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.


Sunday, October 28, 2007


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.