Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Best Ambulance Run

Bruce, Shawn and I got home from Jamaica late on Monday. It was a great trip. We interviewed around 200 students which kept all of us busy. It is not just one visit with each student. Many of them come back to talk several times. We also have over 50 students who were returning so they had lots to tell us. Some of these kids have been in our program for three years. Now they are moving on with us to a twelve month program. It is an exciting time for them and for us.

This was Shawn’s first visit to Jamaica with us. She was just overwhelmed with how nice the students were. It is something that Bruce and I have always felt but we tend to forget. So now we are all invigorated to find the 200 jobs we need for everyone.

Of course, there were a few changes. Our Jamaican coordinate, Arlene Garrick, is in Oklahoma doing course work for her PhD. We missed her but learned to work with a new bunch of teachers who had been well trained by her. Sharon Black and Suzette Morrison took good care of us.

Our greatest find was Clive. He is the taxi driver who took us to our schools every day and picked us up after the interviews. He recommended restaurants, found the factory outlet for T-shirts and got us a stapler. Our most interesting adventure with Clive was on our last day. He was taking us to the handicraft market. It was two o’clock and none of us had eaten. So Clive took us to Miss Carmen’s. It is in the middle of the market that locals use. There were no tourists around. The snack bar is made from a 40-foot freight container. Shawn and I had jerk chicken while Bruce had oxtail. It was all excellent!

One other interesting event happened. Mid-week one day we returned to the hotel to find everyone bustling about. The general manager and the operations manager were standing ready to greet someone. There were police and soldiers and red carpets. So Bruce went up to the operations manager to find out what was going on. The King and Queen of Spain were staying at the hotel that night and all the fuss was to greet them. So we stayed to watch. When they arrived, King Juan Carlos walked past us and smiled at Bruce. Anway that is Bruce’s story and he’s sticking to it. It is one of those things that is no big deal but is still fun to see.

Flying home the airlines gave me an extra freebie – a cold. So I have been wimping around for several days and don’t have a lot to tell you. Pictures will have to wait until next week too.

There is, however, one wonderful event that occurred last night. We have a large party staying in Cabin #2. One of them was 9 months pregnant. Last night they came to the front desk to say that the baby was coming. The rescue squad came out in force and quickly had the mother and father on their way to Grand Marais. There were many volunteers to make this run.

As it turned out this was the couple’s fifth child. The mom was an RN and the father was an EMT. The other children were three girls and one boy. Yesterday was the boy’s birthday. The squad moved along to the hospital. Towels were being warmed where hot air came into the back. With the driver there were six attendants ready to help in anyway.

Just as they headed down the hill into Grand Marais, the father delivered his son. The baby was dried and wrapped in the warm towels and placed with his mom. At the hospital were two doctors and a host of assistants ready to finish the job.

It was the first time this rescue squad has ever had a birth. Everyone agreed that it was the best of all possible runs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Little Melt and New Snow

We have had some thawing weather the last few days. About all it has done is to make a mess in the parking lots and driveways. Jason Merrill, our maintenance head, has been out with the bobcat clearing away the slippery slush. When the main driveway starts to melt, it is always a mess. Even with all-wheel drive, it is hard to get up the driveway. So Jason goes and scoops it all up and piles it out of the way. Here is a picture of two of his piles.

They don’t look too pretty until they are covered with snow again. Right after scooping up, they are just brown yuck. It is the gravel from the driveway that gets mixed in with them. When these piles melt in the spring, they leave behind a pile of gravel that can be spread on the driveway again. In case you are wondering, we still have lots and lots of snow on the ski trails.- and the forecast is for 4-6 inches more.

Last night the temperature slipped below freezing again. The misty rain turned to snow. Because the branches were wet, the snow stuck to the freezing branches as if it had been glued on. This morning we had some beautiful trees with every branch covered with snow. There was very little wind so even now at 4:00 p.m., there is lots of snow on the trees. Here was the view off our front porch this morning.

Tucker Lake seems to be providing the best stories this week. In the winter with lots of snow one of our neighbors burns brush piles that he has collected all summer. Last weekend his wife was at a quilting retreat and he decided it was the perfect time to burn some brush. In honor of the occasion he wore his favorite stocking cap – a Snoopy cap. He got it from his daughter when she stopped using it at age 8. (The daughter is now 37 but Bruce tells me that men particularly like these well used articles of clothing.)

At any rate, the neighbor is busy with his burning project. After a bit, he begins to smell fumes like something other than brush is burning. Then it starts to smell like hair is burning – a very distinctive smell. He thinks that maybe there is a death animal at the bottom of the burn pile. In a few minutes his head begins to hurt – badly. He pulls his hat off only to discover that a burning ember has started burning the hat and worked its way down to his hair and scalp. Luckily a handful of snow solves the problem with little damage. Of course, even with a 2” hole, the hat is good to go for several more years.

A mystery on Tucker Lake has also been solved this year. Our neighbors there have gone through three blue fire number signs. I am sure that you have seen these signs. They are the assigned identification numbers each house has so that the fire department can find you in case of a fire. I suppose the signs are about 4” by 6” and blue with white numerals on the Gunflint Trail.

Well, these people are now on their third sign. All the blue and white paint is gone from the face of the sign after a short time. No one knows how. Last week they finally saw two Blue Jays pecking the paint off the sign! An examination of the ground beneath the sign did not show any blue flecks. The birds must either be eating it or storing it for future use. The question now is, “How do you stop them?” You wonder what started this. No one else has reported anything like this.

Bruce and I are off the sunny Jamaica on Monday. Before you get too jealous, let me tell you that this is a purely business trip. The two of us and our daughter, Shawn, are going to interview students for work in the U. S. during the summer college break. We go to Kingston which has no tourist development. We interview from 7:30 in the morning until 6:00 at night with no break. Lunch is delivered from the school’s cooking class while we continue interviewing. After dinner we often interview more students at our hotel. And did I mention that there generally is no A/C in the room we use at the school. So, all of you can take pity on us.

We will be back at Gunflint on the 23rd with no tan.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Oh, Deer

The weather has been quite nice during the day and even seems to have moderated at night. I know that the night before last it was 30 below but we have had a string of nights above zero. That doesn’t sound like much to those of you who live south of us but it is big here. Of course, all these temperatures have nothing to do with wind chill. Beyond saying that the wind is cold, we don’t even worry about wind chill.

It seems like the animals have been busier in these relatively warm temperatures. One of the joys of living on the Trail in the winter is hearing and seeing all the inaction that we have with animals. Some of it is a little scary or sad.

Shadow, one of the dogs at Gunflint Pines, had a scary encounter last week. She was out and about inspecting the property when a wolf appeared. We call this wolf the “mangy wolf” because his hide is so mangy and he looks sick. At any rate the wolf started chasing Shadow. After one run around the main building at the Pines, the wolf was catching up to the dog. Shadow’s last inspiration was to run into the open porch attached to the Pines lodge. Meanwhile, Bob and Sharon up on the hill had noticed the race. They were getting in their car just as Shadow went in the porch. Sharon yelled and the wolf looked up at them. Then Bob and Sharon quickly drove down to the lodge. As they stopped for the side road, the wolf ran past them to the east. Shadow was still hiding in the porch and quickly went in when Bob opened the door.

There was also a sad encounter at the Pines. One morning Bob groomed the short ski trail that goes through the campground. Later that morning he was out on this ski trail. Between the time he groomed and the time he walked out (before noon), the wolves had killed a deer right in the middle of the ski trail. Now I must admit that I don’t get overly sentimental about kills like this. After all, the wolves have to live too. Usually, we do not expect a wolf kill to happen so close to occupied buildings and in the middle of the day.

Most of our encounters lately have been of the happy kind. On Saturday Susie, one of our favorite waitresses at Trail Center, snowmobiled up for lunch with a group. She could not get over all the deer in our yard. She went into the lodge and brought out several large handfuls of corn which the deer promptly ate right out of her hands. In fact, one deer was so close to Susie’s face that when the deer raised his head, he gave her a “kiss.” Since I don't have a picture of Susie getting her kiss, this picture is of Steve being a little more careful feeding the deer.

Here is one of a deer eating right outside the door to the main lodge.

It is really unusually to go down to the lodge and not see deer everywhere you look. They give every person going in or out a mournful look until you just have to feed them.

The other morning Sheryl came down early to open the lodge. Here is the scene she captured with her camera. Well, you were going to get a short video from Sheryl but for some reason it doesn't want to upload. Being the super IT person that I am, you will not get to see the video.

The first person to the lodge each morning doesn’t just encounter deer. The other day Gimpy (our fox with one paw gone) was curled up in a ball in front of the door. Just like the rest of us, Dave went in and found a scrap of meat for Gimpy. Gimpy and his girl friend have taken up residence underneath Justine’s north wing. By May we should have another batch of kits. We will keep feeding both fox so the kits are healthy.

We have so many deer around that I could go on and on about the stories. The best idea, however, is to come up and see for yourself.