2016 Northwoods Journal


Thank you all for making 2016 a year that I shall never forget.  I hope that we'll see most of you in 2017!


Last night brought us precipitation that I can't describe as rain, hail or snow although it was probably all of the above.  The accumulation on the ground thus far can best be described as 2+" of a winter mix that has the consistency (if you can imagine this) of giant pieces of salt or impossibly small packing peanuts.  Walking in it is like walking in a giant kid's "ball pit" because it's not really slippery but it also shifts under your feet.  Apparently, driving in it folks had a similar experience and some of them kept Gary (SR) busy over night as he helped them get back on the highway.


Merry Christmas everyone!  We hope you have all enjoyed time with family and friends and that everyone is able to travel safely to and from their destinations.  The weather is probably creating a few headaches for some of you.  Our forecast includes 3-6" of snow that was supposed to begin this afternoon.

Bear Island Lake ice conditions--we're hearing mixed ice condition reports.  As much as 11" of ice in some areas but paper thin in other areas.  There's plenty of slushy spots out there and we've been told that there is a large crack near the landing that seems to span the lake with water pushing through.  By the tracks in the snow a few folks have ventured out with snowmobiles--those tracks had filled with water earlier this afternoon.  Be careful if you are venturing out on the ice.



Christmas came early for Northern Lights Lodge this year.  We signed up for a fiber optic service in July of 2014 so we've waited for more than two years for this day.  It's finally here--good bye (and seriously, good riddance) Frontier Communications and HELLO Lake Connections!  Our new fiber optic service went live today!  We (along with probably just about everyone else in the area) have been struggling with an internet service provider that reminded us of the good ole days of dial up internet speeds.  Gone is the echo through the phone handset every time I took or placed a call!

Today's snowmobile trail report is, to say the least, gloomy to poor with little snow base on the trails.  If you are out the trails, watch the swamps as they are probably not frozen solid and watch for fallen trees and debris.

The new kayaks arrived this week and I should have snapped a picture of Gary as he was unloading and put them away for next season--snow and kayaks just don't mix but the idea did enter my mind that it might have been fun to ride them down the lodge hill!  I guess Christmas really does bring out the kid in us all.


Winter is the best!  Each day is filled with discoveries like--finding not one but TWO sets of moose tracks meandering through the resort, finding wolf tracks along the edge of the lake, finding snowshoe hair tracks up on the deck that lead to the front door and best of all watching the aurora borealis over Bear Island Lake.

Thank you to the Zube family who shared their amazing homemade Christmas cookies with us--they were works of art and delicious.  An extra special treat at our house because we don't do too much baking!


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!  The stockings are hung, the lights are strung and the Christmas trees are up.  The toboggans are stacked and ready right beside the snowshoes.  Gary has been extra helpful this season with the decorating and I really couldn't have done it without his assistance.  I've always enjoyed preparing the resort for Christmas--trees, wreaths and decorations for each cabin, building and the lodge.  This year I relied on Gary to take the lead and it was especially fun for me as I discovered just how much he enjoys all of the trimmings.


2016 will certainly be memorable for its weather--16 years now on Bear Island Lake and this is the first time that we have NO ICE as far as the eye can see on Bear Island Lake.  There is not even any ice in the channel, below the lodge or down to the narrows which usually has ice a week or more before the main lake hardens up.

November was a bit of a bumpy month here at the Northern Lights Lodge as I experienced a bit of a health crisis--the doctors are saying that I had a TIA (stroke).  The good news is that there were no significant complications.  After dozens of tests though, there does not seem to be an explanation for what caused the attack.  All of the test results were negative or unremarkable with no apparent cause.  A fluke they say.  At my 7-day follow up visit at the clinic I was told "resume a normal life".  Five days later, they think that I am having another stroke.  I'm sent to Duluth and admitted to the hospital again--every test is repeated plus a dozen more, with each and every test coming in as negative and unremarkable.  This time, they also tested for meningitis, MS and Lupus, all negative.  The cardiologists and neurologists say that everything is fine.  This time, the diagnosis was a Bell's palsy event which did result in temporary facial paralysis on the left side that is typical.  Again, good news as they anticipate a full recovery AND because I did not have a second stroke.  Take it easy for a few weeks and resume a normal life they tell me.


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours! It gives us great joy to be able to offer others the opportunity to experience our beautiful northwoods.  Thank you for helping us do what we love here at Northern Lights Lodge.


Is it finally here?  Has winter arrived?  We've got a BLIZZARD in our forecast with up to 18" of snow possible.  I'm thinking that this storm might now bring this down on us just because it's still so warm outside; there isn't even any ice down in the bay yet.  Still, the first real snow of the season is always wonderful!

We're getting ready to jump into another LONG anticipated remodeling effort here in the lodge--we're pulling up the vinyl flooring in the lodge and front desk area and installing tile. I'm not looking forward to living in the mess of a construction zone but I am so excited to make this change in the lodge.


Boo!  True story--a few weeks ago we had guests here at the resort that were startled by something.  They swear it was hairy, walked up right and stood 13' tall.  Keep your eyes and ears open--what happens in the woods, stays in the woods.  Happy Halloween!


She said yes!  Congratulations to Jake and Sarah who recently spent a few days with us here at the Resort.  During their stay, Jake proposed and she said yes!


And that's a wrap folks!  Our 2016 summer season is officially completed and the seasonal cabins are closed for the coming winter season.  The fall season is looking like it's going to be warmer than usual so we are going to use this time to tackle replacing the roof on the activity center and to jump start a few of our 2017 season projects.  Cabin #4 is going to have its deck replaced, some new siding and a new bathroom.  Some of our new cabin furniture recently arrived to--3 new sofas, 2 new beds and a large kitchen table!


Fierce winds blew all day long today churning up the lake and making the Bear's water appear nearly black against the white caps.  I've noticed that the Loons are calling less and less this past week as they too are preparing to depart for a warmer climate.  This past weekend we were all entertained by a large family of Mergansers that have been hanging out below Cabin #3--best count was 13 and they fun to watch as they went butts in the air before diving under the water and popping back up.

Congratulations to newlyweds Jesse and Erica who are honeymooning here with us.


Fierce winds blew all day long today churning up the lake and making the Bear's water appear nearly black against the white caps.  I've noticed that the Loons are calling less and less this past week as they to are preparing to depart for a warmer climate.  This past weekend we were all entertained by a large family of Mergansers that have been hanging out below Cabin #3--best count was 13 and they fun to watch as they went butts in the air before diving under the water and popping back up.

Congratulations to newlyweds Jesse and Erica who are honeymooning here with us.


Duck!  Twice in as many days Gary (JR) has been swooped or "dive bombed" by what we think was a Barred Owl.  Yesterday evening he was walking Bella out the driveway and an owl flew over them close enough that he felt with whoosh of its wings.  Tonight, he was walking through the loop near the ping pong table and an owl swooped in low.  This time, it took his hat off!

cabin-11-deerCleaning Cabin #11 were were visited by a doe (in complete fall/winter color) and her two fawns (still small with their spots).  The doe had the family right at the front deck.  I was able to snap a photo of the doe and one fawn--the other one seemed to know just where the edge of the photo frame was every time I tried to get all 3 of them in the photo.  The fawn in the photo has the longest tail I have ever seen!

In the 16 years that we have been here on Bear Island Lake I have seen more moose than bucks (don't complain right?).  Well, this week I saw my third buck ever near the creek pond in the driveway.  Our resident moose is STILL walking through the resort and we are STILL trying to catch him with the trail cam!  Gary (JR) found fresh tracks in front of the shop again yesterday.


The northern lights are lighting up the sky this morning!


The official first day of fall is still almost a month away, it feels much closer with the cooler temps (GREAT sleeping weather!) but I noticed today just how much the woods have changed already.  I already have a tiny view of the lake from the lodge.  The deer have started to transition towards their darker colored fur coats.  The Grossbeaks are back at the feeders and the lake has really cooled off.


That's why it's called Bear Island Lake!  Guests kayaking today watched a bear swim across the lake.


An international destination--it's been an exciting summer as we have hosted guests from all over the world:  Switzerland x 3, China, Belgium, Japan, Berlin, Paris, London, Taiwan and Australia.


I often say that we have the most thoughtful guests and they spoil us with their home grown and home made treats.  Corn from Iowa--3 times.  Syrup from Sleepy Ely.  Pickles!   Zucchini, green beans, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes and more.  Fresh honey and honey comb--bliss!  Beers, wine, sherry--intoxicating.  What a feast!  Thank you for sharing.


To say that weather has been WICKED in northern Minnesota is putting it mildly.  Fortunately, Northern Lights Lodge has sustained no damage from the fierce storms that have repeatedly pounded the area this season.  We lost power last week and due to the extensive damage throughout the area we were prepared for an extended outage.  We are extremely thankful that our power was restored in about 13 hours.  Internet service was lost for almost 4 days and our cellular service was down for a few hours.  The rain has been torrential, causing a few washouts and gullies but Gary has been quick to repair them.  The last week or so has been hot and humid--I wouldn't mind seeing the return of sweatshirt weather!


Moose SaturdayWe continue to see moose tracks on the resort property but have been unable to capture any images on the trail cam.  However, on his way to the recycling center today Gary spotted and stopped for a LARGE moose on Highway 21.


broad winged hawk juvenileThe Broad-Winged Hawks nested near Cabin #4 this spring.  They are elusive and spotting them has been a challenge but their distinctive call makes it easy to identify them.  During the storm earlier today, one of them must have struggled a bit with the wind and rain as one was on the ground.  It was small, about the size of a Robin, mobile but not flying--guests watched over it and we left it alone to give it some time to recover.  After about an hour or so it perched on a boulder, gave a shrill call and took flight to everyone's relief.

A black bear tried to find a snack in the garbage cans overnight and it/one was also spotted in the driveway earlier in the week.


Gary has all the fun!  This afternoon while working at the Marina cleaning and preparing boats he was in the company of 4 River Otters.  They were too fast for any photos or video but they were playing at the edge of the lake and were friendly enough to venture up onto shore as he was washing the boats and one even got his attention when it went "slip sliding" over his feet.


Moose alert--twice during the past week there has been a moose  here, it continues to elude the trail cam though.  The pair of Loons that nest in the bay area below the lodge have a chick!  This is the first chick that we have seen hatch in 5 years.  I enjoyed watching the family from the dock last week  This chick newly hatched and is smaller/younger than others that have been spotted out on the lake.  Early last Tuesday morning I also heard an adult wolf and pups near the water.  I think summer's in full swing, but pack a sweatshirt!

Looks like another mayfly hatch--I have never seen so many and I  have never seen them so big!  Gary snapped a photo near sunset at the marina and there were mayflies everywhere over the water.   Time to change fishing strategies, again......

 07/04/16: Celebrate the 4th!






Baby painted turtles at the beach this week.  Both the Painted and Snapping Turtles have been busy traveling up from the lake and laying their eggs.  This is the first time that we have found hatched turtles as they make their way to the lake.  I've posted photos to Facebook and the website photo gallery.  Bear Island Lake is finally starting to warm up, water temperature is slowly creeping out of the low 60s.


i1035 FW1.1

June 19th 031Our biggest project this spring was Cabin #5!

We raised and leveled the cabin after the frost went out and Gary and I went to work.  I can no longer call Gary my Apprentice and there is absolutely no doubt that I could not have done this without him!  Older cabins can certainly have their challenges and the weather did not cooperate AT ALL as we worked through snow, fierce winds and rain.  I think that the end result was worth it. Here's a sneak peak of the BEFORE and AFTER.


A week for wildlife "rescues".  Returning to the Resort after a quick trip to Virginia, Gary and I came upon a young Swan that appeared to be overwhelmed and disoriented right in the middle of Highway 169 as traffic moved around it.  We pulled over and stopped traffic in both directions and Gary "escorted" the Swan safely across the road--you don't realize how big these birds are until you get up that close and personal.  Hopefully, it wanted to be on that side of the road and it lived to see another day.  Earlier last week on my way home from Ely, right in the middle of the bend in the road before Highway 120 I came upon a very young fawn "hiding" right in the middle of the road--of course, I couldn't help myself and I turned around managed to stop traffic (appreciate the fellow who stopped the Babbitt bound side!) and he spotted the mom just up the way watching so I walked the fawn across and released it.

Fishing has been TOUGH--hang in there, it can only get better!


What's with the weather!  More storms--strong winds and lots of rain.  Thank you to all of guests who graciously endured a 12 hour power outage.  Quite a bit of storm damage and lots of down trees across the lake, down Highway 21 and 904 Road with snapped power poles.  The Resort, fortunately, did not sustain any damage or downed trees--just lots of small branches to clean up.  It was a huge relief for me when the power came back on around 3am and I could stop thinking about how to clean cabins on Saturday.



It's here, the 2016 Minnesota Fishing Opener and in typical (12 out of 16) Minnesota fashion it's snowing here on Bear Island Lake!  Last week we had a 92 degree day and now we dropping back into 27 degree nights and snow!  Next week we are back up into the upper 60s, also typical, which is why I usually try to explain to folks that the Bear Island Lake opener is next weekend--it always seems like better weather.  G. Swedberg and L. Kreatz were hearty souls yesterday and they ventured out to check water temperatures and they found a consistent 50 degrees.


The Minnesota Fishing Opener is almost here. As you prepare to hit the water(s) this weekend make sure that you are aware of the mandatory training required for aquatic invasive species violators:

Starting this boating season, anyone found guilty of violating Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species laws will not only have to pay the required fines but will also have to complete mandatory training. The short “Clean In Clean Out” training must be completed before people found guilty of violating Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species laws can legally operate their watercraft anywhere in the state.

Boaters and anglers can comply with Minnesota’s invasive species laws by remembering Clean, Drain, Dispose:

•Clean aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species from watercraft,
•Drain lake or river water from all equipment and keep drain plugs out during transport, and
•Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash, not in the water.

More information about aquatic invasive species and how to prevent their spread is at www.mndnr.gov/ais.


Thinking this morning that I hope this never gets old:  on Tuesday afternoon I heard the first Loon of the year as they returned to Bear Island Lake for the summer and I always stop whatever I am doing and just listen.  IMG_2409On Saturday morning Gary spotted a still white Snowshoe hare sitting underneath the Ford near the shop and little while later it hopped it's way through the shop door and as if it were greeting us, it stood up tipped its head and paused for a moment before turning around and scampering back out the door where it met up with another hare.  The two of them hung around the shop most of the morning.  On Saturday afternoon we were working in the driveway and found fresh moose tracks--Tuesday morning, JR found fresh tracks near the Connect4 game.  This morning, I spotted a pare of Snowshoe hares and both of them had lost about 75% of their white winter fur and were now a tawny brown color.  The bird feeders are filled with birds--lots of Grossbeaks and the trees are filled with bird song and chatter.  The lake is open just past the island nearest Escape Road and islands of ice were floating towards the channel all day--ice out will likely be today or overnight tonight.  Last evening the wolves were howling under a bright moon.  This is our 16th season here at Northern Lights Lodge and even though all of these things are ordinary up here in the North, I really do hope that experiencing it never gets old!


What a difference this weekend made!  With temperatures in the mid to upper 70s all weekend long the trees "popped", the spring peepers came out, the ice on Bear Island went from white to black almost over night, the bay is nearly ice free and is FULL of ducks and geese (no loons yet) and the feeders are filled with birds.    This morning it's raining--one of my favorite things--a rainy Monday.  Love this!


The Minnesota Fishing Opening is only one month away!  Yesterday was a beautiful and sunny day on Bear Island.  The channel has been open for about two weeks now and the back bay opened Wishing I was Fishingup last week.  The ice was still "white" yesterday morning but by late afternoon it was easy to see that the ice was transitioning towards that dark gray color as ice out approaches.  Our forecast leading into the weekend is teasing us with temperatures near 70 and rain on Sunday.  This morning I created a new Fishing Opener photo album to count down the days towards the opener--each day I'll add something new to satisfy that craving for open water fishing!

There was a suggestion that the northern lights were out early this morning so I stepped outside to see but there was nothing visible to my naked eye.  Not surprising as we have entered into a solar minimum cycle--that period of least solar activity in the 11 year solar cycle of the sun. This means that sunspot and solar flare activity diminishes and may not occur for days at a time. It was still nice to be outside as there was a wolf pack howling somewhere down the lake, geese and ducks could be heard in the open water below the lodge, the stars were bright overhead and no jacket was needed.


THE BEST THING TO EVER HAPPEN TO CANOEING....OR MAYBE THE WORST.  Ely, Minn. Introduces “The Original Ely Electric Paddle” — Effective April 1
Electric PaddleELY, MINN. — April 1, 2016 — A group of canoe outfitters in the small town of Ely announced today they had formed a consortium to produce and sell an exciting new product, The Original Ely Electric Paddle. Sales will begin immediately, but only through authorized outfitters and retail outlets within Ely.  This revolutionary new product will make its debut in the lobby of the Northwest Sportshow at the Minneapolis Convention Center on April 1, between 10:30 and 1:30 pm.  By mounting a small, but powerful and nearly silent battery-powered trolling motor to the blade of a canoe paddle, this group claims to have taken all the work out of canoeing, suddenly opening the popular outdoor activity to millions of people who felt that a trip to the beautiful Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was beyond their skill level or outside their comfort zone.  Now canoeing enthusiasts can let the paddles do all the work while they sit back and read a favorite book, grab a nap or gaze around at the beautiful scenery found in the BWCAW.


Spring Yet?I think just about everyone can relate, this time of year.  It really has been a mild winter, not too cold and not too much snow.  Mother Nature has been teasing us with hints of spring like weather one day and dropping a taste of winter the next.  I for one, have a severe case of spring fever!  This weather is making it incredibly icy outside as we continue to have rapid melting during the day, freezing temperatures overnight and topped of with dusting of snow.  Tread carefully and stay on your feet.

Cabin #5 is our first project of spring and we have "lifted" the cabin to a level position and once the frost is out of the ground we will set it down.  In the meantime, JR and I have begun our remodel--starting with the bathroom and windows.

We'll busy ourselves for the time being by spring cleaning all of the year 'round cabins and suites.  The next month or so always seems to go by quickly as we prepare for the spring and summer seasons.



Doubling checking the calendar tonight...yup, it's 02/18 but tonight we have loud rumbling thunder, lightning as bright as day and yes--it's raining!


2016 Festival PinEly's winter celebration begins!  Check out the Winter Festival activities, watch the snow carvers transform their snow blocks into amazing snow sculptures, stroll through downtown and take in the Art Walk.  Love the dogs?  You'll definitely enjoy the Wolf Track Classic sled dog races.

I spent some time in Florida recently--I love the ocean, of course!  For a little while I love the hustle, bustle and energy of a large city and all of the options it has offer.  This trip I checked out a state park and took in a art festival and a sea food festival.  I have to give props to all of the folks who put together Ely's annual festivals.  While each festival was fun and interesting ALL of Ely's festivals are better done and each has more to offer!  Most of all, I was struck by just how extraordinarily wonderful Minnesota is and how amazing life is here on Bear Island Lake.  Life is good!


If you are reading this, you've already discovered the launch of our new web site!  The new format and design is mobile responsive for all of your gadgets.  You'll find new features and information and as always, a true sense of what a stay here at Northern Lights Lodge is really all about--comfort and a sense that you are coming to your very own up north home with each return visit.  It was a bit of a challenge departing from my old school Dreamweaver format but it looks like you can teach an old dog new tricks as I learn my way around WordPress.  Some of you may remember WordPerfect and Lotus....it was just like giving up WordPerfect and switching to Word or giving up Lotus to use Excel, eventually you get the hang of it!


01-15-2016 034We've been busy getting a head start on our 2016 projects!  Gary and I just completed a remodel of the master bath in Cabin #12--just in time for the MLK holiday weekend.  Winter activities may have gotten off to a slower start this season but dog sledding and cross country skiing conditions are fair.  Rather than snowshoeing, hit the winter trails with a good pair of boots as there just isn't quite enough snow yet and all of you snowmobile enthusiasts, be patient the trails just don't have a very good base and we still don't quite trust ice conditions out on the lake.

The new year has been filled with joy and blessings!  Congratulations to the Williams who honeymooned here earlier this month, happy Anniversary to the Hjelle's and we share the Hanson-Wilson family's joy with the arrival of Dahlia, thank you for introducing her!


We all eased into this winter season slowly as Mother Nature seems to be distracted this season.  Warmer than normal temperatures, plenty of rain instead snow through November and much of December.  Temperatures cooled down enough to produce snow for a white Christmas in the Northwoods.  Bear Island Lake opened back up and we had areas of open water right up to Christmas.

This week leading into the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend is typically one of the coldest in my memory--this is the week that often seems to produce those -50 temperatures and/or wind chill factors.  This morning my thermometer reads -19, certainly the coldest day of the season and year, but I'm not going to complain.  As I went outside with the girls this morning, the night sky is clear and lit with an abundance of stars, there is no wind and Bear is making ice.  A few pine trees may be popping in protest but the deer don't seem to mind at all.  Minnie on the other hand could not get back inside quick enough!


The Christmas holiday passed in a blink!  Here in the Lodge we like to keep the Christmas tree up and the lights on into the middle of January.  The boys enjoy the colorful lights and the girls keep picking candy canes off of the tree. We enjoyed receiving all your Christmas cards and loved seeing how many families included photos and notes of their Northern Lights Lodge vacations in their letters to family and friends--it's so nice to know that your time here was a special part of 2015.

Thus far it has been a VERY mild winter with warmer temperatures, RAIN and some snow.  I still feel the need to remind folks to STAY OFF OF THE ICE, this is not the winter season to trust it.  We are heading into a cold snap (some want to say a deep freeze) with overnight temps in the negative double digits and single digit day time highs but those temperatures are nowhere near the -30 to -50 that we usually experience in mid-January.

Summer #15 here on Bear Island Lake was definitely memorable at our family celebrated our 15th season and the Resort celebrated its 70th year.  Time never stands still and we are already working hard and getting ready for next season!  JR is building outdoor cedar furniture and we are just a few days away from finishing a bathroom remodel in Cabin #12.  We're putting together our summer activity roster which so far includes a new themed Scavenger Hunt, an Ice Cream Social twist and more of course!




































The Life of a Resorter

When we first decided to make Northern Lights Lodge our home in January of 2001 we knew that life was going to be different.

What I never imagined when Gary convinced me to become a Resorter was the friendships--how so many of our guests would become family and each return visit is like having a family reunion!

I never expected to have so much fun and so I started Marie's Northwoods Journal. Keep in mind, that this was "way" back before anyone even knew what a blog was. I've not converted my journal to what you would now call a traditional "blog" because the format just doesn't work for me.

This journal is a bit like a good old fashioned letter to home or a scrapbook and it's become a way for me to keep in touch. The journal is a collection of my thoughts, a glimpse into our lives and a way for me to reflect upon life here at the Resort.

There are ALWAYS stories to tell, (some that I'll not ever Journal here!) and maybe someday I will heed your advice and attempt to write a book or if I wait long enough, my memoirs!

The years go by faster and faster and so I hope that you enjoy my journal and photo albums as much as I enjoy spending the time with you.

So, don't be a stranger, stay in touch.


Meet Minnie (DOB 02/2013)

Minnie Age 8 Weeks

Meet Bella (DOB 09/2011)

Bella Age 8 Weeks
Bella Age 6 Months

Daisy The Wonder Dog

Daisy Crossed the Rainbow Bridge
on July 31, 2015

Having a Great Dane

Having a Great Dane in your life means that there are just a few sayings that you learn to live with:

  • Look at the size of those feet!
  • That's the biggest dog I've ever seen.
  • Where's her saddle?
  • Who's walking who, anyway?
  • How much does she eat?
  • Where does she sleep?
  • Looks like you have your hands full!
  • How big is that thing?
  • That's a really big Dalmatian!
  • It's still a puppy? You're kidding, right?
  • Big poop piles?

No One Loves You
Like a Great Dane!