Monday, February 27, 2012

The Poles Arrive

Over the weekend we had the closest to a blizzard that there was all winter. We got close to 8-10 inches of snow. Yesterday I sat in my office and listened to the wind howl. The falling snow was blown into the windows. It was a good day to be inside looking out.

First thing this morning Bruce was out grooming trails. He had guests right behind him waiting to ski. The A loop is finished. Tonight Bob will do the B loop. Then on Wednesday it is predicted that there is a 70% chance of more snow. Right now we have clear skies and gleaming white snow. It is just glorious out. In the sun, the temperature is up to 25 degrees. It is a little cooler in the shade.

Lee and Eva brought Grant and Mae up for the weekend. They managed to fill their time with dog sled rides, snowmobile rides, ice fishing and sledding. In the afternoon when Grandma and Grandpa were worn out, it was time to hit the Legos in our house. Also Grant got instructions from Grandpa on how to build a wood fire in the fireplace. All in all, we had a wonderful weekend. I wasn’t very sociable with the guests but grandchildren come first.

Today was a big day for the zip line construction. The poles that will be used to build two platforms arrived. The picture above shows part of the unloading process. The poles range in length from 35 to 50 to 60 feet long. They are made of Alabama yellow pine and cost around $2000 each. When erected, 10% of the pole is buried in the ground. Luckily for us, we only need three platforms. The rest of our stops will be attached to 200-300 year old white pines. A professional arborist will inspect these trees to make sure that everything is sound and we will not be killing the tree.

The driver must have had a great time coming up the Gunflint Trail. I would not have enjoyed being in the opposite lane and meeting him on a curve. He is from Alabama. And don’t complain about filling up your car with gas. When his truck is filled, it takes $800 of fuel. It was fun to see some forward progress on the zip line.

The question comes up about why we got the poles this early. Construction doesn’t start until May 1st. As part of the spring thaw, a road ban is put on the Gunflint Trail. To protect the road, the county limits the weight of loads during the road ban. Believe me when I say that this load would have exceed the weight limit. Once the ban is on it is in operation for at least six weeks. That would have pushed back when we could start this project. So, now that little sticking point is not a problem.

If you think you can get away, plan to come up the Gunflint Trail. We are in a winter wonderland. Everything is covered with snow. The ski trails are perfect.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Animals All Over

With the holiday weekend over, things have slowed down a bit here. The dining rooms were particularly busy every day of the weekend. We all get geared up when there are lots of people to serve. Also Bruce and I enjoy talking with everyone. Like any job, it is much more fun when you are busy. Everyone has a different story to tell you and they are all excited about their day. Then you get to tell them another neat place to be tomorrow.

While we were gone, Bonnie had her trail camera out again. This time it was behind the volunteer fire department garage. The picture above is what she caught on camera. It is a lynx walking away from the camera. You just never know what is wandering round the woods during the night. Last summer and fall we had a lot of rabbits around our house. I can’t remember when I last saw one. This picture tells us what happened to all of them.

We are still having an amazing number of wolves showing up at all times during the day. Before the weekend, there was one on the ice in front of the lodge about noon. We all got a great look at it. In addition to her lynx picture, Bonnie got two more wolf pictures that week. Jennie Hughes, who does our massages, saw a pack of eight on Loon Lake.

Today was the best wolf sighting that we have ever had. Even Bruce had never seen this before. As you know, the managers eat lunch at the big table in the bistro every day about 11:30. I always like to sit so that I can look out the window. So after lunch we are all getting up to clear our plates to the kitchen. I looked out the window. There was a deer running from east to west about 100 feet out on the ice. Right behind it was a wolf that was obviously looking for dinner. Both animals were quickly out of sight.

With all these encounters, the question remains: did the deer get away or did the wolf get it? I drove down to the public landing. There were no fresh tracks. I walked out on the ice until I could see all the way into the summer home bay – nothing. I walked around the trees below Cabin #11 – nothing. We will never really know what happened.

And then there is the question of my always absent camera. Maybe I should hang from a string around my neck. It is never where I need it. Even if it was there, I would forget to use it. It is really easy to get caught up in the moment when something like this happens.

Just to put an exclamation mark on the noon hour, a second wolf appeared just after the chasing one disappeared. Don walked down to the shore to look for the end of the chase. Suddenly there were four deer behind him. He looked and there was a wolf in front of him. He was the protector for the four deer!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Quick Trip

We arrived home after a trip that covered lots of miles in a short time. Basically we visited friends in Rochester, went to a grandson’s birthday in Missouri, went to some classes for outfitters in northern Florida, spent a couple night in Cedar Key north of Tampa, went back to Missouri and then up to Minneapolis (grandkids) before driving home. On the way we picked up a truck load of hickory for smoking, a bunch of small lockers for the zip line administration building and 250 smoked pork chops for the dining room. We were so loaded that people were pointing at us.

We took some classes on social media during the trip. Needless to say, Bruce and I have a lot of catching up to do. As soon as we think we got it down, something new comes up. We also learned a lot just talking to the other outfitters who were there. We are all different and yet all the same. Being a small business person is about learning forever.

In Florida Bruce and I took our first zip line tour. That’s me in the picture. The only reason it’s not Bruce is because he got the camera first. I made it just fine but that first zip was breathtaking and I had to think a bit before stepping off. Bruce, of course, just takes off. I was glad that my first zip was not in front of my staff.

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge near Cedar Key. We took a couple of hikes and saw different trees that we have. For me the most interesting was a visit to a mound of oyster shells. Scientists saw that native peoples have been shelling oysters there for 6500 years. I could believe it looking at the mound. It is covered with vegetation but immediately below the surface are oyster shells. We also managed to find some good seafood. In fact speaking of oysters, Bruce downed a dozen fresh oysters as an appetizer one night. It is not for me.

Sheryl has a friend stopping off to see her. John McCarthy is from St. Paul. He just finished spending three nights and four days cross country skiing from Snowbank Lake (Ely) to Round Lake. Except for a few tracks at the beginning, he saw no people and no ski tracks during the trip. I didn’t ask how long the trip was but it must have been about 40 miles. That is a long ski trip to take alone with no roads or help nearby. Congratulations, John!

There was another deer kill on the lake this morning. All our wolves must be eating well. By noon almost every scrap of food and bone is gone. Even the birds are having a hard time finding something to eat. I don’t feel like any one animal has priority over another and this is just part of life in the woods.