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.