Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter at Gunflint Lodge

Hello Everyone,

I returned on Wednesday evening after a long day of travel from CT to Gunflint Lodge. Between the drive to the airport, the flights, and the drive home from MPLS I was traveling for 16 hours. It was a long day.

The drive from Duluth to Grand Marais is always my least favorite part of the drive (but only in the winter months). I don't like this part of the drive because there are so many deer that can jump out at you at any time so you always have to be scanning the ditches and road for deer. Fortunately I did not see any deer. The drive from Grand Marais to Gunflint is always one of my favorite parts even though by the time I get to town I am exhausted. I like this part of the drive because you always have a good chance of seeing a moose and my return trip did not let me down. Like mom said in earlier blogs the moose normally hang out between South Brule and the North Brule, but I didn't see any moose on that part of the drive. Fortunately I kept my eyes open for moose because around Iron Lake I saw two cow moose separated by about 5 miles. Both of them were kind enough to be walking off the road by the time I saw them so I didn't have to be worried about hitting them. Both of the moose looked healthy and full so hopefully they are pregnant with baby moose.

Today two of our employees went out on the ice to test it and returned with the following report about the thickness of the ice. Directly in front of the dock cribbing the ice is about 14 inches thick. This was one of the first areas on our 1/2 of the lake to freeze. About 100 yards out the ice was between 10 and 12 inches thick. Then they ventured out to the ice that had recently frozen and found that the ice was quickly thinning. The last spot they measured before retreating to shore was 5 inches thick. The rate at which it was thinning was fast enough to scare them from venturing further out onto the lake. We all agreed that with how quickly it was thinning it definitely is not safe yet. So if you are coming to Gunflint Lodge the ice along the shoreline is safe, but please do not venture out onto the lake yet because it is not safe.

A couple of posts ago mom told the story of how a couple of natives checked the ice for safety. One story I have been told is that if the animals are not seen walking on the ice, then it probably isn't safe yet. We have not seen any large animals like deer roaming around on the ice yet. At least the animal theory is consistent with our sample holes we drilled.

The ski trails are mostly all open and groomed. Shari Baker at the Gunflint Pines e-mailed out this report about the snow conditions up here: Total snowfall this season is 34" with 5" in the past week. The snow depth off of the ski trails is at 18". We have between a 5 and 8 inch base of snow on the trails. All of the open trails were groomed on the 27th or the 28th so the tracks should be in great condition as I type this post.

Whenever I return from vacation I like to walk around the property just to see how things look...plus I get to spend some outside time with our dog Tucker. After watching Tucker have to jump to get through the snow I decided that the current snow on the ground is probably deeper than at any time last winter. It was good to see all of the snow on the ground and in the trees.

One last note is that we do have some availability in early January if you are looking for an early winter vacation. Give us a call if you are interested as this is normally a time when we are sold out, but for some reason we have a few empty cabins.

Lee

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Christmas Trip

Bruce and I are off again tomorrow. We will be home on the 30th.

These last few days we have been working on finishing projects before going. All the presents are wrapped. I made cookies. The clothes are washed so now it is time to pack – not a favorite activity of mine. Bruce cleans and packs the car. I may even have time to run the vacumn. Tonight we go to one last Christmas party. With all our stops, it will take us 4 days to get east.

Saturday Bruce and Dave Seaton finished all their cutting of the pine tree. This picture shows Dave cutting one of the slabs that will become a counter in the museum.

Bruce even got a chance to do some of the cutting. Now these pieces will get sealer on them in the pole barn. They will dry all winter before the finishing work is done.

The decorators at the lodge did a great job this weekend. Here is a picture of the outside of the lodge.

It looks better at night but even now is an improvement over the gray nothingness. Between Christmas decorations and summer flowers, I really get spoiled.

Finally here is a picture from the overlook on the main Trail of Gunflint Lake.

It is all nicely covered over with ice. If you look at the Narrows, you might think that there is no ice. You would be right! The Narrows is where all the water drains out of Gunflint on its journey to Hudson’s Bay. Because there is always running water, the Narrows never freezes solid. All winter long we warn guests to stay away from this part of the lake. Ice is never safe if there is running water. There are lots of stories to tell about people who didn’t learn this lesson.

So now we are in a waiting game for the ice to get solid. It is no where near safe yet. John has put up signs on our dock and down at the public landing to warn people to stay off the ice. Years ago we used to have George Plummer across the lake to tell us when it was safe. Now we wait until we think it is safe and then wait another week.

Irv Benson on Saganaga Lake was another one who tested the ice. He cut a green stick about 5 or 6 feet long. When he was fairly certain the ice was safe, Irv would start walking out. The walking stick would hit the ground next one of his feet with each step. From the vibrations of the green stick, Irv could tell if the ice was safe. It all sounds pretty easy sitting here at my desk but don’t ask me to go out and try it. I’ll just wait until some else tells me it is safe.

Eventually the ice will get thick enough on the lake to support a car. We don’t drive all over the lake but we could. Mother used to tell about chasing a wolf with her Model T on the lake. The wolf turned around and gave her a big vicious snarl. Mom decided it was time to go home.

Once the lake is safe to walk on, you can still get in plenty of trouble. Slush is a real mess. It is formed from the weight of new snow pressing down on the entire lake. Eventually a crack forms and water pours onto the new snow creating slush. This slush is insulated from freezing by dry snow on top of it. It will not freeze solid until the dry snow is disturbed by wind blowing it off or by a snowmobile trying to go through it.

One time we had two young girls riding Mom’s Polaris Playmate snowmobile. They got into some slush and thought they were going through the ice. Both of them jumped off the machine and ran to shore. Then they realized they had not turned off the snowmobile so one of them ran back to do that. The main danger they were in was having the snowmobile freeze solid to the lake. Bruce came out and quickly got the machine out of the slush. Then he cleaned all the wet snow out of the track so that would not freeze either.

Now is not the time to get into ice stories. There are hundreds of them all with the same theme – don’t trust the ice. Over the winter I’ll tell you some more stories.

Drive carefully over the holidays. Gunflint family wishes you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sled Dogs Are Here

Gunflint Lake finally froze last night. Bob Baker, whose home has a huge view of the lake, says it is frozen as far as he can see. From the east end Fran says that everything they can see is frozen. Everyone knew the lake was ready. All that it needed was a cold, cold night. We had that last night with temperatures well below zero.

During the day yesterday, the temperatures were nicely above zero. So we got another three inches of snow. It is starting to build up. I think we are about at the time when the groomers can start to track the ski trails.

Another seasonal change has happened this past week. The sled dogs have arrived for the winter. Two gals, Linda and Helen, will be running the program this year. Here is a picture of Linda and one of her puppies.

Helen also has puppies here. They are both very excited about being up north.

The program has changed a bit. The gals are going to concentrate more on putting a little adventure into it. The options will no longer be just a ride on the loop. They want to take guests out into the BWCA, out on the lake, and out fishing. Spend a few minutes on the main website at the lodge to look at the schedule of mushing events. I think that you will find them very interesting.

This week was also tree cutting week. One of the needs for the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is a “cookie” (round slab with bark) to show the rings of a tree and explain what they tell us. The first project was to find the tree. Bruce and I drove around last fall and found one just behind the stable. Here is a picture of the tree just before cutting.
I know the tree looks beautiful but notice that the top is gone. That means the tree is dying. It is just what we were looking for – a dying tree that was still pretty solid. In addition to the cookie, this tree will supply the museum with boards for the top of a counter and benches for the theater. There is no sense in letting this good wood rot away.

Last Wednesday, Dave Seaton came up to help Bruce or maybe Bruce was helping Dave. Well, you know the stories about boys and their toys. Dave had a new bar on his chain saw that would make a 24” cut. Bruce had the bobcat to help lift and move the sections of the tree. They were both really enjoying themselves.

The tree came down just where they planned it. They had to go up about 20 feet along the trunk to get a solid cookie. The base up to the cookie was already rotted out in the middle. Here is a picture of Dave cutting that cookie with Bruce in the bobcat holding the tree in place.
Next time you see it, the cookie will be in the museum.

When they were cutting the tree down, Bruce noticed that there was a squirrel in it. He careful watched and saw the squirrel jump free of the falling tree. Later they searched and found the squirrel hole and the nest material that had been in the hole. We saved that too. It may find its way into the museum too.

We have another group of holiday decorators at the lodge this weekend to finish the putting up lights and trees and wreaths all over. I’ll take some pictures and send them to you on Monday.

Last night was the staff Christmas party. After a wonderful dinner, everyone went down to Okontoe for a sleigh ride and some carol singing. It is the time of year when we realize, again, how lucky we are to have such a great staff.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Moose on the Loose

It’s time to check in with you folks again. After six weeks of traveling, just doing ordinary household tasks feels good. Another thing that improves life is that Bruce and I are finally over the effects of jet lag. Of course, time is still going on even on Gunflint Lake. Christmas is coming and there is too much to do.



Driving up and down to Trail is another common happening in our lives. We love to see what will appears along the way. Thursday night we were driving home from Duluth when a moose popped out. I mean a MOOSE. We had just passed the North Brule River and turned into the left curve when he appeared on our lane. All we could see from our SUV was a huge rump and long, long legs. And the worst was that we were looking up at that rump!

Luckily Bruce was going slowly enough that we were able to move into the left lane. We were so hypnotized by the rump that we never looked to see if he had antlers. Bruce figured he was so big that it had to be a bull moose. That is just too close to come to a moose. And yes, even though it was too dark for a picture, I did not have my camera with me.

Quite a few people have been seeing moose lately. We generally consider the path of the Trail from the South Brule River to Swamper Lake to be “moose country.” On one trip to town we saw three moose there and then two moose Thursday night. Moose can appear other spots too. A friend coming up from town saw one near the Trout Lake Road, another hot spot of moose activity. She also saw more moose further up the Trail.

Last winter we did not see very many moose on the Trail and we all became complacent. Well, change your attitude and slow down. Get your passenger to help. The passenger watches the right ditch and the driver watches the left ditch. Everyone looks for tracks on the road. Tracks can be a good indicator of animal activity. Moose are fun to see while you are driving but you don’t want to see them too closely.

This next picture shows the view from the top of our driveway over Gunflint Lake on the 4th. You can just barely see a thin line of open water on the far side of the lake. If I took that same picture today, it would all be open water. The east end of the lake had not frozen and the wind came up. It blew out all the ice. When a lake is partially frozen, even a light wind from the wrong direction will blow out new ice. Last night was 10 below here but there was a wind. Gunflint didn’t freeze. The first calm night we have will be when the lake freezes. Then it’s a wait until the ice is safe. When we think it is safe, we wait another week before venturing out.

My last picture shows you why we live in the woods. This picture was taken outside my office window about 1:30 this afternoon. I know you can’t see to count, but the buck is a ten-pointer and just huge. He was pawing the snow to get at the leftover leaves from my iris plants and was in no rush to leave.

I don’t think that deer can see through windows. After calling Bruce and visiting Lisa, I grabbed for my camera on the desk. A furious time of shooting pictures finally gave me this one. All the time the buck continued to concentrate on his snack. How do you think he knew the leaves were under a foot of snow? That is my question of the day.

It was a fun day at our house. It’s late in the afternoon and the temperature is dropping. The wind has gone down. Maybe the lake will freeze tonight.

Moose and Deer Sightings

It is time to check in with all of you again. After being away for six weeks, it feels good to just do ordinary tasks at home. Of course, life continues to march on. Christmas is still coming and the lake is still waiting to freeze over. Bruce and I appear to finally be over jet lag.

The picture below shows him with his grandparents – us.



Another part of our life is driving up and down the Gunflint Trail to town or Duluth. On Thursday night we were returned from a day trip to Duluth. We were in a little rush because it was the night of Shari and Bob Baker’s Christmas party. This is always a fun time. At any rate we crossed the North Brule River and started into the left turning curve. All of a sudden there was a moose in our lane. By this I mean a MOOSE. From our SUV we were looking up at its rump. In fact Bruce and I were so hypnotized by the size of this rump and the length of the legs that we never took time to see if it had antlers. Bruce figured it must have been a bull because it was so huge. Luckily we were able to get into the left lane at a reduced speed and move past the animal.

This should be a warning to all of us who got complacent last year about moose. For whatever reason last winter, very few moose were seen while driving the Trail. Generally, you can consider “moose country” to be from the South Brule River to Swamper Lake. In our last two trips we have seen 4 moose within that area. Others have also reported seeing moose there. That does not mean they can’t be other places. A friend coming up from town saw one by the Trout Lake Road, another hotspot of moose activity, plus other moose further up the Trail.

Take a few minutes longer to drive the Trail by going a little slower. Also get your passengers trained help watch the road. The passenger watches the right ditch and the driver watches the left ditch. Finally, everyone looks for tracks on the road. Tracks are another good indicator that game is active in the area.

This picture shows the view from the top of our driveway just a few days ago.

See how the lake is almost frozen across? Well, if you took that picture today, it would all be open water. The lake did not freeze over the next night and the wind came up. When the lake does not completely freeze over, all it takes is a light, steady wind to take out all the ice. Last night is was 10 below. Because there was a wind, the lake did not freeze and we still have open water.

This last picture tells you why we live in the woods.

It was taken this afternoon about 1:30, 2:00 p.m. right out my office window. I was just stepping into the office to get a book. After quickly calling Bruce and visiting Lisa, the camera was the next thing I grabbed for. In case you can’t easily count, that is a ten-point buck. He was pawing at the ground to eat the leftover leaves from my iris garden. He was magnificent.

I don’t think that deer can see through a window clearly. We were moving around and taking pictures but he just stayed put. It is times like this that the digital camera really comes in handy.

So there we have the most current activities at our house. Hope things are just as exciting at your house.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Early Winter on the Gunflint Trail

I did a little tour of the neighborhood looking for pictures for the blog. Having to come up with pictures makes me do more than sit at the computer and think nice thoughts. For our trip we bought one of the small digital cameras. It sure was nice to just pop it into my small fanny pack. Now the plan it to keep it in the car for each time we go to town. Of course, I forgot it when we went to town yesterday. Two moose were on the road when we came home. You will just have to take my word for it.

Now that things are quiet around the lodge, animals have been appearing again. Lee has seen moose and otters. One of the otters was having a grand time sliding down some new shore ice into the lake. The deer are also all around especially since the hunting season ended. How they know to disappear during hunting season is beyond me. This morning there were three on our driveway. The fox couple from last year also appears to be hanging around.

Today I went visiting the ski trails that have now been packed and groomed for the first time this winter. There are no tracks on them yet. Those will come with the next snow fall. It is just good to start seeing all the trails come out of the woods. I think this picture of the Highlands Trail by the road overlook gives you a pretty good idea.

My pictures will improve with practice – I hope.

Gunflint Lake is not frozen yet. This picture by the bridge at Cross River shows how the ice is forming out into the lake.

There are actually three bands of ice. The first one was just before we got our last two inches of snow. Then there is a narrow band frozen one cold night. Finally we got a much wider band that froze last night. Beyond that is the open water steaming as it cools down. The steaming means that the water is warmer than the air. That is not hard to believe since it was 7 degrees this morning.

Most of the smaller lakes along the Trail are frozen now. Magnetic Lake froze several days ago. Loon Lake was in the middle of freezing yesterday. Parts were frozen but there were also patches of open water. Loon may have finished freezing last night. It was cold and calm. Our coldest nights come during a full moon with no clouds and no wind. Once a lake is totally frozen, it won’t go out until next spring. If it has open water, there is always a chance that strong winds will blow it open again.

Then there is the issue of making solid, hard ice. Ideally, there is a period of 5-6 nights after a lake freezes when the temperatures are low and there is no snow. This will give you several inches of clear blue ice. Snow during this period will insulate the new ice and really slow down the growth of the ice. And this is what puts us into a bind because, of course, we would like lots and lots of snow. Fortunately, Mother Nature makes the decisions about ice and snow.

Another stop I made was at the lodge. Bonnie went out yesterday and cut a balsam Christmas tree for the lodge. This picture shows it propped up against the steps leading into the lodge.

The bright orange tag shows that we paid our $5 fee to the Forest Service for cutting a tree on their land. Trees cut in a natural forest are not like those from a tree farm. They are much more irregular and not nearly as dense because they have not been cut and formed during their growth.

This weekend the tree will go up as part of our first weekend of Holiday Decorating. Each year we have guests who come to help decorate the lodge and grounds for Christmas. I will admit that helping decorate Gunflint Lodge is not quite as prestigious as decorating the White House (they use volunteers too) but we think it is just as much fun.

I’ll spend the next couple of days exploring the neighborhood some more. Who knows what stories will appear.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

On to England

Before we get into the last part of our trip, I just wanted to let you know that we did get our snow. Overnight there was an accumulation of about 8 inches. This gives us over a foot on the ground. It is just glorious outside. Dave Tuttle, who helps pack our ski trails, will be out packing and grooming after this snowfall.

Now let’s get on to the last of our trip. By the time Bruce and I arrived in London we were ready to be on our own. Four and a half weeks on tour is tiring. Our plan was to spend the next week exploring the Cotswolds, a place we last visited 35 years ago.

To get to the Cotswolds we had to drive. This is not as easy as you might think. Remember they drive on the wrong side of the road over there. They also have lots of roundabouts (traffic circles) that work totally backwards to us. Finally the driver sits in the right seat and many controls like blinkers are on the opposite side to us. With both of us watching carefully we made it to our destination, Stow on the Wold.

The first night was spent in an inn on the square at Stow. The next day we found what we really wanted – a cottage. Here is a picture of Box Cottage where we spent the next five nights.

It is a small rental cottage in Broadwell, a tiny village about 5 miles from Stow. The cottage has one bedroom and bathroom, a living room with wood stove and a kitchen/dining area. Within walking distance was a pub which served good food. We ate there every night and eliminated the need to drive after dark.

The plan had been to spend time hiking but it didn’t work out. Several days were rainy or too cold and damp to make walking fun. Also the area had had flooding in the spring. Everything was wet and all the trails were very muddy. We tried one day and came home with an inch of muddy clay sticking to our shoes. On to Plan Two.

We spent several days exploring the small towns all around us. Here is a picture of the village green at Broadway.

We often saw riders out with their horses and leading a second horse for exercise. It was nice to be among English speaking people and restaurant menus that were familiar to us. One day we even met a clerk who had been to Northfield, Minnesota, and had heard of the Boundary Waters! With Christmas coming we did some shopping. Buying anything brought us face-to-face with the declining dollar and it makes travel expensive.

Two days were spent visiting castles. The first visit was to Blenheim Castle where Winston Churchill was born. Set on 2100 acres of land, it has been in the same family since the early 1700’s. It is huge and filled with all the touches of a great castle. It was also “dressed” (as the English say) for Christmas. Our second visit was to Windsor Castle. Here is a picture of the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle.

We were lucky to be the only two people on the tour of the outside grounds. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the history of the castle. In this royal residence, everything was impressive from the rooms to the paintings to the floors. After the extensive damage from fire in 1992, everything was repaired. One parquet floor was somewhat blackened from the fire. The solution was to pry up each piece, turn the bottom side into the top side, and refinish the new top side. Both castles were a fun glimpses into life styles we will never experience.

By the time we got to our last hotel near Gatwick Airport, we were ready to go home. It had been a wonderful trip but home sounded really good. We spent the night in Minneapolis and were awake at 5:30 and driving home by 6:00. Even filling up with groceries, we were home by 1:00 for a late lunch. That night our own bed felt great.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Egypt

The next stop on our trip was Egypt. We flew with two other couples on the Turkey trip into Cairo. There we joined with two more couples bringing our group size up to 10.

The first day in Cairo was spent visiting Geza and Sakkarra. Geza is the location of the Sphinx and its three main accompanying pyramids. Up close they are as awesome as in a pictures. Geza is also filled with tourists, venders, police, camels, horses, and horse drawn buggies. It is a very busy place. Sakkarra is the first pyramid built and is called the Step Pyramid. It is hard to imagine that these pyramids were built over 4,000 years ago.

The next day we left Cairo and headed out into the Sahara Desert. We spent our first week visiting the western oasises of the Sahara. During this week we received a first touch of the vastness of this desert that stretches all across the top of Africa. Once away from an oasis nothing grows because there is literally no water, rain, dew or moisture. Even in an oasis, water is at a premium. Sand, dust and dry air are everywhere.

A couple of highlights stand out from that week. On my 62nd birthday we went for an hour’s camel ride in the desert. The picture below shows our mounts.

Just watching the camels saddled up was great entertainment. Once we relaxed riding them wasn’t too bad. Of course, I would not look forward to a long trip on a camel.

Another night we camped out in the desert. We along with all our equipment drove out in three four-wheel drive vehicles. On the way we stopped to buy firewood as there is none in the desert. At our campsite the vehicles were arranged in a “U” shape. Large rugs were staked and tied to the vehicles to protect the inside of the “U” from wind. This picture gives you an idea of the setup.

Rugs were laid down. Next came tables with six inch legs. The guides prepared a wonderful dinner of roast chicken, rice and potatoes with vegetables. After dinner they made a traditional tea of tea, mint and sugar. Then it was time to sleep. The tables were removed and foam mattresses were laid side-by-side on the rugs. Sleeping bags went on top and we crawled in. We must have looked like a bunch of hot dogs on a grill. All of us slept with varying degrees of success but all also agreed that the starry sky was unbelievable.

Our second week in Egypt was spent on the tourist milk run along the Nile. Hundreds of Nile tour boats provide accommodations and meals as you cruise the river. When the boats dock at night, small boats with venders converge on the tour boats selling souvenirs. This picture gives you an idea of the scene.



The ancient Egyptian ruins are magnificent. Because there are so many tourist tryping to see the sites, the government has everything quite tightly organized. We saw the Vallye of the Kings, Hatshipsut Temple, Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Abu Simbel, the Unfinished Obeslisk, and Philae Temple. In all cases there were literally hundreds of tourists at each location making it difficult to get a feel for each place. Everything was just huge and crowded. We were, however, lucky to see the mummy of King Tut which had just been put on display in his tomb.

Our overnight train ride from Aswan to Cairo was an interesting experience. Once in Cairo we visited the Egyptian Museum. It was packed with both treasures and tourists. Our guide Nasser did a good job pointing the highlights and then turning us loose. We were all very impressed with the finds from King Tut’s tomb. Both the quantity and the quality of them were amazing. The last day in Egypt was spent visiting a church, a synagogue, and a mosque. It was an ecumenical day. We also found time for some last minute shopping

Meanwhile back at Gunflint we are awaiting the arrival of a snowstorm. It is supposed to move in and out very quickly and give us a bunch of snow. I'll let you know what happens tomorrow when the last installment of our trip is posted.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bruce and I arrived home yesterday from six weeks of traveling. Home never looked so good. We have 8 inches of snow and are scheduled for more on Saturday and Sunday. The temperature was negative 4 this morning and is supposed to be 20 below tonight. Grandson Grant doubled in size while we were gone.

You might enjoy a little information about our travels so I will give you three quick blogs about the countries we visited: Turkey, Egypt, and England. I’ll print the blogs today and the next two days. Then we can get back to what is really interesting – life at Gunflint.

This was our second trip to Turkey. We had 13 traveling companions who joined us with our favorite guide, Mehmet Ozbalci. After a quick day in Istanbul (much too short), we flew to Trabson on the Black Sea in Eastern Turkey. From here we made our way by bus for 5,500 km east, south and then west back to Istanbul.

At the Armenian border near Kars we visited the ruins of the old city of Ani. Although the border crossing between Turkey and Armenia is closed, we looked right over the river into Armenia. A single German girl tried to attached herself to our group. She claimed to be hitchhiking from Germany to Cape Town, South Africa. It didn’t seem like a good plan to us.

During an overnight stop at Dogubeyazit, we viewed the traditional location of Mount Ararat. That afternoon we visited the 2nd largest meteor hole in the world. It was just a hole but it was also within a hundred yards of the Iranian border.

Van and the lake of the same name were next on the route. It was particularly interesting to me because my paternal grandfather was born in this area. We took a boat to Akdamar Island and visited a 10th century Armenian Church that was noted for its outside reliefs telling biblical stories. We also visited several Urartian settlements from the 8th century BC. One of the people we met was a retired guard at a settlement. By being observant, he had taught himself to read the cuneiform writings of the Urartian people.

In all these towns we spent time walking through the local markets. Sometimes it was to buy souvenirs. Other times we enjoyed all the local food stands. This picture shows a typical market. The variety and quality of the produce was wonderful. The large dark pile on the right was fresh eggplant arranged in a circle.



Mardin and Sunliurfa kept us busy the next couple of days. We crossed the Tigris River, we visited a 4th century AD Syrian Orthodox Christian Monastery that is still in use today. We also visited a cave that is the traditional birthplace of Abraham.

On the way to Adiyaman, we stopped at another cave where Job is said to have lived when he had leprosy. The Euphrates River was also on our list that day. At 2:30 a.m. on our first night in Adiyaman we left to drive to Mt. Nemrut. Once there we hiked to the top to see the sun rise over some 1st century BC statutes. That afternoon we took a nap.

Cappadocia was home for two nights. Before the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, this area had many Christian communities because it was so remote. We stayed in a hotel with caves from rooms. This picture shows our cave dining room for dinner that night.

A highlight of the stay in this area was visiting the underground cities which went down eight stories. Cappadocia is also known for its Turkish rugs. Bruce and I had bought one on our first trip but this picture shows a buying stop for several in our group.



Another long day of driving brought us to Pamukkate. This town is the location of calcium deposit pools that have been used for thousands of years. It is claimed that bathing in them will cure almost any ailment you have.

Our last two stops are along the Aegean Sea – Ephesus and Troy. Both are sights we visited before but still enjoyed a second time. Then it was back to Istanbul and the end of a very busy visit to Turkey

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snow and Holiday Decorating

Hello Everyone,

Great News at Gunflint Lodge. Yesterday, we had about six inches of snow. The day before, there were approximately two inches of snow. Today, we have been having light snow off and on throughout the day.

I had a spectacular hike to Lookout Point yesterday. The only tracks on the trail ahead of me were of the two joyous labs that were taking me for their daily walk. The snow weighed down the balsam fir branches along the side of the trail, making for a beautiful trek. Soon, I will be able to use snowshoes along that same route.

Lonely Lake has been frozen for about two weeks now, and Gunflint Lake is getting colder and colder every day. There is some ice forming in the bays, and near the mouth of the Cross River. Yesterday, the wind broke some of the ice free, and I could see it floating across the lake. Today, a fog is rising off of Gunflint Lake. When I looked at it this morning, it reminded me being on the top of a snow covered mountain, with the clouds below, and the other peaks visible in the distance.

One of the events we look foreward to this time of year is Holiday Decorating. We have two Holiday Decorating Weekends coming up in which we will fully decorate the lodge and grounds. Everyone who is on the Holiday Decorating Package will get to help us decorate for four hours (with a snack break in the middle), then they have the rest of the weekend to relax, and enjoy the winter beauty of the northwoods.

During the first weekend, we plan to make and decorate wreaths, put up outdoor lights, decorate the front desk, decorate the indoor Lodge Christmas tree, and decorate Justine's Dining Room. It is really fun to see the completed decorations at the end of the day, and to know that your work will help to bring out the Holiday spirit in a lot of people.

This year, we are planning on adding Christmas Caroling during some of the meals, and a Saturday Night Sing Along with a Christmas song emphasis. If you are in the Lodge when we are singing, you are welcome to join in the fun.

As in years past, every family will have the chance to make a wreath to bring home, and to make a family ornament to either put on the Lodge Christmas tree, or bring home and put on your own Christmas tree. There will also be a variety of Holiday kid's crafts available for our younger guests.

The two Holiday Decorating Weekends will be December 7 - 9, 2007 and December 14 - 16, 2007. We still have cabins available if you would be interested in joining us.

Have a Happy Holiday season.

John Silliman

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Hello Everyone,

Happy Thanksgiving. This morning my wife and I started talking about the many things we were thankful for and we kept coming back to our baby boy. Today he seemed more hungry then usual. Maybe he knows it is Thanksgiving and everyone eats a little extra food on this day.

At the lodge we have been preparing for this day for several weeks. Our Chef Nick Hayes slow cooked the first turkey all night. The rest of the turkeys are going to be put into the oven several hours apart. He is doing this so that when we bring out the next turkey for the buffet it will be freshly cooked and not held for hours. I think the Chef ordered five 30-pound turkeys for today...but that is not all he is serving. He is also serving a bison haunch, smoked ham, cranberry pecan sauce, rutamousse, maple sweet potatoes, green beans, wild rice, wild mushroom dressing, roast garlic acorn squash soup, gunflint Caesar salad, garden salad with our smoked tomato dressing, and for dessert he is offering apple crisp, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and (my favorite) chocolate bread pudding.

Our chocolate bread pudding recipe is in the current issue of Midwest Living, page 148. This has been one of my all time favorite desserts and the guests always give us compliments on it.

If talk of all of this food isn't enough we opened the restaurant with the winter menu on it last night. I don't know where our chef gets his inspiration from but the food is excellent. He has some amazing sauces that really compliment the dishes. Whatever you do, do not order a dinner entree and ask for it with no sauce. We don't like the staff to tell our guests "no" when they have requests, but the sauces are so good that I almost want to tell our servers that they dinner entrees can not go out without a sauce even if a guest requests it with no sauce.

The last couple of days the weather has warmed up enough to melt the snow we had, then it dropped again. The past two days we got fresh snow on the ground to replace anything we lost. This morning it was a balmy 15 degrees out.

With all of the colder weather the lake is starting to look like it wants to freeze over. Many of the smaller ponds are frozen over. Today there was ice between the two dock cribbing's. Hopefully if the wind and the temperature stay down we might see a frozen lake soon. This would be a very early freeze compared to the last couple of years. Of course we will tell you on the blog when it does in fact freeze but until then we will be keeping our fingers crossed.

Well it is nearly noon so I have to go get ready to carve the food for the Thanksgiving buffet.

From everyone at Gunflint to all of you out there reading the blog, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Lee

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

more snow today

This will be a common subject line for the next couple of months whenever we get fresh snow. Today started off as a cold day with lots of wind from the northwest. As the day progressed the wind died down and the cloud cover came in. I drove to a meeting around 12:30 and I noticed the ponds on the sides of the roads were covered in thin layers of ice. Some of the smaller lakes (Little Iron Lake) were even covered in ice. It was really neat to see that the ice had survived the strong winds of the morning. The meeting finished at 3:45. Upon leaving the building I immediatly noticed the ground was really covered in snow. It was more than just a light dusting. On the way to the meeting the sides of the road were more brown from the dead grass than white from the snow. On the way home from the meeting it was the opposite. Significantly more snow than brown grass. All of the same ponds and lakes I had driven past were now white as the snow had settled on top of the ice. It looked really pretty. Plus it was still snowing big white flakes...and lots of them. When I got to the Gunflint Lake Scenic Overlook I could hardly see across the lake. Again what a wonderful view, snow, and lots of it.

We get our internet over a satelite. If we get to much snow, or rain, we lose our internet connection. I'll keep this short so the snow can't prevent me from posting a longer blog.

Lee

Monday, November 05, 2007

more snow today

Hi Everyone,

Today it snowed most of the day. Upon waking up there was snow on the ground. The temperature was "warm" enough to begin to melt the snow, but there was more coming down then the "warm" temperature could melt. The wind was strong and cold out of the west today and it blew all day long creating white caps that crashed into the dock cribbing all day.

It is times like this that I can't wait for winter and snow to completely arrive and to be here for the rest of the winter. When the snow is finally on the ground for the winter then the temperature doesn't seem as cold and the snow is actually fun to go out and play in.

Time for dinner so I have to log off.

Lee

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Late Fall/Early Winters at Gunflint Lodge

Hello Everyone,

Halloween around here is a little different than what I imagine it to be like in a city. Up here parents call ahead a couple of days and ask if you will be participating in the trick or treating this year. Then, assuming you will be participating, give you approximate times that they will stopping by. This year we had 4 Trick-O-Treaters all come at once. The kids had great costumes. We still bought way too much candy and when the first kid reached in for the candy he asked if he could get a second handful. Without thinking I cautioned him that I needed to make sure there was enough candy (I bought 3 bags of candy two weeks ago to prepare for the evening). Only after the first child withdrew his hand did I think fast enough to encourage him to go back for seconds because after all there were only 4 kids.

A friend of the family moved into a new neighborhood and he was told to prepare for 1,000 kids to show up. He ended up only having 500 show up. When I heard those numbers I was thinking holey cow. That is a lot of kids. Maybe that is normal, but I couldn't imagine having 50 kids much less 500 show up. I know it is part of the difference between living in the country versus living in the city but that is a lot of kids.

This time of the year we are required to tell stories of past Halloweens and it always needs to be mentioned that in 1991 we got 31 inches of snow on Halloween night. That snow ended up staying with us until April or May when winter finally released it's grip. This year we did get snow. In fact it was enough snow that earlier in the day, while I was on a hike to mid-cliffs, I could hardly see across the lake. John Silliman, our Head Naturalist, was with me and we both were thinking how nice it would be to have a 100 inches of snow this winter.

Growing up Dad used to tell the guests that we got between 100 and 110 inches of snow every winter. I don't know if he was exaggerating or not, but all of the people I know who have been up here for 20 years or more confirm that we used to get significantly more snow "back in the day".

The easiest way I can relate is that when I first went deer hunting we wore all of our winter clothes and added an orange hunting jacket on top. We definitely wore our winter boots and winter gloves. We always had snow on the ground (plus that made it easier for first time hunters to track a deer we shot). This year, like last year, there is no snow on the ground. Some of the puddles on the ski trails are covered in thin layers of ice, but no permanent snow yet.

Now that we have finished our Fall Food and Wine Weekend we have been working hard to prepare for the fast arriving winter months. We just finished our first Fall Work Weekend. Guests work with us from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM to do some of the fall chores. Then we cook a big late afternoon meal for them to enjoy. Next weekend is our second Fall Work Weekend and we have a long list of projects to get accomplished.

In between the Fall Work Weekends we are busy planning the Thanksgiving Buffet. Unlike the wine weekend we don't get to practice this a couple of times prior to the event. This year's buffet will still have some of the classics like Roasted Turkey, Smoked Ham, and Buffalo. One year we took off the Buffalo because we thought it would be nice to try something different. That was a big mistake and the guests made us promise that it would be back on the menu for the next year. So now we are busy planning the sides, salads, breads, desserts, and vegetables to go with the main courses.

If you are thinking of booking a reservation with us for Thanksgiving please call soon as we only have 4 cabins remaining. I just talked to John Silliman about what events he is planning over Thanksgiving weekend and he assured me that there would be lots of crafts like candle making, and birch bark bookmarks...plus the usual assortment of hikes and night hikes. He commented that the night hikes during this time of the year are some of his favorite times to go out on them.

Speaking of birch bark bookmarks that reminded me of our Books in the Woods event in March. We have locked in Brian Freeman as one of our authors. I am going to purchase one of them soon and as soon as I am finished reading it I'll write a review. I believe he has a new book called "Stalked" coming out in February so it might be a book he is reading from.

New this year we are planning on offering a day pass for visitors from the local community who want to participate in the event. As we get closer if you live in the area and would like to participate give us a call so we can get you into the readings.

Well that is about it. I'll try to post more again in the next couple of days. Since I missed the early Vikings/Chargers game I might cut out of work early to catch the Patriots/Colts game. Based upon the online game summaries it sounds like the Vikings rooking running back Adrian Peterson was amazing in the second half of the game. I can't wait to see the highlights on ESPN.

I hope you had a good weekend.

Lee

Monday, October 29, 2007

Looking back and looking forward

Hi Everyone,



We just finished our Fall Food and Wine Weekend. This years event was the best dinner we have put on in several years. For those of you who missed the event I'll post the menu at the end of the blog.

This time of year we reflect back on the summer/fall and start looking forward to the winter. The fall colors are over, even the tamaracks have turned. The tamaracks are one of my favorite trees to see in the fall. I love the bright orange color of the needles. As a kid I hardly remember seeing any and only remember the yellows and oranges from the aspen and birch trees.

This summer we saw water levels down to extremely low levels. We were very worried about how little water their was. We were also worried that is we did not get the necessary percipritation then it would be harder to get into some of our favorite fishing lakes next summer. Fortunately the rains came and now we have water levels higher than we can ever remember for the fall. Our dock cribbing has been partially flooded for weeks. Now we are worried if we get a ton of snow this winter how are our guests going to keep their feet dry trying to get in a boat this coming spring. What a suprise how quickly we got over 2 feet of water.

I am not sure if it is directly related to the high water but our guides have been telling me that this fall was some of the best small mouth bass fishing they have ever had. They were regulalrly catching 4 lbs bass and not just one or two, but 8-10 every day they went fishing. The marketing side of me is saying that next summer I am going to offer a fall bass fishing package for our guests since the fishing is so strong. You would think since I grew up here I would know about the fall being such a strong fishing season for bass, but we always focused on the Walleye.

We have officially closed the restaurants until mid December. Of course we will be open to the public for Thanksgiving, but other than that we are closed to the public until December. For guests staying with us on the Fall Work Weekends and the Holiday Decorating Weekends we will be cooking a few meals as necessary for the weekend packages. During the time our restaurant is closed we take apart the kitchen and clean everything so it is spotless for Thanksgiving and the Christmas seasons. The staff are excited because once the kitchen is cleaned many of them take time off to go and visit their friends and family so they are recharged and ready for the winter season.

We have sent out our Winter Rate sheets to many of our past guests. We have made a couple of exciting new changes to familiar packages. The biggest change is something we learned from a summer package. In the summer we offer a package called the Super Family Package. This year we included a day with an Adventure Guide. The guide takes you into the woods on a private guided day. If you want to go hiking, or on an animal search, or a day trip into the BWCAW, or exploring, they go with you and tell you about the forest, the history, and show you things that you wouldn't normally go to by yourself.

One time this summer our guides were booked so I even got to take out two families on a day trip into the Boundary Waters. I am not sure who enjoyed it more, the two families, or me. They loved it because I took them places they would never have gone on their own. They caught fish. They went into the Boundary Waters and we hardly saw any other visitors all day. I loved it because I got out of the office and got to spend some time with guests doing what I love, paddling the BWCA.


Since the adventure guide was so popular with the guests we decided to add it to our Wild Winter Package. The only difference is that we only included a 1/2 day with an Adventure Guide. I wasn't sure if guests could or would go all day in the winter months. Our primary winter activities that the adventure guides can take you on include: ice fishing, snowshoeing into the Boundary Waters, skiing, antler shed hunting, birding, animal searches, and winter survival skills. I think guests are going to love a guided trip into the boundary waters on ski or snowshoe. Between the crystal clear air, the white snow, and not seeing anyone else (or tracks of anyone else), it should be a great experience!

Speaking of winter, it is coming our way. Sunday morning we awoke to find a hard layer of frost on the vehicle windows. It was great to see. Right now we are as excited as a kid in a candy store as we wait for snow to cover the grounds. We are looking forward to a winter with lots of snow. If you are looking for cabins over Christmas most of our larger cabins have already been booked so you should call right away if you have a large family and want to get together here this year.

Looking really far ahead, this May the Cook County Events and Visitors Bureau will be organizing our Gunflint Green-Up event. This event is focused around replanting the Gunflint Trail. Right now we have over 100,000 trees ordered and donated that will need to be planted this spring. The event is going to be the first weekend in May. We are expected several hundered volunteers. If are you are interested in participating we will post more contact details as the organizational processes are set up. So right now just save the date and invite friends and family to join you for May 2-4, 2008 for the Gunflint Green-Up.

Okay now I'll tell you about the menu and wine pairings from the Fall Food and Wine Weekend

Course 1: Cotechino Ravioli with fresh italian cotechino sausage, broccoli rabe, and goat cheese in a homemade ravioli with a sage cream sauce and fried pancetta bits. This was paired with Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco

Course 2: Escarole and Dandelion Green Salad with Escarole and dandelion greens dressed in a chestnut honey and blue cheese vinaigrette and finished with Meade poached pears. This was paired with Girlan Pino Bianco. I was very surprised how little of the blue cheese there was on this salad but the wine really accented that flavor.

Course 3: Roast Pumpkin Soup with locally grown pumpkin roasted and served in a vegetable broth with swiss chard and cannellini beans. This was served wtih Girlan Gerwurtztraminer Aime.

Course 4: Walley stuffed squash blossoms. The fresh canadian walleye and pistachios in squash blossoms on sauteed spinach with chili oil was served with a Mario Schiopetto Sauvignon Blanc. This was one of my favorite pairings. The wine was incredible!

Course 5: Pomegranate and honey glazed squab. The squab was basted with a pomegranate and honey glaze nestled atop an acorm squash and wild rice risotto. This was served with Ascheri Barolo Sorano. The Barolo was another oustanding wine!

Course 6: Wild Boar Saltimbocca. The wild boar medallions and sage were ensconced in prosciutto sitting on a roast garlic turnip mash and topped with a puttanesca sautee. This was served with Corteforte Amarone Classico. If you enjoy wine and have not had the pleasure then you need to drink an Amarone! It will definitely be worth it.

Course 7: Toasted Almond Cake saoked in a rose water syrup and crowned with a blood orange mousse. This was served with Montellori Vin Santo.

Whew...I finally finished typing the menu. As I was typing it I was reliving the tasting and drooling. I really want to find a bottle of the Mario Schiopetto Sauvignon Blanc. It really was a great bottle of wine.

Lee

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Turkey

Greetıngs from eastern Turkey! Bruce and I are touring turkey wıth a group of 13 friends, a guıde and a bus driver. It has been wonderful.

We spent one day ın Istanbul seeıng the major sıtes-- the Blue Mosque, Ayasofıa, Topkapı, and the Grand Bazaar. The next day we flew to Tabzon whıch ıs on the Black Sea. From theır our route took us east to Kars whıch ıs on the Armenıan border. Next was Dogubeyazıt just south of there and then ınto Van, the largest lake ın Turkey. I mıght mentıon that ınspıte of my Norwegıan looks, my paternal grandfather was born ın Van and was Armenıan. Anyone who has met my sıster wıll see the truth ın that statement. From Van we travelled south to Mardın and along the Iranian border. In Mardin we were just sıx miles from the Syriam border. Last night we stayed ın Sanlıurfa and tonight wıll be ın Adiyaman.

We have seen many sıtes not familiar to Ameriıcan tourısts ıncludıng 5th century BC Armenian towns, several early Chrıstıan monasteries, Muslim holy places, Mt. Ararat, the bırthplace of Abraham, etc. Who knows what happened where but ıt has all been facinatıng.

As usual, Bruce and I have paid close attentıon to the variety of food. Kebobs are a great favorite. The breads are wonderful and always fresh. Lamb and beef are the primary meats with some chiıcken. As a Moslem country, there ıs no pork. The vegeatables are varied and wonderful -- tasty tomatoes, eggplant, all kinds of peppers, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, etc. Almost everything ıs cooked ın olive oıl. Our systems have had to adjust to the olive oil. Desserts are usually made wıth a very sweet sugar water sweetener but rice puddıng ıs also popular. Chocolate ıs not as common as ın the U. S.

But the best part of the trip has been the people. Untıl yesterday, our 10th day, we met very few tourists outside of Istanbul. Everyone has been gracious and welcomıng. School children everywhere want to practice their Englısh. Hello. How are you? What is your name? Where are you from? When we answer America, we get bıg smıles.

Standing in line in the women,s washrooms (somethings are worldwıde), we have held conversations wıth women from Iran. When told we were from America, their response was "Sallam Amerıca." I may have the spellıng wrong but Mehmet, our guıde, says ıt means "Blessıngs on America." We just got the feelıng that they would love to talk wıth us.

All typos ın this blog come from the fact that I am using a Turkish keyboard which ıs dıfferent from ours. I wıll try to wrıte more later.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fall Days

The sun is coming in my office window. We have had several really beautiful fall days. As a result Bruce and I have felt the urge to go partridge hunting late in the afternoon. The hunting hasn’t been too good but we enjoy getting out and about to see what is going on in the neighborhood.

Gunflint Lake has stopped rising but not before it went over the top of the main dock. They put out another board so guests can walk to boats without getting their feet wet. You can’t get to the big binoculars without going in the water. I think that the lake will start of go down if we don’t get any more rain. Saganaga Lake is where Gunflint drains into via the Granite River. Sag will continue to go up for one week after we stop going up. It’s plenty high right now.

One hunting trip took us up to the end of the Trail. On the way back we passed the small creek and waterfall just our side of the USFS Seagull Guard Station. At this time of year it is usually a trickle. With all the rain, it was just overflowing the banks. Here is what it looked like.


On that same trip we wandered down the Tuscarora side road. At the public landing entry point for Ham Lake I snapped this picture of the Cross River. Often at this time of year you can walk across the rocks on the bottom of the river and not get your feet wet. Not this year.



When Bruce’s mother, Justine, was alive, she and I happened to drive down here after dinner one spring night. With blind luck, we hit the moments when the winter ice was breaking up and going down the rapids. We parked the car right about where this picture was taken. A big slab of ice would drive up against the rapids and seem to be stuck. Then the moving water would do its work and pretty soon the slab would break up into small pieces and go down the rapids. Another slab of ice was right behind it to repeat the process. Each time it was the same process but somehow different. You never knew which part of the slab would break first. We sat watching until dark.

Our garden is about cleaned up for this fall. Bruce will go out this afternoon and cover the lilac bushes and small maple trees to protect them from the deer. I have pulled out the last stands of broccoli, lettuce, green beans and peppers. Surprisingly the parsley is still producing even after two hard frosts. We brought down two five-gallon pails of fresh parsley to the lodge the other day.

I just had to include this picture of Lee and his son. It’s their first father/son project together. I think his son is supervising Lee in a logging project. It reminds me of when Lee and Robert were 1 and 3 or 2 and 4 or something like that. Bruce would take the two boys with him when he went out to cut firewood on a logged over area by Round Lake. Both boys loved to go. Bruce always brought lots of snacks for those afternoons. When they got bored, the cab of the truck made a great napping spot.



This is probably my last blog before our trip. The next two days will be spent finishing the last projects on my list and packing. All the clothes are washed. I just need to decide what to take. Between Turkey, Egypt and England we will have quite a variety of weather. I do lots of hand washing in the room at night. If we spend two nights in one spot, I send trousers out to be laundered. They are pretty hard to get clean with hand washing. When we ultimately get home, I will just empty the suitcases in the laundry room.

You will probably be hearing from me in the next few weeks. Who knows what adventures I will have to tell.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Moose Madness

When I woke up this morning, I looked out the window and it was completely grey. Today is the start of my weekend, and so I got kind of bummed out. But apparently, it was just the "fog" that rises off the warm lake on cold mornings. Once it burned off, it was a crisp blue autumn morning and a really nice day to go look for some moose.

I drove down past the Laurentian Divide lookout to CR-92 (the "Old" Gunflint trail), parked at the Poplar Lake landing and walked down a trail marked on the map as "Moose Trail (Multi-Use)." There were plenty of tracks on the trail. I'm no expert, but they definitely looked like moose tracks, way too big to be deer tracks. Overhead, Mike the pilot from Grand Marais flew by with some of the folks staying at the Lodge on the "Moose Madness" package. They get a moose-viewing flight and a half-day with either Jon or Adam to go look for moose. I think almost everyone who's stayed on Moose Madness so far has seen moose on one of those trips. Unfortunately, I'm not a paying guest so the moose didn't feel like coming out this morning. They're definitely out there, though; one guest told me last night she almost hit a huge buck coming up the Trail near Trail Center.

Last night, Bump and the Band played in the Bistro to a good crowd. Having live music was awesome and I wish we did it more often. Tonight, The Splinters are playing, and apparently they have quite a following in Grand Marais and on the Trail.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Fall Weather

Today we appear to have a little break in the rain which lifts our spirits. This fall rain reminds me of the old adage to be careful about what you wish for. In the spring and summer most of us on the Gunflint Trail we doing a lot of wishing for rain. Well, here it is. On Sunday night one of our neighbors recorded 1.5 inches of rain. Then on Monday we got another batch. Tiny creeks are now boiling. In fact, remember Lee writing about how the creek between Cabin #3 and Cabin #1 had dried up. Well, here is what that creek looks like today.


The next picture is of the dock. If the lake comes up about 4-6 inches more (which is going to happen), it will be over the main cribbing that is closest to land. Use your imagination to picture this spring when the water was 3-4 feet lower. How much water does it take to lift the level of a lake a mile wide and eight miles long?



I should also comment that these are the first pictures you have seen that I have actually taken. A stop at Best Buy last week gave the Kerfoots a new camera. It is one of those little subcompacts that fits in the palm of my hand. Supposedly it will be always available for unexpected picture opportunities. Don’t expect too much.

Of course, when you look at the pictures, it will quickly become apparent that saying we have “a little break in the rain” is my resort’s voice coming through. After all, everyone knows that the weather at every resort is always perfect. I can honestly say that guests have been out and about even with the wet weather.

It is amazing how much you can learn just by walking through the front desk area. This morning some people who had driven up the Trail were in the gift shop. They had just seen a cow moose with two calves up the Trail near Seagull Lake. It almost made me want to drive up to try to find them.

Bruce has been working our winter wood supply. When the Ham Lake fire was threatening, fire fighters moved all our fire wood away from the house. Naturally, it just sat there all summer. A friend who was cleaning downfalls off his property added to the pile. Now that winter is approaching, Bruce has moved all the wood under the roof of our front porch. It is all neatly stacked just the way he likes it – bark up.

There was also a pile of logs that needed to be split. Rather than bring down the gas-powered splitter, he has been doing it by hand with a 25-pound splitting maul. The pile is almost all split and Bruce is proud of the job. It’s not too bad for an old man.

The result of all this work is that we have been enjoying fires almost every night. When it is wet and raw outside, the fireplace takes the chill out of the house. No matter what the heat is set at, it doesn’t seem to get rid of that chill.

Bruce and I kinda dance around each other when starting fires. Each of us takes a proprietary view towards fires that we have started. So I don’t put wood on his fires and he doesn’t put wood on my fires. We build them just a little bit differently. Bruce always puts the bark down so that the fire burns slower. I put the bark up so that the fire burns prettier. There is very little substantial difference. It is just a game we play.

One more week and we are off on our trip. I am starting to think about packing. Our European cell phone arrived yesterday. There has been some grumbling within the family about our being out of touch so long. Bruce found a cell phone that works in the rest of the world but not the U. S. After dinner last night he studied the manual. I will still bring the manual with us.

Hopefully my next blog will tell you about the sunshine streaming in my office window.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Time to Travel

This was a gray weekend on the Gunflint Trail. We had a fair amount of rain. At this point all the swamps in the area are full. This means that any additional rain immediately overflows and raises the lake levels. Since Gunflint is already higher than it was last spring, who knows how high it will get. Lee estimates that 4 more inches will bring it above the top of the main cribbing. Of course, our hope is that the rain stops now and starts again in late November in the form of snow.

As fall moves on, Bruce and I are getting ready to take another trip. On the 17th of October we are off for six weeks. The first two and a half weeks will be in eastern Turkey with a group of 15. The next two weeks will be in Egypt with a group of 10. Finally just Bruce and I will spend 10 days in England alone. All of the people in each group are friends of ours. It should be a great time.

Right now we are in the preparation stage. One of the most difficult things to understand is the new limits and rules on luggage on airplanes. The rules change depending on whether it is a domestic flight, an international flight with one stop in the U. S. or an international flight with no stops in the U. S. Luckily that is Bruce’s problem to solve. We did, however, buy new lightweight luggage to help keep us under the weight limits.

Meanwhile I have been reading guide books and collecting maps. I must admit to being a little overwhelmed by all the pharaohs of Egypt. Turkey is of great interest to me because my parental grandparents were from that area. My father was Armenian and my mother was Norwegian. I am the Norwegian and my sister is the Armenian. So it will be fun to see an area that my family has roots in. Our trip in England will be centered in the Cotswold area. We have been there before and particularly like the walking paths from village to village.

It is my hope to find regular internet connections during the trip. I’ll try to find something interesting to write to all of you. Isn’t it wonderful the way we can all communicate with each other from almost anywhere in the world?

Back here at Gunflint, Bruce and I are busy buttoning up the outside for the winter. Bruce has hauled enough fire wood under the roof of the front porch for the next two years. I am pulling out the remains of this summer’s garden. Our green beans are still bearing vegetables. The parsley is also doing really well. Next on my list is the clean the annual flower gardens.

As our trip approaches, the must-do list seems to be getting longer. Pretty soon I might panic. I’ll let you know what gets done and what is undone before we leave.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A New Arrival

On Monday Lee and Eva brought their baby home. The first thing he did at home was meet Tucker and Diva. Tucker was most interested and very restrained in his greeting. Diva was not the least bit interested and has continued to be uninterested. Then the flood of staff, friends, and neighbors started. The baby also made his first trip down to the lodge.

It is wonderful to have a baby at Gunflint again. The nursery is not just ready but actually being used.

Believe it or not, there have been other things happening at Gunflint. Last week we had another big windstorm. One large poplar tree landed on four canoes and brushed against Lee and Eva’s house. Usually that pile of canoes goes 2 stacks higher so we were really lucky. Bonnie was also happy that she had put away most of the Kevlar canoes for the winter.


All last week we had wind and rain every day. Sheryl and Bonnie were out on a canoe trip exploring the BWCA during that time. Every day one of us would say, “I sure hope Sheryl and Bonnie are doing okay.” Well, we need not have worried. In spite of wind in their face every day, in spite of rain, in spite of trees down on portages, and in spite of flooded portages, they had a ball. Those of you who talk with them next summer about your canoe trip will really be getting up-to-date information.

On Saturday, we woke up to perfect fall weather. Right now we are in the midst of glorious Indian summer. The wind last week came too early to blow the leaves off the trees. In fact there are still some green leaves on the trees. The peak of fall color is a week or so out. Don’t let that stop you from getting out. It is still wonderful in the woods. This is my absolute favorite time to be out.

Right now for me outside means cleaning up the garden. There are still some green beans to be picked. Broccoli is popping up. Jalapenos are ripening. I have 8-9 pumpkins to bring in to finish changing color. I think the parsley is also slowly growing. The last of the parsley goes into the dehydrator for use all winter long. The sun is out and after lunch I will be too.

Bruce tells me that the partridge hunting is great. Not only is he getting birds but he is also seeing coveys! For the uninitiated, a covey is a family of three or more partridge seen together. We will be eating partridge this winter. They are a little larger than Cornish game hens. If we are trying to watch our diet, Bruce and I can split one for dinner. We rarely do that, preferring to have leftovers for lunch the next day. The traditional Kerfoot partridge dinner is partridge cooked in a Cream of Mushroom soup sauce, wild rice, and baked acorn squash.

With a new healthy grandson (grandchild #7), life is good in the Kerfoot household. We are definitely counting our blessings.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New blogger

Hi everyone... My name’s Matt, and I’ve been at Gunflint Lodge for about a month now. I’m one of the winter Guest Services people (along with Sally, Kat and Dave). Lee asked me if I’d write something for the blog about my experiences here so far.

I’ve been trying to get outside as much as possible, to try and get a feel for this part of the world. I’m from New York; this is the first time I’ve been up the Gunflint Trail and into the Boundary Waters.

The thing that I’m most impressed with so far is how pristine everything is. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around the country, and I’ve never been somewhere so natural and so untouched. It’s awesome how the Gunflint Trail just kind of puts you right in the middle of such a huge wilderness.

The best day so far has been canoeing in the Boundary Waters, starting from Round Lake, which is only about 5 miles from the lodge. Bonnie at the Outfitters recommended this trip for me and I’m glad she did. (Dave at the front desk says he’s done this same loop at least 30 times).

It was a little windy, but blue skies and it was warm enough to stop to go swimming in Snipe Lake. The trip was about 5 hours, and I didn’t see another person the entire time, despite how nice it was outside. That brings me back to how secluded we are up here. It’s amazing to have such a pristine wilderness in your backyard. Lots of guests talk about quitting their jobs and coming to work for the lodge, and I’m trying hard not to take for granted where we get to live.

It got really cold a couple weeks ago... we had snow flurries one morning. Not sure how much time there is left for going on canoe trips. I went on Seagull Lake for a little bit this afternoon (another really nice spot). I’m looking forward to trying cross country skiing and snow-shoeing for the first time once the snow really sticks.

For now, I'll get outside as much as possible and try and give you some first-hand accounts of what is going on out there in the woods.

We have a lot of cool packages planned for the winter, so give us a call at the lodge and come on up!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fall Moves On

Over the Labor Day week, the Lawson family from Omaha visited us. Five of them with guides took a day trip down the Granite River. Over the years this has been one of their favorite trips, as is the case with many other guests. Usually the Lawsons are here during blueberry season and there are lots of blueberries down the river.

On this trip they found that the water levels were unbelievably low. The third portage down the river is the Pine Lake Portage of about 100 rods. Their canoes drifted into what appeared to be a grassy area. Lynn Lawson was in a canoe with her husband, Rick, in the stern. She stepped out of the canoe and I will let the following pictures tell the story of what happened.




Even getting Lynn out of the muck proved to be a project. She had nothing solid beneath her legs to push on. No one could get in to help her because they would just sink too. Eventually they cobbled together a log and another canoe to pull her out. Luckily, Lynn is a really good sport.

Since their visit we have had lots and lots of rain. As a result water levels are now back to normal. Bruce and I took some people over to Little Rock Falls the other day. In spite of the aftermath of the Ham Lake Fire, standing at the top of the falls is still breathtaking. We look forward to watching the forest re-grow. We also look forward to wonderful blueberry picking over the next few years. The second portage on the Granite River is not called Blueberry Portage for nothing.

As I mentioned before, the creek in between Cabin #3 and Cabin #1 is now flowing again. It is such a mild looking creek that guests have trouble believing the problems it can create. Every winter the creek freezes over. But more water continues to run over the frozen ice until the entire little valley is filled with ice over the bridge and almost up to the stairs leading down from Cabin #3. We often have to stop using the path until spring melt.

Originally Bruce’s mother, Justine, built Cabin #2 right along the creek. After all what is nicer than to hear the creek burbling along at night? Well, this ice build up happened then too. Old Cabin #2 was rocked and rolled every single year by the ice.

When it came time to replace Cabin #2 with Cabin #2/9, Bruce was determined to not have the cabin shifting every spring. As a result he dug 36 post holes for the cabin to sit on. Cement pads were poured in the holes and block posts (all carefully leveled) went on top of the pads. They were also located further away from the creek but, as it turned out, not far enough away.
Even this new cabin got caught in the ice build up from the creek. Ice moved the supporting posts and the cabin every spring. Several years the ice even flooded into the cabin itself. Eventually, the spring twisting and turning wore out the cabin. It was removed and the present Cabin #1 (set quite far back and above the creek) replaced it.

Don’t try to understand our numbering system for cabins from the above little information. Into the early 1960’s, the cabins were numbered pretty much in a straight line from west to east. Then we started adding and replacing cabin. The old boat house became Cabin #14 where Cabin #6 is now located. Somehow Cabin #15 got added to Cabins 6, 7, and 8 in the Trading Post building on the west side even though the last cabin on the east was #12. Then things got really messed up as we took out buildings and replaced them.

The question arises as to why we didn’t just renumber everything in order again. It sounds like a logical thing to do. The problem comes in when you call to make your reservation for Cabin #9. Did you want old #9 or new #9? For several years after renumbering, this conversation is replayed over and over. So we took the easy way out and our numbering is not completely in order. In fact, we skip a few numbers (12, 13, 14, and 15) in the middle. Some resorters who may be smarter than us just give their cabins names.

On another note, we did finally get our frost. It took out much of the garden. Bruce managed to harvest most everything. We have piles and piles of squash – acorn, spaghetti, and butternut. They will all get used in the lodge kitchen over the winter. He has 15 5-gallon buckets of tomatoes to ripen in the green house. Anything that you order with fresh tomatoes in the dining room will be really good for the next month or so. The unused tomatoes will be frozen for winter use.
Traditionally we have always known that a frost can come anytime after Labor Day. These last few years it has been October before the first frost. Things are back to normal this year. In fact, with the frost we also got snow flurries. Perhaps this means lots of snow this winter. One can only hope so.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fall Events

In our own lives, each of us have events that occur annually. Often they are “official” days like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Other events are times that mark the change of the seasons. On Tuesday we had one of those change of the season days on the Gunflint Trail.

It was the day of the first howling wind. All morning long the wind simply howled outside my office window. It was a wonderful feeling to be inside and to hear that wind. So often we spend our days in buildings that don’t allow the natural sounds to enter. Up here I can enjoy them.

During the summer months, our windows are open especially at night. I can regularly hear the loons and owls call during the night. For some time this summer I heard a call that sounded like the backup horn on a truck. Another neighbor asked about that sound. Finally I asked a real birder who told me it was the call of the saw-whet owl. Learn something new every day.

On our canoe trip I laid in my sleeping bag listening to the night sounds. The loons were there. The chipmunks and squirrels were also there. From the inside of a tent they make enough noise to be a bear.

Anyway, back to Tuesday and the howling winds. That afternoon Eva and I went to town with Dog Tucker and Cat Diva for their annual physicals and shots. The wind had blown trees down along the Trail. The county trucks were busily cutting them and keeping the road open. Every fall when we have the first really windy day, trees come down all over. These must be the ones that have rotted just enough during the preceding summer to now be vulnerable to strong winds. We tried to count how many were down but then we would get to talking and miss a few. Let’s just say that there were lots of trees down of all sizes.

That day was also the first time the local forecast had a frost warning. With the garden we pay attention to early frost warnings. Traditionally they can come any time after Labor Day. Usually I could care less about the weather but frost takes out my basil in a minute. So I harvested all the basil before going to town. When we got home, Eva and I spent a little time getting in tomatoes. Then it was parsley, summer squash and zucchini. Naturally because I was prepared, we didn’t get the frost.

Tuesday night was a raw windy night. It was time for our first fire in the fireplace for this fall. That may not sound like much to you but Bruce and I really look forward to it. Before building this house, we hemmed and hawed about wood vs. gas fireplaces and finally decided we were wood people. Gas just doesn't cut it with someone who was raised with a wood fire all his life.

I know the wood makes a mess on the carpet with all its dirt and tiny chips. In the winter going out to fill the wood box is a project. Keeping a good supply of firewood is also a project, but one that we both enjoy. You know the old saying about wood fires – they warm you twice. Once when you gather the wood and once when you burn the wood. For us, the sounds, smells, and sights of an actual wood fire cannot be beat.

So Tuesday was one of the days we mark our calendar by. It was the first howling wind, the first frost warning, and the first fire in the fireplace. Fall is truly here. Winter is coming and summer has passed for this year.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Quetico, Part 3

Bruce and I are back from and overnight trip to the Cities. Here is the final chapter of our Quetico Trip for this year.

During the morning of Day Seven, we finished the last portages on the Falls Chain. On one of them there was a huge jackpine that had blown over sometime during the summer. The needles on the tree were still green. The root-pad was perpendicular to the ground and about 12 feet tall.

Our last portage of the day was Dead Man’s Portage on Saganagons. This just eliminates a long paddle around a peninsula. Then we headed to the west end of the lake near the Slate Lake Portage. Melissa and I waited on the campsite while Tom and Bruce went into Slate Lake to checkout the campsites. One was very poor and the other was in use. We kept the campsite in Saganagons.

Here is a picture from that site the next morning.

Bruce and Tom stopped to talk with the party on the Slate Lake campsite. Remember the four men from Kentucky who were ahead of us at the Cache Bay Ranger Station? They were the ones at the campsite. Instead of our trip, they had elected to take the Silver Falls portage and then the short one into Slate Lake. They had chairs and a table. Their week had been spent at this campsite while they fished all over.

Day Eight was another layover day. We woke up to little rain. Both gals said (in their tents), “Let’s go home.” Both guys said, “It’s too far to paddle in.” So we stayed. Bruce and Tom decided to go into Jasper Lake to see what that was like. Melissa and I stayed at camp. The sky lightened up and the sun came out. We bath and washed our hair. At this point our dirty clothes smelled so badly that the tent stunk when we went in after our baths. I borrowed one of Melissa’s books and read the afternoon away. She did the same.

The guys came home with 5 bass for dinner. Bruce filleted them. As we sat preparing dinner, we looked across and saw two eagles sitting on a tree. They must have sat there for another 4 hours after we noticed them. We played our last game of Yahtzee and went to bed.

Day Nine was the last day. We were so close to Silver Falls that we could hear it in the quiet of the morning. We ate breakfast, packed and took off. During breakfast we looked across the water and saw the eagles sitting on the same tree they had been on the night before.

One lift-over and Silver Falls was all we had to portage. The picture shows us at the end of the portage. It does not show what awaited us in Cache Bay.

There we had a southwest wind that was right in our faces. We had to paddle into it to get to the Ranger Station. The waves were big enough that an occasional one put some water in the canoe. When paddling in wind like this, I always think about the fact that the waves are getting small with each stroke into them.

Our stop at Cache Bay was a welcome break. Janice, the ranger, has been there for many years. We had a good time exchanging news (read gossip). Then it was out to our last paddle to American Point. The wind didn’t seem to give us much help but we knew it was only a short paddle. We ate lunch while waiting for our tow.

The tow down Saganaga was wonderful. The shower at home, dinner at a table, and relaxing in a soft chair after dinner were equally wonderful but the bed was best of all! Now it is time to plan next year’s trip.
P. S.: For those of you who read this blog regularly, Lee's last blog mentioned that the creek by Cabin #3 had no water running in it for the first time in a longer than any of us can remember. We have now had enough rain that there is water in the creek again. I have some stories about that creek over the years but they will have to wait til next time.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Quetico, Part 2

Day Four was going to be different than any day we had ever spent in the Quetico or BWCA. We started the morning going down the Mack Creek. A series of four beaver dams had kept the water levels high enough to float us. After the last dam, however, there was very little water. Bruce and Tom ended up pulling the canoes (with gear and wives) through several inches of water. All this time it was raining. It was a warm day but our canoes were accumulating enough water to add considerable weight. The gals bailed. The shallow water of the creek last only for a couple blocks and we were able to float some of it.

Suddenly we were in the Wawiag River. With three to five foot high mud banks and no rocks, it is quite different from what we normally see. The river is 50-75 feet wide. It easily floats canoes and gave us a small current at our backs. That was the good part of the river. The difficult part was that it was continually winding around. The rain kept coming down and we had no idea how long until our destination – Kawa Bay.

Finally we came to the first portage around a log jam and rapids. The portage also had a campsite. We decided to stop for lunch. Since we were all soaking wet, Bruce and Tom got a fire going. The fire warmed us from the outside.. A cup of hot chocolate warmed us from the inside. After a long lunch break, we took off again.

It seemed like we paddled forever. There were lots of beaver houses and freshly cut beaver wood. High bush cranberries (American Viburnium) grew on the banks. Lots of Arrowroot plants were growing in the water. We saw moose tracks on the banks but no animals. Much of the river had been burned over and seemed to have about 10 years of new growth. There was a second portage. We also had 4 log jams to negotiate. Going through them is a good test of any marriage as we picked our way, push floating logs around and tried to paddle over a couple large logs. After about 2 ½ hours of paddling, we reached Kawa Bay. It was a welcome sight. There are almost no other spots in the Quetico/BWCA area where you paddle a river all day long.

We paddled to the first campsite on an island. A large white goose-like bird was in front of us and calling loudly. From the sound he made, we think he must have been a trumpeter swan. The campsite looked lovely as we pulled in. By this time we were all pretty quick about getting our gear set up.

Day Five was our first rest day. It could not have come at a better time and place. The sun was out in the morning. The guys took off to get some fish for dinner. Melissa started drying stuff and organizing. I was not too interested in that project until she shamed me into it. Everything got a nice dose of sunshine. Melissa and I washed our hair and bathed. The guys went swimming after lunch.

Shortly before lunch, Tom and Bruce returned with six beautiful walleyes and a canoe full of dry fire wood. After a full day of rain, we were not too concerned about forest fires.


This picture shows our lunch that day – 3 walleyes. I don’t know if we enjoyed the fish or the stump stools the most. Dinner that night was more walleye with fried onions and broccoli/cheddar rice. After a day of rest, we even had enough energy for a couple games of Yahtzee.

On Day Six we got up at 6:00 a.m. and ate a quick breakfast. It was to be a long day of paddling and we didn’t want to fight the wind. As you can see from the picture, there wasn’t much wind that day. It took us two hours to get to Kawnipi. Next was to start up the Falls Chain.

On the 3rd portage Bruce remembered having good luck fishing last year so he decided to cast from shore at the base of the rapids. Within a couple of minutes, he hooked a bass and started reeling in. A northern came after the bass and tried to take it away from him. Bruce jerked the bass out of the northern’s mouth. Still the northern came after the bass. By now both fish were in very shallow water along the shore. The northern was very intent on getting this bass. Bruce quickly reached down and grabbed the northern with his hand. Here was our appetizer for dinner!

After the fourth portage we saw our first people since Cache Bay. It was a family of six in three boats. Ma, Pa and a small child in one boat, a young teenage boy in a kayak, and Grandma and Grandpa in a second canoe. They looked a little out of their element.

We camped that night in Sidney Lake. Played one game of Yahtzee after dinner but were too tired for a second game. In addition to 4 portages, we had paddled 17 miles that day. We were tough but it was still a long day.
Bruce and I have to go to Duluth later today and will not be back until Friday. I will post the final story of our canoe trip either tomorrow night or Friday morning.