Morning on Gunflint Lake

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2020)

Despite good intentions, we do not get up early.

I am hoping to have a quick, light breakfast at the lodge, but the full-service restaurant is the only option and it is busy. (The larger parties who had been seated just before us at dinner last night have apparently stayed just ahead of us for breakfast as well.) I’m a little let down, but we are seated next to a window and I decide it is ok to wait if I have a view like this!

The waiter greets us first with a long list of what is not available: waffles, hashbrowns, mushrooms, onions . . . It is a long list. Apparently the geologists have been particularly hungry. This probably explains the abundance of brussel sprouts at dinner last night (something that had perplexed our waitress). At any rate, they have both French toast and pancakes, so we place our order and settle in to watch the lake for awhile longer.

Our order arrives with the “last serving of real maple syrup” in a little silver pitcher. As we finish eating, another couple is lamenting the imitation syrup they have been served. We have only used a small amount of our allotment, so I quickly bring it over to them. My good deed for the day ūüôā

Now it is time to get out on the water.

Gunflint lodge sign

Not having with appropriate clothing for kayaking or canoing, we opt for a little motor boat with which to visit the narrows located directly across the lake. We are given some quick direction while Lane takes stock of the motor. Then we are off.

It is a beautiful morning, cool and still, the near shores aglow in the morning light.

I say the “near” shores not only because of the angle of the light, but because much of the shore across the lake (in Canada actually) is spiked with bare, blacked trees. A map of the route taken by this summer’s fire as it raced through.

From the water it is easy to see how close the fire came to the Gunflint Lodge and why last night’s waitress had feared losing her home and her job all at once. (She still has both.) The capriciousness of forest fires is also obvious – acres of blackened hillsides, interrupted by a home or two or a small patch of forest that the flames somehow missed.

As we near the narrows, we can see that all of the landscape beyond has been blackened.

While fire is a natural part of the cycle in these forests, we’d rather enjoy the brightly colored fall leaves, so we turn back, trying to remember to stick to the inlets on the American side – although it seems hard to believe we will meet anyone on border patrol out here! The larger world feels far away.

But, of course, we really aren’t out in the “wilderness.” As remote as this area feels, there are homes hidden in the tress all along the lakeshore. This may be a respite from the larger world, but it is not a place apart from it.

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