Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gunflint Excitement

It has been a busy few days on Gunflint Lake.

My favorite part of the busyness has been centered on the grandchildren. They kept us all moving. I played lots of games of Old Maid, Fish, Crazy Eights and Dominoes. The boys went snowmobiling with their father and grandfather. Their dad took them ice fishing. They visited the dog yard. The deer were very cooperative and came in regularly. Here is a picture of Max trying to feed the deer out of his hand. His sister Amy is watching.

He was able to get them to smell his hand but not actually eat out of it. I guess that will happen next winter. Generally I would say that they did all the things we hope kids come to Gunflint to do.

Yesterday we all got a treat. J. T. McMillion who worked for us when Robert and Lee were 2 and 4 came to visit. Only J. T. likes to come to visit in a novel way. He flew his Piper Cub airplane on to the ice in front of Gunflint Pines. The three grandkids, ourselves and the entire Baker clan were there to welcome him in. Here is the plane on the apron of the “landing strip.”

I can remember earlier time when J. T. flew a plane to Gunflint Lake in the winter. He took one of our employees up for a ride in another Piper Cub. They decided to land on North Lake. Unfortunately they landed in a slush spot and had to push the plane out quickly before ice stuck to the skiis.

We are all very proud of J. T. He worked hard and got his commercial pilot's license. Now he is a full captain for Southwest Airlines. It took a lot of work and a lot of peanut butter sandwiches for dinner as he accumulated hours. Too bad Southwest doesn’t fly into Duluth or Minneapolis.

There was a bit of excitement at the east end of the lake these past three days. One of the casualties of the Ham Lake Fire was the Preus family homes on the Canadian side of Gunflint Lake. All their homes were burned to the ground. The first of these homes had been here since the 1920’s when J. A. O. Preus (one time governor of Minnesota) bought land and built his first cabin on the lake.

Everyone in the family decided to rebuild. They contacted a Canadian contractor who took on the project. Getting materials in for the six log cabins was a project. One step of this project was accomplished these last few days. Greg Gecas from Heston’s plowed an ice road from their dock to the Preus land across the lake.

Starting on Tuesday, the contractor and Greg hauled several trailer loads of dimension lumber over. I was there to see the load leave this morning. Here is a picture of what it looked like.

As the first truck and trailer started moving across the ice, you could hear the ice cracking and groaning. Even though the ice was plenty thick and safe, it still sounded ominous. We could see fresh cracks in the ice. But the guys knew what they were doing and everything made it across with no problems.

Years ago they used to haul logs from logging operations across the lakes. The driver always rode with his door open in case he had to jump. He also never drove out of his lowest gear. The weight of the log load pushed the ice down beneath the back end of the truck. This meant that the truck was always going up hill. It sounds a little scary to me.

On Gunflint Lake we have great ice conditions this winter. As a result many fishermen are driving down the lake to their favorite spots. Before trying this, be sure to check with someone on the lake to be sure that conditions have not changed and it is still safe. We all look at the ice as something solid but it can change very easily. So don’t take a chance and be sure to ask for local information on any lake you decide to drive on.

Bruce and I are off for a couple weeks again. This is the last fling before summer. I will try to write from our sunny destination in the Florida Keys but don’t be surprised if I am having too much fun to write.

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