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.