Wednesday, 21 September 2005

End of Summer

Today is the last day of summer, and it has been another pleasant one. The winds of yesterday died away, and left us with warmth and partly cloudy skies. My rose bush seems to be all done blooming for the year. I can usually count on a few last buds through the Labor Day weekend, but this year, they extended well into the second week of September. Whenever I am walking by, I really do make an attempt to stop and smell the roses!

Greg called today from Valdez, Alaska. They drove south through the Wrangell-St. Elias wilderness, stopping many times to take pictures. Now they will spend a couple of days in Valdez, and explore the area by foot, car, and boat. They plan to rent a boat to take out on the ocean, where they can go to see a glacier, and hopefully see it do some calving. On Friday, they will catch a ferry to Whittier, and then head up to Anchorage to spend the weekend with Greg's Aunt Bev, and his cousins Mitch and Rob. So much to do and see, I am sure that they are wishing for a few more weeks!
The loons are still here. I could hear them calling this afternoon as I was harvesting the hops. With the warmer weather, it is no wonder that they are still here. The warm days are a bit of a problem for the trout fishing, however. So far, the trout have not come up into shallower water as they usually do in September. The season is only open until September 30, as then it is the spawning season.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

The Bear Score

Since my last post, the bear came to visit again. He took one look at my hasp, and made short work of bending it and tearing it out of the frame. I could almost hear echoes of his laugh as I looked it over. He actually did do some more damage, in that he put a decent claw mark on to the front of the door, and some smaller puctures on the side. Of course, his next step was to once again scatter the garbage as he looked for morsels to eat. At this point, I was feeling like the score for this game was Bear---2, Barb--1. I took the garbage to the canister, and left the shed empty for the night. I think he did come back, because the door was ajar the next morning.

The next day, our friend Tim came over, having decided to join me in my bear games. Tim had a great plan. He used a steel cable and attached it to a come-along, so that we can tighten the cable around the whole shed. He put up some braces on the corners, to hold the cable, and a few screws to hold the hooks when it is not under tension. Then he put some rags on the cable across the door. For an extra measure, we put some pieces of iron down through the porch slats, to brace the bottom of the door.

The next morning, I looked out first thing. All I could see was that a couple of the rags had been pulled off and were on the porch. On closer inspection, I could see a few new puncture marks, but that was it. Today, two nights after installation, I can see a fairly good size hole on the side of the door, where the bear came back and tried a bit harder to pry open the door. No luck though---Tim's cable is holding tight. Hooray! We've evened the score for the time being!

No word from the Alaska travelers, but I expect that they may be on their way down towards Valdez. I checked the weather report, and it looked like mostly cloudy days, with some showers possible, and temps in the forties and fifties. Not the best, but at least it didn't predict snow!

Here on the Gunflint, we are enjoying a sunny, windy day. The lake started out calm, but then really kicked up by noon, and we had a "Wes" wind upon us. Yesterday, we got about two inches of rain, and once again, it was coursing down to the lake. It was enough to postpone the prescribed burns that are planned for the eastern end of Gunflint Lake. The forestry will try again next week, if the weather cooperates.
The ravens have been vocal and busy lately. They seem to be flying in groups, hanging out in the treetops, and calling to each other all the time. When I walk by, they start up with their calls, as I am an intruder. I think of them as little gangs, dressed in black leather jackets! Of course, they really are a good-looking bird, and one of my favorites here in the woods. I just wish I knew what it is they are saying to each other.

Friday, 16 September 2005

More beautiful days

Fall continues to give us some wonderful days. We had some rain earlier in the week, and my rain gauge checked in at just over three inches. Yesterday, Addie and I took a trip to Duluth. Perhaps I am biased, but I thought that the best fall color was in Cook County. We saw bright reds and oranges on the maple trees, sunny yellows on the ash trees, and just the beginnings of color on the birch and aspen. Surprisingly, in a few places on the Trail, I noticed that some of the tamarack trees are blazing their own bright gold. Usually this happens in October, after many of the deciduous trees have already dropped their leaves. I really enjoy seeing this conifer that annually drops its needles. The leaves further south of us seemed to be drying and withering without displaying much color. This sometimes happens up here, too.
Here is the latest report from Alaska:
Greg writes, "Tuesday on the school trip we traveled about a hundred miles down the Yukon to Coal Creek Camp. That evening, Marlis, Ma and I made spaghetti dinner for the group. Lana brought a big bag of meat from a Dall Sheep her mom had shot as well as a bag of shaggy mane mushrooms. We cooked them up and set them in front of the kids after first getting our share. The plate was empty in seconds. After clean-up a group of us sat out watching Northern lights and shooting stars. The lights were dancing all across the sky from East to West, with only some in the North. Lots of green and some purple.
The next day while the kids were collecting their water samples, Elva, Ma and I panned for gold, but found no color. Earlier in the day Paul, Randy and I were panning and found a few flakes. Not enough to buy a cup of coffee, though. "
The three fellows, Greg, Robert and Paul, plan to leave Sharlene and Jim in Eagle sometime this weekend, and head off to see other parts of Alaska. As I hear more of the plan, I will post it here.
The moon will be full tomorrow, on Addie's fourteenth birthday. Many folks have been seeing some wonderful northern lights, but I am afraid that we haven't stayed up late enough to see them! With a full moon, it is even harder, as the sky is so filled with light. We'll keep an eye out, just in case.

Monday, 12 September 2005


After several days of hot and humid weather, the skies have changed and it is raining. This is most welcome, as we have been in an extended dry spell. It was raining so hard for a while, the water was making gullies as it flowed down to the lake over our road. I dashed out to check the rain guage, and saw better than two inches already. There is a small fire burning south of us, about fifteen miles or so away, on Homer Lake. I'm sure the fire fighters will be glad for this rain, too.

The guys in Alaska emailed recently. They have been continuing their visit in Eagle, and had this to say:
" I met Nellie Biederman ("Ma" from Max and Ma). She is a real sweet lady. About 83 years old. I read about her in that Eagle history book and also through Jim's stories.
The leaves are starting to drop off the trees but it's still very peakish as far as color goes.
This is the first library I've been in that has a big old wood stove right in the middle of the floor. And almost as many movies as books. It's in an old log building. Way cool. " ----Greg
This week, they will be getting a ride on the Yukon River, which flows by Eagle. Once they leave Eagle, they plan to head towards Haines, as they heard that the eagles migrate through there. They also plan to visit Valdez.
The leaves here on Gunflint Lake are still more green than any other color. The underbrush, on the other hand, is in full color. When I was walking this morning, I enjoyed the various yellows and browns on the ferns, the reds of the sumac bushes and moose maples, and the purple of the fireweed and New England asters. It certainly is a lovely time of the year.

Friday, 9 September 2005

More adventures, at home and afar

The adventures continue here for Addie and Barb, as we keep the home fires burning while the guys are in Alaska. On Tuesday, I discovered that my decision to wait to go to the garbage cansiter was not a wise one. A bear had gotten into the shed overnight, and had scattered garbage near and far. This happened extensively last October, when a bear was able to tear apart the door that kept the garbage secure. Greg built a new door this summer, thicker and heavier than the last one. Only trouble for me is that it didn't yet have a latch on it. Addie and I cleaned up after the bear and took the cans to the canister. We went to town that afternoon, and one of our first purchases was a hasp for the garbage shed door. It is installed now, and things have been quiet since.
Two days ago, we fired up the bread oven to bake and make pizza with some friends. The weather this week has been wonderful, so we were able to eat outside by the oven. While we sat there enjoying our pizza, I noticed a barred owl come swooping through the gravel pit. It landed on a spruce tree branch about 15 feet from us. What a sight! He looked us over, then turned his body around, but kept an eye trained in our direction. A nearby squirrel sensed/saw the owl, and immediately launched into a flurry of noise. The owl decided to take off, and when he was gone, the squirrel made its way to the very branch that the owl had occupied. The squirrel kept up the chatter while inspecting the branch. I wonder what he expected to discover there?
The travelers made it into Eagle on Monday night. The drive took some extra time because they had to keep stopping to take pictures. Greg says that the fall colors are incredible right now, lots of reds and yellows all around them, from the underbrush on the ground to the tops of the trees. They took the historic tour of Eagle, and have been doing some reading about more of the history. They are enjoying meeting friends of Jim and Sharlene, and getting to know the area that we have heard so much about. Upcoming plans include some cranberry-picking, and a ride on the Yukon River.
I heard on the radio that there was recently a large solar flare-up that may cause some trouble in the coming days with sattelites, radios and other types of transmission. My ears perked up because solar flares often mean incredible northern lights. We will keep our eyes checking in the northern skies this next week, in hopes of seeing some displays that include colors. Sometimes, these flare-ups also bring the viewing to audiences south of us, so you should watch for them, too.

Monday, 5 September 2005

Warm Start to Fall

It's been a lovely Labor Day weekend here on Gunflint Lake. After a few days of strong northwest winds, the lake calmed down on Saturday and the temperature rose into the seventies. We've enjoyed days filled with sunshine, and a couple of nights filled with Northern Lights. The aurora was shooting streaks of white and green into the sky in the early part of the evening, and in the wee hours, they were shimmering and dancing. I haven't seen much of the Lights this summer, so it was great to have them back.

Greg, Robert and Paul are off to Alaska with Sharlene. They flew into Fairbanks, and are now driving the Taylor Highway into Eagle. We had a brief report from them, the morning after their late-night arrival. They got to see Northern Lights from the airplane over Canada, and they could also see thunderstorms in places below them. Greg said that the lightning strikes looked like flashbulbs popping off. As we hear from them, I will post notes here about what they are seeing and doing.

I had my first adventure in the absence of the guys this morning. One of our boats escaped during the night. A guest came to alert me, so we pushed out another boat and headed onto the lake to look for it. The winds were from the south, and I soon spotted it on the Canadian side of Gunflint. It was up against the rocks, no worse for the wear. We shook it loose, tied it to our boat and slowly headed back across the lake. I'm not as experienced in driving a boat as Greg or Robert, so we did get a bit wet from the waves and the spray. We made it back, got the boat back up on shore where it belongs, and came up to finish morning coffee. Not quite what I pictured for my Monday morning, but a good adventure nonetheless. I knew that the boats and motors would be my biggest challenge while the guys are gone. I'm hoping that I've had my time with them, and it all goes smoothly from here on out.

Some folks told me that they canoed into Daniels Lake yesterday to do some fishing. They paddled around the lake, fishing and exploring, and then decided to try one last place near a rock pile. Low and behold, it was the lucky spot, for they found about fifteen bass in just a half-hour.