Friday, December 31, 2010

Time To Start Another Year

We had a nice snow day yesterday. It started out not so good. The temperature was 35 and we got rain off and on for most of the morning and afternoon. By late afternoon, we got down to 32 degrees and then it started to snow – a wet, heavy snow. The trees held onto every snowflake until they looked flocked. Overnight we got about 6 inches of new snow. It was really nice to see.

This morning everyone was out cleaning up. Don and our dishwasher, Jon Prasil, were shoveling. Bruce pulled rank and got to drive the plow truck. Luckily he didn’t hit anything or Jason would have given him a hard time.

I tried to at least shovel the front steps but the shovel got taken out of my hands. So I went home for a few minutes late in the morning and got to shovel the twenty feet from the drive to my door. As a child, I used to shovel the driveway all the time. Sometimes I did it at night or even early in the morning before school. It is kind of like cutting the grass – both are things I enjoy doing but rarely get to do now.

Don and I went out to check the thickness of the ice the other day. As a fire department member he has a bright yellow dry suit he puts on. Then we attach a 50 foot rope to him. I hold the other end of the rope as if I was walking a dog. There is a radio in my pocket to call for help if Don goes through. We have never had to use it.

At any rate we found that the ice is quite thick and solid. Generally there was 10-16 inches of solid blue ice. At one spot where there was a crack, we only had 6 inches but that is still plenty thick. The fact that the ice was solid blue meant it was a strongest kind of ice. Sometimes we have an accumulation of slush ice on top which is not nearly as strong. Of course, there still could be weak spots where a spring hole comes up. It is hard to realize that the ice changes constantly during the winter.

At the lodge we have been particularly busy. In fact, it is difficult to tell where all these people are coming from. Tonight is also going to be busy. We don’t make a big deal about New Year’s Eve but the dining room is packed. At about 10:00 p.m. John Silliman will have a bonfire in front of the lodge. That’s our big celebration. I haven’t made it to midnight in many years.

The phones have been particularly busy with reservations. If you are planning a winter trip to Gunflint, be sure to call us as soon as you can set your dates. I don’t know if it’s the economy or us, but it is going to be a very busy winter.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas the Night before Christmas

Those of us who live in the northwoods are ready for Santa. All our cards and packages have been sent. There is a steady stream of incoming cards and packages. Christmas trees have been cut in the back lot. At our house we have an “organic” tree – it’s from the grove of trees between our garden and the side road. Yesterday Bruce put on the lights. My job is the ornaments. It is one of our better efforts.

Meanwhile at the lodge we have a lots of guests coming and going. Most of the pre-Christmas guests left on the 23rd. Nine new parties checked in and most of them will be with us through Christmas. When they leave, we will have the New Year’s guests. It is all great fun since many of them are repeat guests.

There will be nine at our dinner table on Christmas. Tom and Melissa from Tucker Lake with Melissa’s sister and brother-in-law will be there. Sheryl from the lodge will come down. Our two Jamaican girls, Crystale and Ashenna, will also join us. I had to warn them that Christmas food is pretty bland by their standards. Bruce says that Norwegians (me) think salt and pepper are exotic spices.

In our house we always eat Christmas dinner around 1:00. This dates back to when Butchie and Charlie, our Native American neighbors, would join us. They always liked to be home before dark so an early dinner gave them plenty of time to be sociable. It was always fun to have them for dinner. As you may know, neither of them could read or write but they had perfect table manners. One time I saw Butchie elbow Charlie and tell him to use his salad fork. They learned by watching us and there was never a miscue. We always sent them home with fixings for sandwiches that night.

In fact, I enjoy a leftover sandwich about 8:00 p.m. almost as much as I enjoy the main meal. There are only 9 of us for dinner but we have a 20 lb. turkey just to make sure that there are plenty of leftovers to send home with everyone and still leave some for me. I will make enough dressing, and mashed potatoes to feed an army. Bruce carves and does the gravy. Melissa brings the cranberry relish, green bean casserole and chocolate pie. Sheryl brings rice pudding. The girls are bringing cornmeal muffins. I love Christmas cookies and that is the problem so I don’t make them anymore.

Of course, all four of the kids will check in during the day. I’ll call my sister and my good friend Bev in Grand Marais. It’s Bev’s fault that I am here at all but that story will have to wait for another day. There are two different versions of the story depending on whether Bruce or I am telling.

At any rate, Bruce and I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Commercial Break

Occasionally it is time for a commercial break. This is my time.

If you look back at our website, you will see that Bruce is offering a piece of jewelry when you make a reservation for Gunflint Lodge in May, 2011. The immediate reaction is the same one that Dave at the front desk had – “What is this? How did Bruce decide on a website called to supply the jewelry?”

Now it is time to think about helping your children. Bruce and I are proud to say that our daughter-in-law, Eva, has launched this site with her friend, Sarah. Sarah designs and makes the jewelry. Eva takes care of the rest of the business. This is a brand new venture for each of them. Many of you know that new ventures are started on a shoe string. As parents it is our responsibility to make that shoe string stretch a little further.

With this in mind, please take a minute to look at the website at The holidays are almost upon us and one of their pieces might work for someone on your list who still needs a gift.

Fashion is not my strong point but I know my family. Eva would never be involved in anything that was not top quality.

I think this qualifies as a 60-second commercial.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Wins

Yesterday, the last barrier to winter collapsed, or rather tightened up. The lake is now frozen everywhere. It was about 12 below the night before last and 15 below last night. We would like several more nights of below zero to give the ice a good start. If we get snow too soon, the snow insulates the ice and it does not get thick quickly. The general rule of thumb is to wait for a week to ten days before testing the ice. If there is any question, we just wait a little longer. No one is anxious to go swimming now.

This cold weather looks absolutely beautiful from my window looking out. There is a real sparkle to the snow and ice. I am ready to send Bruce out for the Christmas tree. We have a favorite story from years ago when Bruce went out one Sunday to cut a tree for the house. I am at home making Christmas cookies when suddenly the power goes out. My immediate thought was, “He couldn’t have.” But he did. It was the most expensive tree we ever had.

Adam Treeful, who has guided many of you for fishing, is now running a team of sled dogs for rides. I went out with him about a week ago. It is such great fun. Saturday and Sunday many of our guests went out with him and everyone had a great time. At the end, it was hard to tell who was the most tired: Adam or the dogs. Both dogs and trainer always go through this early fatigue while they get in shape.

Bruce and I were gone most of last week. We went near Chetek, Wisconsin, for the annual meeting of six Minnesota resorts who belong to the Distinguished Lodges group. It is a great time to share our successes, failures, frustrations, and surprises after a busy season. It is truly amazing how similar are summers are.

After a couple days there, we flew to Salt Lake City for the annual convention of America Outdoors. This group is primarily made up of rafters, kayaks, dude ranches, canoers, etc. Many have lodging as part of their operation. We have known lots of these people for years. They come from all over the country. Again it is a great time to share our summer experiences and to get new ideas.

My big new project (as a result of these two conferences) is to learn Facebook. I am a little intimidated by it all. So if any of you are looking for friends or have so helpful suggestions, I am ready to listen. I think I have signed up as Susan Kerfoot but it was so long ago that I can really remember. Once I figure out my personal page, the next step is to figure out a page for Gunflint Lodge. So spend a few moments, folks, and help educate me about Facebook.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Home Again

I skipped a week of writing. Last Tuesday Bruce and I drove down to the Twin Cities and the next day we flew to California. It was time to see how our three grandchildren out there were growing up. As might be expected, they had grown much more than we expected and not just in height. It is such fun to see how each of them is developing their own personality.

Thanksgiving morning we participated in a run for the hungry. This is a longstanding event that raises money for the local food shelf. About 35,000 people bought bibs for the 10k run, 5k run and walk. Needless to say we were in the walking group which was pretty much a stroll due to the number of people. The best part was that later in the day we could eat a great Thanksgiving Day meal and truly enjoy it.

On Monday we flew back to Minneapolis and drove home. It rained all the way to Poplar Lake. Once we got over the Laurentian Divide, it was snowing. Our snow conditions are the best they have been in years. For Thanksgiving we even had some groomed trails. It is just lovely out. I understand that later in the week the temperature is supposed to get below zero. If the wind dies down, the lake could freeze. We will see what happens.

Above this blog are two pictures. One is of the meeting of a yellow lab and a deer with the pane of glass between them. Wouldn’t you love to know what was going through their minds? The other picture shows the lake and shore as it is now. My thanks go to two guests who sent us the pictures. I am always willing to put someone else’s pictures on the blog.

The rifle deer hunting season is over. My neighbor said that during the season he had not seen one deer in his yard. The day after the season closed the bunch of deer came in. How do they know it is safe to come in now?

Bruce went out one morning for a little deer hunting. I reminded him to bring home the heart and liver if he got a deer. He said this was just to look around and he probably wouldn’t see anything. Well, two and a half hours later, he had two deer! Neither one was big. They were both just nice eating size. That night for dinner, he had part of the heart and I had part of the liver. A pile of fried onions topped off the meat. Since then we have had several meals of chops, roasts, and burgers. It is a treat for both of us.

As the holiday season comes along, our calendars are full of parties. Most of the presents are bought and just need to be wrapped shipped. Christmas cards are staring me in the face. They will be done over the weekend. Bruce has to get out and cut down a tree. I am anxious to get it up. The living room is so much warmer with the lights from a Christmas tree.

Tonight we are joining our neighbors for dinner in the Red Paddle. Every Wednesday we try to get together at some place for dinner. The meals are good but the friendship is better.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Project Lis Neveer Ends

Sheryl sent me the two pictures above. As you can see, we have received our first snow of about 4-5 inches. It was wet and heavy and beautiful. It is interesting to me to look at these two pictures. Both are “in color” but there is not much color showing. The lake is really a slate gray and everything else seems to be in the same gray and white hues. I have to tell you that it really does look just like this today.
Of course, Sheryl sends me these pictures because she likes them. It is also a general reminder that it’s time to write another blog. So what is going on around here?
The dining rooms closed at noon on Sunday. They will open again on Thursday evening with the Red Paddle and Friday evening with Justine’s. We will now be serving meals in at least the Red Paddle until spring. Meanwhile, the kitchen is sparkling clean. A new two-door refrigerator has replaced one of the old ones. The cooks moved a little equipment around to make things flow more smoothly.
The work weekend guests last weekend did another awesome job finishing up projects. All the canoes and kayaks are up to the canoe yard for the winter. Skis and snowshoes are out in the outfitters ready for rental. Two of the women even helped Bonnie clean a needed cabin. They were nurses and knew how to make beds. All the wood piles got another hit. No matter how big the piles are, they will be down to nothing by spring.
Meanwhile everyone else is working to finish up their regular projects. Katie and Kaci at the front desk are inventorying the gift shop in between answering the telephone. Everyone from the kitchen is helping Bonnie with deep cleaning in cabins. Jason Merrill and Lance Huskey are building new steps leading up to the conference center. Justin has moved from the stable to the outside crew. He got his first baptism into shoveling snow the last few days. All the steps are done the old fashioned way with shovel. Think how many steps there are around the property.
Bruce and I have our projects too. He is busy laying out the lodge summer and outfitters rate sheets for 2011. Another job is to plan the marketing for next summer. Writing this blog is one of my jobs. I am also in charge of Christmas presents for the staff. They are all figured out but still need to be ordered. Another of my projects is organizing and cataloging all the pictures for the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. I have an Access program designed and about 300 pictures entered in. It is a drop in the bucket as I think there are 3000 pictures in our database.
Slowly we are all getting through our project lists as I imagine you are too. The lists only get longer as the Holidays get closer.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

More Fall Projects

We are still working on getting ready for winter. There always seems to be just one more task to do. The second picture shows Jason ready to push the smaller dock across the lake to its winter mooring spot. The large dock has been completely dismantled and sent to the dump. A new one will replace it next spring. It is always a toss up to replace the dock when you think it is worn out or to wait until is actually breaks up during a bad wind storm. This time we opted to be conservative and replace it before it broke apart.
The first picture shows the dock and porch area set for winter. The docks are gone. All the furniture is put away for another year. There is still one boat on a trailer. This is in case we need a boat and motor for an emergency. It will go into storage when the lake freezes in about a month.
This weekend was the first of our two fall work weekends. We had a great group of about 50 people who spent time Saturday helping us with chores. All the summer furniture was put away. The flowers beds were cleaned of dead annuals from last summer. A load of hay went into the stable storage. Firewood was split and hauled all over. An especially large amount was hauled for use in the lodge. The staff told everyone that “Bruce and Sue really like to burn a lot in the lodge fireplaces.” I admit we are both guilty. A fire in the fireplace raises more than just the temperature.
Even in our own home, we burn lots of wood. The other day Bruce came home about 4:00 p.m. to announce that we were going logging. Right about where he parks his truck in our yard was a dead, dead cedar tree. This type of cedar tree is his favorite for kindling. So out we went. He cut and I hauled into the truck. After the trunk had been cut, we broke off all the branches for more kindling. It was quite a nice addition to the firewood on the front porch.
Another part of the firewood is our garbage can filled with birch bark. This is used instead of newspaper to get stuff going. Bruce says that I use too much to start a fire. There is a huge pile of birch bark back by where the firewood is cut, split, and stacked for the lodge. I am the one who hauls that down to the house. So who cares how much I use?
We were talking with one of the kids this morning. As is often the case, they regularly have suggestions for us. Today’s suggestion was a name for a new package. Everyone knows how Bruce loves packages. The name was “Star Struck.” It resonated with both Bruce and I. Last night we had stepped outside the house after dark. Just above the northern tree tops was the Big Dipper perfectly outlined by a black sky. It was just glorious. Part of the thrill probably is because that’s the only constellation that I truly recognize. I often look for it when we are on vacation. Wherever it is, I’m home.
Justine’s and the Red Paddle are closed for several days. The kitchen staff is tearing apart the stoves, exhaust hoods, grills, and fryers for semi-annual deep cleaning. It is the kind of work that is hard to do when we are using the same equipment to cook meals. It will all be spick and span again in a couple of days.
With all the cleaning going on, I will have to try some at home.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back In The Door

It is good to be back home again but we did have a marvelous vacation. We spent four nights in Lauderbrunen, Switzerland, and loved it. Our hotel was into the fourth generation of family ownership. Naturally we got to talk to the current generation and see some of the back of the house operations. Many of their issues are the same ones we deal with. The valley they are located in is spectacular. There are three glaciers at the end – the Jungfrau, the Monch, and the Eiger. We took trains up and walked down. All too soon it was time to move on.

The next major stop was Tuscany and our villa. I think everyone enjoyed being in a house rather than a hotel. We stopped for wine tasting and house tours at vineyards. We went to a local weekly fair. We spent time in Siena and Florence. We ate at Trattoria Za Za which was good and we bought their cookbook. We also got stuck in an elevator in the parking lot for about an hour.

Our last stop was Rome. I dragged everyone around to the major sites to see – catacombs, churches, piazzas, fountains, and museums. We attended a Papal audience. We climbed to the top of St. Peter’s. We spent 5 hours in the Vatican Museum. We walked all over and averaged probably 5 miles a day of walking.

Needless to say, we ate every kind of pizza and pasta there was available. We also ate venison in Switzerland. We picnicked in the Alps as we walked down a valley and at the top of the Gottard Pass as we drove through. We ate gelato in Rome and chocolate in Switzerland. It was all great fun made even better by sharing it with our friends.

Time was not standing still at Gunflint while we were gone. In fact winter is almost here. Our first couple days home were windy and rainy and miserable. Today it is cold (25 this morning) but the sun is out. I noticed that Jason has the plow truck plugged in each night and the snow plow is right behind the truck ready to be put on immediately.

The animals are anticipating winter too. Snow buntings are migrating through. Snowshoe rabbits are changing color. The ones in my yard have white feet and white bellies. I understand they also have a white edge around each ear but I missed that.

As things are a little slower here, the staff is taking some vacation time. I have to look are a written schedule to figure out who is here on any given day. Our weekends are busy but mid-week is slow. We are closing the dining rooms a bit so that deep cleaning can go on in the kitchen. It is hard to clean the stove exhaust hood if you are trying to cook.

Reservations are still coming in strongly, especially for the winter. Both of our fall work weekends are full. Thanksgiving is filling up with cabin guests and locals coming for dinner. I haven’t really looked at Christmas and New Year’s yet but they will be busy too.

So Bruce and I are enjoying some home-cooked meals and evening down time but we will be ready to welcome you all this winter.

Friday, October 01, 2010

One Foot Out The Door

We are in the midst of the peak of fall color. About the only thing that hasn’t turned is the tamarack. Tamarack are the only pine trees to shed their needles every fall. The needles turn a beautiful yellow/gold color. With all the wind we have been having, I am not sure how long the leaves will remain on the trees. A few have already blown off but there are still plenty hanging on to the branches.

Yesterday was the last day of the lake trout fishing season. It was windy, overcast and generally nasty. So, of course, we decided to go fishing. After lunch we piled on a few layers of clothing and topped it all off with our rain suits. The sky and the water were both black. We went across the lake to a reef that is almost out of the water due to the low water level. First we tried jigging but that didn’t do anything. Next was to troll some rapalas. I got a bite but it snapped my line taking my orange lure. Then I had another bite on our last orange rapala. The fish spit that one back at me. Finally I landed a nice lake trout. We trolled a bit more with no luck.

Down the lake we went to try a couple of other spots. Still no luck. Back we came to our original spot. It was Bruce’s turn to catch three in a row – one bass and two lake trout. It was time to go home. Bruce caught the most fish but I got the biggest. We ate the bass for dinner and had enough trout to put in the freezer for seven meals over the winter. That is something to look forward to.

Our guests this weekend are a great bunch a ladies called Always an Adventure. There are 32 of them. They have been out exploring all over the countryside. Yesterday John took them over the to hike the Centennial Trail. Today 6 of them went with him to Stairway Portage. Meanwhile the others have been out kayaking and hiking some of the trails in the back basin. Two of them took a boat out for a little fishing this morning. It is great fun to see them all our enjoying fall in the woods.

I have been sneaking back to the house to do washing and planning the packing for our trip. We will be leaving on Tuesday, October 5th, and drive to the Cities. Then on the 6th we fly to Milan and meet our friends. They are all flying out of JFK in New York. It was going to cost us $1000 (I didn’t add an extra zero) each to fly out of JFK. Needless to say we are flying out of Atlanta. Each night I am reading my guide books.

My mouth can already taste all the wonderful food. Patty Feeney, I already have the Trattoria Za Za in Florence marked on my city map. Patty has heard that it is a great place to eat in Florence. I will let you all know.

So don’t expect anything from me until the end of October. I’ll give you a blow by blow account of our trip. There will be some unexpected adventures to tell you, I am sure.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

After Fall Comes Winter

We have just finished a perfect fall weekend. The maple trees are at their peak. Red and orange leaves are visible around every corner. The yellows of the poplar, birch, ash and tamarack are slowly coming. They will probably not peak for about ten days. I will enjoy every day of this colorful season. In fact I have trouble deciding if the color looks best on bright sunny days or dark overcast days.

Across the lake behind Cross River Lodge (formerly Borderland) a large stand of maples is making an appearance. Bruce and I assume that it is a bunch of trees growing up from the blowdown in 1999. They are now big enough for us to see.

Last weekend the partridge hunting season opened. Bruce and I have been very successful as we wander on the back roads looking for birds. Yesterday I even got two birds with one shot. The second bird was perfectly lined up with the first and I never even saw it. On Sunday we had our first partridge dinner with wild rice and acorn squash. Unfortunately, we either got a really tough old bird or my timing was off. The meat was tough! I was so disappointed. Maybe I have forgotten how to cook.

In the annual cycle of seasons, the coming of fall months mean that winter is not far away. I like winter but around the resort there are lots of projects that have to be finished before snow hits the ground.

My garden, pitiful as it was, got a last hit. The basil was cut and taken to the kitchen to be made into pesto and frozen for winter. The parsley was also cut and put in my dehydrator for the winter supply of dried parsley flakes in our house.

Up at the stable Mandy and Justin are washing all the saddle blankets. With a chance of frost, they leave the water running a bit so it won’t freeze overnight. Mandy also received a load of hay to carry us through next summer until a new crop is ready.

Jason and Lance have been busy winterizing everything. This week’s project was to pull all the pumps from the fire protection water system. They will be stored in a heated garage all winter. Then all the hoses are drained. I also noticed that the plow is now sitting in front of the workshop ready to be put on the truck as soon as needed.

Ronnie and Rick are working on the plants. All small trees and shrubs get wrapped in chicken wire or burlap. It doesn’t look very pretty but it saves the trees from deer until we get taller trees. Ronnie has also finished the plant order for next spring. Some of the neighbors will add to that order.

Firewood is the project of the dock staff. They have almost everything cut and split that we have on hand. Now it is time for the new loads of firewood to appear. It comes in 8’ lengths. Jason and Don cut it up and the dock staff splits it. The final step is to store it down behind the lodge and around each cabin.

Ski trails are getting their fall mowing. When you have to make two or three passes over every trail, it takes a bit of time. Jason has gone over the trails first to take out the windfalls that always occur.

Through all this the kitchen just keeps putting out more meals. The Red Paddle Bistro and Justine’s have been busier than ever. During slow times we are cleaning everywhere in the kitchen. Freezer supplies are going down to the lower levels of winter.

Up at the outfitters the last parties are coming in. All the food is being stored in mouse-proof containers. Sleeping bags are hung open for the winter. Air mattresses that are usually rolled up spend the winter lying flat. Soon all the equipment will be covered with plywood. The cross country ski equipment and snowshoes will hang against the plywood and be stacked on shelves..

As I write today a northwest wind is howling outside. My thoughts turn to Bonnie and Sheryl who are on their annual fall trip. This year the trip started at Beaverhouse Lake on the north side of the Quetico. They took with them a new fancy GPS that sends us a signal showing where they are. Our e-mail said they spent a couple of days on Quetico Lake. Yesterday they were on Snow Lake. Hopefully the wind will continue to be at their back.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September is Going Fast.

Labor Day and the main of the summer are now behind us. Leaves are turning and fall is definitely here. The maple tree across from the front door of the lodge has almost completely turned. Today we have a strong northwest wind that is blowing orange maple leaves all over. I just love it.

During the past couple weeks we have had several weddings at the lodge. Our favorite occurred last Friday (Sept. 10th). Mandy Kroeger (who runs the stable in the summer and waitresses in the winter) married Lance Huskey (who works on maintenance). Both of them are really outdoor lovers. Above is a picture of them from the wedding with Lance’s son, Jonathan, who was the ring bearer. We all wish them the very best.

Bruce is working on a project at the house for me. At our house there is a long cement porch facing the lake and under the roof line. Our plan was to put a slate floor on this and then a fire ring out further. Well, this fall the slate floor is going in. Lance and Jason have both been helping him at various times. By today, they will be almost 2/3’s finished. I told Bruce that now I will have to buy some outdoor furniture. I will be kind of working up to that purchase over the winter.

Thursday, I finally got another story out to Lee’s son, Grant. In June I wrote “Grandpa goes Minnow Trapping.” This one is “Grandma and Grandpa take a Canoe Trip.” Generally I take a bunch of pictures with my little camera and then write a story about the event. Each page has a picture and some text. This one was 20 pages long. For a three-year-old boy there doesn’t need to be a lot of plot or character development. He seems to enjoy them. I think my next book might be “Grandma and Grandpa live in the Northwoods.” Maybe he and I will grow up together into more developed stories.

Winter reservations are steadily coming in. I am amazed at how fast they are coming. Yesterday was Saturday night which is generally a dead telephone night. We took three new reservations!

Tonight is very quiet in the dining room. Bruce and I have decided to not go down to the lodge. Usually we are there for every dinner but today is a good day to take a break. If it gets really busy, the front desk will call us. Actually they do just about everything to avoid calling us which is nice. We’ll probably watch a football game before we fall asleep in front of the TV.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fall Is in the Air

As August is drawing to an end, our heat wave has finally broken. We have had a lot of warm and even hot days this summer. The warm days don’t bother me as long as it cools off at night. Unfortunately, we have had several nights that have not cooled off. I think those hot nights are now a thing of the past.

There was an interesting visitor trying to get in our window this past week. For several nights I have heard something scratching at the bedroom screen right by my head. My response is to generally close my eyes tighter and pull the blanket up higher. Bruce, on the other hand, wants to see what’s going on. The other night he finally saw the animal. It was a bat trying to get in. Needless to say, I was not very pleased with this news. In my mind I know that our screens will keep the bat out but there is always a chance. So for the next couple of nights I kept the window closed. All that happened was that the cool breeze was kept out.

Bruce and two of the guys are starting to put a slate top to the porch on the lake side of our house. It is a big project because the pieces of slate are so heavy. Sometimes I think it takes three of them to lift the slate in place. Once this job is finished, a fire ring will go just outside the porch roof. Then the question arises as to how much we will actually use the fire ring. We are pretty good about sitting out on the porch for a break on a hot summer afternoon. Will we actually sit outside at night and look at a fire? Only time will tell.

Our winter brochure goes to the printer’s this week. Bruce puts it all together and then the managers look at it for corrections. Sheryl is good about finding spelling errors. Marilyn wants to make sure that all the packages are evenly divisible by the number of nights in the package. So a three-night package must divide evenly into three. Everyone has a chance to make suggestions and corrections.

Although we don’t have a lot of winter reservations, we do have considerably more than last year. If it is a good snow winter, we expect to be very busy. Watch online in a couple weeks and the winter rates and packages will start to appear. Some of you will be getting the new brochure in the mail. On a hot day, it almost cools you down to take a winter reservation.

Just like my last blog, I am thinking about vacation time. Of course, we have six weeks of work before leaving but our trip is pretty well planned. We fly out October 6th for Milan. Our first stop will be a short week in Switzerland near the Jungfrau glacier. Then we will drive south to a villa in Tuscany for another week. Finally we will spend a week in Rome before flying home. Three couples from earlier trips will be joining us. When I am tired, thoughts of the vacation keep me going.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Days at Gunflint

It is hard to believe that we are almost half way through August. Just like July, it has been a very busy month. In particular we have had lots of large families every week. It is good to see them all having fun. With our warm weather, the kids have been living in the lake. Every day the small kayaks and the yellow tubes are out all over. Parents and grandparents have been sitting on the patio just enjoying watching the activity. With warm weather the patio has also been a favorite place for dinners. No bugs, cool breezes and the setting sun make for wonderful eating.

In spite of all the activity around the lodge, we still seem to have animals visiting. A loon family with one chick is frequently seen just off the dock area. Mallards are, of course, consuming more than their share of the corn. This morning I did notice a chipmunk with fat cheeks who must be cleaning up any leftover corn.

One of the neighbors drove past the lodge on her way to blueberry picking at about 8:00 a.m. the other morning. Standing right in front of the fire hall was a large healthy wolf. She stopped to watch the animal as it casually walked off into the woods. We forget how many animals are around us.

On Tuesday we did our maiden voyage serving pizzas for lunch. I made them in the wood fired oven. It was fun. I am amazed at how quickly the pizzas cook in there. It only took about five minutes. With an oven hovering around 500 degrees, things cook fast. You have to watch the pizzas continually to make sure that the crust does not burn on one side. We were able to make several kinds so most everyone who ordered had their favorite. The next step is to figure out some more variation to the toppings.

People are still out picking blueberries. The peak is past but they are still available in some of the more protected spots that ripen later. Bruce went out yesterday and picked almost a gallon in about an hour. The raspberries are over. Even in our garden, the leaves on the bushes are turning yellow.

This is the time of year when the leaves along the shoulders of the road are also starting to turn color. It is a reminder than fall is coming. Another reminder is that our days are shortening. It is dark by 9-9:30 and not fully light until 7:00. Although I like winter, the short days are not my favorites. In December it will not be fully light until 8:00 a.m. and will be dark between 4:30 and 5:00.

Bruce and I are planning a fall trip with three other couples. We will spend a week in Switzerland and two weeks in Italy. Don is already worrying about what menu ideas we will come home with. I, on the other hand, can’t wait to try some new foods. When we are tired in August, the fall trip sounds really good.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

An Annual Canoe Trip

Bruce and I spent last week on a canoe trip with our good friends Tom and Melissa. This year the destination was Blackstone Lake in the Quetico Provincial Park. We were gone for six days. It was a difficult trip in and out but just wonderful during the three nights we spent on Blackstone.

The first day we got a tow from Tuscarora Outfitters to Hook Island. Then we paddled to the ranger station in Cache Bay. Long time Quetico Ranger Janice Matichuk issued our permit, reminded us of the rules and gave us some tips on campsites. Next we crossed Cache Bay, portaged around Silver Falls and went up close to the mouth of the creek that leads into Blackstone Lake. Bruce caught a nice walleye that we had for appetizers before dinner.

The next day we took off down the creek. After 4 portages and three beaver dams, we made it to the lake. A day’s travel like this has gotten more difficult in the last few years. Even trying to go light, each couple has three packs and a canoe to carry over the portages. One of our problems, of course, is that we like to eat a certain number of heavy things. At any rate we were all pretty tired when we got to our campsite. We slept very well that night.

The next two days were spent doing not much of anything. Tom and Bruce were sent out on the hunt for fish for dinner. We had fresh fish the next three nights. Eating fish that was swimming in the water just hours ago makes you realize how important freshness is to the taste of fish. We eat every kind of fish – walleye, bass and northern. Didn’t try to any lake trout but they would have been good too.

One day we almost lost our dinner. Tom and Melissa paddled over the check out another campsite. Bruce and I elected to take a nap. Our fish for dinner were left on a stringer tied to a shrub next to the water. On the way home, Tom and Melissa saw a big bird standing near the fish. It was a bald eagle and he was eating our northern! Because the stringer was tied to the bush, the eagle could not fly off with the fish. Even so he managed to eat most of the northern. Bruce and Tom had to go out and catch a couple more fish for dinner.

Melissa enjoys spending her time taking pictures around our campsites. I have been writing a story for my youngest grandson. Some very amateur pictures will go with it to give him an idea of our trip. Our social calendar after dinner is generally filled with a competitive game of Yahtzee. That is about as long as we can stay awake.

We came out another way. It had four portages but no beaver dams. All eight of our portages were difficult because they are rarely used. They are narrow and rocky. They go across creeks and into mucky areas around swamps. Coming out is not so bad because we have eaten most of our food. As difficult as the trip may be at times, we are already planning for next year.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

July -- The Month for Visitors

July is turning out to be a busy month. The opening at Chik-Wauk was a huge success. On the 4th, there were about 350 people for the grand opening. Each day the museum has been open since then, there have been at least 100 visitors. There are also lots of people walking the hiking trails, picking blueberries and picnicking on the grounds. It makes everyone involved feel good about the project.

Our friends, Ron and Pat, from the Florida Keys are visiting us for a week. After the necessary trip to Chik-Wauk, we spent some time picking blueberries. The result is that on Friday Pat and I made 29 jars of blueberry jam. On Friday we made 16 jars of strawberry/rhubarb jam. Strawberry/rhubarb is Ron’s favorite jam. It is a great start on the summer jam season.

In fact, we now have enough blueberry jam for the winter. The rest of the blueberries will be frozen for pies and pancakes. Bruce is our pancake maker. He puts together banana, blueberry, walnut buttermilk pancakes. With real maple syrup, they are to die for. It is always a real treat when pancakes are on the breakfast menu. Of course, like everyone our age, cold cereal is a more likely breakfast entre.

Bruce and Ron drove down to Clear Lake, Iowa. This is where we meet Robert coming north with Zach to spend some time in the northwoods. In addition they picked up granddaughter Emma in Sandstone, Minnesota. Emma with be with us for two weeks learning how to bus dishes in the lodge. She will do a great job.

Today Emma and I went raspberry picking. We got enough to make one batch of jam. That’s eight jars of jam. By February they will really taste good. You may be wondering how Bruce and I eat so much jam every year. The answer is that we don’t but our friends and kids do. We raised two boys who felt they were abused if we ran out of homemade jam in April. I brought my real estate agent in Florida some raspberry jam one year. She gave me the empty jars back with a note saying, “I’m empty.”

Making jam is not hard. I just follow the recipes for cooked jam that come with Sure Gel. I have my favorite enamel coated iron pot that I always use. My one trick is sealing the jars. The first step in making jam is to put the clean jars in the dishwasher and turn it on. Then I make the jam. The warm jars from the dishwasher are filled and placed back in the machine. When all the jam is made and the jars are filled, I run them all through one full cycle of the dishwasher. Everything is totally sealed. I do the same thing when making applesauce in the fall. The only time I don’t do it is if I am making pickles which have to cook for a bit in the jars.

So now you know all my jam making secrets. It takes some time but in the winter, it tastes wonderful.

Friday, July 02, 2010

A New Museum on the Gunflint Trail

July 4th will be the grand opening of Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Over the past few years I have written about it in this blog. Today I will try to give you the complete story.

Chik-Wauk was started in the early 1930’s by Ed and Art Nunstedt. Along with Russell Blankenburg they built a road into the property on Saganaga Lake from Seagull Lake. During the winter of 1932-33 they built their second lodge, a log structure with a rock porch. The log part of the building burned before the first guests stepped in but the porch was saved.

During the winter of 1933-34, they rebuilt the lodge with Saganaga granite rocks. This building served as the main lodge of Chik-Wauk until it was sold to the federal government about 1980 by Ralph and Bea Griffis, the last private owners of Chk-Wauk. Ralph and Bea used the lodge as a summer home until their health no longer allowed them to stay on the Gunflint Trail.

For several years the Forest Service struggled to find a use for the building. Finally they encouraged and supported a group of local people in establishing the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. The society’s goal was to turn the building into a museum and the grounds into a series of hiking and nature trails.

The museum focuses first on the land and lakes of this area. Then it talks about the major population groups of the Gunflint Trail: prehistoric peoples, Native Americans, voyageurs, miners, loggers, businessmen and residents. The nature trails explore the surrounding woods. They take you up into areas recovering from the 2007 Ham Lake fire. There is an excellent wildflower walk exploring the nearby woods. There is also an ADA trail.

The museum is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. There is an admission charge of $2 per person or $5 per family. The admission charge is waived for members of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society and their guests. Parking is available on the property. There are picnic tables. A map of the hiking trails and a guide to the wildflower trail are also available.

Anyone who has spent much time on the Trail will enjoy this museum. There are many opportunities to learn more about the people who have lived here over the years. When you make your next trip to the Gunflint Trail, be sure to plan a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.

Like all societies, suddenly this one has many plans for the future to help tell both the natural and cultural history of this wonderful area. As we work on those, it is enough to have the museum completed and open for you to visit.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Glorious Summer Day

Summer is in full swing right now. Today’s weather is just what you want. It must be in the 70’s with sunshine and a few puffy white clouds in the sky. There is a very small breeze from the northwest. The bugs are not here. We have been teasing Don Kufahl who runs the kitchen and dining room. It is Sunday and we are scheduled for the weekly outdoor barbeque. We are asking Don where the rain is? Sundays with an outdoor meal planned always seem to be rainy days. I was down at the lodge just a short time ago. The ribs on the smoker smelled wonderful.
The cabins are filled with families. One of the interesting family groupings we had this past week is several fathers with their children. I mean 8-12 year old children who go out fishing and seem to be having a great time. Last night in the dining room we also had two groups of fathers and young children who had been out on canoe trips. It is really great to see these young kids getting out on trips with their dads.
Last week’s weather was a little cool and rainy but we still had kids of all sizes in the water. All the kayaks and inflated tubes were out with small bodies learning to propel them. There is nothing more fun that watching a youngster get into one of the kayaks for the first time. They struggle learning how to paddle and then, suddenly, they just know how to do it. After that they can go anywhere. With everyone in life jackets, a parent’s job is reduced to lounging in a chair and soaking up the sun.
I have attached one picture of the kitchen in new Cabin #27 and the living room in new Cabin #26. We opened both cabin just last week. Not too bad considering that it was late October when the old ones burned. Reviews have been good from our first two parties. They both are heavily rented for the rest of the summer.
It looks like we are going be having a good summer. Reservations are up from last year. People from all over are eating in the bistro and dining room. More and more as I talk to people, I find many groups who don’t stay with here but make a point to stop for a meal every time they are on the Trail. It all works out very well for us. It’s good for the gift shop too.
Hopefully we will be seeing many of you at some time during the summer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Full Steam Into June

Now that the Memorial Day weekend is over, we are all catching our breath. All the cabins were filled which kept us busy. The weather was great. People took advantage of it by canoeing, boating, fishing and horseback riding. Even the bugs cooperated by not being present.

I have had a rather fun project lately. Out 2 ½ year old grandson seems to like all the “boy toys.” So I have been writing him stories about Grandpa working with his bobcat or when the horses arrived at the stables this spring. The stories and pictures are transmitted via the internet but I have not had a chance to read them to him myself. That’s about to change. I printed out the pictures and text for the latest story and put it into a 3-ring binder. So I will get to read “Grandpa Goes Minnow Trapping” to him myself when we go visit. Just so you don’t get overly impressed, writing for a little boy consists of one or two sentences per page. I think any of you could do it.

The Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center has been pulling me away from Gunflint Lodge these past couple of weeks. There were two weeks when our design firm, Split Rock Studios, was installing all the exhibits. Now we are working on a three page checklist of things we are responsible for. Every day one more project gets finished. The projects range from cleaning to installing computers to touching up paint to bringing in custom made benches. As things get totally finished I can’t help but think about the literally hundreds of people who have worked on this over the last five years. The grand opening is July 4th.

The new cabins are getting closer and closer to being finished. The list of what needs to be finished is pretty short. It is a good thing because one of them is occupied June 9th and the other June 10th. Of course, we always get excited as new cabins come on line. Since 1968, every cabin but one has been replaced and two of them (#2 and #9) have been replaced twice.

Last week we baked bread on the new wood-fired oven on Friday and Sunday. Each time we seem to get a little better at it. Learning to control the fire and bake everything at the right temperature is a project. It is also an accomplishment to avoid burning one side of the bread. Our next step is to try some pizza which will appear once a week on the lunch menu. I don’t think we are up to throwing the dough in the air yet but it should taste good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Last weekend was the fishing opener. We did not have a lot of fishermen but the ones who were here had good luck. Both Jon Schei and Adam Treeful’s parties filled their limits of walleye and lake trout. The weather was wonderful and the lakes like glass so we really didn’t expect such good fishing results. At this time of year it seems that wet, cold, rainy days yield the best fishing results. This weekend was a very pleasant change for everyone out fishing.
Work on Cabins #26 and #27 is coming along nicely. The plumbing is done, the fireplaces are in, the new beds have arrived and furniture comes Friday. Bruce is outside working on the landscaping and building rock walls. It is one of his favorite jobs. In fact I think there is a genetic tendency toward building. Our 2 ½ year old grandson loves to hear about Grandpa and his bobcat.
Both Bruce and I have been somewhat distracted by the new Museum going in at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. As many of you know, we have been part of a group who has worked for five years to get this museum open. It is going to tell the story of the people of the Gunflint Trail. On Monday a 53-foot truck arrived jam packed with all the exhibits. It had taken nine hours to load the truck and it took 6 men four hours to unload it. The project has been designed and built by Split Rock Studios. They sent up a crew to assemble everything. On July 4th we will be having the grand opening. I think visitors will be pleased with the museum.
The week before Memorial Day is our annual flower delivery. In addition to flowers that we plant around the outfitters and lodge, flowers for many of the neighbors come in. It is one of my favorite days. We receive over $6000 of flowers, shrubs and trees. Once they are here, the real work begins. Ronnie Smith supervises the landscaping. At this time of year she recruits everyone she can to weed and help plant. By the time you come for vacation, the grounds will be alive with colorful flowers.
Reservations seem to be coming in earlier than last year. For every month we have more nights reserved than we did last year at this time. It is one of those things that I count so we really know what is going on. With the quick response time of the internet, Bruce bases his internet advertising on how our reservations are doing. After a difficult economic climate last year, it is good to see things improving this year.
We are all looking forward to welcoming many of you this summer.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

As we get closer to the opening of the fishing season, the days get busier. On Sunday the horses arrived for the season. Mandy and Justin had everything ready and it took only a few minutes to unload them. Most of the horses had been here last year so they were very much at home from the beginning. For at least half of them the first activity was a quick roll in the dirt.
Last weekend was the Ham Lake Half Marathon. There are two lengths to the race – the full run and a shorter run. All together there were almost 200 runners. The weather was cool with a nice breeze. After the race, a huge meal was given at Way of the Wilderness. It is a great race with the proceeds going to cancer research.
We have finally gotten a little rain. Over the weekend it was just spitting off and one. Last night, however, we got several good soakers. It is still very dry in the woods but better than before the weekend. We just have to all be very careful with fire outside. The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department had two small grass fires to put out. One was caused by a tree knocked into a live electric line. The other was caused by animals chewing on an electric line to a heat tape. Both fires were quickly put out.
This weekend is the Gunflint Green Up. For the past two years hundreds of volunteers have come to help plant trees in the burned areas of the Trail. Most of the trees have been white pine and red pine. While trees will still be planted, this year’s focus is on “releasing” the trees. Pine trees can quickly be shaded from the sun by deciduous plants with large leaves. The volunteers will be cutting down plants around the small trees. This one cutting will give the pines enough sunlight for a head start to grow taller than the other plants around them. I think it might be a back-breaking job.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to take reservations for the coming summer. As is often the case, our multi-bedroom cabins book up first for all the families. The one-bedroom cabins are a bit slower to be reserved in the summer (except for honeymooners). This is just the reverse of the winter when the one-bedroom cabins are reserved first. With kids in school we do not get as many large families in the winter.
I am starting to get excited about the opening of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The grand opening will be July 4th after five years of preparations. Although small, the museum is jam-packed with exhibits. Outside there are a whole series of hiking trails to explore the area around the museum. If you are coming up the Trail this summer, be sure to put the museum on your must-do list.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ice Out!

Shortly after I posted my blog, Neighbor Fred called me. He could see all the way down to the sand beach and there was no ice. So now we can officially say that winter is over and spring is here. It is right on time. We checked out our last winter group (Books in the Woods) this morning. The next package will be the beginning of May.

The guys are already tearing apart the kitchen as they clean everything. I am making some soup at my house for managers' lunch tomorrow since Don is turning off all the gas in the kitchen. It will take about a week to clean all the exhaust hoods, ovens (5) and burners (10). Meanwhile all the walls and ceiling tiles are being washed. Once the walls are clean, Don has 3 gallons of white paint waiting in his office.

The front rooms are also getting torn apart. Mandy and Kacy cleaned most of the main room but the dining room still has to be done. Also the floors of both have to be finished. In Don's office is some extra hard wax. After it goes on, we will let it harden for a couple days before walking on it.

I don't know if I want to wish you can still see some wax or not when you come up this summer. If you can see the wax, that means it held up really well. If you can't see the wax, that means we have been really, really busy.

At any rate, I have to get my own house clean today. When Bruce and I get back, it is nice to come into a clean house. The spring cleaning bug has really bit hard.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Who Cares About The Ice?

It’s hard to believe that we are deep in the heart of April. The weather feels more like May. The northwest wind has come up today and the ice is moving to the east. This is the way it normally goes out. I talked with Fred Smith who lives closer to the east end of Gunflint. He still has ice but it is moving. We will see what happens during the rest of the day. If it finishes going out today, that would make it only one day past when Don Brazell would have had it going out.

Sometimes I think that you must get tired of reading about the ice going off the lake. Why does it hold such a fascination for me? Perhaps because it is such a sharp division between winter and summer. All winter the ice is on the lake. It is hard to imagine what open water is like. The reverse is true during the summer. Most of our guests have never seen the lake with ice on it, ice that is thick enough to drive a truck on. When the ice is off, it is truly time to get geared up for summer business and activities. So we are all ready for fishing, families and canoe trips.

Meanwhile, with this nice weather everyone is getting the urge to go out hiking. Bruce and I hiked the Centennial Trail off the Kekekabic Trail. We started on the Round Lake Road and hiked up the trail. There are several nice viewing areas as you climb up. At one point you could see the ponds on the Round Lake Road below and the stable and hay barn at Gunflint in the distance. Once we reached the Kek it was pretty much downhill back to the road.

The Forest Service has also marked and cleared the trail up to the old Gunflint Fire Tower. It is about ¾’s of a mile off the Kekekabic Trail. One day Bruce and I will take off to walk that.

These various trails in the woods are great to get out on during the spring. Our two best walkers are Bonnie and Sheryl. They like to go in the late afternoon. I heard that their next hike will be on the Canadian side of the lake.

We used to have a cross country ski trail called the East End Trail that ran on the old railroad grade of the Duluth, Port Arthur and Western Railroad. That’s the one that came from Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay) along the north shore of Gunflint, across a bridge over the narrows and into the Paulson Mine. Walking on the Kek you can still see several of the test pits that were dug searching for iron ore. All they ever found was taconite which could not be refined at that time (1893).

This railroad was also used for logging on the U. S. side. It crossed over to the U. S. side near Bridal Falls. On the east side of the falls you can still see the railroad trestle. It was made by piling up logs on top of each other until the road bed was high enough to get over the hills on the south shore of Gunflint. It is not what you expect to find while exploring the woods. Actually there are several roads and hiking trails around that were originally railroad grades. Another one is the Gunflint Narrows Road. When the museum up at Chik-Wauk opens, we will have them marked on a large map of the area.

Bruce and I are taking off for 10 days. It’s time to see grandchildren and other parts of the country. We won’t be home until the 22nd so don’t expect to hear from me.

Who Cares About The Ice?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

It's a Really Really Early Spring

If we thought that spring was coming early, now we have proof. All you need to do is look at our picture. Today there is no snow around the outfitting building.. The picture with all the snow was taken April 1st of 2009 looking at the outfitting building.. There is just a bit more snow than we have now.
Of course, the other sure sign of spring is the ice going off the lakes. We have a system for deciding when the lice will leave the lakes. It all goes back to our first mailman, Don Brazell. Don delivered mail and freight up here fir 30-40 years. In the spring he took note of when the North Brule River started flowing free of ice. He then observed that one week later the smaller lakes went out. A week after that the larger lakes were clear of ice.
On Friday, March 26th, Sheryl went to town. There was ice on the North Brule. When she came home later that day, the ice was done and the river was running freely. She took a picture of the event. It’s my third picture. If Don’s predictions run true, the ice should be off Gunflint Lake on Friday, April 9th. That is the earliest any of us can remember it.
Today the entire ice is black and the wind is blowing. The ice is off where the Cross River enters the lake by Moosehorn. That is always the starting point. Slowly the flowing river waters will eat into the ice creating a larger portion of open water. Meanwhile the main sheet of ice on the lake is floating free from shore. Winds buffet it back and form eating away at the edges. On just the proper day, a northwest wind will start the entire flow moving out from the Cross River and down to the east end of the lake. Depending on the wind, this can be done in one or two days. We will see if the lake is out by next Friday.
We are all enjoying the warm weather but there is a little down side to this. I am anxious to get into my garden but I still don’t think I can plant anything until lake in May. If I try basil, it will be black the first morning that the temperature gets anywhere near freezing. So for two months I will try to be patient.
This has been a very busy week at the lodge. Most of our cabins are full with families up for the Easter week. There are probably more kids in camp than adults. We are all getting ready for the summer season with kids all over.
The new cabins are coming along right on schedule. The interior paneling is finished and both of them have been varnished. Jordy and his crew are starting the exterior siding next week. Meanwhile Bruce and Dave Kleusch are gathering rocks to landscape around each cabin. The other day they filled the big red dump truck five times. Both of them stood grinning from ear to ear as they looked at the size of their rock pile.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It's Almost Spring!

Before I write anything else, I need to assure everyone from Harlingen, Texas, to Cloquet, Minnesota, and parts in between that Bruce and Sue are fine. It has just been really busy around here. Thankfully, the lodge has been overflowing with guests and meals. Then it is tax time – one of my favorite projects of each year. But the real change has been the Chik-Wauk Museum. As many of you know, Bruce and I have been working with a huge group of people to get this museum open. Everything is coming together but there are lots of last minute details. One big one is making sure that all the names of people are spelled correctly. Another project is the little pieces of text that have to be added here and there. That means I have to write many of them. So be patient with me and eventually I will get blogs out.

The news around here has been the weather. It is unseasonably warm. In fact our snow and ice conditions are where they normally are in the middle of April. None of the ski or snowmobile trails have good snow on them. We have had rain in addition to the warm temperatures and those two have reduced the snow to almost nothing. Here is a picture of my garden. There is just no snow.

On the lake the ice depth has been reduced from about three feet to two feet. Last weekend fishermen were still driving vehicle on the ice but I don’t expect that to happen this coming weekend. Spring ice is very unstable and unreliable. You can be standing on solid ice but a foot to one side is rotten ice and you will go right through. This is because the ice melts by honeycombing with vertical shafts of air. How much honeycombing is in a particular area depends on the currents in the water. All in all, this is a good time to stop going on the lakes.

In spite of the lack of snow, we still have lots of guests coming in. In fact we are practically full this week. On Monday and Thursday we don’t have a cabin open. The dining room has been particularly busy with guests and people just visiting the area.

Last weekend the Mush For The Cure, a fund raiser for breast cancer research, was schedule. The snow and ice were such that no race could be help. Instead the organizers set up an obstacle course. Everyone had a great time. The group raised $28,000 for research which is a huge accomplishment. We were very proud of the fact that Adam Treeful, our fishing guide/cook, was number four on the list of top money raisers. Our dog musher, Don Decker, had his own method of providing dog sled rides. See the picture up above.

Finally I have a picture Sheryl took the other morning. The fog makes it look like we are on the edge of the world. You can just barely see the ice house further out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another Week

Bruce and I ran off to Missouri this last weekend. It was Grandson Zach’s 10th birthday. He is growing too fast. The top of his head is over my shoulder now. Don’t anyone write and ask me where Zach’s picture is. You know how terrible I am about taking pictures. Right now he looks pretty funny because there is a green cast on his right hand from his arm pit to his knuckles. He fell into someone while running backwards. Zach is now learning how to eat with his left hand. Because of the bend in his cast, any food he tries to get into his mouth with the right hand ends up on his left shoulder. The best news is that it was a clean break and he is healing well.

We missed a very busy weekend at the lodge. Don Decker had three dog teams up giving guests rides. Here is a picture of one of the runs on the lake. They also had runs in the woods. By the end of the weekend the dogs were pooped. It is truly amazing how those dogs love to run. When you start to hook them up to the sled, every one of them is barking, “Don’t forget me! I’m over here.”

In addition to all the dog team activities the local snowmobile club had a fun run up the Trail with stops at several places. I understand we had some riders also stay for lunch. The dining room and kitchen staff were kept fairly busy for part of the afternoon.
This weekend looks like it is going to be really busy. The cabins are full. I can already hear fishermen going out on the lake. In addition to our guests there will be lots of visitors in for lunch. The entire staff gets into it when we are this busy. The lodge just hums. We are very lucky to have a group of people working for us who get as excited as Bruce and I do when there are guests all over the place. It is just more fun when it’s busy.

While the lodge is serving meals, our construction crew is busy on Cabins #26 and #27. I took a picture today of Jordy Kirk in #27. Jordy is heading up the construction crew and doing a wonderful job. Those of you who stayed in old #27 need to take a look at the windows in new #27. The view of the lake is stupendous. Also the living room and kitchen are so bright and cheery.

On Wednesday Bonnie and Sheryl are going to Duluth to order furniture. They have their list and they will be checking it twice. Some salesperson is going to be very happy to see them. There will be a lot of furniture in those two units. We have also been talking with Jeff Boutin who does our carpet for us. This time the cabins will be getting 18” squares of carpet. It will be a different look but you will really like it.

So life moves along here at Gunflint.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

What Shall I Write Today?

A new piece of furniture arrived on Sunday for the main lodge. It is a new buffet for our coffee service. This picture does not do it justice. The wood is white pine, red pine, birch bark and black spruce. It was hand made by a small company in Two Harbors. They delivered it and put it together for us. Heaven help anyone who spills anything on it!

If you are not up here now, you are missing some of the most beautiful days and nights this winter. The last storm has left lots of snow hanging on the branches of our trees. The full moon is just reflecting off of all this snow. People are just out walking and soaking in all the beauty. Even looking out my office window, I can’t get over how wonderful everything looks.
Wolves are still coming around regularly. Yesterday Bruce and I looked out our kitchen window only see some scat left by a wolf during the night. I can’t say that I am out to get wolves because they kill deer. It is all part of the pecking order in nature. This year (both summer and winter) we have suddenly had a great increase in wolf sightings. You know they will not hurt you. There is, however, something deep within us that shudders when we see a wolf.
As you might guess, sometimes I run out of things to say. Today is one of those days. I’m wondering what Justine might have done today. It just so happens that I have a diary that Justine kept during the winter of 1936-37. I don’t know why she kept it as we have no other diary of hers. The guess is that she kept it because people were always asking what she did all winter. So here is what she wrote:

Wed, 2/3/37 Parade in evening & went with Bub & Ed & Wanda to hear Rudy Valee & see the queen picked & crowned. Met Steven & went to their house to see their movies of the north
Thurs, 2/4/37 The day of the Hook En Cow shindig – we did not go down, aired the dogs & did some errands. Out to Ed’s folks for supper.
Fri, 2/5/37 Parade in evening
Sat, 2/6/37 Contacted Bradley & aired the dogs – Final parade in evening. Went to St. Paul Hotel to meet Paul
Sun, 2/7/37 Drove back from St. Paul with all the puppies & sled in a small blizzard – Only had to air the dogs once – Had lunch in Duluth

The background is the Bill and Justine were invited down to bring their dog team to march in the parades for the St. Paul Winter Carnival. They were paid a modest amount but really needed the money. The only way they could transport the dogs was in their small car. I seem to remember that the dogs wanted to fight quite a bit in the car. It must have been like bringing three teenagers..

Of course, the dogs were not used to being in the city. They wanted to go lots faster than the parade was going. Luckily Mom had thought this might happen. She had run the team the previous day to try to tire them out. The only place she could find to run them was in one of the St. Paul cemeteries – no traffic in there and lots of roads. They left on Sunday to go home. I think all were glad to get back in the woods.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Unusual Phone Call

Last week we received about nine inches of snow. It was truly welcome as our trails were starting to get a little bare. This was a wet heavy snow that is packing into some beautiful ski trails. Unlike most snows, however, we have not been able to just go out and pack the trails. The snow was so heavy that trees and shrubs were over laden and came down on all the trails. Since then we have had crews out with nippers and chainsaws clearing. At times it has been 4 guys for a day. Once a trail is cleared, it is groomed and tracked into a beautiful ski route. But we are not finished yet. The last two trails are Ham Lake and Lonely Lake. The guys hope to get them finished during the early part of the week. The ones that are now open are worth all the work that went into clearing.

You can imagine how many times we answer the telephone here at the lodge. So last Sunday night I picked up the phone and gave my line, “Gunflint Lodge, this is Sue.” Someone on the other end gave his name and then said, “Do you know Ben Gallagher?” Well of course I do. He is the man who bought an island in Magnetic Bay in the early 1920’s (before the road to Gunflint) and turned it into a lovely summer home. Bruce and I have lots of stories about Ben and his wife during the almost 50 years they summered here.

Imagine my surprise as I listened to this man tell me that he was working on a book about Ernest Hemingway (The Ernest Hemingway) and guns that he had owned. Investigating letters in the Hemingway collection at the JFK Library at Harvard, he came across some letters from Ben Gallagher to Hemingway. Apparently the two of them had known each other in Paris during the late 1930’s. Ben was working for a U. S. Bank in Paris and would hunt with his friend “Hem.”

One letter written in July of 1938 reads like Hemingway was planning to visit the island. Unfortunately a lightening fire destroyed the main cabin. Ben, his wife, Mama (with the accent on the last syllable), and the servants were leaving to go see what had happened and to start rebuilding. They hoped to have things in shape for Hemingway’s visit in September.

What brought the researchers to us was the ending of the letter. There Ben gives the address of where to write to him – Gunflint Lodge, Grand Marais, Minn. Roger Sanger, the caller, found us on the internet and decided to make a call. Probably only Bruce or I would have been able to help him.

We have all heard about everyone being three degrees of separation for anyone else. Well, I am TWO degrees of separation from Ernest Hemingway. So there!

Monday, January 18, 2010

January Flies By

Another week has flown by us. I am getting used to writing 2010 on letters and checks.
The lodge is quite busy with guests. Last night we got a new snowfall which was welcomed by everyone. We have sunshine today and the lake is just glistening with the new snow. As I sit writing, I can hear an occasional snowmobile going by on the lake. Ski trails are in good condition. With the warmer temperatures, people are out and about each day.
This weekend the lake trout fishing season opens on the U. S. side of Gunflint. It all sounds pretty good to me. Bruce and I are ready for some fresh fish for dinner. Living here we are really snobs about fresh fish. If we can’t eat it immediately, the fish is wrapped in saran wrap and frozen in one of those sealer bags that takes out all the air. As nicely as this treats the fish, there is still nothing to compare to eating fish that was swimming in the water just hours ago.
Adam Treeful works for us as a fishing guide in the summer and a cook in the winter. Especially during the winter, he just has to get outside. This fall he built a dog sled. The idea was that his dog, Mick, could be trained to pull the lead. Now he has corralled the house pets of other employees to help pull the sled. So Monster (Jason’s dog), Rudy (John’s dog) and Moose (Mandy’s dog) are now sled dogs. The picture is of Adam with the new team. The next step in this process is to add four dogs owned by Mark Darling on Saganaga Lake. With a team of eight dogs, Adam plans to enter into the Race for The Cure later this winter.
The deer are coming in steadily for corn at the lodge. Today there were even two of them lying on top of the berm next to Cabin #7. All these deer have brought in the wolves. There was a kill about 300 feet on the lake just in front of the lodge. All day long there was a parade of wolves and a flight of crows about the remains. In just one day the deer was totally gone.
Of course, wolves have also been seen as we go about our daily chores. I was driving down to the lodge the other day and one came out of the drive to the stable. It ran along the road to just before Cabin #27 and disappeared into the woods leading to the lake. It was a beautiful animal and I wish I could have taken a picture of it.
There is also a scrawny wolf that is hanging around for the second year. One day last year it was chasing Shadow, one of the dogs at Gunflint Pines. Shadow just made it into the porch a step ahead of the wolf. The wolf is back and everyone is watching their dogs to keep them out of this wolf’s way.
Hope I will be able to tell you about a fresh fish dinner next week.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

After the Holidays

With the holidays and one thing and another, I have neglected my blog writing responsibilities. It is time to get back on schedule.

We are in full swing with winter right now. The last week or so there has been a full moon that is just wonderful. You could walk in the woods at night without a flashlight. Living in a rural area we get to appreciate the full moon more than in a city because there are not so many man-made lights all over. Of course with the full moon comes cold weather. Over the weekend it was very still at night with no cloud cover. Our lowest morning was 31 below. That is absolute temperature not wind chill.

With all the cold nights, Don, Jason and Lance went out checking the ice Monday. Don had on his fire department cold water immersion suit. Lance and Jason had the end of a 150’ rope tied to Don’s waist. About 100 feet out they drilled their first hole. The gurgling water startled them all but the ice was 14 feet thick. After about 150 feet they had 9” of ice. In the middle it was 3-5” which is technically safe. I should emphasis that they only checked directly in front of the lodge. We are not sure about the thickness of the ice on any other part of Gunflint Lake. With the cold temperatures we have been having at night, the ice should be safe soon. Our philosophy is to decide the ice is safe to check and then wait a week. After we have tested the ice and determined that it is thick enough, then we wait another week. I can’t blame the guys because they are the ones who have to do the rescues.

With ice on the lake, the deer are coming in fairly steadily. Deer are much more willing to come in when they have a frozen lake as an escape route. Down at our house several come in each morning. We have one four-pointer who has discovered a great eating spot by my kitchen window. I am about to try feeding him corn from my hand. Don’t worry about scurvy because my deer eat all the grapefruit skins – one less thing in the garbage. They also have good potassium levels from banana peels.

The new cabins are coming along fine. They both have roofs and shingles on them. There is insulation in #26 and some on the outside. The heat systems (in floor heat) are being installed. All in all, things are coming along really well on that front. By early June they will both be ready to rent.

Speaking of summer, our August reservations are particularly strong for this time of year. We have between two and three times as many reservations as we did at this time last year. It may be that the economy is picking up a bit but I prefer to think that people are remembering how wonderful a summer week in the woods is. Virtually every other summer month has more reservations than last year at this time. It is going to be a good busy summer.

Just before Christmas Rich Johnson from Upper Lakes Foods, our primary food supplier, came up to give Don and I lessons in pizza making for a wood-fired oven. For some time Rich worked the wood-fired oven at Palamino, a restaurant in the Twin Cities. Of course, it was quite cold out so we started warming the oven the night before and kept a fire in it overnight. Rich really gave us a good review of how to manage the fire, how to not get ashes on the food, how to make the pizza, how to cook it, and how to not make a mess. Once it starts to warm up (read March or April) we will have more practice sessions. By the time we are finished the staff will be sick of pizza.

In a couple of weeks the Chocolate Lovers Weekend will be here again. It occurs January 22-24. The kitchen staff has not let me in on the menus yet but I am starting to diet in advance now. After that weekend, we all can’t face too much chocolate for a bit.