Sunday, December 20, 2009

Back At Gunflint

Bruce and I are home again. I got home on Monday the 14th and he got home on the 16th. It was a very long driving trip – Gunflint to New York to Ohio to Texas (the southernmost tip) to Oklahoma City to Missouri to Nebraska and back to Minneapolis. In all we drove just over 5800 miles and 4 of our 16 days were not driving days. Luckily we managed to avoid all the storms coming through.
As usual when we got home, the managers had everything humming along. I’m not sure that they need us for anything. Cabins #26 and #27 are coming along fine. The exterior water and septic are finished. Cabin #26 has shingles and interior walls. The electrical inspector comes tomorrow to OK the rough-in. By Monday the roof on Cabin #27 will be finished. Getting the roofs shingled really takes a lot of pressure off the builders. Of course, Bruce is ready to start renting them.
Gunflint Lake froze on the 16th. Usually it skims over at night but this year it finished icing over during the day. By full daylight we still had open pockets of water steaming on the north side of the lake. At noon it was all covered over. It will be a while before we walk on it. As is usual we will wait until we think the ice is safe and then wait another week. This is definitely one of those moments when it is better to be safe than sorry.
The deer are also coming into the lodge grounds regularly. The guests are amazed at how willing the deer are to eat out of your hands. We don’t seem to have as many deer as usual but we definitely have more wolves than last year. We are regularly seeing wolves on the lodge grounds. It will be interesting to watch the interaction between the wolves and deer.
We have about 4 inches of snow. This afternoon Bruce is going to take the groomer out on the Little Pine Trail to see if guests can ski on it. We are getting very light snow now as I write this. About four inches would be nice but we would not turn down a foot or so.
The pictures above are my latest attempts. The roof is the north side of Cabin #27 getting shingles. I actually took it to send my youngest grandson a picture of our bobcat. The second picture was taken by my neighbor, Melissa. It is of a wolf that was eating corn they had put out for the deer. She took it out her window. You can’t imagine how many deer we have around here.
The lodge is decorated for Christmas. I always think it is warm and cozy with all the garlands hanging. All of us in the Gunflint family wish you and your families a very merry Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sugar's Adventure

We had a great Thanksgiving at Gunflint. Don Kufahl and his staff prepared a meal that left us all staggering. There were just over 100 guests plus the staff which brought us up to about 130. Sheryl took a few pictures of the various sections of the buffet table. The one that stopped everyone first was the dessert table. We had Chocolate Bread Pudding, Apple, Cranbery, Walnut Pie, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie. I noticed that many guest had two desserts. Bruce and I ate one dessert with our meal and then took one home for later.

Later ended up being later than expected. This weekend Bruce and I are dog sitting for one of our neighbors. Sugar is a Great Pyrenees or something like that. She is big (80-90 pounds), white, deaf and old. We are sitters of choice because our house has a heated garage attached to it. When I came down to change my clothes before the dinner started, I let Sugar out. She just wanders around the house for a bit and then comes in. After letting her in, I left to be the hostess with the mostess.

When I got home, it was already dark out. I let Sugar out immediately and went back in the house to prepare her dinner (dried dog food with a little watered down Gerber chicken and gravy) and refill her water. Then I went out to bring Sugar in. She was no where in sight. We decided to wait a bit because she might have decided to walk around a bit more. Remember she is deaf so you can’t call her.

After 1 ½ hours, I have been all over the yard several times. I have gotten the flash light out to check the greenhouse, all the gardens and down by the lake. There is still no Sugar. Panic has not quite settled in but it is close. Finally Bruce goes out and looks all over. He gets in the car and drives around. He goes up to the stables and walks around there. By 10:30 Sugar is missing. Bruce is sure she will be fine. I have imagined every horrible thing that could happen – broken leg, heart attack, wolves, etc. but there is nothing to do. We go to bed.

At 3:30 in the morning, I am up prowling around the house. I have turned on every outside light looking for Sugar. No luck. Now I can’t go back to sleep. So I take my book and go into the spare bedroom to read a bit. Bruce wakes me up at 6:00 and Sugar is still missing. As soon as it gets light, he is out walking all over looking for her. By 7:45 he had to leave for an appointment in town. I take a shower and get ready to start looking.

Meanwhile over at Gunflint Pines, Shari Baker lets her dogs out. They immediately start barking up a storm. She looks out onto the open entryway and sees a big white dog sound asleep. It’s a cold Sugar. Shari calls the lodge and they call me. I walk over because I was going to have to walk Sugar home. I can’t get her into the truck. Shari gets her into Shari’s compact and home we come.

Sugar doesn’t want to go into the garage yet. So I follow her as she takes a little stroll around the yard. Finally we get in and I open the door to the house. After some water and food, Sugar decides to nap in the living room. I couldn’t just put her in the garage so I left the door between house and garage open. A few mice might find there way in but at least Sugar will be warm. We can always trap the mice. Sugar seems fine after her grand adventure.

Bruce and I are taking a little driving trip starting Sunday for two weeks or so. We are going out to New York and Ohio. Then it is down to Harlingen, Texas, with stops in Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Omaha, and Minneapolis on the way home. Who knows how many miles this is but we have six audio books and satellite radio. I should be home on the 14th and will write again then.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Welcome to the Construction Zone

The construction picture was taken just a couple of days ago but is already out of date. The picture is of #26 with the roof rafters on. It now has the roof boards on too. I believe on Monday they will start with tar paper and shingles. Meanwhile #27 had the main cement pad poured on Friday. It was 40 degrees this morning so that is “curing” nicely. Bruce is thrilled to have all the cement poured for both cabins. Although there is nothing to show, the septic system is fully installed so we won’t have to do anything with that in the spring. Next is to put the manhole in for the water service. Looking at all that is done on the new cabins, it’s hard to believe that the fire was on October 23rd just one month ago.
This weekend we had our first package devoted to showing people how to smoke meat. Only two people participated but they had a ball. As shown in the picture, Don and Bruce worked with them smoking ham, turkey, prime rib, salmon and pork ribs. They are each taking a smoked turkey home for Thanksgiving dinner. Last night they all sampled the smoking results. Nothing came back on their plates so it must have been good.
This is the last day of deer hunting up here. Slowly everyone seems to be filling their tags. Some of the stories associated with hunting are most fun. The best one is from our neighbor, Bob Baker, Sr. Bob was sitting on his elevated stand the other day near where he had cleaned a small buck several days earlier. Suddenly A female wolf and five pups appeared beneath him. Even though there was only a smell left from the blood, they all smelled it and then quickly checked out the entire area for any sign of deer. Bob figure this mother was teaching her pups to hunt. They were all larger than she was but if I was responsible for feeding five pups, maybe I would take a couple pounds off too.
Our Thanksgiving dinner is filling up nicely. Right now we have almost 100 people coming. On Monday we will make a quick trip to town for those last ingredients. There are always some unusual items that we don’t normally carry. They are often times the things that make a recipe special.
Speaking of special items, has anyone ever heard of pomegranate molasses? I found this recipe for ground lamb that is cooked with onions, eggplant, tomatoes, spices and pomegranate molasses. Once the meat mixture is cooked, you put it onto rounds of unbaked bread. The edges are folded up leaving a hole in the center. Then the entire thing is baked. It sounds good to me but I can’t find the molasses. Since I don’t even know what it tastes like, it’s hard to substitute. Bruce says just put some molasses with some pomegranate juice in but I am a little more anal than he is. Let me know if you have any information on this.
Those of us in the Gunflint family wish you and your families a very happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 13, 2009

One serial story is ending and another continues. Except for the door, the wood fired oven is finished. It looks good. Bruce is happy to have it off his plate. Our main food supplier, Upper Lakes Foods, has a man on their staff who has experience using these ovens. He is going to come up and give us some instructions. It will probably save a great deal of frustration.
The second picture is the new building. You are looking at Cabin #26 and Cabin #25 is at your back. Even now this is an outdated picture. Cavallin Plumbing has been in and put down all the septic and water lines that will go under the main slab. Those have been inspected and approved by an inspector. Today the sheets of foam insulation that go under the slab are being put in. Then Cavallin is here to put the heating pipes in that will be part of the main slab. Tomorrow (no rain, please) the main slab for Cabin #26 will be poured.
Just past the forms for Cabin #26, the two septic tanks have been buried since this picture was taken. Today the lines are being dug to the mound system that will be the end of the septic system. On Monday, the guys will start putting up forms for Cabin #27’s footings. Then the process for #26 will be repeated for #27. Bruce and I are hoping for warm temperatures and no rain for about 10 days. Then the cement work will be finished.
There are, of course, other things going on around here. Last weekend was our first work weekend of the fall. About 40 people helped with all sorts of outdoor chores. The weather really cooperated to make it a fun day. There are three pictures of these workers all though I could have had many more. The projects accomplished included, splitting firewood, splitting kindling, stacking firewood at the lodge and cabins, putting away outdoor furniture, wrapping shrubs in burlap, and washing windows. Another group comes in this week and we still have a list of projects.
Deer hunting has been slow around here. Part of it is due to all those wolves people keep seeing. The wolves appear very healthy and a smaller deer population is the result. The warm weather has also slowed the hunt down. There is no snow on the ground to help with tracking. Bruce went out one day and saw two deer (does which he can’t shoot), an eagle, a fox and some ravens. Our neighbor, Bob Baker Sr., saw a mouse and a squirrel the other day. However, his grandson, Jaret Baker, got a nice 8-point buck.
Thanksgiving seems to be racing towards us. The menu for the lodge’s dinner is planned. We have about 80 reservations between cabin guests and people staying in the area. It is going to be a fun day.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Construction Mode

I feel like I am writing a serial for the movies. As you can tell from the picture, the fire site is pretty well cleaned up. Even today it looks better than this picture. We have also got Planning and Zoning approval for two new cabins. New #26 will be a one-bedroom romantic cabin similar to 4, 5, and 6. The difference is that it will have two queen beds in it. We have had requests from couples who prefer two beds but like the romantic cabins. New #27 will be a three-bedroom cabin similar to #9. It is going to have an entertainment room with comfortable seating and a big TV for viewing movies. It will also have an outside hot tub like we put next to #9 this summer. Both cabins will have gas fireplaces (surprise!). We are also trying in-floor off-peak heating for both units. Our goal is to have both these units finished by June 1st , but we probably wouldn’t start taking reservations for occupancy before June 15th. That may change some as the construction moves along. They will start pouring cement next week so keep your fingers crossed.
The top picture is our wood-fired oven. It is almost done. Bruce has about two hours work to finish the outside rocks. Jason Merrill is almost finished with the roof, chimney coverings and door. The antler sticking out of the right side is from an elk antler that Bruce had in our garage. I think his mother had it and who knows where she got it from. It will be used to hang the tools on.
We made some pita bread the other day in the oven. Of course, the main issue now is learning how to manage the fire and get the oven hot enough at the proper time. We needed 500 degrees for the pita bread and the fire was slow. So when it came time to bake, we had too big a fire. The result was some ash on the bread but it tasted good, rose properly and got brown. Raspberry bushes produce huge berries when they are fertilized with ash but I suppose that has nothing to do with bread. As you might guess the fire was just about perfect when the cooking was done.
The deer hunting season opens around here on Saturday. We don’t get many outside hunters but some of the locals enjoy going out. Bruce plans on going out on Sunday. Between the two of us, we can eat close to one deer over two years.
The weather today is just about perfect for early October. This weekend is the first of two fall work weekends. We are just about full for both of them. It’s a good thing because there are lots of chores to be completed.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Phone Rang Early One Morning

Life has been a little more hectic than usual around here. On Thursday night I was awakened at 1:00 a.m. or so by Sheryl. Cabin #26/27 was on fire. I looked out my bedroom window and could see the glow from the flames. Even though the fire department responded immediately and did a great job, the building is totally gone as the picture above shows. The most important thing is that no one was hurt.
As I watched the fire burn, my thoughts turned to where the cabin fit in our lives. We built it in 1978-79. Robert tells me he was in kindergarten. It was our first earth-sheltered unit. Bruce says he learned what not to do in the next unit. J. T. McMillion was working for us. He hauled by hand all the cement blocks down from the road to the building site for Bruce to build the foundation with. J. T. is now a senior pilot with Southwest Airlines. I think he got his pilot’s license after hauling all those blocks.
That winter we were really behind in building. Our neighbors, Fred and Lois Mauck, came down to help us. They used to own a recording studio in Davenport, Iowa. At any rate, Fred did paneling and Lois did sealing of the paneling. Bruce and I also worked down there every day. I did some paneling upstairs and help Lois seal the high ceilings in the stair wells. After work, I would make dinner for all of us. I got to the “J’s” addressing Christmas cards that year but never got any further. There was no time. Fred and Lois are both gone now but they were a godsend that year.
Many wonderful guests have used the cabin since then. When Walter Mondale stayed with us after he received the Democratic Nomination for President, he and his family were in #27. We had to run a telephone line to the cabin, after all, he was the Vice President of the United States! His staff also needed the phone line for this fancy new machine they had rented for the campaign. It came in an aluminum case with foam all around it. The machine was a facsimile machine – the first one we had ever seen!
The cabin will live on in our memory even as it is replaced this winter. That’s right – we are into full building mode. As I type Bruce is talking with our contractor. The insurance adjuster has come and gone. On Monday the contractor will come to start cleaning the mess up and putting in the septic system. I am sure that Bruce will have building plans by then. All the managers have their assignments for the new project. The replacement will be two cabins. At the moment after studying Dave Schudy’s statistics on our occupancy, it looks like one one-bedroom and one three-bedroom unit. The applications for building permits are sitting on Bruce’s desk. I will keep you current with what is happening.
Of course, life still going on at the resort. On Saturday we had our wine dinner. It was a sellout with 50 people and went very well. There is a picture of getting the wines set up. This weekend is wild game. Then we have two weekends of work weekend. Those are always fun. During one of them a group of eight women come up to split wood. After working, they retire to their cabin for some adult refreshments. But what a huge stack of wood they leave behind.
I’ll try to write more frequently but time is very short right now.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back to the Present

The sun is actually shining today. I had given up on it. This past week we have had overcast, rain and snow. All of it comes with green leaves still on the poplar trees. In fact with all the wind, there are still very few leaves flying around. Maybe the sun will get the leaves to change color. The ash trees have changed and fallen. The tamarack are just getting to their lovely yellow/gold color. I quickly stepped out my office door to snap a picture of those green leaves on the poplar trees. That’s the top picture.

Next is your weekly update on the oven. In addition to the physical work on the oven, I have been busy too. Bruce says to just take my regular recipes and modify them but I don’t feel good about it. So I bought two cookbooks and have two more coming. Then there are all the “tools” that you need – ash rake, peel and mop. Got the first one and the other two are coming. Pretty soon I am going to have to produce bread.

Last picture is of the dining room set for a wedding we had this month. It is just to show you that we can dress ourselves up when needed. It really was a lovely wedding. One server spent several hours setting up the dining room tables. Among other things, she polished every glass with a special rag we have.

This weekend is MEA in Minnesota which means there is no school Thursday or Friday. We are full. Next weekend is our fall wine weekend. The menu for Saturday night has a Spanish theme and we are featuring all Spanish wines. On Friday night the appetizers will all be tapas. We still have four spaces open if you can sneak away for the weekend.

As we approach November many of the staff are taking off for other parts of the country and new jobs. Hopefully we will get some of them back next year. I already know Rick and Jean are coming back. Between the beautiful flowers Rick waters and Jean’s smiling face at the front desk, they are always welcome.

Sheryl keeps promising me stories from their canoe trip.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

One Day 1850 Million Years Ago

Without much enthusiasm I stepped outside to take the above picture showing you what greeted us this morning. Even knowing it will all be gone soon, I am still not ready for snow. Bruce and I had figured that this weekend would be the peak of fall color. Now it is the promise of what is to come. Sitting here listening to the wind howl, it sounds like a night for a fire in the fireplace.

This picture is an update on the wood-fired oven.
Bruce has actually added more and Lance and Jason have added more insulation to the top. We are going to the Cities this weekend and I am looking for cookbooks.
My final picture is for those who wonder where Bruce spends his days. Well, here he is at his upstairs office. He spends most of the day here hatching up ideas and deals. Right now he is finalizing the summer brochure for next year. A new winter and honeymoon brochures are already out.
Otherwise it is a pretty normal fall around here. Bruce and I have been out partridge hunting three times and have seven birds in the freezer. It will be some great dinners. Our staff has dwindled down so there is lots of work for everyone to do. This is especially true because we are running pretty close to full. You know we are short staffed if I am answering the phone and trying to take reservations. That computer still confuses me sometimes.
Just recently I went on a hike with about 60 residents led by a geologist from the Minnesota Geological Survey. Mark Jirsa is studying what happened in here when a meteorite landed in Sudbury, Ontario, (500 miles away). This all happened 1850 million years ago. As soon as it landed the meteorite vaporized. The fireball arrived in 13 seconds. Then came a shock wave that reached here in a couple of minutes. The shock wave was so forceful that it broke apart pieces of the seafloor. These were later cemented together. Mark showed examples of where this rock (called breccia) is now exposed.
Another result of the impact was the spraying of ejecta from Sudbury to here. One of the best examples of this ejecta is what we now call “Gunflint” rock. Our fireplace in the main lodge is made of it. It took 5-10 minutes for this ejecta to reach Gunflint. In about 40 minutes there was an air blast with wind speeds up to 1400 mph. The final event was a huge tsunami which mixed everything together.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a geologist but the above gives you a general picture of what happened on earth one day millions of years ago. We are now working with the Forest Service to build a trail to areas where this fractured rock is visible. There will also be pictures and interpretive information. You will all have to make the hike on your next visit up.
Sheryl and Bonnie have returned from a very successful and fun canoe trip. I understand that an account of the trip will be ready soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It Really Is Fall, I Think

It is hard to believe that September is almost over. Part of the problem is that we still have not had any cold weather. Last night Bruce and I even ate dinner with the kitchen door open. We have been leaving the windows open in our bedroom every night. I am getting ready for a really nasty day so that I can have a fire in the fireplace.

Speaking of fires, our wood-fired oven is progressing along. Here is a picture of how it looks now with a batch of insulation around the oven.

Today Bruce started putting the face rocks on the base. He will work his way up and put a couple ton of rocks on it.

Yesterday morning Bruce got impatient like his mother often did. He decided that the oven was far enough along that we could try to bake some bread. In the afternoon I made up my favorite recipe for flat bread. The guys kept a fire going in the oven all morning and afternoon. About 3:00 p.m. I went down with my bread rounds. We put some more wood in to heat the oven up. Eventually the bread went in. It cooked just fine but I think the oven was not hot enough. At any rate our first attempt was not a dismal failure. I will keep you up to date on our progress.

I think fall color may finally be coming. The poplar are starting to turn. The ash have turned yellow. One day I may get out for a hike in the woods myself.

There are, of course, lots of other signs that winter is coming. I saw my first Junco migrating through. The hummingbirds are gone. Haven’t seen any snow buntings yet but they will come. My wood pile is growing bigger. Jason and Lance are cleaning and checking all the heaters in our cabins. Summer staff is leaving and we are spending more time in the kitchen helping out with a little baking and dishes.

Sheryl Hinderman and Bonnie Schudy are out on their annual canoe trip. They left last Monday morning and will return sometime after 10-13 days. This year they went south to Frost Lake and then west on the Frost River. Somewhere in there they got on the Lousy River and then it was north to almost the middle of the BWCA where there are some old growth trees. At the time they left, the girls were not sure how they were coming east again. I will get a full report once they get home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sheryl says that I have to publish a retraction. They did miss us at the lodge! Anyway that's their story and they are sticking to it.

It’s fall and we are into new projects. Our fun one for this year is to build a new outdoor cooking area just to the right (as you face the lake) or east of the patio. The smoker we use for ribs is going in there but it will be a new one. Ours has given over twenty years of service and the bottom is finally burning out. Then there will be an area to do outdoor walleye fries. But the fun part is that we’re building a wood-fired oven. I am already looking for cookbooks and accessories for the oven. Bruce just rolls his eyes. Bread is no big deal and neither is pizza. But how about prime rib or whole chickens? I think that we can be trying stuff during the winter or at least the fall and spring.

Bruce and I spent a wonderful afternoon on the lake a couple days ago. I am ashamed to admit it was my fish time on Gunflint Lake this summer. As you know, we are working on opening the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center next summer. One of the exhibits is going to be a dry aquarium with stuffed fish from our lakes. A neighbor sacrificed himself to spend the summer catching these fish. Now it was our turn. We needed some driftwood to make the lake bottom look more real. The pieces had to have a bend and be about four feet long on one side. So Bruce and I had to slowly drive along the lake shore looking for the perfect pieces. We never found this perfect piece but we did find lots of possibles. It was a glorious way to spend a fall afternoon.

On Saturday the partridge season opens up here. I brought some 410 shells home yesterday. Bruce and I love to go hunting. I think much of it is because we love the woods in the fall. While we were in Estes Park, I bought a new game cookbook. It has all sorts of recipes for Hungarian grouse, ruffed grouse and chukars. I have been in a rut cooking partridge so this will give me something new to try. Our much loved partridge recipe is cooking them in cream of mushroom soup with wild rice and baked acron squash as sides. It is a very traditional fall meal in the Kerfoot household.

Obviously cooking is on my mind this week. As things get slower in the dining room, I start to get interested in cooking something new for Bruce and me to eat. As good as it is, nothing on the lodge menu appeals to me right now. After a summer of eating and smelling it, I’m ready for a change. If we find some good recipes, they may appear on the lodge menu this winter.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Western Trip

We got back from Rocky Mountain National Park on late on Monday. The last three days have been spent getting back into the swing of things around the resort. We did have a wonderful trip although at times I wasn’t sure I would live through it.

Our base of operations was Idlewilde By the River in Estes Park, CO. You can look them up at their website It was a great place for us. Not the least of its charms was that our cabin was ten (10) feet from a mountain stream that burbled along 24/7. One of the guys had good luck catching some 2 lb. trout in the river. One day sitting by the river we saw wild turkey on the other bank.
Our first day we got acclimated. That means driving around in a car to try to figure out things. The picture of the elk was taken that day. We must have seen over 100 elk just that first day. In addition there were mule deer. Tom and Melissa really had everything planned for us.
The second day was a hiking day. Four of us started at the top of a trail with one car and the other four started at the bottom of the trail with another car. It was a four-mile hike between the two spots. Luckily Bruce and I were in the downhill group. The very worst was the end of the hike down some stone steps that a man with very long legs had built. I made it (what choice is there) but it was not pretty.
On day three it was time to do some uphill hiking. We went two miles up (about 750 feet vertical) and two miles down. As long as I could stop every 2 blocks and catch my breath it was okay. Coming down there was thunder approaching so we made a quick trip of it. There were no stone steps so I did better.
Day four was the killer. We climbed 1100 feet over three miles and then back down again. Here is a picture of part of the trail. (Don't ask me why I can't move the picture down.) We saw the most glorious alpine meadows and lakes. It was worth the hike but my legs were pretty rubbery on the way down.
Although I moan and groan about the hikes, I would not have missed them for the world. Unfortunately, the vast majority of visitors to the park never take a hike. If I can do it as out of shape as I am, most visitors can do it. We also met two very interesting people on our hikes. One day it was a blind and deaf woman who was doing the same hike we were. On the last hike we met an 80-year old woman who was doing the hike alone.
Don’t think that hiking is all we did on this trip. It would not be a Kerfoot trip if we didn’t find some great restaurants and an awesome donut shop for breakfast. We also checked out several park visitor centers. And let’s not forget the gift shops. We go in with pencil and paper to write down the companies we like. Then when I get home, I look them up on the internet and you may see the items in the gift shop next summer.
All in all, it was a great trip. They didn’t seem to miss us at the lodge. We came home to Indian summer weather. It is positively my favorite time of year. The leaves are just starting to turn so there is lots of fall color yet to come.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fall Is Coming Quickly

This weekend we are changing season. It is the end of the family season and time for fall color couples. With schools starting in a week and the state fair on, we stop seeing kids at the resort. Even the pre-schoolers stop coming probably because they have older brothers and sisters in school. Changes like this is in guests make life interesting. We will have another season change in December. That is when all the skiers start coming. Each group has different priorities and needs. One is not better than the other but it keeps us on our toes to give each group good service.

We have had an exceptionally good berry season this summer. The intermittent rains have fattened up the berries. I don’t know when I have had so many jars of jam plus berries in the freezer that I still need to make into jam. The season has also been very long this year. Usually raspberries have been gone for a couple weeks by now. I know I could go out and pick a nice batch from the garden right now. In fact, I feel a little guilty about not doing it. Don’t want to waste one precious berry. Luckily for me, it is misty and rainy today.

I have been spending time going over old pictures for the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The historical society has about 2500 pictures right now. Just keeping them organized and identified is a project. The best part is when I get a new batch of picture. There are always several that are just exactly what I need for one portion of an exhibit. We have about 10 months left before the museum is open. If you are going to be up on the Trail after July 4th next summer, a visit to the museum should be a must on your list of things to do.

Fall projects are starting to come to the top of our list of things to do. This is when we start to mow grass on the ski trails. Then we will have a new bunch of trails for hikers this fall. Another project this fall is a cooking area that is being added to the outdoor patio. It will be on the east or right side as you face the lake. There are three parts. The grill we use for ribs will move down there. Then Bruce wants to add a permanent place to do fish fries. That is always a popular meal. Finally we are adding a wood-fired bake oven. We still haven’t decided all that we can do with it but the partial list includes bread, pizza, whole chickens and prime rib. I’ll be looking at cook books this winter.

Bruce and I are leaving for a week starting on Tuesday. With three other couples, we are going to Rocky Mountain National Park for some hiking. As long as I live through the climbing and my longs keep working, it should be a great time. I will write as soon as I get back.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Days of Our Canoe Trip

We are still on Ester Lake at our base camp. We had another good night for sleeping. Breakfast the next morning was fresh blueberry pancakes and oranges. One of the rabbit family joined us again. They just sit off to one side of the campsite and munch on the leaves. We had some lettuce left over from the fajitas and the rabbits have finished it off.

Today we are going into the Primitive Management Area (PMA). In these lakes the Forest Service maintains no portages or campsites. The first portage is quite close to our campsite on Ester. So we paddled over and easily found this portage into Link Lake. It is fairly short with numerous trees to step over but no big problems even for my short legs. Right off the portage we paddled through a windy area that looked like it should have moose in it. No such luck.

We followed the shoreline to the next portage. This portage is located off a pretty little sand beach. It was any easy carry into Bullfrog Lake. Bonnie Schudy at the outfitters said we would be catching largemouth bass in here. She was sure right. We easily caught enough for dinner, threw some back, and lost a few.

It was a hot day so our lunch spot was under a few shady pine trees. Except for us there was no one on the lake. With dinner on the stringer we headed back to Ester Lake. There was lots of time for a swim and a nap. Bruce and I went out picking blueberries on a nearby island. They will go well with the oatmeal tomorrow morning.

Bruce outdid himself with dinner. In addition to the fried bass, we had blooming onions and cheddar/broccoli rice. There was a little rice left but not much else. As we had every night, chocolate pudding filled in all the cracks. After Yahtze, it was early to bed.

The next morning we had oatmeal with fresh blueberries, dried cranberries, raisins, walnuts, milk and brown sugar. We finished off a couple of English muffins and two more oranges. One rabbit joined us.

The plan for today took the guys back into Rabbit Lake for some lake trout for dinner. Our job was to mind the camp. I spent some time writing in my trip journal while Melissa studied her guide book for a journey to Rocky Mountain National Park.

About 1:00 p.m. guys were back with the trout. They also brought back some dry beaver wood which was at the Rabbit Lake side of the portage. Finally they topped off our blueberry supply for tomorrow morning. After lunch it was time for a swim and a nap. Dinner with trout and chicken flavored pasta followed by chocolate pudding was all we could ask for. The Yahtze tournament was finished off and I managed to have the best score.

We were up and moving quickly in the morning. Our tow from American Point was set for 2:30 and we didn’t want to be late. An oatmeal breakfast with the last oranges was quickly eaten. The tents came down, sleeping bags went into stuff bags and everything went into packs. By 8:00 a.m. we were paddling away from our campsite.

The portages out were lots easier with no food to carry. After Monument Portage and the lift over, we had the wind at our backs. There was so much time before the pickup that we just drifted with the wind down 1st Bay and 2nd Bay. In 3rd Bay and after Cache Bay we had to paddle but it was really easy. In fact the entire trip was really easy. We had lunch while waiting for the tow. Pretty soon it was all over and we were on our way home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On To Ester Lake

Bruce and I and Tom and Melissa got back on Thursday from a wonderful canoe trip. For all four of us, there is something about a canoe trip that refreshes our souls. So this week and next week I will try to give you a short synopsis of the trip.

On the 9th we took an 8:00 a.m. tow to American Point on Saganaga Lake. From there the plan was to paddle to Ester Lake and set up a base camp. Then we planned to explore some of the smaller lakes in the area. At our first lift-over portage, we realized this was a busy time to be in the BWCA. We had to wait in line for our turn to portage! There was another jam up at Monument Portage. It was quite interesting to compare the efficiency of the various parties as they crossed the portage. Some did very well and others made you wonder how they were going to survive the trip.

This 80-rod portage also reminded us that we were a year older. We had a party of 3 20-something guys who effortlessly crossed. They were in two canoes and we felt a little better watching them paddle – at least in that area we were much better.

Our second portage was a very short paddle down the lake. It was also 80 rods long and busy with other parties. Then we were in Ester Lake.

After seeing lots of parties, Bruce asked the first group we saw on Ester how full the campsites were. It was a mixed report. The result was that we took the first campsite on the island. While the gals waited, the guys paddled to the next campsite but rejected it. Our campsite was elevated and looked northerly down Ester. We ate lunch (1:00 p.m.) and set up camp. Then it was time for a nap. All of us were out cold for a bit.

Dennis Todd, one of our guides at Gunflint, had given us some fresh walleye the night before. Bruce took it along so there was no pressure to catch fish. We had fried walleye, chips and salsa, and fajitas with all the fixings for dinner. After dinner, there was time for a Yahtze game before bed.

The next morning after a modest breakfast of Eggs Benedict and fresh oranges, we made our plans for the day. Our goal was to get into Rabbit Lake where Dave Schudy from the front desk said we should have no problem catching lake trout. The portage was a ten-minute paddle away. It was a really easy trip across to Rabbit. The trout didn’t want to bite along the cliffs but we found them just across the lake. They were biting short so we only got one fish. We went back to our campsite for lunch and a nap. No sense in overdoing it. Tom and Bruce went out later in the afternoon to fish and pick blueberries for breakfast.

During dinner we had a rabbit in camp. She calmly munched on leaves while we ate brats, lake trout and mac and cheese. Interestingly she was getting ready for winter. Her back legs were starting to turn white. There were two other rabbits that appeared but only one had started to turn white. The other seemed to be a child.

After dinner and dishes, we played Yahtze. Tom had a second bad night while I finally improved. Bruce and Melissa held their own.

I’ll continue the story in a few days.

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Turn To Play

This is a quick column to let you know that I am still alive and kicking. The real news is that I have to pack for a canoe trip that Bruce and I are going on with our friends Tom and Melissa. We tired of sending everyone else out to play in the Boundary Waters. It is our turn now.

I have my list and I’m checking it twice. Bruce is the cook for our trips. I pack the food. Tom and Melissa bring the lunches. With all the pre-packed mixes in grocery stores now, we are not limited to the dehydrated food companies. Here is a short list of what we cook. On Sunday dinner is fajitas with marinated steak, onions and green peppers. The sides are cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes. Monday morning will be Eggs Benedict. That night we will have brats with mac and cheese. Tuesday morning is Buttermilk Pancakes with walnuts and blueberries. Dinner that night will be fresh fish and fried onions with broccoli cheese rice. The last two mornings are oatmeal with brown sugar, dried cranberries, and walnuts. Our last dinner is chicken flavored pasta with chicken pieces. Of course, every dinner has lots of fresh fish appetizers. Dinner desserts are chocolate pudding. Each couple splits a fresh orange for breakfast. No scurvy on our trips! For our lunches we have salami and cheese or PB&J on Rye Crisp. The dessert is canned peaches and a small Almond Joy candy bar for each of us. Oh, don’t forget the Gorp that we snack on throughout the day. As you can tell, food is tough on our trips.

I finished washing clothes this afternoon. For only four nights, it is not a big deal to pack clothes. I always try to take too much stuff. My pack weighs a ton. I think tonight I will start packing. Have to be at the lodge by 6:30 tomorrow morning. Then there is a meeting on Road Lake at 9:30. Everything else will get packed in the afternoon or after we meet-and-greet guests at dinner.

So there we are. I will check in again next Friday with stories to tell. I might even remember my camera and then remember to take a few pictures.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Cabins Are Full

The last week has been particularly busy here at Gunflint. I think we hit one of our all-time highs for meals last weekend with over 240 meals served on one day. It has kept us all running. Tonight promises to be busy again.

I lay in bed this morning and was happy to see the sun on the tops of the trees outside my window. Yesterday was a dismay gray day. Throughout the days we had monsoon clouds flying through dropping heavy rain. I could stand in the lodge and see the rain coming across the lake. It was just good to know that I was not in a boat trying to race the rain. That’s a race we rarely win. One of the neighbors on Gunflint said she had almost 2 inches of rain during the day yesterday. That’s enough.

One benefit of the rain is exceptional growth in our burned over areas. Every growing plant seems to be spurting towards the sky. Since we have areas that are recovering from fires and blowdowns, this is good. It also means that we have little fire danger this summer. There is lush green in all directions.

Both raspberries and blueberries are now out all over. Bruce and I have yet to get out picking but there is bound to be a couple hours some afternoon. I have friends and relatives waiting for their annual supply of jam. The peach and strawberry jam is put away. I have just two kinds left.

Some guests were our fishing down in Little Gunflint this morning. They saw beaver, eagles, deer, and loons. Also for those of you who remember the beaver dam across Little Gunflint, it is now gone. That makes access a little easier down there.

The guides have been having good luck fishing. Jon Schei says the lake trout are in 40-60 feet of water. He has been fishing on Saganaga and Seagull. Apparently the lake trout will bite on just about anything you throw at them. Walleyes are in 12-20 feet of water and are a little slower biting right now. Smallmouth bass are still biting well. Most people are bobber fishing for them. Many of the guests have been bringing their fish in for the kitchen to cook. For our large families there is nothing better than a platter of fresh fish fingers for an appetizer. All the dirty platters going back into the kitchen are picked clean.

August first marks the middle of our summer season. It’s when I catch my second wind. Then at Labor Day I catch my third wind. September and October seem much easier than May and June. It must be because I have adjusted to the busy days by then. Of course, Dave Schudy is counting down the days to snow. Winter is his favorite time of year.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Busy July Days

I think the days in between these blogs are getting shorter or I am getting busier. I know that the lodge has been running pretty full lately and there have been lots of people stopping by for meals. In fact last night, I even had to take a couple of orders in the bistro myself. With a little help I managed to get the orders properly entered into the computer. Delivering food to the table was easy. I managed to make one drink and pour one beer. The stickler was getting a bill out of the computer and correctly entering the receipts. At the end of the night I had to participate in doing my “shift report.” Luckily Angy was there to show me the way. It is another part of the computer system that I have yet to learn.

Our days have been a mixture of rain and sunshine. This morning started out with thunder and rain. Now it is just puffy white clouds. It is not going to be a really hot, hot summer but the kids still gravitate to the lake in the afternoons. Every day we have a bunch out trying their skills with some little kayaks we have on the beach. With a PFD and a few minutes of experience almost any child can make these kayaks go all over. Part of the fun is that each one is in control of their own boat.

Bruce and I are looking forward to the second week in August. The managers are kicking us out and we are going on a 4-night canoe trip with our friends, Tom and Melissa. It has only been the last few years that we have taken canoe trips but they are addictive. Each year we try to pick a little different route. This year it is going to be west of Seagull Lake in the BWCAW. It will take me at least one day to get back into the paddling mode. Bruce and Tom are responsible for providing fish for dinner. Tom hauls water and collects firewood. Bruce cooks. Melissa and I do dishes. It is amazing how fast we settle into our camp routines. Everyone has a chore and no one gets overworked.

Our days in the northwoods are already getting shorter. I know that they regularly get shorter the same amount each day but it isn’t until about now that you start to notice a difference. Of course by December it will be full dark between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. while full daylight won’t come until 8:00 a.m.

A few raspberries have appeared but not enough to pick. Bruce and I are still trying to get a few hours in picking blueberries. Our freezer does not have a single berry in it. It is hard to have blueberry pancakes with no berries. Hopefully next week we will get out a bit.

Friday, July 17, 2009

As much as I hate to admit it, the weather has been lousy this week. We have been having an overcast, misty, foggy mess. In addition the wind has been howling from the northwest. Usually our bad weather wind is from the east but not this week. The only saving grace is that the forest needed the moisture.

The blueberries needed it too. We have lots of hard little balls on the blueberry bushes. Now that we have gotten the necessary moisture, the next step is sunshine. You can’t imagine how quickly sunshine will give us a batch of large juicy berries. In fact, I am already thinking about blueberry pie and blueberry pancakes next winter.

The week has been a very busy one. Grandson Zach (Robert and Miranda’s child) has been with us. Nine-year-old boys are much more active than old grandparents. He has been horseback riding, fishing, minnow trapping and visiting friends. As you might expect, his energy is endless.

On Monday I helped serve a shore lunch (Zach helped too) at Chik-Wauk welcoming the paddlers of the Canoe The Heartland event. Their trip covers over 350 miles and is in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Superior National Forest and the Quetico Provincial Park. We served lunch to about 150 people. The U. S. Forest Service had a full line up of talks for adults and games for kids. That day, the weather cooperated.

Wednesday the annual Gunflint Trail Canoe Races were held at the lodge. It is hard to believe that these have been going on for almost 30 years. The weather was not totally cooperative for the races. As volunteers were setting up the event, we had mist and rain off and on. The wind blew steadily. By the time everything started, at least the drops stopped coming down. About 200 people appeared and $14,000 was raised for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. Next summer the department will be showing off a brand new fire truck that these monies have helped to buy.

On top of all this, the lodge has been filled with guests. Even in rainy weather people have been out and about. The fishing guides have been busy, hikers have explored the trails and the horses have done their bit. The place that has really been busy is the dining room. Both Justine’s and the Red Paddle have been bursting at the seams. Cool weather always makes us eat heartily. Of course, the most popular spot has been the hot chocolate machine. On Wednesday with everyone here for canoe races, there was a steady line for hot chocolate.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

How Can It Be July Already?

After three weeks of messing around, I am now online again. I can’t believe how necessary internet connections have become to my life. Meanwhile, the resort keeps me busy and perhaps too busy.

One of the joys of summer meals is the barbeque. We all attempt it with varying degrees of success. Don Kufahl and Jason Hartung have perfected the barbeque. At least we think so. Don does the smoking of chicken and ribs. He has those ribs with meat ready to fall off the bone but still nice and moist. Jason works with the entire kitchen staff on the side dishes. One of the sides is a blueberry barbeque sauce that everyone loves. You know we use blueberries in everything we can. Jason also does a watermelon/fruit carving each week. Here is a picture of the fruit from one of this summer’s dinners. One day we had a watermelon critter who was fishing. Jason put a live minnow in a wine glass. At the end of the meal the minnow was released into the lake and the glass was washed three times.

It is lupine time on the Gunflint Trail. This is a picture of our side road which should be called Lupine Lane right now.

I am hoping you will get an idea of how profusely these plants are blooming. Every bit of purple in the picture is a lupine. It is just wonderful to see.

Another flower has just finished blooming. These are our iris plants. While we have a few here along the lakeshore, Bruce has discovered a small lake that is just lined along every shore with these blue blossoms. We call the lake “Gary Lake” after a friend but it should also get a new name during this time of year – Iris Lake. Right now the plants are just past their bloom but they were great to see. Bruce visits the lake on a regular basis when he goes minnow trapping so I get up-to-date reports on the best time to see the iris.

As part of the work for the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, Bruce was given the responsibility of collecting birch bark that will cover the cabinets in the Native American exhibit. So, one day we took off to collect the necessary birch bark. Bruce had already scouted out the spot with lots of mature trees and well out of sight from the road. Birch bark must be gathered at this time of year due to the sap. He was taught how to gather it many years ago by Charlie Cook. Here is a picture of the process.

A small axe is used to cut vertically through the first layer of birch bark. Then a horizontal cut is made at the top and bottom of your piece. Next use the edge of the axe to pry one corner of the bark loose. If you have timed the project correctly (as Bruce did), the birch bark practically pops off the tree. Another important part is that this does not kill the tree. Only if you take all layers of birch bark off will the tree be killed. This is, of course, exactly the same process that Native Americans used to gather birch bark for their canoes. Most of the pieces we got were big enough to be used to make a birch bark canoe. When the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center opens next summer, you will be able to see this birch bark.

Summertime seems to be flying along. What happened to June?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

It's Family Time

It has been cold and rainy around here these past few days. I am getting tired of it but have no way to change anything. My knees are getting tired of working on it. Bruce just says the weather we get reflects the lives of our guests during the past year. Rumor has it that sunshine is on the way for the weekend. I’m ready.

We had a little bad news this morning. For the past year or so I have periodically reported the adventures of Gimpy, our fox with one bad lake. Perhaps even more than my blog reflects, Gimpy has provided lots of entertainment for those of us who live here. Last night a car clipped him on the road. Dave Schudy saw his body early this morning on the way here. I know it was just one of many fox but we all are going to miss him,

In the last week, we have made the transition into family vacations. All of a sudden there are families every where. The naturalist activities have overflowing groups. One of our new activities is paddling the voyageur canoe across to a pond on the west end of the lake for lunch. This morning Annie was fixing lunch for 20 guests.

Human families aren’t our only families. The mallard mommas are proudly bringing their flocks of ducklings into the lodge beach for corn. Did you know that ducks are one of the few animals that must feed themselves from birth? So we have cracked corn for the little ones at this time of year. Now I have to teach our guests to spread the corn on the shore and not throw it into the lake where the ducks don’t get it.

These mallard ducklings weren’t always around here. In the 1960’s a foundation out of Dundee, Illinois, tried raising ducks using the Future Farmers of America. It didn’t work out so well. Somehow Don Lobdell, who owned Rockwood Lodge at the time, got some of the baby ducks delivered to the Gunflint Trail. He spread them out to the resorts. We had a batch here at Gunflint. Every night a trail of corn would lead the babies into a penned, protected shelter for the night. There were new batches for several years. The descendants of those ducks continue to return each year. By Labor Day they are so tame that you can feed them from your hand. Last fall we had a picture of a fat old lady (me) feeding them from her hand.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Guests Enjoy Northwoods Activities

I have been looking forward to writing about the weather this week because it has been just glorious. People have been out all over exploring the lakes and woods. Even the mosquitoes have started to cooperate. The emergence of dragon flies has helped eliminate lots of the biting critters. By this time of year mosquitoes go into a long decline for the summer.

Today has been a different story. We woke up to overcast skies and fog. It has misted and rained off and on all day. Since we could use a little rain, I can’t even complain. It’s almost 7:00 p.m. now and there appears to be a sliver of clear skies in the west. Perhaps tomorrow will bring blue skies back.

Fishing has continued to be good even with the nicer weather. Smallmouth bass are biting. The big surprise is the walleyes. Every day we seem to have another fisherman come in who caught and released a 20” and up to 32” walleye. Northern Light Lake has been particularly good. The lake trout are now in 45-60’ of water but biting well.

Our resident fox, Gimpy, is still making regular appearances at the cabins. Frequently guests report that Gimpy has a squirrel in his mouth. It has always been assumed that he could not catch anything because of his bad leg. Between what he catches and what everyone gives him, Gimpy has a pretty good life.

Other forest denizens who are appearing regularly are wolves. Usually during the summer wolves are not seen but that is not the case this year. Especially past the Tuscarora road, wolves have been seen by many people. Probably the larger numbers of small game (translate into food) are keeping them in closer than usual.

As you may remember, last fall we bought a voyageur canoe for the naturalist program. Everyone has been surprised at how popular this activity is. Every time something is scheduled, the canoe is full. One day Bruce and I will have to take a ride in it.

Virtually all our staff is here now. Today was the first meeting for the full staff. We hold these meetings at 6:15 in the morning because it is the only time everyone can be there. Looking at the entire group on the porch reminded me how many people it takes to run things around here. Luckily they all are doing a great job. The meeting went well and even managed to get a laugh or two from the group. That is a great accomplishment at that time of the morning.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I Was Right! Summer Is Here!

It seems I am always a little behind the eight ball on getting this blog out. There is a pretty good excuse this week. On Tuesday we had a group of 24 women check out along with every other cabin. We had a bus load for lunch and I was tour guide with them for most of the day. That afternoon we had 183 bike riders check in for two nights and five meals. I got to tell you that a party that large taxes us but it all went well. In addition to eating meals these folks did spend a fair amount of time rehydrating their bodies. They spent three days biking on the North Shore before coming up here. Even so the ride from Grand Marais was a long one. They were a great bunch of people. Like any cook, ours appreciated the way they ate everything we fed them. After feeding them breakfast Thursday morning in one hour, we were all in relapse but cabins still had to be cleaned for the new guests checking in.

Today I spent some time this afternoon just reading the newspaper. I might have dozed off in the chair a bit too. Tonight will be another busy night in the bistro and dining room. We have our full complement of servers so all that I do is walk around talking to people.

This last week we have really jumped into summer weather. It is so nice – blue skies, soft breezes, and warm temperatures (This sounds like last week.). Like any good resort we had out thunderstorm and rain in the middle of the night. Our lilacs are just blooming. The lupine on the side road are also coming into their blooming season. My strawberries are filled with flowers. The asparagus has been great. Unfortunately most of the rest of my garden is not doing so well. The cool temperatures earlier and a lack of time both contributed to a poor garden.

Bruce and I are enjoying renewing friendships with old time guests and meeting new ones. They all have such interesting stories to tell us about how they found us. With many of them we end up swapping stories about travels all over. Last night I was talking with some guests about our trip to Bali. They owned property in Bali and love it just as much as we do. Many of these guests have great tips on places to visit. As many of you know, Bruce and I love to travel.

I should have more news around here but most of my days have been spent in the lodge. Next week I’ll even get some pictures for the blog.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Summer Is Here, I Think

I believe that summer has finally arrived on the Gunflint Trail. This morning we had temperatures of 61 degrees – the warmest this year. We have a gentle south wind, blue skies and the lake looks beautiful. Everyone is ready to jump in but it is still a little cold. I would be satisfied to just go on a boat ride but here I am at the computer.

Our summer staff is basically all here. There is a learning curve everyone goes through in their new jobs but it seems like a great crew. As in years past, we have a number of students from Jamaica. It is fun to watch them adjust to the Northwoods. One of the new skills they have learned is to paddle a kayak. We have small kayaks at the dock and the girls are having a ball paddling all over but only on calm days. None of them are interested in ending up in the water. These kayaks are also very popular with the children during the summer.

Tomorrow we are having a unique group of guests check in. One of the annual Minnesota events is Jim Klobuchar’s bicycle ride. For years he has assembled a group of bikers to tour different areas of the state. This year they will be on the North Shore and the Gunflint Trail. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights we will be hosting 183 people in this group. During the day on they will be spreading out to explore the area.

Today I got word of some really good news for later in the summer. The blueberry bushes are filled with white blossoms. This means that if we can get the right combination of sun and rain, it will be a great blueberry season. Bruce and I have our favorite secret spots to pick. Of course, we always meet our neighbors at these secret spots. Long about January Bruce’s blueberry, banana, walnut pancakes taste wonderful for breakfast.

Yesterday afternoon Bruce and I sat with some friends on the patio in front of the lodge during the afternoon. We were just visiting and drinking iced tea. Afterwards I thought about what a great way to spend the afternoon. No wonder our guests enjoy it so much.

Talking with resorts all over the Trail is leading to lots of moose stories this summer. It is almost like we have an explosion of moose. If you are driving up the Trail, look in every little pond and creek for these wonderful animals. Also look for them to plod across the road at unexpected places. They are very big and black and can do a great deal of damage to your car.

You are not getting any pictures today. Since Thursday I have been having problems with my Internet connection at the computer in my office. So I am down at the lodge typing this. As is the same with many of you, getting the problem fixed is turning out to be a very frustrating experience. The last I heard was that the company would try to get back to me in 4-5 days. This is not the time to play these games.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

It's June!

So, where did May go? Suddenly Bruce and I are settling into our summer routine. More staff has arrived so that makes life easier. Of course, there is always the necessary training to do. We try to eat a quick dinner and go back down to the lodge to talk with guests each night. Getting to know our guests is one of the best parts about the job. So many guests have been with us many times. With the newcomers it is just fun to introduce them to the special places to see during their stay. If you are with us even for just a quick meal, Bruce and I look forward to seeing you.
Spring is progressing along. It seems cool but I keep telling myself that it is only the 4th of June. As I write this, a big black cloud is approaching from the west. We could have a little squall in a few minutes. Meanwhile my pin cherry trees are bursting with flowers. Here is a picture of the one right outside the house. The tree is just 9 years old but the flowers are beautiful. Marsh marigolds are blooming in the wet spots along the Trail.
This year every resort seems to have an abundance of guests seeing wild game. Moose are the most numerous especially in the mid-Trail area. I have heard several stories about cows with twins. One party even saw a cow moose lying down as her two calves fed. Many people have seen wobbly newborns as they try to learn to walk on four legs. Moosehorn B & B across the lake did have one guest who saw a spotted fawn. That is a very rare sight. We are also still seeing wolves in the hill just behind the campground. A few fox with kits are always found on the road playing.
Fishing has been good. Here is a picture from Lars Ossmo and his son. It is a pretty nice catch for a father-son trip. Then we have the story of three guys who went out lake trout fishing today. It was their first day on the lake. They were back by noon with a 20 lb. northern. The fish fought so hard that the treble hook was almost pulled out of their lure. All three of the guys were so excited that it was fun just to see them.
For reasons I don't understand these pictures refuse to move into their correct spots in the narrative. You'll just have to mentally place them in the proper posts.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh What A Beautiful Morning!

Today was the perfect day for a morning walk. I was the only one of our four going so I had the entire walk to myself. The walk is along our side road for one mile and then back. Walking along the road lets you see and hear things that a car just buzzes by.

The first thing is to smell the fresh air. With no wind at all today and a nice dew on the ground, everything smelled fresh and clean. The dew keeps the road damp so even an occasional car doesn’t throw dust into the air. I saw five vehicles on my walk this morning.

The noise is the next thing to be noticed. No need for an iPod when you can hear the birds singing everywhere. In the background is the almost constant call of the chickadee. That is the only call I know because the chickadee just says its name over and over again. Sometimes it adds an extra dee or two. Who knows what other birds are talking to me but each one has a distinctive song that comes out as clear as a bell. Sometimes are bird will fly overhead and I can hear the swoosh from its wings. There was one boat that went down the lake and its motor added a little mechanical sound for a few minutes.

Finally we are down to what can be seen on a walk. Most of the trees have leafed out. Strawberries are blooming in the road ditches. Several trees are getting ready to flower. The pin cherry trees should be blooming next week. The lupines are coming up in the ditches. In about 3-4 weeks there will be lupine blossoms all along the road. You will need to see a picture of them. If it is rainy, there are hundreds of earthworms on the road. I wonder how they can live in the packed down surface of a dirt road. We have renamed a section of the road “Rabbit Corner.” That’s where we have seen the rabbit this spring.

Later I walked down by Cabin #26 and looked at the lake. Here is a picture of what I saw. Too bad I don’t have time to just sit on the swing and watch the day unfold. Instead I am in my office writing to you.

Bruce was busy yesterday working on some masonry projects for the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. One project is to put in some slate as an entry way just inside the front door. If any of you have walked around our property, you will have noticed piles of rocks in many places. These are rocks that Bruce has collected during our many building projects. He has mentally cataloged all of them.

So when he was thinking about the slate entry way, Bruce remembered a large slate rock in one of his piles by the outfitters. If he could just split that, it would be big enough to make a one piece entry rock. Yesterday was the splitting day. He had to lift the rock with the bobcat. With his masonry hammer and some pegs he was able divide the rock into three sheets. Here he is moving one of the sheets. If you visit the museum after it opens next year, be sure to notice the rock when you walk in.

One of our neighbors has a baby squirrel. They think that its mother was accidentally live trapped and moved to a different location. This 3-4 inch squirrel is hungry! He chases all the birds off the feeder when he wants to eat. Of course, he is not quite as good a climber as an adult would be so it is a project to get up the feeder. The other day my neighbor was in her garden when the baby squirrel came running up. She stood up and he ran right up her leg almost to her knee before realizing the mistake. Already this squirrel has visibly grown since they first saw him.

Summer is here now so it is time for some of you to be visiting us. We look forward to seeing you.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day is Here

This has been an unusually windy spring or so it seems to me. Yesterday the wind was howling outside and there were white caps on the lake. In spite of all, the fish are biting well. The walleyes are starting to leave the spawning beds but are still scattered on the lake. As the water warms up, they will form into schools, which makes life easier for the fishermen.

All our trees are bursting into leaf. We have a green fuzz from the new leaves that you can see as you look across the lake. Of more importance to me, I can lie in my bed and look at the leaves on the poplar trees outside my window. For those of you who live south of me, that may not mean much. But when you only have leaves for five months of the year, it’s nice to see them come.

Summer birds have also been appearing almost on a daily basis. There was a pair of trumpeter swans on the lake. Meanwhile Sheryl has a great little movie of the first hummingbird to appear
at the outfitters’ feeder.We always look forward to the return of the hummingbirds. Bruce and John Silliman saw a Baltimore Oriole at our feeders this week. That is really an unusual sighting.

This year for the first time we are getting overnight hikers stopping at the canoer cabins at the outfitters. So far we have had seven people in three different parties. It isn’t a lot but I can’t remember when we have had any hikers come through. They are hiking the KeKeKabic Trail from here to Ely which is about 42 miles. They are also connecting to the Border Route Trail which goes to McFarland Lake east of us. One party even had a small dog along. The dog had his back pack to carry his food.

Wednesday was one of my favorite days of the year. Our spring order of flowers arrived. Between what we use at the lodge and what our neighbors get we had about 300 flats and baskets. In addition there were 10 36” white pines and 10 clumps of 8’ birch trees. Ronnie and Rick are hard at work getting the ground prepared. With an early Memorial Day, we don’t really want to plant too much until closer to June 1st. Here is a picture of one of the neighbor’s flower order.

Memorial Day weekend is already here. It looks like a good one. People are making the reservations much closer to their arrival date which makes us nervous. They are, however, calling in steadily for summer reservations. We are pretty close to full for the holiday weekend. In these tough economic times we appreciate every reservation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It is a cold a miserable day today. The temperature is about 34 degrees and we have a strong northwest wind. Even in front of my house, we have good sized white caps. The east end of the lake must be just rolling. Snow flurries are coming down too.

Meanwhile Bruce and I got home from our morning walk about 8:15. We have been walking with our neighbors, Bob and Sharon Baker. Both couples are going with two other couples to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking just before Labor Day. So, we are trying to get into a little better shape. Here are Bruce, Bob and Sharon ready to go this morning. Luckily I get to be the photographer.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. We really are not walking together. Bob was in the National Guard for many years. He sets a pace of four miles to the hour. Sharon and I most definitely don’t walk that fast. We do about two miles in 50 minutes. Bob and Bruce go over three miles in that same time.

Except for today, it has been quite nice and I think we are all doing better. It is fun to see the game as walking down the road. For several days there was a snowshoe rabbit about ¼ miles down the road. Every part about him had turned brown except for his feet. They were still white. We have also heard calling loons. Today we even heard a loon above the wind and waves.

My garden has been trying to claim some of my attention. Yesterday I finally made it out. We got some small white pine seedlings this year. For years we have planted but never been really successful. A friend whose parents had owned a tree farm suggested a new method of planting to me. I went up into the garden and cleaned out a space we were not using. It was just a mess with grasses growing all over. After crawling around weeding on my hands and knees, I was a mess too. But I planted 33 trees about 8 inches apart. Here is what they look like.

My friend Terry tells me to let them grow for two years. At the end of that time each one will have a nice root ball instead of those thread roots you usually plant. So, I planted and watered yesterday. Keep your fingers crossed.

Fishing has been fairly good. The walleyes are still spawning. The Cross River and Little Gunflint have lots and lots of females filled with spawn. In a few days the males will come in to fertilize them. Most people catching the big females have released them so they can spawn. In a few years we will catch their children.

Lake trout (any kind of trout) fishing has been good. Today as we walked there were hundreds of worms on the road from last night’s rain. Bruce says that these earthworms are good for catching trout. No matter how good they might be for bait, I’m not going out on the lake today. It just looks nasty.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fishing Opener

Gunflint Green Up last weekend was a rousing success. About 325 people planted 25,000 trees. That’s just over 75 trees per person. In our rocky soil, planting trees is a project. Add to that the fact that burned trees, fallen trees, soot and loose rocks are all over. I went out for a few minutes to meet some of the planters. Many of them were like Mary Indritz and her daughter Paige, shown in this picture.

They live in Roseville, Minnesota, and have a cabin on Poplar Lake. Son Jack was also planting with them. The Gunflint community has really come together to help give our forest as helping hand.

This weekend brings the Minnesota fishing opener. Gunflint Lake is totally clear of ice as is Magnetic. Although I haven’t been down there, North Lake and Little Gunflint should also be open. Loon Lake went out yesterday. Saganaga and Seagull should be open. The lakes in the mid-trail vary but if you started blowing from the proper direction, they would go out. It should be a great opening weekend.

We are getting ready to jump into the season. Jason is bringing over the first dock as I write this. I can see him coming across the lake. It is a perfectly calm day which is what we need to get the docks in place. In fact here is a picture of the dock coming in to be attached to the main cribbing.

Friday night people will start checking into the lodge for fishing. Bonnie says that our first outfitting groups will be going out next week. I don’t know how another winter passed so quickly.

We went out to dinner with friends last night. Some of you may remember our neighbor on Tucker Lake who burned part of his favorite hat last winter while burning a brush fire. A spark landed on his hat and eventually started burning hat and head. A couple days ago, Tom received a package with this letter in it:

Dear Mr. Schank
We understand you had a head fire causing some discomfort to your melon. We are enclosing a special fire hat to prevent any more fires of the same nature.
These are special hats for use on small fires only, if your needs are larger save the aluminum pan from Thanksgiving and punch a center hole in it.
Replacement pans can be purchased at your local grocery store.
Thanking you
Mr. Bill Spark
G.M. Fire Dep
Here is a picture of Tom modeling his new hat.

Tuesday Bruce and I went out to put in minnow traps. He carried the traps and I walked along. This is Bruce looking at a trap he has just placed on a hidden pond about ½ mile in.

He was worried about getting enough minnows because the water in the ponds was quite low. Yesterday he checked the three traps for minnows. I couldn’t go but Bruce said he couldn’t even carry out all the minnows. These native dace minnows that he traps are the best ones of fishing in our area.

Some blogs I really struggle to get pictures for. Then there are others like this one that just seem to overflow with pictures.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Happenin

It is a gray windy day today. My barometer seems to indicate that we could have rain which is not all bad. It rained yesterday and last night some. The rain combined with the wind will help the ice go out soon. In fact right now we are probably just waiting for the northwest wind that starts to push the ice down Gunflint to the east. The wind today is south so that helps melt the ice but not take it out.

From my window at the house this morning I noticed a new deer kill on the ice. Here is a picture I tried to take after walking down to the shore.

All the birds flew away when I came but some eventually came back. I think you can see the two eagles. There were also sea gulls, crows, and ravens. By the end of today it will all be gone. You can see from the picture how black the ice is.

While walking down I noticed that the pussy willows we popping out. I also noticed (and picked up) a couple of plastic bags that had blown done sometime in the winter. It is always amazing what appears when the snow goes. Bruce and I try to get everything put away in the fall but something always appears next spring.

Spots of open water are appearing all over. Jon Schei, one of our fishing guides, just couldn’t wait to get his boat in the water. He went over to the west end of the lake where the Cross River is flowing in and cutting a large hole in the ice. Sheryl took a short video of this which I hope to be able to attach to this blog. Turn your speakers on because the sound of the water and the fishing boats sounds pretty good after all the frozen months. If not, you will have to be satisfied with me standing in front of the rapids at Campsite #18 in the Trails End Campground.

This weekend is the 2nd Annual Gunflint Green Up. About 300-400 people are scheduled in to plant trees and to release trees that were planted last year. A huge tent has been erected in the parking lot behind the outfitters for Friday and Saturday nights’ dinners. On Friday there will be exhibits in the conference center about green living. It is a great way to kick off the summer. I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

We are getting ready to start fishing. All the guides are working on their boats and equipment. I, of course, think that fresh fish would taste really good. Don’t suppose that either Bruce or I will get out to fish a little but you never know.

In addition to this blog, I have been asked to write a blog the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It is going to appear in the new Club Outdoors section online. They have about 18 bloggers from all over the state to help provide that little bit of extra local knowledge about outdoor sports in Minnesota. They are trying to get the blogs going tomorrow. I wrote my piece. I will figure out the address and let you know where to find me. The idea is to write on Monday and Thursday. So now I will be coming up with three different blogs each week. This will test my abilities as a writer.

For reason I don't necessarily understand, this video is at the end of the blog. I try next time to get it in the proper place.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Are Closer To Open Water

Bruce and I had a great trip to Missouri last weekend. Nick and Sandy Halteman, Miranda’s parents, belong to a fly fishing club there. The club was having a one day show and we put up a little booth to advertize the outfitters. As this picture shows, Grandson Zach was our biggest helper there.

The show was held in a church. In exchange for the space, the church’s youth group sold us breakfast and lunch as a fund raiser. Lunch was prepared by a local man who smoked some pork for sandwiches. It was wonderful.

The only bad part about the entire trip was coming home. In Missouri (and probably where most of you live) the trees and shrubs were blooming. The grass was green. We got home Monday to several inches of new snow. What a downer!

Luckily on Tuesday the wind blew and yesterday it was in the 50’s. So, almost all the snow is gone. I was even able to get out into the garden and start cleaning my vegetable beds. The chives and rhubarb are starting to come up. There are leaves on the strawberry plants. Most important, the ground in the beds is not frozen. Of course, after two hours of crawling around weeding, every muscle in my body complained. It is the Advil time of year.

There are lots of other signs of spring. This week I have seen many returning birds: juncos, grackles, starlings, bald eagles, and seagulls. The North Brule River is starting to run, which indicates when our ice will go out on Gunflint. Don Brazell, the long time Gunflint Trail postman, said that when the North Brule ran freely (we are not quite there yet), the small lakes go out in a week and the large lakes go out in two weeks. With that in mind, open water is just around the corner. Bruce and I drove over to where the Cross River enters Gunflint. There is a noticeable channel of open water reaching a couple hundred feet into the lake.

As I sit in my office today, the wind is really blowing hard. The skies are clear. The temperature at 10:15 a.m. is 50 degrees. Another important factor in spring thaw is that it did not freeze last night. All these things combine to melt the snow and ice. Several days of these conditions would really speed the spring thaw along. Even a little rain would help. We will see what happens by next week.

Meanwhile spring chores are moving along at the lodge. April seems to be a month when we are overwhelmed with projects. Here is a picture of the guys moving out an old hot tub from Cabin #7 in preparation to putting in the new one.

Jason had to remove the window to take the old unit out. The new one is shaped differently and will come in through the doors. In a week or so, all six new tubs will be completely installed.

Carpets in cabins have been steam cleaned along with every other portion of the cabins. We had some new housekeeping staff start working. Bonnie told them to take everything off the walls before washing them. The girls even took the electrical switch box plates off! Even Bonnie doesn’t go quite that far.

The kitchen has been cleaned to within an inch of its life. Every piece of equipment has been taken apart and cleaned. The hood over the stove was scrubbed. Floors in the coolers, entry way and dry storage have been painted. Yesterday our first food order of the new season arrived. The Bistro will open on Friday evening, April 24th. Justine’s will be opening in May.

So now all that we are doing is waiting for you to come up and visit.