When we bought Bearskin Lodge in July, we never expected that total strangers would find the purchase of a resort to be so intriguing. Living on the Gunflint Trail seems to be a secret wish for many folks, so they are often intensely curious about our purchase. Almost without fail, people have the 3 same questions — two that they ask right away, and one that they hint at but are usually too polite to ask outright.
Question #1 is usually: Did you always dream of someday buying a resort? The answer to that question is “no.” And “yes.” Or maybe “sort of…”
The above photo is of Bob crawling out of a malfunctioning Bearskin septic tank last week. This was not exactly the dream. Thanks, Dave Tuttle, for the borrowed septic ladder. Who knew there even was such a thing as a special skinny septic system ladder???
No, the actual dream probably started back in the 1970’s, one summer evening after backpacking into Paradise Valley in Banff National Park. We’d pitched our tent, secured our food, and we were sitting together on a log, quietly waiting for grizzly bears to come and eat us. The view of the mountains was magnificent. After a long while, Bob said, “Don’t you wish we could buy this and just stay here out in the wilderness?” The Canadian park system is not exactly Highway 61, with its multitude of giant signs proclaiming “SPECTACULAR VIEW FOR SALE! CALL. US. NOW.” We weren’t going to purchase Paradise Valley. But the seed of an idea was planted.
Over the next decades, Bob’s occasional hobby became searching for that wilderness paradise. The form that “paradise” took went through many permutations. An island near Ely. Numerous pieces of land on the edge of the BWCAW, invariably only reachable by long, uphill portages. Countless cabins, often in questionable condition, on almost every conceivable BWCAW area lake. A few outfitting businesses. A ski shop. A southern Minnesota bike shop. (Whoops, lost focus for a few weeks!) And every now and then, a resort. We’d mull over each new idea, imagine the lifestyle changes—and then inevitably decide not to uproot our kids from their running camp rituals, drama club activities, ski team friendships or choir & orchestra trips. The potential “paradise” was never perfect, the time was never right.
The night after the 2007 Birkie, Bob saw an ad for the perfect place of our dreams, an unnamed resort on the Gunflint Trail, at an almost perfect time in our life. It had 77 km of ski trails, a wilderness setting and, of course, it turned out to be Bearskin. Many of our guests do think of Bearskin as their personal wilderness paradise, and we agree. Funny thing, though, the ad didn’t mention that “paradise” would include trips down into a septic tank