Snow started falling Thursday night, one day before our “Trail Work Weekend” workers were scheduled to arrive. Not just the usual fall dusting that coats the world in a thin layer of white crystals and kills all the geraniums. No, this was the real thing, a blizzard of swirling flakes that left 2 – 3 inches of solid snow cover. Our trail workers hike the grassy cross-country ski trail with saws, loppers, and nippers in hand, cutting back the branches that had the audacity to grow over ski trails during the summer. They walk, they don’t ski. Snow wasn’t actually expected on the ski trails quite yet.
An annual Bearskin tradition, trail work weekend is held every year in late October or early November. For $99/per person, guests stay all weekend in the cabin of their choice. They spend a few hours nipping and pruning and chatting on the ski trails with a group of new friends. Then after an afternoon of free time, we all gather in the lodge again for a meal, complimentary as part of the weekend fun.
Our trail weekend workers tend to be a mix of regular guests, wanting one more Bearskin trip this year at a bargain price, as well as new guests who are thinking this is a good way to check us out. This year we had an exceptionally large group, the maximum number we could fit in the restaurant, and the majority of them were new to Bearskin. The snow was a surprise to everyone.
The shoe store in Grand Marais sold a few new pairs of boots to trail workers on Friday. Everyone managed to pull together enough hats, gloves and warm socks to keep warm on the trail. At 9 AM the group met for coffee, scones, and a plan, then headed out in four groups. Never have trail workers accomplished so much. Many of them promised to come back this winter to ski the trails and check to see if they missed any spots!
The snowy trails made some memories for guests, both fun and sad. One group could see they were obviously just minutes behind a moose who was hiking the same path. There was added excitement as each time they turned a corner, they expected to encounter a big bull — a sight you don’t truly want to see during rutting season. Another group was following a very active fox. For one of our guests the snowy trails brought back some strong feelings. Many years ago she fell and badly broke her leg on a ski trail. We all remember it as one of the most traumatic incidents that ever occurred at Bearskin. This time she chose her trailwork area randomly, but it turned out to be the same one where she was injured. It was a significant moment to return to that spot again for the first time.
Much thanks to Bearskin’s great staff for making this event happen for all of us. We were down two employees, but Andy and Kate did a great job of stepping into entirely different jobs and running the show superbly well. Andy put in an 11 hour day; we had to make him go home. Kudos also to guest Don Hess, who has done trail work weekend often enough that he was able to fill in and lead the fourth group — without losing a single person.
Pictures of this weekend are sorely lacking. Our usual group dinner photo came out a bit dim. If you took any pictures, we’d love it if you’d share them with us.
If you want to be part of Trail Work Weekend in 2015, you can reserve now. We tentatively have it scheduled for the weekend before deer hunting starts, Friday, October 30 – Sunday, November 1. Yes, this means you would have something fun to do for Halloween that did not involve wearing an embarrassing costume. And you can still gorge yourself on Halloween candy — we’ll leave you a treat bag full of goodies.