Thursday, December 22, 2016

Banadad Cleared of Trees and Brush

Winter is off to a good start. Packing of the Banadad is underway. Tomorrow we plan to roll the entire 29 kilometers of the trail. Snow cover is good. Yesterday drove into town though a blizzard; could hardly see the road. Had to bring in one of our snowmobile groomers to be repaired. Travel was so bad had to stay in town overnight. We had 10" of snow on the ground. Yesterday's storm gave us another five inch.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Awaiting Colder Weather and More Snow

Minnehaha Academy Ski Team Volunteer Weekend

On this Saturday eight members of the ski team accompanied by three adults, including their coach Anne Rykken, spent some seven hours (total of 77 hours for the group) working on the eastern end of the Banadad. Beginning at the eastern trail head the group widened the trail for about three miles. They did a great job! The team on for these volunteer weekends call themselves the "Banadad Beavers."

Then Sunday the team went over to Bearskin Lodge to ski the summer home road.

While there is not a lot of snow for skiing, we do have four to five inches of snow on the ground. However the ground has yet to freeze
and there is an awful lot of water on the trail- in fact it is the most water I have ever seen on the trail in the fall. This week we are suppose to get a little snow then finally colder weather. Once it get down below 10 or so the trail should start to freeze, that is if there is not to much snow insulating the ground. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Banadad Ski Trail Clearing Advances

Volunteer Trail Clearers - October 22, 2016
Maintenance organized by the Banadad Trail Assocation (BTA) got into high gear this past weekend. On Friday, 8 members of the Northstars Ski Touring Club spent 56 hours clearing the remaining one mile of the
North Stars Ski Touring Club
Winchell Lake Fire Trail. This trail, most of which is within the BWCA, serves as a maintenance assess trail to the Banadad. Then on Saturday twenty three volunteers including the “Northstars” contributed another one-hundred sixty one hours cleared 4.3 miles of Banadad’s west end all within the BWCA. One crew entered the Banadad’s east end  through the Winchell Lake Fire Trail, another at the Mead’s Lake Portage and the third crew through the Moose trail at the mid trail junction.  The crews removed not only the brush and down trees from this past summer but also what remaining debris from last December’s storm.
In addition to these crews another crew hiked in 1 ½ miles from the west end trailhead to cut back a beaver house blocking the trail’s west end.

Early this summer a seven person crew from Minnesota Conservation Corp, camping on the trail, spent six days clearing the entire west end of the Banadad and an another ½ mile of the eastern to the Banadad Bridge. Conservation Corp’s efforts resulted in the clearing 9 miles of trail. Another crew of 9 boy scouts from Texas spent one half of day brushing about a ¾ mile west from the eastern trail head. The 4 ½ miles of trail outside the BWCA was also cleared earlier in the summer by BTA contractor Boundary Country Trekking.

As a result of all these efforts- of the Banadad’s 25 miles of trail 24 ¼ have now been cleared. With all the work that has now been completed we hoping that all are work is not ruined by another freak storm, like last year’s.

Annual Meeting and Potluck Dinner

The Annual Meeting of the Banadad Trail Association (BTA) was called to order by President Andy Jenks on Friday, August 21. Committee reports and Trail clearing results were discussed along action to start setting up a Capital Fund for the construction of garage for the associations grooming equipment. Following the meet the thirty-two people present feasted on a great potluck dinner.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Beavers Busy Along the Banadad

beaver lodge blocking Trail
on beaver lodge
This year the beavers have several construction projects underway along the Banadad Ski Trail. The first  a beaver lodge, discovered earlier this month, is located about 2.5 km. in from the trail’s west end and is constructed on and completely blocking the trail. To get around this lodge and pond that it has created we hope to move the trail onto the pond, after the pond freezes, and just go around the beaver lodge. Of course this likely means that we will not be able to groom from the west end trail head to the pond until it is safe to get onto this pond with the trail groomers.

The second beaver’s project along the trail was discovered this past weekend during the Banadad Trail Association annual Volunteer Trail Clearing Day. A new beaver damn is located 12.2 km. from the east end trail head. Years ago there was a beaver dam here but eventually it burst. The beavers are now rebuilding an another dam at the same location. Luckly this new dam should not create any problem for the use of the trail. It may even be an opportunity to relocate the trail onto the new pond that has been created and bypass the hazardous gully now in use.
dam in gully

The beaver dam along the Tall Pines Trail still remains active and the dam is larger then ever. However, this trail has not been put out of commission. Last year a bypass trail was constructed around the dam and we had to wait only a short while until seepage from the dam froze and to open up the trail for skiing.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Late Fall News along the Banadad Ski Trail

Fall Colors Past their Peak

The leaves on the Gunflint are now post peak and they are falling and beginning to litter the ground. The tamarack just beginning to take their fall golden color. It is still very beautiful along the Gunflint and on the area trails. The wind and rain that we had over the past few days brought down many of the remaining leaves on trees in the area. 

The weather until today has been beautiful- mostly warm and sunny. Yesterday however we received our first snow flakes. Not enough for any snow to stay on ground. Then this morning we reseaved our first frost 28 degrees but is warming up and looks like it is going to be a beautiful day.

Croft Yurt along the Banadad Forcibly moved by Forest Service Edict

We have operated the Bedew Lake Yurt Camp at its present location since 1984. The camp is located five miles west of the Poplar Public Landing along what “locals” refer to as the Moose Trails.

The Croft, our first Yurt site, was selected in the summer of 1983 by USFS personnel and at that time the site was approved by the USFS and we were told by the Forest Service that  the site was outside the BWCA. Fast forward to this spring –Nancy Larson, Gunflint Ranger, USFS, notified that the Croft yurt is actually  located within the BWCA and she went on- the yurt must be move outside the BWCA

We informed Larson that moving the yurt was a major job for us and would like some assistances from the Forest Service particularly since it was “you guys that picked out the site for the yurt originally. Larson, at first, informed us that we would have to locate a new site and move the yurt without any help from the USFS. However with the help of Congressman Nolan’s office the Forest Service changed their tune and at agreed to at least to help us clear a new site two hundred yards or so down the Moose Trail from the old site.

The new site was cleared and after many hours of labor and at great expense to us the Croft has now been moved and set-up. We are currently moving the furnishing in and we expect this yurt to be open for skiers traveling the Banadad Ski again this winter. 

The other yurt at the old site was in such poor shape that we have decided to dispose of it.

 Banadad Trail Association Annual Meeting and Trail Clearing Day 
The annual meeting of the Banadad Trail Association (BTA) will be Friday, October 21, 2016 at the Schaap Community Center on the Gunflint Trail. (Next to the Fire Department, close to the Lima Grade The meeting will be at 5:30 and will be followed with a Potluck Dinner; all are welcome. Also on Friday a trail crew is planning to work on the Banadad. If you would like to join them meet at Poplar Creek Guesthouse at 8:30 am.

The Banadad annual volunteer Trail Clearing Day will be Saturday, October 22, 2016 beginning at 9 a.m.; Meet at Boundary Country Trekking/Poplar Creek B&B, 11 Poplar Creek Drive,  at 8:30 a.m. for tools and instructions. .Lunches will be provided.

For those from out of town and who will need lodging –Please contact 800-322-8327 or email use at The Banadad Trail Association provides lodging for members and other Trail Groups.

The purpose of the BTA is to maintain and enhance the Banadad Ski Trails, preserve the history of the forest and the trail and promote appreciation and care of the BWCA wilderness. The BTA is a volunteer organization open to all who share these goals.

Image above is from last winter. While this clump of brush was cleared, we are hopeful we will not be finding many clumps like this when we go out this year.

Getting the Banadad Ready for Ski this Fall

Last year a major Snow/rain storm struck the Banadad in mid December totally blocking the trail with snow weighted down brush and downed trees. Last year while the Association spent hundreds of hours working to open the trail before the ski season began, we were only to clear about one-third of the trail. This year we must not only clear this past summer’s accumulated brush and down trees but We must also clear much of which remains from last December’s storm. Above image is one of clumps of brush we were confronted with last year. At least this one is gone but there is still plenty out there to clear.

Work on the trail to date:
  • Minnesota Conservation Corp While spend five night camping mid way alone the trails west end, during the day they cleared eight miles of west end of Banadad and another ½ mile up to Whoopee one on the trail eastend
  • Paid trail crews have cleared the Lace Lake, Tall Pines, Knapp, 1 ½ miles of Banadad eastend. and 5 mile maintenance/grooming maintenance access via the Moose trail.
  • Andy Jenks and  a friend Udai Singh have opened a portion of  the 2 mile maintenance -  Winchell Lake Fire Trail. Unfortunately beavers have damn up a creek along the trail which took a lot of time to bye pass.
We are hoping to have the trail completely open by the Volunteer Trail Clearing Day so we can use the trail to access a remote section of the Banadad’s eastern end.

Planned for next few months;
  • A Tractor with a bush hog has been hire to mow the east end trails outside of BWCA sometime in October.
  • On October 21 & 22 volunteers trail crews from Northstar Ski Tour Club and the Banadad Trail Association will be accessing the Banadad within the BWCA via:
1.      Winchell Lake Fire Trail (if open)
2.      the BWCA line  at Meads Lake Portage
3.      the west end at the  BWCA line
4.      if there are enough people, the Moose Trail at the BWCA line

  • December 3 Minnehaha Academy Ski Team will be work clearing the trail where ever they will then be most need.
All and all we believe we have an ambitious maintenance program this and barring another disastrous storm such as last year, this year the Banadad Ski Trail will be open for skiing.

Remember- If you are coming from out of town and will need lodging please contact Ted Young at 800-322-8327 or email us We currently have lodging available for about twenty people.  Also please RSVP if you plan to attend Meeting/Potluck on Friday night and/or Trail Clearing on Saturday. Locals call 388-4487

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fall is Certainly in the Air

September 11, 2016- The leaves are starting to turn and the temperature is slowly going down. The first to turn colors this year, on the Gunflint Trail are the birch which are turning yellow and the moose maple have begun to take a bright red color. Even a few leave are beginning to fall.

This morning the temperature dropped to 48 degrees. Over the past few weeks there as been server mornings in the forties. No frost yet but it will not be long before we see this.

Fall is certainly here!

Monday, July 4, 2016

July 4th 1999 – the Blowdown Remembered

JULY 4-5, 1999 DERECHO through "The Boundary Waters to Canadian Derecho"

Gunflint Trail people remember that fateful time on or about noon Sunday July 4, 1999 when the area was hit by a massive storm- later to be became known as the BWCA Blowdown. Not as well understood, the Blowdown  was actually a massive storm system that started in North Dakota raced thought Minnesota into the Boundary Waters and then traveling east across Canada and into New England and out into the Atlantic producing havoc along it entire route. For a look at this massive storm go to – NOAA- Derecho.
West Bearskin Lake - July 4, 1999
For many years the folks on West Bearskin Lake on July 4 each year would gather at one of their neighbor’s cabin's for the annual firing of a homemade cannon at noon off his dock. On that fateful day of July 4, 1999 as the lake folks gathered for the annual firing of the canon, they noticed the sky was becoming very threatening. It was clear a storm was on the way. So, close to noon, the cannon was quickly fired. At the same time –the rain, lightening, thunder and the wind started knocking down trees all around them. The assembled folks quickly scattered for shelter.

Some on West Bearskin, so the story goes, to this day still blame the storm and the knocking down of all their trees on the firing of the cannon. There was a T-shirt showing the cannon knocking trees down. The t-shirt was designed and printed by lake resident Stephanie Boddy (sadly she passed away several years ago.) It is my understanding that since the Blowdown the West Bearskin 4th of July tradition of shooting off the cannon is no longer observed. Photo on of West Bearskin resident - Charlie Helbling
Tuscarora Outfitter’s Annual 4th of July Parade
I have been told that a few years as a spoof on Tuscarora’s new employees the new employees would be required to design and construct a Tuscarora Outfitter’s float. These new employees were told that the float was to be in the Gunflint Trail’s Annual 4th of July Parade. Many of the floats built by the new employees were quite elaborate in order to impress other participants that were expected to participate in the annual event. The event of course was bogus; Tuscarora would be the only participant in the so-called parade.

July 4, 1999 was no different- the new employees float was ready. The new employees took their seats on a hill along the supposed Gunflint Trail parade route. Then as in every other July 4th parade, the one and only float and for that matter the parade’s only participant was the Tuscarora float with the older employees riding on it. Just as the float was ready to pass in review -the storm hit with gale force winds, straight line rain, thunder lighting, trees falling in bunches. The parade participants and new employees assembled to watch the so-called parade, headed for cover. This Tuscarora 4th of July parade spoof has not been repeated since the year of the Blowdown.

Old Ceders on Young Island

Some Random Personal Thoughts Wrote Down Five Years After the July 4th Blowdown
Seventeen years ago around noon, July 4, 1999 the Gunflint was struck be a massive storm- the Blowdown. Five years later after reflecting on that event I wrote down the following random thoughts about the storm. These thoughts were not in any particular order, some are not even grammatically correct but these thoughts are what at the time just came to mind.
  • Brought the Gunflint Community together with a shared benchmark - July 4, 1999
  • After the storm we went through a period of grieving; we have now moved on
  • We lost some stately trees and we grieved. To some extent just as New Yorkers lost part of their skyline. But most trees were spared and we moved on.
  • Mother nature" has taken over and the forest is now filled by new growth
  • We replanted some 6,000 white, red pine and white spruce trees on and near our property at Poplar Creek. The Gunflint Trail community planted tens of thousands more throughout the trail... The property where now live looks very nice
  • Prior to the storm we had planned to build a new bed and breakfast on our land at Poplar Creek. While the storm delayed us about a year, it gave more time to better plan the project. As a result we increased the building’s size and changed the construction site to where we think is a better location. The new B&B, Poplar Creek Guesthouse opened on September 13, 2001 (two days after 9/11).
  • We expanded ski trails on State land logging trails that were cleared of storm down trees.
  • Electrical power grid has been rebuilt;  much of it underground
  • Portages within the BWCA are in better shape then before the storm because the USFS crews used real equipment to clear them
  • Forested neighborhoods have always lived with "wild fires." Now because of the storm we are better prepared to fight wildfires.
  • Many people on the Gunflint have cleared flammable materials away from their structures. Most have installed sprinklers.
  • USFS, DNR and our own local volunteer fire department has better equipment
  • The backroads to our home was upgraded.

In this Blog post we at Poplar Creek are remembering and commemorating the "storm" that at the time seemed to consume us. Since then we have moved on. We do not control Mother Nature; we live with and like the new growth of trees that have emerged since the storm. We, as humans, are often renewed by events such as the blowdown of 1999.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Boundary Waters Expo

A Great Gunflint Trail Event for the whole Family

CC = GTVFD Community Center      PA = Waterfront Picnic Area

Saturday June 11th – Expo Hours 9am – 6pm and Sunday June 12 Expo Hours 10am -4pm

Seagull Lake Public Landing- Gunflint 

CC = GTVFD Community Center      PA = Waterfront Picnic Area

Saturday June 11th – Expo Hours 9am – 6pm

Lodging available at Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B and Lake Cabin- 800-322-8327

  9am –Saturday- Expo Opens!

Text Box: 9:30 am
The Long Solo Trip |
Bears Paulsen
At the age of twenty-four Bear was laid off from his first full-time job. Instead of feeling disappointed, he went canoeing. He left from the Little Indian Sioux River and wandered
through Ontario and into Manitoba before returning to the BWCA four-and-a-half months later. His journey led him to places that he
had previously visited with his father on fishing trips in Ontario. He also explored both Woodland Caribou and Atikaki Provincial Parks.
Birding in the Boundary Waters | Sue Plankis
For five years Sue has led extraordinary canoe camping birding seminars in the Boundary Waters. This will be an early morning walking field trip in search of the many breeding species of birds native to the Boundary Waters. Her keen ear, uncanny spotting ability and knowledge of bird habitats will lift a curtain for participants to the bird world of the Boundary Waters. If possible, participants should bring binoculars. Limited to 12 adults.

Text Box: 11:30 am

Save the Boundary Waters | Ingrid Lyons
The Save the Boundary Waters Campaign northeast regional organizer Ingrid Lyons will give a talk on the Campaign, covering basics like what the Twin Metals project is and how it threatens the BWCA as well as wilderness edge communities such as Grand Marais. She will go into the science and economics of the issue, as well as let folks know how they can help in this effort.


Packing and Portaging |
Cliff Jacobson
Learn how to easily waterproof your gear and pack efficiently for a Boundary Waters canoe trip. Probe the pros and cons of various packs and wanigans (dry boxes) and learn how each is best utilized on a canoe trip. Adventurous participants may try double-packing a heavy load with a tumpline. We’ll check out packs, procedures, portage yokes, canoe tumplines and canoe lift-and-carry procedures.
Cliff will also be providing personal canoe instruction during the entire event.

Text Box: 12:00 pm

Canadian Style Paddling Demonstration | Sue Plankis
Sue will perform and on-the-water demonstration of style canoeing. Canadian Style and American Freestyle canoeing are forms of paddling that, though a variety of paddle strokes, create astonishing canoe dances on the water.

Text Box: 1:15 pm
Tips from 1,000 Trips | 
Rob Kesselring
Canoe camping tips and secrets gleaned from decades of wilderness travels in The Boundary Waters, Quetico, the arctic and the desert Southwest. Planning, packing, canoe choice, paddling techniques, gear, safety, navigation, dehydrating meat, cook kits, campsite selection, weather, bears, essential knots, cooking, and group dynamics,
An entertaining, information-packed session from one of the most experienced canoe guides in North America.

Text Box: 2:45 pm
The Rediscover North America Expedition |
Adam Trigg
 How do you even begin to think about canoeing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean?  Well, this massive canoe trip had its origins on the Hudson Bay in 2012, when Winchell Delano and three others finished a 2600-mile canoe expedition across Canada’s Northern Territories.  At that moment, the feeling of accomplishment seemed outweighed by something else.  He wasn’t sure what.  But, by the time that he returned to work in November of 2012, it was pretty clear.  The journey wasn’t over yet – it was just on hold.  Something bigger was brewing.  On a flight from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis, Winchell and Adam Trigg started to talk about future canoe trips across Canada.  Adam joked aloud: “We could just start in the Gulf and paddle up the Mississippi …” They both laughed, but at the same time loved the idea, because it seemed to perfectly juxtapose nature and culture, the wilds of Canada and the more densely populated United States.  The result?  Six guys paddled 245 days through twelve states, three provinces and two territories by way of sixteen rivers to cover a total of 5,230 miles across the US and Canada.  The best part?  The people we met and kindness we were shown.

Build your own BWCA Canoe | St. Croix Canoes
Have you ever wanted to build a cedar-strip canoe? Don’t know how to get started? Worried that it’s too hard? Visit with the guys from St. Croix Canoes. We will share tips, tricks, and some lessons learned. See the various methods described in the well-known “how-to” books on canoe building. You can see some of the tools and techniques to give you the confidence to build it yourself.

When Mishaps Happen: Wilderness First Aid Tips & Techniques |
Paul and Kelly Dahl
What happens when your long anticipated wilderness trip goes wrong with an injury or illness? In this presentation, we will explore some of the common mishaps that occur out on the trail and how to approach such issues in the wilderness setting. Simple tips that can either help prevent or decrease the chance of making a medical issue worse will be covered. We will also discuss wilderness first aid kit items and demonstrate essential first aid techniques.

Text Box: 4:15 pm
Lonnie Dupre
In 2001, Dupre and his teammate John Hoelscher of Australia became the first to circumnavigate Greenland.  They traveled the 6,500 miles of rugged island coastline by dog team and kayak.
Lonnie’s multi-media, 50 minute presentation will be about the 3000 plus mile kayak portion of that trip.  There will be Q&A afterword.

Moose in the BWCA | US Forest Service
Our moose are one of northern Minnesota’s claims to fame.  A Forest Service naturalist will help you learn more about moose life and biology, as well as the concerns about their future in the state in this family oriented presentation.

6pm – Day 1 of the Expo Closes

Text Box: 6:00 pm
Campfire: Storytelling with Q&A | Cliff Jacobson & Friends
This will be an interactive discussion about defining Wilderness: what it means to people that love and visit it, and what it means according to legal definitions.  We'll talk about individual interpretations, the language of the Wilderness Act, and how that translates into US Forest Service management of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the experience available to visitors to the area.

Sunday, June 12th – Expo Hours 10am – 4pm

Text Box: 10:30 am
Bear Proofing Your Camp | Cliff Jacobson
Text Box: 12:00 pm
Learn how to protect yourself and your food from bothersome Boundary
Waters bears–“treeing food packs” doesn’t always work! Know how to properly use pepper spray to discourage a bear. Understand the behavioral differences between wild, man-wise and habituated bears. What should you do when you meet a bear on the trail? What precautions can you take to prevent bears (and small animals) from getting your
If you’ve read Cliff’s views on bears in his books, you know he challenges accepted beliefs. Now, research by Stephen Herrero and James Gary Shelton suggest he’s right on track!

Text Box: 10:30 am
Fire Ecology | US Forest Service
Our boreal forest is a fire dependent ecosystem, but that doesn’t mean that all fires are good, or that all fires are bad.  Learn about how fire relates to the ecology of our area, how views of fire have evolved through the years, and some firefighting techniques.

Text Box: 4:00 pm
Shrimp Boil & Bake Sale with samples of Rusty Crawfish

Photography in Canoe Country | Radiant Spirit Gallery
Join Gary Fiedler and Dawn LaPointe of Radiant Spirit Gallery for a photo hike near the expo grounds. They’ll share tips for using and protecting camera gear while wilderness tripping, and will lead an informal instructional photo shoot. All cameras and levels of experience are welcome, so bring a camera and instruction manual (if available), and enjoy photographing inspirations in nature.

Dead Fish Polo | Bear Paulsen
What the heck is Dead Fish Polo? Come to this on the water demo and find out. Join in if you dare, but be prepared to get wet.

Text Box: 1:00 pm
Bannock -- the bread of the backcountry |
Rob Kesselring
A hands-on outside demonstration of how to make bannock in the bush. Rob learned how to make bannock when he lived with the Dene first nation people of the far north. Participants will learn how to make it and will taste it. Learn why bannock is the difference between visiting the bush and living in the bush. Cliff Jacobson claims Rob’s bannock is simply the best.

Text Box: 2:30 pm
Paddling Wisdom |
Adam Trigg

You don’t take a 5,230 mile canoe trip without learning a few things.  Adam will give pointers on how to make your next canoe trip a success, no matter how long it is.

Schedule of Events
Boundary Waters Expo Hours:
Saturday, June 11 | 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 12 | 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Community Center
Waterfront Picnic Area
Saturday 6/11
9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
9:00 a.m.
Exhibitor Tents Open

9:30 a.m.
The Long Solo Trip | Bears Paulsen
Birding in the Boundary Waters | Sue Plankis
11:30 a.m.
Save the Boundary Waters | Ingrid Lyons
Packing and Portaging | Cliff Jacobson
12:00 p.m.

Canadian Style Paddling Demonstration | Sue Plankis
1:15 p.m.
Travel Like a Wilderness Guide - Tips from 1,000 Trips | Rob Kesselring
Build your own BWCA Canoe | St. Croix Canoes
2:45 p.m.
The Rediscover North America Expedition | Adam Trigg
When Mishaps Happen: Wilderness First Aid Tips & Techniques | Paul and Kelly Dahl
4:15 p.m.
Lonnie Dupre
Moose in the BWCA | USFS
3:30  – 5:30 p.m.
Beer Tasting with Voyageur Brewing Company
6:00 p.m.
Booths Close for Day 1
6:00 p.m.
Campfire Storytelling with Q&A | Cliff Jacobson
Sunday 6/12
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
10:00 a.m.
Expo Tents Open

10:30 a.m.
Bear Proofing your Camp | Cliff Jacobson
Photography in Canoe Country | Radiant Spirit Gallery
12:00 p.m.

Dead Fish Polo | Bear Paulsen
1:00 p.m.
Fire Ecology | USFS
Bannock - the bread of the backcountry | Rob Kesselring
2:30 p.m.

Paddling Wisdom | Adam Trigg
4:00 p.m.
2nd Annual Boundary Waters Expo Ends – See you next year!
4:00 p.m.
Shrimp Boil Fundraiser for the Gunflint Historical Society @ Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Poplar Creek Courier 
 Newsletter of

Country Trekking

 June 2016


 Early summer along the Gunflint Trail
The mid –Gunflint area, where Poplar Creek B&B is located, has taken on a beautiful early summer look. Within a couple of weeks, the White Birch has gone from just a few little leaves to fully leafed-out. (photo below on left)  Meanwhile the Aspen are lagging a little behind with young smaller leaves, but they a coming along. The Conifer trees, which grow each year through
"candling” (photo of red pine on right) where new growth is added at the end of the branch, are just beginning. Eventually the White and Red Pine’s candling will reach six or more inches. The spruce candling is not quite as far along. Adding to the new “greening” in the neighborhood is the blossoming of the cherries and elderberry. 
 The Gunflint Trail’s Family Run Resort - Sixty Years and Counting
There are Four resorts along the Trail that have been owned and operated by the same family for a least seventy years - Trout Lake, Nor’Wester, Gunflint and Hestons.
Trout Lake Lodge- In the spring of 1946, Bud and Charlet Kratoska moved from Chicago to Trout Lake with their 2 young daughters, a 32 volt light plant, the batteries and all their worldly belongings.  After a lot of trial and error, Bud got electricity to the cabins.  There was wood to cut for heat. In the winter, ice blocks were cut from the lake for summer cabin ice boxes. Cabins were built by hand tools. The boat house/work shop was converted to living quarters. A party line connection was eventually added with “Ma-Bell.”

Bud was the secretary of the Gunflint Trail Association and organized the Tip of the Arrowhead to promote Cook County. Char would answer info requests,  type and mimeograph a list and send it to all the businesses in the county.  For years they represented the Tip of the Arrowhead at Sport Shows.

Bud worked with others to get REA in the county and in 1956 real electricity at Trout Lake and the Gunflint Trail was installed.  That prompted a drilled well and cabin remodeling to add water for kitchens, bathrooms and septic tanks. Bud asked Char what she wanted for their wedding anniversary.  She said “Now that all the cabins have plumbing I would like a bathroom.”  The ice boxes were replaced with refrigerators, the wood stoves by propane heaters and life became more comfortable.

The family  grew up and moved away but always came back to Trout Lake for vacations and to help when it was needed.

After Bud’s sudden passing in 1986 at 72, their daughter, Nancy Waver came home to care for Charlet and the resort.  The children came home as they were able and it took a crew to make life good for Charlet, who passed at home at the age of 92.

In the spring of 2007 the lodge burned down.  The rebuilding has kept everyone busy.  There aren’t many of the original guests returning but many of their children and grandchildren come to visit.  Trout Lake has tried to keep the intimate family experience of time in the woods as their gift to guests.  It is the goal of all the family to keep Trout Lake Resort- a memorable place “where time slows down.   Edited copy original written by Nancy Waver

Nor’Wester Lodge- Next up the Gunflint and thirty-three miles from Grand Marais is Nor’Wester Lodge. Carl & Alis Brandt came to the Gunflint Trail in 1931 to start a sawmill. They soon realized that visitors to the area needed a place to stay. So Carl began building cabins while Alis washed laundry, and cooked meals for the many fishermen. They named their resort “Balsam Grove,” a name which would stay with the resort through the next 35 years or so.
Built with native spruce and pine logs the lodge still stands today (an addition was later added). Several original diamond willow furniture pieces Carl made are found in the lodge along with furs from many of his trapping and hunting trips. (Photo on left is Brandt boys loading Ice for summer; photo on right the original lodge.)
In 1966, Carl and Alis´, son Carl, and his wife Luana, took over the resort, and in 1968 they changed the name to Nor´Wester Lodge & Outfitters.  Go to Nor’Wester history for a more complete version.

Gunflint Lodge and Northwoods Outfitters was originally started in 1925 by Doris Blankenburg and her son, Russell. In 1927 the lodge was purchased by the Spunner family along with their daughter Justine (later Justine Kerfoot). After the purchase the lodge was enlarged and additional cabins built. (Photo of Justine below)


Photo of Justine by Howard Sivertson
In 1933 Bill Kerfoot, son of the president of Hamline University, arrived on the Gunflint Trail. He was eager for any job at any rate of pay. Justine took him on for room and board. According to a friend at the time, she decided he was "good with the guests." In September, 1934, Bill and Justine were married. Together they continued to expand the lodge.

In the early 1960s, several things changed—Bruce Kerfoot, Justine and Bill’s son returned from the Army and came aboard as the next generation of the family to lead the business at Gunflint. Bruce married Sue in 1968. During the first years of their marriage, Justine ran the canoe outfitters -Northwoods Outfitters. That lasted only a couple of years before Bruce bought her out. Although Justine always retained a very active interest in the business, the next generation was now truly in place. Once again an ambitious young couple was running Gunflint.

Just a note on Gunflint Lodge- for the past year’s Gunflint Lodge  has been up for sale and it appears that the lodge is going to change hands and lodge’s tradition of being operated by a member of the Kerfoot family will be lost. Click on Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters history for a complete version

Heston Lodge and Country Store - the Lodge was established in 1943 by Myrl Heston. He had come from Chicago to visit the area.  At the time, he wrote to his cousin, stationed in the South Pacific. “Virl,” he said, “I bought a Paradise.”  Myrl and Peggy, his wife, moved to this paradise, and together operated Heston’s until 1971, when Myrl passed away.

Peggy continued running the lodge until 1984. Summers were filled with family, when daughters and grandchildren would come home and help with all of the jobs required of a lodging business.  In the winter, Peggy was often on her own, and kept just two cabins open.  It was a large task for her, but Peggy was never one to shy away from all of the hard work. When she “retired”, she moved to Grand Marais and worked in various jobs. She answered phones and greeted visitors at the tourism information booth.  In her mid-eighties, she took a position with the Johnson Heritage Post Art Gallery, and for many years, welcomed people to see the exhibits.  Many people remember her from that post, as well as seeing her walking all over Grand Marais. Peggy passed away in 2007, at the age of 94.   (photo to the rights is Peggy Heston)

In 1979, Peggy’s daughter Sharlene, and her husband Chuck Gecas, moved permanently to the Trail.  They ran the resort until 1989.  Sharlene is still active in the business, and lives near the lodge.  She spends some time in Alaska, but Gunflint Lake will always be her home.  Greg Gecas, Sharlene and Chuck’s son, and his wife Barb Gecas, was the next and current generation to take over operation of the lodge. Click on Heston’s history for a complete version.
 New Resorts and Canoe Outfitters on the Trail
Loon Lake Lodge  formerly owned by Tom and Terry Caldwell was purchased by Derek and Andrea Hofeldt from Iowa and recently from Alaska.  Derek and Andrea plan to carry on the tradition of Loon Lake Lodge including the great dining room.

Tuscarora Canoe Outfitters was purchased by Gunflint residents, Ada Igoe and Andrew McDonnell. Prior to the purchase of Tuscarora, Ada was the Director of Chik-Wauk Museum. Andy grew up on the Gunflint where his parents owned Hungry Jack Outfitters and later he worked for years at Bearskin Lodge.

Rockwood lodge has been sold to Carl Madsen and Stephanie Lightner.  They hail from the Twin Cities. One of their first projects was to order new mattress and box springs to replace the ones that had been in the cabins. They also are converting Mike and Lin’s former home at the west end of lodge’s property into a rental cabin and are moving into the staff quarters. Carl and Stephanie will be spending their winters at the lodge. During the summer they will be joined by Stephanie’s sister and brother law – Carol and Mike Siem.

Best of luck to all four new Gunflint Trail lodge owners.

Last Winter Storm Debris
This spring, after the snow melted along the sides of the Gunflint Trail from the South Brule River to Loon Lake, the ditches were littered with down trees and brush as a result of last December's ice storm. Even the phone line along the Trail, in many places, was covered with down trees including several places where the lines were laying on the ground. Thanks to the Cook County Highway Department’s crews most of this litter has been cleaned up. For the most part all that remains along the Trail from the storm are some bent over brush that hopefully “mother nature” will straighten this summer.
 Meanwhile resorts and property owners have been cleaning up the bottles, cans and other trash that have accumulated over this past winter along the Trail. And sometime early this summer the County’s Firewise Program will be picking up additional brush stacked by resort and homeowners along their driveways and roadsides.
In Closing – Barbara Young, Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B Writes-
Sitting in the office working on reservations and what do I hear--At least 3 flocks of geese flew over the B&B. What a thrill. It is pitch black outside. Love this time of year when birds and animals do their thing. A  moose cow and two newborn calves at a nearby neighbor’s house was seen, but a yearling bear cub was near so the moose moved on. They sometimes swim to nearby islands, one of which my sister in law lives on so maybe my sister in law will see them. It is getting late. Time for popcorn!
I talked to my brother-in-law the next morning. He was on Moss Lake fishing trout when he came across another moose and one very small calf. He also said he has seen moose with calves on there Poplar Lake island and more moose swimming in the lake