Wednesday, 21 December 2005

The Skiing is Fabulous

This afternoon, Judith and I skied the Lonely Lake trail. We started at Gunflint Lodge, as it was already after three o'clock. We had just enough daylight to make it all the way back, stopping only to catch our breath and to admire the beautiful day. A bit of powder had covered the trail, and made for perfect skiing. Near the bottom of the hill, we stopped at the fence to the donkey yard, and coaxed Moses and Jethro to come over for some scratching. We didn't have treats, though, so they didn't hang out for long.
We've had a few fresh flakes falling here and there, and the trails are really in great shape. I noticed only a couple of thin spots, and with any luck, those will fill in and cover over soon. The weather forecast is calling for a warm-up. I am keeping all of my fingers crossed that this doesn't happen quite like they are predicting. Last week when we had the big snow, the temps were also warm---30 to 34 degrees. But it was all snow falling then. Hopefully this warm up will send the same (white) stuff to us.
While I was firing up the sauna on Monday, the winds were blowing across the lake, clearing away snow from the ice in some spots. None of us has ventured out there yet, but it must be getting thicker. I heard the booming noises that mean that it is making ice---something I hadn't heard since last March. A good sign.
Just one moose on the trail, coming home from Grand Marais last evening. The newest spot that I have been seeing them is in the Lullaby creek area. This is an S-curve, lots of good salt, I'm sure. Be sure to go slowly through that stretch.

Friday, 16 December 2005

A new layer of snow is blanketing everything, thanks to the recent snowfalls. Although we didn't fare as well as some parts of the county and the North Shore, we did collect about four to five inches or so. That brings us up somewhere around a foot of snow on the ground. It is beautiful outside. The trees are heavily laden, and the sun is shining from a bright blue sky. It looks like a perfect December postcard scene.

Two nights ago we were delighted to be awoken at 3:00 a.m. to the tune of three wolves howling in the near vicinity. I had recently read that folks were hearing them howl, but I hadn't been so lucky. During the snowstorm, the temps were up in the high twenties, so Greg had been leaving his window open a crack overnight. When we heard the wolves, he bolted over to the window to see if he could spot them. Despite the thin cloud cover, the moon was shining so brightly through it, it almost seemed like dusk out there. No wolves were right there, but the closeness of the sound sure fooled us. I do wonder, though, How loud would they be if they were just down in front? Their voices carry such a long way that it makes it hard to determine the distance in relation to their volume. Sharlene and Jim had visitors from Alaska that night, Nick and Jean. They, too, heard the wolves, and their two dogs were quite agitated and concerned over this. Several families in Eagle, where Jim is from, have sled dogs. But there must be some difference in the howling of dogs and wolves.

The Geminid meteor showers were to have been visible during the week. We were not given the chance to see them, as the sky was always clouded over. Jean mentioned that she and Nick had seen quite a few shooting stars as they made their way south through Canada.

Our errand runs to town are still filled with moose sightings, though not as many as the night of seventeen. We have seen a couple more bulls, too. One time the UPS man saw forty moose in one trip up and back down. We can't stress enough the importance of keeping a sharp eye on the lookout when driving up the trail at night right now.

We've fired up the bread oven a couple of times this week. It is sure different using it in the winter than in the warmer times of the year. I have had bread burn on the bottom lately, due to uneven heat. But the pizza has been turning out fabulous. Dare I try some Christmas cookies in there?

Monday, 12 December 2005

Ice and snow

Yesss! Gunflint Lake froze, over the course of yesterday and today. Before we left for church Sunday morning, we could see several bands of ice in front of Heston's, with just a bit of open water left. However, as we drove down the road towards the trail, we saw that the west end of the lake was still open and steaming. The kids and I spent most of the day in town, and it was dark when we got home. I opened my bedroom window about ten, and didn't hear anything. That was a good sign. If the wind is blowing, the lake is less likely to freeze over. This morning, it was completely iced over, at least in front of us. Good news!

It has been snowing lightly again. About two new inches of snow is resting on all of the cars and trucks this morning. The ski groomer came down last night, and was packing the snow on the trail. I may have to get out there and test the trails again this afternoon.....on the job research, I guess you could call it! There is a scheduled power outage at that time, so I can't be running my vacuum cleaner----may as well be out skiing.
Greg took this photo recently of the natural flocking on the shore of the lake. The water temperature was warmer than the air. As it cooled down, it produced steam, which in turn frosted the trees. We won't see this sight again for almost a year now.

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Snow and moose--they go together!

It's beginning to look a lot like Winter around here! Today it has been snowing off and on (mostly on) ever since early this morning. I love it when it keeps on snowing and the radar doesn't even show that it is supposed to be. And the forecast looks fabulous: snow is mentioned every day for the next week. Greg is out plowing as I write. Earlier today, he thought that we had gotten three inches, and it keeps on coming down. We couldn't be happier.

The moose love it when it snows, too, as the county plow comes up the trail to clear it, and to put down the sand and salt mixture on the road. This brings the moose out of the woods like nothing else. Anyone who drives the trail regularly knows the key spots to be on the lookout, and it is generally wherever there are curves. Thursday evening, Robert, Paul and I were driving home from a trip to Duluth. It was about seven o'clock when we left Grand Marais. In the hour or so that it took to drive to Gunflint Lake, we encountered 17 moose. Most were in the stretch between Lullaby Creek and Swamper Lake. Whew! Fortunately, Robert had installed our new snow tires the day before. We knew that we were in the Moose Zone, so we took it slowly and kept our eyes sharp for those tell-tale glowing points that meant that we had caught the reflection of our lights in the moose eyes. It was wonderfully entertaining---Robert commented on how he really liked to see their skinny legs in contrast to their broad bodies. And we remarked at how well-trained they all were, to immediately leave the road as we were approaching. This seems to get passed on to the next generation as each year passes. Of course, there are always a few exceptions--those that don't get out of the way in time, or when the road is slippery. This doesn't happen too often, and I find that if I drive slowly and carefully, I usually make it just fine. Oh, and my good snow tires help, too.

The lake is still open, and it hasn't been as frosty lately. The waves seem to move more slowly as they come in to shore. It is probably my imagination, but the water seems to get thicker as the temperature declines. It is an interesting process to watch, just as it is to see it all break up in the spring. As soon as the ice is in, I will post it here on the blog.

I haven't been skiing again, but it is looking better all the time for getting out there next week. I heard that the first six miles of the Banadad are in good shape, and that the summer home road in the Bearskin/Golden Eagle area is great. With this new snow, more of the trails will be in shape for testing out. It is still a bit early to bring out the Piston Bully groomer, but that may change soon if the weather predictions hold up this week.

In the meantime, we are busy with the last of the winterizing and with holiday preparations. Battening down the hatches of the crawl spaces is an important job to remember. Over Thanksgiving, this didn't happen at White Pine cabin, and we had our first frozen pipes of the season. It took a few hours of extra heat, and then some soldering repairs, but Greg and Robert were able to get it all fixed and running. Snow is very useful when it comes to insulation for the crawl spaces under cabins. We will now be able to bank the foundations with this fresh snow, and that helps to keep the warmth in and the cold winds out. The more snow we get over the winter, the better we can bank cabins.

Addie and I have been busy making our Christmas cards. We should be able to send them out early this week, so keep an eye on your mailbox. She has also started making cookies, much to the delight of her brothers. This time of year seems to come around so fast, but then it is also over in the blink of an eye--just three weeks and we will be getting ready to sing Auld Lang Syne. Amazing!

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Early skiing

I just came in from feeding the donkeys, Moses and Jethro. What a change out there in comparison to when I wrote a few months back about them being in donkey camp at the top of our powerline. Then the weather was hot, dry and sunny till eight or so in the evening. Now we have snow on the ground, it is 12 degrees, and it soon will be dark out. We think that the donkeys actually prefer this time of year, as it means that there are no flies or mosquitoes bothering them. There's a lot to be said for that.

Since I last posted, two things came true. Unfortunately, it did rain. The temp climbed all the way to 38 on Monday, the rain came down, and lots of our beautiful snow was either washed away or reduced to ice masses. Fortunately, it snowed on Tuesday, and so it covered up that mess, and brought us about back to where we were---four inches or so on the ground.

The other thing that came true is that I pulled out my skis yesterday, and ventured up to the Lonely Lake trail for a look around. It has been more than twenty years, I think, since I was able to ski in November. That is mainly due to time, but also some years to lack of snow. Just as I remembered and expected, the trail was wet under the snow, but I still was able to ski for a good mile or so. It was great to be back out there! Several tracks pointed the way for me, but not the kind layed out by the ski groomer. Deer, fox, people, wolves and birds had gone down the trail before me. Occasionally, I would encounter a puddle, where the ground and the water were still so warm that the snow hadn't even covered things up. In other spots, my ski would plant down into slush, and the bottom would get coated. For anyone that skis, they know all about these slushy patches that instantly stop your skis on the next glide. I scraped the icy mass off my ski bottom and continued on. My "ski legs" started to come back, meaning I was able to make it down the hills and still do the snowplow. The whole time, and again today, snowflakes were falling lazily from the sky. I would love a huge snowfall right about now, but even those individual flakes start to add up. So keep it coming!

We had some days of strong wind in recent times, which means that more trees have fallen across trails that previously had been cleared. Greg and Robert are gone right now to clear away some of this. They were headed to the Cut-Across Trail over by Moosehorn Lodge, and then on the North Star trail. I look forward to a trail report from them when they get back. Our neighbors did a little skiing at Bearskin this morning, and Ted tells me that the first six miles of the Banadad trail is skiable. It is too soon for grooming, but it is nice to have a bit of early skiing going on in these parts.

At the bottom of the powerline hill, I saw a pattern in the snow from a grouse. Sometimes they flutter one wing and turn in a circular motion while they do so. I can't say why, this is all I know. But as I looked at it, I decided that it is the partridge's version of a snow angel. Keep an eye out there in the woods--you may spot one someday, too.