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.