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Council Meeting 7-13-16

Grand Marais Mayor Blog - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 10:23pm
Here's the summary of the latest City Council meeting that was held last night at the City Council Chambers at 6:30pm.

We called the meeting to order with all of the Councilors in attendance. We moved right on to the Consent Agenda, which was populated by the usual three items (Agenda, Last Meeting's Minutes, and Payment of Bills) and one additional item: The Street Permit Application for the Lion's Club's Fisherman's Picnic celebration this year. The consent agenda was passed unanimously with the comment that some of the port-a-potties mentioned in the application may need to be re-located due to the development in the lot in between Joy and Company and the Gunflint Mercantile. That conversation will be had with the Lion's Club.

We moved right on to the Planning Commission Report, which had a request for a Conditional Use Permit for the "Resort-Commercial Zone" located on 5th Ave W., particularly for the property formerly known as the "Fenstad's Motel." The new owner of that property is looking to redevelop the existing structure to create a permanent residence, a long-term rental, and 2 vacation rental units in the existing building. The Planning Commission reported that permanent residences and long-term rentals are approved uses for that zone, so there didn't need to be any Conditional Use approved for those, but the 2 rental units would have to be approved. Seeing that the "Resort-Commercial" zone allows lodging as a conditional use and the property was previously developed as a motel, this was in line with the neighborhood, and thus the Planning Commission recommended approving the request. There was a little conversation at the Council level about it, mostly being glad to see someone working on that property, but in the end the CUP (Conditional Use Permit) was approved unanimously. It will be exciting to see the new progress on that property!

Next we had Library Director Steve Harsin and Library Board President Audrey Stattleman present the Library's proposed budget for 2017. The Library Board's Financial committee and Director Harsin have spent a great deal of time number crunching so that they can provide a responsible budget that stays within the increases approved for this year's budget and proposed for next year's. The balance comes with the introduction with a full-time Assistant Library Director who will be hired to provide additional oversight at the library and oversee program elements that have been proposed to increase the Library's presence in the far reaches of the county. This means that there will be an increase in the Library's budget, an increase that will be offset partially by using the Library's designated funds to continue purchasing materials for the collection and other materials services (like ebooks and online magazines). This proposal was seen to be responsibly put together and took into consideration the most possible expenses that could come to the library over the coming years, so the Council voted on and approved this budget for 2017. The Library Board will now present this version to the County for consideration before it will be adopted for 2017.

After that we had an interesting conversation with Patrick Knight of Good Measure Media, located here in Grand Marais. Patrick approached the Council a few weeks ago asking if the Council would like to have the Council meetings recorded and uploaded to Youtube so people could watch and review the meetings at their leisure. The Council took turns saying that they were open to the idea and that if it was not utilized by enough people in the community, we could just not renew next year...
It was reflected upon that the City used to pay about $1000/month for this type of service and that it was well received when it was offered. The proposal from Good Measure Media was for $250/month for 5 hours of recording, which would come to roughly $3000/year, or one quarter of what the City used to pay. The Council appreciated the potential increased level of oversight this would provide for the community and thus voted unanimously to contract with Good Measure Media to provide this service. The contract will be revisited throughout the year and it will be reviewed as to whether or not it should be continued...

Jumping back to the Agenda:
The next item was for the Council to approve a bid for paving services for the Rec. Park. Thoreson's bid $19,317 for 14,411 sq. ft. of paving work to be done at the Rec. Park to improve the rough sections of pavement around the office and other roadways throughout the park. This bid, being under the $20,000 allotted for this improvement this year, passed unanimously.

Next we moved on to the Community Visioning/Comprehensive Planning update. The City provided the contract for services to the Community Design Group (the agency that the Council chose to assist with the community engagement and analysis portion of the Comprehensive Plan), and that came back with one request from CDG: An adjustment in the amount of insurance that they have to carry on the project.

The actual contract that we offered to CDG is a contract that was written up to protect the City and offer the mandated guarantees to the contractee. This contract is kind of multi-purpose and thus includes a bunch of stipulations that apply to construction and other capital projects. Thus, the amount of insurance required by the contract is $1.5 million/incident: $3 million total, which would cover just about any project that the City takes on. CDG asked if we would accept $2 million/incident: $2 million total, which meets our first requirement, but not the second.
What does this mean?
This means that if the work that CDG does ends up costing the City money because of damages or associated lawsuits or whatever, the City will be covered by CDG's insurance up to $2 million dollars. Considering that we are only contracting with them for their planning services, the Council believed this to be a fair offer and accepted the change to the contract unanimously.

Have you ever heard of a Granny Pod? Well, I guess that they are getting really popular in the Cities and thus the State passed a law regulating them. This got the League of MN Cities involved because the League feels that it isn't the State's job to be making local zoning decisions for cities. Each city has a different situation and may want to take a different stance on these little units, which are technically called "Temporary Family Health Care Dwellings." Therefore, the League offered some information to its member cities regarding this new law and how they could opt out of it if they so desired. There was a great deal of conversation on the logistics of a move to opt out of the State's law, but in the end it was decided that it is better for the City to develop its own standards for these units along with ANY accessory dwelling on a property, in conjunction with the community during the Comprehensive Planning process. So there is another thing for you to think about! Should the City allow these Temporary Family Health Care Dwellings? Should the City allow tiny homes as accessory dwellings on lots? What should the rules be? These are important things to consider. Let me know if you have any great ideas!

The next update came regarding the Public Works Facility. Our engineer, LHB, had been working on a cost estimate for our project and then sent the numbers out to a second engineering firm, Krauz-Anderson, for a peer review (a very good idea) and the numbers came back virtually identical. Krauz-Anderson had some very good insights that weren't captured by the LHB project, but complimented LHB on a well-written proposal. In the end we are looking at a project that will cost in the ballpark of $3.8 million. That includes site prep, utility installation, landscaping, construction, and finishing. The next step for the Council is to review the estimate thoroughly and decide if the City should sign up with LHB as a Construction Manager at Risk or as a General Contractor.

The difference between these two is that with a Construction Manager at Risk the City contracts with the company for a specific amount of money for the entire project and it is up to the Construction Manager, in this situation LHB, to provide the product agreed upon for the money agreed upon. Pros for this are that we KNOW how much it is going to cost. Cons are that if the company builds it for less than the bid, they keep the savings.

With a General Contractor we contract for the work to be done and the GC bills us as it goes. Pros are that if the project is completed cheaper, the City pays less. Cons are that if the project is more expensive... well, the City is responsible for that.

The Council is going to get together with representatives of other organizations in the community (hospital, school, YMCA, etc) to discuss their experience with either type and then will make a decision at the next Council meeting on the 27th of July.

That was everything on the agenda, so we moved right on to Council and Staff Updates!

Councilor Moody brought the update that another lot in the Business Park sold! Hurray!

Councilor Benson had no direct update, but a few questions that were answered in the following conversations...

I reported on a few things:
-A concerned resident of Creechville contacted myself and Councilor Mills about some erosion problems on 4th Ave W (Creechville Road). The road surface is starting to collapse because of water undercutting the pavement. The message was passed on to the Street Department and a plan will be developed. It is a tricky street though because jurisdiction on that street is unclear... whether it is a city street or a county street... We will get to the bottom of it though!
-Improvements on the tennis courts have begun and are progressing nicely. Get your racket ready for Fish Pic's Tennis Tournament!
-Administrator Roth forwarded a Carbon Footprint Analysis to the Council that I received from a business that provides those reports for a fee. I passed it along as a resource to explore if the Comprehensive Planning process brings up our carbon production as a priority to assess and mitigate.
-A concerned resident asked if the corner of Hwy 61 and 3rd Ave W could get some yellow paint. It turns out that people have been parking awkwardly on that corner, creating a dangerous situation for drivers and pedestrians. The message was passed along to the Street Department.
-I attended a meeting of the Community Connection group, which is a group that has been quietly working for over a year to put on an annual "services fair" in Grand Marais to show all of the great services that are available by our non-profits, churches, and other service organizations. It will be sometime in October it sounds like and will have many, many vendors giving away free samples of their goods/services. There will likely be food there as well. It is hoped that this will be a way for people in our community to connect with the services that they qualify for and need so that they can improve their standard of living. More to come, but kudos to a lot of great work done!
-Today I attended the Active Living Policy Group meeting up in Grand Portage. The Tribe was gracious enough to give us a tour of their community gardens up the Mineral Center Road, which are really turning into a great community asset! There is a great deal to learn from their model! If you are interested at all, you should head up there and ask to get a tour. It is pretty cool and will hopefully expand to provide a significant amount of food for the village! Also in that meeting the Group went through the Active Living Plan that was put together a few years ago. It was quickly apparent that many of the things introduced as priorities have been accomplished and thus it is likely time to revisit what the next steps are. The City committed to doing just this as a part of its Comprehensive Plan, so if you have any suggestions of things that the City can do to help promote healthy, active living, let us know!
-We got a little sidetracked by a flyer that I received in the mail advertising the flashing radar speed signs. I thought it was interesting that they now only cost $2000, and mentioned that, but I shouldn't have, because it got us off-topic for probably 10 minutes... Oh well, these things happen...

Councilor Mills reported the same concerns about the Creechville Road as well as:
-A conversation that he had about the Comp. Planning process. He spoke with someone who was concerned that our efforts to include every possible demographic and person may not actually best reflect the community. We talked about it a little at the meeting and we all agreed that our best option is to talk to the people who are here. We have to do that. We hope to talk to everyone and we hope to make a plan that is visionary and provides great leadership into the future.
-The Park Board spent a lot of time going over the response they received from the Regional Parks and Trails Commission. As I reported last meeting, the Rec. Park and the Sawtooth Bluffs area both received "High" rankings this year, and thus we need to update (or create) a master plan to direct the development of these resources before they are eligible for Legacy Fund monies for improvements. One comment that was interesting was that the Regional Parks and Trails Commission commented that the Rec. Park's application would have been stronger if it had a stronger emphasis on the marina. It isn't clear what that means, but the Park Board hopes that the proposed new boat launch will be a good step toward meeting whatever criteria they are looking for! To close on this item, the City and Park Board will be working on these master plans over the winter and spring so that potentially funding for improvements can be secured in the coming years. Pretty exciting stuff!
-The YMCA Council has had continuing conversations with the Cooperation Station about partnerships that could work there, and the Y's outreach programs in Hovland are going really well! It is exciting to see these sorts of programs hitting the East End and soon the West End!

Councilor Kennedy reported that all of his updates were already covered by the other Councilors.

Administrator Roth reminded the Council that ONEROOF, the organization that is working with the EDA to develop the homes in Grand Marais, will be coming back to a future meeting (maybe the next one) to have a conversation about what kind of financial support the City will be putting into the project. It was quickly realized at the Council level that we need to get the Council, the County Commissioners, and the EDA together to sit down and talk about this because the financial estimates provided by OneRoof accounted for $25,000 of local money going into each of the 7 units. That is roughly $175,000. The City is not going to be paying all of that and needs to have the necessary conversations with the other entities involved to figure out where that money is going to be coming from. There are a number of options available, many of which won't increase anyone's taxes at all. Please note that we are going to be having this joint meeting to work out the best options that will impact everyone the least.
-Administrator Roth also reported that the 8th member of the steering committee for the Comprehensive Planning process said yes! Welcome Julie Carlson to the committee! Thank you in advance for your help! There is one final member that we are still working on... I won't say who it is until I am sure that we have her committed, but the Steering Committee is looking very, very good!

That was it! We covered a lot of territory in this meeting and were pleased to see continued private development in the City. As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions!

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60 year reunion Dragon-boat races

Sawbill Newsletter - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 7:09pm

7/15/16- And with the blare of the horn the 2016 Sawbill dragon-boat race commenced. With 17 boats and 68 participants this year's race was a fierce competition. As one of the 60 year reunion events, our competitors ranged from those with only a couple years of canoeing experience to some of our most experienced former crew members.

The racers eagerly getting ready for the preliminary round.

The Sawbill landing dock served as the starting line and in the first two rounds the race was completed as each canoe paddled past the Forest Service dock. The course measures just over a half mile long. The preliminary round consisted of four separate heats, four canoes in each heat and four competitors in each canoe. From there, the 1st and 2nd place winners of each heat advanced on to the semifinal round.

And the race begins!

The four canoes remaining after the semifinals turned around and aggressively paddled back towards the landing with all the strength and determination they had left. Loud cheers and chants from spectators ushered the racers all the way to the finish line. A very big congratulations to canoe #4 competitors Will Decker, Caitlin Coomes, Lindsey Price, and Marc Levoir clocking in at 4:36.62! All racers showed great strength and teamwork in the face of such a nail-biting competition!

The 2016 Dragon-boat championship winners, Will, Marc, Caitlin, and Lindsey proudly carrying their trophy.

We would also like to give a huge thank you to this year's dragon-boat race coordinator, Adam Hansen. It truly was an exciting competition. -Alissa

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Trees Damaged in a Storm

Boundary Waters Blog - Wed, 07/13/2016 - 6:56am

High winds and storms have been happening more this summer than ever in the past that I can remember.  We haven’t lost many at Voyageur but other places have. Here’s what to do and not do if you have damage to trees.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                    July 6, 2016

DNR offers advice for dealing with storm damaged trees

Cleanup following a storm can be an overwhelming task for homeowners. Knowing which trees to save and which to remove can impact safety and the survival of remaining trees, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

DNR forestry outreach specialist Jennifer Teegarden offers the following tips.


  • Approach damaged trees with caution. Stay clear of downed wires and call 911.
    Carefully inspect standing trees for damage and deal with hazardous trees first. If possible, ask a forester or arborist for advice.
  • Trees should be removed if more than 50 percent of the trunk or live branches in the crown are damaged, and if the tree is unnaturally leaning or roots are damaged.
  • Watch for detached branches, loosely hanging branches and split or cracked trunks that can cause injury or further damage.
  • Use proper pruning techniques to remove broken limbs by cutting just outside the branch collar, but limit pruning to making the tree safe. Too much pruning can weaken an already stressed tree.
  • Water stressed and damaged trees weekly to help them repair and rebuild. Be careful not to overwater, especially in heavy clay soils.
  • Monitor damaged trees in upcoming years to make sure they don’t become a hazard.


  • Be rushed by promises of bargains from inexperienced or unqualified tree service providers. Improper pruning or unneeded removal can result in unnecessary costs or loss of healthy trees. Ask for references and proof of insurance.
  • Repair a broken branch or fork of a tree with tape, wire, bolts or other wraps. It will not heal, and the split will invite decay and further weaken the tree. Cabling or bracing should only be performed by a certified arborist and inspected annually.
  • Remove the tops of trees. This makes the tree more susceptible to insects and disease, and results in new branches that are weakly attached.
  • Apply paint or dressing to wounds as these materials interfere with the natural wound sealing process.
  • Remove small, leaning trees. Trees less than 15 feet tall may survive if they are gently pulled back into place. Press out air spaces in the loosened soil. The tree can then be staked for up to a year.
  • Fertilize stressed or damaged trees.
  • Information on tree care, proper pruning techniques and handling damaged trees is available on the DNR website at

    For more extensive information on tree care, contact a DNR forester, city forester, certified arborist or county extension staff.

    Take the right steps to correct damaged trees so they can continue to provide shade, clean air, beauty and increased property value for many years to come.

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7/12/16 - Sawbill's 60th Anniversary Reunion

Sawbill Newsletter - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 3:25pm


Past, current and future generations of the Sawbill crew.

This past weekend we were greeted with over 180 members of the Sawbill family. The celebration began Friday night with a cocktail party, the evening filled with hugs and very enjoyable conversations of recent life and reminiscence of past Sawbill adventures.

The festivities continued on Saturday afternoon with our annual Dragon-boat races, containing 17 canoes and 68 competitors. Later everyone joined once again for dinner (with lots of wild rice goodies) and our reunion program.

Former crew member, Kathy Heltzer served as our master of ceremonies and sang a tune, contrary to its title, the very comical "Sawbill Blues". This was followed by the 2016 Sawbill crew's skit performance. Next, both former owner, Bill Hansen, and current owner, Clare Hansen Shirley addressed the crowd with memorable speeches and, with a moment of silence, we recognized crew members who are no longer with us. The night proceeded with a Beyonce inspired canoe orientation dance led by current crew members, Emma and Elena, and concluded with dancing in the dome accompanied by music from Terence Smith.

Bill and Cindy Hansen have worked as the owners of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters the past 30 years and in his speech Bill illustrated the three things he believes make Sawbill such a wonderful place. He spoke of Sawbill's mission envisioned by Frank and Mary Alice Hansen in 1957, the endless and beautiful wilderness that surrounds us, and the many crew members that make up the Sawbill family. After living here the past two months I can't help but to agree with him and I am so glad to be a part of the Sawbill crew.

We would like to extend a big thank you to Bill and Cindy from the entire Sawbill family for making Sawbill such a wonderful camping destination and home to many over the past thirty years! We wish you the best in your retirement!

Also thank you to all the former crew members and their families who came to visit this past weekend. It was great to meet and reunite with all and we look forward to seeing you at the 70th reunion! -Alissa

The 2016 Sawbill crew and campground hosts.
Top row (L to R): Kevin, Nick, Rachel, Louise, Jim, Dave, Phil, Jessica, Bill, Kit, Clare, Elena, Cindy, Claire
Bottom row (L to R): Dan, Lindsey, Brian, Alissa, Emma, Meg, Laura, Owen

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Moose on a Misty Morning

Boundary Waters Blog - Tue, 07/12/2016 - 6:48am

Here’s a great video captured by our towboat drivers on their way out to Saganaga Lake on a recent misty morning.  Thanks for sharing!

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Voyageur Crew Profiles- Maddy & Sarah

Boundary Waters Blog - Mon, 07/11/2016 - 6:23am

Maddy and Sarah get to share a blog for a couple of reasons, one is they are both second year Voyageur Crew Members and the other they are both speaking Spanish these days.  It may seem a bit strange to hear Spanish at the end of the Gunflint Trail but Sarah just spent a semester in Argentina and Maddy is going to spend a semester in Ecuador.

Sarah is from St. Louis Park, Minnesota and will be going into her 4th year at the U of M in the Twin Cities. She’s majoring in Marketing and would like to find a way to combine her studies with the outdoors. Hmmmm. I think I have an idea of how she can do just that, I just don’t think I can pay her what she’s worth.  Sarah spends her time at Voyageur packing food, outfitting groups, driving shuttles and doing whatever needs to be done including cooking, cleaning and working in the store.  When she’s not working she likes to hang out with the rest of the crew playing games, having campfires and paddling.  She wants to visit the Quetico and Lake of the Clouds and her favorite route is from Duncan to Rose. Her favorite piece of camping equipment is her hammock and she’s looking forward to more canoe trips this summer and spending time swimming.


Maddy is from St. Paul, MN and will be in her 3rd year at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR.  She’s in Environmental Studies and when she’s not studying or working she likes to climb, paddle, backpack and take pictures and movies.  Maddy spends her days at Voyageur packing food, shuttling groups, cleaning and working in the office. Her favorite route is the Cross Bay Loop or Basswood Falls area and she wants to visit Agnes Lake in the Quetico.  The other thing she has in common with Sarah is her favorite piece of equipment is a hammock. She’s looking forward to exploring new places in the BWCA and hanging out with the crew during the rest of the summer.

We feel fortunate to have these two women back for another summer at Voyageur. They are so much fun to have around and are both super easy going. They are a joy to have around and we are so thankful for all they do.




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Moose Riders in Canada Caught

Boundary Waters Blog - Sun, 07/10/2016 - 6:41am

When I see videos like the one below I get really upset. The good news is the people who were harassing the moose will be going to court in August. After a year long investigation the suspects were found and will hopefully be punished.  Read the full article here.

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Blue Nights on the Gunflint Trail

Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters News - Thu, 07/07/2016 - 1:40pm

“In certain latitudes there comes a span of time approaching and following the summer solstice, some weeks in all, when the twilights turn long and blue . . . .  You find yourself swimming in the color blue: the actual light is blue, and over the course of an hour or so this blue depends, becomes more intense even as it darkens and fades. . . . The French called this time of day “l’heure blue.” To the English it was “the gloaming.” The very word “gloaming” reverberates, echoes — the gloaming, the glimmer, the glitter, the glisten, the glamour – carrying in its consonants the images of houses shuttering, gardens darkening, grass-lined rivers slipping through the shadows. During the blue nights, you think the end of days will never come.”  – Joan Didion

Photo by Anne Victoria Photography

I checked out Joan Didion’s Blue Nights on a whim last week and was struck by how in the very first chapter, she managed to articulate a seasonal concept that I’ve always felt, but never been able to name. There’s a certain magic and promise in the long days and short nights that mark the weeks on either end of the summer solstice. It’s as though the world decided to give our summer days a little more length and a little more poignancy because of how very short our summer season is. Yet I’ve never had a way of describe this time of year beyond “summer,” which is too open-ended a descriptor to really sum up how the season really feels. But considering that here in canoe country, we immerse ourselves in the color blue all summer long, “blue nights” is a most apt description for Minnesota summer. We paddle and play in blue, we swim in blue, we sleep in blue. It’s a season both delicate and fearless, filled with a sense of “if not now, when?”

As Didion notes, “Blue nights are the opposite of the dying of the brightness, but they are also its warning.” Soon enough, we’ll be trying out that new overnight oats recipe, pulling out the wool sweaters, making our homes snug as the breeze rustles an autumnal chill through the aspen and birch leaves.

But for now, the hygge days are far away.

During these blue nights, we anchor our boats and cast for walleye and bass until the sun disappears completely behind the far shoreline of Round Lake. We let the summer breeze blow through the cabin curtains all night long. We marvel at legions of dragonflies soaring overhead. We watch the loons dive around our canoe. The birds chirp long into the evening and the evening air smells of roses and other wildflowers.

We know this won’t last forever. We soak it up and wring as much summery goodness as we can from these golden days and blue, blue nights.

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Nature Center – Grand Opening

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center Blog - Fri, 07/01/2016 - 3:38pm

Sunday, July 3 from 11 am to 4 pm come visit Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center for the grand opening of our Nature Center, free admission all day long to both the Museum and the Nature Center. Various programs held throughout the day.

Ever since the formation of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society back in 2005 there has been a vision to create a nature center on Chik-Wauk property. After many years of planning and campaigning we are very proud to have this facility available for our visitors.

We utilized Split Rock Studios again to help create the interior displays with the help of a few key board and staff members. The Nature Center was created with a lot of open space for children and adults to explore the natural surroundings of our special place on the Gunflint Trail.

We would like to thank everyone that has been a part of this process through the many years.

It all started with a pile of dirt, now  join us on Sunday to see the finished project!!

Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is located 55 miles up the Gunflint Trail National Scenic Byway (Cook County Highway 12), turn right on Moose Pond Drive then 1/4 mile drive in.

Don’t forget to look for our newest addition to Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.  


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Join us for the annual Coal Creek Tour!

Arrowhead Electric - Wed, 06/29/2016 - 12:06pm

Discover more about the source of the electricity you enjoy every day with this fun and educational trip.

Join Arrowhead Cooperative and Cooperative Light and Power members on a tour of the Coal Creek Power Station and Falkirk Mine in Underwood, North Dakota and a day at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot, ND including tickets to see Emmylou Harris live in concert!

The tour will depart from the Two Harbors Cooperative headquarters at 7:00 am on Tuesday, September 27th and will return approximately 6:00 pm on Friday, September 30th. The cost of the tour is $425/couple or $375/single. This modest fee includes: all transportation, three nights lodging (hotel tbd in Minot, ND), a power plant tour (Coal Creek Station & Falkirk Mine), and admission to the Norsk Hostfest with tickets to the Emmylou Harris concert. Breakfast on Wed, Thurs, Fri and lunch on Wed, Thurs, Fri.

Space is limited. Only the first 11 couples registered and piad will be guaranteed a spot. First time travelers will have priority. Please call our office at 218-663-7239 or 800-864-3744 for further details.

*Deadline for signing up is Wednesday, July 13th.*

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Clearwater Lake Campsite Reviews

Clearwater Lodge Tales - Tue, 05/10/2016 - 5:32pm

In hopes of helping future paddlers better understand their camping options in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness we are going to be periodically releasing reviews of the campsites in our vicinity. As with any review some subjectivity comes along with the territory, but there are also some basics that can be easily measured; the number of tent pads, the canoe landing, the fire grate area and the view from...

The post Clearwater Lake Campsite Reviews appeared first on Clearwater Historic Lodge & Canoe Outfitters.

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Remembering a burning forest, 9 years later

Bearskin Blog - Fri, 05/06/2016 - 11:40am
Picture from MN Firewise

Nine years ago today the eastern section of the Boundary Waters canoe area was raging with fire.  75,000 acres of pristine land was burning wildly out of control.  Houses were lost. Lives were risked. Smoke filled the air all the way down to the Twin Cities.

And that is when Sue and Bob McCloughan signed the purchase agreement to buy Bearskin Lodge, in the midst of a fire that threatened to burn down the business.

We spent our days at school with one eye on our students and the other glued to the internet news about the fire. Eventually I just gave up and said “Kids, let’s go off topic and learn something really interesting about fire, that will also explain why your eyes are watering now.”  We all watched the changing fire maps and ravaged pictures.

Photo courtesy Gunflint Trail Fire Department

As the fire came closer to Bearskin, Bob & I tried to ascertain what precautions were being taken by Bearskin.  The owner wanted the lodge sale to remain a secret from his employees, yet from afar we were wildly concerned that “our” property would burn down and wished we could dare ask the employees what was happening. We called the owner, who said everything is fine, the sprinklers are going, and it’s so little to worry about that we’re flying to the tulip show in Iowa.

We already had enough history with him to think perhaps a second call was in order.  I called Bearskin and got Dee, who would later turn out to be a dear friend.  I said I was concerned about the Lodge and wondering what they were doing.  Dee assumed I was another one of the many concerned members of the Bearskin fan club, and talked about the preparations to leave. “Are the sprinklers on?” I asked.  It was evident that homes and businesses with the fire suppression sprinklers were surviving.  “Um, no, we, um, won’t be using the sprinklers,” she said. “We don’t think we need them.”   She was respectful enough of her current boss that she didn’t say, “No, we won’t be using the sprinklers because the FEMA sprinkler system was never maintained and is now in a thousand broken pieces, and actually we all think our boss believes it is in the best interest of the resort to burn down.”  (She saved those truths for later, in the many re-tellings of the story.)  Dee said other staff would be leaving for town with trucks and equipment, that the managers had left long ago to get a motel in Silver Bay to house their secret dogs and cats.  The owners?  Flying to a tulip show in Iowa. (Although we later heard they did show up at the lodge at some point, so good.) As we heard this on the phone, it was all we could do not to drive up ourselves and start pulling together sprinklers and trying to save the place.

Most Bearskin employees went to shelters in Grand Marais. Being low-level employees who ended up totally responsible for the stressful decision- making while the fire advanced towards Bearskin was very traumatic for some of the staff

Picture courtesy Mn IncidentCommand

One of them had a seizure outside the shelter, changing his life for years to come.  Another just cried and cried. The youngest employee, Adde, rose to the occasion and figured out how to be the adult in the group, a skill she can still muster up regularly in her real life today.

Of course, we only heard these stories after the fact.  All we knew was that we just put a lot of money down and signed a pile of papers to buy a resort where no preparations were being made to keep the resort from burning down momentarily.

And luckily, it didn’t.  A tongue of the fire made its way towards our area, but was kept under control. The physical beauty of our area remained untouched by fire and the cabins and resorts around us continued to be safe. This time.  There’s a long history of fires in these big woods and we understand that our turn could come. We hope not soon.

The Ham Lake fires started because of one camper. Conditions were right to spread a fire very quickly – as they are today.  The individual who accidentally started the fire was identified, demonized, persecuted, prosecuted, and basically dragged through hell until he eventually committed suicide.  Politicians tell us we live in a Christian nation, but if so, we ought to be able to do forgiveness a little better instead of always focusing on retribution.  He made a mistake. Any of us could. There’s a fine retelling of his sad story here.

Photo by Sue Prom

The lesson is please, please, please be careful with fires up here.  It’s dry and windy today.  There are thousands of branches down on the ground from this winter’s bend-down.   Keep fires small.  Some of you folks —is this a southern thing?—who like their pile of wood to be in a 5 foot tall tipi shape when it gets lit are just asking for trouble with those giant fires.  Small, under control, and always watched is the way the pros make a fire.  Above all, don’t walk away from the fire.  We see this all the time in the campground: raging fire in the pit, nobody around for miles—or even worse, obviously tents full of sleeping people. You can do better than that.

We will have fire on the Gunflint Trail again.  We are all a little more prepared for it now, after lessons learned from Ham Lake.  Bearskin has invested in an outstanding all – encompassing FEMA  fire suppression sprinkler system.  We test it  regularly, keeping it in perfect shape each year. Bob and Quinn are fire department members, who have been well-trained to assist in a fire or a rescue and best of all, they have fire department radios to be in quick contact in an emergency.   And needless to say, if something bad happens Bob, Sue, Quinn & Kate will not be off at a flower show, we will be here every minute to make sure, first of all, that our sweet staff is safe and untraumatized and secondly, to do what we must to preserve all your Bearskin memories here.

But let’s avoid another Gunflint Trail fire if we can.  Do your part!

Photo by Lee Johnson




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The Bearskin version of Fox News

Bearskin Blog - Sun, 05/01/2016 - 4:09pm
Fox photo by Katie Mumm

Almost everyone who visits Bearskin has high hopes of observing three specific northwoods animals.  The number one goal is always to spot a moose, then glimpse a bear (but only the rear end, as it runs away), and maybe, with luck, see or hear a wolf.

So you might be surprised to know that none of those creatures are the animal that Bearskin guests talk about the most during their stay.  Foxes are actually the critters that make our guests extra happy.  Hundreds of photos of posing and preening foxes are snapped every summer around the Main Lodge.  We sell dozens of fox stuffed animals, foxy kids’ purses, fox books, and fox cards.

Bearskin has a long history of having fairly tame red foxes living on the grounds of the resort.  When we first arrived at Bearskin almost a decade ago, our employee Adde regularly made meals for a ridiculously tame fox, and even allowed the fox into her apartment occasionally.  Foxes have been known to get in canoes, and supposedly a fox can untie a boat from the dock.  They peek in windows, pose on deck railings, and occasionally run off with meat intended for the grill.  The Shoe Stealing Fox (aka Imelda), was perhaps the most famous Bearskin fox, covertly sneaking flip flops, hiking boots, and tennis shoes off the deck and steps of cabin 7. Many a family combed the woods behind cabin 7, desperately trying to find a missing sneaker so a kid wouldn’t spend the remainder of their vacation limping around with only one shoe.

So here is a story to add to the fox legends:  About a week ago, when the ice was still solid, Kate and Quinn observed a fox crossing the bay with something in her mouth.  At first they assumed the fox was carrying a rabbit or squirrel, killed for dinner.  But as they looked more closely, they realized she was carrying a baby fox kit all the way across the lake.  Then she came back for another. And another, and another. By the time she was done ferrying her whole litter across the lake, the fox looked exhausted. It was no small task to move her family. This was peculiar behavior.  Quinn and Kate wondered why she would go to that much trouble to abandon a home and move so far away.

Previously, Quinn and Bob had been rebuilding the steps to cabin 7.  When they pulled the old steps off, they found chewed boards, broken styrofoam, and multiple signs that animals had been tunneling under cabin 7 for years.  So, of course, Quinn and Bob did a top-notch job of resealing every crack and hole, nailing up new boards and filling every possible animal entry point with spray foam. No creature would be getting back under that cabin!

Quinn thought about the fox mother for a few days and then started to wonder if her grueling move might be connected in some way to the rebuilding of the cabin 7 steps.  Yesterday Quinn and Bob went back to cabin 7 and pulled off a few of the new boards, attempting to see under the steps.

It was a surprise to discover a sizable fresh tunnel under the steps, circumventing their repairs.  At that point it became apparent what must have happened:  Bob and Quinn had accidentally entombed the litter of baby foxes. For two days they had worked on the steps, sawing and pounding and probably terrorizing a little fox family.  When the job was over and the foxes’ fear subsided, that mother dug an incredibly difficult new tunnel, removed all her babies, and stoically carried all of them as far away from that dreadful Cabin 7 as she possibly could.

We were left with two thoughts:

First, that is an extraordinarily heroic fox mother.

And secondly, deep under cabin 7 there are probably several years’ worth of missing shoes.


Fox photo by Jane Kolarich



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3.31.2016 Thanks for a great ski season

Bearskin Lodge Ski Trail Reports - Thu, 03/31/2016 - 4:23pm

Well, the time has come  — we are officially calling it the end of the 2015 -2016 ski season. We do still have a considerable amount of snow on the trails and you are welcome to come up to ski or snowshoe. But both resorts decided today that we are now officially done grooming for the season.  With 40 – 50 degree temps each day, there’s not much we can do with the groomer to recreate a nice surface. Time to store the equipment away and reflect on our great luck that during a winter when most of Minnesota was snowless, that once again the Central Gunflint Trail System offered great ski conditions all winter.

Golden Eagle did the final wrap up on the numbers for the season.  Our total snowfall was 93.46 inches — pretty fantastic for a “no snow” year!

  • New Snow Last 24 hours:  0.00”
  • New Snow Last 7 days:  2.00”
  • Trail Base, Staked:  Not measured
  • Snow in Woods, Staked:  Not measured
  • Surface Conditions:  Melting snow
  • Last grooming day:  3-26-16
  • Total snowfall since Nov. 1:  93.46”

Thanks for being such great guests.  We love our skiers, both our regular winter guests and our frequent day skiers, and we always miss them over the next seasons.  Stop in to say hi!

And don’t forget about our great Fall Work Weekend.  For just $99 plus a few hours of fun trail trimming, you can enjoy Bearskin Lodge in another season. Our skiing guests love seeing the trails during another season, plus it’s fun to ski by a location all winter and think, “I certainly did a great job of trimming here!” Find out more by clicking here.


Join us for trail trimming weekend in 2016

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3.26.2017 More snow, new grooming

Bearskin Lodge Ski Trail Reports - Sat, 03/26/2016 - 4:50pm

Just in case you were imagining that it’s not winter at Bearskin Lodge in late March this year…

New snow this morning made it possible to groom again, possibly for the last time this season unless we get a significant new snowfall.  Skiers seemed quite happy with conditions today, and the trails look beautiful.

A few trails are now out of commission for the season, for various reasons. We are no longer grooming the west end of Logging Camp Trail, the BWCA Logging Camp section, North-South link from upper Beaver Dam to Summer Home Road, and Poplar Creek Trail.

Due to the warm weather prior to last week, we are not grooming any lake-crossing trails for the remainder of the season   You can ski on the ice just fine, it’s not unsafe for you;  but the heavy grooming machines are another story. We don’t want a repeat of the infamous Dave Tittle story of putting a groomer through the ice!  The North-South Link trail across Flour Lake has a single lane classic track set by snowmobile to allow for a connection between the north and south halves of the system.

There have been a number of fun animal sightings on the trails in the past week, which is enjoyable for skiers. The moose are very active right now, and appear to love clomping right down the groomed trail.  We’ve also had many reports of foxes and otters along the trail–we like them better because they don’t destroy the grooming quite so much.

So far we’ve received about 92 inches of snow this season, not a record breaking winter by any means, but vastly better than almost anywhere else in the state. We are, indeed, in a magical snow pocket here in the med-Trail area. We still have about 15 inches of snow in the woods and a trail base of around 8 – 10 inches. Temps during the day are getting into the 30’s and even occasionally the 40’s, but our snow doesn’t seem to be disappearing at a very fast rate. Skiing is the best early each day, before the snow gets soft.

Spring conditions can change rapidly. Call us if you’re wondering if it’s a good day to ski.



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3.18.2016 Beautiful day, fabulous new snow

Bearskin Lodge Ski Trail Reports - Fri, 03/18/2016 - 1:39pm


Add Bear Cub, Campground, and Summer Home Road to the newly groomed list. )xcart, Beaver Dam, and Ridge Run were done yesterday.  Poplar Creek will not open for remainder of this March due to water problems.

Bring a camera if you come. The heavy snow stuck to the trees, so we have our Christmas card look back again.

Soup, chili, wine, beer, and of course, hot cocoa in the lodge if you come up for the day to ski.  Wish you could stay more than one day? We have a 3 nights for the price of 2 special going on now — ask for it when you call to reserve. We’ve had a lot of “drop everything and drive up to ski” phone calls today. Seems like the novelty of the early spring in the Twin Cities has worn off and people are getting weary of waiting for their grass to turn green!

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Sota 12.20.04 – 1.22.16

Gunflint Pines Northwoods News - Fri, 01/22/2016 - 5:48pm

Sota Hikes to Ham Lake.

With heavy heart we must report that we lost Sota early this morning. We will miss her greatly. She was a major part of our life here at the Gunflint Pines Resort. She was the camp greeter and often could be found opening the door to run out and greet the next guest as they arrived.

She often guided guests on hikes to Lonely lake or High cliffs. Many a guest would start off hiking only to find her flushing the path in front of them and waiting at the intersections to be sure they were on the right path. But many a guest would also come back without her, distraught only to have us ask how long they were hiking. We knew that if they had taken a short hike – she found others to hike with before coming home. She was an excellent bird dog, squirrel or chipmunk chaser and mouser. She was smarter than and had more grace than many humans (I swear!) and was nothing but loving to everyone.

Sota stalks Deer

Sota was 11 years old and had a good life. She was loved and adored by many children who returned each year only to ask where she was so they could pet her belly.

Sadly we feel we must also tell you that she was killed by Wolves. At 3am this morning, she had to go to the bathroom. Within minutes we heard them, quickly dressed and scared them off. It was too late. This happened within 30 ft of the building. It is a testament to the severity of the Wolf situation. We understand that this was always a possibility, and that the wolves are just trying to survive. We also know there are those out there who will criticize us for even mentioning the wolf situation, but those who do not live here, have no idea how large the population is.

Sota in her favorite spot in the lodge.

We used to have a deer herd of roughly 100 on the south shore of Gunflint. This year I have seen fewer than 4. Please understand that we also love the wolves and appreciate there need for balance in nature, but our position has and always will remain this: if you are going to manage the Moose, deer, small game etc populations – you must also manage the wolf population. There is no longer a balance in our area. The wolves are beginning to becoming desperate. How long before they begin starving and become aggressive.

Rest in peace Sota – many will miss you!

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Mother Nature Complicates opening the Banadad

Banadad Bulletin - Tue, 01/19/2016 - 12:45pm

When we last posted here, the Banadad Trail Association had just hosted the annual trail clearing day and membership meeting.  Several volunteers had clipped and sawed their way through miles of alder brush and fallen trees, readying the trail for the winter.  More trail-clearing folks followed in the next couple of weeks, and we all had a good feeling about the upcoming ski season.

How quickly that changed! The much-anticipated snow finally came, but not as the fluffly, fat flakes that we prefer.  Instead, it fell heavy and wet, cloaking every twig and tree in a thick coat.  Mother Nature mixed in a bit of freezing drizzle, and then added more of that same kind of snow.  Someone likened it to wet cement.  That was an apt description, for when it solidly froze, just like dried cement, it weighted those trees until they were bowing down to the ground.  For many miles, the trail was completely impassable.  As beautiful as it was, it created miles of havoc, and a boatload of new clearing to be done.

For the last several weeks, many people, both volunteer and paid, have been working hard to clear the trail so that it is usable this winter.  The good news is that at this point, the Lace Lake Trail (4K) and the Tall Pines Trail (1.7K) are both opened and groomed.  The snow depth is 18″.  Snow still covers the trees, making for a uniquely beautiful trail.  Come out and ski it!

The eastern end of the Banadad is once again nearly cleared, with about another day or two of work remaining.  As soon as we get fresh snow, this section will be groomed and tracked.  The trail will extend to the mid-trail junction, near the yurt.  A loop will be possible, utilizing the Moose Trail.  While not what we would have hoped for back in October when we were working, at least we have something here to ski. The distance for this section is 15.5K.

Unfortunately, it is not expected that the western end of the Banadad will be open this season.  Much work remains on the remaining 12K.  As time and funding permit, we will chip away at it, and we welcome your help if you so desire.  To that end, a sign has been posted in the parking lot, and two saws are hanging for anyone who wants to snowshoe in on the trail and cut a few things away.

We are so grateful to everyone who has stepped in to assist in the herculean effort to re-open the trail.  Mother Nature tossed us some lemons, but we didn’t let that stop us.  Join us on the Banadad, the Lace Lake Trail and the Tall Pines Trail, and see how pretty this season has turned out to be.




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After the Holidays – on to 2016!

Gunflint Pines Northwoods News - Wed, 01/13/2016 - 11:59am


Ready to slide at Gunflint Pines Resort!

Happy New Year!  2016 looks exciting and welcoming!  This past holiday season was the best we’ve had in many years.  The temperatures were great, the snow was plentiful, the ski trails were packed and tracked, sleds were sliding, snowmen were being made, quite the happy winter start!

Fun on the sledding hill.


Gunflint Pines Sledding fun!

My favorite game! Stop by if you want to play!

For Christmas my son bought me a Chinese Checker board, favorite game of mine!  I found my marbles so I’m ready to go!  Stop by if you want to play a game.  Remember we’re a pet friendly destination and I love puppies so feel free to share.  This little guy (still unnamed) was only 10 weeks old and looked like a stuffed animal!  He was adorable.  We offered the names of Sasquatch and Yeti – but they were leaning towards Cesar or similar.

Visiting Puppy at Gunflint Pines Resort!

Gunflint Lake froze over late this year!!!  The west end out front of us only froze over on the 30th of December.  The East end finally froze over the morning of the 4th.   With the colder temps the past week we are building ice quickly just in time for the Trout Opener this weekend.

This past year we started posting our future availability by means of google calendars in our blog section.  While we still do not have online booking capability and I have to update them manually it can give you a good guide as to what might be available for our cabins, camping cabins or our Lakehome.  I have also started relying on the google calendars to make updating our snow report and Ski Trail report easier and more up to date.  You can always feel free to call us directly for up to date information 218-388-4454.

Summer reservations are starting to book as people seem to be planning further ahead – don’t wait too long to give us a call and start planning your escape up north!




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