November: not quite winter, not quite fall

November is an odd month on the Gunflint Trail.  Nobody quite knows what to expect in November, other than that it will be very, very quiet up here. 

 I never quite know how to categorize November.  Bearskin has a daily photo site on Flickr with pictures labeled by their dates.  November can look like this:

November, the fall version, 2009

Or this: 

November, the winter version,2010

 After each month is over, we need to put the month into a group on Flickr – is it fall or winter?  The calendar says November is “fall,” but the pictures often say “winter.”  We watch the lake “ice-over” — then watch it melt again.  We pray for snow to guarantee a good ski season — and then hope for no snow to extend our pleasant fall.  We enjoy the opportunity to be at our own resort in peace and quiet — but then wish guests were here to enjoy the November beauty and solitude.

Bearskin employees have plenty to do in November.  All the paraphernalia that defines summer–boats, docks, swim rafts, beach chairs–needs to disappear for winter.  The pisten bully and G2 groomers need to be brought out, the snow shovels and ski racks need to reappear, the wood racks need to be filled.

Most Bearskin employees  spend November “deep cleaning.”  There are two goals in deep cleaning:   to get every inch of every cabin immaculately clean for the next season, and to find the secret items people hid in cabins for next year.  At this point we think we know all the hiding places, including the concealed spot in Cabin 3 where notes survived for years.  But our guests keep coming up with creative new clandestine challenges. 

Deep cleaning in November can be a tough job because the hard usage of the summer takes a toll on our cabins.   Bearskin cabins are all lovely, but there is no end to what we would like to replace and revamp in every cabin if we had an endless supply of money.  (I’m working on that “endless supply of money” by investing $1 a month in winning Powerball, but surprise, surprise, so far that hasn’t been paying off for us.)  Every fall and spring we try to upgrade a few items in every Bearskin cabin.  We always appreciate input from our guests about what they would most like us to improve next. Feel free to write to us at if you have suggestions.  There’s nothing like living in a cabin for a week to truly know what ought to be updated.

Our big project for fall is a new stone fireplace in Lynx Cabin #9.  All Bearskin cabins have either a woodstove or a fireplace.  For years the favorite fireplace has been the one in Birch Cabin #5.  That’s a very basic fireplace, but guests love it and as a result, it can be very, very difficult to get a spot in Cabin 5.  We put a similar fireplace into Spruce Cabin #1. That has made Cabin 1 much more popular, but it’s too small a cabin for many family groups.  Cabin 9 was open for much of the fall, so we decided to experiment with a massive fireplace in there.

The stone mason is nearly done, and so far we think the new fireplace is beautiful.  It’s made from local river rocks that have been sliced in half, rather than from “cultured” stone.  The firebox is a very energy-efficient unit, so this will not only be beautiful but more cost-effective than the average fireplace. 

Stone mason Mark Harrington working on the new Cabin 9 fireplace

If this November is any indication, we should have a beautiful, snowy winter this year.  Cabin 9 will be a gorgeous place to relax in front of the fireplace after enjoying a ski, dog sledding, or snowshoe adventure at beautiful Bearskin. .

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