Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Planes and Travelers

Our friend J. T. is up for a few days. Many years ago (when Robert and Lee were about 2 and 4) J. T. worked for us. His father was the editor of the Duluth newspaper and we inherited J. T. for a summer’s work. This continued for several years as he went through the stages of dock boy and guide.

Then he spent a winter with us. During that time the boys loved to play with him. He taught them a game called “Far, Far Away.” When the boys had driven him about nuts, J. T. would tell them to go far, far away. Usually they would disappear and find something to play with.

J. T. got his pilot’s license. He flew for Bruce’s brother-in-law, Jim, in Alaska. Next he got on with a regional carrier in Alaska. Eventually he got on with Southwest Airlines and is now one of their senior captains. We are very proud of him.

A couple days ago J. T. flew up in his Super Cub on skis. This morning he and Bruce went flying around the area for a while. Here is a picture of the two of them and then one that Bruce took from the air. It was a fun time for both of them. J. T. will be back up in June and he and Bruce will probably find a night to go fishing.

We have a great group of seniors in from Central Wisconsin this week. They are out skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding every day. The most fun for them has been driving one of the sled dog teams on the lake. Also today Don cooked a soup lunch for them at one of the warming huts on the ski trails. It was a perfect day as snow gently fell over their lunch spot. This evening Bruce and I will talk to them about the lodge history (me) and dog sledding (Bruce).

Tomorrow Bruce, Sheryl and I are off to Denver. It is time for the Denver Gift Show and we have money burning a hole in our pockets. For four days we will walk the show looking for some great gifts. My feet ought to be done in at the end.

Next Tuesday we fly back to Minneapolis. Sheryl goes home. Bruce and I head south Springfield, MO, for some outfitters meetings. While Bruce works at the meetings, I intend to visit Bass Pro and shop. We will stop March 4th at Robert and Miranda’s on our way home. Monday we should be back.

So, Ralph Griffis down in Texas, you won’t hear from me for about two weeks as we go all over the country. I am sure we will meet some interesting people and find a couple of good restaurants.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Today It's Wind

We have had several warm days this past week. I am always torn when we get melting snow at this time of year. Luckily we have a great base so there is still a lot of skiing to be had. According to the weather map (if you believe that) we are scheduled for more snow in the next couple of days.

Last night it was 37 degrees when I went to bed about 10:00 p.m. This morning at 5:15 it was 5 degrees. The drop in temperature was not nearly as surprising as the wind. Sometime in the early morning hours I could hear the wind start to howl. It really has to be strong for me to hear it in the house due to all our insulation. Also the trees on the lake side protect us from the worst of the northwest wind.

It is around 3:00 p.m. now and the wind is still roaring outside my wind. The weather readings from Seagull Lake say it is gusting up to 32 mph. I think that is more sustained than gusting. You just have to accept that today is going to be a bad hair day. I always tell the gal who does my hair to cut it for blowing in the wind. Well, no hair cut will survive this wind.

We had a fisherman come in for breakfast today. He had been out on the lake ice fishing early in the morning. Usually he uses a pop-up ice fishing house. He said that today the wind just blew it away and he couldn’t use it. In fact, at one point the wind almost blew him over. Needless to say, the fish were not biting.

As we look out the lodge windows, the wind has the snow swirling all over. The nice part is that all the loose snow is blown off the slush pockets again. By tomorrow there will be little snow or slush on the lake. We can see the bare ice from the lodge.

At lunch today we also noticed a funny something sticking up at the narrows. Bruce got out the binoculars for a look. There was an ice house (tent) right near the narrows with a snowmobile just behind it. Although it is hard to tell how close the fisherman is to the narrows, we can see he is pretty close, certainly much, much closer than we consider safe. As you know the narrows never freezes solid because of the continual moving water through there. I just hope that nothing happens.

Bruce just looked out the window right now. The fishermen are gone. They probably got blown off the lake.

I filled our wood box for the night. After going down to the lodge, a fire in the fireplace will seem very nice. Right now the sound of the wind just makes me feel cold even though my office is plenty warm.

Friday, February 11, 2011


This past week has seen the condition of the ice on lakes change. At the beginning there were pockets of slush on many of the lakes. Then the temperatures dropped and the wind came up. This wind blew the insulating snow off the slush. The slush then froze. Now we are back to very little slush and lots of solid black ice. My neighbor say in some places it is 20 inches thick and you can see right through it.

So why do we care if there is slush on the lake? After all, the ice is still safe with slush on it. It is the getting stuck in slush that is the problem. Once you have disturbed the insulating snow, the slush freezes quickly. It also freezes in anything stuck in slush. Here are a couple stories about slush.

Years ago Bruce and I were invited down to Trout Lake to entertain some members of the press and talk about the great ice fishing in the area. Several locals brought snowmobiles with them. One of the people who came along was our then Congressman, John Blatnik. The Congressman was a complete politician who was always greeting people. He saw other groups of fishermen on the lake. Hopping on a snowmobile, Congressman Blatnik took off to say hello. Instead he got stuck a deep hole of slush – up to the snowmobile seat. Naturally, the Congressman walked away from it. Bruce and the owner of the snowmobile spent the next two hours getting the machine it. They were both soaked by the time the job was done.

Justine had two small Polaris Playmates for snowmobiles. Robert and Lee loved to drive them on the lake close to the lodge. One day one of the machines got into slush about 100 feet in front of the lodge. Bruce was at a sports show. Mom and I were the only adults around. Even though I understood the principle of getting machines out, I had never actually done it. It was another instance where Mom was the brains and I was the muscle.

Out the four of us went. We had some firewood to put under the machine and get it out of the slush. But first we had to clear all the slush out of the track. Luckily it was a small snowmobile. I would hold up the back so the machine was only sitting on its front skis. Then one of the boys would race the engine to blow out the slush. The only place the slush could go was out the back of the track right on me.

Next we put the machine on the firewood well out of the slush. Then we turned the machine off. There was still slush in the track so we dug it out with our hands. It is truly a fun job! Eventually we had the machine totally out of slush and all the slush out of the machine. Even this small machine was too much for us to pull to shore.

Now what? The machine is in the middle of the huge slush pocket. We all put on snowshoes and tramped a trail from the machine out of the slush pocket and to the shore. Every step weighed a ton as slush piled up on the snowshoes. The plan was to let the slush freeze overnight and then run the machine to shore on the frozen path. The next morning we were all relieved when the plan actually worked.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

More Stories from Gunflint

As usual, we have had a busy week, Don, our food and beverage manager worked with traffic control on the Beargrease Sled Dog Race. He had the all-night shift where the Trail crossed the main road. During that time there was a two hour period when no one came through. Don turned off his flashing lights and look at the northern lights which swirled in the sky above him. While he was standing outside the truck, a bunch of noise startled him. What was it? Two moose came through. It’s enough to keep you awake all night.
Do you wonder what we all do for entertainment during the winter? Bonnie from the outfitters and Marilyn from the front desk were out and about yesterday. They decided to hike the Centennial Trail on snowshoes with Jason’s dog, Monster. The trail is 3.3 miles long. It took them a full two hours to hike it starting from the Round Lake side. They had one path that had been broken out before we got our latest snow. It was enough to follow and only went the wrong way once. Here is a picture of Marilyn and it sure looks like she is enjoying herself. Bonnie said that the views were just spectacular. I know myself that from the high point you can see the stables at Gunflint. Here is a view of the beaver ponds on the Round Lake Road.
Monster ran all over the place. The new scents alone must have been overwhelming. Sometimes he seemed to get tired and would follow the girls for a bit rather than breaking trail himself. Jason said Monster was really tired last night! I think the girls were tired too.
This seems to be the week that wolves are all around us. We haven’t seen the wolves so much as we have seen the results of their feeding. A few days ago there was a deer kill just off the side road about ½ mile from the lodge. Then last weekend there was another kill on the lake just in front of our house. Finally last night the wolves took another deer on the lake in front of Cabin #17. The guests told me that they saw three wolves at the kill this morning. By 10:00 a. m. there was literally nothing left on the ice. Even the crows and ravens were finished with it. Nothing goes to waste.
A pack of wolves need about one deer a week for food. It seems harsh to us but this is all part of Nature’s food chain. Wolves are magnificant animals. Of course, we think nothing of shooting a deer during the hunting season. Bruce and I enjoy the meat for the entire year. It substitutes for beef in our diet and is much better because there is virtually no fat.
Bruce and I are off tomorrow to visit Robert, Miranda and Zach in Missouri. Zach will be 11 this weekend in case some of you are remembering that cute little guy who rode around in a backpack with his parents. He is still pretty cute but I doubt either parent would want to carry him around anymore.