Photos–lots and lots and lots of Bearskin Lodge photos

One day a few weeks ago a Bearskin staff member asked if I ever went anywhere without my camera.  Only when I lose or misplace it (which unfortunately usually occurs several times a day.)  Since July 20th, I’ve taken 600+ digital photos with my trusty little Panasonic TZ1.

The long-term goal is to have a hefty supply of year-round photos to add to the Bearskin web site, but meanwhile people keep asking, “Did that picture work? Can I see it?”  Yesterday I uploaded a fraction of them to a Flickr web site in date and time order.  I will continue to add pictures to the site on a regular basis, as well as adding more of the pictures from the past few weeks when I find the time. 

It’s a great way to see the daily activities and changes at Bearskin over the seasons.  If you are in one of the pictures and want a copy, feel free to make copies. They can be found at:

The big 3 questions: #2 Did you stay at Bearskin a lot?

There is remarkable consistency in the questions curious people ask us about buying Bearskin Lodge. The inevitable 2nd question always seems to be whether we were regular Bearskin guests – did we fall in love with the place and decide to stay?

I always feel a little embarrassed to answer, “No,” because we should have stayed at Bearskin.  Our family was perfectly designed for a Bearskin stay. Our kids loved the northwoods, our family enjoyed being together, and we had grandparents living then who would have valued the time spent with us.  But we were teachers, living for many years on one income while I stayed home with our kids.  Decisions were always made based on economics, on how we could get by on the least amount of money. We did a lifetime of fun family trips, but they were always cheap fun trips.  We didn’t repeat enjoyable experiences often enough for them to develop into traditions and it was a rarity that our extended family was included.

Now when we see the families who are here all together — with Grandma and Grandpa, mom and dad, the aunties and uncles, the cousins, the newborn infants — we can’t help but feel a little envious of the memories they are creating together as a family group.  Bearskin is not the least expensive place for people to spend their family time, but it is exceptionally memorable and special.  It’s readily apparent that most families seem extraordinarily contented and close while they are together here.

So no, we didn’t come to Bearskin with our children.  But we really wish we had.  Watching families together at Bearskin, we can see Bearskin is a worthwhile investment in making family memories, the kind of family investment that we now wish we had made more often.

Little Quinn in ski shelter

Here’s a picture of Quinn when he and Bob almost went to Bearskin.  They skied all day at Bearskin, where Quinn encountered his first moose on the Summer Home Road Trail.  They walked around the Lodge and admired the stone fireplace.  They went out again after dark to ski on the lighted trails at Bearskin, an experience they’ve both talked about often ever since.  And then they left and drove to the cheapest Cook County motel they could find. 

While the “cheap” part of the story is endearing now, both Bob and Quinn look forward to repeating the entire Bearskin experience right this winter—skiing the trails for hours, warming up in the sauna, soaking in the hot tub, sleeping in a cozy Bearskin cabin and then doing it all again the next day.  No, we didn’t stay at Bearskin when our kids were little, but we still plan to make Bearskin memories with them.

The big 3 questions: #1 Did you always dream of buying a resort?

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…” 

Living the dream

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