Thursday, October 30, 2008

Winter Is Coming

We knew it was going to happen sometime soon. Even so, it was a bit of a shock to wake up to a dusting of snow on Monday morning. Snow at this time of year doesn’t last but it is a reminder of things to come. Then on Wednesday the temperature was down to 20 degrees. I had to go to town. All the ponds along the way were iced over. Even Little Iron Lake had a skim of ice on it. When I can home in the mid-afternoon, there was still ice on the ponds and Little Iron. This morning was a different story. The temperature was 38. It was sunny and even the wind felt warm. It appears that we are going to have several warm days over the weekend.
Fall chores continue to move along. Here is a picture of Jason moving the main dock over on Wednesday morning.
The entire dock was covered with frost and looked quite white. This job is always done on a glass calm lake. Jason said that it is just a slow ride over.

Another fall chore is to protect our greenery from the winter feeding habits of deer. As many of you know, we have lots of deer coming in for corn during the winter months. Sometimes we can have upwards of 40 deer in the front yard. They also like to browse on the bushes and trees that we have planted. So we try to cover them with burlap or chicken wire each season. Last year the Tamarack down by the creek in front of Cabin #3 took a beating. So this year Ronnie Smith, our head gardener, was taking no chances. Here is a picture of what she did.

That is chicken wire five feet up the trees. In case you are wondering whythe pine tree Tamarack is yellow, here is the answer. Tamarack are the only pines to turn color and lose their needles every year.

Bruce and I have gotten out a couple of times for partridge hunting. Last Friday was pretty good and we got three birds. (We ate one on Sunday with wild rice and acorn squash.)Today was so wonderful that we went out. I even brought my camera to take a picture of our results. That must have put a hex on our efforts. We got nothing more than a nice ride which isn’t all bad.

Have you ever wondered where the Gunflint rocks in the main lodge fireplace came from? They are not found anywhere else around here. Paul Weiblen from the University of Minnesota Department of Geology and Geophysics recently sent me an explanation of the rocks. It is an amazing story that is hard to believe.

About 2 billion years ago, a meteorite 10 miles in diameter hit the earth near what is Sudbury, Ontario. That’s about 500 miles east of us. It formed a crater more than 150 miles wide. In the process a large cloud of ash, rock fragments, gases and molten rock (known together as ejecta) rose into the atmosphere and spread around the globe.

Our share of the ejecta got sandwiched in between the Gunflint Iron Formation and the slate of the Rove Foundation. The next step was when some magma (part of the Logan Intrusion) seeped into the rocks. The true ejecta of our layer contains accretionary lapilli. These are small concentric rings that were formed by repeated layers of ash and melted rock droplets.

Another interesting part of this was the speed with which scientists theorize this event reached Gunflint Lake from Sudbury. The fireball would have been here in 13 seconds. It would have been hot enough to ignite trees and cause third degree burns. In another 2-3 minutes earthquakes strong enough to collapse buildings would happen on Gunflint. In another 5-10 minutes the airborne ejecta would have covered Gunflint Lake with a layer 1-3 meters thick. After about 40 additional minutes an air blast with wind speeds up to 1,400 mph would reach Gunflint. In an additional 1-2 hours the area would experience a huge tsunami.

Since I have clearly plagiarized these last three paragraphs from the article, here is a website that will give you more information: It is to a website that describes 174 meteorite impacts world-wide. This one is listed in North America and named Sudbury.

Next time you are in the lodge, take a good look at the main fireplace and think about where it came from.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall Projects

It is a beautiful fall day today. We have a south wind and the temperature is probably in the high fifties. I never look at a thermometer so that is a guess on my part. All of us are starting to get the itch to start fall projects. Dave Schudy is out today cutting up firewood. He said the phone is not too busy and he just wanted to be outside. Steve Gibson from the dock is also at the woodpile. He is splitting the firewood. Here is a picture of the two of them.
Dave is in the back with the chain saw. Steve is at the splitter. The red truck is backed in close so Steve can just throw the split wood into the truck for delivery to cabins.
I saw them up in the outfitters parking lot when I took this picture.
It is of a 24’ Voyageur canoe that we just bought for next summer. The canoe can hold about 10 people. It came with paddles and the little shed you see. Next spring we will move the whole thing down closer to the dock. I have never ridden in one of these canoes so that is something to look forward to.
On Tuesday the horses left for the winter. Mandy and Jacob have been busy cleaning everything up for winter storage. Yesterday I found them in the outfitters. Every saddle is washed, oiled with Neatsfoot Oil, and stored in a plastic bag. Today they are working on the saddle blankets. They both are people who have a place for everything and everything in its place. During the winter Mandy will be a server in the dining room and Jacob will help with outside chores and in the kitchen.
Jason Merrill, our head of maintenance, has lots of projects too. Today he moved the smaller dock across the lake. We store the entire dock in one piece back in a bay where the wind can’t get to it and the ice just melts out around it in the spring. Here is a picture of Jason pushing the dock across.
We push the docks just like you would a barge. The first time we tried to pull them and almost pulled the entire dock apart. After this weekend, Jason will move the main dock over too. That dock is so large that it is only moved on a day when there is no wind and the water is like glass.
The birds seem to be getting ready for winter too. This last week we have seen the snow buntings migrating through for the first time. The hummingbirds are gone. The loons are pretty much gone too. You still see an occasional one but they aren’t calling on the lake any more.
We are even seeing a few more partridge. If Bruce and I could get out hunting, we might even have a partridge dinner. As with most families we have a favorite fall dinner with the partridge. It starts with slow roasting the birds in the oven with cream of mushroom soup covering them. I wonder how we ever cooked before Campbell’s came up with cream of mushroom soup. Then we must to have wild rice with mushrooms and onions. The final addition is acorn squash baked in the oven with a little butter and brown sugar added at the end. I am ready to start eating now.
Bruce and I were in town last night for a political meeting. Not my favorite but we have to participate, I guess. At any rate we drove home after dark. We saw three fox and four skunks. Luckily everything was well off the road. I hate to come across dead skunks because the whole road stinks. The skunks should be about ready to hibernate soon.
As soon as I finish with the blog I am going out to harvest carrots and potatoes. Those two are about all that is left in the garden. We will be using some of them for the wine weekend dinner on Saturday night. I know I will be filthy after the harvest. It seems the only way to get potatoes is to get on your hands and knees and dig them out. Carrots are a little easier but not much. I will bring them down to the lodge along with the acorn squash, butternut squash and onions for the dinner. Whatever is not used Bruce and I will eat over the winter.
So by the end of the day, all of us will have made a good start on fall projects.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sheryl and Bonnie's Trip, Part 1

Daughter Shawn and I spent last weekend in Minneapolis. We exhibited at a bridal show in the convention center. It is a great way to make contact with people looking for a honeymoon location or a wedding spot. Here is a picture of our booth there.
We talked out heads off and hope to get a few folks to spend some time with us next year. There were even a few parents who were looking for a place to get away after the wedding.

This weekend Bruce is off to New York taking Grandson Tanner to visit colleges. They will visit 4 different schools over the weekend. As of last night (Friday), two were good and one was a dud. The dud looked good on line so I guess that is why you try to visit the actual school. It will be fun to see where he ends up next year.

One night we went down to town for dinner with friends who own one of the bigger resorts on the North Shore. It was interesting to note that they had been so short of help this fall that the wife and all managers were making beds on some days. Here I thought that just happened at Gunflint!

We also made an unexpected purchase. Sometimes things just appear that you have wanted but never found at a good price. We bought a 24-foot voyageur canoe for use in the naturalist program. I think it will be great fun for groups to take out on the lake.

The rest of this blog is devoted to the first installment of Bonnie and Sheryl’s trip. This starts on the first day of their trip and I am just going to let Sheryl tell the story:

Whoa! What the heck is that up ahead? Well, it looks a little like white caps. Where did that wind come from all of a sudden? Why is the wind coming from the west and the south at the same time. No singing the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it’s too early in the trip. Okay, let’s pull over and look at how we’re going to get across this crazy mess. Realize now that we are traveling north to south across a very wide part of Pickerel Lake. If you’ve been on Gunflint Lake on a windy day you’ll understand, and know this was way worse (or better if you’re the whitecap!) Pickerel Lake is 17 miles long from east to west, the wind is from the south and the west and we’re trying to head south. The map shows a small island that possibly a feather could hide behind, that’s a couple hundred yards, then a slightly larger island called Lookout Island, then two islands that look like mismatched earlobes. Later I would think this was my brain that had finally separated! We make it to each of these islands, paddling hard, sometimes on the same side of the canoe which is not normally recommended, and finally get in a somewhat sheltered area between these two lobes since the map DISTINCTLY shows navigable water between them. Guess what…nice white sandy beach, some old moose poop and then a big swamp. This is the first map error we make notes about. So we paddle back out into the crazy lake and make our way around this island, definitely do NOT want to camp yet, its only noon! We make our way toward a campsite and notice some guys fishing, they’re in Canadian canoes (no licenses displayed), and paddle on toward the site. There are two canoes, two more guys, looks like they’re packing up camp. Just as we round the bend we notice lots of bare skin on two more guys!!! I will admit, it was plenty warm to be sunbathing and I sure hope they used sunscreen on the more tender areas they had exposed. Polarized sunglasses must not work on naked men, I checked with and without the glasses on and there was no difference. We kept on going, Bonnie lost her first hat to the wind and it sunk immediately. It was her favorite hat! We finally made it to a narrow spit of land where there was some current pushing us back the way we came. There was also a campsite so we decided to pull over and wait out the wind. It was 1:04 pm and we really wanted to be off this lake. Our map showed only about 2 more miles to our first portage to Bisk Lake and we were definitely getting there for sure! You know how it is when the adrenaline is pumping and you just want to keep moving? We ate lunch, walked around the campsite, looked at the pretty rocks in the water, marveled at the white caps pounding onto shore, tried napping, studied the maps both upside down and right side up, walked barefoot in the sand, chased some squirrels…It’s about 2:00 now and I’m getting antsy. Bonnie can somehow manage to nap. While I’m up by the fire grate chasing squirrels, I notice through the trees some canoes coming our way. We’re prepared to give up the site since we have no intention of staying here tonight. As the canoes approach I recognize the insignia on the boat, and I recognize the paddlers as the same guys from the last campsite. Wouldn’t you know it, they’re still naked! These guys rented their canoes from an Ely store that sells outdoor gear, apparel, rents canoes, and is located on a corner on Main Street. I won’t mention the name in case they don’t allow naked canoeing in their rental boats. I hid in the trees, but managed to take a few photos for posterity (no pun intended). Finally at 2:45 we decide to get moving, sink or swim is our motto!

Here is the picture that Sheryl took.
I am not sure if it will be censored or not. Next week I will give you another installment from their trip.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Flies

Fall weeks seem to speed by. Our cabins have been filled with guests enjoying the fall colors and looking for moose. This week has been particularly successful on both fronts.

It appears that this weekend will be the peak of the fall color. Here are a couple of pictures I snapped right on the lodge grounds. This first one is of the maple tree right next to the naturalist’s board across from the lodge entrance.
During the summer months it is over shadowed by the big spruce but this is the time of year when the maple really comes alive. We planted this tree when Robert was 4 years old and Lee was 2 years old. That makes them 31 years old.

The second picture is of the Euonymus bush by Cabin #6.
For obvious reasons, the common name of this shrub is Burning Bush. Again it is rather unremarkable all summer long. When the leaves change, it is transformed into spectacular color. Our neighbor, Fred Smith, told me about this bush and I’m glad that I listened.
Up and down the Trail every view is filled with the varying shades of red and yellow leaves. Yesterday we had a really strong northwest wind. There were lots of white caps at the dock. I expected to see lots of colored leaves being blown off the trees. But surprisingly, there were very few leaves in the air. The leaves must just not have reached that magic point where they release from the branches.

This morning we had calm winds but it was still overcast. The lack of wind was a real blessing as several parties were scheduled for an airplane ride to spot moose. Rides in small planes are not fun with lots of wind so it was good that the wind cooperated. Unfortunately, the moose did not cooperate for the morning flights. The last two afternoon flights were for two grandparents who had brought their two grandchildren up for the Moose Madness package. They saw seven moose. The 10-year old granddaughter informed me at dinner that she spotted one of the moose herself. It was fun to hear her tell the story.

One of our parties in the bistro tonight was a property owner on Poplar Lake and her siblings. I was asked by one of them to say hello to Dr. Chuck McCarthy. Apparently Dr. Chuck came up here 60 years ago and worked for Bruce’s mother, Justine, when he was 15 years old. He was a city boy and learned about the northwoods from her. One of his stories is about jacking a cabin up to level it. In those days the foundations on many of our cabins heaved as the moisture in the soil changed. Someone would have to periodically jack the cabin up or down to level it again. Mom instructed this young man to put a marble in the middle of the floor. The moving marble would tell them which corner to jack up. When the marble stopped moving, the cabin was level. Bruce just confirmed that this is what his mother used to do and that it was quite effective.

The animals in the forest continue to re-appear as the number of people on the Trail diminishes. Several guests have spotted otter off the dock. Bruce and I saw an 8-point buck in our driveway one night last week. Some guests went looking for moose this morning. They didn’t see any moose but they did see a bear and a red fox. A bald eagle swooped past my bedroom window two mornings ago. The pair of coots is still hanging around with the mallards. None of these spotting are any big deal but they continually remind us of the birds and animals who share the forest with us. They also remind me of how lucky I am to live here.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Picture Blog

This is the picture blog. I had my camera handy plus others contributed some pictures.

It has been a really busy week which I why I am late in writing. Bruce and I spent Wednesday in Duluth running errands. While we were gone, one of our repeat groups of ladies from Wisconsin checked in. I don’t even want to count how many years Always An Adventure has been with us. Here is a picture of this year’s group.

Starting on Thursday, John Silliman had planned a full schedule of activities for the group. Even Bruce and I got to take them out a few times. They went fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, wolf calling, moose calling, horseback riding, massaging, and more things than I can remember. Of course, we always left time for meals. One of the ladies was out with Dennis Todd fishing. Here is a picture of her catch, a nice 30” walleye, which was returned to the lake.

Thursday night also gave us our first frost but not too hard a frost. So Friday afternoon, Bruce and I spent an hour getting in some vegetables from the garden that we didn’t want to freeze. Here is Bruce with the butternut squash and the spaghetti squash.

I think there are a couple zucchinis in there too. He also rooted around the overgrown pumpkin patch. I thought we had a couple dozen but he found about 50! Finally we spent some time gathering green tomatoes. They will ripen quite nicely in the garage.

It was a good thing we spent the time harvesting. Here is what we woke up to Saturday morning.

The thermometer by my kitchen read 28 degrees. We were glad that everything was safely inside. All that is left to bring in are the carrots and potatoes. There appears to be a bumper crop of both of them.

Jenny Hughes, who does our massages, had an interesting experience this week. Jenny has been spending some of her time on a hunting stand trying to shoot a bear. She hasn’t had much success with the bear. However, she has done better with the moose. The other day a big bull moose came up to stand right beneath her stand. Apparently Jenny was quiet and still enough that he didn’t realize she was there. Now Jenny is not going to shoot the moose but she still has to balance a rifle in one hand and her camera in the other hand without alerting the moose below. Here is one of her pictures from the moose meeting.

That is Jenny’s leg in the picture. At the last report yesterday, the bear have still remained quite elusive.

Sheryl and Bonnie have been busy with housekeeping this week. They still promise me stories and pictures from their canoe trip.