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 fa├žade 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.