located on the Gunflint Trail, Grand Marais, Minnesota
Updated: 3 hours 5 min ago
Bruce and I were sitting around talking after dinner. The question came up about how old the lodge was. We tend to start counting the age of Gunflint from when Grandma Spunner and Justine bought it in 1929. But, of course, that is not correct. It is actually 90 years old.
Gunflint Lodge was started in 1925 by Dora Blankenburg and her son, Russell. The Blankenburgs bought a small resort called Lighthouse Lodge in Three Lakes, Wisconsin in 1920. They catered to wealth fishermen from the Chicago area. As one of their guests was checking out, the guest said that even though they had been happy at the lodge, the next summer they would be checking out a new fishing area in Minnesota called Gunflint.
Russell came up to investigate the Gunflint area. In 1925 he bought some land on Gunflint Lake for the family to build a resort on. They built Gunflint Lodge, a small lodge with three rental units. Running a second resort so far away from the first was more difficult than they had expected. After a few years, Mrs. Blankenburg decided to sell the new resort.
The Blankenburgs also owned property on Lake Zurich in Illinois. One of their neighbors and friends were the Spunner family from Barrington, Illinois. Mr. Spunner was a lawyer who had helped with the purchase of the land for Gunflint Lodge. After a visit to Gunflint Lodge, Mrs. Spunner and her daughter, Justine, decided to buy Gunflint Lodge. They sold two farms to come up with the money for the down payment. The purchase happened in August of 1929. It was not the best time to invest in a new resort but no one knew that at the time.
While Mrs. Blankenburg returned to run Lighthouse Lodge, Russell Blankenburg stayed in the Gunflint Trail. He took money out of the stock market and bought property on Loon, Gunflint, Seagull and Saganaga Lakes. Over the years he would build resorts, run canoe outfitters and sell land for summer homes on this property. Russell’s story will be told in another blog.
Meanwhile, as this picture shows, Bruce has finished his fireplace for #18. Right now it is a big mess to get cleaned up and ready for guests. Bruce’s body is quite happy the job is finished.
The ice on Gunflint Lake is quickly going out. Right now the entire bay in front of Cross River Lodge is out. We are due to have warm temperatures and wind during the next week. That will probably take the ice out pretty quickly.
Not everyone is happy to see the ice go out as we discovered during lunch today. We were looking out at the lake and what should appear but an otter. The animal was running across the lake for about 6 steps and then doing a belly flop and sliding on the ice. We all stood watching until it reached our shore and disappeared among the rocks. It was perfectly obvious that the otter was enjoying every minute of his play time. We were tempted.
Today is our first day of rain and does it look wonderful! We have had snow flurries but starting about 5:30 this morning, it was all rain. As a result, Gunflint Lake is quite black. I can tell by some of the plowing marks that the ice flow is moving east. That is what we want. A good strong northwest wind would really help the process. On the north shore of the lake, the open water coming out of Cross River is getting close to the end of the point. Eventually the flowing water from the river will drive all the ice to the east end of the lake and then out. We are ready.
Over on Tucker Lake the ice is so black that Bruce figures he could drive a boat right through it. I don’t think we are going to try just yet. Tucker Lake is a long narrow lake and not anywhere near as deep as Gunflint. So, it will probably be out at least a week before Gunflint it.
This weekend was another one of the dog lovers weekends. I think we have about 19 dog lovers with their pets. We have doggie socials, homemade doggie treats, etc. The most popular events with the dogs is to just take long walks in the woods without leases. I think the people enjoy it the most also. Luckily Friday and Saturday were just perfect for this activity. Now the rain can come.
As the spring comes along, we have more than just birds wandering back. Our neighbors down the lake have already had two black bears on their porch. Adam’s dogs woke everyone up barking at bears. As long as they stay out of the garbage, I don’t care.
While walking down the Tucker Lake Road, I saw some wolf scat. There is no doubt that the wolves are around but we don’t get to see them very much. Right now the wolves may be living on partridge. There appear to be lots of them on our road.
Driving to the lodge today, I saw a rabbit on the shoulder of the road. Most of its body was changing color to summer browns. Its feet were still white but they are the last to change color.
Much of my vegetable garden is thawed out. Bruce wants to do some trimming in the raspberries and strawberries. Sounds good to me but today is not the day to do it – remember it’s raining out. I am going to start a small asparagus bed this year. It will take a couple of years to get anything to eat but in the end there will be some good dinners each year.As I have been writing, the rain has let up some. The wind, however, has increased. All of it helps the ice melt out.
P.S. Take a look at Bruce's picture from last week. The rocks are up to the ceiling now. All he needs to do is the hearth.
The temperatures have been in the fifties the past few days. That may not sound good to those of you who live further south but is heaven to us. There has been no freezing the last couple of nights. Yesterday the afternoon was filled with wind to cut through the ice and snow. Then we even had rain at night. The next two days will be warm. It is really feeling like spring.
As a result everyone is into spring projects. Here is a picture of Bruce working on one of his favorite spring projects – building a fireplace. This one is in #18 and it is converting a wood fireplace to a gas one. Building fireplaces is one of Bruce’s favorite projects. He just steadily works on it each afternoon.
I walked down to Tucker Lake yesterday. The path is almost all clear of ice and snow. The dock is clean but a little tilted in places. Once the ice goes out we will see how it settles in. There is a little melting along the edge of the lake with some water on the ice. Things are not quite ready for a boat ride but I can start to dream about it.
All the garden beds at my house are clear of snow. It will still be weeks before I can plant anything. The next step is to bring over some more horse manure to enrich the soil. Everything is going to come in nice and strong. We will have spinach and fresh lettuce by the third week in June.
Another project we hope to get finished this summer is the pond between the house and the workshop. Bruce has ideas in his head about how it will look. I understand that there may even be a troll on a little island.
Spring birds are starting to appear. Snow buntings and juncos are passing through to their summer habitats. There are lots of ducks on the open water by Cross River. Yesterday the first red-winged blackbirds appeared at my house. Front Desk Dave saw two robins on his way to work the other day.
The ice on Gunflint Lake is quite gray. At this point I would not recommend that anyone try to walk across it. Wind like we had yesterday really melts the ice. I have been watching as the wind is coming up today. It will be interesting to see how black the ice is when I go over for lunch today. Also the ice is very soft along the shore. Some guest sunk in to their ankles the other day. It must have been really cold. Hope they had extra shoes.
For those of you who remember Zach – Robert and Miranda’s cute little boy. As usual time has flown by. Last week he passed his driving permit. It is scary how quickly these kids grow up.