are very elusive so this was a first even for Bruce. This year we have heard of more wolf sightings that ever before.

A couple days later Bruce came across a family of five beaver. Again just seeing one beaver is unusual. The whole family is great fun. Some were on shore chewing on branches while one splashed his tail when Bruce was spotted. The others didn't move. Just like we humans, the beaver are enjoying the warm fall sunshine.

Bruce has also been particularly adept at spotting partridge. The hunting season for these tasty birds opened last Saturday. We have a nice cache of them in the freezer. Three of the birds will provide dinner tonight. Lee and Eva are coming down and it is her first partridge dinner. Hopefully she will enjoy it.

In the Kerfoot family we have a traditional fall dinner that features partridge browned and baked with cream of mushroom soup. The side dishes include wild rice with mushrooms and onions plus baked acorn squash. Just like your family, shared meals have always been part of the fabric of our lives together. So don't call us around 6:00 p.m. tonight. We'll be too busy eating.

September is moving quickly into October. Make sure to spend some time in the woods this weekend. It clears your mind.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More Fun Things

Just a quick word about the Famine Lake fire before moving on to something more fun. On Saturday we woke up to overcast skies, cooler temperatures and higher humidity. There was some rain Saturday night. Sunday brought more rain and clearing skies that afternoon. The wind shifted to the northwest. Today we have cooler temperatures and overcast skies. In the early afternoon it started a gentle rain which has continued off and on. Also yesterday the Forest Service flew in several crews to deal with the fire. The upshot is that things are pretty well under control unless something really unexpectedly happens. So, make your plans to come visit us on the Trail.

Now let's spend a little time talking about the last of our canoe trip. As with any trip in the wilderness, we had lots of animal encounters and all of them were fun.

One of the most unexpected occurred at the base of one of our waterfalls. I looked just 25 feet ahead and saw what looked like a brown stick moving across the water. Bruce thought it might be a mink. When the animal got to shore and climbed out, we discovered it was a red squirrel. Neither of us had ever seen a red squirrel swimming.

Another object moving across the lake in front of our canoe caught our eyes one day. It was an otter. He quickly swam to shore and climbed up on a rock. There he sat eating a fish and watching us go by. If he hadn't had the fish, the otter might have let us come closer to him. Otters are known as curious animals.

One morning we were fixing breakfast when a bird started flying back and forth over us. He was really talking to us. It turned out to be a pileated woodpecker. He must have been really upset with us because he just kept on and on with his tirade.

Another day we came around the corner after a portage and encountered a beaver swimming right at us. The beaver was towing a poplar branch and didn't want to let go. He got to within 10 feet of us before slapping his tail and diving. Tom and Melissa were a little behind us. They got to see three other members of the family.

Bruce spotted a seagull in the sky one day with a fish in its mouth. The seagull dropped the fish over the rocks surprising us all. Suddenly we saw why. An osprey was taking after the seagull and the gull was flying as fast as possible to keep away from the larger bird. Then a bald eagle joined into the chase. Eventually the gull evaded both larger birds and flew away.

We saw lots of loons and mergansers on almost every lake. They must be starting to think about flying south. A blue heron gracefully rose from the shore one day. There were also several species of long-necked diving ducks that we never could get close enough to for identification. Our best guess was grebes going south.

Thanks to Bruce's skill, we also encountered ample fish for appetizers several nights and dinner one night. The dinner of fresh walleye and one bass disappeared. We all felt it was the best dinner of the trip. Bruce also caught several northern which were returned to the lake. One northern broke off the lure (no leader) and then a few minutes later was dumb enough to bite again. Bruce landed him this time and got back the lost lure.

There were also things that we didn't see and hoped to see. We saw no deer, bear or moose. We saw no mallards. The nuthatches and chickadees remained unseen and unheard. It wasn't until we got down to the end of Kawnipi that we started to see a few Canada Jays. I am sure that a lot of it has to do with the changing vegetation as we came into more stands of poplar and birch and ash rather than pines.

Today we have a wet, cold rain outside. My house seems infinitely cozier than sleeping in a tent but we will be out on the canoe trails again next summer. Maybe we'll meet you there.

Friday, September 15, 2006

For Your Information

Those of you in the Twin Cities (and perhaps elsewhere) may have seen that there was an evacuation on the Gunflint Trail today due to a forest fire. This is true, however, we anticipate that it will be very short lived. Here is the story:

Due to lightening last week, a forest fire was started at Famine Lake which is just north of Winchell Lake in the BWCAW. Up until yesterday it was not doing too much. Yesterday the afternoon the south wind came up and the fire started to run north. It came about 2 miles north. The south wind came up again this morning.

At about 1:00 p.m. today the decision was made by the local sheriff, Mark Falk, to have a voluntary evacuation. As a very conservative precautionary measure we decided to evacuate all our guests. However, Bruce, Lee, Eva, and I are staying home tonight. Also most of our staff decided to stay even though they had the option of leaving.

Tonight the winds have died down. The pilots of the USFS planes acting as fire spotters land at our dock. As a result we sometimes know what is going on before anyone else. Right now the fire is 4 1/2 miles away from the Gunflint Trail. Tomorrow our weather forecast is for cooler temperatures and possibly rain if not tomorrow, then Sunday. Everyone we have talked with in the USFS anticipates that this fire will die down dramatically tomorrow. Also we know that there are several swampy places in between us and it.

As it now stands, we think tomorrow Gunflint Lodge will be up and running as usual. One of our groups who left (40 women from Eau Claire, WI) have aleady called us to say that they will be back tomorrow night. We still have lots of fall color and Indian summer weather to offer guests coming our way.

The Third Day

On every trip there seems to be one day that does not go quite as well as you hoped. Day #3 was our day for this to happen. The day started out nicely. We portaged from Dorie Lake into Twin Lakes via the 144 rod Deux Riveries Portage. A short paddle across Twin Lakes brought us to the Deux Rivieres which is shown as a small winding river of about 2-3 miles on our map.

Only a few minutes into the river we came to a beaver dam across the entire river. We were canoeing downstream at this time and the dam was easy to cross. In very short order we came to a second beaver dam. After crossing that dam, the river was shallower that we would have liked. The third dam was not far from the two previous ones. At the bottom of this dam, the river was only 2-3 inches deep. We had no real idea of how far the river continued before reaching Sturgeon Lake.

Melissa and I were sent to walk in the tall grasses along the side of the river. Tom and Bruce had to get the canoes down. Alongside the trickle of water was wet, muddy muck. The men tried sitting in their canoe and using their paddles as poles to push along but it was exhausting work. Finally they took their boots off, rolled up their pant legs, got out of the canoe and dragged the canoes forward. Each step left them between ankle and knee deep in wet mud. This last for at least a mile and probably more. By the time the canoes were on Sturgeon, both guys were beat.

Naturally, we encountered a strong head wind on Sturgeon Lake. It was our first really strong wind and not much fun especially after dealing with the mud and low water in the Deux Rivieres. In high winds like this Bruce prefers to paddle close to shore where there is a little protection.

As we paddled along, a dead tree stuck out from shore over the lake. I went around it with no trouble. Just as the middle of our canoe passed the tree, a strong gust of wind drove the entire canoe into shore. The tree overturned the canoe and put both Bruce and I in the water before we even knew what was going on. It all happened very fast.

For years we have both been telling people what to do if you dump in the lake. All of this repetition kicked into action. All four of us (Tom and Melissa from their upright canoe plus Bruce and I) started counting heads. Once there were two on the surface, Bruce and I grabbed onto our canoe. Luckily we were only 15 feet from shore. With Tom and Melissa's help, we were able to retrieve all our gear except one cup. Both of us were soaked but the temperature was warm. We paddled on.

We stopped for the night at a nearby campsite. Slowly all our gear was taken out of the pack to dry. It was surprising how little of it was wet. So everything got set up or put on the line to dry. Everyone was unhurt and no gear was lost. The sun was shining and things were drying.

Just as most stuff was dry, we noticed black clouds coming in. Rain had not been on the schedule for today on top of everything else! But, of course, there was nothing we could do about it. Tom and Bruce rigged a tarp up over our campfire and eating area. As thunder and lightening crashed around us, we stood eating our dinner under the tarp.

That night both Bruce and I had damp corners to our sleeping bags. Since the temperature stayed warm, we were able to ignore the wetness. Besides, we were both so tired from the activities of the day that sleep was no problem.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We're Back!

Yesterday the four intrepid explorers returned from our canoe trip in the Quetico. It was a wonderful trip. There is so much to tell about it that I have decided to spread it out over three blogs. Today I will give you the general route of the trip and overall impressions. Tomorrow will be the "Day From Hell." Then I'll finish with some fun encounters with animals.

Bruce and I along with Tom Shank and Melissa Anderson left the Trail on the 5th at about 6:30. By 10:15 we were on the north side of the Quetico Provincial Park at the Nym Lake Entry Point. The weather was beautiful with very little wind. We paddled for about an hour before coming to the portage into Batchewaung Lake. This 165 rods portage would be our longest. Naturally it was also when we had every bite of food for the entire trip on our backs. Each of us had to make 2 trips. I didn't quite die but it certainly brought home the fact that I am a bit out of shape. We camped that night in Batchewaung Bay.

Day 2 took us down Pickerel Lake into Pine Portage Bay and a 91 rod portage into Dorie Lake where we camped for the night. I especially remember this camp site because of a log that was perfectly placed to act as a back rest when I sat on the ground. It was almost like sitting in a chair.

Day 3 went from Dorie Lake into Twin Lakes and then down the Deuz Riviers to Sturgeon Lake. You will hear a lot more about this day tomorrow.

Day 4 we canoed into Russell Lake past Chatterton Falls and portaged into Chatterton Lake. The falls on this trip were wonderful even with low waters. It's hard to believe that much of the water from the northern part of the Trail drains toward Hudson Bay through the falls we would see. This also meant that from this point on, every portage was going uphill. Thankfully the food supply was going down. We paddled up Chatterton Lake to Split Rock Falls and stayed at a wonderful campsite where the tent spots were covered with nice soft moss. My body loved it.

Day 5 started out with the 72 rod portage from our campsite into Keats Lake. Next was "Have A Smoke Portage" into Shelley Lake. Then 3 more portages into Kawnipi Lake. There was virtually no wind so we paddled down Kawnipi to the entrance to McKenzie Bay. We were so lucky to make that day without wind in our faces.

On Day 6 we paddled to Kennebus Falls and entered the Falls Chain. First was a 30 rod portage into Kenny Lake, then a 95 rod portage around Canyon Falls , then 111 rods around Koko Falls and finally a 36 rod portage into the lake (unamed) just east of Wet Lake. Just getting to our campsite was an accomplishment that day.

On Day 7 we took the last three portages in the Falls Chain. They were all pretty short because the low water enabled us to get up close to each falls but rocks made them difficult to cross. We ended up in Saganagons and took Dead Man's Portage and found a campsite near the Silver Falls Portage.

Day 8 found us doing the Silver Falls Portage which was not nearly as bad as I had expected. Of course, our food was down to almost nothing and even I had toughened up a bit. Also the fact that this was our last portage of the trip gave us all a little extra energy. We camped that night on the mainland just south of the Cache Bay Ranger Station. There was no wind on Cache Bay was we paddled across it. Bruce and I spent a very pleasant hour or so visiting with Janice, the Quetico Park Ranger at Cache Bay. She has been there for 22 years and we all knew lots of stories about the area.

Day 9 was our last day and we had planned about 4-5 hours to paddled in across Saganaga Lake to the landing. Our lucky held. There was no wind and we made the trip in 2 hours.

Let me tell you that September is a wonderful time to be in the woods. We saw parties every day but not lots of people. The north side of the Park is primarily a conifer forest. By the time we hit the fire burns along the southern edge of Kawnipi, poplar, ash and birch trees were much more abundant. The colors were great.

The weather was warm for September. We went swimming about half the days. We had ice on the bottoms of our canoes only 1 morning. Our sleeping bags were warm and we were never cold at night.

Bruce was a breakfast and dinner cook and we ate very well. The favorite meal was fresh fried walleye (caught that day), cheddar broccoli rice and hot apple cobbler. Melissa brought lunches and we had rye crisp with sausage and Asiago cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Dessert for lunch was fruit cups, puddings, candy bars and gorp.

Melissa was also the entertainment chairman. She brought along Yahtze dice and score cards. The entire game fit into a small ziplock bag. We played 6 nights of a game each. It was an easy fun way to end the day. I've got to say that we laughed over each game and we laughed throughout each day.

Tomorrow I will give you a little bit more on the trip.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sue Is Still On Her Canoe Trip

Sue is still on her canoe trip so I have volunteered to fill in for her so you regulars of her blog know what is happening at the Gunflint Lodge. My name is Peter, and along with my wife Jeannette, have been a guest at the Lodge, since Sempterber 5th. We are from California so this is a big change of scenery for us. I was last in the Boundary Waters 18 years ago and have been trying to get Jeannette to join me on another trip for many years. This year she agreed and I chose the Rustic & Plush Combo package at the Lodge as the best way to acclimate her.

It allowed us to spend two days in the area doing day trips, so we could practice our paddling and portaging. Then we could come back to the Lodge at night for a good meal and to sleep in a nice cabin. Since we are both over 60 we wanted confidence before heading out for a three day canoe trip in the Quetico. After two days we felt prepared and left on Friday with our guide, Brian Gallagher. The weather Friday morning was cold, windy and overcast. We were concened that a storm was on the way, but fortunately it blew over by the afternoon. We set up a base camp in Cache Bay in mid afternoon just as the sky was turning blue and the sun coming out. Since then the weather has been gorgeous. Plus, we have probably only seen two mosquitos.

Our time in the Quetico was absolutely fabulous. We are not interested in fishing so spent our time exploring lakes where we hoped moose would be hanging out. We found some magnificient no name lakes that the Ranger said had probably not been visited in the last two years. From the way the portages looked she was probably right. Gliding around these lakes is something that you need to experience because words don't do them justice. They were great areas for Moose, but even though we were quiet and searched in the right spots we didn't get the thrill of seeing them. But we sure tried.

Having our guide Brian along made the trip so much more enjoyable. He has been a guide for 20 years so he knows the area very well. He took a solo canoe so he didn't help us with the paddling, but he wanted to do the cooking, clean the dishes and carry the canoe on portages. So while the trip was hard work, he gave us a chance to relax and save some of our energy. Plus, he gave us a lot of information about the area.

We came back to the Lodge yesterday and today took another day search near Little Iron Lake, an area that is known for Moose. It was beautiful and we didn't see another canoe, nor did we see a Moose. However, just being there was a joy and besides not seeing a Moose gives us an excuse to come back.

I also want to say what a great time we have had hanging around the Lodge. The employees can't do enough for you and go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. The food is excellent and there is plenty of variety.

So needless to say we have enjoyed our visit to the Gunflint Lodge. In fact Jeannette is now talking about coming back next year. She loves canoeing and being in the wilderness.

I wasn't asked to write this blog, and we are not getting anyting for it, but I just wanted to share my experience with others who may be thinking of taking the same type of vacation. If anyone has questions or wants to share their experiences at the Gunflint Lodge with us feel free to send us an e-mail message to We may even see you here next year.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Off We Go!

For most of the last 38 years, Bruce and I have sent you folks off on canoe trips. There never seemed to be enough time to take one ourselves. Well, tomorrow it's our turn. Bruce and I and Tom and Melissa are leaving on an eight-day canoe trip! This will be the third canoe trip that Bruce and I have taken together.

We leave Gunflint at 6:00 a.m. to drive to Nym Lake on the north side of the Quetico Provincial Park. From there we go south (more or less) to Saganaga Lake. All four of us will be seeing some new country and revisiting past trip locations. For the first three days we have lots of paddling down big lakes and very few portages. That's good because our food pack is a little heavy. On the first day we have only one portage but it's a half mile. That's 1 1/2 miles after we all make a second trip.

The past few days have been the next thing to dead calm on the water. Bruce is dying because he doesn't want the wind to come up and we should be on the water today. I know that we need rain but at this point it might as well wait for another week or so. If we have to paddle into a heavy wind on any of the big lakes, it is not going to be pretty.

Bruce is the cook since he has the most open fire cooking experience. We packed the breakfasts and dinners together. At this point I should assure you that our marriage survived but it was nip and tuck. We have enough food for a month. The food pack weighs 50 pounds.

You notice that I am ignoring a few of the more difficult parts of the trip. The sleeping bag will not be quite as comfortable as my bed at home. Certainly the shower won't be as good. I might also be a bit sore from paddling and portaging but nothing that Advil can't handle.

It looks like the fall color is going to be spectacular during the trip. I love September in the woods: beautiful sunny days, cool crisp nights, and no bugs. Of course, we can also have cold, windy, wet days but, please, not on this trip.

So watch the weather in the Quetico. Eat your heart out thinking of truly fresh walleye for dinner. I'll tell you all about it when we get home.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Fall Routine

We have been having an absolutely beautiful fall so far. It seems strange to be writing on September 1st about a beautiful fall but it really has come early. Although the days and nights have been warm, it is not the same as summer warm. I have seen mid-fifties for temperatures each morning about 6:30-7:00. In the evenings it is warm enough to sit comfortably outside with just a sweatshirt on. Nights are warm enough to leave a window open but there is still a cool breeze coming in. It won't be long before I'll close every window at night.

Last week we had a cool night so Bruce and I built the first fire in the fireplace of the season. When we built this house, we debated about whether to put a gas fireplace in or not. It is much more convenient and easier than wood. Luckily we decided on a wood fireplace. In spite of the work and mess, there is nothing like a wood fire. It warms the entire room and I don't mean just the temperature.

Leaves seem to be turning everywhere. The ferns along the roadside are brown in many places. Birch trees are turning yellow but poplars are still green. I haven't seen the ash or tamarack turning yet either. Those will wait until later in September. Down close to Grand Marais the maples are also turning.

Meanwhile the garden is still producing as if there is no end in sight. We have not bought zucchini for the lodge in weeks and I still find huge ones. Tomatoes are really vine ripened this year. The past two years we had to finish them off in the garage but not this year. Every other day I harvest about 10 pounds of them (we have A LOT of tomato plants). Corn is ready faster than we can eat it. Basil, chives, peppers, and squash are also making their way to the lodge kitchen. Even pumpkins are nice and orange. The only thing not ready yet is the Indian corn. Bruce planted a row of it for decorations in the lodge. We will see how it turns out. Carrots and potatoes are still adding on those last few ounces of growth.

Our meals are also starting to turn toward fall food. Pot roasts and hearty soups sound really good. Pasta will soon join them on the dinner table. I'm even thinking about trying to eat down the freeze. This is a once a year project that I start with good intentions but never really get finished.

I am sure that many of you will soon be into fall routines. Probably the only one I don't do here is to rake the leaves. So I miss the smell of burning leaves from when I was a child. We have a huge burn pile from spring that has been drying all summer. One night we will burn it and enjoy the smokey smell.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Gunflint Block Party

Last night was the August meeting of the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association. This mouth-full of words is really just everyone who has a home on Gunflint, Loon and Tucker Lakes. Some of us are business owners, some are here summers only and some live here all year.

During the summer months we try to get together in June and August. In July we sponsor with other lake groups the Gunflint Canoe Races. August is is our biggest meeting and we had about 60 people for last night's potluck dinner at the fire hall.

Besides dinner, the night includes a meeting at which we discuss the same topics each year: canoe race revenues, dues, garbage collection, septic systems, water quality, etc. The idea is to keep the meeting as short as possible so that we have lots of time to talk with each other. For some it is the only time we see everyone. Lots of stories and laughter echoed through the crowd.

I looked around the room last night and marveled at our diversity. There were people who had just purchased a home talking with a neighbor who came up to Gunflint for the first time in 1934. Some people were the third and fourth generations to be here. Backgrounds and home states spread us all over the map. Small children ate extra desserts along with grandmas who were doing the same thing.

This is an event that I recommend in any neighborhood. The informal format without a burning issue to polarize neighbors is a great way to get to know each other. Years ago we found that we had more in common than expected. Also when you get to know your neighbor, it is easier to work through divisive issues with a friend rather than a stranger.

For what it is worth, spend some time to get to know your neighbors. You will probably find that they are really nice people.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fall Is Coming

I think that everyone, including the wild animals, is starting to feel fall in the air. We are definitely seeing more animals while driving back and forth to town. I have even seen two partridge. Bruce and I saw a skunk crossing the other day.

The other day I drove in with Nancy Kurz. Just after the East Bearskin side road, there was an animal walking along the left side of the road. It looked unusual. As we got closer, we could see it was a large wolf. The animal didn't look at us. It just walked past on the left shoulder. Most wolves I have seen will quickly glance at you and the move off into the woods. I got the feeling that this was a very old animal and not in good health.

Vi Nelson, one of our neighbors, told me her fall animal story. She and a friend were outside in front of the cabin one day when a red squirrel went by. The squirrel had something in its mouth but she couldn't tell what. It went past them and deposited this lump in a sheltered nook. Then the animal went back to the other side of the cabin into a hole. It soon appeared with a furry ball which went over to the nook. Vi finally figured out that the balls were young squirrels. She thinks that Mama was moving the young ones from the summer home to the winter home. Sounds good to me.

When Sheryl and Bonnie made their canoe trip the other day, they reported seeing a large group of loons. We assume that the loons were starting to flock up in anticipation of the migration south. Also the hummingbirds at my feeder are drinking up a storm. They are probably trying to store up a few extra calories before the long flight south. (I am never in a position where I need to store up calories.)

There has been a bear hanging around the lodge. They are hunger in the fall and therefore, a little bolder about coming in around the cabins. We empty the garbage late every afternoon to not attract them. With all the cabins, however, there is almost always something in one or two of them. I hope this bear moves on before it gets into trouble. After another month we won't see bears anymore as they are slowing down their activity in preparation for the long sleep.

Raspberries are really done now. The leaves on the bushes are brown. There are one or two berries but not much more.

I spent a little time gathering lupine seeds today. Next spring they will be scattered on the road shoulder just across from the stable. Several years ago I scattered them between the lodge and the main trail but didn't get back to do any more. Unknown to me, one of the neighbors did the same that spring. If you remember, the South Gunflint Lake road looked like Lupine Lane this June. As I walked the ditches gathering, it was amazing how many young lupines are coming up now.

There are also some tiny white pines growing in the ditch. These will never amount to anything if left in the ditch. Next spring they may just decide to relocated to a more favorable growing area -- my yard. The great-grandchildren will enjoy them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Catching My Breath

Today is the day that I am officially catching my breath. That means the wash is caught up. I made pesto and zuchini relish yesterday so nothing is pressing in the garden. Ok, there are still lots of weeds but they will always be there. We have no guests. Dinner is simple and Bruce went to town.

I have three piles of stuff to deliver to my neighbors and today is the day. My decision was made without regard to the fact that it is a perfect late summer day. I am forced to drive around with clear skies and a pleasantly warm temperature. After lunch I picked up my friend, Eleanor Matsis, to drive along with me.

First stop is on the North Gunflint Lake Road. Dave at Moosehorn gets the most numerous pile of stuff. Some of it came from his wife, Paula. I bet Dave didn't even know it was gone. One item was an old postcard of a Borderland Lodge cabin that I scanned for the historical society. The building is still standing.

On our way out we stop at John Schloot's to return more pictures that I have scanned for the historical society. Although there are two cars, no one is home. I am sure that they are enjoying today on the water somewhere. I left the envelope of pictures between their doors.

Now it is on to the south side of the lake. I have a note that came to me but actually is for John Hendricksson. John and Julie have a beautiful tree-lined driveway. The cedar trees give it a wonderful cool temperature. We stop and talk for a bit before backing out.

Last stop is Vi Nelson's. Vi has been coming up to Gunflint in the summers since she was a small girl. Her cabin was built by her father who was an expert carpenter. He didn't just put boards and nails together. The construction of even a small cabin was planned to be efficient with space and pleasant to the eye. We had a nice chat about many of the useful and unique touches he put into the cabin.

The last thing she showed me was most interesting. It was a old map of Lake Superior. Vi doesn't know how old the map is but I know that it was printed before the U. S.-Canadian border had been definitively settled and surveyed. The lakes from Superior west are not aligned properly. Also the map shows Hunters Island (now in the Quetico Provincial Park) as part of the United States. Today the international boundary goes just south of Hunters Island. This piece of land was hotly disputed during the making of the border. It is my guess that the map was printed before 1822 which is when James Ferguson and George Whistler first surveyed west from Lake Superior along the present border. When this map was printed is going to be a little puzzle that will nag at me until I get it figured out.

As we drove along today, both of us could feel that touch of Indian summer in the air. The days are getting shorter and the nights are finally cooling down regularly. Along the side of the road, the plants and small shrubs are starting to turn color. Fall is definitely coming. After a busy summer, September is wonderful.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cleaning Up the Fire

Hopefully this is my last blog about the Cavity Lake fire. As of now the fire is officially contained. The Forest Service will probably be working all fall picking up equipment and putting out hot spots but the fire is considered out. Last night and today's rain will go a long way is putting out the hot spots but it is amazing at how long these things linger. Winter seems to be the only way to totally get a fire out.

The fire burned approximately 32,000 acres but don't forget that the BWCAW is 1 million acres in size. So there is plenty of room left for canoeing. The cost of the fire was something over $8 million. Think what would have happened if the Forest Service had sold the salavge rights to this area after the blowdown. Someone said they would have gotten $5 million. I don't have any idea if that is at all accurate or not. The point is that the fire would not have burned so hard or far and we would have had a new forest with 7 years of growth. I know, I know that wilderness restrictions do not allow this but there must be someplace that common sense enters is. After all, the Minneapolis Tribune told us the fire was coming.

Here is the ray of sunshine in the fire. Yesterday Sheryl and Bonnie took a day canoe trip through the fire area. They were towed across Sag to Red Rock and then they paddled through Alpine and out Seagull. Along the way they also walked the portage into Jasper Lake.

Sheryl said that she couldn't believe the amount of green that was already sprouting up. This included lots of ferns and grasses. It's not huge trees but it is green. They said that at many campsites the trees were gone but the grasses at tent sites were still green. The fire grates and latrines were in good shape. Canoeists next summer are going to find a much more pleasant experience than they expected. It will be fun to keep track of this area as it grows over the coming years.

Along the portage between Alpine and Seagull, the grass is still growing beside the trail. Before 1999 this was one of the nicest portages in the BWCA. The blowdown took down all the trees and now the fire has burned up the mess. Given the patience of a growing forest, it will once again be a beautiful portage.

So don't write off the Boundary Waters because of this one fire. The canoe country is still there for all of us to enjoy.