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!

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