Archive for the ‘Bearskin Lodge’ Category

Our great guests: What’s your Bearskin story?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011


1.24.11 Windy night, drifty day

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Pisten bully headed out across East Bearskin Lake this morning

It started snowing hard yesterday afternoon, then the wind blew wildly all evening. The air is still filled with tiny sparkling flakes. The total accumulation wasn’t great, but there are massive drifts here and there. (Addendum after grooming:  Quinn reports that there was a much greater accumulation of snow than we first guessed, especially at higher elevations such as on Bear Cub.)  

We saw a few skiers out right away this morning, but honestly, there can’t be much left of the ungroomed trails right now. Sunday was a crazy windy night.

Quinn has headed out in the pisten bully, starting with Poplar Creek and Oxcart trails.  On this side of the system he will be the only groomer out today, as Bob has other repercussions of the windy night to deal with. You can expect that all the trails will get done sometime today, but not on the fast program.  Call the lodge if you want a current update of completed trails.

Addendum after grooming:  The grooming progress turned out to be slower than planned on Monday, due to deeper drifts and wetter snow than expected.  Poplar Creek, Oxcart, and Bear Cub are done.  Thye rest will be groomed on Tuesday.

Living the Dream — the Sequel

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Not long after we bought Bearskin Lodge in 2007, we posted a blog about buying a resort to “live the dream.”  As an example of how idyllic resort life truly is, we included this picture of Bob heading down into a septic system while assorted paid maintenance people stood by and watched.

Living the dream -- Part 1

Three and a half years later, life on the Gunflint Trail for Bob is even better.  Below is a picture from today’s project, fixing two underground water lines between the hot tub house and cabins 9-11 that recently sprung leaks.  Now look who gets to stand around watching while somebody else heads down into a disgusting hole.  Bob and Dave Tuttle make excellent supervisors while Quinn digs, digs, digs.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

This is why we had kids, right?

Living the dream -- Part 2

Do your “last minute” shopping the easy way at Bearskin

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I spent all day Saturday and Sunday on the internet, futilely attempting to do our family’s holiday shopping online. Shopping was a total failure — everything I attempted to buy online was gone. Once upon a time it was not considered to be “last minute shopping” until December 24th, but now by mid-December stores are sold out of everything. I’m not emotionally ready to start shopping in October, but to preserve what remains of my sanity I should learn to start earlier in the future.

If you’re in the same spot with your gift buying options, maybe a gift from Bearskin would help out.  The easiest gift is a Bearskin gift certificate.  You can purchase one in any amount over the phone.  The certificate is attractive and can be used to buy lodging or gifts at Bearskin.   It’s a straightforward, much appreciated option.

Many items from the Bearskin gift shop can easily be mailed to you or the recipient.  Here are a few suggestions for gifts that are popular with Bearskin guests year ’round and are simple to order and ship.

Books always make a great gift.

"Taste of the Gunflint Trail" $19.95

"Becoming a BWCA Family" $12.95

Taste of the Gunflint Trail is more than just a cookbook.  The stories and histories of resort life on the Gunflint Trail are fascinating reading even for people who don’t like to cook. Becoming a Boundary Waters Family offers advice on basic camping and outdoor skills for anyone who enjoys canoe trips, but the book’s focus is on learning canoe trip skills for families.  If you know someone who is just starting to consider venturing out into the BWCA, this book is a thoughtful gift.

How about a Bearskin poster or the historic 1935 Bearskin map?  These are attractive and are inexpensive to mail.

Bearskin Lodge 11" x 17" Poster "Stream" $18.00

Bearskin Lodge poster 11" x 17" "Moon" $18.00

Historic 1935 Bearskin Map 11" x 17" $15.00


A signed print created by a well-known artist is always a nice gift idea.    Our Betsy Bowen framed 5″ x 7″ Summer and Winter at Bearskin prints  are a favorite gift item. 

Betsy Bowen Bearskin "Winter" Print 5" x 7" $8.00

Betsy Bowen Bearskin "Summer" Print 5" x 7" $8.00

Looking for a stocking stuffer?  Bearskin Lodge multi-purpose knives are only $8.00 and ship very inexpensively.  They come in a small brown box for gift wrapping.  Gunflint Trail playing cards are only $5.95 and also come in an easy-to-wrap small box.

Bearskin Lodge Knife $8.00

Gunflint Trail Moose Playing Cards $5.95

Someday Bearskin may have a real online store, but for now if you’d like to buy any of these gifts (or anything else  you recall as being stocked in the Bearskin Lodge gift shop) just call our front desk at (800)338-4170.  We can figure out your shipping costs for you then, but almost everything we sell will ship for less than $5.00. We don’t add big shipping charges.  We will charge for the padded envelope and the actual cost of postage.  All the items listed here ship well in padded envelopes via the post office, or UPS if you prefer.  Post office items go out every morning; UPS shipments go out a few times a week from Bearskin. 

 It’s not too late to shop at a store that hasn’t run out of everything!

Let the ski season begin!

Friday, November 26th, 2010
Cabin 2, after the snow

 Wow, it’s November 26th and it is already real winter on the Gunflint Trail.  When the Twin Cities was hit with 12 inches of snow earlier in the month, Bearskin received only about 5 inches.  It gave us a wintery appearance, and was enough to give us a start on preparing ski trails, but it wasn’t enough snow to get excited about.  A few inches of additional snow fell sporadically after that, just enough to require repetitive shoveling.

Dad and daughter ski lessons.

 And then our Wednesday/Thursday snow came and suddenly it was truly winter.  We’re grooming ski trails, plowing roads, shoveling steps, sanding hills, and snow-blowing pathways — so totally different from the spring, summer, and fall routines at Bearskin.  We are very busy for Thanksgiving weekend this year, but most of our guests booked a Thanksgiving cabin without any intention to ski. The new snow gave several families an opportunity to try skiing for the first time.

Bearskin had snow last winter when many resorts along the North Shore did not.  We’re lucky that way; we seem to be in a snow belt.  But this early start to the ski season is exceptionally promising.   We’re offering an early season December special between December 1 – 17: three nights for the price of two, an especially good buy because most of those dates are still on Value Season pricing.  Come up and make the most of our early winter skiing.

Pisten Bully, out on the Lit Loop for the first time this season.

November: not quite winter, not quite fall

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

November is an odd month on the Gunflint Trail.  Nobody quite knows what to expect in November, other than that it will be very, very quiet up here. 

 I never quite know how to categorize November.  Bearskin has a daily photo site on Flickr with pictures labeled by their dates.  November can look like this:

November, the fall version, 2009

Or this: 

November, the winter version,2010

 After each month is over, we need to put the month into a group on Flickr – is it fall or winter?  The calendar says November is “fall,” but the pictures often say “winter.”  We watch the lake “ice-over” — then watch it melt again.  We pray for snow to guarantee a good ski season — and then hope for no snow to extend our pleasant fall.  We enjoy the opportunity to be at our own resort in peace and quiet — but then wish guests were here to enjoy the November beauty and solitude.

Bearskin employees have plenty to do in November.  All the paraphernalia that defines summer–boats, docks, swim rafts, beach chairs–needs to disappear for winter.  The pisten bully and G2 groomers need to be brought out, the snow shovels and ski racks need to reappear, the wood racks need to be filled.

Most Bearskin employees  spend November “deep cleaning.”  There are two goals in deep cleaning:   to get every inch of every cabin immaculately clean for the next season, and to find the secret items people hid in cabins for next year.  At this point we think we know all the hiding places, including the concealed spot in Cabin 3 where notes survived for years.  But our guests keep coming up with creative new clandestine challenges. 

Deep cleaning in November can be a tough job because the hard usage of the summer takes a toll on our cabins.   Bearskin cabins are all lovely, but there is no end to what we would like to replace and revamp in every cabin if we had an endless supply of money.  (I’m working on that “endless supply of money” by investing $1 a month in winning Powerball, but surprise, surprise, so far that hasn’t been paying off for us.)  Every fall and spring we try to upgrade a few items in every Bearskin cabin.  We always appreciate input from our guests about what they would most like us to improve next. Feel free to write to us at if you have suggestions.  There’s nothing like living in a cabin for a week to truly know what ought to be updated.

Our big project for fall is a new stone fireplace in Lynx Cabin #9.  All Bearskin cabins have either a woodstove or a fireplace.  For years the favorite fireplace has been the one in Birch Cabin #5.  That’s a very basic fireplace, but guests love it and as a result, it can be very, very difficult to get a spot in Cabin 5.  We put a similar fireplace into Spruce Cabin #1. That has made Cabin 1 much more popular, but it’s too small a cabin for many family groups.  Cabin 9 was open for much of the fall, so we decided to experiment with a massive fireplace in there.

The stone mason is nearly done, and so far we think the new fireplace is beautiful.  It’s made from local river rocks that have been sliced in half, rather than from “cultured” stone.  The firebox is a very energy-efficient unit, so this will not only be beautiful but more cost-effective than the average fireplace. 

Stone mason Mark Harrington working on the new Cabin 9 fireplace

If this November is any indication, we should have a beautiful, snowy winter this year.  Cabin 9 will be a gorgeous place to relax in front of the fireplace after enjoying a ski, dog sledding, or snowshoe adventure at beautiful Bearskin. .

A disconcerting afternoon

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

A large percentage of Bearskin Blogs include a line that goes something like this:  “Then the power went out.”

This story is no exception.  It was a relatively slow fall afternoon, when unexpectedly the usual background sound mix of computers, coolers, refrigerators, fluorescent lights, and monotonous lodge music abruptly stopped.  A  sudden deeper silence is always the first sign of a power outage, followed shortly by the fading whistle of alarms reluctantly relinquishing their electrical connection. 

Our power outage routine is pretty ingrained by now – send Andy out to flick on switches in various locations around the resort; dig around to find the old rotary dial phone to plug in; call Arrowhead Electric to report the power loss; reluctantly drag out the generator in case power is slow to be restored; and repeatedly tell each other how happy we are that it is not a subzero winter day.

Very little can be accomplished in the lodge office without electricity. I was mindlessly paging through the JC Penney sale catalog, when a very unusual noise broke the silence.   Was it a mechanical sound?  A system breakdown?  A result of the power problem?   No, it only took milliseconds to realize the noise originated from something living — and it was screaming.

The deep, pained noises echoing from across East Bearskin Lake were reminiscent of sound effects from a monster movie.   It seemed implausibly loud and close; clearly it was not a human.  I ran down to the lake, expecting to view a horrifying scene on shore.  Every Bearskin employee and guest quickly converged at water’s edge, all of us intently staring towards the source of the sounds across the bay. Nothing was visible, but as the unceasing screams continued we all knew we were listening to something die.  It was an excruciatingly long, slow death.

Eventually silence returned, leaving us all a bit disquieted.  We rehashed the bits and pieces of the event that we could each recall.  Did we hear one animal noise or two in the beginning?  Was there a deeper growling at first or did the sound change?  Andy had been out checking on the electrical problems when he saw a large, German-shepherd colored wolf duck into underbrush along the shoulder of the service road.  He noted the running tracks of a deer or a small moose in the same spot.  Kate and Quinn reported a panicked deer running close by staff housing.  Guests in cabin 6 paddled along the shoreline, attempting to see what occurred, but there were no apparent signs of a traumatic demise.  

The general consensus was that we had probably listened to the death of a moose on the opposite shore.  Or perhaps a bear.  An animal with a deep, loud death cry.  An animal that did not die easily.   We returned to the mundane tasks of dealing with a power outage, but we all felt a bit on edge.

After work Ryan decided to walk the Bear Cub Trail in search of an explanation for what happened.  With a great deal of exploring, he found the remains of a young deer that had been killed by wolves very near the lake’s edge on the opposite shore.  Andy had told us that deer could make a profoundly distressed noise like we heard, but until Ryan located the carcass none of us actually believed that the prolonged death cry reverberating across the lake could have emanated from such a quiet, small animal.

Death in a wilderness environment is a daily occurrence. Studies report that wolves in the Great Lakes region normally consume 15-18 deer per wolf per year. With so many wolves in our area, what we heard must happen around us often.  But we don’t usually listen to the pain.  The nature of the predator/prey relationship  is easier to accept when death is silent, when predation happens in a way that doesn’t disturb or distress us.  Listening to a death in the woods was a disconcerting reminder of reality in the wild.

Congratulations, Curtis!

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

If you’ve ever been out in a boat with Bearskin’s fishing guide, Curtis Blake, you can now say that you took fishing lessons from a master fisherman. Curtis, along with his teammate Jon Dircks, took first place in a Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit fishing tournament on August 22nd .   Curtis and Jon “brought a monster 19.70-pound basket to the scale,” according to the Cabela’s press release, to win the “walleye fest” at the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s Western Division stop on Devils Lake.  More info at:  and

 The contest offered an $11,000 first place check, so Curtis is understandably pleased about the outcome.  It’s going to be much tougher to expect him to work for peanuts now at Bearskin. @@


Picture courtesy of

Picture courtesy of


Saying Goodbye to Summer Staff

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Summer is drawing to a close and we have yet to blog about our wonderful 2010 staff.  As many of them  head back to college this week and we say goodbye , it’s time to recognize the great job they’ve done for Bearskin guests this year.     

This has been the “no drama” group of summer employees.   (This is not theater camp, so we like that.) They simply get along.  There was no better demonstration of their healthy attitude than the Saturday early in the summer when — surprise, surprise — our full-time teacher/naturalist abruptly quit because the job was too much work.  We were shocked. Young people blowing off jobs are common occurrences at other resorts, but Bearskin hires very carefully.  This never happens here.  Panic set in.     

Our worries lasted about 10 minutes.  All our staff members who’d been scrubbing toilets and hauling wood viewed that naturalist job as a pretty cushy gig.  We have an extraordinarily well – educated crew.  Within a few minutes we put together a new naturalist program, using our staff’s many unique skills and talents.  They’ve done a great job. As a group they pulled together to help solve a problem. No tears, no drama, no funny stuff, just a job well done all summer.  That is what we will remember about this group. Ask us for a job reference for any of these young Bearskin employees and we will be pleased to tell you they are all the type of employees who just quietly go about getting their jobs accomplished.     



Dixie, from Lake Park, MN attends college at Minnesota State University Moorhead.  Dixie plans to be a social worker someday. Dixie was the first to head back to college last week, along with Millie, her pet rat.  Dixie practiced gunnel pumping early in the summer for the Gunflint canoe races, but on the day of the race she opted for backwards paddling with Ryan instead.     



Emily is about to graduate from Bethel College in St. Paul.   This fall she will be doing an editing/publishing internship with Coffee House Press.  Emily, paddling with Kaitlin, came in 2nd in the women’s  sprint paddle  at the Gunflint Canoe races; for a while that combo even looked like they might win it.     



Laura is a senior at Oberlin College in Ohio.  Her long career as a pole vaulter has been of minimal use at Bearskin.  Laura turned down a job catching prairie dogs this summer in order to work at Bearskin. Laura, along with her sister Kate, came in first in the women’s sprint paddle during the July canoe races.  She survived remarkably long in the gunnel pumping event, also.     



Kaitlin is in grad school at Indiana University, studying Chinese in the East Asian studies department.  We would have hired Kaitlin even if she didn’t happen to be our daughter, but her organizational ability is what kept our naturalist program on track this summer. She & Emily came in 2nd in the women’s short paddle in the canoe races, and she & Ryan made a great team in the broken paddle race.     

Ryan with Dixie at the canoe races


Ryan is this summer’s all-purpose guy – he cooks dinners, bakes pies, takes care of boats, and helps with front desk.  Ryan returned to this area after a stint in Montana.  His family lives on Hungry Jack Lake. Ryan is game to try almost anything, as evidenced by this post-gunnel pumping photo from the canoe races.     




 Tim is a seminary graduate with a long history of working as a maintenance man in the Chicago area, although he is relatively new to Minnesota.  Tim stays in a cheerful mood no matter how often  we call him on the radio to do jobs he’s already done dozens of times in a day’s work.     

Kate -- minus the Newfie dog that she will probably have following her around next time you see her at Bearskin.


Kate worked at Bearskin for two summers, before deciding to stay in the north woods awhile after she graduated from Columbia University in 2009.  “Sternin’ Vernon” has become an accomplished canoeist, an excellent cross country skier, and a master lettuce grower during her stint at Bearskin. She won the women’s sprint paddle at the canoe races for the 3rd year in a row, each year with a different paddling partner. The secret must actually be the experienced “sternin’.”     

Andy unloading new canoes this spring


Andy has been with us at Bearskin for almost as long as we’ve owned the resort.  He has become the most familiar face at the front desk and the most recognizable voice on the phone.  Andy is indispensable, not only for his knowledge of the Gunflint Trail area but also for his value as a target to be teased. We don’t tell Andy how much we appreciate him nearly often enough.     



Quinn is our son and is the guy who takes the most guff from us.  For the second year in a row, this spring  Quinn coached the Girl’s Minnesota State High School Ultimate Frisbee champions. Quinn is happiest when he’s in a canoe; he won the men’s solo race at the Gunflint Canoe races this summer, which made him very happy.  “Bearskin Wilderness Outfitters,” Bearskin’s new BWCA canoe outfitting business, is actually Quinn’s project. 

Read more about our staff at the Gunflint Trail Canoe races in Quinn’s blog at

Question #1: Is it necessary to enter the BWCAW at the entry point and date shown on your permit? Why?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Good question. Obviously, certain areas of the Boundary Waters would be overly crowded if there weren’t some limits on where and when paddlers could enter each lake. But there’s another really good reason to enter at the correct place, one that matters even more to your family and friends – if you fail to return on time and your panicked family starts worrying about you, when you have entered at the correct entry point the people who search for you will at least know where to look.

The wildly windy conditions of the past few days meant that many paddlers were windbound, frequently just biding their time at a campsite until the turbulent weather subsided. Whenever you head out on a BWCA trip, you should plan for this possibility. Forewarn your family members that in case of a delay during blustery weather, it’s more probable that you are waiting out the wind than that you have perished at the bottom of a windy wilderness lake.

Still, sometimes family members are determined to worry. Maybe they will even call the outfitters who rented you the canoe. And the forest service. And the Cook County sheriff. And everybody else they can think of, because they really, really care that you are safe. In that case, it’s vitally important that you went into the BWCA where your permit said you were going to enter.

During the windy conditions of the past few days, we were all worried about many paddlers. Dave Seaton, of Hungry Jack Outfitters, was especially concerned about a late returning father and two sons whose permit said they entered on our lake, East Bearskin. At one point Dave borrowed the largest Bearskin motor boat to head out through the gusty wind and white-capped waves in search of this family of paddlers, with no success. When they hadn’t returned by the next morning, Quinn took the boat out again to look for them, as well as for a young couple who’d rented paddles from us to go out on a day trip and didn’t return. No luck. (The couple did show up later that day, and their story is a great one!) The forest service called, asking to borrow a boat to search for the family.

All day we watched for the family to return, getting excited every time we spotted a canoe that might have 3 people in it. We asked every paddler who came back if they had seen the family—many canoeists could give us an accounting of all the paddlers they’d passed, but nobody matched the description of the missing family.

As it turned out, there was a good reason nobody found the group. They weren’t there. They took a permit for entry point #64, but went in to the BWCA elsewhere.

Nobody plans to be the focus of a BWCA search. Nobody expects to be greatly delayed on their canoe trip. Nobody intends to make other people worry. But in the vast wilderness surrounding the Gunflint Trail and the Boundary Waters, there are no guarantees that everything will go as planned. As tempting as it might be to enter the BWCA where ever you wish to go in, remember that if things go wrong, many other people may be involved in the search for you. It is selfish and thoughtless to create a situation where other people might end up hunting for you in the wrong place.

“Is it necessary to enter the BWCAW at the entry point and date shown on your permit?”  That’s not just an annoying first question on the BWCA permit test. “Yes! Entry points regulate visitor distribution and support solitude,” is what the test form answers. But it’s not just about rules to limit the density of people on your  favorite BWCA lake – going in at the right entry point just might keep you, and the people who might go out looking for you, a little safer in a wilderness environment.