Thursday, January 27, 2011

Two Fine Stories

There have been a couple of interesting stories on Gunflint Lake this past week.

Last Saturday Adam gave dog sled rides on the lake during the morning. In the early afternoon he decided to give his dogs a little more exercise with a run down to Camper’s Island, about five miles down the lake. So he and the dogs took off. The dogs were running so well that Adam climbed into the sled, pulled up the sleeping bag and sat down. In two minutes he was sound asleep. He woke up later on as two snowmobiles buzzed him. They had seen what appeared to be a rider-less sled going down the lake. Adam waved to them and they backed off. Coming back home, Adam took care to be visible as he slept in the sled.

My neighbor, Bob Baker, has been busy fishing on Gunflint this winter. I have to tell you about his latest technique. He goes out on the ice to about 40 feet of water. There he cuts a 2 foot x 4 foot hole in the ice. The free piece of ice is slid under the main ice to get it out of the way. Bob puts his ice house over this hole.

Now he is ready to fish. He has two lines which is legal for ice fishing. One just has a minnow on it. The other has either a Glow Buckshot (made by Northland Fishing Tackle) or one of about 10 other baits. This bait is either down on the bottom or just below the ice. He fishes with this for about 10 minutes. If nothing happens, he switches either the bait or its position.

Now the fun part starts. Bob has caught every fish this winter on his Glow Buckshot. It is actually light green in color. Many of the lake trout come right to the surface and hit on the shallow bait. He can look down and watch them making passes and hitting on his bait. There was even one time when he had a fish on the bait and he was watching another fish make a pass at his minnow. For a bit Bob thought he might have two fish on at once.

As Bob says, catching one or two lake trout is a good day of ice fishing. He usually fishes in the morning. By noon it is time to come in with his catch. Of course, with the big hole cut in the ice, you have to be careful not to fall in. The water is a little too cold for swimming but the lake trout love it.

Bruce and I spent yesterday running errands in Duluth. Among other things we bought one of those tiny digital video cameras. The idea is that I can upload a short movie for you. I am sure that this is going to take some practice. These things are never quite as easy as the directions say. It is like putting together Christmas toys for your children. So stay tuned in and we will see what happens.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Busy Weekend

It was a busy weekend at the lodge and much of it centered around sled dogs. In addition to Adam’s team of 8 dogs, there were three other teams here. On Sunday morning the dogs made an impressive gang line on the lake with 35 of them. They were all excited to get going and not shy about talking to us. Their barking and yelping carried all across the lake. It just added a festive nature of the day. In addition to folks who were going on rides, many of the guests stopped by to take pictures. Although cold (22 below), there was no wind on the lake. It was a perfect day for lake rides.
Here are a couple of pictures of the rides for you. One is Adam and his team approaching the end of their ride. Behind Adam you can see the ice houses for fishermen. Saturday was the opening of ice fishing for lake trout on Gunflint. Between fishing and dog sled rides, it was a busy day on the lake.
Another picture shows one of our guests trying her hand at riding the runners and driving. The lake with a flat surface is a good place to learn about driving. On woods trails it is a lot hard to drive the team. You are constantly shifting your body to help the dogs on turns. Then there are the hills that you are running up and helping to push the sled up. Adam says that he has lost 12 pounds since the sledding season started. I wonder why.
There are a couple more weekends for dog mushing this winter. On the March 10-14 weekend, we still have a few cabins open. Adam is also here all the time to give rides.
Monday we got some fresh snow. All the tracks from dogs, sleds, and people were erased from the surface of the lake. It is like no one was ever out there.
Back at our house, Bruce and I have some interesting entertainment while we eat breakfast: the deer are coming in and expecting to get their handout of corn. It is still half dark outside but the lights from our kitchen must attract them. They nose right up to the window. Usually there are anywhere from three to eight deer. With the smaller numbers it is a pretty quiet affair. Bruce often has one of them eating right from his bucket while he scratches its ears.
When they are all there, it is like a bunch of kids. They are all pushing and shoving to get the most corn. The bigger ones like to drive off the smaller ones. Sometimes two big ones are on their hind feet pushing each other away. Little ones try to sneak in on the sides while the big ones are occupied. Eventually, of course, the corn is all gone. It’s time to move down to the cabins at the lodge. Guests are getting up and ready to hand out more corn.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Winter on the Kekekabic Trail

Last week I met two young men who were leaving the next morning to snowshoe the Kekekabic Trail from here to Ely. They both had winter camping experience and seemed prepared for the trip. We have not heard otherwise, so they must have had a good trip.

This has not always been the case with people trying to do the Kek in the winter. Mother Nature has a way of changing your plans. Many years ago we had a party stop by who had turned around on their trip due to problems with extremely cold temperatures. In those years you did not just start a car in the winter and it was bloody cold out. They came into the house and called down the trail for a pickup.

Meanwhile some their toes were black with frostbite! I knew that we had to slowly warm them up but it is hard to find something to put water and men’s feet into. Two of them went on the side of the bath tub. Bruce got roasting pans from the lodge for more of them. When their friends came to get them, they went down to Grand Marais. No one lost toes but it was touch and go.

Some years later we had another party come for help. Their experience on the Kek had been just the opposite. They were planning on snowshoeing to Ely and had all the warm weather gear. Mother Nature decided to warm the temperatures up and it stopped them immediately. Their clothes were too hot and they had too much gear. They came in and called for a pick up from Ely. During the three hours at our house I fed them a full dinner which included two t-bones steaks each. My very young sons were quite intimidated by these exhausted strangers.

We have had several light snowfalls this week. The picture is just on our driveway. It shows you how totally full of snow all the trees are. Anyone driving in the area will see these beautiful trees everywhere. By now the snow has been pasted onto them. It is going to take a strong wind to blow the snow off. I have read that the sloping nature of pine tree branches is to help them support the snow load without breaking. Looking at this picture, it makes sense to me.

Today is the opening of the lake trout season on the Minnesota side of Gunflint Lake. There are ice houses that have appeared during the week. The managers sit at lunch in the lodge and watch these house being placed on the lake. Sometimes it is very interesting. Another fun time is to watch people trying to take them off in March. After snowfalls and slush some of them are frozen in. Again we sit and watch from the warmth of the lodge.

Bruce is going to wait until after the weekend to go out. He will drive his truck around looking for blood (from caught fish) on the snow by houses and fish holes. Then he will pick his spot to fish. A little luck might give us fresh fish for dinner.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A New Adventure

It’s the beginning of the year and I have started a new adventure. Sometime during the summer Bruce went on Facebook. As part of his page he opened a page for “Gunflint Lodge in northern Minnesota.” Then he let it sit there. So now I have gotten into the page as an administrator and will be trying to write short whatevers regularly. It is going to be most interesting. If you wish, look for the page in the quotes above otherwise you just get Wikipedia’s listing or so I have been told. Meanwhile, I will be continuing to also write this blog. We are all going to find out together how much stuff I can come up with and if it is interesting.

All of this writing would be much more interesting if you would share your stories of Gunflint with me. We all know that I have a lot of hot air for stories in me but you must also have some good stories to share. Don’t you get tired of just listening to me? I get very few responses to my blog and people who may know more than I do say that I should promote discussions -- who knows. Sometimes I feel like I am writing for the blue skies. Bruce says that his statistics show that about 100 of you check in on any given day. I have no idea if that is good or bad.

Meanwhile the lodge is busy this week. Our ski trails are in excellent condition. We have enough snow that today South Rim and Magnetic Rock were track set. People are out exploring. Unlike many early Januarys, we have not had the bitter cold weather. It makes everyone willing to go out a bit more. Adam and his dogs have been particularly busy with rides. People seem to like the shorter 15 and 30 minute jaunts into the woods.

There have also been people out on snowmobiles. Of course, they are on separate trails from the ski trails. The most interesting story came from a family who rented one of our machines and had some of their own. They crested a hill and found a pack of six wolves right in front of them! Five of the wolves immediately took off but the sixth one was not the least bit intimidated by the snowmobilers. He just sauntered off at a leisurely pace.

It reminds me of the story Bruce tells about trapping minnows. As you may know, Bruce traps all the minnows for the lodge. I am sure we could buy them but he likes being out in the woods. Bruce is not much on just taking a walk. He needs a job in the woods. At any rate one day he was driving over to some of his traps on Kings Road. Around the corner were two huge, black wolves who just looked at him. Bruce said that it was one of the few times when he was glad he was in a vehicle.

Another current story I posted on Facebook (I think it may have gone away into cyberspace.) was about several sightings of lynx that guests have had around the lodge and the back side road. I have lived here 42 years and have never seen a lynx but we had about three parties who saw one over the holidays. It will be fun to see if guests continue to spot this lynx.

As with all animal sightings, it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. In other words – luck.