The January Round Up


When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, you can often find us at a bonfire that burns hot and bright while the air temp is at least zero, if not lower.  We sing Auld Lang Syne, sending off the old year in proper fashion, and welcoming the new one with lots of hugs and good wishes.  This year was no exception, and when we awoke later that morning, I marveled at a whole new set of days ahead of me.  The cold air was invigorating, as I stepped out to survey the world from our front yard.  How lucky we are to have this magnificent frozen landscape right before our eyes.

While the lake is safe for travel by foot or snowmobile, it is not in condition for any other type of vehicle.  The reports of ice thickness that we have received range from 10” to a rare 24”. The bigger issue is the layer of slush and water, trapped below the big blanket of snow.  If anyone chooses to drive a car or truck out there, they are in for a nasty (and expensive) surprise.  We have had fishermen wetting their lines with favorable reports.  Greg has been taking walks on the ice, particularly during the polar vortex this week.  He has some fabulous gear for staying warm, and we don’t get that many opportunities to put it to the test.  He’s reported that he has been quite comfortable on these jaunts. 

Bear mittens for the warmest hands ever.

Bear mittens for the warmest hands ever.

This year, we have both invested in some new ski equipment, and I have been able to get out on the ski trails a few times already.  The skiing has been awesome, thanks to all of the snow that we have.  Greg got some backcountry skis and boots, and has been enjoying trekking in the woods rather than zooming down the hills on trails.   


The January sky, as seen in the above photo, has been fabulous.  Though the sun hangs low in the sky, it still manages to paint a palette of lovely color both in the morning and the late afternoon.  I call this the season of pastel skies, as we often see light pink and pale orange.  And now that we are five weeks past the solstice, I also notice that the days are getting a wee bit longer.  Can’t argue with that, can only marvel at how quickly the time goes by. 

Despite the 26 degrees below zero, we had a front row seat to the lunar eclipse.  It was fascinating to watch the moon as it was disappearing, and to see the stars getting noticeably brighter.  I only wished that we had Northern LIghts to add to the scene.  That definitely would have been the icing on the cake.  Alas, it has been quiet for the Aurora so far this winter.  Hopefully that will change. 

For fans of the uni-mogs, Greg got a new plow for his winter mog.  It is a twelve-footer, and he is learning more about its capabilities every time he uses it.  The plow came all the way from Ohio, trucked up here by a very nice fellow who didn’t mind the cold and dark adventure, and even got to see a moose along the way.   


Finally, when the polar vortex settled itself over us this past week, we made sure the wood bin was full, and we pulled out all of our warmest layers to wear.  At one point, I counted that I had on twenty individual items (socks, etc count for two!).   We haven’t seen a cold snap that deep in several years, so in a way, it is a moment to look for some fun and entertainment only possible in that weather.  Not knowing that it was, according to the news, a challenge for “bored Mid-westerners”, we heated up the water to toss it up in the air to vaporize,  Our video below is the result.  My effort was not near as graceful as Greg’s, so his is the one that I present to you here: 

It’s been much too long since I wrote a blog post, and it’s mostly because I don’t often find the words to write.  I am hoping that will change, now that I’ve been able to tap out this much on the keyboard.  At the very least, I will try to do a monthly round up such as this, to keep folks in the loop as to the activity and shenanigans that we are up to here in the woods.  Do note that you can find us on both Facebook (as Heston’s Lodge Country) and Instagram (as HestonsLodge).  You never know what you might see posted there! 

Dragonfly Rescue

It seems that there is always something to observe, if I only take the time to notice.  What started as a routine sweeping of the porch ended with the rescue of a tired dragonfly. 


This little one was caught in a light webbing. I carefully put my finger under its legs to free it.  I was rewarded with a slight fluttering of its shimmery wings. Still not sure if it was merely stressed or nearly dead, I patiently waited.


Whatever assistance I provided must have been enough, for a moment later it off it flew. 

Not There Yet

After two days of intermittent rain showers and fog, we woke up to this view and a temperature of 32 degrees.  The lake is looking much darker, and I love how the change in light can give it such a different perspective. 


As we’ve been watching the decline in the ice, we are limited to what we see down in front.  In the absence of drone-capability, we mused on what the overall conditions might look like from a higher perspective.  Inspired by the blue sky and sunshine, I decided to take a hike up to the South Rim.  Let’s take a west-to-east tour of the lake via photos from the overlook above our place. 


Looking as far west as I could see from my vantage point.  This area often opens first, given the warm waters of the Cross River flowing in.


I can see some open water near shore on the Canadian side, but there is no sign yet of ice piling up.


The bay behind the point across from us is opening up nicely.


Looking to the northeast, it is interesting to me that the blackest ice is on the south side.  Generally speaking, the north shore sees more sunshine, hence warming and melt.  Will this be a year when we see the ice go out without reaching that “mostly black” and rotten state?


Photographing the east end is a little tricky from this spot, with trees in the way.  Still, I was able to see some open water.  This correlates with Greg’s venture down to the east end a week or so ago.  He said that the northeast-most corner of the lake was opening up, due to a drainage from a small pond up that way.  That appears to have opened the lake all the way to Wartner’s bay.


And finally, a panoramic view.  I can’t really see any open water in this overall view, since it is mostly found at the ends and edges.

As you can see, we have a bit of a ways to go yet before anyone is able to reach the east end.  But if someone wants to make their way into Magnetic, that looks like it may be possible.  We’ll keep an eye on things and keep you posted! 

When Will the Ice Go Out?

It’s a cool May morning here on Gunflint Lake, a few days before the fishing season is scheduled to open.  The snow has finally melted away, save for a few piles and drifts in the shaded woods.  The temps are in the high forties, and in today’s case, it is cloudy with rain due.  How many years has it been now, that I’ve seen mornings like this? Thirty-two, actually.  And in that time, I have only seen the ice still on the lake for perhaps three.

Yes, we seem to have a year once again where the ice is hanging around longer than most of us would like.  It’s always a guessing game as to when it will go, and the lake will be open water again.  In my early years, the neighbors would start an ice-out pool in March.  For a buck, you could put your date down.  The parameter to be met was that one could navigate from the west end near Cross River, all the way to the east end beach, which meant travel in to Little Gunflint.  That was the destination that most fishermen sought, the smaller, and thus warmer, water of the next lake over.  One year, I was fortunate enough to guess correctly, and for me, it truly was a guess.  It was my second spring here, and I was pregnant.  My winnings went towards yarn, to weave a blanket for the new baby.  

We no longer have an ice pool, and I have not ventured to put down a guess of any sorts.  Greg took the bold step of writing May 15 on the black board in our store, about six weeks ago. He could very well be correct.  The color of the ice, my best judge of what is going on, has been progressing mostly steadily in the proper direction, from white to grey, and now to black in a few places.  I can detect some shifting in the ice mass, another good sign. We are finally seeing the ice pull away from shore, and last evening, it was wonderful to stand down at the lake’s edge to observe the rocks under the surface.  If we get some rain this afternoon, that will help.   This morning, I heard the loons do a fly-over, indicating that they are as anxious as we are.

But to the age-old question of when it actually will go out?  The only answer that comes to mind is “We’ll see.” 

The view from upstairs. 05.08.18

The view from upstairs. 05.08.18