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 several generations (80 years and counting). 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 planning excursions for them. 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 winter season.
The first of December is when winter really starts to come at Gunflint. We usually have several inches of snow on the ground. Sometimes it’s enough to start cross country skiing and sometimes we wait a bit longer. The fresh white snow looks beautiful on our trees and bushes.
Around the 20th of December Gunflint Lake will freeze over. For weeks we have been watching it steam off excess warmth on cold mornings. The bays will freeze over earlier. Little stretches of ice will creep out from shore. Then one morning we wake up to a lake covered with ice. Or perhaps we can watch the lake cover with ice throughout a cold calm day. It is quite a transformation to see. The ice is not safe to walk on until there are several inches of solid blue ice. Sometimes this happens over a week of very cold nights. On rare occasions we have no snow during this period. The ice is smooth as a skating rink. In fact, you can strap on your skates and go all over the lake but this only happens rarely.
The first weekends in December are also our holiday decorating weekends. We like to dress the lodge up for the upcoming season. There are lights to hang, wreaths to make, and trees to decorate. Those with long arms and legs help put the top ornaments on the tree in the main lodge. Many guests have helped decorate for years and it has become part of their holiday tradition.
About now we will have enough snow to open the cross country ski trails. The piston-bully groomer has rolled a base and set a track. You could be the first party on the trail for this year’s ski season. For those who love to ski, there is nothing better than the first ski of the year and Gunflint it the perfect setting to do it in. We will have great skiing until the end of March. There are lots of trails and we never have big crowds on them. It is so quiet that you can hear your skiis swishing across the packed trail. This is perfect country for cross country skiing.
One of Jenny’s massages is a great way to loosen up after a day of skiing. We are lucky to have her available for massages. Just ask the front desk to arrange one for you.
Winter also brings the chance for a little ice fishing. On Gunflint that means fresh lake trout for dinner. Some days the lake is warm and sunny for your fishing trip. You better remember to put on your suntan lotion or you will come back with a burned face. There is nothing better than watching your bobber go down as a trout hits it. As you reel in, you will start thinking about how good the fish will taste for dinner.
The frozen lake offers opportunities we don’t have in the summer. On many days you can just look across and see wolves on it. Just last week some wolves chased deer across the lake and right up to the lodge. The wolves didn’t stop until they reached the dock. On a clear still night, you want to take a walk out onto the frozen lake. Looking up you will see a display of stars unlike anything you have every seen before.
The Kerfoot family has found ways for you to observe animals throughout the winter. Throughout the day you will encounter deer walking around the cabins. Our deer are very tame. We don’t forget the birds during the winter. Our feeders are loaded with sunflower seeds. On cold winter days there is a steady stream of fluffy birds coming in for food.
Winter walks down the back road are great for a little exercise. Another form of walking in the woods is offered by a pair of snowshoes. Snowshoes are the traditional form of transportation for winter walkers. They can take you far into the woods through the deepest snow. It’s just like walking so you have plenty of time to look around and see what’s happening in the woods. Unlike skiing, you can easily stop anytime to watch a deer scamper off.
Although Gunflint does not have a lot of snowmobilers, we have found that many of our guests would like to try snowmobiling. So we have a couple machines available and the snowmobile artery trail is nearby. It can be great fun to go down to the east end of the lake or to go down to Trail Center for some hot chocolate. Actually the advent of snowmobiling in the sixties is what reminded people of Minnesota that there is lots to do in the woods during the winter no matter how you choose to explore.
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.