Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chik-Wauk Museum Opens for the Season

This coming weekend is Memorial Day.  On Saturday the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center opens for the season.  They will be open from now until MEA Weekend in October.  Bruce and I went up with our neighbor Fred Smith to install this year’s temporary exhibit.  It is called “The Paper Trail.”  There is an essay about how we all communicated with each other before computers.  We also have some examples of the many journals that people kept about their times on the Gunflint Trail.  Copies of these journals are available to read at the museum.  Take some time while you are on the Trail to read one of the journals and learn about how life really was on the Trail before electricity, indoor plumbing, snow plowing and other modern conveniences were available.

While we were at the museum we looked out the window.  In the bay there is the Ritz Carleton of artificial loon nests.  One of our neighbors gave it to us.  There are high growing grasses that surround the nest to protect it from eagles swooping down to steal a baby for lunch.  On each side there is a slide that loons can easily use to get on and off the net.  Right now there is the crown jewel sitting on the nest.  We didn’t know when she started sitting but on the average loons sit on their eggs for 17 days.  Both the male and the female take turns sitting.  If you go to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, you can visit our camera and see the activity on the nest.

Today I am starting my visit to all the resorts in Cook County.  I will be dropping off rack cards for the stables and the canopy tours to let people staying elsewhere know that we are open.  Many people staying at places other than Gunflint will visit us to go horseback riding or zipping.  It is great fun for everyone.

Of course, there is a reason why I am starting to drop off rack cards today.  The World’s Best Doughnuts shop opens for the season.  I would not want to miss a nice warm fresh doughnut.  There are not a lot of places up here to get a really great doughnut.  When you are going through Grand Marais, be sure to stop for this tasty treat.

Bruce and I spent last weekend in the Cities.  I needed a grandchild fix.  There were some times when it rained alot.  Then we found out the kids favorite indoor activity.  Grant always seems to move over to his Legos.  I have no idea how many he has but there are lots and lots.  He can build most anything with them.  It is fun to watch his assembly methods.

Mae, on the other hand, was into jigsaw puzzles.  Her eyes just see how they all go together.  At age 5 she is now up to 500 piece puzzles.  You watch her and suddenly she picks up what appears to be a random piece and announces, “I know where this goes.”  She does!  Neither Bruce nor I can do as well.  We are going to have to practice!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Case of the Elusive Lettuce

Yesterday we had rain most of the day.  It was good to see it coming down as things were getting a little dry.  Unfortunately we woke up this morning to snow.  I know we need moisture but this is not the way to get it.  Rain is how water is supposed to come down in May.  One of the wonderful side effects of rain is that the leaves pop out.  Right now most of the poplar and birch have wonderful lime green leaves under the snow.  By tomorrow all the snow will be gone.  Hopefully it is the end of it until this fall.  We will be looking at the green fuzz of new leaves.

Bruce is picking up on an outdoor project that did not get finished last year.  During the summer he started building me a pond.  It started leaking and then never got done.  So as the picture shows, he is back at it.  The problem is that he needs to get a new liner to keep the water in.  I understand that there is even going to be an island with a troll on.  I will keep you up to date on how the construction project goes.

Do you ever have a series of days where one thing goes out of whack and you just can’t get is back on course for a bit?  We just did.  I am calling it “The Case of the Elusive Lettuce.”  On Saturday Sheryl asked if one of us could go to town and pick up a few things she needed.  Bruce’s computer was down and I was lazy so we both decided to run in.  We got what was needed and then came home.

Saturday night the cooks informed Bruce that we were out of lettuce and did not have enough to get through Sunday.  So off Bruce and I went on Sunday to get the lettuce.  We ate lunch in town which was a nice Mother’s Day surprise.  Unfortunately neither of the grocery stories was open.  We did pick up some lettuce at the coop.  It was very nice looking lettuce and cost a small fortune.

On Monday I am asked to pick up some lettuce in Grand Marais that will be delivered to the Best Western at 2:00.  So in I go for my third trip in as many days.  The Best Western has already gotten their groceries and there is nothing for us.  I call the food company and after a little messing around, I get sent to the Blue Water.  The girl there knows nothing about it.

So I call the food company again.  They get in touch with the driver and call me back.  The lettuce was definitely dropped off at the Blue Water.  But it is not there so I call the food company again.  This time further information comes to say that the food was dropped off outside the Blue Water to someone from the lodge.

I called the lodge and asked to talk to one of the cooks.  Thinking to do us a favor he had asked one of the guys who was going to town to pick up the lettuce.  The elusive lettuce was in the cooler at Gunflint.  It shows how the best intentions can just not work without equally communications.     


Sunday, May 03, 2015

Out with the Ice and In with the Docks

More critters keep on returning during the spring days.  This bear came to Sheryl’s back door the other night.  I really don’t have anything against bears but they get into everything.  All winter long Sheryl can keep her birds seed outside but a bear will get into it the first night it comes around.

We also have been able to bring over the docks and get them set up.  Here is a picture of the dock coming across the lake.  It takes about a morning to get both docks hooked up.  That first evening there were three people casting off the end of the dock.  The only fishing season open now is northern.  However there is something fun about just casting a lure.

All the vegetable gardens at our home are ready to be planted.  Of course, there is not much that can go in yet.  Raspberries, strawberries, chives and rhubarb are coming up nicely.  Yesterday Bruce planted his potatoes.  Today I planted the first batch of spinach.  It felt good.  I also put some bone meal on the irises.  Now we just have to be patient and wait for the ground and air temperatures to warm up.

Tuesday Don, Marilyn, Bruce and I will spend time at the Upper Lakes food Show.  Upper Lakes is our main food supplier.  I am sure that you have seen their blue trucks delivering at the lodge.  Every spring all the suppliers gather to show the new foods for the season.  So off we go to eat our way thru every kind of food you can imagine.  After a while nothing tastes good.  All the neighbors will also be there so it is a good time to catch up on the gossip.

Bruce and I will come home after the show.  We are having meatloaf for dinner tonight (Sunday) and Tuesday night the cold meatloaf sandwiches will taste good when we get home.  It is better than stopping at a restaurant for a meal.  In fact if we are really lucky, the temperatures will be warm enough that we can eat on the porch.  Just thinking about that sounds good.

The main summer season is fast approaching.  The horses are here and Mandy is now running the stables and I don’t get to see her in the dining room.  The trainers come next week for the new sky guides.  In fact new staff is popping up everywhere.  I can’t remember anyone’s name.  Eventually they will all straighten out in my mind.

Lee and Eva are coming up with the kids for 10 days in July.  I am already looking forward to it especially since they sent me a list of all the things the kids want to do with us.  So many things we do every summer when they come up.  One of my friends says that you have to implant the woods and water in the hearts.  That is just the way I feel.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Beginning of Gunflint Lodge

Bruce and I were sitting around talking after dinner.  The question came up about how old the lodge was.  We tend to start counting the age of Gunflint from when Grandma Spunner and Justine bought it in 1929.  But, of course, that is not correct.  It is actually 90 years old.

Gunflint Lodge was started in 1925 by Dora Blankenburg and her son, Russell.  The Blankenburgs bought a small resort called Lighthouse Lodge in Three Lakes, Wisconsin in 1920.  They catered to wealth fishermen from the Chicago area.  As one of their guests was checking out, the guest said that even though they had been happy at the lodge, the next summer they would be checking out a new fishing area in Minnesota called Gunflint.

Russell came up to investigate the Gunflint area.  In 1925 he bought some land on Gunflint Lake for the family to build a resort on.  They built Gunflint Lodge, a small lodge with three rental units.  Running a second resort so far away from the first was more difficult than they had expected.  After a few years, Mrs. Blankenburg decided to sell the new resort.

The Blankenburgs also owned property on Lake Zurich in Illinois.  One of their neighbors and friends were the Spunner family from Barrington, Illinois.  Mr. Spunner was a lawyer who had helped with the purchase of the land for Gunflint Lodge.  After a visit to Gunflint Lodge, Mrs. Spunner and her daughter, Justine, decided to buy Gunflint Lodge.  They sold two farms to come up with the money for the down payment.  The purchase happened in August of 1929.  It was not the best time to invest in a new resort but no one knew that at the time.

While Mrs. Blankenburg returned to run Lighthouse Lodge, Russell Blankenburg stayed in the Gunflint Trail.  He took money out of the stock market and bought property on Loon, Gunflint, Seagull and Saganaga Lakes.  Over the years he would build resorts, run canoe outfitters and sell land for summer homes on this property.  Russell’s story will be told in another blog.

Meanwhile, as this picture shows, Bruce has finished his fireplace for #18.  Right now it is a big mess to get cleaned up and ready for guests.  Bruce’s body is quite happy the job is finished.

The ice on Gunflint Lake is quickly going out.  Right now the entire bay in front of Cross River Lodge is out.  We are due to have warm temperatures and wind during the next week.  That will probably take the ice out pretty quickly.

Not everyone is happy to see the ice go out as we discovered during lunch today.  We were looking out at the lake and what should appear but an otter.  The animal was running across the lake for about 6 steps and then doing a belly flop and sliding on the ice.  We all stood watching until it reached our shore and disappeared among the rocks.  It was perfectly obvious that the otter was enjoying every minute of his play time.  We were tempted.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rain and Ice

Today is our first day of rain and does it look wonderful!  We have had snow flurries but starting about 5:30 this morning, it was all rain.  As a result, Gunflint Lake is quite black.  I can tell by some of the plowing marks that the ice flow is moving east.  That is what we want.  A good strong northwest wind would really help the process.  On the north shore of the lake, the open water coming out of Cross River is getting close to the end of the point.  Eventually the flowing water from the river will drive all the ice to the east end of the lake and then out.  We are ready.

Over on Tucker Lake the ice is so black that Bruce figures he could drive a boat right through it.  I don’t think we are going to try just yet.  Tucker Lake is a long narrow lake and not anywhere near as deep as Gunflint.  So, it will probably be out at least a week before Gunflint it.

This weekend was another one of the dog lovers weekends.  I think we have about 19 dog lovers with their pets.  We have doggie socials, homemade doggie treats, etc.  The most popular events with the dogs is to just take long walks in the woods without leases.  I think the people enjoy it the most also.  Luckily Friday and Saturday were just perfect for this activity.  Now the rain can come.

As the spring comes along, we have more than just birds wandering back.  Our neighbors down the lake have already had two black bears on their porch.  Adam’s dogs woke everyone up barking at bears.  As long as they stay out of the garbage, I don’t care.

While walking down the Tucker Lake Road, I saw some wolf scat.  There is no doubt that the wolves are around but we don’t get to see them very much.  Right now the wolves may be living on partridge.  There appear to be lots of them on our road.

Driving to the lodge today, I saw a rabbit on the shoulder of the road.  Most of its body was changing color to summer browns.  Its feet were still white but they are the last to change color.

Much of my vegetable garden is thawed out.  Bruce wants to do some trimming in the raspberries and strawberries.  Sounds good to me but today is not the day to do it – remember it’s raining out.  I am going to start a small asparagus bed this year.  It will take a couple of years to get anything to eat but in the end there will be some good dinners each year.
As I have been writing, the rain has let up some.  The wind, however, has increased.  All of it helps the ice melt out.

P.S.  Take a look at Bruce's picture from last week.  The rocks are up to the ceiling now.  All he needs to do is the hearth.


Monday, April 13, 2015

More Sping Projects

The temperatures have been in the fifties the past few days.  That may not sound good to those of you who live further south but is heaven to us.  There has been no freezing the last couple of nights.  Yesterday the afternoon was filled with wind to cut through the ice and snow.  Then we even had rain at night.  The next two days will be warm.  It is really feeling like spring.

As a result everyone is into spring projects.  Here is a picture of Bruce working on one of his favorite spring projects – building a fireplace.  This one is in #18 and it is converting a wood fireplace to a gas one.  Building fireplaces is one of Bruce’s favorite projects.  He just steadily works on it each afternoon.

I walked down to Tucker Lake yesterday.  The path is almost all clear of ice and snow.  The dock is clean but a little tilted in places.  Once the ice goes out we will see how it settles in.  There is a little melting along the edge of the lake with some water on the ice.  Things are not quite ready for a boat ride but I can start to dream about it.

All the garden beds at my house are clear of snow.  It will still be weeks before I can plant anything.  The next step is to bring over some more horse manure to enrich the soil.  Everything is going to come in nice and strong. We will have spinach and fresh lettuce by the third week in June.

Another project we hope to get finished this summer is the pond between the house and the workshop.  Bruce has ideas in his head about how it will look.  I understand that there may even be a troll on a little island.

Spring birds are starting to appear.  Snow buntings and juncos are passing through to their summer habitats.  There are lots of ducks on the open water by Cross River.  Yesterday the first red-winged blackbirds appeared at my house.  Front Desk Dave saw two robins on his way to work the other day.

The ice on Gunflint Lake is quite gray.  At this point I would not recommend that anyone try to walk across it.  Wind like we had yesterday really melts the ice.  I have been watching as the wind is coming up today.  It will be interesting to see how black the ice is when I go over for lunch today.  Also the ice is very soft along the shore.  Some guest sunk in to their ankles the other day.  It must have been really cold.  Hope they had extra shoes.

For those of you who remember Zach – Robert and Miranda’s cute little boy.  As usual time has flown by.  Last week he passed his driving permit.  It is scary how quickly these kids grow up.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from the Gunflint Trail!  It is a beautiful day today.  We woke up this morning to a temperature of zero.  Frost was clinging to all the branches.  It sparkled as the sun came up.  Of course, a few minutes in the sunshine and the frost was gone but we enjoyed it before the melting.

Since we don’t have any small children here, there is no Easter egg hunt.  I bought some foil covered milk chocolate eggs a week or so ago.  This morning Bruce took them over to put on the front desk of the lodge.  All we need is to snack on those.

When Robert was just over a year old, we had a Easter basket filled with candy for him.  In the afternoon I took a nap while Bruce was “watching” Robert from his recliner in the living room.  The candy was easily within Robert’s reach.  I woke up and finished dinner.  A glance at the basket had me asking, “How much candy did you let Robert eat?”  The answer was “Just a few pieces.”  As we sat for dinner, Robert began making those noises that every Mother recognizes.  Luckily we made it to the bathroom in time.  Robert was not much interested in chocolate for a while.

Today the food preparation is much safer.  Guests coming for a buffet at the lodge have requested deviled eggs.  So, I am at the house making them.  Last night I boiled 30 eggs and peeled them.  This morning I have finished making the eggs without tasting them which shows great restraint on my part.  There will be able 35 people and I have 60 eggs.  It seems that no matter how many eggs you make, they are all eaten.  If it looks close as we serve the buffet, I will sneak one egg each for Bruce and I.

After the buffet today, the lodge dining room will be closed for a week.  It is time for spring cleaning in the lodge and the kitchen.  This type of cleaning cannot be done while food is being served.  In the kitchen all the large pieces of equipment are dismantled and scrubbed.  Adam stands up on the stove to clean the exhaust pipe and fans.  He is almost totaled covered with hats and gloves and safety glasses.  It is a horrible, stinky job that we do twice a year.  Filters collect most of the grease and are washed weekly but this still leaves a fine amount to accumulate above.  At any rate the job is done.

Meanwhile out in the lounge and dining room Mandy and Chris are doing their share of the cleaning.  All the furniture is moved into one room.  The ladders go into the empty room and the two of them start from the ceiling and work their way down through the floor.  As the furniture is all moved into the clean room, they wash it down.  When the last room is empty, the ladders come out again.  After several days of cleaning all the furniture is put back into place.  It looks just wonderful.  By next fall we will wonder if it was ever cleaned.

Have a nice pleasant day today.  We are going to this afternoon.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ugh, More Snow!

Winter returned today.  The forecast was for a “wintery” mix.  To me that means sleet and rain.  To the weatherman it meant 3 inches of snow!  That was not welcome.  I know tomorrow it will all be gone.  Don reminded me that we got 20 inches of snow last April.  I don’t want that either.

Birds are starting to really come back.  We have some of the reddest purple finches that I have ever seen.  Maybe they get redder just before mating.  At any rate, they are quite beautiful.  They are also very, very hungry.   My feeders are always empty and the suet is gone.

We have been watching single deer wander across the lake one at a time.  There have also been single wolves wandering around.  I just hope that they don’t meet.  Ice fishing ends in a couple of days so no one will be on the lake.  It will be interesting to see if the deer keep out on the lake or at least away from the wolves.  We will only be feeding them another week or so.

The staff has also noticed some does are heavily pregnant.  They think that these does may have twins.  It will be about a month before the young ones are born.  I just think about how my back hurt during those last weeks of pregnancy.  In fact, my back hurts just sitting here.

So I never got up to see the Northern Lights.  Or, at any rate, when I did look, there was nothing to see.  Interestingly, a couple days later we were watching the news.  There was a program about several unusual natural events that were now happening.  One of them was usually strong northern lights.  Usually our northern lights appear as if they are lights from a city just over the horizon.  We all know there is no city and these are just faint northern lights.  So I am guessing that the lights Chris saw were part of this unusually strong display.

One of you wrote asking if I have pictures of northern lights.  Unfortunately, I don’t.   You are asking a person who doesn’t really take pictures.  When we were gone to Tanzania and Paris for 3 weeks last fall, I look about 20 pictures.  There is too much to see for me to remember to take pictures.

This last weekend was our Books in the Woods weekend.  This year our writers were Lorna Landvik and William Swanson.  We usually have about 30 participants who come for the seminars.  It is very interesting because you get a chance to really interact with the authors.  The group sizes are never more than 12.  It gives everyone the opportunity to ask questions without being part of a multi-hundred group.  The proof of the pudding is that several people made reservations for next year.

Speaking of reservations, summer reservations are coming along very well.  Canoe trips will be really busy this year.   

Friday, March 20, 2015

Gifts, Northern Lights, and Lynx

We got back from the gift show on Tuesday.  It is held several times a year at the Umaga Center in Minneapolis.  We usually go to the March show because it features gifts for resorts.  It takes us 4 days.  The first two days are spent looking at all the showrooms and temporary booths.  As we go through a list is kept of things we may be interested in buying.  The last two days are spent placing orders by reviewing each place on the list.  Things are always added and subtracted.

The one who knows the most about what we have is April from the front desk.  She has reviewed our catalogs and orders from last year.  Then she looks at what it left.  It is nothing we could not all do but April actually does the job.  Also she gives us the viewpoint of another generation.

The point of all this is to remind you to save your money.  Plan to spend some time and money in the gift shop on you visit here.  I am sure there will be something on the shelves that you just can’t live without.

Monday Mike from the front desk drove down the Gunflint Trail.  Near the Tucker Lake Road he saw a large lynx.  We never saw lynx here when I first came up.  Within the last 5-6 years they are regularly seen on the South Gunflint Lake road.  Also we have seen a dwindling population of snowshoe hares.  I must admit that my garden and I do not miss rabbits.  Squirrels and chipmunks are bad enough but rabbits can really make a mess of the garden.  They especially like new leaves on green beans.

A couple years ago I put in this blog a wonderful picture of a lynx at the Gunflint narrows.  One of our guests took the picture by being at the right place with a camera at the right time.  Look back at the blogs a couple years ago to see this magnificent animal.

I was talking with Chris our bartender today.  Last night about midnight he looked out his window so see some northern lights.  He said that they just exploded across the sky.  The lights swirled and the colors changed.  By the time he got a jacket and went out with a camera, they were gone.

So, I have decided to look myself tonight.  Of course last night was a clear sky and tonight will probably be overcast.  Then there is the question of waking up without waking Bruce.  That is almost impossible so we will both be shivering looking out the north windows.  Next week if I don’t write about northern lights or have a picture of them, you will know that the whole thing was a disaster.  Don’t ask what happened.



Sunday, March 08, 2015

Trout Derby

It’s trout derby time on Gunflint Lake.  Each year the snowmobile club puts on fishing contest for trout.  It is often on Gunflint.  On Thursday they plow are large circle so cars can drive out onto the lake and park for fishing.  By Sunday the ice on the plowed area is even thicker than before.  Right now we have about 30 inches of ice on the lake.  Some years I have seen people bring large motor homes onto the ice.  One year someone even landed an airplane on the ice.

Prizes are given for the largest lake trout registered between 11:00 and 2:00.  But this is more than a fishing contest.  It’s a large Grand Marais winter picnic.  Families come up for the day.  The kids are riding around on snowmobiles while the adults are visiting.  The snowmobile club cooks up fish burgers, hot dog, brats and hamburgers for a lunch.  There is an open fire to warm  up at.

Below is a picture of in front of cabins 4, 5, and 6.  In the this one you can see the corner of our dock house as I am looking over the picnic area.  If you pivot 90 degrees, there are trucks and cars on the plowed road.  Each one hopes they are in the sweet spot for a nice lake trout.  Even if you don't win, it makes a great dinner.

Of course not every fish derby is as nice as today.  Last year it was 30 below and windy.  It’s not much fun standing out in that. Years and years ago the man plowing the road did not plow a big enough circle.  There were so many cars in a small area that the ice was pushed down.  Water started coming up through the fishing holes.  By the time everyone was off the ice, some cars had water inside them.

Tomorrow there will not be a car out here.  If it is windy, all signs of the road will be blown away.  The minimum cleanup is one of the nice things about the trout derby.

Since the Gunflint Trail is one of the few places in the state with snow, we have really had a lot of snowmobilers on the trails.  The ski trails are also in great condition.  It is just a great place to enjoy all kinds of winter sports.

About a week or so ago I told you about the contest that Budget Travel was running for the coolest little town in the country.  Well, Grand Marais won!  I am not sure what the prize is except some publicity.  Our win was due, in part, to all of you who voted.  Thanks!

 We are starting on spring projects.  One of the major ones this year is to put new shingles on the lodge.  This time of year is not the best time to do it but progress is being made.  Things would go faster if it would stop snowing.  More snow just means more shoveling to get the old shingles off.

I probably will not get to write next week.  We are all going down to the gift show in Minneapolis to buy for the gift shop.  It is a major project.  We spend two days just looking and making notes.  Then one night we make decisions on which items to buy.  The next three days are spent buying.  The only fun thing is that we get to eat in some good restaurants in the city.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Spring Cleaning

It has warmed up today.  After a night at minus 30 and another at minus 25, to wake up to zero was really nice.  The other thing is that I am starting to notice longer days.  It gets light earlier and dark later.  Now we still have short days but there is hope for spring.  Also the warmer sun has helped melt the snow off the main road.  Bruce has even got interested in grilling.  Yesterday he spent some time shoveling the snow off our grill.  As you can see, there was quite an accumulation of snow.  Maybe we will grill some steaks for dinner.

Even though tomorrow is March, that does not mean that the snow will stop coming.  In fact we often get a fair amount to snow in March.  It makes for great skiing because the weather is warmer, we have a great base and you can even get a tan while skiing.  It was so bright today while we were eating lunch in the lodge that you had to squint to see anything.

Another great sign of spring is that the birds are really coming back.  Today I have seen hairy woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, gray jays, blue jays, pine grosbecks, chickadees, rose breasted nuthatches and red polls.  Mixed in with them are squirrels and one pine martin.  With them all flying about it keeps the feeders empty.

Another sign of spring is that I feel like I should really be cleaning the house.  This is not one of my favorite projects.  Dusting is really low on my list.   I am, however, making a valiant effort to improve things.  Bruce and I are usually pretty good about picking up stuff.  Getting the wash done and cleaning up promptly after meals is easy.  My mother drilled into me the need to make your bed every day.  All this leaves cleaning bathrooms, dusting and vacuuming on the list.  So I am making the great effort now.  Eventually I will get there.  The trouble is that then it is time to clean again.

Bruce just called and I went down to the lodge to give a little help at the front desk.

So it is now Sunday morning.  For the first time in a long time we had a morning temperature above zero.  We also have a dusting of snow.  It is hard to think of spring this morning with a few snowflakes in the air.





Monday, February 23, 2015

The Coolest Small Town in America

We have had a bit of the cold spell this past week.  Most nights the temperature has gone down into the minus twenties.  Needless to say, we are talking about absolute temperatures without wind chill.  I realize that people out east have no idea about the cold here but we do become a little smug about it.

One of the nicest things about the cold weather is how beautiful everything looks.  Clear skies and bright sunshine are welcome in the winter..  Heavy snowfalls are also good but they can be very dark and dreary.  Snowfalls also need warmer temperatures.  Who knows which is the best?  It probably depends as much on my mood as anything else.

Grand Marais has become involved in a little contest sponsored by Budget Travel magazine to find the coolest little town in America.  I would encourage all of you to vote for Grand Marais. You can vote up to once a day.   Here is information on how to vote:

“The lead for Grand Marais on Budget Travel’s “America’s Coolest Small Town” contest is down to under 3% this morning.  Please vote for Grand Marais.  You can vote daily until midnight on February 25.  Let’s not let a town in Virginia beat Grand Marais!

To skip the ads, just click on the link to the site in the upper right corner of the first screen.  (One vote per day per IP address is allowed.)

Ask your friends to vote, too.”

The deadline for the contest had been extended to March 4th.  It is important that you remember to vote every day.

Wolves have been especially active.  There has been a deer kill for three nights in a row around the lodge.  There must be a large number of wolves around because the animals disappear overnight.  I seem to remember that it takes one deer a week to feed a wolf.  By next fall we will be in a season to increase the number of deer.

Reservations for next summer seem to be coming in steadily.  If you have specific dates or cabins in mind, give us a call so we can hold them for you.





Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Winter Weekend

We are back from what I hope is our last short trip this winter.  Robert’s boy, Zach, is now officially 15 years old.  I am not sure how it all happened.  My favorite story about him occurred when he was about 2 and down with me for breakfast.  Zach was helping to clear the table when we were done eating.  He dropped a small glass which bounced once and then cracked to pieces on the second hit.  He looked at me and said, “Now I’m in trouble.”  Well what grandmother could do anything but laugh.

Our trip home from Missouri was great on Monday.  We had a full load inside and outside the truck with a ton of hickory for Don’s smoking.  The driving the first day was wonderful – clear skies and almost no wind.  Tuesday was horrible driving.  The normally 3 ½ hour drive from Minneapolis to Duluth took us 6 hours.  There was lots of traffic, snow and wind.

Of course, the snow dropped 6-8 inches on the Gunflint Trail.  The result is ski trails that are in wonderful condition.  We have had guests out all weekend even though it was cold.  The skiers have been joined by snowmobilers and fishermen.  It is a holiday weekend and everyone has headed up here for winter sports.  The cold outside temperatures have made the lodge seem more warm and cozy than usual.  Add in Mark’s live keyboard and you would think you were at a ski resort.

Last week some guests had quite an experience.  They had come up from Texas to see the deer.  One night they were up late watching a movie.  A deer ran past their cabin.  They looked out the window to see a large pack of wolves (12 by actual count) taking down one of the deer.  It is a once in a lifetime experience with both good and bad feelings.  We all know that the wolves need to eat deer to survive.  On the other hand you can’t help hoping that somehow the deer could get out alive.  It didn’t happen.  The wolves and crows all go their dinner that night.  The situation had no right or wrong but most of us hate to see the deer die.

The birds are coming into our feeders on a regular basis.  For some reason a flock of redpolls has been hanging around.  Although common to this area we don’t usually get them at the feeders.  Who knows why they have decided to stop.  A  pine martin has also decided to eat off the feeders.  Bruce thinks that there is a second one around.  While the first one is eating, he keeps looking toward an area off to his right.  Maybe we will have a whole family in the area in the spring.

While in Missouri I bought our seeds for the vegetable garden.  It was 70 degrees there and I was getting the itch to plant.  Naturally it will be a bit before those seeds get into the ground here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Back at Tucker Lake

The trip home from Tobago was easy.  Lee picked us up at the airport and the next day we drove home.  Of course, it was a shock to our system.  In Tobago the lows were 75 degrees and the highs were 85 degrees.  The first morning here it was 30 below!  Slowly we are getting warm clothes out and ready the brave the elements again.  I shoveled a little yesterday and filled the bird feeders.

Attached are a few pictures that I could not figure out how to get on in the Tobagp blogs from Bruce’s iPad.  The first picture is the bay where we had a picnic lunch on the all day snorkeling trip.  Our boat is anchored right in front of you.  Then we have Bruce snorkeling.  Finally we have Bruce feeding a mot mot bird at our dining table.  With everything open the birds come in all the time.  This bird was particularly pretty with its colors and interesting tail feathers.

One of our favorite times during the trip was dinner time.  I am sure you are not surprised to hear that.  While we went out for dinners, we also cooked in a lot.  Our entre of choice was fresh fish.  Our first time buying from a street vender of fresh fish was an experience.  The man wanted to charge us too much and then wanted to charge to fillet the fish.  Bruce almost died and the vender could not believe us when we just took the fish home.  Bruce had brought his fillet knife and in a couple of minutes, the fillets were ready for dinner!

Bruce either grilled or fried the fish.  I made a couple of different sauces and the sides.  We also talked with a fruit and vegetable vender.  He told us how to buy plantain and how to cook it properly.  That was a big success.  Hopefully I will be able to repeat the process at home.

Zach’s birthday is coming up so we are off to Missouri this weekend.  He is part of his school’s robotics team so we will be able to see that also.  If it is like the Grand Marais team, they are building a robot to stack boxes.  An additional project is bringing home hickory firewood for Don’s smoking.  We will take one of the trucks down and fill it to the brim with firewood.

Going to Missouri has another bonus.  We take two days to make the trip.  That means we have to spend one night in Minneapolis each way.  So we will get to see Grant and Mae.  On Thursday they have gymnastics lessons.  Each of us will spend half the lesson with each child.

Have a good weekend.  I know that we will.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Still in Tobago

Although our days in Tobago arecoming to an end, we have had a chance to see a lot of the island.  One day we hired a guide/driver for some birdwatching and a visit to the rain forest.  That was not our best decision .  We knew more birds than he did.

Another day we went out for a day of snorkeling and fishing.  Bruce and Patty had three stops with a good variety of coral and fish.  Lunch was on the beach of a small bay.  The trip out was interesting as we were going into six foot waves.  We had a lot of bouncing.  Coming back in we trolled a line with an artificial lure but no luck.

Of course, we have driven all over the island.  There are several beaches close to our house for Bruce and Patty to do a little snorkeling.  Just give me a book and a chair and I will watch the gear.  One day just as Bruce and Patty were coming in, music announced that the ice cream truck was there.  We all got ice cream bars.  It reminded me of the Good Humor trucks tha came around the neighborhood when I was growing in Chicago.

Another day we drove to a bay just up the coast.  From our porch we could see fishermen putting in seine nets.  We drove by the bay just as about 15 people were pulling in the net.  There were a couple hundred small white fish that were pulled in.  One of the women told me the fish were sweet but very bony.   The net also held two turtles.  Each was about 12-18 inches in diameter.  They were released back to the sea.

Last Sunday we drove to Englishmen's Bay.  After a picnic lunch, Bruce and Patty spent an hour snorkeling one side of the bay.  Then we all walked down to the other side of the bay.  It was  nice outing.

Yesterday we went on one of our rare evening outings.  There was  steel band contest for the entire island.  We had been warned that things like this often start late.  We came a half hour early and it started a hour and a half late.  We only saw four bands of the small class but each one had about 25 people playing.  There were lots of people to see the bands and we had a great time.

On Thursdaywe start home.  We will let you know what is going on in the north woods.