July and August tend to be our most busy months when nightly appearances of the NO VACANCY sign become the norm and the summer sun converts the Boreal forest into a thick greenery that might be mistaken for a rain forest if you did not know any better.
It is a great time to view wildflowers in abundance and also a time when we visit our favorite (secret) berry picking spots. The Strawberries have already come and gone and we enjoyed many of the tasty thimble size morsels. Anyday now, we will start seeing raspberries and blueberries in abundance. This year I think we will try the gunflint trail as I understand the blueberries have been really doing well since the Ham Lake fire.
Hiking, golfing, fishing and simply skipping rocks off the flat surface of Lake Superior are also activities our guests and ourselves enjoy immensely. The other night I walked down to the Lake with Sam and hiked over to the Cascade River where we observed a person casting for Steelhead right off the mouth of the river. The scene was one right out of “A river runs through it” and while we did not see him hook any, he did seem to be enjoying himself in the late afternoon sunshine.
Hopefully, the scorching heat that is crippling the midwest will not hit up here. The Lake tends to be our air conditioning and in the 7+ years we have been here, I can only recall 4-5 nights that were somewhat uncomfortable. The Lake does an excellent job of providing perfect sleeping weather with the added bonus of nature’s sounds over the hum of some air conditioner. Hope to see many more guests this summer as it really does go by quickly!
Sam and I walked over to the Cascade River on a bright and sunny afternoon yesterday to try our hand at catching some trout. It was almost too much for the senses as the wildflowers were simply magnificent! We saw Lupines and Lilacs and wild roses and buttercups and even a few ladyslippers along the way. The wild roses scented the air with natures own perfume and made the senses come to life as no other place can. We stepped down to the cool rushing water of the Cascade river and used a simple method of fishing–the good old hook and worm approach with worms gathered earlier out of the rich soil of our garden.
Sam got the first bite behind a big rock he was standing on but he missed it. I got the next one and caught it! A 3 inch long brook trout filled with live and vigorously trying to get off my hook. The next fish was also to be mine and after about an hour of this we set for home. We took the Superior Hiking Trail home and after about 15 minutes we were there. It was a fantastic opportunity to enjoy our big back yard!
Spring is here and volunteer work and grounds cleanup is in full swing. Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) volunteer members were out on the trail over the weekend to clear down trees, branches, overgrowth and all kinds of different debris along a big stretch of Minnesota’s favorite hiking trail. The crew parks their cars at Cascade and camps at various locations along the trail after a long day and evening of trail work. We are grateful to have these crews in order to get the trail ready and in tip top shape for the summer.
The SHT runs from Duluth to the Canadian border and if you enjoy hiking the trail association is offering up a challenge for you! Named the “Seven Summits Challenge,” they have chosen different summits along the trail from Duluth to Grand Marais. Print out a log sheet from the shta.org website and log details of your hike each time you reach one of the summits: Ely’s Peak, Mount Trudee, Carlton Peak, Oberg Mountain, Moose Mountain, Cascade’s own Lookout Mountain and Pincushion Mountain in Grand Marais. Climb all seven summits, turn in your log sheets and they will give you your choice of three really cool posters!
Cascade Lodge and Solbakken Resort are hosting the annual “Work Week” now thru May 16th. The basic idea is that during a slow season of the year, we are able to exchange rooms and meals for your skills and efforts. Typically, we need people skilled in painting, carpentry, electrical, plumbing etc. The plan this year is that we will be constructing 2 large new decks, getting our flower beds ready and painting a cabin or two and the all important raking of the grounds! Also, we are finishing up restoring Cabin 4 at Solbakken after it caught fire over the winter. Here’s how the week works: Arrival is Sunday and check in to a free basic room. On Monday thru Friday we provide you with a breakfast at 8am and then by 8:30-9 we begin working on projects. We break for lunch about 12 noon and we finish up about 3 pm. The rest of the day is yours. On Friday the lunch is light and we will typically finish up by 12 noon. Saturday you are on your own for meals, but the Lodging is free, checkout is Sunday. Don’t miss this opportunity to be a part of this new adventure and a chance to meet new friends. Call Michael at Cascade and sign up for next year!
Welcome to Waterfall season on the North Shore! Area Rivers and creeks are bursting at the seams with the Cascade cresting just last week. Tons of water, debris and ice have been forced out to the mouth of the river into Lake Superior making for some great sights and sounds! Steelhead fisherman can be seen daily and Matt and Michael Jr. hope catch several themselves in the next few weeks. A large group of adventure kayakers were seen navigating the raging river on 4/18. Talk about extreme sports!
Matt took this nice picture of the wolf last week in Lutsen. The wolf was very tame and didn’t run away at all when they snapped a few photos of him/her. Wolves have also been in the local news lately. A woman from Lutsen who works at Arrowhead Electric likes to walk back to her house 1 ½ miles away when she can for the exercise. One day she was walking home when she sensed something was following her. She turned around and it was a big wolf walking close behind. Frightened, she blew her whistle at the wolf who didn’t even flinch and kept coming. She waved down a truck on Highway 61 to get home.
Another woman from Grand Marais lets her two dogs out every morning before work. One morning she called them in and only one dog returned home. Thinking nothing of it she went to work since the dogs sometimes wander over to her brother’s house next door. She called her brother from work to ask about the dog only to find out the dog was not over at his house. The brother went to look for the dog and found it had been killed by a pack of wolves in the field behind her house. The Minnesota DNR advises people to keep their pets indoors or watch over them when outside and don’t feed the deer, the wolves prime food source to keep them away from the house.
We started our annual St. Patrick’s week celebration about 5 years ago because the O’Phelan family and some of the staff are Irish and really get a kick out of celebrating St. Patty’s Day. The week was slow to catch on but has gradually built up steam over the last few years culminating in our biggest St. Pat’s turnout yet on Thursday the 17th! Hundreds of people showed up throughout the day to enjoy some excellent Irish Fare like Lamb Chops, Fish N’ Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, Mulligan Stew and Colcannon. There were some wonderful Irish themed desserts as well! The Trio Hi-B’s performed some lovely Irish tunes in the New Pub and had everyone tapping their toes to say the least. The staff got into the action too and dressed up in lots of green and derby hats. They also did a phenomenal job decorating the restaurant and pub to make it felt like you were in Dublin with the music, quaint pub feel and lots of Guinness and Irish Whiskey flowing. Everyone had an awesome time!
As you can see in the picture the deer have once again invaded the shoreline and our front lawn too. They annually migrate toward the big lake down here in search of open food sources, water, and unfortunately cars and trucks. Be careful while driving along Highway 61 at dusk and at night! A few brave fishermen have already been seen fishing steelhead at the mouth of the Cascade River as the ice starts to recede and more water starts pouring through. Soon the waterfalls will start opening up all over the place and surging like crazy with all the snow melt and early spring rains.
In staff news Michael, Matt and Adam drove back to our Deeryard Lake Ski Area and skied the main loop 10K. Conditions reported were spring-like, lots of snow still on the trail with a 10-12 inch base and plenty left in the woods! Matt recently returned from family vacation down in Florida for Minnesota Twins Spring Training. He came back tan with lots of great stories and pictures to share with us!
The wildlife viewing around the resort and the area has been fantastic this winter. The deer can normally be seen in abundance late winter as they congregate along the shoreline with readily available food sources and that is the case again this year. However, the deer are also the main food source of the Wolves which are being spotted in record numbers. We have several nice, healthy looking wolves right here in the State Park as witnessed by many guests and employees and can be heard “howling at the moon” on many nights! Our ski trail groomers have also seen them over on the west end of the trail system and have found lots of evidence of four course meals enjoyed by the canines along their route. Matt saw a huge Silver Fox the other night coming back from the restaurant right next to the lodge. It scurried up on a snow bank and stared at him for a few minutes before wandering off into the woods. We had a few previous guests come and rent snowshoes to hike up on the Gunflint Trail over the weekend. Upon returning them Monday afternoon they told stories of seeing a Moose, two Wolves and allegedly a Cougar too, but with most Cougar sightings it was unconfirmed. Wow talk about living amongst some furry friends on the Wild North Shore!
Just this past weekend Cascade Lodge hosted a variety of fun activities for the annual Winter Tracks Festival. On Friday night we lit up 3 KM of our ski trail with luminaries for our third annual Candle Lit Ski. It was a beautiful evening with light snow falling, no wind and temps in the mid-20’s. Lots of people showed up and were very happy to enjoy a rare night ski and warm up by the campfire with some hot chocolate and cookies! Special thanks to Michael, Adam, Matt, Maureen and Amanda for their work and hospitality.
The following day was the Volks Ski 400 event. This event tries to get as many people out skiing on as many of the 400km of Cook Counties’ world class cross country ski trails as possible. Cascade Lodge formed a team of 10 skiers and got 2nd place while skiing every section of our 57km system. Owner Michael O’Phelan placed 3rd for individual part of the event. After the long day on the trails, all the participants gathered at our new Pub for an Apres Ski Reception where t-shirts were given out and good times and trail stories were shared! To wrap up the fun weekend Marco took out three large groups on his sleigh ride through the woods on a beautiful starry night!
Happy 2011 from all the staff here at Cascade! It seems like we are getting snow everyday with over 18 inches of fluffy snow falling in the last week alone. All the ski trails, snowmobile trails and snowshoe trails are in excellent shape and are getting plenty of use. Marco’s Sleigh Rides have been a huge hit as well. All this snow is a blessing since last year’s total snowfall fell way below the historic average. We are hoping for a long winter with continued snowfalls and anticipate Cross Country Skiing through March! On the morning of Friday the 14th to start the big weekend the ski trail groomer discovered a fresh deer kill at the start of the ski trail pretty close to the resort. He dragged it off the trail only to re-discover it right back where he found it on his return trip. That was one hungry wolf!
Every weekend from now until the end of the winter ski season, our new pub over at the restaurant is hosting LIVE Music Friday and Saturday Nights from 7-10pm. This past weekend Pete Kavanaugh and John Gruber entertained a full house and did not disappoint. We also have a Free Shuttle to Pappa Charlies Night Club this winter that leaves Saturday nights at 9pm from the restaurant. Hope to see you soon to enjoy some excellent lodging options, great food and music and wonderful trail systems!
The deer hunters that stayed at the resort had good success with all of them getting deer and enjoying some decent late fall weather. Shortly after deer season we went from fall to winter in a heartbeat. The temperatures dropped rapidly and all that wind we were experiencing in autumn blew in several storms right before Thanksgiving. The night before Thanksgiving the lakeshore temperatures were in the 40’s so when the storm hit the rain started coming down in sheets. Areas away from the lake saw up to a foot of snow! The snow is pretty thin right now by the lake because of all that rain, but if you go inland just a few miles there is up to 30 inches of snow already! We have been skiing on the Pioneer Loop now since Thanksgiving and we hope to get most of the system opened up after the next significant snow. Great early start to our winter sports season!
The time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas is considered the Low Season along the North Shore. We are taking this time to deep clean cabins, rooms, and the entire restaurant. But the most appealing projects we have going on right now is the Main Lodge restoration. In late fall we pulled up all the old carpet in the main lodge to unearth 1500 square feet or Maple Hardwood floors. This past week the Lodge was closed because we had a professional come in to restore the floors back to their original luster. Claude O’Neil has been flooring for almost 40 years across the state. With that much experience you expect the best and he did not disappoint. As you can see in the pictures the floors look absolutely beautiful! Matt is also painting the ceilings and the walls in the lobby and behind the front desk. We hope to have everything done before Christmas for all of our guests and visitors to enjoy. Happy Holidays from all of our staff!
Last weekend the North Star Ski Club visited the area for their big Annual Trail Clearing Weekend. Their help was even more important than ever this year with all the trees blown over on the ski trails. Thanks for all your effort and hard work North Stars, we really appreciate it! Matt and Michael Jr. finished up the rest of our trail system and saw 3 wolves run off the trail as their ATV’s approached on the trail between Cascade Lodge and Solbakken Resort!
In other wildlife news, two young moose (pictured) were spotted and photographed by a guest that stayed in Cabin 14 this fall one morning of their stay. They were drinking coffee and having breakfast, when they looked out their window and sure enough there was two moose standing right outside the cabin munching on vegetation. Wow, what a sight to wake up too!