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.