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.