Every season offers a different set of experiences at Gunflint but there are some things that never change. The Kerfoot family has been here for 4 generations. One of the reasons we have stayed is that everyone in the family truly enjoys welcoming guests to the Northwoods. We like to help you explore our forest and find those places that are special. Bruce and Sue still enjoy talking with guests and are busy working with the staff to make your stay perfect. Our staff is always willing to talk with you about fun places to visit in the forest and lakes around us. So here are some ideas of what we see and do during the spring season.
The month of April is a thawing month for us. We change from winter to spring. Sometimes is takes a long time and other times is can go quickly. The first signs of spring come when the snow around the base of our trees starts to sink. Each tree will have a ring of slightly indented snow. The paved roads finally clear of ice and snow. The dirt roads clear of snow next. As the snow in the woods starts to melt, we get rivers of water running across the side road. It melts during the day and then freezes during the night but progress is made every day. Just walking down the back road makes you realize that there is a freshness in the air. When the temperatures are in the high 30’s and 40’s, it feels like a heat wave. It’s funny how when those same temperatures occur in May, everyone is freezing cold.
As April gives way to May, all attention is centered on the lake ice. Creeks, rivers and small ponds have been opening. Now it is time for the major lakes to open up. By afternoon each day, the ice turns gray and then black. It will freeze at night and be white in the morning, but by afternoon it will be melting again. Six inches of spring ice is not as safe as six inches of new ice. In the spring there is no way to predict which ice is safe where. Locals just stay off. In March the ice has lifted on broken free from the surrounding shore. The entire lake is one large floating block of ice. By late April the cracks between shore and ice grow wider. Then the flowing water from the Cross River starts to eat into the ice. Eventually there will be enough open water at the west end of the lake for the wind to start pushing the ice flow around. With a gentle wind things start to move quickly. If you go down to the shoreline, you can hear the ice tinkle as it moves back and forth. Eventually more and more of the lake is open until the day comes that the entire flow is driven down to the east end of the lake where is runs up on shore and melts immediately. On Gunflint Lake this last push only occurs with a northwest wind. Otherwise the rotten ice will just sit on the lake and wait for the wind.
Our Towering Pines Canopy Tour will open on April 26th. for the season. We will be offering several trips a day led by 2 sky guides. These 2+ hour adventures take you through the canopy of 300 year old white pine trees with an awsome view out over the basin and Canada to the north. Our senior most guest of last summer was a 90 year old women, and she had the biggest grin on her face of the entire family. We are offering a Zip and Sip weekend package on April 26-28.
By early May the bears start to come out. As the water warms to 50 degrees, walleyes move into their spawning areas. Seagulls and loons and mallards appear. Golden eye and canvasback ducks pass through on their way further north. Juncoes do the same. Even before the ice completely goes out, you might be the lucky one to spot the return of the first bald eagle. The first of May the horses return for the stables. It’s like welcoming home old friends. Evenings are the time to loosen up sore muscles in the hot tub and enjoy a good book before the fireplace.
By the second week in May, everyone is getting the itch for the opening of the fishing season. Most of the locals have long since eaten through their supply of frozen fish and are eager for a FRESH fish dinner. The resorts are busy putting out docks, boats and new motors. The first order of live bait comes in. It’s like we are holding our breath waiting for that magic moment.
Meanwhile in the main lodge, there is a flurry of preparations. Spring renovation projects are finished. The food inventory is checked and re-checked to make sure everything for the new menu is on it. Each day brings a delivery of new gifts and tackle for the gift shops. Permanent staff return back from vacations. Summer staff are starting work. Sheryl, Bonnie and Don are busy training in all the new staff. All the cabins receive their deep cleaning for the spring. Carpets are cleaned; walls are washed; mattresses are turned; windows are washed. Hopefully, the phone is ringing off the hook with new reservations.
Guests during this period have a chance to enjoy a quiet paddle on the lake. Hearing the loons call again is a great treat for everyone. The hiking trails have dried out and are ready for exploration. A boat ride and short hike to Bridal Falls shows the water cascading with its normal spring rush. The newly arrived horses are ready for a ride. It’s fun to check each day to see what new gifts have arrived in the store. Also there are lots of new menu items to try in the dining room.
Then, almost before we know, it’s time to go fishing again. Our feature spring fishing package is Fishing with Friends, a nice all inclusive package. Each morning anxious fisherman crowd the dining room. Boxes lunches and thermoses of coffee are picked up. Guides wait at the dock for their parties. Things quiet down when the last boat leaves the dock. By late afternoon, boats come back to proudly show off their day’s catch. At dinner in the dining room and afterwards in the main lodge, fish stories of the day will be compared. Bruce loves to fish lake trout in the early spring and is happy to share his secret techniques and baits with you. Another great fishing package is our Grand Slam Package.
Late May brings leaves. It’s hard for those who live south of us to realize how late our leaves come. One day we will have a soft gentle rain. Afterwards you can look across the late and see the first green fuzzy of leaves. Looking down on the ground shows green popping up everywhere. But it is still not safe to plant flowers and vegetables. That has to wait until the first of June.
Just as it is safe to plant flowers the first of June, so it is the time when wild flowers burst upon us. Daisies and buttercups, Indian paintbrush and hawkweed open up along every road. Fern fiddleheads are pushing up. March marigolds brighten every swamp with their bright yellow flowers. Tiny wild strawberry blossoms give a promise of wild berries to come. Wildflowers in the woods are complemented by flowers on the grounds of the lodge. You will see Bruce and Sue out with many staff filling in our gardens with annuals, perennials, and shrubs.
As spring continues, more and more activities center around our lakes. Of course, fishing is great. The main species are walleye, lake trout, northern, and smallmouth bass. Many guests choose to go out with guides while others go out on their own. Box lunches are available from the kitchen if you are planning on staying out all day.
Day canoe trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are another option for exploring the nearby lakes. Lee guided canoe trips when he was in school and is happy to help you plan a day trip. You can bring a fishing pole along or just plan on exploring. There are lots of animals living around the lakes. If you are quiet and pay attention, you can be rewarded by seeing beaver, otter, deer, moose, loon, etc. Just seeing the magnificent animals in their natural settings will make your whole trip. A very lucky few may see an eagle dive down from the sky to catch a fish. Others will hear the slap of a beaver’s tail upon the water. Otter are very inquisitive and will often swim and dive very close to your canoe. Motionless blue heron will stand in the shallow waters watching you go by.
Around the main lodge there are many activities to keep you busy. An afternoon massage will take the kinks out of your body. Children find endless entertainment playing at the small sand beach. I have never seen a child who tires of throwing rocks into the water. There is corn and sunflower seeds to feed the ducks and birds either at the dock or right outside your cabin window. Old logging roads are open for exploration by mountain bike. As the aquatic plants grow, nearby ponds will have moose coming in to feed. The hiking trails in the back basin and along the Gunflint Trail offer a chance to stretch your legs. You can stretch your legs another way be taking a horseback ride. There are one-hour rides, breakfast rides, half-day rides, and dinner rides. Starting the first of June the staff naturalists will organize activities for the entire family.
As you can see, no matter what season you visit Gunflint, there is lots to do. Many things are unique to one season while others are available throughout the year. One thing we can promise you is comfortable cabins, great meals, and friendly service. As they have for generations, the Kerfoot family is here to welcome you to your home in the woods.