Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Early February

I have four more pictures to frame for the cabins. Problem is that I can’t decide which pictures to use. Bonnie has already hung up five pictures from the thirties and forties at the outfitters. Then we have a set of pictures of Bruce harvesting birch bark, Justine growing up in Barrington, Illinois, and old pictures of winter at the lodge in the 1930’s. These last three sets will be in cabins so look for them when you visit us again.

While looking through the old pictures, I discovered a “Diary for Gunflint.” From the text and handwriting, I believe that Grandma Spunner (Justine’s mother) wrote it. There is also a small section written by Grandpa Spunner when Grandma was out of town. He is the only one I know who would complain about rheumatism and know how to spell it correctly. The problem with transcribing or even reading is that Grandma Spunner’s handwriting is very bold and difficult to read. Also she is writing with a fountain pen and the ink sometimes goes onto another page. The diary covers 1931 Nov. to June, 1932 Nov. to June and 1933 Nov. to Dec. Once I get it finished, I will put some in here.

All winter we are having lots of guests driving up and seeing moose on the way. In fact there are a lot more moose seen than in the past two years. Especially at night, it can be difficult to see the moose. Their eyes are not caught be the headlights like a deer’s. The best thing is to watch for tracks on the road. Then you will sometimes see a big black hunk in front of you. It is quite a sight and you don’t want to get to close.

The ice on the lake has been heaving. Generally the pressure from heaving causes to ice to come up and create a pressure ridge which can be as high as five feet. If you are snowmobiling around, it is hard to see because of the shadows and you can be thrown. Even more dangerous is when the ice heaves down. Then you have open water or thin ice for a period of time. This happened on Gunflint last week and the snowmobile and rider went into the water. Luckily the rider got himself out and his partner quickly came back for him. The next day the snowmobile was chopped out of the ice and towed in to thaw out. You must remember that ice on a lake is always changing so be alert.

Bruce and I are off again on Thursday. It is time to go to Missouri for Zach’s birthday. We are taking the large truck to bring home more hickory for smoking in the summer. On the 5th we will fly to Panama City for some outfitting meetings. We are also going to check out another canopy tour. This one is in operation so I will be going for a ride. Wish me luck. When we get back to the Twin Cities, we will get to visit Lee, Eva and the kids for a bit. Then it is home on the 12th.

Monday, January 23, 2012

White Flakes Coming Down

A couple weeks ago, Bonnie set up a camera on one of the trails behind our maintenance garage. She has had great luck with it. The first night she got three great wolf pictures. On the 19th she started with a deer picture and then got two wolves before 11:00 p.m. These pictures above are two of those. It is interesting to wonder if the wolves and deer ever meet since they use the same trail.

On Friday Don, Jason and Lance walked out to test the ice again. I followed along for pictures. The picture above shows the three of them. Don is out quite a bit further on the ice. You can see the rope leading from Jason and going out to Don. The holes revealed a constant depth of 10-12 inches. Also our friend, Bob Baker, reports that he has found the same depth all over the lake as he has been fishing.

Bob’s fishing is a source of great joy to us. Last week he brought us two fresh trout. They were of the size that it was more than we needed for one meal but not quite enough for two. What to do? You guessed it! We ate them both for one meal and they were wonderful. Thanks, Bob

After about an inch of snow over the weekend, we are getting more snow now. It is not a huge amount but just enough to freshen up the trails. After lunch Bruce will be out grooming. When it stops, Jason will be out plowing. Others will be out shoveling the snow off the steps. It is quite a bit of work to clean up from even a light snowfall.

So last week I drove to town with a list of errands. It was warm and the road was slippery. After the straight stretch south of the north Brule, I saw a big beautiful moose on a curve. With the slippery roads, I didn’t want to jam on my breaks. The moose also slipped on the road and went to his front knees. Luckily he quickly got up and off the road. Naturally, I didn’t have my camera with me. It would not have made a difference as I was concentrating on avoiding the moose, not taking his picture.

Later in the Day: I started this blog in the mid-morning. It is now 3:00 p.m. and the snow is still coming down. Jason has the plow truck taking off the snow accumulation in our driveway even though it is still snowing. When this is finished, I will go out and shovel. Don tells me it is to continue all night. I still can’t see across the lake so life is good.

Ever since Bruce and I figured out how to make money from snow, I love every flake that comes down. All of you in the Twin Cities must know we are getting new snow because the phones are ringing off the hook.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Projects

Life is very quiet around Gunflint right now. In fact things are so slow that Bruce and I will probably not go down to the lodge after dinner. At the lodge we have two guests for dinner in Justine’s and only three cabins full. The staff can probably handle it without us.

So what projects do I have when it is slow? My big one is pictures. I got a number of handmade wooden pictures frames this fall. There are lots of old picture of the lodge and outfitters. The idea is to take some of those pictures and enlarge them and arrange them into groups of three or four to tell a story for one of the cabins. So there may be a group of pictures showing the original lodge as it was expanded. Or maybe there will be a group of pictures showing some of the old entrance signs for the lodge. I also have a group of pictures showing Justine as she was growing up or Bruce as he was growing up.

One group that I just gave to Bonnie shows Bruce gathering birch bark like the Native Americans did for birch bark canoes. The pictures tell the story but I have to say that watching him do it was more fun. You can only do if for a couple weeks in June. Then you have to know exactly how deeply to cut the bark so that the tree is not killed. When done properly, the tree will scar but will continue to grow. Above is a picture of Bruce popping off one of his pieces of birch bark.

As of this week we are also finalizing our plans for a new activity at the lodge. Since last summer Bruce has been investigating canopy/zip line tours. He has explored the internet, talked with friends across the country, visited sites, and two companies visited to give us a proposal. The long and short of it seems to be that this is an environmentally friendly activity to add. It uses no motors and makes no sound. We have a spot in the back basin to put it and you don’t have to clear a lot of land and trees.

But even more intriguing is that it seems really FUN. Bruce and I are going down to Florida to visit with a friend who has a canopy tour. We already saw one in Arkansas but didn’t get to ride it was as they were closed. This time I will be riding. Stay tuned for my report on this. If I can do it at my advanced age, anyone can do it. In fact I think I see Bruce’s mother, Justine, and she is the first one in line.

Our plans are to start construction in May and be open the beginning of July. Along with the actual construction there will be an intensive training program for those who will be operating the tour. There is a national organization who certifies the construction and operation of these tours. Naturally, the organization’s name has total slipped out of my mind but I know that they will be looking us over.

Hopefully this will all be running when you visit us this summer.

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Warm Winter So Far

Above is a picture of our front desk staff. Sometimes it is nice of have a mental picture of the person you are talking to. From left to right you have Katie, Kaci, Marilyn, and Dave. They are the four who answer the phone the most. Of course, Sheryl, Bonnie, Bruce and I also answer the phone from time to time. Marilyn tells me, that the front desk is the glue holding the rest of us together. So you best nice to them or who knows where they might stick you.

Wolves are still all over the place. At breakfast the other day, everyone in the dining room got a see a wolf hanging out by the large point to the left (west) of the lodge. Last Sunday my big brown wolf calmly walked right in front of the lodge in the middle of the afternoon. He was about 20 feet out on the ice and totally unconcerned about any activity from us.

Adam had the most interesting sign of wolves. In the back basin Bruce has marked some large pines with red tape. From the tracks, the wolf walked up to one of the trees and pulled the red tape off. We don’t know if he thought it was food or if the tape was blowing in the wind and irritating him.

This past week we have gotten several inches of new snow. Although it has been warm up here for January, we have been able to maintain our ski trails. Dave Tuttle was out yesterday and groomed everything. Guests tell me that it is really great to get out.

The new snow also has everyone looking again for wolf tracks. At this point we are all looking for more signs of wolves. Luckily we have not yet seen any of the more unpleasant signs of wolves – dead deer. That sign will come too.

The ice on Gunflint Lake still does not give us a lot of confidence. After this next weekend, we will probably go out and test it. I am sure that many think we are being overly cautious. They are correct but this is most definitely a better safe than sorry situation.

Like most of you, we are having a very warm winter. Usually the temperatures hit 40 below this first week of the New Year. During the day they warm up to 30 below. This year nights are in the high 20’s. During the day we have temperatures that hover a couple of degrees above freezing. We all feel that true winter will come soon and will last way into April. Like everything about the weather, there is nothing we can do. That is what makes it so frustrating – no control. So hang in there, winter will eventually come to Minnesota.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Above is a picture of Bryan Ziegler and Sara Daggett. They are guests at the lodge over the New Year’s holiday period. They also got engaged on the 31st. At dinner I was able to admire Sara’s ring. We wish them the very best in their new lives. Their engagement was the perfect event to end one year and start another.

Gunflint Lake froze on the 28th – finally. The entire lake went in one night. Then the next day we got 4 to 8 inches of snow depending on where you measured. Bruce and Bob Baker were quickly out grooming the ski trails. It was a perfect amount of snow to start laying tracks. All the guests have been out and about enjoying the trails. For many it was a great improvement over their lack of snow at home.

Yesterday and today we are getting more snow. Right now the wind has come up and the lake is filled with blowing snow. It is just what we wanted. This will blow the snow off the new ice. Then tonight and tomorrow night the temperatures are due to get below zero. With little snow on it, the ice will start to increase in size and strength.

Meanwhile we continue to tell everyone to stay off the ice. It is so hard when the lake looks perfectly safe. The miserable wind is helping keep people off the ice. As I sit here at my computer, I can hear it howling outside. It will be a good night for a fire in the fireplace.

Many of you have read my stories about other people seeing animals in the woods. Today I have my own story to tell.

The other morning I was sitting the kitchen talking to Grandson Tanner. Suddenly a deer came flying past my garage door and up the driveway. Right behind it was a huge brown wolf. The wolf was just loping along. Wolves cannot outrun a deer but they can keep running forever. They will literally run a deer to the ground.

I did not see the outcome of this chase but the wolf was a magnificent animal. Every attribute that the description “alpha male” brings to mind was present in this animal. In just a minute he was gone but I have a picture in my mind of him that will never go away.

Unfortunately, there is a little more to my story. On top of the stove sat my camera. It remained right there during the entire encounter. My friend, Melissa, would be very disappointed in me. Honestly, it was too exciting to even think about the camera. I need more planning before I can get that perfect wolf picture.

Bruce and I had a quiet New Year’s Eve. The dining rooms and bar were busy at the lodge but we don’t stay open any longer than normally. With neighbors and lodge guests, it was fun to share the good feelings of a new year. We also would like to extend those feelings to you and your families.