Friday, September 20, 2013

Visiting the Gunflint Lodge

Josh and I got married one week ago today!

In the days since then, we spent lots of time with family and friends and then headed up north with Wish for a great vacation.

Our big plan is to head somewhere warm for a trip this winter, but for the days immediately following the wedding, we had thrown around a few ideas for a short getaway: Cape Cod, New Orleans, and back to that cabin in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains. Eventually, we decided closer to home would be a better option for our time and budget, and I started scouting out locations up north.

I had a list of ideas thanks to research I did a few years ago for a winter weekend getaway (that never actually transpired), and I was mulling them over when a Crowdcut email offer serendipitously rolled into my inbox for the Gunflint Lodge, one of the options on my list. It wasn't on Lake Superior but was on a lake, and it allowed us to have our own cabin and bring Wish along. Josh was on board, and I booked it!

The Gunflint Lodge is way, way up north - it has a Grand Marais address but is 45 miles farther up the Gunflint Trail from there, on the Canadian border - and that actually fit perfectly into our schedule: we left Monday morning, meandered up the North Shore, and arrived by dinnertime, then left late Thursday morning and got back to the Twin Cities by evening to have the whole weekend to settle in back at home.

When we arrived, we saw that cabin included a full kitchen, a sauna, and a fireplace - and outside, a charcoal grill and a pair of Adirondack chairs overlooking the lake a few steps away. (Many of you know that Adirondack chairs are a quick way to my heart.)

The main lodge, a literal stone's throw from our cabin, included a great restaurant, a gift shop, a station with free coffee, tea and fresh cookies (kind of the perfect trifecta to charm me), and it was open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. We cooked most of our meals, but I visited the main lodge often.

Here's a view of the main lodge from the dock:

The main lodge is also where guests sign up for the day's activities, which I loved. Our visit was midweek, and even then, there were five or six sessions through the day - crafts, boat rides, hikes, classes with the naturalist - that were all included in the cost of our reservation. Josh and I went on two: a night hike that covered celestial legends and an afternoon pontoon cruise with snacks. (The Wolf Howling night hike is tonight and I'm sad we're missing it.) The day's options are listed in shorthand on a board outside, with more details and a sign-up sheet. (We missed Snakes and are bummed about that, too.)

Here's our pontoon boat ride! Our driver told us about some of the lake's history and ecology. I loved it!

For the first half of our trip, by the way, the weather was gorgeous. Like this:

("The sun is making a sun shape," I said out loud to Josh.)

So in addition to all of the structured activities, we were really pleased with the hiking options that started basically from the lodge. We loved our Tennessee cabin and its porch dearly, but the only downside is that a car was required to do any hiking or exploring. At Gunflint, we kind of forgot our car was there, which was wonderful. (We also forgot our cell phones and email for the trip, since the only signal was a limited one in the main lodge. Also wonderful!)

There were kayaks and canoes to use whenever we wanted (we took kayaks out one afternoon) and a nice network of varied hiking trails close by. (More about this in my next post.) Besides the actual hiking trails, there was one path connecting the various cabins and one path connecting the various lakeside Adirondack chair set-ups. Wish was thrilled by the latter, because even that path was a little wild and exciting:

Actually, to be more clear, Wish was thrilled for pretty much the entire duration of the trip, and that was such a joy for our already happy hearts. He was either smiling or sleeping (from playing hard) the whole time. On the first night we were there, he (the dog who is scared of water) nearly flung himself into the lake to see about a duck.

There were crowds of ducks around the shore that were very tame. Wish gave them a scare or two, but soon they figured out that he was on leash the whole time and then they just merrily motored around, just out of his reach.

One of Wish's other thrills? Figuring out the windowsill was the perfect height for his own personal observation deck:

As for my own observation, I figured out fast that the sunset would be visible from our spot on the lake, but the sunrise was not. I saw two really lovely sunsets.

Later in the trip, the skies were cloudy, but it was comfortable hiking and kayaking weather (and actually warmer), with the added bonus that it felt cozier to stay inside, nap and build a fire. Josh was a fire-building champion. I am not exaggerating when I write that he must have built eight fires in three days. It was wonderful.

And while he was doing that, I was doing this:

We couldn't be happier with our trip to the Gunflint Lodge, and we can't wait to go back. I am so happy that September visits in the years to come will make perfect sense as anniversary trips, but I'd love to see the lodge and the surrounding area in the spring, summer and winter. It was a truly marvelous peek into Minnesota's beautiful North Woods.

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