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.


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.


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.


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 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.