Last weekend was the tenth edition of Books in the Woods at the lodge. Between two authors (Libby Fischer Hellmann and Ann Bauer) and our coordinators (Joci Tilsen, Jim Bour and Lisa Wagner), we had about 40 people. This picture shows the Joci, Jim, Lisa, Bruce and I on the last night. I think that everyone in the group had a good time. One of the best parts about this event is that all the discussions are small group. That means everyone really gets a chance to ask questions. It is a big difference between what we have and listening to a lecture with 200 other people.
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.