Wednesday, 25 January 2006
"I was on my way home from plowing snow this morning. I rounded a bend on County Road 5o just as a large wolf was about to cross. He had jumped out into the road, saw my truck coming, and didn't like his chances. So he did an about-face and jumped back over the bank and into the woods. When I got to where his impressive footprints were, I shut off the truck's engine.
Often times when a wolf wants to go somewhere and has to turn back because of a truck or car, it will walk beyond the first row of shelter-giving trees and just wait you out. This was the case today, as I spied the wolf twenty feet away. Most of his body was visible through the trees and he looked like the same big dark guy I had seen last month. A piece of fur was hanging from the ear area, dangling past the base of his jaw, and jiggling every time the wolf turned his head. Perhaps it was the result of an enounter with a deer or of getting kicked out of the pack. Didn't seem to do much harm, though.
After four minutes of watching each other, the sound of a truck coming chased me out of there, allowing the wolf to continue on with its plans. "
Sunday, 22 January 2006
We are getting fresh snow today, a nice fluffy batch with lots of big flakes. When it snows like this, it makes the whole world look so peaceful, looking from the inside out. And whenever I stepped out the door, there was no sound, so it really was peaceful out there. The groomer came down midday, and the tracks left behind look very inviting. I hope to get back on my skis in the next day or so, once the cabins are all cleaned.
We had some sledders heading down the hill this weekend, too. Several years ago, when the kids were still going to school in Grand Marais, they would get a week off in February. We would choose that week for our sledding Olympics. We got a stopwatch, and we would time each other coming down the hill. It was a blast! I can't recall now who won for the fastest time, but I do know that I went the farthest. I had started at the top of the hill, by the third power pole, and I was able to slide all the way to our back door. It was quite a run. We also figured out that five trips up the hill was equivalent to a mile. Now that is a good workout!
Tuesday, 17 January 2006
Sunday, 15 January 2006
Mostly throughout the winter, we see chickadees, rose-breasted nuthatches, and finches on a daily basis. Occasionally, I get to see a white-breasted nuthatch, and I think of him as Speedo, because of the way he comes swooping in so quickly. He grabs a seed and then he's gone. His coloring seems streamlined, just like the way he flies in. Once in a while the pine grosbeaks show up, although I am more likely to see them at Sharlene's feeder near the rustic cabins. She gave us a great new bird feeder that is mesh, and holds lots of sunflower seeds. It has a trayon the bottom, and that has cut way back on the amount of seed that gets dropped to the ground. This makes the deer less likely to get a hold of the cast-offs. It also cuts down on what the squirrels get...that is, until they figure out how to raid the feeder itself.
That reminded me of another time when I saw someone on that roof, poised to take a leap. It was Robert's friend Ben, on his BMX bicycle, ready to take a big jump to the ground. I was sitting with my back to him, and when someone near me said, "Barb mustn't know what is going on, " I caught on real fast. I happened to have the portable phone in my hand, and all I said to Ben was that I was going to call his dad, and I recited the number from memory. He apologized and came properly off the roof in about an instant! Now we have a metal roof there, so no more possible cool bike tricks.
Ice fishing season opened yesterday. I got a report from my neighbor Andy. He said that his party only caught one, out in front of his cabin. He heard that a group of fishermen down near Campers' Island caught five, so that sounds pretty good. The ice thickness that they found was generally around eight inches, which is what we have also measured. And the travel by snowmobile down to Campers' Island has been good. No open spots. That was good to hear. No one has reported slush, and we haven't heard of any bad mishaps. Hopefully everyone is exercising caution and going slowly.
It is snowing lightly, and it has been for most of the day. All of those little flakes add up!
Wednesday, 11 January 2006
Before long, I counted five for certain. Most of them stopped and laid down on the ice, while a smaller one leaped and played with the others. Then I saw another join the five, so we were up to six. I was pretty excited, as that is the most I'd seen at one time. One of the pack had a bone or something, and another stole it from him and sat down to slurp on it. They looked alot like they had the other day, which I had written about previously. They seemed to be satiated, relaxed, and willing to spend some time letting me watch them. I knew that they were aware of me, as they kept looking towards the south shore.
I went inside to tell the kids that there were six. Robert and I went back upstairs, and when he looked through his binoculars, he said, "Well, actually, Mom, I count eleven." I grabbed my binocs, counted, and sure enough, there were eleven of them! I had to let the others know. I ran downstairs, and then outside to tell Greg, who was talking to our neighbor John. We all went down to the lake, and the eleven were still there. Once again, some were resting while others were on the move. They eventually made their way completely to the Canadian shore, and vanished into the woods.
Monday, 9 January 2006
While in my room yesterday to do a chore, I happened to glance out the window to see three wolves on the Canadian side of the lake. Two were resting right on the ice, near the island. The third wolf was traversing from east to west, a couple hundred yards behind his companions. Whenever I see wolves on the ice, I tend to drop everything I'm doing, grab the binoculars, and watch them. This first happened in my earliest years up here. I remember seeing two of them out there on Christmas Eve, and I couldn't stop watching, no matter what else had to be done that day. When I see them in the morning like this, especially if they are in no hurry to get anywhere, I imagine that they are relaxing after a long night's work of hunting and gathering. In most cases, they have just finished attacking and eating their fill of a deer from the south side of Gunflint Lake. We see evidence of this in the form of discarded carcasses, first devoured by the wolves, and then picked clean by the ravens. We've learned to notice when a group of ravens is gathered on the ice or in the woods. It often means that a fresh kill is nearby. Though not a pretty sight, it is a part of nature's ways, the food chain, and it means that we will continue to see magnificent creatures like the wolves.
While Greg was out plowing today, he, too, got to see a wolf. This one was on the road ahead of him. As he approached, it headed down the driveway of a neighbor. Greg got a good look at it as it ran off. He said that it was very large and it had a full bushy tail. Another wolf report came from our friends who have a home up on Seagull Lake. For the first time that they know of, a pack of wolves now lives in the vicinity. Someone saw five of them resting on the ice of Seagull, and others have seen them running on the ice and in the woods. One person saw a lone wolf chase a deer out on to the ice, and despite its best efforts, the deer escaped. The deer seem to have widened their range since the blowdown occurred, and we are now seeing this in the increasing number of wolf packs as well.
On Saturday, I asked Robert to head out on the ice to check on the thickness of it. We haven't had a lot of cold weather, and several people have been asking how the ice is coming along. Twenty yards out, Robert punched his first hole through, and it was about eight inches. He went twenty more yards out, and it was six inches thick. I have seen snowmobiles travelling slowly around the south shore of the lake, but still none out in the middle. But I figure if the wolves are out there, it must be improving. The morning temp today was 17, and then we dropped to fourteen. This will help, but what we'd really like are some cold nights.
The winter hasn't stopped Robert from working outside on his '67 Mustang. On Saturday, he removed the old transmission, and then installed a different one. He is working under the canopy that houses the sawmill, so while he has a roof above him, he is still subject to the elements. Gotta love a car to want to do that!
The groomer is out and running today, thanks to a fresh batch of snow. I hope to try those fresh tracks yet this afternoon, as I hear they are doing the Lonely Lake trail. It's just too nice to stay indoors.
Wednesday, 4 January 2006
The temperatures have been hanging lately in the high twenties and even the low thirties. We have been most fortunate to hold on to our snow, and so the winter activities continue. Yesterday, Gerrie and I took a snowshoe hike to the Brice Breon trail. The snow was a bit "cakey" . This meant that every so often I had to stop and knock the balls of hard-packed snow off of the claws under the ball of my foot. But the temp was great for going along at a steady pace, and the scenery was gorgeous. The moisture in the air had frosted up the treetops, and there was a bit of fog off on the Canadian side of the lake. A section of the trail goes through some rock outcroppings, and here and there we saw some wonderful ice formations where water had been dripping and freezing like a waterfall. Very nice adventure.
On New Year's Eve, we fired up the oven at eight in the morning, and then stoked it heavily throughout the day. By five p.m. it was hot and ready. First we baked the usual four loaves of ciabatta, then four loaves of bread, and roasted up several pans of vegetables. The last to go in to the oven was the marinated lamb. What a delectable array of foods to add to the spread already in the kitchen. It was a Moroccan feast, shared by friends and neighbors. Then we had a wonderful concert in Spruce cabin, with harp, bass, guitars and electric basses, saxophone and flute---a delightul mix of classical, contemporary, jazz and rock. It is such a gift that these musicians give to us each year. We are most grateful for it. After the concert, some folks brought out the cantankerous movie projector and coaxed it into working long enough to watch some old silent movies. Finally, we rang in the new year with a campfire, out in the cold. It was our traditional New Year's eve celebration and we all had a great time.
One group of cabin guests arrived on Monday night, for their first-ever winter stay at Heston's. They have been coming up in August for about fifteen years, and they wanted to see Gunflint Lake when it is frozen. On the way, they saw many deer on Highway 61. Then on the Gunflint Trail, they saw two moose. As if that weren't enough, as they turned on to the little road that leads to Cedar Point and Diamond Willow cabins, they saw a timber wolf running right in front of the car. He stayed his course, trotting ahead of them on the road until they came to the fork, where he went right and they went left. Amazing! I can't say that I have ever seen that much wildlife myself in such a short time.
If you have tried to leave us a comment in the past, and found that it was not possible without first registering, please know that I have fixed that requirement. It always takes me a long time to become computer-program saavy. Thanks for bearing with me, and feel free to comment away! We hope that everyone is off to a good start this January, and that the New Year is a kind and hopeful one for us all.