2011 Northwoods Journal


We hope everyone enjoyed the holiday. Ours was lovely and spent with family. Here in Ely we seem to be one of the few areas with SOME snow and we would certainly enjoy more but it seems we just get a short and small dusting with each forecast. I don't know about all of you but I am ready to ring in 2012. I've decided no resolutions this year (it seems they are often quickly forgotten) instead, I am going to have a 2012 Bucket List. I seem to do better with lists and so I'm making my list. I'm hoping for a year with no (but will settle for less) chaos! Somehow, I suspect 2012 is going to be full of unexpected twists and surprises so it may be best to wish for something else! Our resort life is "aging" with the calendar and 2012 will bring us into our 12th season here at Northern Lights Lodge. Life is Good!

12/24/11: Merry Christmas one and all!


JR has decided that he is not interested in continuing to pursue engineering. On one hand I don't envy him or any other young person at this stage in life because deciding who or what you want to be has to be much harder today than it was when I was his age. Times are so different, the economics are not the same and so much more. So, JR will be moving back home and will finish up his generals and expand his degree with a focus on business at one of the local colleges. There has been a "hint" that the resorting life may not be so bad after all! The timing in all of this brings me back 19 years--just weeks before JR was born Gary brought home a Dalmatian puppy. Now, 19 years later and just weeks after brining Bella home, JR moves back home. No Empty Nest for me!


Time is running out--hope everyone has their Christmas shopping done and is ready for the holiday week coming up. Bella is doing well and seems to grow right before our eyes--she is a sweet girl with a VERY spunky and sassy personality. Gary is still wishing that we had gotten TWO of the puppies but I know that I have my hands full with just one.

2011 Northern Lights Lodge Video:

Looking Back


A fresh dusting of snow on Saturday and down near Cabin #3 Bella and I spotted the fresh tracks of our Resident Moose!


Spotted two wolves today crossing Highway 21 as Gary and I were returning from Ely.


Well, there is just not much new to report. It's quiet here at the resort--not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse! Excluding Daisy and Bella. It took Daisy nearly three weeks before she would even let Bella touch her. Now she seems to enjoy the company and I've even caught them napping together. Like Pepper, I have had put a bell on Bella--she now loves the snow and being outside and she dashes off to explore. Even against the snow, she can be hard to find so at least I can hear where she is and find her. The cold doesn't bother her anymore unless we have strong winds and then she would rather not be outside. We'll have a white Christmas in Ely, but barely. We would certainly appreciate more snow but I am also appreciating not having to shovel! JR will be home Friday for the holiday/semester and working at Piragis during the break.


I beg you now for your forgiveness as I am certain to bore you with my affections of Bella. Gary has proclaimed her a Momma's Girl and it hasn't been a week yet! She's a bit of a hooligan and full of spunk--and I forgot how stubborn Dane's can be. Bella will never replace my dear sweet Pepper but she has already found a place in my heart.


Thinking of Tina D. Our thoughts and prayers for you and your family at this time. Your strength, spirit and the support of family and friends will get you through this.

11/24/11: Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

11/23/11: Welcome Home Nick O!

11/22/11: Introducing Bella!

Yes, we have a new Great Dane puppy. Meet Bella, our little Southern Belle:

Our home has just been too quiet since we lost Pepper and Goldie this last year. Bella was born in Jacksonville, FL and we picked her up on our last day in Florida. She was a great little traveler but doesn't seem to like the change in the weather.


Just spent a GREAT week on vacation in FL. The ONLY bad thing about going this time of year is that when you get home you have to adjust (physically and mentally) to winter all over again. Our weather all week in FL was in the mid 80s and here in MN we have snow and temps in the 20s. Feels terribly cold outside tonight!

I always have to "be with my resort" after I've been away for a while. As soon as everyone is settled in back home, one of the first things I do is go for a walk--down to the marina, to the beach and through the resort. I found two sets of moose tracks near Cabin #3! Vacations are nice, but for me it's so great to be home.


Just about ready for winter to arrive and all of our fall projects are completed. Can't help bet look forward to our first measurable snow of the season. Temperatures are dropping steadily and I haven't heard a loon on the lake in 9 days.


Bobby M.--wishing you the very best and hoping for a speedy recovery!


Gary has been BUSY tearing down the old fish house and boat house. Next phase is replacing the building. Check out our RESORT Facebook page for photos.


Closing down the 5 seasonal cabins each year marks the end of the summer season and our 11th summer here on Bear Island Lake--the seasonal cabins are closed and summer has passed. Usually, this day arrives with just a little sigh of relief but this year its making me just a little bit sad--I'm sorry to see end. We truly have the BEST resort family anyone could wish for! I think that for me this summer was one of the most enjoyable summers yet. Perhaps, that's because events of the season forced us all to step back and to appreciate what's truly most important in life--to slow down just a bit.

Bear Island Lake water levels--I was doing a little research recently. The lake is low, it's amazing to see just how low because it seemed so high this spring. The MN DNR actually reports the lakes HIGHEST recorded level of 1,420.37' was reported on 05/11/11. They were back on 08/28/11 and the lake had dropped (dried) to 1,418.46...WOW...the lowest recorded level was back in 1938 at 1,418.4. Folks, I think we broke that record!

Another fun week--Noah and Logan were a joy and their pictures are such a treat (Daisy will be heart broken when they leave tomorrow), James and Carrie (yum!) you spoiled us and Jackie, you've reminded me of why I love Aveda--they smell so good--thank you all so much!

Someone asked me this week why I don't journal on Facebook. The answer is simple: this Journal format is just so much more personal. I started these entries back in 2003 (before anyone really knew what blogging was) and Facebook really can't replace it. Personally, I don't like the functionality of a "modern" blog so my Journal continues here. I post snip its to Facebook, usually different content than you'll read here--so Fan the resort too!


Fall colors have peaked and for our seasonal cabins, this weekend marks the end of our season and we'll be closing them down (#1, #2, #4, #5 and #6) on Sunday. You should see the ENORMOUS basket of arrows that I have to prep for display--I've decided that I should do a Top 10 and share them (and the stories) here or on our Facebook page! We have slowly been working away on the new fish cleaning facility (aka fish house) this fall and the old boat house is nearly empty and ready to be taken down.

With these cooler temps I keep expecting to see a moose--no luck recently. The other night I was down on the dock waiting for the northern lights and there was a large commotion in the brush across the lake as something came down/out for water--then I heard it enter the water and next thing I knew it sounded like it was swimming. I listened for a moment and when I had the impression that it was about halfway across I turned on my flashlight and there is the biggest deer I have ever seen swimming across to the dock at Cabin #11/#12.


Florida, it's for the Loons! Our Loons migrate south to Florida and the Atlantic coast for the winter--our favorite place to be when not on Bear Island Lake. An interactive map on the U.S.G.S. website pinpoints the Loons location and follows their migration. You can click on one of the Loon icons and follow the Loon's. Click here to follow the Ely Loons on Burntside Lake!


What a great weekend--an unexpected weekend with JR and a surprise visit from Doug and Mike with their new BEAUTIFUL puppy Antonia. She's a perfect fit! Beautiful MOIST gray skies this morning with a light drizzle/rain and no lightening. Love it! She's so lucky to have Georgie Girl next door!


What to do with low water levels at the lake? #1) Walk the shoreline and explore it from one end of the resort to the other--has it ever been done? Probably, but not in the last 11 years. #2) Make repairs to docks WITHOUT having to pull them onto shore--sure makes the job a lot easier. #3) Beach time--where was this beach in June and July?

Do you think....the folks at the DNR and Forest Service finally stepped out of their fancy offices and took a real life look at their surroundings OR did their computer models and forecasts finally catch up to what the rest of us have known for weeks? Last night at midnight they FINALLY imposed a ban on bonfires and charcoal grills.


A little excitement/scare at the other end of the lake today. There was a brush fire of some sort early in the afternoon. Our guests, Fred and company and Ed, were out fishing and watched at the planes and National Guard helicopter scooped water from the lake and put the fire out. On this end of the lake, I heard the planes but didn't observe their efforts.


We received several notes from friends asking about the affects Pagami Creek fire burning near the edge of Ely in the Boundary Waters. The fire grew considerably yesterday (over 60,000 acres) and it is impacting some residents at the edge of the Boundary Waters with authorities recommending evacuations in and around the Isabella area. The fire has really had no impact on us here at the resort. We can not see the fire plume or smoke and rarely smell the smoke here. Much, much farther away into Wisconsin they report that they can see and smell heavy smoke--because of the winds. The plume is certainly something to view and the fire fighting equipment sometimes flies over Bear Island Lake. The plume is visible from Ely and when I have seen it I'm reminded of a giant white pillar of cotton balls in the sky. Yesterday was incredibly windy and the fire grew in size. Calm AND lightening free rains would certainly be welcome here.

Last week here at the Lodge we imposed a burning ban for campfires. Yesterday the MN DNR announced that they were not going to be issuing burning permits and I must say that I wonder what took them so long!

Bear Island Lake water levels are certainly down and is at the lowest level we have seen it through our 11 summer seasons. Thor and Fred, guests who have been on the lake for years and years, each feel that this is lowest level that they have ever seen. On a positive note: Northern Lights Lodge has its best and biggest beach! This weekend we are pulling the lake buoys from the channel--it's nearly impossible to to boat around the peninsula without glancing over one of the large boulders, even in our 16' fishing boats.

Absolutely love the new snowman that was added to my collection (thank you Barb!) and enjoying home grown Honey Crisp apples compliments of the Davis family. They bring back very fond memories of an annual Sister's Outing to an apple farm in the Stillwater area years and years ago.

Enjoyed a GREAT cup of coffee on the patio early this morning. Fall colors are everywhere and the smell of fall is in the air. Reflected on the recent weeks past and time spent with guests, friends and family: thanks again for the memories!


Over the weekend I have been looking at some of our photos of Pepper and many of our guests have been sharing theirs as well. What a treasure! I put together a video (my first ever) and uploaded it to YouTube (my first ever). My Tribute to Pepper I hope it makes you smile.


Our hearts are heavy and the silence of her absence is painful. We lost Pepper on Thursday afternoon, sat with her as she drifted off to sleep for the last time, whispered that we loved her and thanked her for bringing so much joy to all of our lives. We will miss those great big Dane hugs forever. We lost her much too soon and six years with our beautiful Gentle Giant was never enough.


Where has the summer gone? It has passed in a flash and Labor Day is just around the corner. It's been another great season filled with friends and family and lots of new faces--who remind me why home is just the best place in the world to be and why it is such a privilege to share it with them.

A taste of the big city--Catherine we all enjoyed the luscious bread from the Breadsmith! Always a treat this time of year because there is never time to do any baking in our house.


We have an empty nest again as JR is off to college, back at Itasca for his sophomore year.


Last week we had our annual surprise inspection by the MN Department of Health. Inspections make me a bit nervous and apprehensive--our Lodging Establishment Inspection Report arrived today. We KNOW that we aren't perfect BUT we received another 100% score and an added endorsement that reads "THE RESORT IS EXTREMELY CLEAN!". Heading into the fall season, this is a perfect end to our 11th summer season.

My thanks go out to our EXCELLENT staff this season for all they do to help make this possible!

Our guests are SO talented and thoughtful! Enjoying an amazing sunset with a taste of homemade pear wine, cheese and fresh sourdough bread.


A young black bear made its way through the resort early this morning. It stopped by cabin #11, the suites and the playground looking for food in the trash cans. I suspect it won't be back as its search wasn't very successful. The Tackmans in cabin #3 were lucky enough to see it from their deck before it dashed off.


Auntie Marie is missing the kids! Loved and greatly enjoyed the Iowa sweet corn!

Margarita--thanks for sharing your paella recipe. I can't wait to make it on my own. Counting the days to when I can get back into my kitchen, probably October.


I found a porcupine waddling down the center of the driveway late this afternoon!

We truly do have the best guests and do so appreciate it how they spoil us!

  • Chuck and Deb--thanks for the fish dinner!
  • Shirley--your homemade jams are fabulous!
  • Hawaiian chocolates--Aloha to the Maas family!
  • Paella for Lunch last week--yum! Thank you DeYoung family.
  • Bob and Kari--thanks for the photos!


The past month has zipped by, we have seen some GREAT fishing on Bear Island Lake through the month of June--even when the weather wasn't cooperating. Summer officially arrived and with it came much warmer weather.

  • Congratulations to Matt and Mollie who spent a mini-honeymoon here recently.
  • The worst of the bug season has passed HOORAY it was a tough one this season and I have the bite marks to prove it.
  • Fireflies EVERYWHERE these last few nights.
  • Took in the Ely fireworks tonight--a very nice show forsure. Just as the festivities ended Mother Nature took off with her own light show and a storm passed through.
  • Last Thursday's storm created a bit of excitement when lightening struck a telephone utility box near our driveway. Passerbys called 911 to report a fire. The fire department arrived but couldn't find the fire (the rain had put it out) because cautious they department drove into the resort--giving me a mini heart attack when I saw the fleet and their lights.
  • Two moose in the driveway!
  • A fox in the playground area!
  • I spotted our resident fawn twice this past week zig zagging
  • Heartfelt congratulations to Jean and Ardie who were recently married!


It's a struggle to find the words to express our immense sorrow. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of our friend and neighbor, Doug Brown, the owner of Timber Wolf Lodge in yesterday's tragic fire at the resort. He will be in our thoughts and prayers always.


So whats new at the resort? We had a moose at the resort! Some fish are biting, some fisherman/women are catching! The gale force winds have stopped---it's been a long few days! Birding opportunities have been exceptional. The Sand Flies have arrrived and I hope they leave yesterday. I spotted the first Fire Flies of the season tonight.


Flare--thanks so much for the Truffles! You can jump on my golf cart and take me for a crash any time! Next time, Pepper or Daisy will have to show you how to go cruising with me.


The highlight of my day was the discovery of a newborn fawn just behind our Cub Cottage--I think she was probably born within hours of when I found her. I was walking through the playground when I spooked the doe. I thought she was she was acting odd so I went closer to see what was wrong and she dashed off. As I looked around I found the fawn "hiding" and she was still "wet" from the birth. I went back to work but kept my eye on her--I know from past experiences that the doe will return but I wanted to be sure. I kept seeing the doe circling the playground and using the cabin #6 path but she wouldn't approach the fawn. After about 25 minutes she went to the fawn and the two of them walked through the playground and down behind the shop. I was even more surprised when at about 7pm I spotted the doe and fawn going back through the playground to their spot behind the Cub Cottage--I guess that's home.

Freeze Warnings! Really? Trying to think on the bright side: maybe this will freeze off the sand flies!


Opening Weekend has come and gone. The weather was a bit blustery and the water temp was in the mid 40 degree range. For those who got out on the lake they met with some success and we saw walleye, northern, bass and crappies.


We've been super busy the past month working here at the resort and trying to get our seasonal projects and prep work done in between continued snow (seemingly never ending!) and rain. We were certainly spoiled last year with the unusually warm spring. My spring project list is nearly completed--grounds work is done, spring cleaning is done, new carpet in cabin #5, new bathroom fixturess in cabin #11 and #12, interior painting in cabin #6 and #2, new doors on cabins #4, #5 and #11 PLUS more--it'll be a treat when you return to your Northern Lights Lodge home! The weather looks promising for next week and we hope to do some exterior painting and trimming.

Birding opportunities have been exceptional so far this spring--I don't usually fill the feeders until after Opener because 9 times out of 10 the bears come through and steal my feeders when I do. I couldn't resist and filled the feeders!

The lake level is up and one of the docks at the marina is partially submerged--it's comical to see the ducks sitting on the docks in the water in the afternoon sun.

The other night I was was wrapping up after a LONG day and thought I would take in the quiet and count the stars from the hot tub. It was far from quiet--the Spring Peepers were in full chorus, there was a Barred Owl "cooking" across the bay, a Saw-Whet "beeping" out near the pond, a wolf was howling somewhere across the lake and then the Loons started in. Our WILD night life!


Because of several emails I am posting a JR update here--he will be home and here at the Lodge this summer!


The Loons are back! Our resident pair of Loons have returned to the back bay. What a relief after all of the news and concerns due to the oil spill in the Gulf and what impact it may have on the Loon population.


Spring is trying to arrive but some days it just feels like winter is hanging on with all its might. Yesterday we had a bit of snow (fortunately not the 6" in our forecast again) and today it is raining. The bay has not opened up yet but this afternoon I heard a group of geese fly by and land down the river (meaning there is open water) AND this afternoon I spotted a robin sitting on the Cub Cottage. Friends tell me that the Swans are on the river which typically means that the loons arrive in about 2 to 3 weeks. I can't wait to hear them again--for me, the call of a loon is one of my most favorite things.


It's warm and sunny in Ely and we have ICE OUT already! Well, if you believe that you've forgotten that today is April Fool's Day!


Well, it has been busy here the last few weeks to say the least. If you are reading this Journal entry you've discovered my biggest accomplishment: the new web site is launched! What do you think? With the launch of the new site I also made the decision to "be true to this Journal" so I am no longer going to keep "the blog" and I have taken the blog down.

Have you found us on Facebook yet? Check it out, become a Fan.

We've been BUSY taking spring and summer reservations--thank you everyone! JR was home for spring break and it was great having him home. Gary surprised me and took the following week off . I've had lots of company with my boys at home!

The winter season is over (at least in my mind) but the signs of spring are everywhere: melting snow, shrinking snow banks, longer days and lots of birds passing through. I heard that the swans are even on the open river water. Of course, this means we are gearing up for those spring resort projects.


Working into the early hours at my computer tonight and I stepped outside to take a break and was treated to howling wolves. By their calls, one was younger and in the area of bay in the channel and the second wolf was somewhere near the middle of the driveway.


The Winter Festival is underway--the snow sculptures are amazing! We had the privilege of introducing A LOT of Ely visitors to the sport of Dog Sledding on Sunday--I think everyone enjoyed themselves immensely.


Space Weather forecasters have sent an alert that the Northern Lights should be visible tonight around midnight. It's looking that it may just be too cloudy to see them. Its actually quite warm here right now. The Snow Sculptures have arrived in Ely for the Winter Festival and they are busy carving out their winter creations. Can't wait to see them!

Snowmobile trails are in excellent condition--but the lakes are pretty slushy. We always say "stay on the trail" when traveling across the lakes but it is even more true this year than ever! Nothing worse than getting a snowmobile stuck in the lake's cold icy soup.....right JR?

Daisy was having a BLAST this afternoon sledding with the Solinger kids!


Our deepest sympathy is extended to the Girardi family. The loss of a loved one is always so tragic but the loss of someone young and someone who has battled an illness as courageously as Barb is devastating. Her passing was so unexpected and she will be missed by all.


Snow and more snow--someone shared a weather report with me recently that said there was snow in 49 states--even in Hawaii BUT NOT in Florida. It's a really good thing that we love winter! Gary suggested again that maybe FL is the place to be! This winter season is keeping us busy cleaning cabins, shoveling/raking roofs, plowing the driveway and shoveling, shoveling and shoveling!


I read in yesterday's Sunday paper with the Reboot for the New Year feature that today is the Festival of Sleep Day! It's a biting -26 outside this morning and I think that I should have recognized this day with some extra pillow time!

Gary tells me that my project list is longer than I have days--sort of like when you tell a child that they have eyes bigger than their stomach! I am still working away at the new web site. My challenge is that this site is 64 pages and every single page needs to be retyped with the new design. So, I intend to start with the basics and "grow" the new site as I have time--that's still a lot of pages.


Happy New Year!


Pepper RIP 2005--2011

Click Here to Email Marie

Life in the Northwoods

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
Minnie Age 4 Months

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!