When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. ~Joyce Brothers


Family picnic at Bearskin

On July 20th, 2007, our family’s life totally changed.  After months of agonizing waiting, we closed on the sale of Bearskin Lodge on the Gunflint Trail.

The past month has been mostly a blur.  Overnight, we went from being two teachers on summer vacation to full-fledged resort owners, operating one of the most distinguished resorts in Minnesota during the prime busy season.  We had to “hit the ground running,” as they say, and there hasn’t been much of chance to stop for a breath ever since.   Almost hourly, maybe even minute by minute, we learn more about how much we don’t know.

When Joan Farnam of the Cook County News Herald interviewed us after our first week at Bearskin, one of  her questions was, “What has surprised you the most?”  I babbled some inane drivel about how nice everyone had been, how helpful people were, how much we had to learn, and how hard we had to work–all very true comments, but embarrassingly Miss America-like in their lack of profundity and depth.

I kept thinking about it and Joan, if you’d ask me now, I have a better answer.  What has surprised us most is the deep level of historical connection so many families have to Bearskin Lodge.  We had no idea. Week after week we meet multi-generational families who have been coming to Bearskin for years, even decades.  So many grandparents with their children and grandchildren, repeating Bearskin traditions that have endured for years.   The woman whose parents honeymooned in the original lodge 51 years ago.  The teenagers who point out album pictures of themselves as toddlers on Bearskin’s sandy beach. The couple who celebrate every anniversary in their special cabin, the one where they held their wedding.  Every week this resort is filled with people whose memories of Bearskin are a significant part of their lives.  To all of them, Bearskin is “their” resort.

That is a happy realization for us, but actually, there is a level of responsibility involved that is quite terrifying.  Responsibility is a huge part of the package that came with buying this resort. We always knew we had a responsibility to our own family to avoid making a financial mistake that would affect our family’s future.  We also realized early on that we had a responsibility to our employees to make sure their jobs were secure and their workplace was happy and safe.  But the  new realization is the responsibility we have to all the people whose life memories and family rituals are entwined in Bearskin Lodge, who feel a sense of ownership and involvement in their special place.  It would be a huge loss to many families if “their” Bearskin wasn’t the same for them over time.

Sometimes when I watch the multiple generations of families together at Bearskin, it makes me almost weep with happiness for them.  We “get it.”  We will take our responsibility to make sure Bearskin continues to be that kind of family place very seriously.

8 thoughts on “When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. ~Joyce Brothers

  1. Bruce Schwartz

    I have been coming up to Bearskin since 1985, when I first came up with 5 other high school friends (Wayland Mi, Class of 1970/71). Tim Permoda, who organized the trip, had been coming up there since he was a kid with his Dad and Uncle.

    My son’s graduation present was a trip to Bearskin in 1988, and we have been coming up ever since, only missing one year when we were building our new hardware store in 2002. It was a long year without the Bearskin trip!!

    We now stay in Cabin 4 the latter part of May. No year is complete without the “guys” trip to Bearskin – me, my son Jeremy, friend Randy, and brother-in-law Rick or in-law Tom or long-time friend John, depending on who can come to round out the group to four.

    We love Bearskin and the whole area – it is a treasure. We hope your ownership is rewarding and brings happiness to your family. Welcome to the Bearskin Family!!!

    Bruce Schwartz

  2. Thank you for the good wishes! We LOVE to hear these stories. We’ve sometimes wondered if we ought to publish the “Bearskin Stories” book. It does seem like everyone who stays at Bearskin has a tale to tell.

  3. Mary Hurwitz

    To all the travelers to Bearskin Lodge,
    You will love the McCloughan’s “manning the helm”. They are a truly wonderful family who will make you feel as though you are part of theirs. While the education field will be diminished because of the departure of Bob and Sue, the visitors to Bearskin Lodge will find themselves extremely pleased by the otustanding commitment they bring to make sure everything remains as wonderful as it has in the past. The McCloughans may even find ways to enhance your already memorable experiences.

  4. John R. Finnegan Sr.

    Our family has been vacationing at Bearskin for more than 20 years and we expect to return for many more. We have built so many memories that they are impossible to recount. We have especially enjoyed the friendship of the owners and the staff, particularly the Tuttles (I was always happy that Dave found a way to get in and out of the septic system). I even enjoyed the episode when Dave floated a mouse trap on a sponge in our toilet. But that is a long story that I won’t repeat here. Suffice it to say that we expect to build more fond memories in the future. They do not have to include mouse traps in a toilet bowl.

  5. Dave and Barb have shared a lot of “how to’s” with us, but not their technique for floating moustraps in toilet bowls. We’ll need to learn how that’s done. 😉

    I imagine not every guest would find a floating moustrap in the bathroom to be amusing, but the whole story sounds pretty hilarious. And memorable.

  6. Darlene and Scott Richardson

    We are so excited that you “get it”. Out of all the vacations we have taken all over the world. The Valentine week that Scott and I spend every year is the most memorable. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.I can see through your heart and camera lens that you feel what all of us have been enjoying all of these years. We look forward to meeting you. Welcome!
    Always (Cabin 5)………
    Darlene and Scott Richardson Chaska, MN.
    ( We wouldn’t mind new placemats!)

  7. Thanks for the nice comments. Cabin 5 is a beautiful, beloved gem, but it does need a few new things–I’ll add placemats to the list.(Take heart, they are nicer than the ones in Cabin 1 right now!) We’re also searching for new fireplace doors for that cabin, but just had failed try #2. Maybe by the time you’re here this year we will have solved that dilemma.

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