Friday, 28 October 2005

A Good Day for Otters

The frost was heavy on the rooftops and grass this morning, but my windowbox flowers are still hanging in there. The sun is shining and the sky is clear, with the temps headed towards the fifties today. Perfect firewood weather! 'Tis the season to be putting up the firewood, so the logger brought the logs, the pile sits up high, and soon the chainsaw will roar. The splitter will go full throttle, and those of us who are so inclined (as well as those who aren't) will be stacking it in rows in the woodsheds. To some in our family, it is an onerous task, to others....almost a joyful one. Personally, I don't mind it, as there is something meditative about all that stacking...

Yesterday as I was cleaning at Diamond Willow cabin, I happened to glance out the window at just the right moment to spot an otter swimming near the shore. That is certainly an advantage of that cabin---the lake is so close that even with older eyes, I could see this little creature. I went outside for a closer look, and perched on the rocks at the edge. Soon I heard a commotion just a few feet down the shoreline, and four otters popped down the beach and into the water. I'd heard about a trio, so it was pretty exciting to see four of them. If they saw me, they didn't let on. They treated me to a show of swimming and diving in perfect arcs. Up they would pop, with their mouths full of something tasty. They would munch and crunch loudly through the morsels, making funny little noises as they ate. They stood straight up in the water, as though they were little periscopes. What a delightful show. Robert and Paul spotted them also, while they were busy pulling in the dock at Tamarack cabin.

This morning was so beautiful, we decided that it was time to take a boat ride, perhaps our last one of the season. We went over to see our friends' cabins on the Canadian side. Then we circled back, to meander the south shore. The kids saw a bird swimming in the water several yards over, so we cautiously got closer for a better look. We determined that it was a juvenile loon, as it had the coloring, and it didn't dive right away, the way an adult would. Greg whistled some loon calls to it, and it was looking around as though it expected to see another of its kind, rather than an aluminum boat. It looked fairly lonely, so I hope that it finds some company soon for the long flight south. I haven't heard any loons in a few weeks, so I had thought that they had all taken off.

The Minnesota Rovers are here this weekend, working on the Border Route Trail and the ski trails. They head out each morning with chainsaws and brush cutters, to help get the trails clear and ready for skiing and snowshoeing. It was a productive day for them today. They cleared on the Border Route, from Bridal Falls to the east, until they reached the boundary of the BWCA. Tomorrow they will tackle other areas, and I will make lasagna and fresh bread for them, as a thank you for all that they do. If you would like to learn more about the trail, the Rovers, or to learn more about the trail-clearing trips, be sure to visit their website, .

Monday, 24 October 2005

Moving deeper into fall

It feels as though we've moved into "real" fall---where the leaves have mostly come down, and nature is moving into the phase of shutting down for winter. The temperature stays mainly in the forties during the day, and into the thirties at night. Surprisingly enough, the flowers in my window box are still thriving. In fact, they have looked their very best in the last month versus the whole summer! It must be the right amount of warmth that they receive from being so close to the building.

We had our first snow last week, about an inch or so that stayed around for more than a day in places. At the same time, the Twin Cities was having a warm day of seventy-some degrees. It is amazing to me that the three-hundred mile distance can make such a difference in weather.

As we took a drive recently to drop off our recyclables, I was noticing all the different shades of gold on the trees. When ever we go to buy light fixtures, we always have to decide between shiny brass, antique gold, brushed nickel, etc. I thought about that as I looked at the trees, and sure enough, there is a difference in the types of "gold" that the leaves were showing. Some of them were bright, like I imagine the aspen trees in Aspen, Colorado to be. Others had more of a coppery color to them. And the tamaracks looked like they were flourescent.

We have been seeing more deer in recent weeks. In years past, the deer would only be around Gunflint Lake in the winter time, when Grandma Peggy would feed them. One year, the DNR radio-collared some of them, to learn where they went for the summer. Most of them travelled just to the east, towards North and South Lakes, where there were more meadows. By November, they were back again, waiting for Peggy's corn. Now we spot them more often, and not just on Gunflint Lake. The range that they cover has increased, and they must be finding more food to sustain them year-round. We no longer feed the deer here, as we found that they also ate all of the little trees that Greg had planted through the years. They still pass through, as we see their tracks.

I just glanced out at the garbage shed, as I was thinking about my bear of last month. He hasn't been back, so I think that I definitely won that round. Soon he will be sleeping away the days of snow. A fox was just enjoying himself at our compost pile. He has been around a little more this fall, even continuing to eat while we are outside. This time of the year, his coloring really helps him to blend in.

Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Flying Geese

With temps yesterday in the low 70's, many clouds, and high humidity, it felt outside like a big change was going to happen. Sometimes, you can just tell. Last night, big drops of rain fell, the wind blew, and the thunder and lightning struck. We had an inch of rainfall in the rain gauge this morning, and our morning temp had fallen to 50. This feels a lot more like fall. The Forest Service crew returned today to take out the equipment that remained in the woods after the prescribed burn. They worked in a drizzle as they retrieved and transported fire pumps, hose, and sprinkler systems. Before they left, I gave them coffee and cocoa. They would not have needed that yesterday. But this is so often the way of the weather in Minnesota!
While I enjoyed my lunch on the porch yesterday afternoon, I had opportunity to observe a tiny little bird making its way through my lilac bush and the large white pine next to it. When another similar bird came along, I noticed a bit of red on the head of the bird. It started to chatter, and the red patch expanded to the size of a dime as the feathers stood up. It was fascinating to watch, and of course it sent me right to the bird book. It was the ruby-crowned kinglet that I was watching, and the book said that the patch is only visible when the bird is aroused. These little birds must certainly be nearing their migration time.
Today was the first day that I heard geese flying overhead. I didn't see the first flock, but did catch the second one. It had to be a group of fifty! I must admit that I enjoy more seeing their return to the north, because it means that summer is coming. But it still is quite a sight and lots of sound to see a large flock moving in either direction.
Greg and Paul have returned. Robert was here briefly, then off to Two Harbors to visit friends for a couple of days. I'm told that they have over 1000 pictures to download. Since I have never been to Alaska, this should give me a decent sampling of what I missed.

Monday, 3 October 2005

Fall Color Burst

The leaves have really come in to a full blast of color over the last week. The Canadian shore, green for so long, is now a mix of golds, yellow, fading green and orange---a true feast for my eyes. As I drive down the Trail, I feel as though I am in a bright tunnel. The two birch trees at the front corners of the lodge are also gold right now. For this short time that the leaves are changing, these two trees brighten up our store in a way that even the sunshine can't replicate. To top it off, the weather the past few days has been amazing for early October, with temps on the sixties and seventies, sunshine and lots of blue sky. Perfect for leaf-looking photo opportunities.
The Forest Service has been conducting a prescribed burn at the East End of Gunflint Lake since Friday. Called the Saucer Lake burn, this patch of blowdown is approximately 2600 acres. It encompasses the area from Bridal Falls, north to Little Gunflint Lake, east to North Lake, and south to Crab Lake. This burn is being done to protect structures to the east, on Mayhew and Birch Lakes, should a wildfire ever get going. The crews have been doing some staging out of our boat landing, so they have given me some idea of how the burn is progressing. It sounds as though it is doing what they hoped it to do---burning the fuels left over from our 1999 blowdown. Over the next few years, it will be an area to observe. I am interested to see how the forest reacts after a fire of this sort. One thing I have heard is that the fire area often yields excellent blueberry and mushroom crops in the first few years of recovery. That is something to look forward to.
Our Alaska travelers are due back in the county on Tuesday. They spent two weeks touring the southern parts of the state, from Valdez all the way down to Homer, then on up to Anchorage to see some relatives who live there. In the last few days, they visited Talkeetna, and camped for a night in Denali. They were able to see and photograph the mountain, and they also saw some grizzly bears. Once they are back, I will have them post some of their stories to this blog.
It's such a wonderful time of the year, with the colors so great and the weather so pleasant. A good time to be outside. But hurry! They say that by Thursday up here on the Gunflint, we may actually see some rain and snow mixed, and the high is to be 41. Won't be long, and we'll be pulling out the skis!