Everyone’s best friend. 2001-2016
Elevation: 1740′ above sea level
218.365.2126 or www.snowshoelodge.com
for more information.
January 17, 2016:
Lots and lots of good powder snow – about 18-19″ in the woods as of today. A new snowshoe trail between the red pine peninsula and the Sand River to the west, was constructed last month with assistance from the neighbors down the lake, Dan and Marjorie.
There has been a good deal of cabin reservation activity, but there are still cabin openings for the weekend of January 20th and throughout February and March. If you are planning a stay on weekdays, you are more likely to have your choice of cabins.
Sadly, Willie, our golden retriever and best friend, passed away on November 19th at the age of 15. I encountered him at the age of 3 at “Contented Critters Rescue in Makinen, MN.
A new furry friend from “Rescued Pets are Wonderful” in Blaine, MN, two- year-old Chester Brown, has become the new camp dog, and has made a promising start. For example, he loves jostling with the resident cat, Cougar, and meeting other dogs.
“Two roads diverged in a wood…”
Trail camera depicts one of the local wolves on our Wendigo ski trail system.
July 16, 2016:
Summer’s off to a an exciting start – some of the geese, swans and ducks from spring are still being seen with their young, along with fawns and baby woodchucks learning the ropes from a parent. Moose cow with her calf walked through a neighbor’s yard last week.
Lupines & Ely Greenstone in June by the memorial garden at the camp entrance.
Since many of the folks who visit Snowshoe own (or are owned by) dogs, some notes on a couple of the more interesting recent dog books – reviewed by Willie.
Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz. A great book by an animal behaviorist and dog-lover about dogs as “creatures of the nose.” An interesting look at dogs’ “umwelt,” their subjective or self-world. In the foreword is a quote from Groucho Marx: “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
Merle’s Door: Lessons From a freethinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote.
Using recent wolf research and exploring issues of animal consciousness and leadership and the origins of the unique human-dog friendship, Ted Kerasote takes the reader on a long journey (while living in Kelly, Wyoming) that he and Merle shared – a story of partnership coupled with an interesting kind of independence.
If you have a child who has lost a dog – Zoe’s Goodbye, written and illustrated by the late Dr. Mary Schlangen, a veterinarian in Two Harbors and Duluth, is a gentle read for kids that might be helpful. It’s out of print, but Grand Avenue Vet Clinic in Duluth (where she once worked) has a few copies on hand, and Amazon (and other outlets) seem to have many of them as well. From her illustrations you might guess that Dr. Schlangen was sometimes a vet at sled dog events in Minnesota. Mary’s career and plans for a new clinic in Two Harbors were ended a few years ago by an impaired driver. She is survived by her husband and two children.
June 30, 2013: Turning out to be a beautiful summer. The goose couple raised three goslings in the marsh and cabin backyard, then moved down to the canoe landing on the lake for better swimming lessons. They still visit the backyard occasionally for the good grass forage. Snapping and painted turtles seem to be everywhere, to the confusion of Cougar the cat, who’s finally met critters she’s intimidated by. He also got chased by the gander one day, after stalking it (hopefully, for the last time). The Sand Lake fish are biting good these days.
May 20: Summer is here. Woodchucks are foraging around the place, one pair of geese took over the marsh and are grazing in Ron’s yard – all keeping an eye out for Mr. Fox. Spring peepers, chorus frogs, wood frogs and others are making quite a ruckus each night.
May 3: Snow is almost gone and Sand Lake ice will be going out in a week or so. Marsh by Ron and Willie’s cabin is almost ice-free and three Canada geese pairs are fighting over it every morning. April was a very snowy month but that’s behind us now. On the 20th we had no less than 40 inches on the ground. Hiking is excellent right now and the canoes will be brought out of the boatshed in a day or two.
March 3: Plenty of snow and the ski/snowshoe trails are in superb condition. Lots of cabin openings. Another month of skiing and snowshoeing, long days and sunshine.
February 17, 2013: Over 20 inches of powder snow on the ground and more in progress.
January 18, 2013: We’re getting hit pretty hard with a snowstorm that began last night and is continuing today. Trails are in excellent condition for skiing and snowshoeing. A busy season for cabin rentals.
October 22: Big annual “MEA weekend” just completed. Lots of nice people with their great dogs. Good weather as well. Last night, after everyone had left, a group of local wolves (likely the Greenwood River Pack) put on one of the best and longest concerts of howling Ron or I had ever heard. They seemed to be in the vicinity of the French-Canadian Cabin (where quite a number of dogs had stayed with their owners this weekend). Eddie and I were quiet for a time, but eventually were compelled to join the wolf choir – from the safety of our compounds. The cat hid.
October 18: A great autumn so far, with just enough rain to keep the forest fire danger at bay. The camp is ready for winter with woodsheds brimming. Ron and Steve have completed fall brush-cutting and windfall-clearing on the ski and snowshoe trails. “MEA weekend” is full, but there are lots of cabin openings throughout late October and November – Thanksgiving weekend is wide-open. And it’s never too early to reserve for winter dates (as many are already doing).
July 23: Spectacular weather – a bit cooler with a thunderstorm some nights. Plenty of cabin openings for July and August.
Fishing has been good in July, especially for yellow perch and large bluegills, mixed with a few walleyes and many northerns.
When Ron takes me (Willie) down to the lake for a swim, Cougar (the cat)still follows along (like the puppy he thinks he is), but so far merely sits on the shore and observes.
May 27: Beautiful weather with intermittent rain. Still watching the fox den up the road – mom (vixen), dad (dog-fox), and two black kits, one red. Lots of folks observing their antics the past month. Several new moose calves in the area as well. Fawns will occur in the next week or so.
April 1: Trails are in very good condition for hiking. Several weeks of summer in last half of March, followed by 3″ of snow as the month finished. Back to spring now.
Plenty of cabin openings during the next few weeks. Lots of saw-whet owl and wolf noise at night lately, along with spectacular northern lights. Ice has disappeared out on the marsh and the lake. Eagles and turkey vultures have returned. Swans and geese are back. Woodchucks are out of hibernation and foraging on the meadows.
Great time of year to be in the woods!
Beautiful orphaned orange cat hanging around camp since February is now adapting to the good life around the log cabin with me (Willie) and Ron. We call it “cougar” and it even trots down the the lake with Ron and me and watches me fetch sticks and gazing at the rafts of ducks.
Ron’s Mining News – a great local concern
Autumn 2015: Many significant things have happened on the mining fronts since the below comments were written several years ago. Ron will send you an update paper if you give him a call at 218.365.2126.
May 31st will be our last hearing before the Governor and Executive Council. It will be interesting to watch the five state executives, all members of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, essentially take our properties, homes, and livelihoods away from us (if they do) for use by international mining corporations.
April 10: Attorney General refuses us an opinion on eminent domain, saying that when mining companies, DNR and private property owners have a conflict over exploratory drilling, the Attorney General will have to represent DNR and their mining company friends.
April 1: Still waiting for an opinion from the MN Attorney General’s office as to whether mining companies actually can implement eminent domain at such time as they come to drill on private lands. No word yet on when the next Executive Council meeting will be held. Probable date is their regular meeting on June 6.
March 15: With their refusal to hear our bill in the Natural Resources Committee, H.F. 2477 is effectively dead for the 2011-2012 session of the Legislature. We’ll keep you posted on other avenues of effort.
See http://www.hastingsstargazette.com/event/article/id/26971/group/opinion for a piece we wrote on mining company influence in the Minnesota Legislature and private property.
March 12: Still hoping to pick up Senator Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen to sponsor a companion bill in the Senate. We have about seven sponsors in the House and need to get a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee by Friday the 16th or our bill is dead for the year.
March 4: Our time to work on the legislature has been extended. We will not be on the agenda of the State Executive Council for March 8 as previously thought. We will be scheduled for a later date sometime after early April. We are picking up more interest from members of the House and Senate.
February 28: More good news from the legislature – finally a Republican co-sponsor in the Minnesota House, making H.F. 2477 (eliminating eminent domain as a coercive weapon in mineral exploration under private lands) a truly bipartisan bill.
Along with co-sponsors listed below, Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester today added her name to the bill.
Many of us have been working on this since last spring – our bill to get rid of eminent domain in the mining statutes has been introduced by Rep. Nora Slawik of Maplewood, with co-sponsors Rep. Mindy Greiling and Rep. Alice Hausman. The bill, House File 2477, if passed, will help many of us northeastern property owners resist destructive copper, nickel, titanium and platinum exploration beneath private property in this area east of Ely.
The Minnesota DNR Lands & Minerals’ vision for this forested, lake-filled part of NE Minnesota seems to be large open-pit and underground mines for the benefit of Canadian, Swiss, and Chilean corporations. Surprisingly, our local NE Minnesota representatives and senators are supporting this dark nightmare on the pretense that it will bring employment – the “jobs mirage.”
Get in touch with Ron (email@example.com or 218.365.2126) if you want to be added to an email update list about this issue, and assist us in keeping this beautiful part of the state wild and beautiful.
October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2011 – early tricks and treats for the bear (s) ransacking the dumpster and the dog food barrels next to Eddie’s pen – in the middle of the night. Ron spends long hours picking up the mess from the nearby woods each day. If Amber, my old golden retriever friend, was still around, she’d take care of that bear. She had chased at least two of them out to the highway in her time. I’m sure I could do as well, but Ron doesn’t want me to get in a fight with a bear at my age (11). As we all know, bears are usually hibernating by this time – but for the warm weather.
October 5: Big day at the Capitol in St. Paul, with Ron, Steve and many other local property owners testifying before the Executive Council about the mineral leasing issues in northeastern Minnesota. The U.S. Forest Service and the state DNR are both encouraging five international mining corporations to explore and eventually mine for copper, nickel, gold, titanium and other valuable minerals near the sources of two major watersheds in the northeast. These exploratory drilling efforts (as much as 4.000 feet deep) are on public and private land, and, if successful, won’t bode well for the present tourism-related economy in the Ely area – not to mention the likely permanent damage to the Lake Superior and Hudson Bay watersheds – both of which have their beginnings in the vicinity of Snowshoe Country. Contact Ron for more info on this and how you can assist.
Governor Mark Dayton shows Emma photos of his dogs on an I-Phone after the Executive Council hearing.
October 6: The forest fire north of here closer to the Canadian border is now under control. It did not affect this area at all.
Plenty of cabin openings during September and into fall. Lots of good canoeing, fishing, and hiking.
Wild rice harvesting is over. A fairly good crop this year here on Sand Lake. Granddaughters Erin and Emma on Labor Day:
September 28: The water’s high (and comfortably cool) in the lake and Ron still takes me down for a swim and some stick-fetching occasionally. I was excited to see the picture of me chasing sticks on the front page of the Minneapolis StarTribune on the 25th (article on the unfortunate mining land-grab by the DNR and mineral companies).
Here at Snowshoe Country we run a volunteer National Weather Service observation station with their loaned equipment, taking high/low temperatures each day along with snowfall/snow depth. A sample from each snow event is melted in order to gauge and report the water content. The immediate area represented is a small plateau on the continental divide between the St. Louis River (Atlantic) and Greenwood/Stony River (Hudson Bay) watersheds, and including Sand, Greenwood, Cougar, Lobo, Stony, and Bonga Lakes.
This is also the long-time home of the Great Lakes School of Log Building, teaching men and women of all ages the craft of workmanlike Scandinavian log construction, to give them the background to build their own economical cabins, homes and saunas they can be proud of. More information at www.schooloflogbuilding.com.
Lots of northern lights this year. Photo from Duluth News Tribune:
March: Bradley and Sonny Wonder spotted the first woodchuck outside the French-Canadian Cabin on March 19th, the earliest sighting ever. They (the woodchucks) have also been moseying around the building yard on sunny days.
In preparation for next winter, the boss has been repainting and pine-tarring his old wooden Troll Turskis and his white army skis late this winter. The tools are a torch, spatula, brush and some pine tar. This is a general procedure to protect the wood and cause waxes to adhere better. His preference is for the army skis nowadays – wider and better for bushwhacking, and his warm Sorel boots fit comfortably into the bindings, without a change of boots.
February: Ron almost smacked a moose a few weeks ago with his vehicle on the way to the mailbox. Skidded and ended up right beside the big critter. I barked a bit to make sure it went off into the woods.
Marc and Sarah Julien came by for some snowshoeing late in January.They were taking a break from building their log house near Colfax, Wisconsin and were students here in September of 2009.
Visitors Joey, Justin and best friends pose near the sauna:
Paul, Kaleesha, Bock and Audrey enjoyed the trails while lodging at the Sunrise Cabin recently:
After one of the December storms:
Several barred owls have been seen lately, along with one great gray owl, some snowshoe hares, and, of course, the “resident” red fox, who loves spilled dog food.
The roads are full of snow buntings (also known as snowbirds or snowflakes) exploding and scattering just ahead of Ron’s Subaru on our daily trips to the mailbox five miles away. These songbirds, additionally known as dark-eyed and slate-colored juncos, are residents of the high arctic who winter in our northern latitudes. Males comprise much of the little groups, with females and young delegated to the more predator-risky edges of a particular flock.
On a less happy note, Amber passed away recently at the age of fourteen and Ron, Eddie and I miss her a lot. I still trot around our cabin at night hoping somehow that she’ll reappear, and I’m saving her toys…
On 9/27, Ron wrote:
We took that last ride to the veterinarian in Ely this afternoon, Amber-bamber and I. Very sick recently, she wasn’t having as much fun the last week or so, but we know she had a good, long life. She had her little head in my lap the whole way there and we stopped by the roadside a few times to talk and reminisce. She passed quietly and quickly while I petted her. Dr. Chip, the vet, was very gentle and kind.
She loved kids more than anything. We will always remember the November ice-skating day a few years ago when she repeatedly helped granddaughters Erin and Emma get up after their tumbles while learning to ice-skate. She was always right there on the spot for them. And she had hundreds of friends among the cabin renters and log building students, joining us many times for slide shows and morning lectures in the classroom – especially enjoying the popcorn and other treats.
So, one of the sweetest little dog buddies we ever had is now buried, snug in a blanket, comfortable on her doggie bed, atop a small knoll south of the boathouse, overlooking the lake where she always had such good fun chasing sticks and shaking water on everyone – with canine cousins Teddy, Raven and Willie through the years. Her headstone is a flat piece of Ely greenstone.
Rest in peace, little Amber – you old red hug-retriever. One of the very best, you were.
Amber in happier times: watching a snapping turtle lay her eggs next to Amber’s yard, June, 2007.
Ron’s kind of known for his habit of trying to whistle red foxes up to his car on Highway 2. He did it again today fairly successfully. Two weeks ago he whistled up a large radio-collared timber wolf, then got out of the car…then got back in quickly as the critter approached him to within a few yards. Dumb…
Earlier this summer:
While Ron was painting up his two old Grummans recently, news came that fiddler, mandolinist, guitarist, & all-around musician/teacher, Bill Hinkley, had passed away. He, Judy Larson, and Garrison Keillor, had borrowed those very same canoes in 1974, along with some tents and cook kits – from Ron – for a monumental canoe trip on the upper Mississippi River, which was broadcast on Keillor’s (then) daily morning show on MPR.
Seems long ago for Ron, and Amber and I weren’t even puppies yet.
Garrison did some nice tributes to Bill on his show, as did Jon Bream in the Minneapolis StarTribune. You can enjoy them, with music, on Keillor’s websites.
Canoeing on the lake is good and Ron has taken us swimming and stick throwing frequently. Visitors have been swimming both at the canoe landing and the nearby beach.
Unusual spring. Tundra swans, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes and Canada geese have all been observed in the Sand Lake vicinity this spring, and the latter three types, unlikely though it seems, could be hanging around the area. A very large group of geese, flying chaotically from the east at treetop level, landed on Sand River Memorial Day weekend.
A U.S. Forest Service employee claims she observed a wolverine walking around our driveway entrance one morning in early May. We saw one here in 1980 and there have been sporadic sightings in NE Minnesota through the years.
And it’s early egg-laying for the painted turtles on the beaches and roadsides, while the various kinds of frogs are still vocalizing in the marsh by the building yard. This is a snapping turtle by the sauna well on 6/4/10 laying her huge stash of eggs in a hole she dug moments earlier.
The woodchuck in the den between Ron’s office and our dogyard is keeping our attention (& sometimes making us bark) each day as she comes and goes on her foraging jaunts. Dandelions and just plain old grass are the big favorites with the chuck crowd right now. Next month the newly-borns will be following the adults around. There seems to be a family beneath every woodpile and cabin. The fox in the front meadow is hanging around close in hopes of a meal, and vixen often uses abandoned (read “eaten”) woodchuck’s dens as makings for her own.
An April trip to Arizona for an International Log Builders’ Association conference still has Ron stricken. He sits and gazes at the Sedona rocks on his desk. The magic red rock country around Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the deserts of the central and the forests of the north, will do that to you, he says, not to mention thinking about all the neat kinds of cactus.
Doubtless he’ll “desert” (sorry) us again for other trips to the Southwest in the future. But we had lots of fun in his absence with his stand-in caretaker, concierge, office manager and National Weather Service Sand Lake Station daily instrument-reader & compiler, Madelyn, who treated us extremely well – like the best friends that we dogs are to everyone.
Ron visited the North American Bear Center in Ely in March for a lecture by researcher Lynn Rogers. It’s open each day this time of year, and the three resident bears came out of hibernation very early.
And the March log building course took a Saturday night trip to the International Wolf Center to observe the weekly feeding of road-kill deer to the resident 5-pack, after which we (also) had dinner in Ely, appetites sharpened and whetted.
Cabins full of guests in late March – snowless, so they had a good time leisurely sauntering around the trails, hitting the sauna, and even taking Eddie for walks (like a jet airplane on a rope). Sand Lake wolf pack howling a lot lately, likely voicing welcome to the hundreds of deer returning (very) early to our high plateau (Superior Uplands) from their wintering yards a thousand feet lower near Lake Superior.
Lots of cabin openings for March and April – some on weekends, lots on weekdays.
13 year-old Amber enjoyed some leftover dinner with her visiting cousin, Raven, 15.
Moonrise, weekend of February 27-28
One of the trails after the snowstorm of January 23-25: click to enlarge.
After this two-day blizzard, hundreds of small trees and bushes were weighed down over the trails. On February 6th and 7th, Ron’s son, Steve, and two friends, Aaron Mertes and Dan Donnelly, worked hard to remove all of the obstacles, pack the trails, and make them better than ever.
The town of Ely has had their winter festival and the snow carvings were spectacular. Here are a few:
You may want to take a glance at a January-born female bear cub (named Hope) near Ely. The North American Bear Center’s researcher, Lynn Rogers, installed a video camera inside the den of Lily, a research bear, and displayed the birth of a cub in late January. You can follow the progress of the cub and mother at www.bear.org. Daily explanations of what’s happening appear just below the live video. For now, the cub is content to suckle milk, sleep, make noise, grow, and play with mom, but it makes appearances from time to time, and the sow (mother) leaves the den now to forage occasionally. When you visit Snowshoe Country, you may want to visit the Bear Center west of Ely – 30 miles from here.
When you visit – on your way up to Snowshoe Country just before Mt. Weber, which you will view mainly when you’re southbound, pause and consider the two-mile stretch of 300+ year-old Eastern White Pines along the road. Think about how when these giants were seedlings, the 3-400 year extended-winter regime of the Little Ice Age held full-sway over Europe and North America. And, culturally, in Europe it was the time of the Late Baroque, and some great composers were busy dreaming up what would become some of the most important western classical music, e.g., Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Handel, Telemann, Pachelbel, and Scarlatti.
A common sight on Co. Rd. 2 lately as people come and go to Snowshoe Country:
Several funny happenings on Christmas week. Some guests encountered a fox on a trail with a snowshoe hare in its mouth. Vixen was so preoccupied she almost walked into the snowshoers.
A couple staying in the Sunrise Cabin had their skis and tracks peed on by several timber wolves sauntering through their yard of an early morning.
And lots of moose on the roads licking that tasty salt. Ron and I (Willie) almost nailed two on a night trip from Duluth. Many guests have encountered moose the past two weeks – on the road – also some wolves, a fisher and a lynx.
Bears are back in hibernation now after a brief period of getting up and ambling around during the warmer part of November. May they rest well and not be confused again by unseasonably warm weather.
Woodchucks (groundhogs) are undergoing a much deeper hibernation in their home dens. There seems to be a record population the past few years, including some black colored ones. Few know how complicated their burrows are, with separate rooms for bathroom, food storage, sleeping, and even a nursery. Both parents tend to the youngsters until they disperse to begin their own lives in mid-summer. They will be out scurrying around again in mid-April. Meanwhile, we will all miss watching them.
From the past: 2008 & 2009:
Painted and snapping turtles finished laying their eggs in early July in roadways and beaches – anywhere there’s gravel and sand. Young frogs and toads are still crawling around all over the place. Here’s an image of Amber last year conversing with a snapper laying her eggs by the dogyard. Several months later, some 80 babies crawled from the hole – on their way to the water.
And an excellent winter 08-09 was – with nearly 130 inches of snow. Thanks to all of the interesting folks (and your great dogs) who enjoyed the cabins, skiing, snowshoeing, and trails this past season. We sincerely hope that you will come back for some canoeing and hiking fall. Some cabins are almost always open, even on short notice.
Some remnants of the winter happenings are below:
Greg and Traci Pence, from Lakeville, got close to an otter emerging from a hole in the ice on the Sand River near camp in late March:
Music at Snowshoe
Guests Ralph and Mary Brindle of Edina filled the forest around Sand Lake with great music from their alpenhorns (alphorns) on a winter weekend.
Real fox news.
The resident fox is still running around our yard and by the other cabins scarfing up scraps and just gawking at us silently from time to time. He/she appears to have a more difficult time getting through the snow with the short legs. This pictured one is identical to our local “yard fox,” before it recently ate a 20 pound (approximately its own weight) bag of dog food left unintentionally in the driveway by Ron. It then tore the sack to shreds and most likely went off for a very long nap, probably appearing like this:
Timber wolf & otter happenings.
Some guests have been viewing river otters at work and play over on the Sand River (where there are holes in the ice) and also around places where folks have been ice-fishing – where they can fetch an easy meal. Erin says this one’s name would be Otto the Otter.
Ron’s twice a day journey to the mailbox up on Highway 1 is usually uneventful except for an occasional moose sighting. However, on Groundhog Day he was reading a newspaper in the Toyota cab when two wolves strolled down the road almost right up to his truck.
The evening after Christmas, a three or four-wolf choir put on quite the howling concert out by the marsh near the road. When Ron checked out the tracks later, it appeared that the local pack was on the trail of a buck who forgot to migrate from the high country in time (usually by early December). All parties were finding the deep snow difficult to jump through. Conclusion unknown…
Lots of moose have been seen eating salt on the highway this season. While Ron was pushing snow on December 12th, a moose walked right in front of the pickup at the base of the driveway. No camera handy, of course. Had there been, the photo would have looked like this:
Country of endless snow.
Ron, who keeps a precipitation station for the Minnesota Climatology Office, measured a total of 163.8 inches of snowfall here at Sand Lake during the winter of 2007-2008 (November – April). As is often the case, This was one of the higher snowfall sums recorded in the state. For more daily info on relative snowfall, check out:
Early-season ice skating.
After shoveling snow from the ice, skating was fun on Thanksgiving weekend for granddaughters Emma and Erin. Here’s Erin and me (Amber) taking a break on the ice.
Fishing has been fair this winter, but was even better last fall. During September, on a day following extremely violent lightning storms with 2+ inches of rain, walleyes were on a feeding binge on the shorelines. Minnows took these from shallow water for John Nelson of Minneapolis.
The wild rice crop on Sand Lake was good in 2008 and some folks were out in early September obtaining some rice samples for educational project displays – visiting group of naturalists from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. L-R: Josh, Jessamy, Kelly, Alexis, and John in front.