Elevation: 1740' above sea level
218.365.2126 for more information.
Eddie, Copyboy/Greeter (2001-2012)
April 8, 2014:
Winter is fading rapidly, along with its record snows. Spring is in the wind
- eagles, crows and robins have returned, the boreal and saw-whet owl males are
calling now after dark. I (Willie) and Ron are guessing that both the marsh by
our cabin and Sand Lake will be ice-free by April 20th or thereabouts. Snowshoes
will be stored tomorrow and the canoes will be coming out of the boathouse this
week. Most telling of all, the woodchucks are out of hibernation, scampering
about in the remaining snow, and foraging for the few greens in the melted
Ron claims that he will drop the snowplow from the pickup as early as the 12th.
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,
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
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: 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
February 17, 2013: Over 20 inches of powder snow on the ground and more in
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
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
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
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.
a piece we wrote on mining company influence in the Minnesota Legislature and
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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,
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
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.
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
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.