Monday, December 26, 2011

Resident Animals

It is the day after and life is somewhat back to normal. We had a very quiet Christmas. Neighbors came for dinner. It was relaxed and pleasant. However, we still ate too much. I could hardly face food this morning or at lunch. Luckily it is just soup for dinner. I didn’t do a turkey so we do not have lots of leftovers. We didn’t miss the turkey since there were lobsters for dinner.

Christmas Eve we went to town for church services and dinner with friends. On the way home I took a picture of a tree right near the Birch Lake Road. My camera is not really good at night so you will have to imagine it. This is a 25 foot spruce tree that is about ¼ mile from the nearest electricity. Daryl Popkes and Tom Leddy dreamed it up. They got a neighbor with a cherry-picker truck to help string the white lights Tom had purchased. Since they were LED lights, not a lot of power was required. Daryl figured out how they could use a timer and a car battery to do the job. It is really a striking addition to the Trail. Our thanks go out to Tom and Daryl.

Due to warm temperatures and wind, Gunflint Lake has virtually no ice. We had some but the wind has broken it up. A night that gets down to below zero would solve the problem immediately. Keep your fingers crossed.

Of course, we have had lots of the resident animals visiting over the holiday season. For several years we have had a doe with a hole in her left cheek. She is back again this year with two youngsters. None of us expected her to be around for these past few years.

Fred and Fran saw a beautiful wolf when they drove down to our house for Christmas dinner. They have been seeing wolves regularly. Also some of the staff who walk our trails have seen large prints that look like dogs but couldn’t be. I have my camera and hope to capture one of these with the camera. Hopefully I will have better luck than the moose.

With open water we have also seen otter at the dock. Today there were three of them playing around. Just in front of the dock house there is still a little bit of ice. One of the guests watched as an otter brought a fish up onto the ice. It quickly became breakfast for the otter. It is a real bonus for all of us to see these animals right in front of the lodge.

Not to be left out are all the deer that have appeared as if by magic. Bruce put some corn out at our house and 6 deer appeared immediately. Someone dropped corn right at the front door of the lodge. This morning there was a deer feasting on the corn. Pretty soon they will be eating out of our hands.

It is amazing how many animals we are seeing. I don’t remember this many (except the deer) in years past. What a blessing they are.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 2011

As Sheryl’s picture taken yesterday morning shows, we are still waiting for the lake to freeze over. It all comes down to clear skies, no wind, and low temperatures. Eventually we get it all together but patience seems to be the word this year.

The snow is doing a little better. We have about 5-7 inches depending on where you are on the trails. Adam has been able to do a few dog sled rides on one of his trails. Tomorrow we are due to get some snow. It is always hard to figure out exactly what that means but we will hope for lots of inches. All the ski trails have been rolled and are ready for a few inches on top to smooth them out a little more.

On Sunday we had two sets of guests check in after seeing moose on their drive up. One saw a huge bull moose somewhere near Loon Lake. The other couple saw a cow and a young bull somewhere down the Trail. So on Monday when I drove to town, my camera was right up there in front. I saw 5 birds. From way last year my goal has been to take a picture of a moose out the car window and send it to Grandson Grant. I have lots of moose pictures but this was going to be one I took myself from the car. The most common reason I don’t have the picture is because I forget the camera. When I finally get the picture, I will share it with you.

As the holidays approach, the pace is picking up at the lodge. Once again we have more guests coming in than in 2010. Also Don is making the bistro and Justine’s more popular for everyone. Some nights I wonder where all the people have come from.

All my Christmas cookies are gone. I made ten different kinds so each person on the staff could have a plate of cookies. Then the extras were sitting around our house. They all went down to the lodge and out for the guests. Bruce and I would have eaten every single one of them otherwise. My waistline breathed a sigh of relief when the last cookie was gone.

I think I am ready for Christmas. The food I am bringing for Christmas Eve dinner is ready. The menu is planned and purchased for Christmas Day. The guests are invited. The house is decorated. As usual there will be some last minute pickup and cleaning. It will be a very lazy day. Our main project will be to answer the phone and eat too much.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ice Skating

Bruce and I are home from the latest round of conferences and we are both very glad to be home. The best part of the latest trip was catching up with Brian’s family in Sacramento. Grandson Sam had his school’s Christmas concert the night we were there. He and another alto sax player had a duet of Frosty the Snowman. Naturally, it was perfect! Amy and Max are both growing like weeds.

The lodge and grounds are now decorated up for Christmas. Here is a picture of the dining room Christmas tree. The festive atmosphere made a great backdrop for our staff Christmas party last night. Only problem was that I ate too much. I think everyone else did too.

Over the weekend one of those rare events occurred that locals are thrilled with. I called my friend, Kathy, on Seagull Lake to confirm the event. On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the ice on Seagull was perfect for skating among the islands. Kathy told me that she went out each day for several runs. No one up here can skate too long because we rarely do it. The ice was solid but you could see through it to the rocks on the bottom of the lake. Her husband, Mike, was busy looking at where water lines went in. Mike is a builder so it was fun for him to see the lines. They also saw anchors and lures on the bottom. Surprisingly, they did not see a single fish. Seagull is a great fishing lake so where did they all go?

Kathy also told me that they were able to do a little ice skating right after Thanksgiving. Not as big an area was frozen but it was perfectly safe. She said that you could skate on safe ice but see the waves breaking on some open water not that far away. It was a little weird to skate and see the waves at the same time.

I should add a disclaimer: Don't do this unless you have good advice from local people who know the ice conditions. It was be really treacherous.

On this Sunday Mike decided to fly over the area to see where the ice was or was not. The west ends of Seagull and Saganaga were still open. Those have the largest area of open water that is not broken up by islands. The east end of Clearwater was also open. Mountain, Arrow and Pine Lakes were also open as is Gunflint.

With snow yesterday and today, this fleeting opportunity for lake skating is over. If everything holds, there will be a chance to easily ski on the lake. If we get too much snow, it will push the ice down and slush will form. I am always fascinated by the effects of ice and snow on lakes.

Meanwhile we are anxiously waiting for Gunflint to freeze. As I type this, I can hear the wind blowing outside. We need some time with no wind. Kathy and I have both seen the ice just freeze a lake over once the wind dies down. Hopefully, that will happen soon on Gunflint.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Preparing for the Holidays

Animals are continuing to appear around the lodge and our homes. Dave Schudy had a wolf hanging out by his truck a couple days ago. Yesterday I saw my first deer at our house. Then last night there were deer down by the lodge. We don’t start feeding deer until after the hunting season is closed. Even then we don’t get a lot in until the lake is frozen. That big lake gives the deer a great escape hatch if there is too much activity at the lodge. We will see if more deer come in tonight.

As part of my last blog, here is a one of a kind picture – me sewing. Don’t get excited about the sewing machine in the background. It’s Melissa’s. The only sewing machine around here is the one we use for repairing tents! I have been told that the machine is not acceptable for dolls. At any rate the doll is now wrapped up for a little girl’s birthday.

Since Bruce and I leave tomorrow for a week, I have been rushing to get everything ready for Christmas. My halo is showing and it’s very shiny. Christmas cards are in the mail. All the grandkids (8) are taken care of. Plans are in the works for each child’s (well, adults with spouses) gifts. The staff’s presents are wrapped and ready for our party on the 14th.

Meanwhile our weekends are busy at the lodge. We are the only restaurant open on the Trail at this time. If you drive up for lunch, the Red Paddle is the only game in town. I think that other restaurants open on the 26th. Christmas Day is the only day of the year that we do not serve any meals.

Everyone on the staff is busy stringing lights for Christmas. Jacob has put lights on probably twenty trees down the driveway and on the patio. The girls are going crazy around the front desk. We are saving the trees for the main room and Justine’s to be decorated by our guests. The guests will also be making wreaths for each cabin. It is a very festive time at Gunflint.

I am not going to write any more. The clothes for our trip are sitting on the bed. Some of them need a touch of the iron. The plan is to get everything packed before we go down to the lodge after dinner. We leave at 6:30 tomorrow morning.

Good luck to everyone with their holiday planning and shopping.

Monday, November 28, 2011

In Between the Holidays

Thanksgiving has come and gone. We had about 150 people for dinner including our staff. Don and his crew did a great job with the menu and with exceptional service to all our guests. At the end of the night we were all stuffed.

Two of our neighbors on the side road, Roma and Peter, came down for Thanksgiving dinner. As they were driving down, Peter looked in the rearview mirror. Behind him on the road was a huge wolf. He particularly noticed the big bushy tail the wolf had. Compared to when I first moved up here, we see a huge number of wolves. I was living here for several years before I saw my first wolf.

All our snow melted early last week. Then on Saturday we got four inches of new snow. It is beautiful. Adam has been out grooming the dog sled trails. Jason has been out grooming the ski trails. It was a wet heavy snow that packed down really well.

Gunflint Lake is still totally clear of ice. Even the bays have not started to freeze over. With temperatures in the 20’s, we need colder weather to get the water closed to 32 degrees. As it is, the lake has not even been steaming much lately.

This week I participated in an event I rarely do. My friend Melissa helped me sew a doll for Granddaughter Mae. Mae loves her dolls and I got this insane idea that a good grandmother would make her one. One of my friends advised me to make two sets of clothing so Mae could change the doll. I just groaned.

Looking on the internet I found a pattern for a doll that was sized to wear preemie clothing. It was my salvation. My friend Bev took me shopping at JoAnn’s Fabrics. Bruce came too and followed us around for an hour or longer. Bev made sure that I got everything.

On Monday I was over at Melissa’s and ready to get this project going. The pattern called for stretchy fabric. Melissa quickly named the fabric “stretchy shit” as I struggled with it. Finally we replaced the stretchy stuff with muslin. Life proceed much more quickly and pleasantly after that.

It took all day but the doll is almost finished. I still need to draw on the face. That is almost as difficult as making the doll. I am fairly good with words but not drawing. It is going to take some practicing. Luckily Mae will only be two on her birthday. I hope she likes the doll. I think that this will be my last sewing project for a bit.

Bruce and I leave next Sunday for a national outfitting convention in Reno. The convention is only three days long but it takes us two days on each end to get there and back. Sometimes living up in the woods can be a pain.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The picture above is of a large moose track. We have a two part story revolving around this track. Yesterday morning about 7:00 a.m. Kevin Walsh yells at Sheryl to come out. There is a small bull moose swimming past the lodge dock to the west. They grab Sheryl’s camera and hop into her truck. The plan is to meet the moose at the public landing and get pictures. The moose does not cooperate and gets out of the lake in front of Cabin #11. As they came back, the moose must have heard them. He disappears by Cabin #9. There was no chance of a picture.

This morning Kevin’s hunting partner comes to get me. They have discovered tracks by the outdoor hot tub for Cabin #9 and near Cabin #3. This is the picture of one those tracks. There are also tracks of a smaller cow moose. The guys seem to think that the big bull drove off the smaller bull to keep the little guy from the cow moose. It sounds as good as any other explanation.

For most of the morning Gunflint Lake has been steaming. This occurs when the lake water is warmer than the air temperature (I had 7 degrees at my house.). The steaming means that the lake is cooling down in anticipation of freezing. Usually Gunflint freezes during the first ten days of December. A night with clear skies, a full moon, and no wind usually is needed to freeze the lake. We will see when it freezes this year.

The lodge is now in our winter mode. Fires are lit in the two fireplaces each night. Bruce loves to come in and add more wood to each fire. If it is a cold morning, we start them even earlier. On Friday and Saturday, Mark Darling comes in to play his keyboard during dinner. There is nothing that warms a room more than some mellow live music. Of course, the lodge also looks welcoming because of the soft yellow glow from the room lights in contrast to the black night outside. We are now getting dark around 5-5:30 p.m.

The kitchen is not mellow right now. Preparations have started for Thanksgiving dinner. With the staff, we will be having about 150 people. Four huge turkeys are thawing. Two 40-pound bison roasts are also thawing. Several hams will be smoked. Don starts smoking all this meat in the wee hours of the morning. It has to be ready to serve at noon. In addition Adam, Hudson, Dan and Curtis will be preparing an assortment of side dishes and desserts to fill everyone’s hollow legs.

From all of the Gunflint family to your families, we wish you a very happy Thanksgiving. Just like you, we are very thankful for all our blessings.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The End of Fall

Bruce and I are home from a long driving trip. We visited family, attended conferences, and checked out other resorts. It was 4500 miles of new things to see. My own bed felt good that first night. Now I am in the midst of putting everything away and washing clothes. Another pleasure is to eat some home cooked meals. Restaurants are fine but we get tired of them. With so much restaurant food, the bathroom scale was not my friend.

There has been some snow while we have been gone but most of it has melted. Last Thursday we had three parties check out after fresh snow. Two of them ended up in the ditch going home. This is a common occurrence after the first slippery snows of the season.

Here at Gunflint we are into that gray time between fall color and snow. Some of the smaller lakes on the Trail have already frozen over – Swamper and Iron Lakes are two of them. Gunflint Lake is nowhere near freezing. In fact this weekend one of our guests took a sauna and then plunged into the lake. He said the lake was warm but I don’t believe him.

It is deer hunting season. Bruce hopes to get out this coming week. Our traditional meal the first night after Bruce gets a deer is pan fried heart for him and liver for me. Meanwhile more interesting stories are coming in about other hunting experiences.

Perhaps the most unusual came from our neighbors. Father and son were out hunting one morning. Suddenly a doe came running at full speed in front of them. Before they could catch their breaths, eight wolves came chasing the deer. It was quite a thing to see. We rarely see wolves actually chasing deer. Many hunters tell me that these unexpected happenings are some of their favorite parts of hunting.

My rabbits around the house are still changing color. They now have white feet, white ears, and a white belly. The back is still brown but that should change fairly soon. Bruce thinks they would be good for stew but I keep saying that I am not cooking them.

Yesterday we had our winter hay delivered. Mandy always buys enough hay in the fall to get us through until next year’s crop comes in. Because our hay barn has only three sides, the deer often find it a great place to feed all winter long. As the picture above shows, Mandy is set on outwitting the deer this year. There is a wall of hay stacked to the roof. In front are obstacles to any feeding from that side. By spring we will see who won – Mandy or the deer.

As I sit here typing, the sun has disappeared behind some clouds. In the west it looks pretty gray. Perhaps tonight will be the night we get out first snow that stays with us all winter long.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Last Projects and a Long Trip

This is going to be one of my quick blogs. The Vikings and Packers are playing soon. The odds are really against the Vikings but I still like to watch the game. While it is on, I am making applesauce. I have some Haraldson apples which will be good. Then I have two pair of pants to hem. Not my favorite job but that’s life.

The lodge is still running pretty full. Our meal business has slacked off because there are not a lot of people on the Trail. As much as I would like to be busier, we are all tired and ready to slow down a bit. Most of the guests are spending their time hiking and relaxing. It is cold and rainy today so the lake doesn’t look very appealing. The last week has been warm and lovely but we still don’t have a lot of people out on the lake. The horses leave tomorrow.

My rabbits are still turning color. They now have white feet, white ears and a white back. The stomach must turn white last. Bruce keeps telling me that we are going to have rabbit stew but I won’t cook it so that ends the talk.

Yesterday Bruce was out on the final harvest in the garden. He cut the last of the chives and parsley and took it down to the kitchen. The next job was to dig up the last of the carrots. I never expect as many as we get. It took me 45 minutes to just wash them all. Tonight I will oven roast them for dinner with a baked potato and grilled lamb chops.

On a cool damp day like today, our fireplace will be cranked up. It seems to add much more to the room than just heat. My job is to keep the wood box full. Bruce splits most of the wood by hand throughout the winter. He enjoys doing it. Then daughter Shawn brings up a nice load of hardwood for Father’s Day. We do pretty well with all of it.

One of my fall projects is placing the spring flower orders for us and many of the neighbors. Ronnie Smith, our gardener, does our order and I gather from the others. As I am typing this, it dawned on me that I forgot to order some new strawberry plants for our garden. Not getting those would be a tragedy. Not to mention that I would be in big trouble with Bruce.

You are not going to hear from me for several weeks. We leave tomorrow for the Minnesota Resort Association fall conference. Bruce is giving a talk on packaging. Then it is down to visit Lee and his family in the Twin Cities. Robert, Miranda, and Zach come next in Missouri. Then it is off to see some friends’ resort near Ponca, Arkansas. Then we visit another friend in Missouri. The next hop takes us out to Hendersonville, North Carolina, where my sister and brother-in-law live. Finally our last stop is the outfitters convention in Sandusky, Ohio. We will be home about November 11.

Needless to say, we will be glad to be home. My butt is going to be sore from sitting in the car.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


It’s raining! About midnight last night we started to get some rain. It kind of drizzled and dribbled throughout the night. Then this morning we have received some heavy showers. Hopefully more will come during the day. One day like this will not be enough but it is a start. All the lake levels are low and we really need this rain.

The work on the Pagami Lake fire continues on. As of this morning the Forest Service says the fire is 87% contained. In some areas they are even beginning mop-up operations. Part of this is to haul back out all the unneeded equipment. At the end of big fires there is usually a huge pile of wet hose to be dried. It is all part of the process.

I worked at Chik-Wauk Museum yesterday. Around noon we had a very excited couple come in. They had just seen a huge bull moose by the Seagull Creek area. You can’t imagine how excited they were. The woman said she was still shaking. When I got home, Bruce told me he had heard that there was a bull moose courting a cow moose in that area. Of course, I saw nothing when I drove home. It all goes back to being in the right place at the right time.

Bruce and I drove home from the lodge the other night and saw a rabbit in the driveway. We often see rabbits around the house. This one, however, had white feet and white ears. It is just another sign that winter is coming. I think that the next part to change color on a rabbit is its belly. We will see.

The other night we went to dinner at Hungry Jack Lodge. It was for the 75th anniversary of the Gunflint Trail Association. About 70 people attended including owners, employees and past owners. During the evening we exchanged stories and memories of Trail years. Everyone also brought a poster with some information about their business. Lisa Wagner was there to video many of the stories to save for the 100th anniversary.

The GTA is the second oldest tourism organization in the State of Minnesota. We have had our differences but have also found that we can accomplish much more by working together than by fighting. In recent years we have worked to get ambulance service, a fire department, Fire Wise protection around homes, trees replanted, advertising to bring guests in. The list is endless. Most of it could never have been done by working alone. I wish Congress would learn that lesson.

I can still hear the rain outside. It is a really gray day but just what we need. This rain will take down the last of the leaves. The only fall color left is the needles on the tamarack trees. They will be gone soon. Then we will wait for the first snowfall.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Fall Days

My thanks go to Mark and Jeanne Scharf for today’s wolf picture. They checked into #27 early last week about 3:00 p.m. As they were about to walk down to dinner, Jeanne saw the wolf thru the window in the front door. Out came the cameras and the rest is history. I have since heard that a wolf has been hanging around the public landing on Gunflint. It could be the same one.

Two days after the Scharf’s arrived, more incoming guests saw a wolf as they were driving up the Trail. Up until the last few years, we never saw wolves. I am assuming that these and other sightings are the result of a larger wolf population.

The Pagami Lake fire is winding down. The Type I Incident Management Team has just been replaced by a Type II Team. This is a very typical event as containment of a fire increases. As of today the fire is 71% contained. We have not smelled any smoke for a couple of weeks now.

The Forest Service has completely lifted the ban on camp fires, but we still need rain. Those of you familiar with the beaver pond on the Round Lake Road will be surprised to learn that it is totally dry. Several days of a nice gentle rain would be wonderful.

This past week the ladies from Always An Adventure were with us for four nights. This group has been with us for about 14 years. They are here to get out and explore the area no matter what the weather. It was raining the day their boat trip to Bridal Falls was scheduled. Even so 20 people went on the trip. One day they canoed into Ham Lake. Another day a group of them went into Stairway Portage. There were also individual hikes they organized on their own. It is fun for us to host a group that wants to get out and enjoy the woods.

Speaking of enjoying the woods, Bruce and I did a little of that yesterday. It was a beautiful fall day so we decided to go partridge hunting in the afternoon. We spent 4 hours driving back roads until my insides were like jelly. We stopped at one of the neighbors to see the construction of their new house. During the drive we got three partridge. While it is nice to get the birds and we would have liked more, just being out and about is what we enjoy doing. It was certainly better than watching the Vikings lose their fourth game of the year.

Lunch was very busy today. Adrian, Don and I kept running for about 3 hours. Since the weather was cooperating, most people wanted to sit on the porch. We would have all enjoyed sitting on the porch too. It is the perfect place to be on these fall days. Winter is coming and the porch will soon be covered with snow.

Monday, September 26, 2011

September Events

We had three weddings at Gunflint in September. They were all quite different which made it fun for us. Here is a picture of one of them. Weddings are good business for Gunflint but we are all glad when the last one is over. Perhaps the biggest effort goes into moving furniture in and out of the main lodge. Yesterday as everything came back to normal, we all heaved a sigh of relief.

With no weddings Bruce is now freed to go back to his first love – tearing out old buildings to make room for new buildings. This year we are removing our oldest canoer cabins at the outfitters. They will be replaced by nine very small individual canoer cabins. Although the guests will still use the outfitters shower house, the cabins will have four beds, insulation, heat (for May and October), ceiling fans, refrigerators, gas grills and screened porch. It will be a nice upgrade for our canoeing guests.

So here is a picture of Bruce on his backhoe tearing out buildings. Today he is down working on the foundation pads for the cabins. We need nine and don’t want them to be in just a straight line. Ronnie Smith (our gardener) and I have been working on shrubs, trees and flowers to help with the landscaping next spring. It is always fun to have new projects.

The Pagami Lake fire in Ely continues to smolder. As of today the Forest Service has it 53% contained. Yesterday the planes worked hard to put out flaming hot spots. The tally is 267,000 gallons of water were dumped on hot spots just yesterday. Realistically, the fire will not be totally put out until the snow flies. There is nothing like a layer of snow to melt into those hot spots and finally put them out.

This last week fall color has hit the Gunflint Trail. We had rain (whoopee!) for several days and then the sun came out Saturday afternoon. I celebrated yesterday by working on my iris bed. Got everything dug up, the soil roto tilled, everything respaced and planted. Today I will work on planting some new irises I just got. Of course, last night I paid the price for crawling in the dirt. Out came the Advil bottle.

The fall color is only one of the changes around us. Although I still hear loons at night, there does not seem to be as much calling. Saturday I saw a flock of snow buntings on the road. They just migrate through our forest on their way south (or north). The partridge season is open but we have not gotten out nor have we seen any birds. There are lots of bunnies around the house but they have not yet started to turn white. They start with their feet so I will be looking carefully.

My garden is pretty much finished. I still have to dig up carrots. I will also cut all the parsley and dry it for winter use. Hopefully I will have time to pull out all the dead plants to clean things up for next summer. Pulling them makes me think of all the great fruits and vegetables we got from the garden.

October comes Saturday. Where did the summer go?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Fires and a Trip

The BWCAW has been making lots of news with the Pagami Fire. Having been through fires, I don’t envy anyone going through it now. Except for a little smoke several weeks ago, we have had no effects from the fire. According to today’s press release, the fire is now 19% contained. Yesterday we had overcast, drizzle, and rain all day. I am sure that this really helped with the containment. Today is clear so the planes can fly again. This will add more space to containment.

There was a small (7 ½ acre) fire up by Seagull Lake. The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and the Forest Service jumped right on it. Without their great work, it could have become a big problem. The equipment that the GTVFD brings is these fires is partially paid for by receipts from the canoe races in case you are wondering why we do those races year after year. It took 2 ½ days to get the fire dead out. Remember this fire the next time canoe races come along.

I have missed most of the fire news because Bruce and I were out of town. We went with our friends Tom and Melissa to explore the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Five nights were spent in a rented house in Brevort which is just out of St. Ignace. Then we took two days driving back along the south shore of Lake Superior

The first day there we took the ferry out to Mackinac Island. After lunch we rented bikes for the 8 mile ride around the island. Don’t let the happy faces of Bruce and I on our tandem bike fool you. Our marriage would not survive another tandem bike ride. I can only see Bruce’s back, I can’t steer, and I can’t brake. Letting go of control is not something I do easily or graciously – Bruce calls it whining! After the bike ride, we visited all the fudge shops on the island.

Other days were spent exploring the area and hiking. We hiked 2-4 miles each day. The trails were easily but I still huffed and puffed my way along. Surprisingly we never met anyone else hiking on any of the trails. Even though most of the tourists were gray hairs or honeymooners, I would have expected there to be some hikers.

Driving home we stopped at several spots at the Picture Rocks National Shoreline of Lake Superior. My favorite spot was the Log Slide. The entire lake shore was made up of sand dunes that rose 300 feet above the lake. During the logging of white and red pines in this area, the huge logs were sent down sand chutes to the lake. It took a log 10 seconds to make the 500 foot trip! Needless to say, we did not climb down to the lake there.

I also learned a new bit of trivia – Mackinac Island is located in which of the Great Lakes? It’s Huron which I never would have guessed.

Friday, September 09, 2011


Luckily our guests keep sending me the most amazing pictures. This one comes from Jane and Tom Fischer. They took this from their canoe as they paddled across Gunflint. As they said, there is almost a surreal quality about this picture.

I don’t have a lot of time to fix dinner tonight. Bruce is going to suffer with the last of the fresh broccoli and sliced tomatoes to accompany the lobster from Florida. I do feel pretty rich when we get to eat a meal like this. Of course, the garden produce won’t be with us much longer.

Last Sunday was a pie and ice cream social at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. They had 300 people go into the museum and went through 30 homemade pies. Five gallons of ice cream went on top of the pies. Even so about 30 people came after every piece of pie was gone. Who knows how many pies we will need next year. My staff was disappointed when I brought home empty pie tins. I will have to make them a blueberry pie one day soon.

Once again I am writing before the weekend because it is going to be really busy. Tomorrow we have a wedding for 150 people. Tonight is the groom’s dinner for 58 plus regular dinner being served in Justine’s and the bistro. Don organized everyone to move furniture out and banquet tables in. As the owner my job is to sweep the floor. Tomorrow I get upgraded to setting tables. Bartender Kacy has been folding “bishop’s hat” napkins for much of the afternoon. After breakfast on Sunday everything will be moved back to normal.

Our final wedding is on the 24th. It is only for 50 people so it should be much easier. That will end the weddings this year at Gunflint. We love to have them but they are a lot of work.

Once again Bruce and I are sneaking away for a few days. This time it is with our friends Tom and Melissa to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We are renting a house on the north shore of Lake Michigan. There are lots of hiking trails and we also have a trip to Mackinac Island on our agenda. Sleep is another thing on my agenda.

I am going to stop now so dinner will be ready when Bruce gets here. We will be home on the 19th and I’ll write again then.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Animal Sightings

This coming weekend looks to be very busy for us so I thought I best write the blog early. Holiday weekends are always extra busy but this time we have a wedding for 125 people to keeps us going.

Jean Johnson from Carlton, Minnesota, sent me the above photo of a lynx. Jean and her family were visiting us during July. This is really an exceptional picture taken at the Narrows between Gunflint and Magnetic. You can see the international boundary marker on top of the large rock at the right. In all the years I have lived here, I have never seen a lynx. We hear more and more stories of people sighting them but this is far and away the best picture I have seen. It looks like a magnificent animal.

Bruce and I were driving to the lodge one night last week. Right by cabin #27 a wolf walked across the road in front of us. The animal was very tall and thin. His fur was short. We could not decide if he was shedding in preparation for a winter coat or not. There was not an ounce of fat on the animal. Naturally, I did not have a camera with me.

As fall approaches, we are starting to get the garden ready for its winter rest. Tomatoes are ripening and going down to the lodge. I also plan on just dicing and freezing some for winter use. Carrots are big enough to be used and are sweet and tasty. Parsley will soon be picked and dried for winter. Basil is not as pretty now so I will start to use it up too. There might be enough broccoli for one more meal but don’t hold your breath.

There will be plenty of room in the freezer since I am finally getting all the frozen raspberries out to be made into jam. Also 10 cups of blueberries are going into pies for the Chik-Wauk Museum’s Taste of the Gunflint Trail this Sunday. Don’t worry; we still have plenty of berries for winter pancakes, etc. I always have enough blueberries for the winter.

As of this weekend, our guest mix changes. Gone are all the children with school starting. We have lots of adults between honeymooners and senior citizens. The next two months are extremely full with reservations. In fact don’t plan on a weekend trip until well into November. Everyone seems to be coming up here which is great for us.

We are doing a little outside work on our house. On the lake side we are putting in a grassy, open area with a fire ring. I think that this will primarily be used for s’mores when grandkids are here. Somehow I can’t see either of us sun bathing in the afternoon.

Have a great holiday weekend.

Friday, August 26, 2011

It is almost fall!

Today I actually have TWO pictures for the blog. It is truly amazing for me.

One is of Jason Merrill who is in charge of our maintenance. He is taking a month’s vacation to go to Alaska with his brother. Bonnie took this picture of him before he left today. The two figures he is holding are Bonnie and Sheryl who will be going in spirit with him. We know it is going to be a great trip for the two guys. We just hope the lodge doesn’t fall apart without him. Luckily Lance is here to keep everything in running order.

The second picture is a loon nest. Really it is an artificial nest that one of our members donated to the Chik-Wauk museum. This fall the nest (made of recycled plastic pop bottles) with be anchored out in the Chik-Wauk bay. The live plants in it will continue to grow and it will be ready next spring to host a pair of nesting loons. We had an artificial nest out this spring and successfully had two chicks born. The advantage to this nest is that it will be able to be in the water year around. So in the spring we will all look for the pair of loons who will use it for their young.

It is easy to tell that September is almost here. The brush along the roadside is turning color. There is a fall feel to the air. Also the poplar firewood smells like fall to me. Much of our staff is going back to school. We have more coming but the ones who are leaving were so good.

I am ready for that first fall night when we put a fire in our fireplace. Bruce and I have a fire in the living room almost every night in the winter. At one point we considered putting in a gas fireplace. Luckily we came to our senses before doing it. Bruce likes to split the firewood by hand with his mall. We save any cedar trees and birch bark for kindling. In fact we even save the little branches from the trees for kindling. My job is to keep the wood box full. It is not a big job. For father’s day Bruce always gets a huge load of hardwood from Shawn and Bob. Combining that with our birch, poplar and cedar keeps us going all winter long.

September and October look to be exceptionally busy. Our weekends are virtually full. It is going to be sometime in November before things start to slow down. I can remember when any business we got after Labor Day was considered a bonus. Now we expect to be busy with fall color guests during all this time. It is almost like we just started to have fall color twenty years ago. Suddenly people seemed to realize that fall was a great time to be in the woods.

So catch your breath and get a second wind. Fall is about to hit us.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lobster Hunting

Bruce and I are back from our Florida getaway. The waters around Cudjoe Key are minus a few lobster. Here is Bruce and Ron with one day’s catch.

On August 5th the lobster season opened in Florida. We got up for our usual early morning start – 10:00 a.m. In our defense, diving has an extra consideration down in the Keys – tides. So you look at the local paper to get the tide schedule for Key West. Then you have to adjust this for the tide schedule where you will be diving. Of course, this will all change the next day.

Off we went on our first day to an area called the “Coral Heads.” It is outside and on the open water which makes this not my favorite spot. I have terrible motion sickness but Saturday was calm. Bruce and Ron put their dive gear on and take off. Ron got 4-5 the first dive but Bruce was in the Dead Sea. The second dive was in a place called Lennie’s Hole or Shark Alley depending on who you are taking to. Bruce got a couple lobsters and Ron also got some. We ended up with 11 lobsters – not very good for the first day. We also ate four of them so not too many went into the freezer.

Our second day was much better. We brought in 22 lobsters. This was only two under our limit. However, we did so much running around that we ran out of gas. Luckily Ron gets help from Sea Tow and they brought us five gallons of gas. We left at 10:00 a.m. and got home at 7:00 p.m. Did I mention that I also get sunburn when out lots?

The best part about the second day was that we got in so late, we had to go out to dinner. Eating out is one of the great joys of a Keys visit. The variety and scope of restaurants is somewhat better than Grand Marais. The day we flew in our first stop was a late lunch at the Half Shell Raw Bar for Conch Chowder and Oysters Rockefeller. But this night we went to Mangrove Mamma’s. Bruce and I had a Mahi Mahi fish sandwich that was huge. We forced ourselves to finish it just to be polite. We had three other meals out.

Another thing that we do is look for new recipes for lobster. Steamed or grilled lobster is great but we get enough to try different things. On this trip we adapted a crab cake recipe to make lobster cakes. It was a great success. What really topped off the meal was Pat’s homemade Key Lime Pie. She makes the absolute best pie and we all look forward to it.

Friday came too early in our vacation. We flew home with a good supply of lobster tails. Many of them were given away to our kids and managers but a good supply found their way into our freezer. They make wonderful treats during the winter.

Life at the resort was busy while we were gone and it is still keeping us hopping. Both September and October are very heavily booked. Even November is starting to fill in. Meanwhile I will dream with lobsters dancing in my head.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

August Already

Just a quick hello to my friend, Jean O., in Minneapolis. I hear you had a fall but are on the way to recovery. Bruce and I wish you a speedy road to good health.

It is family vacation time. Our guests include children of every age group and temperament. With the warm weather, these kids are drawn to the waterfront as if by a magnet. Kayaks and canoes propel them on the lake.

There is nothing more fun than watching a 6 or 7 or 8 year old child don their life vest and get into a kayak for the first time. After a few simple instructions, they are off. And then there is the moment when they realize that they can make this craft go anywhere they want. There is no stopping them now.

Picking wild berries is another enlightening experience for young children. Who would believe that those small blue or red balls on a bush can be eaten and Mom doesn’t even care. Add to that the joy of eating your first blueberry pie made from berries YOU picked. If you decide to make jam with those berries, next February these kids will remember where they picked every berry in the jar.

Speaking of jam, the Kerfoot pantry is building up its stock for the coming winter. To date we have 12 jars of wild blueberry, 8 jars of wild strawberry, 7 jars of strawberry rhubarb, and 9 jars of raspberry. The strawberries are finished but there are still lots of blueberries and raspberries to harvest. Bruce and I have also been feasting on huge helpings of blueberries and raspberries on our cold cereal each morning.

It is hard to believe that we are now into August. I know that May was just last week. The beginning of August is what I consider the midpoint of our summer season. At the end of August all the kids will be back in school. We will be filled with adults of all ages who generally come up for the fall color.

Fall is a time I particularly love. By then the pace seems to slow down a bit. I might even get to watch a couple of football games on television. The temperature also cools down. It quickly becomes time to close up the garden for the season. The yellows and reds of fall are just icing on the cake.

On Thursday Bruce and I are taking off for a week. The lobster season is opening in Florida. For over 30 years Bruce has matched wits with those tasty critters. Just as we put up jam, we also like to have some lobsters in the freezer for the winter. Of course while we are down in the Keys, there are a few restaurants to visit. Our plane arrives in Key West at 1:20 – just in time for a late lunch. So don’t expect to hear from me until the 14th or 15th.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July Rolls Along

It is hard to believe how hot and humid it was around here last Sunday and Wednesday. The hostess station at the lodge (where I was) left us all soaking wet with perspiration. Mandy had to cancel afternoon horseback rides. She also rigged up a sprinkler system to give the horses some relief. On Wednesday even being outside gave little relief. In the early morning hours we had several inches of rain. By afternoon the sun was out and the rain was steaming away.

Yesterday a cold front came in. I walked down to the lodge zipped up in a sweatshirt that felt wonderful. Today it is still cool. After early last week we are all thrilled with the cool weather. Even if the guests would rather have hot weather, we love the cooler temperatures.

Wednesday the canoe races were held here. I don’t know how many hundred people attended but it was BUSY. Everything went well. A few flashes of lightening to the north forced the cancellation of the last races. The Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department received a nice check for $14,500. The success was due to the leadership of Tom Schank and Melissa Anderson along with their army of 110 volunteers.

I am in my usual mid-summer mess. Talking with guests in the lodge and dining room, I slowly learn to recognize their faces. Names and cabin numbers are beyond me. No sooner do I get that far than everyone checks out and I have to start all over. So today 14 cabins checked out and then fill up again. The worst of it is that I am continually explaining what I did to my wrist. Repeating that sad story is enough to humble anyone.

Guides Jon Schei and Adam Treeful had a wonderful day on the water yesterday. Adam and his guests caught over 40 walleyes. Jon was right behind him with 30 walleyes but Jon’s were bigger. This morning when their guests checked out, one party was going to have to stop in Grand Marais to buy a larger cooler. What a nice problem to have!

Now for the weekly garden report: broccoli, basil, chives and parsley are producing more than the kitchen can use. Green beans are covered with flowers. Carrot greens are tall but it is too early to harvest them. The tomatoes are starting to turn red. In fact I can almost taste them. My late lettuce is about ready for salads. Regarding the berries: strawberries are finished, blueberries are good enough to be picked and there are a few red raspberries on the bushes.

Tuesday we go to Duluth and I get to see my surgeon. Hopefully I will get a small cast that comes below my elbow. If it is changed, my plan is to ask someone to take some warm soapy water and wash the arm first. Meanwhile I have become able to do many more (but not all) things with one hand. Bruce and our staff are really coddling me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Joys of Summer

The summer heat has finally hit us. We had 92 degrees in the shade at our house yesterday afternoon. Our solution is to close the doors and windows during the day with all the ceiling fans on. At night we open all the windows to bring in the cool air. All the insulation that keeps the house warm in the winter also keeps the heat out in the summer. For the few really hot days we get, this works almost as well as A/C.

One result of this hot weather is that everyone is down at the beach and in the water. The kayaks and canoes are busy all day. After work all the staff jumps into the lake.

As you can see from the above picture, we have had a couple of births at Chik-Wauk. As soon as the ice was out this spring, Kath Lande and a crew put out an artificial loon nest. It was clearly visible from the lodge but not from the shore. Pretty soon a pair of loons took up residence. Eggs were laid and they started sitting. Then disaster struck! The neighborhood eagle was able to swoop down and steal the eggs.

More branches that stick up into the air were added. They make it difficult for eagles to swoop in. We all held our breath but the loons came back and laid two more eggs. Late last week one of the eggs hatched. The chick was named Peat. Two days later Repeat was born. Once again we will all hold our breaths hoping the eagle does not get them.

You know that we all love our guests dearly but sometimes you wonder where their minds are. So we had a couple come into the museum raving about the beautiful drive they had had from Duluth along the “river” (Lake Superior). We also had someone ask “How long does it take a deer to grow into a moose?”

We have been feasting on the broccoli coming out of the garden. Each week we can get enough for one dinner in Justine’s plus some for us. It is so much tastier than anything we get from the grocery store that even Bruce enjoys it. With a little luck it will continue to feed us through August. Basil has also done particularly well this summer. It goes down to the lodge for pesto. Carrots and green beans are filling out. The tomatoes plants have a few tomatoes that seem to be approaching turning red. My mouth is watering.

I just got word that the blueberries on the Magnetic Rock Trail are starting to ripen. Friends walked the trail with their grandchildren. There were enough berries for snacking along the way. There is no word on red raspberries yet but they will be along.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

leaf season

Our life at gunflint often seems to be divided into two seasons. Right now we are in the middle of leaf season. It starts around the middle of may. One day we will have soft, gentle rain. Suddenly the trees will be covered with a green haze as young leaves peak out.

Next comes the period of lime green leaves. They are new and almost look fragile but the strong winds of a storm cannot shake them loose. The flowers are developing right along with the leaves. Soon these colorful flowers draw our attention away from the leaves.

Right now all our leaves have attained their robust mid-summer color. The forest is filled with these deep green leaves. They shade our homes and shelter the birds. It seems like they will always be with us.

But September is coming. After Labor Day the green is starting to fade on many leaves. By the middle of the month yellow is everywhere. That strong bond between leaf and branch is gone. The slightest whiff of wind will send them spiraling to the ground. It is time for bare branches again.

This is the time of year when we all fall in love with the patio. It was lee and Eva’s idea to replace a series of wood porches with a wide open patio overlooking the lake. Long summer days make it a perfect relaxing and dining spot. Parents can sit sipping something cool while kids can splash in the lake. Sunday barbeques seem to taste better while sitting on the patio. The only problem is that Bruce and I seem to work during meals. It is not often we get to enjoy sitting.

For those of you visiting the area, I want to remind you that the Chik-Wauk museum and nature center is open and waiting to welcome you. It tells the story of the people of the gunflint trail through pictures, displays and videos. On Sundays and Thursdays from now until late august there are guided hikes into the trail system around the museum. An indoor scavenger hunt is available for children. Picnic tables are great place for your pack lunch. In a short time the blueberries will be ripe and ready for picking. Plan to make this a stop on your way up the gunflint trail.

Speaking of ripe berries, now is the time to be out gathering wild strawberries. They are just tiny but bursting with favor. Raspberries and blueberries will be quickly available. I can already hear my children asking for their winter jam supply.

My finger is tired so that is all you get today.

Monday, July 04, 2011

a bump in the road

In case you are wondering like the poet e e cummings, I have decided to forego using capital letters. My reasoning is very practical. Two weeks ago I fell asleep driving to town and put my car in the ditch. The car is a mess but only my left wrist is broken and it will heal. Also my ego is badly bruised. As I look back on this, the computer is smarter than I am. It is automatically adding capital letters. There will still be plenty of mistakes that I can make hunting and pecking on the keyboard.

We have just finished one of our busiest junes ever. Luckily we have also been blessed with one of the best staffs ever. There is extra staff at the outfitters because advance reservations were strong. Bonnie and sheryl are keeping them all running. In their spare time the gals are keeping beds changed and cabins cleaned. Down at the lodge food is flying out the kitchen as guests are flying in the front door. It is all very exciting and fun.

Meanwhile guests are having fun exploring the northwoods. I talked with a couple from Indiana the other night in the dining room. They took their 2 year old daughter and 8 year old son on a canoe trip. The four of them and their dog fit nicely into our new 24 foot canoe. The only one who didn’t enjoy the woods was the dog. He was part lab and part coon dog with his nose coming from the coon genes. The dog just wanted to hide in the tent. We figured that all these strange smells (bear?) were just overwhelming the young dog. The little girl loved exploring the campsite and the boy told me all about the fish he caught. I am sure that this only the first of many family canoe trips.

Yesterday I walked down to the lodge as I am becoming more mobile. It is amazing how the wildflowers have burst out – lupines, hawkweed, buttercups, just everything. My favorite at this time of year are the daisys. Their clean lines of white and yellow look so refreshing.

Wild strawberries are ripening right now. Bruce has hit some of his favorite honey spots. He goes and picks a one cup margarine container each time. It goes into the freezer. When he gets 5, I make jam. He says that raspberries and blueberries look good too.

I understand that the cool, rainy weather we had last week was great for fishing. The guides and their guests had great days on the water. It all sounds like heaven from in front of my computer.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Running through Summer

Now that the summer is in full swing, I am having trouble finding time to write. This is turning into one of our busiest Junes ever. There are no complaints but it does keep us all running.

Last night the kitchen and the lodge staff hosted a wedding reception. So Saturday morning all the furniture in the lodge was replaced by banquet tables and chairs. That afternoon, Marilyn, Don, Kacy, and I spent three hours cleaning and setting the tables. Meanwhile the kitchen was busy preparing the appetizers and dinners. By 4:15 the guests were back from the wedding. The reception lasted until midnight. Most everything was prepped for breakfast on Sunday morning. Today the last of the wedding items were put away and the lodge furniture was returned.

Today is the busy day for the housekeeping staff. All the cabins checked out and they all check in again tonight. A few had to leave early which gave the housekeepers an early start. It usually seems that the last cabin to leave is the first cabin to arrive. We were lucky with this change over. The first cabin to leave (and get cleaned) was also the first cabin to arrive.

Of course, no matter how busy yesterday was, there is still a full slate of meals to serve today. Don, on very little sleep, is busy smoking meats for the barbeque tonight. Everyone is busy cleaning and rearranging the lodge. By tonight they will all be ready to get some sleep. It will be quiet in the staff housing.

Fishing has been good lately. The guides have helped their guests find a lot of large walleyes. Lake trout are slowly moving into a little deeper water. Smallmouth bass are moving of f the spawning beds and appear ready to eat again. Rick has started fishing fun for the children staying at the lodge. He always seems to find fish for them.

All of our staff have arrived for the summer. They seem to be a very pleasant group. It always helps that there are so many people here from the winter and previous summers. They help all the new people learn their way around. On Friday we had our first general staff meeting. At 6:00 a.m. on the patio, none of us were too wide awake but everyone was present. Each manager had a few words to say. Bruce had a few more words to say.

This coming week is busy. I believe that the cabins are almost totally rented. Guides are close to being fully booked. The outfitters has lots of groups going out. We see many of them in the bistro for their first hamburger at the end of a trip. This summer they are also buying lots of malts and shakes – a new addition to the menu.

In a couple of days we will have the longest day of the year. That means that each day will be several minutes shorter. I am always ready when it gets dark early.

Monday, June 06, 2011

A Most Interesting Family

There are often stray canoe parties who stop by the lodge for provisions, help, a bed or a meal. Yesterday we had one of the most unusual parties stop in at the lodge.

Geoff and Pam are two Canadians who are canoeing from coast to coast in Canada. He is a geologist and she is in logistics for a natural gas pipeline. When they stopped here, their traveling companions were 20-month Jude and a huge dog names Taq.

Their trip started in 2007 in Victoria with a 1000 mile paddle up the west coast of Canada. Then they portaged 30 miles across the coastal mountains of Canada. The canoe was put on a two wheel stand. Geoff, Pam and Taq each had a harness to pull as they went across the mountains.

Their next step was to paddle 300 miles up the Frazer River – that would be paddling into the current the entire time. Flood waters made them break this paddle for a month. At the end of the Frazer River paddle was a trip across the Rockies. This was a 60-mile portage. Once again all three of them towed the canoe loaded with gear.

After their son, Jude, was born they paddled an eastern leg of the trip. He was young and they were uncertain as to how that would go with Jude. Because of some big water in Manitoba, that part of the trip will wait a bit. A month ago the four of them started east from Kenora, Ontario. They hope to paddle to Lake Huron this summer.

So yesterday they stopped at Gunflint. Their reservation was for a canoer cabin. Pam looked at it and felt it was OK but not what she wanted. So they moved into Cabin #7 with two bedrooms, a hot tub, and a washer and dryer. They ate the BBQ last night for dinner plus breakfast and lunch today. Pam said it was like being on vacation to stay here.

They are very organized on this trip. With one canoe, a huge dog, a small boy, and all their packs, there is not a lot of spare room. They take sensible precautions: hats, sun screen, a throw rope. There is a plan and they will make it.

In many ways the most interesting one is Son Jude. He is not the least bit shy. He wants to look at your shoes and show you his. He rides in a backpack in the canoe. When he is ready to get going, he tries to climb into the backpack. Jude loves the portages because there is so much to explore on them. Pam says that when they stop for the night, Jude tries to paddle in the canoe. You just know that the woods and waters will always be a part of him.

If you want to read more about this young family, their website is That’s my next stop on the web.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting Started Into Summer

We are in that time of year where things are very busy and we don’t have a full staff yet. Even Bruce and I have had to pretend to work hard. Tired or not, it feels good to be running at full tilt.

Somehow it has skipped my mind but some of you may be interested in the fishing. I talked with Guide Jon Schei about how the season is going for him. He told me that he and his guests have caught 26 walleyes over 28” long. In addition the lake trout and bass have been really biting.

Several days ago I talked with my neighbor Sharon. She and Hubby Bob went out fishing one day on Gunflint and Little Gunflint. They started out getting lake trout in the main lake. Then they moved into Little Gunflint where they caught smallmouth bass – and not little ones. By then it was getting late in the afternoon so they moved further into Little Gunflint and caught walleye. Sounds like a pretty good day of fishing!

Most of our guests this weekend were here to relax, hike and do a little canoeing. One couple took a canoe trip to different lakes each day they were here. We had a large Asian family of 23. They learned to drive boats and paddle canoes. It was fun to watch them learning. Many of our dog guests took time to go swimming in the lake. Several of the staff jumped in and right out of the lake. Burr! That is not my thing.

We introduced some changes to the Red Paddle Bistro menu. Judging by what has been ordered, the new items are very popular. We also added malts and sundaes which are going to prove very difficult for me. There is nothing I love more than a good milk shake made with real ice cream. I am going to stay out of the kitchen.

Ronnie Smith and her crew are busy planting flowers. Our shipment arrived last Thursday. With a chance of frost, no planting was done until yesterday. It will take them about one week to get everything in the ground. Then we all have to be patient for several weeks as the plants grow and blossom.

Bruce and I have also been working in our vegetable garden. Weeding was the first big project. Then chives and strawberry beds have been cleaned and gotten going. The asparagus bed has yielded one meal. Yesterday I planted 15 flats of basil, parsley and broccoli. The majority of this is used in the lodge. Today Bruce is planting seeds for squash. He also took some time out to fertilize our little patch of grass.

It’s time to make dinner and get down to the lodge for the evening meal.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Glimpse of the Past

Yesterday, last night, and this afternoon we are getting a little rain. Things have been very dry and it is good to see the rains come. These gentle drizzles are all absorbed into the ground and don’t run off. In addition the leaves have positively popped out with the rain. They are all that lovely spring lime green. For me, an extra bonus is that my asparagus is also popping out of the ground.

Yesterday was a garage sale along the length of the Gunflint Trail. I was detailed to be the cashier at ours. Things weren’t too busy but I had a wonderful time. Lots of neighbors whom I hadn’t seen stopped by.

The best part of my day came from a small suitcase. Bruce brought it down from the house. I thought there was a trumpet from one of my boys inside. When we opened it at the conference center, it was filled with old pictures that I had never seen. So, I spent my slow times going through all the pictures. Many of the black-and-white scenes of a lake somewhere were thrown out. But there were many goodies to be found. Just looking at the pictures was wonderful and then I worked on naming people in many of the pictures.

Other items in the suitcase were newspaper articles, Bruce’s 10th grade autobiography, and some writings of Justine’s. Below is one of Justine’s paragraphs. I know it is hers because of the handwriting. I am guessing it was written shortly after the event occurred. Hopefully you will enjoy it.

“Toots came to us on the shoulders of a Forester. It was the winter of 1938 that the snow was almost chest high on the level. The deer had yarded into feeding areas and then literally ate themselves out of house and home. The deep snow hindered movement through the woods. Toots was too weak to stand and had reached a stage of starvation. I suggested that the faun be left with us – after all I had a baby [Bruce] in a bassinette and was thus clearly confined to the house. We spread papers on a portion of the living room floor, as a precautionary measure, and gently laid Toots on them. Deer are fond of many kinds of food. We gathered tender tips of cedar and offered them in supplication, we diluted canned milk with a little water, we offered pancakes with sugar, with butter and just plain, bread soaked in milk, cigarettes (they love tobacco) and plain water. None of these foods interested the deer in the slightest and it looked as if the deer was too emaciated to stage a come back. On some of the birches there are frail clusters of moss like sparsely hanging goatees. As a final gesture we gathered lots of this moss and offered it to the deer. As we held it before its lips, they parted and the moss was slowly taken. We knew then that Toots would recover. Every morning Bill would go out with a large paper sack and pluck these hanging clumps. It took about an hour to fill the sac.”

It is always fun to visit the past. Here is a picture of Mom and Bruce from about that time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A New Season Starts

The walleye opener was quiet. We didn’t have a lot of fishermen but it seems that everyone else was up and into the lodge for meals. Saturday was very windy which made fishing difficult and cold. The wind died down yesterday and there is no wind today. The lake is like glass. The weather station on Seagull Lake tells us that the wind is GUSTING to 2 MPH.

I have some pictures to show you. The first is of the new dock going in. Jason got it in with a minimum of issues. The first time something like this is put together there are always minor adjustments to make. All went well and we now have a great new dock.

Bruce and Don are shown here playing with the wood fired oven. We have some new breads we are trying. As usual, the two of them need to get their heads into the entire process. I just was the photographer and the taster. It seems that those are the two best jobs for this type of event.

Finally, Sheryl sent me a picture of Little Rock Falls taken on May 4th. The water is just boiling over the top of the rocks. It is one of my favorite places but never has the water been flowing this swiftly for me to see. You have to remember that the ice had not gone off Magnetic Lake when this picture was taken. Sheryl and Bonnie had to canoe around the shoreline to get home. At one point they were dragging their canoe with one foot on the ice and one foot in the canoe.

One time the water was going over Little Rock Falls quite strongly when I was there. It must have been in June. At the top of the falls I saw a mother mallard and her brood. Then suddenly she took them right down the falls! In just a minute the babies popped up at the bottom. It was an amazing thing to watch. I was one of those times when you shake your head and say, "Did I really see what I thought I saw?"

New and returning staff members are arriving on a regular basis. Again this morning Bruce is giving his “Welcome to Gunflint” talk for three new people. He likes to give every new employee a talk about what it means to work at Gunflint and what our philosophy of guest services is. Some people listen well and others almost fall asleep. We never have figured out which ones make the best staff.

Then this afternoon Don, Bruce, and I are working on the menu and changes that may be made. It is always a long meeting to come to agreement. Bruce has been visiting some website with 40,000 recipes. So hold on to your hat when you come into the dining room and bistro. Actually we just gradually add or adjust a few items to freshen up the menu. Some items come from us while other suggestions come from the cooks. After an item is agreed on, it must be tested, priced, and added to the menu. Marilyn and I get involved in the describing the item on the menu.

I want to spend a little time in my garden too so it is going to be a busy day. And by the way, what am I fixing for dinner?

Saturday, May 07, 2011

More Signs of Spring

The ice is going out everywhere. Magnetic is now clear and it is clear in front of the lodge. The east end of the lake is still full of ice. Jason and his crew are putting in the smaller dock today. We won’t bring the new, larger dock over until the ice is totally gone from the lake. On a still calm day like today, it is really tempting to put in the new dock. However, the wind could come out of the east and blow all the ice back down our way. It’s better to be patient.

This weekend is the Gunflint Green Up. People gather from all over the plant trees and release trees in the places burned from the Ham Lake Fire of 2007. About the same number of people are here as were last year – 160. Some people have homes in the area while others are just guests. It is a wonderful thing to see everyone taking possession of the forest and helping to improve it. Above is a picture of last night’s dinner in the tent behind our outfitters.

Birds are coming back in great numbers. Every day I see is different kind. Yesterday there were purple finches and chipping sparrows. Today a flock of grackles were outside my window. Every bird is starved and I fill the feeders on a daily basis.

Birds aren’t the only ones back. Bruce had a bear climb into his truck looking for minnow bread to eat. This happened last summer so we assume it is the same bear. One of the guests at the lodge reported seeing a momma bear and two cubs go past her cabin at midnight last night. I hope that they don’t find and food and leave soon. It is such a problem. We don’t want to the harm the bears but we also don’t want them around. Too many guests forget that these are wild animals. I have seen guests letting their children try to feed the bears – bad idea. We will see what happens. Every summer is different.

There are also many more rabbits that usual. One of the neighbors was driving down the side road. Fran counted 13 rabbits in about 1 ½ miles. We must assume that the rabbits are doing what they do best – multiplying. But where are all the fox and our occasional lynx? These rabbits should be tasty lunches for them. I hope that the rabbits don’t get into my garden lettuce.

Partridge are out drumming now. Drumming is the noise that males make when looking for a female to mate with. In the spring you can hear them any time you are outside. I spotted one up at Chik-Wauk on Wednesday. His drumming was so loud that he had to be nearby. He was right on top of a boulder but I didn’t get to see him actually drumming.

With the bedroom window open, I can hear the loons calling every night. It is a wonderful sound.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Home Again

The calendar may not say it, but summer arrived at Gunflint Lodge today. The horses arrived! Mandy and Izzy were there to put halters on and get them into the pasture. Right now they are all munching on hay, rolling in the dirt, and drinking water. On Monday the staff will be going out for rides to reacquaint the horses with the trails. We only have two new horses so they all pretty much know where they are going.

Bruce and I had a great trip down to the Florida Keys. As always we stayed with our friends Ron and Pat Malina. They have a beautiful porch that overlooks the open water. We ate every meal out there in 85 degree temperatures with a gentle breeze.

Well, there were several meals that we ate in restaurants. We have two favorite restaurants that we always visit when in Key West. One is the Raw Bar at Land’s End. I dream about Oysters Rockefeller and Conch Fritters. Bruce lives for Conch Chowder. Figuring out what comes next is always a problem. Our other must stop is El Siboney, a Cuban restaurant in a residential area. You have to know it is there to find it. Bruce always starts out with a big bowl of their homemade soup – every kind is good. I like the roast pork and he likes the fried pork cubes. Both come with warm buttered Cuban bread, yellow rice, black beans and plantains. Even without the soup it is more than either of us can eat.

Once we get past these restaurants, then it is time to try some new ones. As usual there were plenty of good ones around. The best one, however, was in the Malina household. The day we arrived Pat greeted us with steamed and chilled Key West Pink shrimp and stone crabs. Another night we ate Pat’s Key Lime Pie. I refuse to order this in a restaurant because no one makes it as well as Pat does.

Several nights we relaxed playing canasta. It is always the men against the women. Both sides managed to hold their own. Bruce and I also learned bowling via the Wii. Every day we were out walking around. We did a little shopping, or rather looking, at some of the Key West stores. For looking you can’t beat Fast Buck Freddy’s. If I had a house to decorate in the Keys (and unlimited funds), I could buy out that store.

Of course, all good things must end and we are now home. Business is looking good. More staff are arriving. Spring projects are getting done. The snow is basically gone. The ice on Gunflint Lake is pretty black this afternoon. The new dock is now floating in the water. We can’t get it back into the summer home bay yet but there is a boat and motor sitting on the shore ready to go in the moment we can.

I looked at my garden today. Hopefully tomorrow I will get started cleaning that up. I could see a few tiny strawberry leaves poking out. Then there is the rhubarb to get going. Beds have to be cleaned for basil and parsley. Chives will also be coming out soon. My iris need a tablespoon of bone marrow on them. The grass also needs fertilizer. The flower beds need to be weeded.

All of a sudden it is an endless list. I am ready to start tackling everything.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Keys Vacation

I keep thinking that we are finished with winter but these past couple days have made me wonder. Yesterday (Saturday) it snowed off and on for most of the day. We got about 4 inches of a wet heavy snow. The temperatures hovered right around freezing and the ground is warm. As a result we never got much accumulation. Wind, however, blew snow all over. Today seems to be trying to clear or, at least, lighten up. Right now at 3:00 p.m. the sun is coming out. The new snow did bring us one interesting phone call. Someone was looking to do a little more snowmobiling now that there was fresh snow. All our trails are finished for the season. The base on them has been gone for a long time. This time of year reminds me of Bruce’s mother, Justine. She would be writing a column for the newspaper and have nothing to write. We would get a phone call with this voice saying, “Got anything for the fish wrapper?” Usually Mom would end up writing stories about nature which is, of course, all around us. So, with not much to tell you I am going to stop. Bruce and I are off to the Florida Keys for 10 days. The 85 degree weather there sounds wonderful. I’m off to pack!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Mud and Cleaning Season

I think we are officially in mud season. Water from melting snow is streaming down my driveway and anyplace else that leads to the lake. Usually the roads dry up in a couple of days. Under the snow we have yet to get mud but that is next. The paths in my garden quickly become soggy messes for a couple of days. Meanwhile the spring projects are coming along. The floors in the lodge now have two coats of varnish. A third coat will be added today in the high traffic areas. Then it is a matter of letting everything dry and cure. I understand that by Tuesday, it will be time to move furniture back in. Remember that pile of furniture in the conference center? Chris Prasil, normally a server, is washing it all down. Much of this was washed before our weddings but we still have to go over it all. Cleaning is going on just as steadily in all the cabins. Again this is our one time to really tear into all the nooks and crannies. The housekeepers will be busy from now through May with these projects. We can’t forget the kitchen in spring cleaning. The other day Adam and Hudson were cleaning the hoods and ovens. Today Jacob has the grill torn apart. Meanwhile John is washing every bowl, shelf, silverware, pot and pan in the entire place. Right now it all looks a mess but things will start to take shape soon. Some of you may have noticed that the lynx on the beam in the lodge had a torn foot. Kaci got out her needle and thread and fixed the problem. Along the way she gave him a good cleaning. We won’t talk about how much dust was in his hide. The new dock is almost done. Each day I hear, only one more day. It is hard to believe how much is going into it but Jason is a perfectionist. For example, we have over 100 pounds of nails. The dock looks huge sitting on the ice. The touchiest time will be when it is floating but there is still a large mass of ice on the lake. We need to get the dock back in a bay before it is swept into the moving ice flow. Keep your fingers crossed. Dave goes to Duluth tomorrow to pick up new motors. By the time he gets the old ones loaded here for trade-ins and the new ones loaded in Duluth, he will be sick of motors. Of course, there are people to help with the loading in each spot. Once the ice is gone, the dock staff will be busy breaking in the motors by running them some. Spring projects will continue for a bit yet. There is, however, one project that has been reduced to a minimum. Years ago the lodge and every single cabin had water drained in the fall and put back during the spring. Usually it took several days in the spring. One year someone other than Bruce drained. The next spring it took over two weeks to get water running in all the cabins. Bruce had some special words for that spring. All in all, it is a project he does not miss.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Did We Do All Winter?

We have had some warm days and melting snow. It is my HOPE that we have seen our last snowfall for this year. Rain would be wonderful. Moisture this spring is just what we need to bring up all the lake levels. Even wonder what the winter staff does around here for entertainment? Some, of course, have TV, but not all of them. Computer games are also enjoyed by many staff members. Monday night is usually time for some low key poker games. Wednesday is time for Bags which is pitching some hand-sized bean bags into target holes. I have tried it once but could be beat by anyone. Many staff also enjoy getting out in the winter. Hudson (from the kitchen) and Lance (handyman) are probably our most constant fishermen. Hudson enjoys going out in the morning before working on the afternoon and dinner shift. Lance does his fishing mostly on days off. Both of them are pretty good. Among the gals we have our walkers. The most steady one is Bonnie from the outfitters. She takes Jason’s dog, Monster, almost every afternoon about 4:00. Sheryl will accompany her sometimes. Bonnie sets a pretty aggressive pace so you have to be ready to move on her hikes. On their days off, Marilyn and Kaci from the front desk have been doing some longer walks. Last week they went out for 2 ½ hours on the frozen ski trails. This week the trails are softer and I understand that they have a seven mile trip planned for today. Kacy (bartender) is our best skier. She likes to snowboard down at Lutsen. Kacy grew up doing it in the west and enjoys it here too. Not too many of the staff are into cross country skiing. Chrystal (a housekeeper from Jamaica) tried dog sledding the other day. Adam took her out with his dogs. She really enjoyed the ride although it was a completely new experience for her. Mandy likes to spend her off days cross stitching. Of course, her favorite subject is horses and she does beautiful work. Even the backs of her pictures are neat and organized. Adam is busy planning his next dog sled. He will be getting four more dogs this summer. That means he will have enough dogs to pull two people at a time. So now he has to build a larger sled. His girl friend, Kaci, will do the sewing to make the canvas parts to the sled. I understand that she has also been tapped to make booties for the dogs. As the seasons change, so will the staff’s activities. I am sure that Lance and Hudson will continue fishing. Adam and Kaci will probably take at least one canoe trip this summer. Sheryl and Bonnie are also planning their fall canoe trip. Even Bruce and I are planning an early September canoe trip with our friends, Tom and Melissa.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Spring!

Welcome to spring in the north woods. The forecast is for up to six inches of snow by midnight. Meanwhile it is misting outside. We will see what happens.

Last night was our third and last wedding of the spring. A really nice couple from Thunder Bay came down with all their friends and family. To fit the setting, Adam brought the bride to the outdoor ceremony by dog sled. Here is a picture of her arriving at the lodge. The guests are waiting up on the patio.

One of the best parts of spring is welcoming back our resident animal populations. Don Decker, who mushes for us, saw a cougar on top of the Gunflint hill last week. Don Kufahl went up to check the tracks. He said that the paw prints were definitely from a huge cat. This cat had a running stride of eight feet! Although I have seen a cougar on Highway 61 by Grand Portage, I have never seen one up here. I am sure that the animal is almost gone before you realize what it was.

We have also started to see more snowshoe rabbits. They are still pretty much white. Their feet and the tips of their ears appear to be starting to turn brown. The rabbits run so fast that it is hard to decide what is or is not brown. With all the wolves around, we are surprised to see so many rabbits.

Birds have been busy eating up our feeders. One set of neighbors were cleaned out twice by a large flock of pine siskins. Other neighbors have been cleaned out by red polls. Why one flock gets together and quickly eats all the seeds out of a feeder is a great mystery. I have not seen any robins yet so, no matter the date, spring must not be here yet.

There is an immature bald eagle on the lake now. He still needs to get his white head and tail. Seeing him fly leaves to doubt that this is an eagle. We assume that he primarily living off the deer carcasses on the lake.

Bonnie is getting pretty mad at the wolves. She doesn’t mind them killing the deer. The problem comes when Bonnie pulls the carcasses behind a snow bank. She comes back a couple hours later and the wolves have pulled it out again. The only good news is that after a day there is almost nothing left of the deer. It takes at least two deer a week to keep our wolf herd fed. From the few sightings we have had of the wolves, there is no doubt that they are well fed.

By next week, there will be even more animals returning from the south lands. Let’s see what appears.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Helping Hand

Katie from the front desk just called me. She and Marilyn have been reading the blog I posted yesterday. Good thing they were because they found one of my bigger errors. The Mush for the Cure raises money for breast cancer (not canoe) research. This is one of those errors that is not caught by a spell checker. It takes humans reading to find my errors. Luckily for me both Katie and Marilyn are there to check all my work and correct my mistakes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March Musings

Bruce, Sheryl and I had a good trip to Denver. We bought lots of fun gifts that you will be seeing in the gift shops this summer. By the time we got back to Minneapolis, I was down with a nasty winter cold and went home with Sheryl. On the trip home she managed to catch it too.

Meanwhile Bruce drove down to Missouri for and outfitters meeting and to pick up some hickory firewood. Don will use it all summer in the smoker. Guide Dennis Todd had gathered a huge pile of it. It was a long drive home for Bruce since he had come down the the cold by then.

Now that we are fully into March, I can see that the season is getting ready to change. We still have plenty of snow but there are differences between March and January. It looks like the buds are ready to pop out of the trees even though that is weeks and weeks away. The deer are feeding on all the buds that they can reach. Green leaves won’t come until May.

The south facing shoulder of the side road by the stable is down to bare ground. We will probably get more snow to cover it but the bare ground looks pretty good right now. The deer are pawing at it looking for any leafy tidbit. There is not much to be had.

On the ice Jason and Don have constructed a good size ice rink for a couple of weddings. After the last one on the 19th, Jason will start to build the new dock on this bare patch of ice. The completed dock will just sit there until it melts through the ice sometime in April. Once the shore is clear enough they will push it back into the summer home bay. This area is protected from the main flow of ice that moves around quite a bit during the spring thaw. Getting caught by that flow could destroy the new dock in just moments.

Meanwhile we still have some winter activities going on this weekend. On Saturday is the Mush for the Cure. It is a fun run dog sled race from Gunflint Lake to Poplar Lake. Each musher raises money to be donated for breast canoe research. Our Adam Treeful has been busy raising money and will participate in the run. Part of the fun is seeing how the mushers dress in pink. I will try to get some pictures.

On Sunday the local snowmobile club sponsors a trout derby on the lake. They plow a huge ice ring so that cars can drive on. It is a great family event. There are kids and snowmobiles all over. A lunch is served on the lake. If it is not windy, a sunny March day on the lake is wonderful. I have gotten sunburn more than once. Some people even catch lake trout. Basically it is a fun event for the entire community.

Not much more going on right now. I’ll have to get back into the local moccasin telegraph system.