The Return of February

We’re having such beautiful sunny February weather–zero degree mornings, sunny 32 degree afternoons. Bright sparkle days—we say this because it keeps us cheery about the winter days EVEN THOUGH IT IS APRIL 10TH!!! The lake has frozen solid again-so the kids can’t go poking logs through the otter holes as they were 2 weeks ago. We got almost a foot of snow—and we’re glad for the lingering moisture. We’re also madly filling up the bird feeder for all of the little guys that accidentally came our way during the beautiful May days that we were having in March.

Today our favorite UPS driver, Bill is bringing 60 cases of dehydrated food, and we’re getting ready for your first staff members due to arrive in a couple of weeks. We have shiny new canoes and we’re ready for fishing opener!!! Just a couple of 60 degree days away. Here’s hoping for April tomorrow!


“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.” Doug Larson

I borrowed this quote from my friend Sue Prom who runs with me on this far end of the Gunflint Trail.
During the sunny 65 degree days, it is hard to wish for the soggy rainy spring that we need to fill the Cross River and soak the woods. We’re looking forward to the canoe season—-the yard is free from ice, the staff positions are almost filled, the days are light and we’re excited to share the Tuscarora bunkhosues once again.

Sled Dogs

Mary Tilden,three friends , and six dogs spent the weekend sledding on Round Lake and in the nearby woods. These beautiful dogs were delighted to pull as much as possible!
This year the Jonathon Beargrease sled dog races were cancelled due to lack of snow in Duluth. (Duluth is getting socked with a blizzard right now–due to get more than two feet of snow by tomorrow–but too late for the Beargrease). The Gunflint Trail hosted sled dog races this weekend–and many folks showed up to race, cheer, and enjoy the festivities. A new winter tradition for the Gunflint Trail???

Oh Deer

At Tuscarora, we have deer and we have snow, and the other day the local wolf pack had a meal. Sometime between 6am and 12pm, this deer was killed and picked fairly clean.

One Sunday in January, the sheriff sent out an email warning the folks in town of a wolf pack on County Road 7—they attacked one dog, and just missed another.
Apparently the lack of snow along the North Shore gives the deer an advantage over the wolves, and as a result the wolves are hungry (and plentiful) enough to start looking for fresh meat elsewhere.
Last week Andy watched three wolves on the lake—one acting as a sentry while two of them rolled like puppies.
Perhaps you have read in the newspapers lately—the wolves have had more press recently, since they were taken off the endangered species list in Wisconsin and Michigan (they have been listed as threatened in Minnesota since 1978) According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (January 30th)
Minnesota has an estimated 3,020 wolves, Wisconsin 460, upper Michigan 430 and Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior 30 — all above federal population recovery levels…..the article goes on to say….In anticipation of eventually getting management authority over wolves, Minnesota finalized a wolf-management plan six years ago. Among other things, it will break the state into two zones — the wooded northeast, where wolves are abundant, and the rest of the state, where they are less common. In the northeast, property owners could kill wolves if they observed them stalking, attacking or killing livestock or pets. In the remainder of the state, property owners will have more discretion and could kill wolves if they considered them a threat to their animals.
Under the Minnesota plan, there will be no public hunting or trapping for five years. Then, the DNR commissioner could propose a season, but only after an opportunity for public debate. The state’s minimum population goal is 1,600 wolves. Limited trapping of wolves responsible for attacks on livestock and pets would continue. About 100 to 150 of those wolves are trapped each year, DonCarlos said. Unless lawsuits are filed, the management transfer will take place 30 days after the decision is published in the Federal Register. Next month, another iconic creature, the bald eagle, is expected to be removed from the list of endangered species. Even though gray wolf populations are increasing in Minnesota, there are no documented cases of wolves attacking or injuring anyone in the state, according to the DNR. “Any wild animal can never be considered completely safe,” said Walter Medwid, executive director of the International Wolf Center, based in Ely, Minn. “But Minnesota is perhaps the best example that people have lived with wolves in remarkable harmony overall for the last 30-odd years.”

The Spark

One of our favorite modes of winter transportation/entertainment on the snowpacked roads of Tuscaroroa, or the lake is through the use of our Sparks.

Spark” is short for “Sparkstötting” (Swedish/Norwegian). In Finnish it is called “Potkukelkka”, meaning kick-sled.
The exact early history of the spark is lost in the mists of time, but the first confirmed sighting was in Sweden around 1870. Perhaps a Viking runestone will be found with a drawing of an early spark! My guess is that some inventive Swedish farmer nailed a chair to a pair of skis, and used it for hauling firewood. etc. “Spark” means “kick” and “Stöt” means “push”. The word “stötting” or “stutting” was also used for small sleds used for hauling wood.
Sparks were used for transportation and then for sport as it spread to larger cities. In 1888 Stockholms Sparkstöttingklubb was founded. The club leader was Viktor Balck, who later became one of the founders of the Olympic Games.
By the 1890’s sparks had spread to Norway and Finland. In 1900 the modern steel runnered spark was developed, and the design remained unchanged until now.
There were major competitions in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Spark racing was one of the 3 major events (besides skiing and skating) in the Nordic Games (Nordiska Spelen), which was the ancestor of the Winter Olympics. However, after 1910 or so, sparks were mainly used as a utility vehicle. Today they are still used in smaller towns.
(information taken from

This month, our sparks are even more valuable. Notice Shelby’s large green sock-covering a cast? She broke her leg while sliding, and has discovered the spark as a welcome substitute for her crutches around here!

Interested in building your own kicksled? Check out Northouse Folk School: