Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gunflint Update

The fire news has reached the point where we are now being visited by politicians. Governor Pawlenty came during the fire on a quick trip. Other than to shake his hand, I know nothing about his visit. Because it was during the fire, everything was a blur.

Last Friday Congressman Jim Oberstar came up to see and listen. Oberstar has been our congressman for 17 terms and before that he was the chief aide for Congressman John Blaknik of our district. After all these years, Oberstar’s visits tend to be a little ho-hum but he really produces results. About 75 people came to the open meeting including representatives from Century Tel. By Tuesday, Congressman Oberstar had met with people in Washington and things were starting to move, quickly. I won’t go into the details here. You can find them on the www.boreal,org website. It just goes to show you what the Chairman of the Transportation Committee (read FEMA oversite) can do.

On Tuesday, our freshman senator, Amy Klobuchar, visited the area and met with another group of about 75. I have never heard her speak before but was favorably impressed. Senator Klobuchar is familiar with the Gunflint Trail from visits before she was a senator. Just as with Congressman Oberstar, I felt we had a smart legislator who was going to get us the best deal possible.

It is times like this that make people realize how important your congressional delegation is. The issue is not so much whether they are Democrats or Republicans but more whether they will listen to you and try to help. No matter who is elected, I’m not going to agree with them all the time. It is when you come from a rural area and are in a tough spot that you need these people to stand with you. It looks like ours are doing just that.

Once these visits were over, I have finally had time to get back to my garden. Tuesday afternoon I threw more things in the ground that you can believe. First it was weeding time. Those weeds kept on growing even during the fire. Then the rototiller, bless its little heart, dug up the ground. Fourteen flats later I had parsley, fennel, basil, broccoli, jalapeno peppers and green peppers in the ground.

I have also started to get seeds in the ground. These are a little late but that’s life. Most of my seeds are the same old thing but I have one new lettuce that I am anxious to see. I usually grow about three kinds of lettuce to add to our salads. This year I am trying one that is white on the inside with a red fringe on the edges. Bruce is not impressed but I think it could be nice. So in about 4 weeks, look closely at any salad you eat in the lodge.

Tomorrow, Bruce, Ronnie Smith and I are going to plant about 20 birch trees along the path from the lodge to the creek on the west side. Bruce digs the holes with the backhoe. Ronnie and I will plant the trees. In a few years they should look really nice. It is all in getting a good hole dug, putting in some decent soil, and watering regularly this first year.

The patio on the front of the lodge is also coming along nicely. We hired a professional to do it which takes it off our shoulders. The 35’ by 80’ patio will be covered by sheets of a greenish, gray rock that came from New York. It looks beautiful. June 16th is our drop dead day for finishing. Lee booked a wedding for that date on the patio. Afterwards we will be using it for general seating in the bistro. Summer at Gunflint is going to be about eating outside by the lake. Bruce and I will be the first ones in line.

Finally, the remodeling of Cabins #22, #23, and #24 is coming along nicely. Bruce is ready to start on his third (and last) fireplace. Then he has ceramic tile to put down. Nace Hagerman and his crew are finishing the interiors. The new furniture is waiting up in the pole barn. I think you will enjoy the upgrades to these units.

So that is the update from Gunflint today. I hope things are going as well in your part of the country as they are here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

News From the Fire Line

The fire is over but its stories keep coming along. This weekend Nancy Seaton, who is the local Scenic Byways Chairman, organized a tree planting operation on the upper end of the Trail. Because the Forest Service biologists have not finished their assessment of the damage on federal lands, this operation was for private land owners.

Property owners in the Seagull/Signage area were contacted to ask if they would like white pines planted on their property. (As an aside, Nancy had 5 day's notice to organize this so if you weren’t contacted, it was just due to lack of time.) Yesterday morning 100 property owners and volunteers from all over assembled at the Blankenburg Landing. Bags with from 70-90 trees were available for each group. There were 60 bags so the count was more approximate than exact. The Grand Marais Girl Scouts appeared with water, sandwiches, and cookies. By about 10:30 we were scattered all over planting.

For those who have never experienced the joy of tree planting in our forest, let me tell you that it is not fun. If the rocks don’t stop your shovel, the tree roots will. Add to that the ever present soot and it is not pretty. Everyone stuck with the job at hand and several thousand trees were planted.

Today about 50 people appeared to plant more trees. Although we are really grateful to those who came yesterday, today was a rainy, miserable day. These volunteers got a little extra shine on their halos. We had heavy mist during much of the morning. Again everyone stuck with the project and another couple thousand trees were planted. This group, however, was a little dirtier with the potent combination of water added to the dirt and soot.

Perhaps one of the most uplifting parts of this job was to see what Mother Nature had already accomplished to renew the forest. Grass is coming up in every wet spot. It looks funny against the stark black soot background. Blue bead lilies, false lily of the valley and fiddleheads are also found everywhere. Then there are all the green-leaved plants that I have no idea what they are but there are lots of them in spots that were burning ten days ago.

And don’t forget the animals. As Nancy and I stood talking before yesterday’s gathering, we could hear partridge drumming. She had seen a moose cross the road into the landing while waiting for me. Sue McDonnell came in shortly and she had seen a cow moose with a newborn calf. Sue, one of our most knowledgeable bird watchers, also said that the birds had returned.

I got to tell you that the bugs have come back too. At times, black flies were fiercely attacking us. Luckily I had brought repellant which I call Eau du Jour no matter what the brand. Ticks also managed to find us. At one point I was on my hands and knees planting in a huge burned area. I couldn’t believe it when an ant crossed in front of me. How had that ant survived the inferno?

The return of the forest is definitely started. If Nancy has her way, we will be planting trees next year on Memorial Day weekend. If it is a project that interests you, watch the Gunflint Trail Association website for more information as time goes by. Since Nancy and her husband, Dave, also run Hungry Jack Outfitters, it may be fall before she has time to start planning the next tree planting.

On the home front at Gunflint, Bruce and I are still watching our fox. Either the male or the female finds their way to our back yard at mealtime. When they just sit and look in the window, it is hard to not feed them. We give in pretty quickly. Last night both parents were in the garden. Bruce and I have wondered what the relationship is between mother and dad. It looked pretty affectionate last night as they sat touching nose to nose.

Lee told me a story about our domestic animals. Last night he was at home. Diva, the female cat, was on Lee’s lap cleaning herself. Tucker, the male dog, had his head right on Lee’s lap to make sure he got his share of the attention. Tucker maneuvered to place his head just where he wanted it. Unfortunately, where he wanted it was not where Diva wanted it. She put one paw on each side of his face and moved his head to where she could wash his face too. Tucker tried to move but Diva’s paws kept him in place. Every man needs a good woman to keep him in his place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Northwoods Normal

With the Memorial Day Weekend just ahead, we are finally getting back on track for summer. We are full for the weekend which is music to any resorter’s ear. The horses, who were evacuees themselves, arrived home yesterday afternoon. The kitchen is geared up and we have had 12 new staff people arrive this last week. I, of course, made sure to introduce myself to the baker. Then we had to test her products and they passed with flying colors.

Yesterday the very end of the Gunflint Trail was opened for residents and visitors to go back in. I was not able to go up and have not been there since the fire. Reports are mixed but the one constant seems to be the surprising amount of green that is already coming up in black stretches.

I did go out in a boat yesterday into Magnetic Lake. It was very interesting. In several places the fire raged in the tree tops but didn’t make it to the ground. As a result there are these black tree trunks in among green groves of trees about five feet tall. Another amazing thing is how close to homes the burn out was started. We are talking within a couple hundred feet. There is no doubt that the burn out saved the west and south shore of Gunflint Lake. But it was still a gutsy decision by the overhead team.

Lately I have been walking back and forth to the lodge via the trail along the lake. This area, like the rest of the resort, was untouched by fire. Mother Nature seems to be going about her normal spring business. The bracken ferns are now foot-long fiddle heads. I saw lots of blue bead lily leaves with flowers ready to spring open. Tiny white star flowers are also out now. Anemone are blooming in the trees in front of my house. Sarah told me she has also seen some violets. Along the creek between Cabin #3 and Cabin #1, the marsh marigolds are putting on a beautiful yellow display.

Another sure sign of spring is that the annual flower order arrived yesterday. It is one of my most favorite spring arrivals. This morning Ronnie Smith, Carl (her helper this summer) and I plan on putting in flowers around the lodge. In a week or so, it will look beautiful again. Of course, my back will complain about being overworked. If you stop by the lodge this weekend, you will see us out working to get stuff in the ground.

There is also a huge tree-planting project going on along the Gunflint Trail. Starting at the Blankenburg Landing on Seagull Lake this Saturday and Sunday at 10:00 a.m. volunteers will gather to distribute and plant hundreds of native trees on the private lands in the Seagull/Saganaga area. We hope to give Mother Nature a jump start. If you would like to join in and need more details, Nancy Seaton at Hungry Jack Canoe Outfitters is organizing the plantings. You can call her at 218-388-2275. If you have enough information to join in, meet at the landing. Be sure to bring the usual stuff – long pants, insect stuff, gloves, shovels, lunch, beverages, etc.

Yesterday I talked with two biologists from the Forest Service who are up here surveying the fire results. We talked about what to plant. Their advice was to wait a bit before doing massive plantings. Take time to see what will come up on its own. They felt that we would all be surprised at how much would come up. It sounded like good advice.

Lee, Eva, Nancy (Eva’s mother) and I ate dinner in the bistro last night. Bruce was in the Cities so he missed out. There must have been about 40 or 50 people for dinner. The three wait staff were running around. It felt good to have a normal meal served without undue stress. As usual, we tried some of the new menu items along with old standbys like burgers. My commercial is that the food was really good and the view out the window was still pretty good too. Stop to see us sometime in the near future. You might be surprised at how northwoods normal we look.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Quiet Day

It has been an interesting day on Gunflint Lake. About 7:00 a.m. our power went out along with all the other power in the county. We have just had power restored about 1:30 p.m. Many of us found it a good time to just slow down our lives for a bit. Things have been a little too hectic lately.

Today we are experiencing a wonderful east wind storm. It has rained and misted and rained and misted for much of the day. The temperature at my house is 37 degrees now. Needless to say, we are all overjoyed with the weather. Lee tells me that just as important as the rain is the high humidity. Humidity appears to have a much greater affect on fires than we realize. I have learned more about fire behavior these past days than I ever wanted to know.

Also today the management of the fire is now being transferred from the Level I Team to a Level II Team. This truly means than the fire is contained. Maybe they are all like this, but we sure got a great Level I Team. They made decisions effectively, they worked with all the locals, and they saved lots of our homes. Every time we moan and groan about government employees, we should also remember these government employees.

Gunflint Lake is quiet today. The aircraft operations have shifted to Seagull Lake. Boat activity is now allowed on the lake. The quiet is good. If it is nice tomorrow, we will all take a boat ride to see what happened on the north shore.

Property owners who were not here during the fire are starting to come back. The Seagull/Saganaga area will welcome home is residents starting Tuesday morning. We feel for those who lost their homes and wish them well rebuilding. We also rejoice with those who still have homes.

Yesterday Lee was able to take a plane ride over the area. He said that the fire really charred just north of us on the Canadian side. He looked at where the fire started and got its name. Only a small part of Ham Lake itself was burned. He also flew over parts of last year’s Cavity Lake Fire. The amount of green in the Cavity Lake Fire area is noticeably more than in the Ham Lake Fire area. This means that the forest is already starting to restore itself.

There are some fish out in the lake that have grown a bit in the past few days. Maybe we will have time to go fishing. Bruce put out his minnow traps this morning. He will harvest the bait tomorrow. I am ready for a fresh fish dinner.

Another thing I am ready to do is to hike in our back basin. Eva thought she saw some morel mushrooms by Lonely Lake. We will all be looking for them this summer and next.

We are going to have a different forest for some time to come, but it will still offer the peace and quiet of the northwoods. It will also offer an amazing opportunity to watch a forest grow. We often forget that change in the forest takes place over the long term. It will be good to watch the beginnings of this change.

Friday, May 18, 2007

There is no place like home.

As of this morning the fire was 75% contained on the U. S. side. I am not sure about the Canadian side but think it is starting to cool down also. We still have firefighters around the lodge but many are on their way home. They have really done a marvelous job for us.

The people in the Seagull/Saganaga area are still under evacuation notice. I heard a rumor that they will be allowed home on Tuesday. Certainly these people have had the worst of it. Many lost their homes. One business, Superior North, was lost. Wilderness Canoe Base on Seagull Lake lost over 40 buildings. Now Century Tel is saying it will take 4-6 weeks to get these people telephone service. I have not driven up to see the area for myself. I do, however, know lots of the people who live at that end of the Trail. They will rebuild and triumph over this setback.

A group that deserves special thanks is our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. Every one of them has put an extraordinary amount of time and effort into keeping us and our structures safe, sometimes at great risk. They are the ones who provided the local knowledge to all the Forest Service people coming into this area for the first time. So when you see one of these people, be sure to personally thank them. A lot of us would not have homes without their efforts.

Lee had a symbolic event occur first yesterday and then today. When I left on Thursday, Lee reached up and took down Justine’s portrait from over the dining room door. It evacuated with me. I looked longingly at her canoe but there just wasn’t time. On Friday, Lee and Bruce brought the canoe to town. For those of you who don’t know, this canoe is an Old Town that Mom paddled beginning in 1929. Last year we had it professionally restored to all its glory. I don’t normally get excited about things, but these two things were special. So yesterday, the staff put the canoe back in its moose hide straps on the ceiling. Today Lee climbed the ladder and re-hung his grandmother’s portrait. Gunflint Lodge is up and running again. I can’t help but believe that Mom would have been very proud of Lee and Eva. Certainly Bruce and I are.

The Red Paddle Bistro opened today and I believe we have cabin guests coming also. Yesterday and today, the lodge staff worked like dogs getting everything ready. Every cabin was cleaned. The main lodge was cleaned and put back to its normal furniture setting. The kitchen positively shines from all the cleaning. It was great to smell all the food aromas from the kitchen again.

We are also getting back to normal spring chores. Ronnie Smith, our head gardener, kept 5 of us busy today planting over 100 shrubs and trees. We also spent time preparing the flower beds. Flowers and more trees arrive next week. Jason Merrill and his staff worked on getting the water to the stables hooked up again. That means the horses will be arriving soon. Bonnie got a new staff member today. She is ready to start outfitting for canoe trips. Bruce is ready to start building his fireplaces in Cabin #23 and #22.

Even the animals around us are relaxing a bit. Mother Fox gave us a glimpse of her four new kits. There may be more but that was all we saw. They were out sunning in the afternoon. The gimpy fox was here for a handout. Two loons were swimming just off the dock and a pair of mallard ducks appeared. In a few weeks we should have babies around. Did you know that ducks are one of the few animals who do not feed their young? From the beginning ducklings must get to water and feed themselves. Don’t ask me what other animals don’t feed their young.

Eva’s mother, Nancy Kurz, is here to help. Her father, Gary, was here last week helping us. Tonight Lee, Eva, Nancy, Bruce and I will celebrate with dinner in the Red Paddle. We are truly thankful to be eating in the lodge again.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wednesday Noonish

I see on the last blog I got my days switched around. It’s Wednesday morning now and I am going home. The car is packed. Noon is the magic time and I will probably be a little early. We’ll have to make another trip to get everything but that’s OK. I will try to write tomorrow, however, it may take a little time to get the computer up and running.

This morning I talked with Lee. He says that we will be up and running on Friday, May 18th. All the cabins will be ready and food will be served in the bistro.

So what will you see at Gunflint? On the way up the Trail there is one place where the fire crossed near Mayhew Lake. It will be black but probably not for too big an area. I haven’t seen it myself but that is what I have been told.

Once you get to Gunflint, it will be difficult to see any effects of the fire. All our hiking and horseback riding trails in the back basin are untouched. Nothing was burned around the buildings. We were very, very lucky.

If you look across the lake, it will be burned on the north shore from the narrows to the east. Right now that will be black but within a short time it will start to green up. We have an opportunity to watch a forest renew itself. It wasn’t something we picked but let’s make the most of it. I remember some years back when Yellowstone National Park had a huge fire. It was changed but people still love to visit it.

This year we will be out looking for morel mushrooms. Our variety come out after a fire and are delicious. At Byerley’s in the Twin Cities the dried ones sell for $20 an ounce. Bruce and I plan on eating high on these mushrooms. Next year there will be wild raspberries all over and the year after wild blueberries. Trust us, we will be making the most of these treasures.

One of our neighbors expressed how we all feel when he said, “The loons are still singing and the fish are in the lake.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Good News!

I have just come from the Monday night fire meeting. The good news is that everyone who lives south of Cross River on the Gunflint Trail will be allowed to go home tomorrow. That means the Forest Service is pretty confident that it is safe to let us back in. The Seagull/Saganaga area people will be allowed to go in for the day on Thursday but they will have to come out that night. It won’t be long before they are allowed in to stay.

What changed today? The weather finally broke in our favor. It rained off and on all day. The fire only grew 1000 acres and most of that growth was in Canada. The winds also moderated the last two days. Finally the number of people working on the fire has grown to 1100.

The Forest Service is now estimating that they will have the fire contained by Sunday. This is not the same as controlled. Control will take some time yet. It will come when they are confident that nothing is going to break into flames again anywhere near the perimeter lines. We will probably have fire crews mopping up the fire for weeks, if not months, to come.

Canada still has a mess on their hands in the Saganaga, Northern Light and Little Gunflint/Little North area. They also have a couple larger fires with more homes threatened. As a result the U. S. Forest Service will be crossing into Canada to help with the fire. They will be working the islands on Saganaga. They will also work north of Little Gunflint/Little North to establish an eastern line on the fire. As someone said, “This gives new meaning to NAFTA.”

Arrowhead Electric has restored power on all the main lines. They will be turning on power as people occupy their homes. It is a matter of safety in case something unexpected has happened.

Also the Forest Service is opening the Superior National Forest to recreation in all areas outside the BWCA. The BWCA will stay closed until the Forest Service feels it is safe for people to go in. But this still gives us plenty of lakes to fish on.

So I am a pretty happy gal tonight. The Gunflint Lodge staff is ready to get everything open for our guests. It is going to be quite a job. Every single bed we have had a firefighter in on Thursday night. The kitchen had no power or water to clean it after serving 500 fire fighters.

I don’t know when Lee plans on opening but it won’t be long. For sure we will be ready by Memorial Day and probably sooner. Every one of us is ready to get back to our real job of entertaining and feeding guests. We will look forward to seeing all of you soon.

Tuesday Morning

Here is your daily fire update. First the facts: the fire has now grown to 75,000 acres. Most of that growth is in Canada. There are now almost 1100 people working on the fire and the cost is just under $6,000,000. The entire fire (both Canada and U. S.) is 20% contained and the U. S. side is 50% contained.

The next words are hard for a resorter to say but this morning Greg Gecas from Heston’s called his wife and said, “It is a beautiful cold, rainy day on Gunflint.” The Trail got another .1” of rain and there is high humidity. The winds are not expected to be too hard today.

Yesterday Bob Baker, Sr., and Larry Schei went up the Trail to position boats for the Forest Service. Larry was asked by his wife to stop at their home for a couple things. One job was to water their flowers. As he was doing this, a Forest Service section chief stopped by. The chief said they had 4 fire engines and 115 men working at the east end of Loon Lake. No fire was going to get through them. Two engines patrolled all night. More men were stationed at the heliport by the Loon Lake Road.

The guys looked at lots of our homes and said it looks good. The Canadian side is burned but the south side of Gunflint looks normal. They drove past a home whose owner lived in Cloquet. Bob called him just to say that the house looks fine. Lots of people are doing things like that. Our county commissioner, Jim Johnson, took some pictures of homes on Saturday and printed copies for the owners. Digital cameras are wonderful.

Men have been assigned to keep the sprinkler systems going on Loon Lake, Tucker Lake and Gunflint Lake. On the two bigger lakes, they are doing this by boat. Others are doing this job on Seagull and Saganaga Lakes

The best sign of improvement is that on Thursday from noon to 4:00 p.m. residents of Seagull and Saganaga will be allowed to view their homes. There will be a safety briefing at the Poplar Lake fire station at 11:30. Everyone has to check in there and check out on the way home. Only one vehicle per property is allowed. Gunflint and Loon Lakes will happen later.

In an attempt to slow down rumors, there were a couple of spot fires on Three Mile Island but they were quickly doused and there are no more. On Red Pine Island only one structure was lost. The Canadian crews are working hard to not loose any more. The Canadians are also doing a burn out south of Red Sucker Bay to stop the fire by denying it fuel. The Forest Service has established spike camps in the southeast corner of the fire to stop anything from moving forward.

Businesses and individuals are coming forward to help. One of the large super market chains in the Twin Cities sent up a semi with snacks, and 20 pallets of bottled water. I am sorry but I don’t know which chain it was. This morning a neighbor handed the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross a check for $500.

We were talking at the Red Cross breakfast at Bethlehem Lutheran Church this morning. One of the neighbors was saying how we all complain about what is wrong with our country but at times like this, it’s the best place in the world to be.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday's News

It is Monday morning and I have just come from the 10:00 a.m. public fire meeting. The news is generally good.

The burn out between Gunflint and Loon Lakes has held. There were no more structures lost on either of these two lakes. Unfortunately, nine buildings on the Preus family on the north shore of Gunflint were lost on the Thursday fire along the north shore.

There was some rainfall last night. Gunflint received about .1” and there was about .5” at Trail Center. There was also thunder and lightening but no new fires from that have been spotted.

The fire continues to cool in the Seagull/Saganaga area but it has moved north further into Saganaga Lake. Horseshoe Island had fire. There was crowning at 80-100’ on Saganaga. Red Pine Island on the Canadian side of Saganaga has lost some structures. The Canadians are evacuating people who live on the islands of Sag. They are also very actively fighting the fire.

On the fire finger going south from Loon Lake to Rush Lake, the Forest service has established lines on both the east and west sides just north of the wilderness and covering the homes along the Trail at Mayhew, West Pope, etc. They also did a burn out between South Lake and Mayhew Lake to help contain the fire. If conditions are right, they are preparing for another burn out in that same area.

The fire is now up to almost 60,000 acres. It is considered 20% contained. The costs to date are $4,738,569. There are now12 helicopters, 54 engines, 3 water tenders, 11 dozers, and 949 personnel fighting the fire.
There is a possibility that by the end of the week, residents will be allowed in to see their property. Seeing is different from staying so we will probably be townies for a bit longer.

As with any new experience, I am learning things I wish I never had to learn. For example, when evacuating, remember the four P’s: pills, pictures, pets, and photos. Another thing is that the Forest Service has a computer program that tracks lightening strikes like we had last night. Then the program maps these strikes. This map is a guide for the Forest Service to continually check the strikes for signs of new fires in the next couple days.

We are staying on Devil’s Track Lake, eight miles outside of Grand Marais. That is close enough for me to consider myself in town. Yesterday I learned that they have animals here too. As I drove to town 4 sleek otters crossed the road in front of me.

And then there are those pets of ours. Lee and Eva’s Diva taught us a lesson about cats. She is staying with us. Eva bought some new cat liter and a liter box when we first came down. On Friday night Diva peed all over our bed which she never does. We could not figure out what was wrong. On Saturday we remembered that the cat liter was a different brand. We bought some of the original brand. Bruce threw out the off brand. As he was putting in the good stuff, Diva was almost pushing him out of the way to get in the liter box. After she left a pile as big as a small dog, we all felt better.

Yesterday Lee mentioned the Red Cross and how they are helping with those of us who have been evacuated. These volunteers are serving meals and helping register people at the Community Center. They work well with the women at the church kitchen and the staff at the community center. They have bought the food for all of us. If you wish to give to the Red Cross, be sure to give to the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross. If you just send to the Red Cross, it will go to the national headquarters. The people here are from our Duluth branch. You can send the money to 2524 Maple Grove Rd., Duluth, MN 55811.

So we look forward to another good day today. I write again tomorrow.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day, 2007

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. Today I am thankful that I know where every one of my children and grandchildren are and that they are all safe and well. In the midst of this fire, these are the things that are really important.

I have just come back from the 10:00 a.m. fire meeting. Today is another pivotal day in this fire. Yesterday the Forest Service did a burn out (not back burn) between Gunflint and Loon Lakes. They burned from a north/south line starting at the west end of Dog Ear Bay on Gunflint and continuing to the fire on the east side of Gunflint. So go to Dog Ear Bay and draw a line south to Loon Lake. The entire area to the east of that line until it reaches the fire was successfully burned. You can access current maps of the fire by going to and following the links to the maps.

As you look at the map, the weather for today is 10-15 mph sustained winds from the southeast with gusts to 25 mph. The temperatures are in the 60’s and the humidity is 30-35%. Looking at the map, you can understand how important this burn out could be to protect Gunflint and Loon Lakes.

In addition to the burnout, there will be lots of additional protection throughout the day. Many homes along these lakes have been foamed by the fire crews. Sprinkler systems are up and working everywhere. There are 25 fire trucks plus crews in this specific area. They have also assigned helicopters and planes. The aircraft is used to quickly douse any flare-ups. So the Forest Service is primed to stop anything going west.

On the long fire finger that runs south from Little Gunflint to Rush Lake, the Forest Service has been reinforcing and widening lines on both the east and west sides of the finger. They don’t want the fire to spread in either direction.

The map you are viewing may show a black line on the north shore of Gunflint. This means the fire is out (or contained) there. It is because the area burned to the lakeshore. But it also means it is very unlikely that anything will come across Gunflint from the north. This line is part of the 15% of the fire that is considered contained. It is not a large amount of containment but it is a start.

If the winds go all against us today, the sheriff may have to re-evacuate the Trail Center area. Let’s hope is doesn’t come to that.

In the midst of all this, there are always human interest stories. A friend of mine talked about the worst time during the fire up at Seagull/Saganaga. Those trapped were facing the fact that they may have to evacuate by boat north into Saganaga Lake. So, all these boats were lined up at the landing ready to go. My friend thought she heard a cat meow. She turned around and really looked at all the boats. Every one of them had a cat in a travel box sitting ready to go.

On Friday I was up at the home where Bruce and I were staying. The UPS truck comes in. Our driver, Bill, gets out and says, “Just who I was looking for!” He had flowers from my son for me. Bill went down to the community center to find out where I was so he could deliver my flowers.

Once again today the Gunflint community is joined with the Grand Marais community to get through this fire together. Then we will rebuild together. The strength of our total community will carry us all.

5-13 Ham Lake Fire Update & Contact Information

Hi Everyone,

OK So here is what is going on.

I got up the trail yesterday with the Red Cross. If anyone wants to help but you are not here please donate to the American Red Cross. The Red Cross has provided free hotel rooms to all displaced residents and offered free meals 3 times a day for all displaced residents and employees. Their website is What they are doing for our employees is unbelievable! Without their support our employees would not have a place to stay or anything to eat.

I don't remember the offical website for the fire, but you can go to and they will have links to the official websites and maps. It is on the top of the page.

On the drive up the trail everything looked normal except for about 1 1/2 mile before the west end of the "old gunflint trail". This is one spot where the fire jumped the trail. The rest of the drive up to Gunflint Lake looks the same and hasn't changed at all...with the exceptions of the views at a couple of the scenic overlooks.

The scenic overlook just before the Gunflint Lodge sideroad has a spectacular view of the canadian side of Gunflint Lake. The Canadian side of Gunflint Lake has been burned from the narrows to the east end of the lake.

What is of this moring all of the horseback riding trails and all of the ski trails are still totally the same as they were a month ago. Besides the views, nothing has changed. The cabins were being watered down by all of the volunteer fire departments. Yesterday there were 5 or 6 fire engines on our property, but there were many more fire engines hooking up sprinklers ont he neighbors houses and resorts. The number of people helping with the fire effort was incredible.

The other thing that we learned was how AMAZING our staff is. The last day we were at Gunflint we served over 1,400 meals. The breakfasts were cooked by 1 or 2 people every morning and some mornings they had between 200 and 400 people for breakfast. Lunches were made by our neighbors. The last 3 days they made over 1,000 sandwiches for each lunch. When we cooked dinner we usually only had 1 chef and possibly one other person helping. Only on the last night when we fed 500 fire fighters did we have 2 people for the whole day to help prep & cook. What our staff were able to accomplish was beyond anything I could have ever expected or asked from them. Eva and I feel SO LUCKY that the employees work for us.

What we expect when we return. Fortunately we are currently surrounded by forest and the property looks pretty good...but that could change anyday if the winds are strong or change direction. We will finish renovating our cabins (#22,23, & 24), finish our patio project, and spend a couple of days deep cleaning the whole resort. Then we will be off and running for the summer.

Here is our contact information if you want to get a hold of us. Our cell phone number is (218) 370-8427. The office phone # that is in our office is (218) 412-1485. If you want to e-mail us our e-mails are up and running.

Please donate to the red cross as they have been unbelievable to the evacuated.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

More Fire News

This is another blog that is not too much fun to write. On Thursday afternoon Gunflint Lake was put under a mandatory evacuation notice by the sheriff. At that point we had a northwest wind that was roaring down Gunflint at speeds of up to 25 mph. The north shore of Gunflint was burning and would burn all the way to Little Gunflint. Then the fire would cross over Little Gunflint and burn 12 miles south. So that is the bad news.

The good news is that all the homes and businesses on the west and south shore of Gunflint Lake are still standing. On Wednesday the Forest Service did a back burn north of the Gunflint Narrows Road. That burn stopped the fire from reaching everything on the west and south shores of Gunflint.

On Friday the winds had switched to the east and southeast. The firefighters were able to hold lines almost everywhere. The Seagull/Saganaga area of the fire appears to be cooling off some. Around Gunflint and Loon we have five strike crews which means 25 fire trucks.

This morning (Saturday) the Forest Service announced that they were going to do another back burn at the east end of Gunflint and Loon Lakes. It would follow the old power line right-of way and then go east on the Crab Lake Road. The reason for the burn is that on Sunday they are expecting very strong winds from the east and southwest that could threatened the south shore of Gunflint and Loon Lake. Keep your fingers crossed.

Back to the Thursday events. I was TOLD to evacuate by my son and my husband on Thursday. Meanwhile they stayed with six staff: Sheryl, Sarah, Nick, Adam, Jon and Jason, to serve dinner to the firefighters – all 510 of them. It was the last night we were responsible for dinner and the only possible way these people were going to get a meal.

That dinner was probably one of the most appreciated meals ever served at Gunflint Lodge. Of course, you can hardly believe how much these people (men and women) can eat after fighting a fire all day. The chefs started with roast beef then went to turkey and then went to salmon for the main meat. Vegetables went as fast as they could fill the pans. They served 200 lbs. of mashed potatoes and just made it. The next option was to open cans of pork and beans. We have a salad bowl that is about 18 inches in diameter and 10 inches deep. They filled it 12 times. Bruce said that virtually every person took two slices of bread. Jon figured they went through about 35 gallons of milk. Dessert was 25 watermelons, leftover pies from the previous night and ice cream. It wasn’t a gourmet meal but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

There were a few problems during the meal service – like they lost electricity in the middle of it. The phone service also went out which frustrated me in Grand Marais. When it came time to clean up, they had neither electricity nor water. There is going to be a huge kitchen cleaning party when we get home.

For those of you who have family and friends at Gunflint and other places on the Trail, everyone is safe. The highest priority for the Forest Service is and will remain the personal safety of everyone in the area. Thus far, there have been no injuries. Knock on wood.

The hardest part of this for everyone is being in limbo. We all want it to end so we can get started cleaning up. Then everyone is committed to moving on from that point.

I’ll try to write here each day for a bit. Meanwhile if any of you have any influence with the Man Upstairs, we would appreciate some help.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

webcam address & New Mandatory Evacuations

Hi Everyone,

here is the webcam address so you can "see" what we are looking at

we have been fortunate so far and that we have only stopped giving horseback rides, otherwise everything has been up and running like normal. Today is the first day we have had any smoke and when the wind does pick up it is supposed to blow today's smoke away from us.

If you want more information about the fire go to and they will have links to the offical fire updates. They update boreal as soon as they get any new information.

Mom is right in saying that we have been working hard on a very limited staff. The only way we are able to serve this many people is because we have an unbelievably incredible staff and our vendors have really been there for us. Upper Lakes Food has been especially helpfull. They have offered to send up a truck in case our refrigeration isn't big enough for the food orders we are putting in. Fortuntely because we are serving so many people the food, especially the perishable food, isn't in our kitchen for more than

The Police Department is issuing a mandatory evacuation on NORTH GUNFLINT LAKE. This is purely a preventative measure as the forest service would like to do a safety burn between north gunflint lake and where the fire is to the north. This is only being done as a safety issue. Currently (as of 12:30 PM) North Gunflint Lake is not threatened by fire.

I hope this helps. I just want to give you up to date info. for more official and current info go to


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fire, Again

This is not the kind of blog I enjoy writing. As many of you know, the Gunflint Trail area has been hit by another fire. This one started Saturday on Ham Lake, which is just west of us. A strong east wind carried it past Tuscarora Lodge coming within feet of their buildings. They had to evacuate through a road with flames on both sides of them. Luckily they lost only one small building but it’s scary.

By Sunday the fire was moving up to Seagull and Saganaga Lakes. Both of these lakes have many homes and businesses located on their shores. At the moment over 40 buildings have been lost in that area. Homes with sprinkler systems seem to be surviving. But of course, it is still black around your perimeter.

Gunflint Lake has totally escaped so far due to being on the right side of the winds. As I write now, the winds have died down for the night. This did not happen the first two nights which is why the fire moved so fast. I believe about 16,000 plus acres have been lost. It is hard to tell. Right now Gunflint looks like nothing is going on. There is a little smoke in the air but it will clear up overnight. We hope the winds will stay down all night.

Don’t want you to think that we are just sitting on our hands. Lee and Eva have kept us all busy. We are doing all the meals for the fire fighters. What started Sunday as 100 people per meal has grown. Today we served 260 for breakfast, 395 pack lunches and expect 400 for dinner. Tomorrow and Thursday each meal will be 400 plus. They have even dragged Bruce and me out to help a bit.

One of the hard things about these meals is the timing. The firefighters spend all their daylight hours fighting fires. So breakfast starts at 5:30 a.m. and by 8:00 just about everyone has eaten. Pack lunches go out with each person after breakfast. We generally get requests for more lunches throughout the day. Dinner goes from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. So, days are long for everyone.

If there is any joy to be found in this mess, it is the way people have banded together to help. First of all the firefighters and their support staff have been wonderful. Some of these guys are so tired at night that they can’t even wash the soot of their faces. If they need to ask more of us, it is always with a smile.

Second of all, in cooperation that is not often found, the federal, state and local officials, volunteers fire departments, Forest Service, Department of Natural Resources, and State Highway Patrol have truly worked with each other. There is no time for inter-agency bickering.

Thirdly, we are Gunflint have been particularly blessed with help from our neighbors. We can handle breakfasts and dinners. It’s those pack lunches that would have been the straw to break the camel’s back. Today we put up 500 pack lunches. Our tables were end to end in the dining room. All along them were neighbors making 1000 sandwiches and assembling all the assorted contents of the lunches. The way they are working, these firefighters need lots of calories. We could not have done it without the help of all these neighbors.

Finally, our staff has worked like dogs through this. In early May we just do not have that many people on the staff. They all have long lists of spring projects to get done. Every one of them has put in extra hours and done so with a smile on their face.

So Friday we fill up with fishermen for the opening of the walleye season. A national contractor takes over the meal service. The bistro and dining room go back to normal meals and numbers of people. Even though the fire is not out, we look forward to going back to what we do best – proving quality meals and recreation for our guests and neighbors.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Ice Out

The ice is out! It is a bit earlier than I thought which tells you how much I know about this stuff.

On Sunday morning we woke up to solid ice in front of Gunflint. There was a good bit open in the bay in front of Moosehorn from the incoming water at Cross River. There was also open water of several feet along the shore. The ice was just black. But it still covered the vast majority of the lake.

We also woke up to a strong west wind. That combined with the really rotten ice did the trick. The wind started pushing on the edge of ice in front of Moosehorn. By noon the ice was gone past Gunflint and our home. There were white caps on the open water. Around 4:00 Lee and I drove down to Tiffany’s on the south shore. That’s ¾’s of the way down the lake to the east. The ice was pretty well out on the north shore but there was still a lot of ice on the south shore.

Sunday night the wind died and the ice settled into a mass at the east end of the lake. Probably 80% of the lake was clear. On Monday the wind was minimal. That night Cindy Tiffany could still see ice from her house. She just called me a few minutes ago (Tuesday morning) to say that she could no longer see any ice. So once again Gunflint is starting another season of open water.

I’ve got to tell you that the open water looks wonderful. The change of seasons is fun to watch but by the time the ice goes, we are all ready for it. Next on the list is that first boat ride. The water is still very cold so the boat ride will also be very cold. Any wind blowing across that water is a cold wind.

Also the water level of the lake is very low. I measure according to the logs on the dock. The water just barely covers the first log on the main dock cribbing. We need lots of rain to raise it up. A couple guides went into Little Gunflint to check the water level. They had to walk their boat through the narrows at the sand beach because they couldn’t float it with their weight. Lee told me that in the morning still water, he could see reefs off the summer home point on the west send of the lake.

Every lake is the same. Bruce and I were up working at the Chik-Wauk Museum site a week or so ago. The bay at Chik-Wauk is the lowest we have ever seen it. In fact we want to walk the low shore line to pick up litter that is now exposed. Who knows what we can find.

This low water also changes the walleye spawning habits. At the rapids at Campsite #18 in Trail’s End Campground, there is virtually no place with enough water for spawning. This is a major walleye spawning area on Saganaga Lake. In the rapids leading into Little Gunflint there is probably more water because there is beaver dam in Little Gunflint that keeps the water level higher. Cross River (the other major spawning area on Gunflint) is very low but there still seems to be some areas for spawning.

Low water or high water, we don’t have much control over it. Right now open water just looks good.