Friday, December 27, 2013

In Between Christmas and New Year's

Christmas was quiet at our house. Tucker, Bruce and I relaxed for most of the day. After a 1:00 dinner, we took a walk down the back road. It felt good to get out and stretch our legs. Then it was time for a short nap before Bruce beat me in three games of cribbage. All in all, it was a very relaxing day which was just what we needed.

Meanwhile December has continued to provide us with plenty of winter weather. There has been weather that is below zero. Those clear days may be cold but they are beautiful and the nights are filled with stars. Then there are the overcast days with snow coming and going. Today is one of those days. Who knows if we will get and inch or six inches?

Our guests have been enjoying all the facets of winter. It seems that just walking across the lake is the top activity. There is a little snow but no slush on the ice. Some of the days have had no wind which makes it particularly nice on the lake.

Skiers have also be making tracks on Gunflint. There is just enough snow to making skiing easy. Although the woods trails are groomed and in excellent shape, there is a certain allure to skiing across to Canada.

Winter reservations continue to come in regularly. I guess the news of great snow conditions has encouraged people to come north for a visit to the northwoods. They are not going to be disappointed.

Now that we are living in the Tucker Lake house, we commute to work each day. Our car has a thermometer in it. I have taken to watching the change in the temperature as I drive to the lodge. For some reason the coldest point is as I am driving down the hill from our scenic overlook to the turn on to South Gunflint Lake. Tucker Lakes always seems to be one of the warmest areas. Sometimes there is a 5-10 degree fluctuation as I drive along.

We have been seeing a family of moose not too far away. Going to town, they can be seen once you pass the Loon Lake Lodge sign until you get to the first Highway 92 sign. One day I saw a group of three of them. Others have seen as many as five at a time. Of course, we see them licking the salt off the road most of the time.

We are taking care of Lee and Eva’s dog Tucker for a bit. He is funny to watch. Every time you let him out, he charges through the door and starts barking. I don’t know if he actually hears something or is just generally announcing his presence. Certainly we don’t see or hear anything.. I don’t even see many tracks in the yard.

New Years is coming. Have you made your resolutions? Mine just seem to be a bunch of recycled ones.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas, 2013

Like all of you, everyone at the lodge is in the midst of last minute Christmas preparations. The other day there were two stacks of boxes for UPS. One of them was taller than I am. Everyone who gets one of those boxes will be thrilled.

Looking out my window, it snow is all over. We probably have over two feet. I have been trying to get myself out for shoveling a little at a time. Lee and Eva’s dog, Tucker, is staying with us for a bit. He loves it when I am outside. There are so many sticks for him to find. So after lunch when it is the warmest we will be out again.

When shoveling gets tiring, it’s time to go look for a Christmas tree. Bruce promises that tomorrow he will get one cut and up. Tucker and I have been looking for the perfect tree. All we need is the man with the chain saw. We have even figured out the perfect location in the living room.

The sun is streaming in my windows today. It may be cold outside but that sun warms every room is flows into. Of course, it also shows all the dirt on the windows but I don’t look.

At the lodge, Gunflint Lake is frozen. We are not walking on it and will not until Don checks to make sure the ice is thick enough. Just after Christmas he will do out in a dry suit and drill holes ever fifty feet to see how thick the ice is. We will have a good long rope tied around his waist. It is kinda like walking a dog.

The deer are also coming in for their corn handouts. It is hard to tell if there are more or less of them. Certainly the number of tracks tells us that there are lots of wolves around. Bruce saw a wolf while driving to the lodge the other day. I have seen some moose. There was a group of two females and one male on the road about 3 miles from here when I came home from town on Tuesday. The bull was kneeling down licking the ice. I saw them in plenty of time to stop and watch. Of course, my camera was at home. A snowshoe hare ran down the side road at Gunflint two days ago. He is totally white now. The birds are cleaning up on sunflower seeds. I have to fill the feeders again today.

Up at the building site, the roof should be covered tonight. That will end the snow coming in and not a minute too soon. We are supposed to get more snow over the weekend. The ski trails have been packed and will be tracked. Adam started giving dog sled rides yesterday. Everything is ready for our holiday guests.

From our family to yours we send Christmas greetings. Take a minute and be thankful for all we have.

Monday, November 25, 2013

End of November Already

It is the in between stage. One day it is cold and blustery. The next day is sunshine and warm. We are having mixtures rain and snow. Probably the only constant is that the snow seems to be staying on the ground. Maybe this truly is the beginning of our winter snow load. It is nice to look out and see it coming down.

The Gunflint community lost another one of its old timers this past week. Eleanor Matsis died on November 19, 2013. For many years she worked at Gunflint Lodge as a front desk person and as a maintenance person. She also taught mathematics at the Cook County High School. Later she would move to Minneapolis and teach there at West High School and North High School. As many of her students said, “If you wanted to learn, she would teach.” She will be missed. There will be a memorial service for Eleanor at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on December 5th at 3:30 p.m. The church is located in Minneapolis at 46th and Colfax. Memorials can be sent to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, Grand Marais.

The new building is getting walls on the first half. Next week the roof trusses will be delivered and start to go up. At this point you can walk through and get an idea of the size of the rooms. I am sure that everyone will enjoy the new housing next summer.

Some of the smaller lakes as starting to freeze. Gunflint, however, still has a ways to go. On cold mornings it is steaming so the water is still warmer than the air. There is a little ice buildup long the shore. Wind from the wrong direction could blow this ice out very quickly. Magnetic Lake does not look like it has any ice yet.

We have a new bird at the Tucker Lake feeders. I think it is a wood thrush. Bruce and I both spent time going through the bird book to identify it. There appears to be only one such bird in the neighborhood. Maybe some more will appear. Otherwise we have enough birds to eat us out of house and home.

Bruce and I spent one afternoon butchering a deer. We now have enough venison for another year. One night we ate part of the heart (Bruce) and liver (me) for dinner. It is a special treat for both of us. Our pine martin will finish the rest of the organs. The birds are eating all the scraps left over from cutting up the animal.

We are leaving tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and brother-in-law in North Carolina. I don’t get to see her as often as I would like so this is a special trip. She is the only person I know who thinks that I am “tall.” Growing up I was always the tallest person in the family. As you know from looking at our boys, that is no longer true.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Winter is Here

Friday night we got our first snowfall that looks like it might be around for a bit. At any rate, it was very nice for the deer hunters Saturday morning. Bruce was out for the morning but didn’t get anything. Trent, the bartender, got his first deer and was very excited. I asked if he knew how to butcher the animal. Turns out that Trent worked for a butcher for a year. That makes life much easier.

Bruce was out for a couple hours again this morning. A little more snow last night was good for tracking if you had anything to track. This time he missed seeing a deer by about 30 minutes. He also saw the tracks of a wounded deer but couldn’t catch up with that one either. Maybe he will go out later this afternoon or early tomorrow morning.

Of course, the snow was not a blessing for all the guests leaving today. Our temperature was just at 32 degrees which is the worst for slippery snow. One guests had a rental car with almost bald summer tires. Christ put a tow belt on our truck and towed the guy up to the top of the hill. Bruce drove another car up to the top of the hill on the Gunflint Trail. The first snow keeps us all on our toes especially when things are this slippery.

Work on the new staff housing is coming along. Below is a picture of what is going on. The wire mesh has to go down. However, there is now a couple of inches of snow on the surface. We are not pouring until Wednesday so maybe it will melt off a little. To give you an idea of how big this pad is going to be, it will take 12 trucks of cement to fill it. They are even bringing in one of those guns to shoot the cement around.

We are going to be full this week. Bruce decided to do a little extra for some of the young veterans. Everyone coming who is a veteran in Iraq or Afghanistan will get free cabins and meals this week. It is going to keep us all really busy. Bruce was in the army and Robert was in the navy so we have a little loyalty to everyone who is serving or served.

Reservations for December are coming is well. We already know that November is going to be up. It would be good to follow with a December that is up. The holiday season is always one of the busiest times of the year. There are a lot of people who just cannot make it home and would rather come up here than sit in an empty house.

Our big decision is where to put the tree. In a new house, I have been looking around a bit but nothing seems to fit perfectly. I am sure that Bruce will have an idea.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Winter Can Hold Off A Bit Longer

Even when nothing is going on, the weeks seem to fly by. Drab fall weather has been around all the time. Sunshine would be really welcome for a day or so. Today it is spitting rain and sometimes there is snow mixed in. Sometimes it is just misting.

Even though we have had some hard frosts, my raspberry bushes are still hanging in there. The leaves are as green as can be. Maybe this means we will have a great raspberry crop next year. There is nothing better than fresh raspberries just picked that morning.

This summer we had some new steps put in to go down to the lake at our house. Although the house is technically on lakeshore property, you go down through a little valley and then up a bank to get to the lake. So we had Jordy put some new steps in.

That meant Bruce had to rearrange the bird feeders. There are five of them and we are getting eaten out of house and home. So far it is just the usual birds coming in: blue jays, gray jays, chickadees, and nut hatches. Then suddenly yesterday the pine grosbeaks arrived. I think I can get woodpeckers if I put out some suet. Of course, we are not sitting looking at the birds during the daylight hours. But you just catch one of them flying by. I can also see them when I am washing dishes. It is fun to see them all.

The new staff building is slowly coming along. It will have 16 double occupancy rooms in it. Each room will have a full bathroom and a full kitchen. The rooms are not huge but should be a great improvement over what we have now.

Right now we are hurrying to get the slab poured. Underneath the slab all the plumbing is buried. That had to be inspected. Then the guys will have to fill and level the dirt. Next comes a layer of rigid Styrofoam for additional insulation. On top of that goes a wire mesh and the in-floor heat system. Finally we will get to pour the cement floor. That is the final step to get done before hard winter sets in. The building is big enough that it will take two days to pour all the cement. So everyone is biting their nails hoping that it doesn’t get too cold.

This weekend we had a class in mukluk making that was sponsored by the North House in Grand Marais. Jo Wood, who teaches at North House, was the instructor. Classes started on Friday and ended on Sunday noon. By that time everyone had a new pair of boots for the winter. The students were both men and women. It was fun to watch and all the students felt a sense of accomplishment.

Beyond the building projects, we are ready for winter. The ski trails are mowed. The summer furniture is put away. The annual flowers are cleaned up. The chicken wire is protecting the new shrubs and trees. The dock and boats are put away. Even at the Tucker Lake house we are ready for winter. But it can hold off for a few weeks and no one will object.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Home Looks Great

It sure is good to sleep in my own bed! Bruce and I got home on Thursday after a wonderful trip to Great Britain with our friend Bev Johnson. Basically we went to London, York and Edinburgh with a few extra stops in between. Everywhere we found interesting things to see and do.

Some sightz stood out above the others. In London we went to the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London at about 10:00 p.m. one night. This is a century’s old ceremony that locks the tower (and the Crown Jewels) up for the evening. Standing in the dark and watching certainly gave us an idea of what it must have been all those years ago.

The same thing happened went we visited Winston Churchill’s underground war rooms. In one particular room the workers just locked the doors on the last day of World War II and everything remained the same until preparations got underway for this museum.

One night we went to see the stage play “Warhorse.” Making out a full sized horse around two men was fascinating. The dance they did to give this horse life and a full range of emotions made your believe it truly was a horse on stage.

Up in Edinburgh we visited Holyrood Palace which is the official home of Queen Elizabeth when she visits Scotland. As part of that visit we went into the Queen’s Gallery. They had on display the most unbelievable set of anatomical drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. Done is 1510 the drawings could have been found in the most up-to-date anatomy book on the market today. To make them even more amazing, you just had to remember that they were all done with a quill pen and ink.

A big surprise of the trip was how good our meals were. Bruce particularly enjoyed the bangers and bacon for breakfast. One day for lunch we stopped at a small café that roasted whole pigs each day. You could have sandwiches of varying size. They were so moist and delicious. Dinners varied from traditional to eclectic but everyone had a wonderful dessert which we always sampled.

I could go on and on but things are going on around here too. Saturday night was our fall wine dinner. It was put on by Carol Valentini who owns and operates Valentini’s Vicino Lago in Duluth. We had 71 people and if anyone didn’t go home stuffed, it was their own fault. The servers told me that many people were eating less of each course as the night went on. Because every cook has a little extra when fixing a meal like this, the managers had Porcini Pasta for Sunday lunch. Tonight Bruce and I will be eating pork osso buco for dinner. I am sure that is what you will be eating for dinner too.

This weekend the moose have reappeared on the trial. My picture is from one of our weekend guests. The moose seem to have been concentrated between the Loon Lake public landing the Gunflint side road. Another group was spotted up by Moose Pond Road. Needless to say, I haven’t seen one of them but that is probably because I have my camera in the car.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

End of September

If you like fall color, this is the week to be up north. It is perfect everywhere I look. The sun has brought out all the color and the temperatures are perfect for walks in the woods. The only downside is that there is a little breeze all the time. The wind is blowing the leaves off the trees. Of course, I love to walk dragging my feet through leaves.

This ten-day period is our time for women’s groups. Last weekend was the Fall Women’s Getaway. They have been coming up here for over 15 years. It is like old home week when they are here. They have their favorite cabins, hiking trails and meals. Adam took a group of them out for a day canoe trip and fish fry. The next day we cooked a fish fry for the entire group. Rain held off and everyone was able to eat outside. Fried walleye just tastes better when it is cooked and eaten outside. After eating the group just sat on the porch and enjoyed a wonderful fall day. About 4:00 it started to rain but no one complained because the morning and early afternoon was so perfect.

Midweek has been filled with small parties up to drive and hike in this fall color. It is like they taking advantage of the last wonderful weather to be in the woods. I agree.

This weekend is the BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman) group. It is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. About 90 women composed of instructors and students will participate in courses teaching practical outdoor skills. It is easier learning this way than from your husband. We have hosted this group several times, usually about every five years. They are a fun bunch. Many states have programs like this.

My garden got a last bit of attention today. I harvested carrots. It is the best crop I have gotten. Some of them will go down to Lee and Eva and the rest are for us. I thought my parsley was finished but it had other ideas. The entire bed is covered again. I will be cutting it for the lodge tomorrow. Chives will also get a haircut before I go. The strawberries, raspberries, and rhubarb look wonderful. Next summer should be a huge harvest for all of them.

Bruce and I and our good friend Bev Johnson leave for two weeks in England on Sunday. We will spend four nights in London, two nights in the Midlands, 2 nights in York, two nights in Scotland, two nights in Edinburgh and then back to London. We have all be studying our books to make the most of the trip. Bev found a factory that is billed as the first pencil factory. We might visit it. Of course, picking restaurants is high on our list. I like museums so we will be visiting Churchill’s War Room from World War II. Bruce is our great driver but it still takes all of us. Those roundabouts are really tricky. Sometimes we make a couple of trips around them before getting off.

We expect to be home around the 24th and will write to you all then.

P. S.  Overnight BWCA permits are not effected by the government shutdown because they are not required after October 1st.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fall Projects

Last night we got our first good hard frost. I don’t know how low the temperature got but everything was drooping a bit. Luckily I have closed up all the beds in the garden except for the carrots. Today I will empty all the flower boxes when the sun comes out a bit more. If I can get just one project done at a time, pretty soon we are buttoned up for the winter.

Another project has been to use up all my zucchinis. We are eating them as fast a possible but it still seems like an endless supply. I have made enough zucchini relish to last the next ten years. Bruce wanted me to make zucchini bread so I did. It turned out well and we have both been enjoying it. When he commented on how I should make it more often, my reply was that the two loaves (standard size) the recipe made contained three cups of sugar. We will wait a bit before making them again.

The other thing we have just finished using is green beans. After trying several different varieties of beans, the Blue Lake seem to be our favorite. Of course, once they start to come, you are eating beans every other day. I talked with a neighbor who is a great gardener to ask if she knew how to successfully freeze green beans. She says the frozen ones in the store taste better than what she can do. So the Kerfoot family will make pigs of themselves when the fresh beans are in season and buy the rest of the year.

Partridge season opened last Saturday. We have six in the freezer and one meal in our stomachs. We have also been driving over lots of roads we only see while hunting. A couple of them are really growing in. They look like no one but us has been through. You wonder how long it will be before those roads are lost.

The fall color is really starting to arrive. The next ten days to two weeks will probably be the best time for color. Every time I get in the car it seems that a new spot has colored leaves. Driving down the Tucker Lake Road has shown me different spots for beautiful color. The ash trees have just about completely turned. Poplar, birch and maple are starting to show up. The tamarack have not yet started to turn yellow at all but they are always last.

Bruce has got a new building project for this fall. Up on top of the hill and across the road, we are putting up a new staff housing building. It will have 16 double occupancy rooms. Each room will have its own kitchen and bathroom. The entire building will be winterized. In addition to providing more housing, this will let us tear down a couple worn out buildings.

Plans have not yet been completed for services for Dennis Todd. It appears at this time that there will be a spring/early summer memorial service up here. I will let you know through this column when something definite is set up.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Remembering Dennis

For those of you who knew Dennis Todd, I am sorry to report his death in a boating accident on Trafalgar Bay Thursday afternoon (September 12). The boat made an unexpected 90 degree turn. Both Dennis and his passenger were thrown from the boat. She had a PFD on and was able to swim to shore. He did not have one on and could not make the long swim in cold water.

So here I sit remembering Dennis from the over 25 years that he worked for us. He was a very generous man. Anyone who was unable to get out to fish could count on Dennis stopping by with a few walleye for dinner. The afternoon of the accident Dennis sent home with Bruce three dinners worth of walleyes. They are in my freeze right now.

For the past several years Dennis brought up enough Missouri Walleye (catfish) for the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center to have a fish fry as a fund raiser. Generally speaking there was not a piece of fried fish left. In fact the volunteers who served and cooked the meal made sure that they got their share of fish too. Dennis never appeared at that event and just took it for granted that you did what you could to help out. Supplying fish was what he could do and the museum was grateful for it.

Some of you may remember the years that we raised pigs at the stable. Dennis would bring them up from Missouri in his boat. In the fall he would help butcher them and he taught Bruce how to make bacon. There were some might fine meals from those pigs. Also many of the kids who stayed with us got to see a live pig for the first time.

Trafalgar Bay was probably one of Dennis’s favorite places to fish. He certainly found lots of walleyes for his guests to catch. Bruce and I went up there several times with him. The first time we went up Dennis took a small walleye off my line and banged it on the side of the boat. All of a sudden a huge eagle appeared to receive the tossed fish.

I soon learned that this was George a semi-trained eagle. Who knows how Dennis got started feeding this eagle but the bird knew who Dennis was by the time we saw him first. Apparently George knew the sound of Dennis’s motor and only came when he heard that motor. It is quite an experience to see an eagle catching a walleye right next to your boat.

Many of you have enjoyed the smoked ribs, salmon, prime rib and chicken done on our large smoker. What you don’t know is that Dennis arranged to have the smoker built for us in Missouri. He also made sure that we never ran out of hickory wood to use for smoking these meats. Again it was just something that Dennis did because he saw a need that he could help with.

Next summer is going to be an eye opener for us. There will be holes in our lives that Dennis filled and we have forgotten about. Many of you will also be remembering your great fishing days with Dennis. Think about him when you eat your next walleye dinner.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It is Fall!

Fall is here but before I talk about the glories of fall (my favorite season), you need to hear about a group of four women from Milwaukee who returned last week from a canoe trip with us. Everyone at the lodge loved them when they came in for meals. At the end of their canoe trip, they sat on the patio enjoying a cold libation. Coming in the discussion was about whose hair was the worst. By dinner time they had showered and looked pretty good again. Missy waited on them at all meals and had a great time. We all enjoyed having such a cheerful group in the dining room.

Now back to glorious fall. If I had written this four days ago, it could have been about blue skies and calm winds. These last two days it has to be about wind, rain and overcast skies. But it is still fall! The leaves are changing.

My garden is yielding more than we can eat. It is also dying out quickly. Potatoes have been put into a five-gallon pail. Broccoli is finished. Blue Lake green beans will give us a couple more meals. Zucchini are still prolific and getting huge. The last of the lettuce went down to the lodge yesterday for an emergency fill before the food truck arrived. It looked like the parsley was done but it has come back stronger than ever. I will dry that for use all winter. Basil is also doing well. Now it is a race to get every bit of growth but not let a frost bite those tender basil leaves. Thursday we are supposed to get a frost so I will harvest basil tomorrow and make pesto. Tomatoes are not doing well. Maybe I will be able to figure out a way to get one. I also have 2 spaghetti squash and one pumpkin. The fifty sticks I planted for raspberries and the tiny bits of strawberries are ready to give me a big harvest next summer. That is the garden for this year.

Earlier this week the power company was up. They are stringing line for broadband and reached my house. This is still a long way from getting broadband but I am keeping my fingers crossed. Once the fiber optic line is at my house, it can be hooked up even in the winter as long as the line is buried to the connecting spot coming into the county. That is still the sticking point. Eventually it will all come together.

Most of our students have gone back to school. There were a couple of weeks when staffing was a challenge. About 5 or 6 people have joined us and that makes all the difference in the world. It seems quiet now but there are some big weekends coming up before November.

The first weekend in October the entire resort will be taken over by a group called BOW (Becoming an Outdoor Woman). It is close to 100 women here to learn about outdoor skills. We will have a good time with them.

Another busy weekend is the last one in October when Carole Valentini from Valentini’s Restaurant will be a guest chef. She will treat our guests to an evening of Italian delights. Bruce and I changed our vacation plans to make sure that we were here for her meals.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What is a typical day?

Once again the days seemed to have flown by. This is turning out to be the busiest month we have ever had. That means we don’t really have enough staff so the managers having being filling in more than they usually do. It also means you can never count on what is going to happen next. Yesterday was the perfect example.

Monday is Dave’s day off so Marilyn is on the front desk alone until 2:00 in the afternoon. I usually come in to help her. Monday’s are always busy with people getting fishing licenses, new guests with questions, the phone ringing with more questions. You get the idea. Marilyn is much better than I am on the front desk but I can answer more questions than she can about the area.

So it is almost 2:00. The place is a zoo with guests, people for lunch, riders for horseback and lookers. All of a sudden Bruce appears to ask if I am ready to go. Go where? It seems we are driving down to Lutsen Resort to get some plans for their staff housing. We are going to build new housing this fall. It is really hot out so a drive in an air conditioned car sounds pretty good. Also it is a good chance for us to just talk for three hours. Off we go.

An hour and a half later we are at Lutsen talking with Nancy about what they did for staff housing a few years ago. After about 20 minutes we are back on the road home. In Grand Marais we stop at Dairy Queen and also gas the car. The ride home seems easy and we should make it for me to be the hostess at dinner.

Just before we get to Trail Center, there is a truck in the ditch. While going off the road, the truck hits one of the green boxes that splice together the main power line. The box is burning and there is a piece of line sticking up in the air. No sign of the driver, but the truck did not roll over. We will meet the ambulance and fire truck as we continue home. The driver was OK but probably a little shaken up.

The next issue is that this accident took out power for the entire trail. We know that Don is in one of the emergency vehicles we passed. At the lodge soups are slowly heating on our gas fired stove. Salads and cold sandwiches will round out the gourmet menu for the night. Paper plates come out of storage. There is some light in the lodge as we have a special circuit that is cut off from the main line. We start serving meals. Five-gallon buckets are stacked in the entryway for lake water to flush toilets. Dave has a key to open the cash register so Bruce goes to find him. Meanwhile Sheryl finds her key to do the same thing. We are functioning for dinner.

Just as Bruce gets back, he and I and Adam walk down to Cabin #5. Adam is going to marry a couple and we are the witnesses. Luckily it is not a long service but it is nice.

About 8:00 p.m. the power comes back on. We start to fire up the electric appliances in the kitchen. This takes about 30 minutes. Now we can serve the bistro menu to those who have not eaten yet. Things are still a little chaotic but the worst is over. As usual the staff adapted and pulled us through.

Around 8:30 Bruce and I go home. I had made some soup for dinner. That was about all we were up to eating and it tasted very good.

You just never know what is going to happen during the day at Gunflint.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thanks to Hundreds of Volunteers

For the past week, hundreds of Cook County residents have been involved in the search for a local man who appears to have been lost while blueberry picking. It has been a long and frustrated job for everyone who has participated. Using a grid pattern, over 500 acres of land have been walked once, trice and sometimes three times. Sitting reading this, you might wonder how an eighty-year-old man cannot be found.

If you have seen the country, all questions would be removed. It is right in the heart of an area that was affected by the 1999 Blowdown and the 2007 Ham Lake Fire. There are blown down trees, burned tree trunks, and 4-6 foot brush everywhere. In addition there are granite rocks, cervices, and caves. Added to this is extremely wet conditions that make for slippery footing. Every step must be carefully considered. To give you an idea of how thick the brush is, three searches came across a moose in the brush. Everyone looked at each other and then went their separate ways. We wish the searchers well and give them our thanks for such hard work.

Yesterday Bruce and I took a couple hours off to go blueberry picking with two of the guests. We motored over to Magnetic Lake and found a small open spot amidst granite rocks. The area was covered with blueberries and they were huge berries! We have never seen them so big. Many were as big as domestic ones. Of course they have a lot more favor. I spent two hours this morning cleaning and freezing our berries. Tomorrow I will make a blueberry pie for us all to share.

When we got home, everyone was thankful that the trip was accomplished without a stumble or a fall. None of the four of us are as agile as we once where. Between climbing out of the boat, up the rocks, over half burned trees, down cervices to the big ones, back up again, then down into the boat, not a single berry was lost. What a wonderful way to spend a couple hours. I will remember this when my Grandson Grant calls to remind me to make more blueberry jam.

The middle of August is not here yet. Even so the days are a little shorter. The nights are a little cooler. The shrubs along the side of the road are starting to turn color. We still have weeks to go before fall color is upon us, but these shrubs are the first signal that summer is coming to an end. Except for one week in July, it has been a cool summer with steady patches of rain mixed with sunshine. It is why the blueberries are so huge.

Now the raspberries are ripening. I made nine jars of jam yesterday. These jars will help answer Granddaughter Mae’s questions about when we pick raspberries. At three she just sits and picks and eats. That sounds good to me.

Friday, August 02, 2013

More Berries

The last week to ten days has been really busy so I never did get around to the blog. Now is the time to catch up.

Sheryl sent me several pictures including this one of a baby mallard. The babes and mothers are feasting on corn from all our guests.

Family reunions have hit us. No matter what the size and ages of the families, they still have a lot of people at dinner. Then last night after we had already turned down two groups of 14 who called, a group of 16 walked in. With them standing in front of you, it is hard to turn them down. Naturally there was a little rain so they could not eat outside. There was a period of about 30 minutes when every table and every bar stool was full with people waiting. I know this is good but at the end of the night, it is also tiring.

Also at this time we have kids all over the place. It really puts pressure on the kitchen staff to keep those cookies coming out. Someone saw one boy take four cookies and stack them up. That way he could just bite out of all four of them at a time. Occasionally the hot chocolate machine is “out of order” while we wait to get more hot chocolate delivered. None the less, I have parents of children them me how their kids talk about cookies and hot chocolate all winter long. We are glad it makes an impression.

Bruce took off for a couple of days with Son Brian and his three children. They went over and camped in Red Rock Bay for three nights. Fishing was tough but Brian did the best with a crawler harness. Even so, they only got 1 walleye. Bass and a northern filled them up for dinner appetizers. They did hit a bonanza for blueberries. I had made 30 jars of jam and they brought me enough berries to make another 30 jars.

Bruce and Grandson Sam had an interesting experience. They stopped to look at an empty campsite. The canoe was pulled completely out of the water onto some rocks. The two guys were in the back picking blueberries at an unbelievably rich site. Suddenly they heard a noise. The wind came and picked up their canoe and dropped it (right side up) into the lake. There went the canoe floating down the lake. Sam had to bushwhack for about ¼ mile along the shore until he could call Brian to come and get them.

The raspberries are starting to ripen up. A small bag of them made it back from the canoe trip. I had them on my cereal this morning. My oft repeated story is that when I sit down with the first bowl of wild raspberries, I think about the ½ pint container of berries that sell in the store for $3-4 with no taste at all. It is then that I know that my life is truly rich.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Rain! Rain!

Wednesday, the Gunflint Trail had their annual canoe races at Gunflint Lodge. In spite of the fact that the weather was chancy and there was a downpour in the early afternoon, the turnout was very good. The wind calmed down. There were a very few sprinkles of rain during the evening. Over $12,000.00 was deposited in the account of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. Not too bad for a one night event. Of course, the only thing that made it possible was the hundreds of hours of work put in by friends and neighbors up and down the Trail.

Everyone knows that we need a strong, well equipped fire department and ambulance. The guys and gals who run the department put in many hours of training and answering calls. The rest of us do our share by seeing to it that there is enough money to get the training and equipment. So Wednesday night was another successful night of doing a small part to fund this operation.

It was a good thing that the races were Wednesday and not Thursday. Yesterday was one of the rainiest days we have had in years. One of the neighbors on Loon Lake recorded 4” of rain. Throughout the day a series of squalls kept rolling in to drench us for a period of time. Then things would settle down until the next squall came in. Everything was accompanied by thunder and lightening. In fact, I was able to lie in my bed for the early part of the night and just listen to the thunder come in. Some of the lightening strikes seemed really close but by morning there was no evidence of them.

The biggest evidence of the rain is my garden. Everything is suddenly huge. That includes the weeds. After I am finished writing, it is time to get out and weed. The ground is still wet so weeds come out very easily. Of course, the dirt also adheres to my clothing very easily. I will be a mess by the time the job is done. But then, who said that weeding is ever done?

All this rain has been great for the berries. I understand that blueberries are starting to ripen in the sunny areas. Raspberries can’t be far behind. It is a good thing. My grandchildren are anxious to get jam. Three-year old Mae even called this winter. Her very small voice wanted to know when we picked raspberries. She will sit on the ground and eat the berries right off the bush. Bruce and I have our work cut out for us to keep the family in jam. After all why would you want to buy jam in a store when your grandparents can make it for you?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Canoe Races

Berry season is here. Right in our driveway is a good little patch of wild strawberries. Bruce is a great picker of berries. Our strawberries are so small (no bigger than the tip of your little finger) that he tries to pick one whipped margarine cup (about 1 cup) each time he goes out. It takes 5-6 cups for one batch of wild strawberry jam. All the picking is done on hands and knees. Because we have had regular doses of rain this summer, the berries are really good. Even so it is a lot of work to get enough for a batch of jam. Those who get gifts of this jam are definitely on the A list.

Just looking out at the dock area will tell you that school is out. Every day we see more kids in the small kayaks. For their first experience the dock boys put PFD’s (life jackets) on everyone. Then the kids are helped into one of the kayaks. A few short instructions are given. You don’t need too much. Unlike adults, kids will keep trying different strokes until they make it work. Once they learn to go forward, it is like releasing them to the world. They can go everywhere! I never tire of watching them on the water just as they never tire of being on the water.

One of our summer favorites is eating on the patio overlooking the lake. There is something about eating beside the water. It doesn’t make any difference which meal it is. Guests just love to sit outside. Sometimes they just want to sit. Hold the food! Hold the drinks! Just leave me alone to soak in the fresh air. By sunset the bugs have also discovered how nice the patio is but we are past the worst of the bug season this year. Now it is just absorbing the outside before winter comes again.

This coming Wednesday is the night for the annual Gunflint Trail Canoe Races. For over 25 years neighbors have been getting together to raise money to support the local volunteer fire department. The first sign is canoe races is when volunteers start selling raffle tickets at Trail Center. These will be sold until the raffles actually start. There will be 300-400 people at Gunflint Lodge to participate in everything starting at 4:30. One of the neighbors gets out his accordion to liven up things. Two huge raffles give out general gifts and then a Winonah canoe is the grand prize for one raffle. There is a silent auction. Various canoe races for all ages run through the night. Local women sell sloppy Joes, calico beans, hot dogs, homemade cookies and treats for all. My favorite is the minnow races. Each child is given a minnow to “race” down lanes made by PVC pipe. Of course, every child wins these races.

So if you are in the area on July 17th, stop in for a night of fun. It is like a giant neighborhood picnic.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! It is a beautiful day on the Gunflint. There is not a cloud in the sky. While the temperature is high, a cool breeze makes it a perfect day. Life at the lodge will be very busy today. Last night we were filled to the brim with diners. With nice weather, the patio becomes a third dining room. I expect that the same thing will happen tonight.

The wildflowers are out in all the beauty along the Trail. Along a drive, there are lupine, hawkweed and daisies. Most along the roads have been brought in and are not native to the area. Even so they add lots of color. Further into the woods are the twin flowers, iris, bunchberries and many more. These are all native to this area. We are also starting to see the wild strawberries ripen. Soon it will be time for jam. It is a truly wonderful time to just look out on the Trail.

One of our guests had an unusual experience yesterday. The two adult brothers went out kayaking on Gunflint. Back in the summer home bay they spotted a loon gliding along. The loon came up close to one of their kayaks. This brother said to the other, “I can almost pet the loon.” He reached out his hand to pet the loon. The animal gently took each of the human fingers in his beak. Then the loon just sat there while the man pet its head and back. Finally the loon glided off into the weeds. Neither Bruce nor I have ever heard of such an occurrence.

The canopy tour is very busy. Today and tomorrow we are full with about 45 riders each day. Everyone seems to be enjoying it. Lee says that he is also very busy on his new canopy tour (Kerfoot Canopy Tour) down near Belle Plain and Henderson outside of the Twin Cities. He is a little bigger than we are with ten zips and the longest is over 1200 feet.

My garden is producing broccoli for the dining room. Three times I have harvested enough for dinner. Of course, Bruce and I have yet to eat any of it. By the time we sit down to eat, it is usually just a salad or sandwich. One would think that we would lose weight but it doesn’t seem to work that way. I think it is too many cookies while at the lodge.

As I look out over the lake, there are kids everywhere. It is not just the human variety. Our mallards are hatching too. Everyday there seems to be a new flock of little ones. Besides the corn, they like to hang around the dock because the eagles are not comfortable swooping in to pick off another young duckling. All the kids splashing and the dock with hiding places makes this a very scary place for the eagles. I wonder if the eagles actually feel “scared.” I think that is just a human emotion assigned to eagles with no idea if they have emotions like we do. There is a name for that but I can remember.

At any rate, have a great day. I’ll be watching my fireworks on PBS at the National Mall tonight.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Who Makes Up Your Family?

Sheryl sent me this picture of Bruce with Robert and Zach. They took off Tuesday with Zach’s Boy Scout troop for a seven-day canoe trip. It only takes one look at the picture to know that they are all related. Unfortunately they have had rain two of the three days they have been out. It is supposed to rain today too. Bruce always tells guests that the weather they get on vacation depends on the life they have led during the past year. I wonder what that says about him.

Meanwhile the lodge carries on as usual. This past week and next week Tom and Jan Daniel’s family has had a reunion for 19 of them. The purpose is to celebrate Tom and Jan’s 60th wedding anniversary. Every five years the entire clan assembles here to celebrate. They first came up here in 1969 for Tom’s family reunion. It was the first summer Bruce and I had been married. Tom and Jan alone or with various of their children and grandchildren have visited us 24 times over the years. We even ran into them once in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. (I had to look that up to spell it correctly.)

I have taken up a new hobby. Since we moved the number of boxes devoted to old family pictures in our home has multiplied It is like a message from on high that maybe I ought to try to organize the genealogy of the family. I went and bought a program called Family Tree Maker complete with instructions. Bruce feels that I am crazy but we will see what happens.

The Kerfoot family tree will be easy. Someone years before me actually gathered it all up in a book of which we have a copy. Even the Spunner family (Justine’s) has a fair amount of information easily obtainable. Both my maternal and paternal families are woefully lacking in information. I am only the second general born in this country on my mother’s side and the first on my father’s side. Nothing like a good mystery to keep me busy.

The real problem is that I am not interested in filling in blanks on a family tree chart. I want to know the stories of these people’s lives. For example Bruce’s grandfather George Kerfoot was a president of Hamline University in the St. Paul. He was a minister and they were social very correct. They had four boys and one daughter. During the Depression Justine and Bill were desperately poor. The house Grandpa and Grandma Kerfoot lived in need to be reroofed so Bill and Justine came down to do the job. It might have been the first time that Grandma Kerfoot met her new daughter-in-law.

At any rate during those years, there was no way that Justine could have been described as social correct. She came down in her bib overalls and climbed up to help with the roofing project. Then to add insult to injury Justine took a break by having a cigarette on the roof. Grandma Kerfoot reacted the only way her generation could. She took to her bed.

Over the years Grandma Kerfoot came to appreciate her unorthodox daughter-in-law. When she lay dying, Grandma asked to speak with Justine. None of the four adult boys but only Justine was asked to always look after daughter Margaret. The promise given was never forgotten.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Waters

As the picture shows, Bruce got out fishing for a day. He and Guide Jon Schei went up to Northern Light Lake. They each caught two walleyes over 25” long. The one Bruce is holding was the largest at 32”. I think he is pretty happy with it. Both he and Jon were fishing with 4 lb. test line which makes things a little more interesting. They had broken lines from northern strikes (no leaders) but did not have any walleyes break off from trying to muscle them in. Needless to say, their big walleyes are still swimming around in the lake. Even so Bruce brought home enough smaller walleyes for several nice meals. The smaller walleyes eat a lot better than the bigger ones do.

I am watching my garden coming up nicely. It should! Bruce built me some brand new beds and filled them with manure from the stables. I have already brought over chives and parsley to the lodge. Next week I will have broccoli to bring over. I get the broccoli in plants and will have fresh until September. The parsley also comes in plants and will supply us well into September then I will cut every leaf off and dry it for dried flakes all winter.

Every year I have one failure. My most consistent failure is basil and this year was no exception. On the coldest night we made a tent over the basil with a sleeping bag and a plastic sheet. I must have missed one night because eventually I was down to two scrawny plants. After babying them for about 10 days, some critter came and ate them. So I broke down and bought a dozen plants in town. I don’t think they will freeze but who knows what the animals will do.

Since today is officially summer, I was thinking about my favorite things that happen during the summer around the lodge. High on my list is the front patio overlooking the lake. We had a porch for many years but Lee was the one who got us to build a real patio. Every day that is halfway decent, will find that meals on patio are always popular. On Tuesdays we make pizza in the wood-fired oven. The managers are out there with everyone else eating pizza and letting the sun warm our backs. The evenings on the porch are just heaven. Food always tastes better when you can watch the lake while eating.

Another favorite activity is just to take a boat ride. I do it much less that you would expect but it is still wonderful. Last Friday we took a ride down the lake to the Canadian side to look for remains from the old town of LeBlaine. We didn’t find much but the ride down and back was worth it.

Last fall when we were in Venice, we ate our breakfasts (tea and a roll) along the Grand Canal. Just to watch the variety of traffic on the canal was great entertainment. It was everything from picking up garbage to tourist gondolas to water taxis. There is always something interesting to see.

What is it that draws us all to the water?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Truly is June

Bruce and I are still getting used to living in the Tucker Lake house. Our long (five mile) commute is not easy. I am used to getting stuff like food from the lodge kitchen. When I forget to pick up something, the drive back is a pain in the neck. So now I have lists in my pockets.

We had our first “Porch Pot Luck” last night. Tom and Melissa built a wonderful screened in porch as part of this house. About three times a summer, they would invite a group of friends and neighbors over for a potluck. We jokingly say that in the final contract for the house there was some very fine printing stipulating that we had to continue the potlucks FOREVER. So last night was a first one. We had an Italian theme with about 25 people. It went well but I was nervous which is stupid because I know everyone who came.

Last week I was driving down the Gunflint side road after lunch. Just ahead of me I saw a lynx. The animal is just not something we see every day. I was excited. Then yesterday Bruce saw a wolf on the Tucker Lake side road. Again for all the years we have driven around here, it is still fun to see some of these elusive animals.

The aquatic plants are growing up. As a result the moose have appeared in the ponds along the Gunflint Trail. As I drive along, suddenly there will be a bunch of cars parked on the side of the road. Everyone is out looking and taking pictures. You just know that there is a moose (or several) in a pond

Fishing has been very good both on Gunflint and Saganaga. Jon Schei went to Northern Light Lake and caught a 22 lb and a 16 lb northern plus a 30 inch walleye. The father and son guests told me that they had seen this kind of fishing on TV shows but never thought they would get to do it. Adam and Dennis have both be having good lucky too. It is just amazing how the fishing has been so good. Adam even got two 14” crappies on Saganaga.

I must tell you that Bruce and I went fishing on Tucker Lake one day for about 40 minutes in the middle of a sunny afternoon with dead calm. As you might expect, it was more fishing than catching. Bruce also said he couldn’t remember exactly where he used to fish on the lake. We are going to have to get out more. Lee’s Grant and Mae will be coming up this summer and expect Grandpa to help them catch some fish. Luckily Grandma has no obligation for fish catching.

Lee and Eva are ready to have the grand opening of the canopy tour/zip line this Friday. We are too busy to get down there ourselves. So my plan is to convince all of you to go down and cheer them on for us. This weekend they have some bookings but you know how new businesses start slowly. They need some people to show up for encouragement. Plus I can guarantee that the trip down the various zips will be great fun.

Monday, June 03, 2013

How Did June Get Here So Fast?

The picture today is another bird picture from Sheryl. She took it at Gunflint and it is a Baltimore Oriole. Neither Bruce nor I have ever seen one here. In case you are wondering about Sheryl’s bird pictures, she got a new camera and has been really enjoying it. I have a bunch of wonderful pictures from her.

Ronnie Smith is popping flowers in the ground as we speak. Just give us two weeks and there will be a burst of color all over Gunflint. Things slowed down a bit last night as we had clear skies and a FROST. This is really late. Usually we are finished with frosts here by the first of June. At our Tucker Lake home, Bruce and I covered the basil with a sleeping bag and a piece of plastic. I am going to go out and take it all off after the blog is finished.

It may be clear skies today, but over the weekend we had some nasty weather. The wind blew and the heavens opened with rain. It was good to get the rain but some nice gentle showers would have been nicer than pouring down rains. Also the wind took our power out for about 4 hours. At least it was during daylight so the repair crew could see what they were doing. It is now really rare for us to lose the power for such a long period of time.

Fishing has been good. Jon Schei was out with a fishing party last week on Gunflint. They brought in a nice 31” walleye along with other fish. Don’t ask me where it was caught or what the lure was. That information is all stamped TOP SECRET. We have also had some of our staff out fishing with good luck. Bonnie was commenting on how great it is to have staff exploring the area. Our guests have been doing their bit fishing. Last night we had a couple bring in a nice stringer of bass. She caught the biggest one and he caught the most. The fish looked to be about 3 pound smallmouth bass. It will be a nice dinner when they get home.

Bruce spent two days down in the Twin Cities helping Lee build a deck. Lee and Eva are opening a new canopy tour/zipline between Belle Plaine and Henderson. The area is adjacent to the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway (or some name like that). They had an administrative building put up but needed a deck around it. Lee gave Bruce a couple of his staff to help with the building project. Bruce brought down the tools. In two days time the 75-year old man worked the two twenty-some year-old boys to the ground. Lee enjoyed pointing that out to the two younger men several times.

The canopy tour will be opening on June 14th. If you have ridden ours here at Gunflint, Lee and Eva’s is the same but different. They have a website up called On the site they have more detailed information about location and times of operation. Last weekend I visited the location and it is going to be amazing. At several points the zip goes across a 125-foot deep valley. Be sure to look at Bruce’s deck too.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Planting Time

It was wonderful to see the ice go out on the 17th. The next day was relatively calm so Jason brought the two docks over from winter storage. Was that a smart move! On the 19th the east wind kicked up for three days. I can’t remember when I have seen such a strong wind with huge white caps on the waves. We had no one out in boats for three days. With the dock hooked up, all our boats just bobbed through the winds.

During the three days of storm we also got over 2 inches of rain. It came slowly over each day so the ground got soaked and there was not a big run off. Things had been getting pretty dry around here and we were all happy to see the rain.

The clouds started to breakup yesterday. This morning it was clear skies and lots of sunshine. After the rain and overcast, it looks particularly good outside today. Bruce and I took an early morning walked down the road. I must admit that at 5:15 I am not quite awake but it felt so good to be out that I couldn’t complain. We didn’t go very far but there were two bunnies out and about ahead of us.

Yesterday I was able to spend some time working on my vegetable garden. Bruce is quicker at building the beds than I am at filling them. Some of the perennials from the Gunflint garden will be multiplying over here like chives and rhubarb. On Friday more vegetables in flats will be arriving. There will be broccoli, basil, tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries and parsley. Then the seeds will go in for carrots, lettuce, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, and onions. This first year will be a little bit of an experiment as we figure out what goes best where.

Friday will also bring some flowers. I have potentilla and burning bush to plant. Eight hanging flower baskets will go around. Some day lilies and hostas from Gunflint will be divided to reproduce over here. Then there will be a bunch of annuals to add quick color. For several years the flowers will be a work in progress. I just love all the color they add.

Not only are flowers arriving for me, but Ronnie Smith has a huge number of flowers arriving for the lodge. Yesterday she and her two helpers finished getting the pole barn ready to store the flowers until they are planted. The Mantis tiller has been working overtime to get the beds ready. All the protective burlap and chicken wire is off until next winter. By Tuesday there will be an army of staff planting.

This weekend Bruce and I are going down to Northfield, Minnesota. Our oldest grandson, Tanner, is graduating from St. Olaf College. Many of you will remember him since he has waited tables at the lodge to help pay for his schooling. As soon as graduation is over, Tanner starts a career job with Enterprise Rent A Car. I think I can remember starting my first job after college. We won’t talk about how long ago that was.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Flash From Gunflint

I no sooner wrote that the ice was still on Gunflint when Mother Nature changed her mind.  Yesterday (5/17) the wind blew the ice around until the lake was clear.  Neighbors from the east end kept calling me in the afternoon to say the ice was here or there.  Finally the ice was gone.  Now even less than a day after the ice is gone, I have trouble remembering what the lake looked like when it was covered with ice.  The same thing happens when the lake freezes over in the fall and I have trouble remembering open water.   Check our web cam to see the water flowing freely over Gunflint.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Spring Moves Along

The big question this week is when is the ice going out. Lots of wind has helped to move it along. Right now I would say that the west end of Gunflint is out. Shifting winds have moved what ice is left around the lake. Today and tomorrow we have 60% chances for thunderstorms if you believe the weather forecast. That could weaken the ice enough to let the wind finish moving it out. Believe me, we are all ready for open water. There are lots of fish in the lake to be caught.

This week Wolf Point Trail lived up to its name. I was looking out an upstairs window one morning when right on the road a wolf walked by. He was a big gray wolf which is why we decided it was a male. The animal was very relaxed and in no rush to move long. Bruce and I both got a good look at him.

Last Saturday morning we spent a couple hours up at Chik-Wauk planting trees – red pine and spruce. Only six of us appeared and I know why. It was a perfectly horrible day. Between wind, rain and snow, it was a day we should have been inside looking out. Even so, we got a couple hundred trees planted. The most interesting part of the morning was seeing how many trees are coming up. They range in size from six inches to a couple of feet. The differences in size come from a successful planting effort for several years. By lunch time we were all ready to go home. Just stopping moving to eat chilled us all down. A good hot shower felt great when I got back to the house.

We have done a little remodeling in the main dining room. Against the south wall (opposite the windows), we have added three booths. Bonnie is in the process of making cushions for the benches. It will offer a nice change of tables for guests.

The staff for the canopy tour has just finished an intense training program. When the trainers first arrived they did a detailed inspection of the course itself to make sure that it adhered to all the national standards. Then for the next three days the training ran from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Throughout this period, a lot of emphasis is placed on safety. Jason Merrill, who oversees the course, is very fussy that everything is done is a safe manner, every time.

The riding stables are also open for the summer again. It is always fun to get the horses back. Mandy goes down every to pick the horses she wants. Many are repeats from previous years. This gives her a good base to start training the new horses. Just like Jason, she is very insistent that people have a safe riding experience.

So here we are up and running for another summer. The winter just flew by and I expect that this summer will go by just as fast.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Changes in the Woods and Waters

Gunflint Lake is still covered with ice. It is quite a change from the last two years when the ice was out in March. It will still probably be 10 days or so before the ice goes out. A lot depends on the wind. Right now there is a large lead of open water from the Cross River. That will erode the entire west bay of the lake. When we have a lot of open water in that bay and the ice is black everywhere and the wind comes from the west end, then the ice will start to move. If all the elements are perfectly aligned, the ice can be cleared from the entire lake in a day or so.

The wind is coming up today. That will help. It did not freeze last night. That’s another plus. We had some rain showers yesterday and drizzling today. It all works to soften the ice. Once things start to move, the ice can go out very quickly.

Animals are starting to move around more. Some guests saw the first bear of the season up near the end of the Trail. Some other guests saw a moose cow and what appeared to be a very young calf – probably this spring’s young. At any rate Mama was keep close track of it. In spite of the resident lynx at the lodge, I saw three snowshoe hares while driving out the side road last night. The deer are around but look very thin. Some grass should start to green up soon and that will help. I think the fawns will be very small this year. Warm sunshine after they are born would go a long way toward keeping them healthy.

Last night around 7:30 we had an interesting combination of temperatures on the lake. The ice was cold, the air was warm and a little rain was coming down. The result was a mist rising off the ice. I stood and watched as the mist went right along the north shore of the lake toward the east. You could actually see it moving along. Then it spread over most of the lake for a short time. It was a little eerie to watch.

Most of the snow is gone from the woods. The waters are filling up the creeks, rivers and swamps. This in turn is flowing into the lakes. I can see the level of Gunflint coming up. My gauge is the northeast corner of the main dock. Two logs and the flat board are still out of water. It is going up every day just a little. Bruce thinks the entire dock will be covered with water. We will see.

We spent Monday night and Tuesday in Duluth with Don and Marilyn. Upper Lakes Foods who sells us most of our food was having a show of most of their venders. Tasting in the evening was extensive but easy since most of the food fit into the appetizer or light meal category. It was Tuesday morning that got to your stomach. We have to taste to learn anything but at 9:00 a.m. you can go from apple pie to garlic sausage to steak. My stomach is not really comfortable with the random mixture of food and the timing of the meal. At any rate, we all survived and found a few things to add to our menu.

Saturday is the opening of the walleye season. With a little luck a couple of the small lakes will be open but don’t expect to hear of anyone getting a boat load of fish.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Turkey and Croatia

As you can tell from the picture, we are home again. Our trip was divided between two weeks in Turkey and one week in Croatia. There were four couples during the Turkey portion of our trip. After spending a couple of days in Istanbul, we took a flight to Izmir on the west coast of AsianTurkey. From there we visited the restored city of Ephesus which is just amazing. It is hard to believe that we are walking the same streets as St. Paul walked. Of special interest was the exhibit of terrace homes. There are six homes with mosaics and frescoes all dating from ancient times. To protect them, you walk on a stairway made of clear plastic. Of course, the best known view of the city is the restored façade of the library. This was our third visit and every time we get to see and learn more about this great restoration.

The next stop was six day cruise on the Aegean and Mediterranean on south coast of Turkey. Our boat was a 100 foot wooden boat with six staterooms. For seven days we cruised in and out of inlets and bays. We stopped and explored small towns. The picture is of our boat anchored at one of the towns while we climbed to explore an ancient fortress about the city. The week was totally decadent because the crew of five provided for our every need.

One highlight of the cruise was visiting a shipyard where a boat similar to ours was being built. OSHA would not be happy with the working conditions. The ladders to get onto the partially completed boat were a little rickety for me but we all got up and down with no problem. This 100 foot boat was started in November and its first cruise is the beginning of June. The place was a beehive of workers. There was no panic but lots of working being done.

The last part of the trip was two nights in Urgup to visit the fairy chimneys and underground city in the area. Our hotel was a cave hotel where the rooms had been carved right into the rock cliffs of the area. The hotel was totally unique and very comfortable. We were scheduled to take a hot air balloon ride but rain, fog and wind forced the cancellation of that trip.

From Kayseri we caught a plane back to Istanbul. There was a day and a half to wander the streets of this fascinating city. One of our must stops was the spice market. Bruce and I brought home a supply of spices to last a bit. Every time I use some of these spices it reminds me of the ancient Spice Road going through Turkey and first introducing Europe to the spices of Asia.

Patty and Mike Feeney continued with us on for a week in Croatia. Bruce found a beautiful apartment for us with a large balcony overlooking the Adriatic. With our car we explored the coast line, the city of Split, the Krka (don’t ask me how to pronounce this) National Park and one of the nearby islands. With only the four of us to set the schedule, it was a perfect ending to our trip.

Of course, during the entire trip we kept track of things back home – especially the snow. Gunflint got about 25 inches of snow during April. It was a huge amount but Duluth got 50 inches! There is still a foot of snow in the woods and the ice on Gunflint is just starting to look gray. Unless something happens very, very quickly the lake will not be fully open when walleye fishing starts. Also all the lakes in the area are going to have high water for a while. It’s quite a change from the last two years when the ice went out on Gunflint in March.

The returning birds are adjusting to the late spring. Some mallards tried to land on a shallow puddle of water on the ice. You could almost see the surprise on their faces when the water was only a couple inches deep.

Last week there was a group of seven eagles on the ice. Two were mature and the others were yearlings without the distinctive coloring of bald eagles. Up at the end of the Trail several mama moose with yearlings have also been seen. Almost everyone claims to have heard a loon calling but who knows where they are landing with ice everywhere.

When I write next week, there will be great changes in the ice and snow along the Gunflint Trail.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Slowly Spring Comes

Bruce and I had a great Easter weekend. Lee and Eva came up with Grant and Mae. They were our first house guests in the Tucker Lake house. The kids wanted to explore everywhere. We could not do too much outside since there is still a lot of snow. The snow, however, did allow them to build a snow fort with their father. They also tramped down to the lake. Inside activities included candle making at the lodge and Easter egg coloring. On Sunday morning we had the big egg hunt. All the eggs were found without too much trouble. We used the eggs for egg salad sandwiches for the managers during lunch.

The pile of boxes on our garage is slowly dwindling. I try to do a few each day. We have found most of the necessities of life which takes the pressure off. There are also some things that should have been thrown during the packing process. They are going this time. The idea is to use opaque garbage bags so Bruce can’t ask why I didn’t throw that out instead of bringing it to Tucker Lake to throw out.

Our weather has been typical spring changes. We had a little rain on Saturday morning. It was enough to soften all the snow on the road leading in to our house. Greg came and plowed all the slush out so that we have bare road in a few places. On Sunday morning there were snow squalls coming through. The north wind was howling. When I drove out to go down to the lodge for lunch, there was a small tree across the side road. Luckily it was small enough so that I could drag it off to the edge of the road. Lee says that I am a real pioneer mother now.

On Wednesday we are leaving on vacation. This time we are off for two weeks in Turkey and one week in Split, Croatia. For the entire time there will be no thoughts of unpacked boxes or lodge reservations. Although my cell phone works overseas, at $2.89 per minute plus taxes in Turkey, don’t call me. I’ll call you.

The last weekend of April we are helping Lee and Eva in their booth at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo, April 26-28. The Expo is held at Midwest Mountaineering’s store at 309 Cedar Ave. South in Minneapolis.

But why are Lee and Eva exhibiting at the Expo? On Memorial Day weekend they are opening the Kerfoot Canopy Tour near Henderson, Minnesota. It will be a state of the art canopy tour with 8 zips. Some of them will be crossing a deep ravine. You can get more information from their website at Bruce and I are really excited about this new project for Lee and Eva. It is being built by the same company that built our canopy tour. When you plan your visit to the canopy tour, don’t forget that the Minnesota River National Scenic Byway is adjacent to the canopy tour. Also the towns of Henderson and Belle Plain are great places to explore or get a bite to eat.

Time to pack for vacation. I’ll write again when we get home.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It Is Only Unpacking Now

We are moved to Tucker Lake! At any rate almost everything was transferred from one house to the other by 4:00 Monday (18th). Unpacking is a little different story. Monday night was our first night in the new house. I got the bed made okay. Then it was time to work on dinner. I had planned on brats and mac and cheese. The brats were going to be cooked on the George Foreman grill. It was the mac and cheese that was the problem. I couldn’t find any sauce pans. So I ended up cooking the pasta in a frying pan. By then I was so tired that I really didn’t care. Bruce was just as tired as I so both of us tossed and turned together all night. One of the items missing in action was our alarm clock. Neither of us wanted to oversleep the next morning. The alarm clock didn’t surface until Thursday.

At this point it is a matter of unpacking boxes and remembering where everything got put. One of the more painful aspects of the move is that our old house was on one floor. This house has a basement and a second story. I have only fallen once on the steps. It was more embarrassing than painful. Lee and Eva and the kids are coming to visit next weekend. Most everything should at least be out of boxes by then.

In spite of how busy this move is, life around us seems to continue on. Bonnie has been seeing a lynx around the outfitters. Last weekend one of the guests was on the sliding hill with his son. The lynx ran past him chasing a snowshoe hare. What an exciting thing to see! I am afraid that all the snowshoe hares around us have fallen prey to the lynx.

Sheryl sent me this picture to remind me of what our ice was like last year at this time. Right now you can drive cars on the lake and the ice is about 30 inches thick. The picture was taken on March 12, 2012. She and Bonnie left from the Cross River bridge to canoe to Magnetic Lake which they thought had open water. When they got to the narrows, they saw that Magnetic was filled with rotten ice. You couldn’t walk on it and you couldn’t paddle though it.

Right now it looks like the ice could be off Gunflint sometime during the beginning of May. That is a bit of a guess on my part but nothing has even started to melt on the ice. The Gunflint Trail is bare and dry. Some side roads have most of their snow off while others still have a covering of snow and ice. We are getting melting on sunny days but there is still a lot of snow in the woods. All our cross country ski trails are in excellent shape.

My neighbor, Fred, tells me that we have received just over 65 inches of snow this winter. Combine that with our cold weather (down to minus 30 and more) and it was a much more normal winter for us.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Move is Coming

Last night we got about 4 inches of new snow. Suddenly everything looks white and fresh. I usually don’t think that the first night of Daylight Saving Time will give us more snow but what can we do. After all the activity between the Trout Derby and the Mush for the Cure, this snowfall makes the entire lake look white and new. It will also make all the trails sparkle with new snow.

As Bruce mentioned on our homepage, he did get a close haircut. It looks pretty good and we were amazed at how much it has grown out even in a couple of days. He went to town yesterday for a talk at the ACA. It was funny how many people did not recognize him.

Of course, the races are the big thing for the Mush for the Cure. This year they had 16 mushers in the short course and 24 mushers in the long course. Teams came from New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Idaho just to name a few.

Bruce and I walked down to see the dogs take off. Occasionally, I have people mention to me how cruel it is for the dogs to have to pull the sleds. I wish everyone could see the dogs waiting to take off for the race. Every single dog was barking and straining to start going. No dog wanted to be left behind. They all just shot out when the race started.

Part of the deal is for the mushers to dress in pink. Here is a picture of our guide and musher Adam. He came in third in the race and won the ribbon for the best costume. He also raised over $900 in donations. We are all very proud of him. All the mushers devote a lot of time and work to participate in this event.

You may be wondering about our big move. It’s coming. On the 18th we will start to take stuff over to Tucker Lake. Meanwhile our house looks awful. I am not an immaculate housekeeper but we do like things picked up. Well, this house is filled with boxes – both empty and full. Bruce and I are wondering how we managed to accumulate so much stuff. The move is forcing us to get rid of a bunch of stuff either through the thrift store or the garbage. It is almost embarrassing how much stuff there is.

The only saving thought is that Tom and Melissa’s stuff in our new house is just as overpowering as ours is. They will be moving out on the 15th and going down near the Twin Cities. The pull of grandchildren was just too strong for them to ignore.

Living on Tucker Lake is going to be a new experience for us. We are going to have to commute to work. All these years you people have told us about the joys of commuting. Now we are going to experience. Of course, I can’t complain too much. Our commute is only five miles.

Monday, March 04, 2013

March Pops In

March has popped in on us and it feels just a tad bit warmer.  We can still get below zero but it warms up into the twenties almost every day.  Of course, the days are also getting longer.  It is the kind of weather where people are more interested in getting outside.
With that in mind, Sunday (the 3rd) was the snowmobile club’s annual trout derby on Gunflint Lake.  It appeared to be one of the best attended in several years.  Bruce and I went over for just a moment.  It looked like at least 100 people were gathered around.  It is a great family even with all ages finding something to do.  The winning fish weighed about 6 ½ pounds.  It was a good enough for the $500 first prize.  That’s not a bad reward for a morning’s fishing.  Gunflint looks rather barren this morning with everyone cleared off.  I have a small picture for you.  The main lodge at Gunflint is just barely visible in the background.
Bonnie from the outfitters also felt the urge to get outside for a bit this past week.  She met Janice from the Quetico Park at the gate to the Chik-Wauk Museum.  The two of them were going to snowshoe up to the top of Blueberry Hill.  Starting at the gate it is about 1 ½ miles up to the top of the hill.  Once on top you get a wonderful view down the Saganaga Channel.  Bonnie figured the up and down took about 2 hours total time.  By the time they got to the top she was ready to die but it was worth it.  On the top is a beautiful bench that Bob Baker Sr. built.  He is assembled it, then disassembled it, and a group of guys carried the pieces up where Bob put it back together again.  It is a great spot from which to absorb the forest and lakes spreading out in front of you.
Our dog musher, Adam, has been very busy giving rides to everyone around.  The warm days (up here daytime temperatures in the twenties are considered warm) have tempted lots of people to take a ride.  Last Saturday Adam was giving rides on the lake as he usually does.  A couple was in the sled and they all took off as planned.  Suddenly Adams was distracted for just a minute.  At the same time the sled’s runners went over a runted area.  In just a flash, Adam was off the sled and in the snow.  He jumped up and ran after the dogs yelling for them to stop.  They slowed down a bit and he tried to get the guests to use their feet as brakes.  Finally all the dogs stopped and Adam caught up to them.  It is a good reminder that Adam is not just along for the ride.  He has to concentrate all the time to keep control over everything.
Reservations for the summer are really coming in.  Every day we are surprised at how many people are calling to reserve their favorite cabin.  If you are thinking about coming our way this summer, give us a call so that we can hold your special cabin.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moving Along on the Lake

One of the nice parts about living in the woods is that there is always something happening. It is nothing earth-shattering but just little quirts in life.

Take our weather as an example. You would think the temperature would be pretty consistent from one spot to another. Guess again. The other day Bonnie was driving to work. At the top of the Gunflint hill she happened to look at her car thermometer. It said 7 degrees above. Then as she went down the hill and in the side road to the outfitters, the temperature dropped. By the time she stopped behind the outfitters, her thermometer read 25 below! That is quite a change for such a short distance.

Animals living here are also great fun to watch. The other day we saw a snowshoe hare on the lake. Because the hare is white, we only saw it because of the speed at which it was running around. None of us has ever seen a hare on the ice. I did see another one at my house the other day. Unfortunately, he is probably not going to be around much longer. Yesterday when Bruce was driving home at 4:00 p.m., there was a lynx sitting on top of one of the snow banks in our driveway. Snowshoe hares are one of the lynx’s favorite meals.

Of course, the best things to watch are usually the fixes that people manage to get themselves into. Our neighbor stopped by at lunch yesterday. He had a half story to tell. Some guests had taken their 4-wheel ATV down to the east end of the lake to fish. They had, with difficulty, gotten way past the furthest summer home to the east. The snow was deep and they constantly had to back up and take a run to move forward. Eventually the transmission on the ATV broke. Now they are truly stuck in the middle of nowhere.

They walk in and get the 4-wheel drive pickup. Again the deep snow forces them to continually back up and take a run for it. Finally they gave up. Taking the transmission out of an ATV is a lot different than taking the transmission out of a truck.

So Saturday (the next day), they bring down their buddies’ two snowmobiles to try to tow the machine out. Problem is that the two front wheels of the ATV keep bogging down in the snow. Next they try to use shovels to hold the front wheels up. Then they try two small sleds under the wheels. No luck. Now they are in town to buy a heavier sled.

The men got back from town with four sleds. One went under each wheel. This let them tow the ATV to land without getting the tires bogged down in the snow. I imagine it was quite a project. Glad all that I had to do was write about it.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Signs of the Season

Sheryl has been out walking around the woods. She saw this owl on a hike to the high cliffs. I especially liked the snow surrounding the owl.

You know, we never complain about too much snow round here. Over the weekend we got 5-8 inches of the fluffy white stuff. Our snow banks seem to be a mile high. In addition the ski trails and snowmobile trails are wonderful. We have a few white puffy clouds today but basically no snow in the forecast - 20% which is just a face saver for the weatherman in case something comes.

The lake is just as full of ice. I have heard up to 24” of good ice. Certainly people are going all over for fishing. My favorite story comes from our neighbor. Bob is now going out and cutting about a three foot by four foot hole in the ice with his chain saw. He puts in line at about 3 feet down and watches the fish come up to his bait. When the fish is hooked, he doesn’t have to put his arm in a tiny hole to get the fish out. Bob just takes his handy landing net and nets the fish. Watching the fish is almost as much fun as catching the fish.

I know the next question is what does Bob do with this huge slab of ice from the hole? He uses a pole to slide the slab under the adjoining ice. That way the slab is out of his way and he doesn’t have to try to lift it out of the water. Bob is a pretty tricky fellow.

In case you haven’t heard, Bruce has agreed to have his head shaved this year for the Mush for the Cure. All the money goes for research into breast cancer research. He has to raise $2500 for the privilege of getting his hair shaved. If you are interested there is a wonderful picture of Bruce soliciting your donations at I was the photographer of Bruce not the owl.

Over the weekend word was received that Ralph Griffis of Chik-Wauk Lodge died. He and his wife (who is still living) were the last private owners of Chik-Wauk. My favorite story of Ralph goes back some years to when they owned the lodge and I was a new bride. We had been having lots of rain and the lake waters were really rising. Ralph called me one day and asked if the water in Gunflint Lake was still coming up. I said yes but was quite confused. Ralph patiently explained to me that Gunflint Lake flows into Saganaga Lake (his lake) via the Granite River. One week after Gunflint stops coming up, Saganaga stops coming up. It takes that week to drain from Gunflint to Sag. It is pretty obvious when you think about it.

When I look outside, it is like we are in the middle of winter. There is, however, one small sign that spring is on the way. Our days are getting longer. All the extra minutes each day are finally adding up and now we have a couple extra hours of day light than on December 21st. This reverses itself on June 21st when the days start getting shorter.

Saturday, February 02, 2013


We are into our typical winter weather patterns. The temperature has been going down with clear skies, a waning moon, and no wind at night. This morning it was 30 below at our house. In a few days it is due to warm up to above zero. Then we will get some snow. Meanwhile the cold temperatures give us really good traction for driving. This variation of deep cold and no snow with warmer temperatures and snow will keep up for much of the winter.

Looking at the temperatures outside makes me look at the inside of our home. It is comfortably 70 degrees. That is a 100 degree temperature differential. When we have the fireplace going it is even a greater difference.

Daughter Shawn and her husband, Bob, give Bruce a big load of firewood each year for Father’s Day. We keep drying until just these cold days. There is nothing better than to come into a house with a cheery fire in the fireplace. We start it before dinner, throw an extra log on before going down to the lodge after dinner, and then put on a couple of logs when we come home. The smell, crackling and popping are all the music that we need in the house.

We have been seeing a pair of moose regularly just south of the North Brule River. I understand that there are also four moose hanging out around the upper end of the Trail. Neighbor Sally says she sees them every time she drives back and forth to down.

The ice on Gunflint is quite thick in many places. We are starting to see vehicles on the lake regularly. This does not mean that you can drive just anywhere. Always check with someone local before going out. On Gunflint, for example, it never freezes over at the Narrows leading to Magnetic no matter how cold it gets. In fact I have never been over close to the Narrows during the winter in all the years I have lived here.

I am slowly getting packed up for the big move to Tucker Lake. It will be a big change in our lives. Even though it is six weeks from now, both of us are getting excited for the move. The big question is how did we get so much stuff? I don’t know how people can move every few years. And getting boxes is another big deal. We are lucky to have all the food and liquor boxes that are delivered to the lodge regularly. Also I don’t have to do too much to pack our clothes. With only five miles to move, I will tie groups of hangers together and move them in the car. The short distance also allows me to pack things like towels in plastic bags. I think when I unpack there will be a lot more stuff leaving our house.

Just so you know that things are split, Bruce gets the garage to pack and move plus his office. Both are jam packed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Animal Encounters

We have had a good week here at Gunflint. First of all about 8 inches of snow came down on Friday and Saturday. It looks beautiful! The trails are in great shape with a solid base and a good track on top of that. Even if they are just skiing on the lake, everyone is having a ball.

After the snow we got clear skies and a full moon. You know what that means. The temperature just dropped. We have had 25 below or less for the past two nights. It is beautiful but best seen by looking out the windows. We have noticed that everyone in camp comes to get a movie. They probably have the fireplace going and are just sitting back with the movies. Maybe there is a little popcorn to go with the movie.

People have been seeing lots of game. Earlier this summer you may remember me talking about seeing a lynx where Bruce parks his truck at our house. We think that the animal has been hanging round. All the snowshoe hares have disappeared. Last weekend, some guests were skiing near the junction of the Lonely Lake Trail and the Big Pine Trail. They spotted a lynx. The animal did not just run off but stood there looking at them for several minutes. This let them get a really good look at the lynx. It is a great thing to see.

Sheryl also had an exciting viewing one night. It was late and she was reading in bed. Suddenly she heard what sounded like bleating. She looked out her bedroom window into the parking area behind Cabin #7. There was a deer that had just been taken down by a single wolf. Sheryl was able to get some great picture but they are a little too graphic for me. After feeding for a bit, the wolf moved into the bushes and howled before coming back to feed some more. By morning there was nothing to see. Looking around, Sheryl saw where the remains of the animal had been dragged into the woods between Cabin #9 and the road.

The interesting thing was Sheryl’s reaction to this. She was watching it all from a nice, safe house. Even so, there was a shiver that passed through her. That shiver must go back thousands of years when mankind was not so safe from wolves.

I had that happen to me years ago. Bruce was at a sports show in Milwaukee and I was the only one home. Our dog, Itzy, was restless. She was up and about and around and just would not settle down. I turned the outside lights on but there was nothing to see. Finally I let the dog out and stepped out myself. I could hear the howling of a pack very close to the house. Even safe in the house, it was not comfortable. Bruce just laughed when I told him about it. The next morning I found the tracks of the wolf pack right behind the outfitters building.

If you are interested, now is the time to come up and experience our wonderful snow. A word of warning, most of the cabins are booked on weekends. Mid week there are still cabins available but even that is filling up quickly.