Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring Happenin

It is a gray windy day today. My barometer seems to indicate that we could have rain which is not all bad. It rained yesterday and last night some. The rain combined with the wind will help the ice go out soon. In fact right now we are probably just waiting for the northwest wind that starts to push the ice down Gunflint to the east. The wind today is south so that helps melt the ice but not take it out.

From my window at the house this morning I noticed a new deer kill on the ice. Here is a picture I tried to take after walking down to the shore.

All the birds flew away when I came but some eventually came back. I think you can see the two eagles. There were also sea gulls, crows, and ravens. By the end of today it will all be gone. You can see from the picture how black the ice is.

While walking down I noticed that the pussy willows we popping out. I also noticed (and picked up) a couple of plastic bags that had blown done sometime in the winter. It is always amazing what appears when the snow goes. Bruce and I try to get everything put away in the fall but something always appears next spring.

Spots of open water are appearing all over. Jon Schei, one of our fishing guides, just couldn’t wait to get his boat in the water. He went over to the west end of the lake where the Cross River is flowing in and cutting a large hole in the ice. Sheryl took a short video of this which I hope to be able to attach to this blog. Turn your speakers on because the sound of the water and the fishing boats sounds pretty good after all the frozen months. If not, you will have to be satisfied with me standing in front of the rapids at Campsite #18 in the Trails End Campground.


This weekend is the 2nd Annual Gunflint Green Up. About 300-400 people are scheduled in to plant trees and to release trees that were planted last year. A huge tent has been erected in the parking lot behind the outfitters for Friday and Saturday nights’ dinners. On Friday there will be exhibits in the conference center about green living. It is a great way to kick off the summer. I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

We are getting ready to start fishing. All the guides are working on their boats and equipment. I, of course, think that fresh fish would taste really good. Don’t suppose that either Bruce or I will get out to fish a little but you never know.

In addition to this blog, I have been asked to write a blog the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It is going to appear in the new Club Outdoors section online. They have about 18 bloggers from all over the state to help provide that little bit of extra local knowledge about outdoor sports in Minnesota. They are trying to get the blogs going tomorrow. I wrote my piece. I will figure out the address and let you know where to find me. The idea is to write on Monday and Thursday. So now I will be coming up with three different blogs each week. This will test my abilities as a writer.

For reason I don't necessarily understand, this video is at the end of the blog. I try next time to get it in the proper place.

video

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Are Closer To Open Water

Bruce and I had a great trip to Missouri last weekend. Nick and Sandy Halteman, Miranda’s parents, belong to a fly fishing club there. The club was having a one day show and we put up a little booth to advertize the outfitters. As this picture shows, Grandson Zach was our biggest helper there.

The show was held in a church. In exchange for the space, the church’s youth group sold us breakfast and lunch as a fund raiser. Lunch was prepared by a local man who smoked some pork for sandwiches. It was wonderful.

The only bad part about the entire trip was coming home. In Missouri (and probably where most of you live) the trees and shrubs were blooming. The grass was green. We got home Monday to several inches of new snow. What a downer!

Luckily on Tuesday the wind blew and yesterday it was in the 50’s. So, almost all the snow is gone. I was even able to get out into the garden and start cleaning my vegetable beds. The chives and rhubarb are starting to come up. There are leaves on the strawberry plants. Most important, the ground in the beds is not frozen. Of course, after two hours of crawling around weeding, every muscle in my body complained. It is the Advil time of year.

There are lots of other signs of spring. This week I have seen many returning birds: juncos, grackles, starlings, bald eagles, and seagulls. The North Brule River is starting to run, which indicates when our ice will go out on Gunflint. Don Brazell, the long time Gunflint Trail postman, said that when the North Brule ran freely (we are not quite there yet), the small lakes go out in a week and the large lakes go out in two weeks. With that in mind, open water is just around the corner. Bruce and I drove over to where the Cross River enters Gunflint. There is a noticeable channel of open water reaching a couple hundred feet into the lake.

As I sit in my office today, the wind is really blowing hard. The skies are clear. The temperature at 10:15 a.m. is 50 degrees. Another important factor in spring thaw is that it did not freeze last night. All these things combine to melt the snow and ice. Several days of these conditions would really speed the spring thaw along. Even a little rain would help. We will see what happens by next week.

Meanwhile spring chores are moving along at the lodge. April seems to be a month when we are overwhelmed with projects. Here is a picture of the guys moving out an old hot tub from Cabin #7 in preparation to putting in the new one.

Jason had to remove the window to take the old unit out. The new one is shaped differently and will come in through the doors. In a week or so, all six new tubs will be completely installed.

Carpets in cabins have been steam cleaned along with every other portion of the cabins. We had some new housekeeping staff start working. Bonnie told them to take everything off the walls before washing them. The girls even took the electrical switch box plates off! Even Bonnie doesn’t go quite that far.

The kitchen has been cleaned to within an inch of its life. Every piece of equipment has been taken apart and cleaned. The hood over the stove was scrubbed. Floors in the coolers, entry way and dry storage have been painted. Yesterday our first food order of the new season arrived. The Bistro will open on Friday evening, April 24th. Justine’s will be opening in May.

So now all that we are doing is waiting for you to come up and visit.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

With Easter coming tomorrow, the Gunflint Trail is entering a special fifth season that only people who live in areas with dirt roads have – the Mud Season. The ground is not thawed but the snow is melting. That means that water turns every road into a muddy mess. Here is what our driveway looks like.
We track in more dirt at this time of year than during the entire rest of the year.
Of course, this is also the time of year when we are really tearing everything apart to deep clean.

The kitchen is closed (until 4/25) and there is no food coming out. That means the managers cook for themselves. The other day was my turn and we had goulash. As is usual, I made twice as much as we needed so we ate this again the next day. The lunches we normally get are great but it is good to have something different. Also we don’t eat quite a much as when the cooks plate it for us.

Speaking of deep cleaning, even the front desk people get involved in this. Annie was washing up a storm the other day.

When the phone rings, she just dries her hands and answers as if she had nothing better to do. By the end of the day, your clothes are filthy dirty and, hopefully, you have taken a few reservations.

Jason, our head of maintenance, has his hands full this spring. We are replacing 6 hot tubs. He is trying to get them all in during April. It is a huge project but will bring us totally up to the new rules. Surprisingly, all the old tubs are quickly being snapped up by neighbors for use in their own homes.

With all the restaurants closed on the Trail, our Wednesday night dinner group has had to resort to going to individual homes. The other night was my turn. There were 8 of us and the meal is really easy because it is potluck. Everyone has their own specialties that they like to bring. Fran brought a great corn dish, Sue baked potatoes, and Melissa made sure we had a chocolate cake for dessert. I threw a turkey in the oven. After dinner we played Hand and Foot which is a variation of canasta that works for a large group. The women beat the men. Their excuse was that they wanted us to go home happy. No one in our group really takes any game seriously so it is a night filled with laughs.

In case you think that all this talk of spring means my gardening days are coming soon, here is a picture of the garden now.

I think it will be some time before I get into it. The ice on the lake is perfectly solid too. Yesterday we saw a truck out there driving. There is still snow on the lake. The lake conditions are just perfect for skate skiing. As I am writing this, I can hear snowmobiles on the lake. It is about 45 outside today. This morning it was 19 so we didn’t even start melting until late morning.

Wednesday Bruce and I are taking off for a short trip to Missouri. On the way we will stop in Northfield to visit St. Olaf College where Grandson Tanner has been accepted. I am particularly pleased because it’s where I went to school.

Bruce used to tease me about going to a “cow college.” My response was that he was an Ivy League snob (Cornell) who got in through the school’s desire for geographic distribution. Put a nickel in any couple who has been married as long as we have and all these repetitive stories come out. Our kids know them all and just groan.

After the St. Olaf visit, we will spend the weekend with Robert, Miranda, and Zach. You know who’s the most important of those three to see. Then on Monday we will be attending a food show in Duluth. Who knows what tasty new ideas we will get for the dining room.

With Easter coming tomorrow, the Gunflint Trail is entering a special fifth season that only people who live in areas with dirt roads have – the Mud Season. The ground is not thawed but the snow is melting. That means that water turns every road into a muddy mess. Here is what our driveway looks like.

We track in more dirt at this time of year than during the entire rest of the year.

Of course, this is also the time of year when we are really tearing everything apart to deep clean. The kitchen is closed (until 4/25) and there is no food coming out. That means the managers cook for themselves. The other day was my turn and we had goulash.

As is usual, I made twice as much as we needed so we ate this again the next day. The lunches we normally get are great but it is good to have something different. Also we don’t eat quite a much as when the cooks plate it for us.

Speaking of deep cleaning, even the front desk people get involved in this. Annie was washing up a storm the other day.

When the phone rings, she just dries her hands and answers as if she had nothing better to do. By the end of the day, your clothes are filthy dirty and, hopefully, you have taken a few reservations.

Jason, our head of maintenance, has his hands full this spring. We are replacing 6 hot tubs. He is trying to get them all in during April. It is a huge project but will bring us totally up to the new rules. Surprisingly, all the old tubs are quickly being snapped up by neighbors for use in their own homes.

With all the restaurants closed on the Trail, our Wednesday night dinner group has had to resort to going to individual homes. The other night was my turn. There were 8 of us and the meal is really easy because it is potluck. Everyone has their own specialties that they like to bring. Fran brought a great corn dish, Sue baked potatoes, and Melissa made sure we had a chocolate cake for dessert. I threw a turkey in the oven. After dinner we played Hand and Foot which is a variation of canasta that works for a large group. The women beat the men. Their excuse was that they wanted us to go home happy. No one in our group really takes any game seriously so it is a night filled with laughs.

In case you think that all this talk of spring means my gardening days are coming soon, here is a picture of the garden now.

I think it will be some time before I get into it. The ice on the lake is perfectly solid too. Yesterday we saw a truck out there driving. There is still snow on the lake. The lake conditions are just perfect for skate skiing. As I am writing this, I can hear snowmobiles on the lake. It is about 45 outside today. This morning it was 19 so we didn’t even start melting until late morning.

Wednesday Bruce and I are taking off for a short trip to Missouri. On the way we will stop in Northfield to visit St. Olaf College where Grandson Tanner has been accepted. I am particularly pleased because it’s where I went to school.

Bruce used to tease me about going to a “cow college.” My response was that he was an Ivy League snob (Cornell) who got in through the school’s desire for geographic distribution. Put a nickel in any couple who has been married as long as we have and all these repetitive stories come out. Our kids know them all and just groan.

After the St. Olaf visit, we will spend the weekend with Robert, Miranda, and Zach. You know who’s the most important of those three to see. Then on Monday we will be attending a food show in Duluth. Who knows what tasty new ideas we will get for the dining room.