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Boreal Community Media

Living life on the Gunflint Trail with Dewey Pihlman

Jul 05, 2021 10:47PM ● By Editor
Photos submitted by Dewey Pihlman

Exclusive to Boreal Community Media - July 6, 2021

Nestled amongst the pines in a cabin on the Seagull River near the end of the Gunflint Trail lives Dewey Pihlman.  Accessible only by boat, his home is a little slice of heaven that he created with his own hands over forty years ago.  Dewey, now 81 years young, shares with Boreal Community Media both the joys and setbacks of the solitude life that he has chosen for himself.  

Dewey’s cabin, looking like a picture-perfect postcard.

In his earlier life, Dewey enlisted in the Navy at 17.  He served from 1958 to 1961, working as a machinist mate in the engine rooms on naval ships.   His one regret is that he did not stay in the Navy longer.  When he got out, he hit the road but that did not last long.  As much as he wanted to enroll in college, he did not do so because of all the Vietnam protests.  According to Dewey, he then came back to Minnesota and got a “dumb job that he really hated making $2.25 an hour”.  He decided that was not for him and went to the cities and found employment working in die casting in manufacturing.  He then went to Dunwoody, taking night classes to learn how to run a lathe and work on guns.  Around that time he met a kid who was working at a tool and die shop, who convinced him to talk to his boss.  He was hired and then began learning on the job.  Dewey stayed there two years, making lots of overtime. From there, he continued working in the tool and die trade for over 50 years.  He said that he moved every time he wanted to learn something new.  “You could walk into any shop and get hired on the spot”, he said, adding that he was fortunate to travel all over the world during those years.

Dewey at college graduation.

Proving that it’s never too late in life to try new things, at the age of 71 Dewey enrolled in the Integrated Manufacturing Technology program at Lake Superior Technical College with the support and encouragement of Cook County Higher Education.  Dewy said, “Going back to college was the best thing I ever did for myself”.  He graduated with high honors at the age of 73 in May, 2013.  He was selected as one of 20 recipients of the Mark M. Welter World Citizen Award.  

Dewey decided to move and build his home at the end of the trail because he always enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping.  There is a walleye spawning area right near his dock.  Dewey said, “I am alone, and don’t get a lot of visitors.  I do have some concerns as I get older and live so remotely. I go through plenty of hardships to live here, such as cutting wood and hauling supplies in”.  One of the setbacks of his location is having to cross the ice in colder months, something he has learned to deal with.  He admits going through the ice a couple of times but being fortunate enough to make his way out on his own.  Dewey is grateful to be able to live there at his age and is thankful for his good health.    Even with the remote location, he still is able to enjoy having broadband internet and electricity.

A trip to town can be dangerous over the winter months.

What does Dewey do to pass the time away?  He has developed a special relationship with the wildlife surrounding his cabin.  He said that the fox, in particular, trusts him because he talks to them and makes intense eye contact with them.  He said that foxes are curious little animals and watch every move that he makes.  He started offering them treats on the ground, and eventually they trusted him enough to come and eat gently right out of his hand.  

Thanksgiving pie is not just for humans.

At one time, he had four fox friends walking around the inside of his house.  Dewey shared his most remarkable experience with a fox, “I was doing dishes and she brought a squirrel in her mouth to me and sat and waited for acknowledgement from me”. He has not seen many foxes since spring due to a lynx who is killing them off.  Dewey said in his 50 years of feeding wildlife, he has never been bitten. 

I brought you a squirrel, now what?

Another pastime that Dewey has is making silver jewelry.  In addition to pounding silver, Dewey is a skilled photographer, but as with his jewelry pieces, only shares-with family and friends and never sells his work. 

Some of the jewelry that Dewey enjoys making.

Dewey is the proud father of two daughters who love coming to visit him.  One lives in Minneapolis with his 5 year old granddaughter.  The other daughter is in Michigan, and just passed her physician assistant board exam.  

Dewey is a testament to the fact that alone is just a state of mind as he continues to live the good life along the Gunflint Trail. 

Dewey holding his young granddaughter


Dinner with Dewey and friend

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