These days nobody gets fabulously wealthy running a resort on the Gunflint Trail. Time and again our colleagues and friends along the trail have proffered this advice: “You have to remember, it’s not about the money. It’s about the lifestyle.”
Let me tell you about the lifestyle.
Monday was just an ordinary fall day at Bearskin Lodge. Rainy, a bit windy, not the nicest autumn day ever, but nonetheless, an unexceptional day. It was quiet enough that Bob and I devised a little date for ourselves—the exciting plan was to make a trip to the Grand Marais recycling center and then perhaps stop in for a treat at the World’s Best Donut Shop. Doesn’t get much better than that.
The first change of plans came shortly after Bob and Andy had filled the pickup truck bed with bazillion beer bottles and pop cans. Cabin 4’s water heater quit. With 15 cabins & lodges, a large main lodge, a hot tub house, two laundries and staff housing, Bearskin owns a lot of water heaters. Sometimes it seems like a water heater dies at Bearskin Lodge every 7 seconds. Bob spent the next 90 minutes spreading water heater parts around the bathroom floor of Cabin 4, finally determining that our delayed date in town would also include a search for a thermocouple (definition: the name for the part that always goes out on everything at Bearskin.)
Quinn was theoretically off work for the day, so he opted to ride along on our town trip. The closer we came to Grand Marais, the wilder the wind was blowing. We were astonished by our first view of Lake Superior from the hill above Grand Marais. Under a dark gray, roiling sky, the lake was covered in whitecaps as far as the eye could see. In town, trees were blown into arc shapes, shingles were flying off buildings, shop doors were whipping open, and pedestrians strained forward against the wind.
We struggled to unload the recyclables before they blew out all over Cook County, and then drove to the harbor. The three of us sat in the truck, buffeted by wind, munching on “World’s Best” donuts and totally transfixed by the sailboats bobbing and spinning around their buoys on the rough lake.
Meanwhile, back at Bearskin a tree was falling through the roof of Cabin 5.
Since 50% of the day’s staff was off eating pastries in Grand Marais, Andy was stuck dealing with the tree on his own. As usual, he handled the situation with aplomb until our return.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent pulling tree branches off the roof, calling repair contractors, and covering Cabin 5’s roof and broken skylight with tarps to keep the cabin’s interior dry. At one point Bob slipped off the roof, breaking the fall with (whoops) his elbow. Fortified with a handful of ibuprofen, Bob returned with Quinn to Cabin 4 to finally finish repairing the malfunctioning water heater.
It was shortly after that when the power went out.
I think Quinn and Andy secretly love a good power outage. (Bob, not so much.) There’s lots of lifting, connecting, switching, plugging, and thinking, culminating in a final triumphant moment when (TA-DA!) the lights snap on in the Main Lodge and toilets everywhere in the resort start to flush again. This was an annoying power outage because many guests had started cooking dinner, but unlike our most infamous power outage in February, 2008 (see “Survivor—the power outage edition”), the weather wasn’t dangerous. Electrical service was restored relatively soon to Bearskin and as usual, many of our guests reported turning the lights back off again because they were having more fun by candlelight.
We went to bed Monday night expecting the next disaster. Nothing happened. Lights flickered, but stayed lit. Water heated. Toilets flushed. Trees didn’t topple. Roofs didn’t leak, skylights didn’t break. Even the uncovered geraniums failed to freeze. Today the sun is shining, the sky is a brilliant blue, the winds have calmed, and it’s another gorgeous fall day on the Gunflint Trail.
It is, indeed, all about the lifestyle.