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.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ice Part III

Last week and the week before I wrote about lake ice. This is Part III of the ice store. In talking about the ice I added that you should always check the local conditions before going out onto the ice. We had a group into one of the large cabins who were going out for the opening of ice fishing on Saturday. Their means of transportation were going to be several ATV’s to the east end of the lake.

Along the south shore of Gunflint is a pressure ridge. One of the ATV’s went through the thinner ice associated with this pressure ridge. The machine went 2 ½ to 3 feet in the water. Since there were other machines, the men were able to pull the one ATV out of the hole. Everything worked out OK but it is always a scare to go through where you think there is solid ice. I am sure that there will be other events regarding the ice as the winter goes along.

The big question right now concerns our snow conditions. The answer is that we are skiing on a thin layer of snow with a hard base. Everyone would love some new snow to go on top of what we have. Our temperatures are in the low single digits but above zero.

There was one morning that the road ice was treacherous. Dave at the front desk has a five-minute drive to work. That morning it was 45 minutes. When Bruce walked out to his truck to drive down to the lodge, he dusted the ice with his butt. I stayed in the house and did not attempt to go anywhere until the temperature changed later in the day. Even then, no one was driving very quickly around here.

Bruce and I have been getting a few laughs watching the Los Angeles weather. (We don’t get local – Minneapolis – stations because we would have to cut down two white pines to see the satellite.) Out west they are complaining about the cold conditions when the temperatures are in the forties. That would be a real heat wave around here.

Slowly our house is looking quite bare. Don is saving grocery and liquor boxes for me. We are going to needs lots and lots of boxes to get everything over to Tucker Lake. In fact Bruce just came in with a few more boxes. Without having food delivered for a commercial kitchen, I don’t know how you would accumulate enough boxes to pack a household up. At any rate I am slowly getting the job finished. We are lucky to have a staff to help move everything. Moving a dozen boxes a day is one thing, but I don’t think that I am up to moving all the boxes at one time. Boxes of books are heavy. I have five boxes of cookbooks alone after I gave a bunch away to the library.

The best part of the moving project is the end result.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

January Changes at Gunflint

Well, I have no ice testing pictures. Don went out last Thursday and forgot to call me. I can give you the results from the about 30 holes that he made. Out in the middle of Gunflint the ice ranged from 10-14 inches thick. Generally it was a solid blue ice. Surprisingly just in front of the dock the ice was only about 6 inches thick. That is a safe thickness for walking but we won’t be driving vehicles on the ice for a bit yet. I also wish to make the point that this in no way declares that the ice is safe all over Gunflint Lake. Ice changes all the time during the winter. Whenever you go on the ice, be sure to check the local conditions where you are going. Bruce fell through the ice once as a boy and he says it is not something you wish to experience.

As with everyone, our life has changed a bit in the past week. We bought a house on Tucker Lake which is about 5 miles from the lodge. One day we may not be running Gunflint (not anytime soon) and it would be nice to have a place to live. Our friends Tom and Melissa were selling their beautiful home and we could not resist. The two of them will continue to live on Tucker Lake until remodeling is done on their new home near the Cities. Then in March Bruce and I will make the big move. Many of you have lived all over the country but this is the first time (except for college and the military) that Bruce will not live on Gunflint Lake. For me, I have only lived here for 44 years so it is not as big a change for me.

The next question is what will happen to the house we are presently living in? It will become Cabin #12 or the Pow Wow Lodge. With 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a large living room with fireplace and a good size kitchen, we hope that many of you will enjoy a stay in it. The remodeled unit will be available starting Memorial Day. Since most of our large cabins are already booked for the summer, keep track of the progress on the Pow Wow Lodge at our regular website at www.gunflint.com. In fact, that website will give you all the current information about what is going on at Gunflint.

With more guests around this January, the deer are getting fed more regularly and their numbers have increased. This has just attracted more wolves. We see them on the lake most every day. You never know when they are going to appear.

This fall there have been several articles in the Minneapolis paper about how the DNR thinks the moose population is going down. We personally have not seen as many moose this past couple of years. Starting with the holidays, however, our guests are seeing lots more moose as they drive up. My guess is that 50% of our guests are seeing moose on the road either coming or going. Hopefully this means a real increase in the population.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Saga of Ice

Just like your families, Christmas and New Year’s have now come and gone for our Gunflint family. We have had time to remember how much there is to be thankful for.  Let's hope we can remember this for more than a few days.

The cabins at the lodge have been filled to overflowing. I counted and for one week we have only four nights open in all the cabins. The dining room has been equally busy. After a huge breakfast buffet this morning, there was a family driving by looking for lunch at 11:15. A short bit of waiting with coffee and cookies and lunch was on their table.

The last few days have been clear and cold. It was -7 at our house this morning. While the lake is frozen, we have not tested it yet. To be cautious, we are asking everyone to stay off the lake. It is probably safe to walk right along the edge but that is as far as we go.

Don hopes to get out to test the ice in a couple of days. He puts on a dry suit. We tie a 50 foot rope around his waist kind of like a dog lease. Out he goes to drill holes every 50 to 100 feet. I follow holding on to the lease and with a radio in my other had. Of course, I don’t really need the radio because everyone is watching us from the lodge windows. Sheryl will take a picture for next week.

As I have been home this afternoon, the sky has clouded over. The weather forecast is for 70% chance of snow. Everyone is ready for it. A foot would be perfect but even 6 inches would work. The clouds have also warmed things up. We already have 10 degrees above zero. That may not sound like much in your part of the country but it is almost a heat wave up here. It also brings snow. Keep your fingers crossed!

One of the interesting things about winter is to watch the changes in the ice. As you know, the colder it gets, the more the ice expands. The shoreline keeps it from going out too far. Eventually the pressure builds up so much that a pressure ridge explodes across the ice. It can sound like rumbling or like a shot. Right now we have a pressure ridge that is horseshoe shaped from our side of the lake to the west and then going down the northern shoreline of the lake. It is clearly visible from the lodge.

All of this will disappear if we get snow. A new development will occur. That light, fluffy snow will push down on the lake so hard that fine cracks will appear in the ice beneath the snow. Water from the lake will flood the snow creating slush. There will still be dry snow on top to keep the slush from freezing. Eventually the unwary skier, snowshoer or snowmobiler will venture into this covered slush and get wet all the way up the leg. The insulating snow is disturbed and the slush will quickly freeze. If this happens with a snowmobile, you have mere hours to get it out before the machine freezes in.

So we will look tomorrow to see what happens. I’ll write next week more in the saga of ice.