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.