Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Of course a big part of the weekend was food. That always seems to be the case at Gunflint! Here is a picture of one of the tables at Saturday night’s dinner.
Mark Darling’s keyboard music in the background just added to the extra ambiance in the lodge that night.
On Sunday Bruce and I went out fishing for a bit. We might as well have taken a nap for all the luck we had. Bruce missed one bite but that was all the action we had. Of course, we were out driving around checking other spots. It is such an amazing feeling to just drive the car across the lake. When the ice goes out in May, I will have trouble recapturing the feeling of driving on the ice. Right now, I have trouble thinking about driving a boat across the water. In addition to trucks and cars, the lake had quite a few ATV’s and snowmobiles running around. I don’t think the catching part of fishing was too good.
Last week the Gunflint Trail lost another one of its senior citizens – Irv Benson. Bruce and I think that he may be the last of that generation to live on the Trail. Irv came up here after serving the Air Force during World War II. At that time there were a bunch of single guys in the Saganaga/Seagull Lake area. Some of them included the Powell brothers, the Waters brothers, Irv, Art Madsen, Jock Richardson, and Benny Ambrose. Most of these men found all they needed in life by living in the woods.
In 1950 Irv married Tempest Powell. From her he learned all his woods skills. The two lived on an island home on Sag that they built themselves. It was a combination workshop and home. That way both got what they wanted. They lived there for many years until it was too difficult for Tempest to get around and she moved near her daughter in Silver Bay. Irv remained on Saganaga until this winter when he moved to town where help was available.
I only met Irv a couple of times. Saganaga is just far enough away that I don’t get up there too much. Bruce’s mother, Justine, carried on a great correspondence with him over many years. I have many of the letters he wrote to her. They go back as far as 1979 in my files but there were probably earlier ones.
Here is a paragraph from one of the letters: “Beaver seem to be scarce these days. Same deal as every fall, one tries to be in ten places at once getting traps out, and sleeping/eating habits get sort of erratic, as does the care of clothing and where one puts his various scents. Tempest said I didn’t smell too good when I got home last night, but I feel that this opinion is rather selfish, as she certainly doesn’t have to be as close to me as I do during the next few weeks, and the externally induced aromatics will probably wash or wear off in time anyway.” It is always a great loss when last of these old timers goes.
On the spring-is-coming front, it is snowing outside now. It is now 3 hours after I wrote the original blog. The snow is so thick that you can’t see across the lake. We have about 3-4 inches of new snow. Bruce went to town and said that it is much worse as you get closer to town.
We had some melting this past week so slowly the total depth of snow is going down. The ice on Gunflint Lake has lifted. That means it has broken away from the shoreline and is now actually floating on the water. All the water from melted snow has drained off the ice which is why we it is so nice to drive all over.
Another small sign of spring appeared Sunday night as Bruce and I drove home from the neighbors. We saw a skunk on the shoulder of the road. Skunks hibernate during the winter. It seems a little early to see them but nonetheless a very welcome sign of spring.
This blog is a little earlier in the week because Bruce and I are going to man the Gunflint Lodge booth at the convention center for three days over the weekend.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
So Tuesday it rained and rained and froze at night. Our power went out for about 3-4 hours during the night. I was just starting to think about serving breakfast in the lodge when the power came back on. Other staff members were also thinking about no power. Jason, our maintenance head, was planning on coming down to get Bruce’s ice auger to drill holes to get some water. Everyone had their little plans but luckily we never had to use them.
Yesterday (Wednesday) it was in the mid-thirties for most of the day with a drizzle coming down. Last night the drizzle turned to snow. Once again we have snow out the window.
Of course, the overall amount of snow has gone down drastically with all the rain. Inch by melting inch, we are losing our snow. No more skiers are due at the lodge so we’re all happy to see it melt.
The lake ice on Gunflint is still safe. We are all watching an ice house still on the lake. It is a good size wooden one and frozen in. With yesterday’s rain, then snow, and then freezing (it was 20 degrees this morning), that ice house is stuck even more solidly than it was last week. Each day during lunch we watch to see if anyone is trying to get it out. The guys are waiting to see the chain saws come out to cut it free. That’s a really messy, wet way to release the fish house. We will be glad to look out the window at the process.
Bruce got out for a little ice fishing on Saturday. The ice is perfect for just driving out to his new favorite spot. Here he is with two nice trout.
Shawn and her friend were out fishing too but only Bruce caught anything. We had to send the trout home with those who got nothing.
Last weekend was also dog lover’s weekend. We had an abundance of dogs in the cabins. John, our naturalist, spent part of Saturday afternoon introducing the dogs to skijoring. Here he is explaining the equipment to his group.
John’s dog, Rudy, is a real expert at skijoring and he just loves it. In fact, Rudy got a little bored listening to John explain everything. There was a fair amount of barking as Rudy expressed his impatience with John.
On Tuesday (31st) we will be closing the kitchen for almost a month. The last couple days in April we will start up again. Meanwhile, it is deep cleaning time – never one of our favorite projects but very much a necessary one. Every piece of equipment will be taken apart and scrubbed to shine. We always think that cleaning is done as we go along but this week shows us how much is missed. The guys really do a great job at this project. I understand that some painting is also planned for this time.
Bruce talked with son Robert in Missouri the other night. It seems that Grandson Zach went fishing with Nick and Sandy, his other grandparents. Zach hooked and landed on a fly rod a 15-inch rainbow trout all by himself. Pretty good for a 9 year old! Robert said that Zach was pretty proud of himself. We were too.
Ou cabins are now full for the Green Up during the first weekend of May. I understand that overall reservations are up from last year. After the horrible weather we had last May, it’s is really good to hear that people are still interested in tending the forest. Motels in Grand Marais still have space for the weekend.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
We are kind of getting hints that spring may be coming our way. If you remember, last week I took a picture out the kitchen window of Bruce snow blowing our 10-inch snow storm. Just a few minutes ago, I took another picture from that same window.
What a difference a week makes! Of course there is no sense in getting excited about this. Mother Nature will still have more snow to dump on us.
The side road is now bare of snow and dry. That is my signal to start walking again. This summer I have a special reason to walk. The week before Labor Day we are going to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking with two other couples from around here. Tom and Melissa started their walking program yesterday so I had to get going too. I must say that it felt good to be outside doing something. I am going to have to up the pace a bit if I plan on doing any mountain hiking. Right now the question is how sore will I be tonight? The first day of two miles usually leaves me groaning. I hedged my bets and took some Advil.
Last Saturday was the Mush For The Cure. Gunflint Pines and Mary Black sponsor this fun run to raise money for breast cancer research. In addition to dog sled teams, there was a special race for the skijoring teams. Adam Trefoil, our winter cook and summer guide, entered the skijoring run. Here is a picture of him all dressed up in his finery.
He placed last but we were still very proud of him. Adam’s dog, Mick, is only 11 months old and has just a couple months of training in skijoring. They will do much better next year. We are also very proud of the fact that of the 40 teams, Adam placed 10th in the amount of money raised. The whole event raised $23,000 which is very good for only the second year.
As spring approaches, it is time to think about the Gunflint Green Up. You may remember this event from last year. It is held on the anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire of 2007. Last spring almost 500 people came and planted 50,000 trees on Saturday. The weather was contrary as usual. On Friday night just as everyone was gathering in the tent for dinner, we had a constant downpour of rain. Overnight it changed to snow and we had about five inches in the morning. Everyone, however, had come ready to work in any weather. The ground was thawed under the snow and the trees went in. Then the melting snow was there to water them.
I worked with some local Girl Scout troops. They were young pre-teen and teens. They ate, sang, and planted constantly. They probably did as much as any adult. I like to think that in 20 years some of them will come back with their children. Can you imagine being able to point to a good sized white pine and tell you children that you planted that one?
So if you think you would be interested in participating in the program, just go to http://www.gunflintgreenup.com/ (or it might be .org). All the details for this year’s program are given at this website. It is a wonderful way to teach us all about stewardship of our forests.
The Gunflint Trail Association and its outfitting companies have just come out with a new book that might appeal to some of you. It is called “Becoming A Boundary Waters Family.” Sue Arendt edited several people’s writings for the book. The premise is that there are lots of family activities that anyone can do with their children (or grandchildren) to teach them about the woods. As more and more Americans live the cities and suburbs, this book offers a great opportunity for parents and children to become familiar with the northwoods. The book is about $15 plus shipping and sales tax. I know you will all be surprised to hear that we have it for sale.
I will be watching the progress of spring all week and bring you an update in my next column.