Welcome Home

Wolverine Cabin - named from the movie, "Running Free," (1993) partially filmed here. Image of young wolverines in the film - see Nature Notes.

Only ninety minutes from Duluth or four hours from the Twin Cities is some of the wildest hinterland in the Midwest. Whether your interests are canoeing, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, bird-watching, steaming away your cares in our log sauna, stargazing, or reading by a crackling woodstove, Snowshoe Country has something for you. Located east of Ely and not far from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, this facility is the ideal retreat for those who want to escape to a more primitive and pristine landscape. We're for individuals, couples, families and small groups. The modest fees for rental of our rustic log cabins are the same as fifteen years ago.

The high-elevation country of the eastern Superior National Forest is the closest thing in Minnesota to "going to the mountains" and we are given the longest winter and deepest snowpack of the region. Our extensive private trail system winds through a variety of boreal forest terrain. Many visitors see their first moose on the way up here - on Minnesota's moosiest trail.

Folks from around the country visit the area specifically for sightings of unfamiliar bird species. And it's not unusual to see or hear timber wolves.

Fishing is good year-around, with each lake and stream in the district hosting different species, including walleyes, northern pike, smallmouth bass, perch, bluegills and three varieties of trout.

July and August are times for blueberries, raspberries, and serviceberries - late August or early September for harvesting wild rice on Sand Lake. An Ely-Isabella autumn displays the brightest leaf colors in the region, and hiking, canoeing, and grouse hunting are common fall activities.

The camp is rarely full any time of the year and is a good place to find serious solitude and quiet. Canoes and snowshoes are part of the package. So get your sleeping bag, skis, or hiking/pac boots, food and camera together, call or email to reserve the rustic cabin of your choice, and give it a try. Experience Minnesota's authentic northwoods and truly wild places. Gift certificates are also available.


Chester Brown, the golden lab/retriever, now-retired dog greeter for the camp.  

91˚39’05″W longitude
47˚35’37″N  latitude
Elevation: 1740′ above sea level

218.461.5951 for more information.*


Important News

As of March 31, 2020, after forty-some years, Snowshoe Country Lodge in its present form was closed. Thanks to all the great people and their canine companions who stayed here and enjoyed the rustic place over the decades. And Ron, for his part, got to meet some of the most interesting and friendly folks of his whole life.  If you have questions, call Ron Brodigan at 218.365.2126. His new address for now is 9219 Co. Rd. 2, Isabella, MN 55607.

The entire place came under new ownership in early August and the new owners will probably reopen the resort under the same name this fall.
They will likely continue managing this website with WordPress, along with a fresh email address and phone number. For details phone Byron, one of the owners, at 651.283.7144.

March 27 reminds me of a most interesting development/invention back in the early days of the resort. Known by the Ojibwe as “the Moon of No Travel,” late March and early April is the season of deep, soft snow – sometimes as much as four feet on the level. At such a time, back in the 1980s, as Ron tells it to me (his dog friend), he and a large group were skiing back in the MNDNR Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) – mile after mile of tamarack and spruce bog with fast, level trails to the west of Sand Lake and even beyone Bonga Lake. Back then many of us used the wide, white, wooden, army skis, which were especially good for the bush. As the temperature rose to upper 40s, skiing became difficult in the wet snow. Klister waxes, developed for that situation, weren’t effective that day and things were getting tough. We stopped for lunch and built a fire for Labrador tea in a forest opening and one of the group reached into his #3 Duluth Pack and produced a 2 lb. box of Velveeta cheese for his meal – and, of course, to share, he said. It was already becoming warm and sticky. On a hunch, I grabbed it and quickly waxed my skis with a scraper and cork slathered with  Velveeta. As the temps rose into the 50s, we had some fantastic skiing the rest of the day, heading for home with sunburned faces only as the moon appeared.
I thought better of writing to Kraft so they would know of the new use for their product. They would probably find no amusement in this knowledge.

Plenty of openings for cabins the rest of winter (end of March – early April, ordinarily). The two-week Ely Winter Festival begins today with dozens of large snow sculptures in Whiteside Park and many special programs and features around town.
Snow and trail conditions generally are excellent. Temperatures have been moderate – without any thawing. More birdwatchers have been showing up in the area, with sightings of great gray owls, spruce grouse, and many others.

More plowing today after another foot of snow. I rode the plow truck with Ron today. He says we’re up over 40 inches on the ground now. Hard to find places to put the plowed snow. It will be the big yellow backhoe tractor pushing snow after this and Ron doesn’t usually let me ride along. Not much extra room in the cab and way too risky for a dog friend to trot nearby.

A few weeks ago, Ron watched five wolves on the road nearby, and a short time later, while driving in the dark in a snowstorm through the 300-year-old pines south of here, lightly brushed a large bull with his Subaru as he hit the brakes. One of those rare deals where neither the car nor the moose was hurt, but road-dust was swept from the left side of the vehicle and a mirror slightly bent. The big critters seem to be common again, particularly in the large white pines south of here, the two-mile stretch Ron terms the Baroque Pines since they were seedlings during the age of  Bach, Telemann, Purcell,  Handel, & Vivaldi.

Over two feet of good snow now. Steve & Earl went over all of the trails the other day, packing and grooming with the ARGO tracked vehicle. In great shape for the holiday cabin rentals.

Snow hit hard two days ago and Ron is still plowing and shoveling. A foot of snow on the camp and trails now.

And “just one more thing,” as Detective Columbo used to say.
Late November is harvest time for wild Christmas trees and arguably the best for appearance, aroma, and needle retention through the holiday season, are balsam firs, same trees from which we cut branches for whisks (vihta) in our saunas. So, come up and help yourself to any that you might want. Just bring a handsaw and some way to fasten them to your vehicle. They’re free, whether you’re lodging here or not. Just Notify Ron or Chester that you’re coming.

Winter is definitely here to stay – four inches of snow on the ground and more on the way. Lakes and marshes are frozen as well. A good stash of firewood is ready in the woodsheds, and all of the ski and snowshoe trails have been recently cleared by Ron, Steve, and Adam. Lots of cabin rentals available. Call for information.

After years of rental rates based on how many persons are renting and length of stay, we have simplified a bit. Dogs are still welcome at no charge and kids 8 and under are not charged for, but the rate now is a basic $42. per person per night, plus sales and lodging taxes – regardless of  which cabin is used for your stay. In the busy season of winter, however, there is still a minimum of four persons for the Glacial Esker Bunkhouse overlooking the lake.

Autumn is active and especially colorful. The black ash, balm of Gilead poplars, mountain maples, and red maples all have their best cloaks on. Dry trails mean good hiking, and many cabin rental openings are available for September, October, and the winter beyond.
Ron is busy topping off the various cabins’ firewood stashes and sometimes gives me (Chester) rides inside the tractor cab between the splitting yard and the woodsheds.

It’s not quite autumn yet, but a friendly harbinger is already glowing in the forest openings and along the roads – the beautiful purple fireweed, which, as you know, blooms progressively upward during August. When the topmost flowers open (often about Labor Day), fall is approaching.
insects are pretty much gone for the year, fish are active again after a slow July, and leaves will be changing by mid-September. Time to make reservations for fall and winter.
For anyone interested in staying here for wild-rice harvesting, the crop looks exceptional this year. We have the canoes and “knocker” sticks. Ricing is open to anyone. All you need is a DNR rice harvesting license – short or long-term. It’s available at any establishment that sells fishing licenses. Ripening usually occurs during the last week of August, sometimes into the first week of September. Call Ron or Chester for a current report.

Also, coming up in nearby Ely is Nature, A Walking Play: the outdoor telling of Emerson, Thoreau, and their mutual love of the natural world, August 22-25 in five performances at Hidden Valley Ski Area near the Wolf Center. Tickets are $15 and available at Ely Folk School and Art & Soul Gallery – or at the performances. One description:
Big-city theater in a wild setting for audiences of all ages comes to Ely. You’ll
feel like part of the drama as you walk between scenes with the 16-member      professional cast and the community chorus. It’s history with a message for    modern times.

And we still have rental cabins open for that period.


Plenty of openings for next weekend – the annual Blueberry Festival in nearby Ely. The whole of Whiteside Park filled with arts, crafts, and music. A one-of-a-kind gathering. Check it out!

Additionally, the wild blueberries and raspberries around here are more plentiful than usual. Easy pickins, as they say.

Nights are filled with lightning-bugs, and daylight reveals wildflowers everywhere – new ones each week, and several more moose sightings and photos of same on Steve’s Wendigo Trail cameras. Also, pictures of a lynx walking right past a stash of miscellaneous photo-bait and ignoring it. They are evidently that focused on their usual diet of snowshoe hares, which are plentiful hereabouts.
Becoming a bit dry around the area the past two weeks, but that should be remedied by thunderstorms today.
Young woodchucks are dispersing in the first weeks of July – looking for new home territories in which to dig own their complicated burrow systems, with separate rooms for waste disposal, sleeping, food cache, and nursery, as well as plunge holes nearby to escape from the fox or eagle – systems similar to other members of the underground squirrel family such as marmots out west and Richardson’s ground squirrels in other parts of Minnesota.
Come up and visit during this spectacular summer. Plenty of cabins available.

Several developments: A merganser family is raising ducklings in the pond behind the Wolverine Cabin and another pair of geese showed up in the marsh by Ron’s cabin with five partially-grown youngsters a couple days ago – shortly after Ron had breakfast one morning while watching a moose swimming & foraging in the same place – in the main cabin’s backyard.
We also hosted our own four-day family reunion of nineteen last week, which went exceedingly well. Lots of successful walleye fishing in the lake and great times spent at the Ely wolf and bear centers. It was really fun to spend time with relatives again!

Bear(s) moved on. No more problems. Goose pair have flown north to larger lakes to wait out their wing feather molting period, during which they can’t fly for 3-4 weeks. At least two pairs of trumpeter swans are still taking care of their nests – cygnets any day now. A beautiful summer is materializing. Come up and enjoy!

Summer begins. Geese are nesting on the bog and the lake, four kinds of frogs are talking courtship at night, marsh marigolds are just beginning to bloom in the road ditches, and the walleyes are definitely cooperating with anglers. A bear got into the dumpster yesterday and distributed stuff around that area. Ron was in Ely and I was in our cabin, so I didn’t get the chance to talk with the bear. Lots of cabin openings for the summer.

Spring is well underway with the vanishing of all the ice and snow plus the return of the Canada geese, trumpeter swans, and assorted waterfowl on the lake. Rain last week began to green-up the terrain a bit. Ron took the canoes, boats and life preservers out of storage yesterday. There are plenty of cabin openings for the spring and summer. Fishing for perch and sunfish is open and walleyes and northern pike will be legal in another week. I (Chester) have to add that dog-swimming season opened yesterday while Ron was at work on the waterfront.


Winter’s finished (sort of). Hopefully, the recent blizzard (April 11-12) was its last performance. Still some snow on the ground but not for long with current warmth. Chester, Cougar and I would like to thank all of the great families and individuals who spent time here during the memorable winter of 2018-2019. It was good fun visiting with you and meeting your canine friends. And be reminded that this is a favorite place of many folks in the spring and summer as well. The canoes will be out by the water shortly and the trails will soon be dry. The fishing is usually good and there’s always lots going on in Ely, including (very shortly) the daily openings of the bear and wolf centers.

35 inches of powder snow and the trails are exceptional. Can’t get around except with snowshoes or skis. However, the driveways to cabins remain plowable. Longer, sunny days becoming common again.  I (Chester) enjoy hopping through the deep snow like a wolf or fox.  Still lots of cabin openings for March.

Snow and trails better than you could wish for and it looks like the bitter cold period has passed. There are opening most weekdays and weekends except Feb. 16-17 holiday. Glacial Esker Bunkhouse has lots of openings for groups of five or more in February and March. And check out the Snowshoe Country Lodge Facebook page for some new pictures.

Snow’s excellent, cold temps at present, but sunny, windless days are welcome.

2019-01-13 Almost two feet of snow and trails freshly gone over by Steve and his tracked machine. Trails are in excellent condition for skiing and snowshoeing. Also, for Martin Luther King weekend – coming up shortly – two cabins are still open.


After a two-day serious snowstorm, we now have nearly 20 inches on the trails. Lots of cabin rental openings for the rest of winter.


More snow falling. Almost a foot on the ground. Good snowshoeing and skiing, at least in this neck of the woods. Trails are in good shape.


Snow keeps arriving, a bit each day, it seems. Enough for skiing and snowshoeing now. Fresh wolf tracks out by the highway.
plenty of cabin openings and the extra snowshoes are ready for use beside the well-shed.


Finally, a new Facebook page is in progress on the resort – for comments and pictures. If you can’t access it for some reason, let me know by email: logcabins@snowshoecountrylodge.com or phone 218.365.2126. Thanks. Chester and I will appreciate any pictures of the place.


More snow! Ron’s out plowing today and I would be with him helping in the truck except that I lose my balance and bump into the dash when he hits snowbanks or turns, so I sit in the office and bark at him mostly.

2018-11-10 Saturday afternoon

Snow is here to stay, with six inches on the ground.  Snowplow is back on the pickup truck ready for work and the ground, lake and marshes are freezing up rapidly with the cold temperatures. Annual trail maintenance (brush-cutting and blowdown clearing) is ongoing with son’s Steve and Adam and should be completed by the end of this weekend.

Phone registrations are getting busy for winter. Lots of cabin openings remain, however.



Despite our best efforts to scare them off, snow buntings in large flocks are running off with some of the new prairie seeds in the old building-yard area. Still, enough seeds will survive for next spring’s germination. A scarecrow might work, though…and so will the generous coating of snow coming soon.


A warm and sunny period is to begin this coming week and will evidently last for a time. Four cabins are still open for October 19-22 – MEA Weekend.


After a busy summer and anticipating a similar fall and winter, Ron has been occupying himself with clearing out the old log building yard following the cessation of the log building courses after 43 enjoyable years. The logs, student structure & some equipment have been sold and that area is presently being converted to trees and prairie foliage, much like the recently successful plantings south of the East Wellshed.

He’s also been busy updating some of the rental cabins, with new stairways in the Glacial Esker Bunkhouse and Wolverine cabin, along with other fixups.

Elsewhere around Snowshoe Country, the mountain maples are turning orange, dark red and yellow as are the ashes, birches and aspens. As always, September and  October days are particularly pleasant, even with occasional rains, and nights are great for sleeping – often with open windows.

But I’m hoping Ron doesn’t stay too busy to remember to take his best friend (me, Chester-dog) down to the lake for swims a little more frequently.

And speaking of the boss, he’s been talking with a performance group (TigerLion Arts) in the Twin Cities of late, trying to assist in getting a performance of their great outdoor walking play, Nature, to come to Ely next summer for a week. He’s seen the play at the Arboretum in Chanhassen and it’s about Emerson and Thoreau. Anyway, it reminds me of the quotation about life priorities from Henry David Thoreau that  only a dog might remember, but doesn’t necessarily apply only to us canines:

“Do what you love.
Know your own bone;
gnaw it, bury it, unearth it,
and gnaw it still.”

                                                                                                   (In a letter to Harrison Blake (1848)

I don’t know if he had one for a pet, but perhaps Thoreau understood the mind of a dog. Another quote that everyone remembers from Walden: “…I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”


A beautiful spring finally arrived, and with it, ducks, trumpeter swans, woodchucks and the rest. The usual pair of nesting geese arrived just before the snow melted. After about a week, the female evidently was taken by a fox on the ice – big ruckus early one morning. The bereft gander was sadly searching the marsh area for a week or so, and even sat on their old nest occasionally. Since then, he has found a few other goose friends and maybe a new mate for next season. For the next few weeks they are off with thousands of other adults, unable to fly effectively and doing their annual feather molt on larger, safer lakes to the north of here.

The three youngster woodchucks born by Ron’s cabin are still romping with one another and learning what to eat from their parents. Shortly they will be out meeting the wider world, excavating new homes and putting on fat for hibernation in late September – all while trying not to be eaten by other critters in the interim.

Lots of cabin openings available for the rest of summer, including the “after 4th” weekend, which has four cabins open and ready. The lake is nice and warm for swimming and the northerns, walleyes and bluegills have reportedly been hungry.

Note: happily, we have very few woodticks in this immediate area. I don’t believe any have been seen by anyone on the resort this summer – or on any visiting dogs.

A busy winter so far, with plenty of good snow. Trails are in great shape, thanks to cooperative efforts of neighbors in early December. There are still cabin openings ahead, even on Martin Luther King and Presidents’ Day weekends. Skiing and snowshoeing usually go through March, often later. For snow conditions or other inquiries, phone 218.365.2126.


A snowy winter arrived with a vengeance October 27th, and it’s snowed every few days since then.

We will be doing the final ski and snowshoe trail clearing next weekend – November 17-19, in case anyone wants to assist.
No charge for lodging, of course. Phone Ron at 218.365.2126 if interested.

Still plenty of cabin rental openings for December, January, February and March.


Sorry for the long absence this spring. I only got this job last November. Being a dog, albeit a smart one, I am still learning how to use this desktop computer. In addition to taking traditional dog obedience training at Community Education in nearby Ely, I’ve been seeking additional learning online, especially with Google Voice Typing, which I’ve heard Ron use when exasperated.

My first spring in my wonderful new life has been eventful: the late snows, getting used to the pair of Canada Geese on the nearby marsh – geese who evidently were unsuccessful nesters this year, but who were recently joined by their four surviving offspring from the previous year. Ron says he doesn’t know if that’s common or not, but even a dog notices that lots of young folks are setting up housekeeping with their parents nowadays.  The goose family left the other day for bigger lakes to the north, along with thousands of others. It’s their annual spring molting and as they lose their wing feathers for several weeks, they are more protected from predators with miles of water around them for a month or so.

A plenitude of ducks and swans appeared around the area, not to mention baby woodchucks and fawns this past week. Ron’s son, Steve, has been getting more than a few good images on his trail camera, of several local wolf pack members (including a mostly white one), a large bear, and even some eagles and vultures on a road-killed deer carcass he moved to a meadow near one of the trails.

Steve and friends have found the walleye fishing fairly decent this spring. It was a very busy winter for cabin rentals, but summer means many more openings and cabin choices and dozens of new wildflowers each week. And for me, it’s opportunities to meet more dogs. So far, I have enjoyed all of them.

I will try to do better about keeping you informed as I learn the ropes in Ron’s office. Come by and meet me when you visit.

Warmest regards,
Chester Brown

ps. If you’re interested in Ron’s log building courses, get in touch. He will be ending them in October after 43 fun years. The next is July 14th and does have openings.


Frost went out of the ground in the past days, so, with great sadness, Ron buried the ashes of his old friend Willie down by the lake next to our forever little gal pal, Amber, with two trumpeter swans circling across the bay. Some of the ashes were floated on the lake, as would befit a golden retriever.


April – a time of great activity in the natural world. Ice disappeared on the marsh two days ago. Geese came back to nest along with groups of ducks. Trumpeter swans are coasting around newly opened water on the lake, and a pair of sandhill cranes flew over at treetop level this morning, speaking their peculiar language. Saw-whet owls are audibly courting in the evenings and northern lights have been particularly active the past few weeks.

We brought the canoes and rowboats out of the boathouse yesterday. A good time of year (though early) for getting back on the water and out on the trails for hiking. Lots of cabins open for spring and summer.

Also a good time to get away from the stresses of politics and media and go to the woods and lakes for refreshment of the mind.

November 30, 2016

Sadly, Willie, our golden retriever and best friend, passed away last November 19th at the age of 15. I encountered him at the age of 3 at “Contented Critters Rescue in Makinen, MN.

A new furry friend from “Rescued Pets are Wonderful” in Blaine, MN, two-year-old Chester Brown, has become the new camp dog, and has made a promising start. For example, he loves jostling with the resident orange cat, Cougar, and meeting other dogs, e.g., a recent visit from a rescue greyhound who, though initially shy, taught Chester what running is all about – around 40 MPH. And, last week, a large redbone coon hound got him really howling for a short time.
By the way, Chester was unable to keep pace with the greyhound.



“Two roads diverged in a wood…”
Trail camera depicts a member of the Greenwood River Pack on our ski trail system.

July 16, 2016:

Summer’s off to a an exciting start – some of the geese, swans and ducks from spring are still being seen with their young, along with fawns and baby woodchucks learning the ropes from a parent. Moose cow with her calf walked through a neighbor’s yard last week.


Lupines & Ely Greenstone in June by the memorial garden at the camp entrance.

Canine literature

Since many of the folks who visit Snowshoe own (or are owned by) dogs, some notes on a couple of the more interesting recent dog books – reviewed by Willie.

Inside of a Dog; What Dogs See, Smell and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz. A great book by an animal behaviorist and dog-lover about dogs as “creatures of the nose.” An interesting look at dogs’ “umwelt,” their subjective or self-world. In the foreword is a quote from Groucho Marx: “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend; inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Merle’s Door: Lessons From a freethinking Dog, by Ted Kerasote.
Using recent wolf research and exploring issues of animal consciousness and leadership and the origins of the unique human-dog friendship, Ted Kerasote takes the reader on a long journey (while living in Kelly, Wyoming) that he and Merle shared – a story of partnership coupled with an interesting kind of independence.

If you have a child who has lost a dog – Zoe’s Goodbye,  written and illustrated by the late Dr. Mary Schlangen, a veterinarian in Two Harbors and Duluth, is a gentle read for kids that might be helpful. It’s out of print, but Grand Avenue Vet Clinic in Duluth (where she once worked) has a few copies on hand, and Amazon (and other outlets) seem to have many of them as well. From her illustrations you might guess that Dr. Schlangen was sometimes a vet at sled dog events in Minnesota. Mary’s career and plans for a new clinic in Two Harbors were ended a few years ago by an impaired driver. She is survived by her husband and two children.

June 30, 2013: Turning out to be a beautiful summer. The goose couple raised three goslings in the marsh and cabin backyard, then moved down to the canoe landing on the lake for better swimming lessons. They still visit the backyard occasionally for the good grass forage. Snapping and painted turtles seem to be everywhere, to the confusion of Cougar the cat, who’s finally met critters she’s intimidated by. He also got chased by the gander one day, after stalking it (hopefully, for the last time). The Sand Lake fish are biting good these days.

May 20: Summer is here. Woodchucks are foraging around the place, one pair of geese took over the marsh and are grazing in Ron’s yard – all keeping an eye out for Mr. Fox. Spring peepers, chorus frogs, wood frogs and others are making quite a ruckus each night.

May 3: Snow is almost gone and Sand Lake ice will be going out in a week or so. Marsh by Ron and Willie’s cabin is almost ice-free and three Canada geese pairs are fighting over it every morning. April was a very snowy month but that’s behind us now. On the 20th we had no less than 40 inches on the ground. Hiking is excellent right now and the canoes will be brought out of the boatshed in a day or two.

March 3: Plenty of snow and the ski/snowshoe trails are in superb condition. Lots of cabin openings. Another month of skiing and snowshoeing, long days and sunshine.

February 17, 2013: Over 20 inches of powder snow on the ground and more in progress.

January 18, 2013: We’re getting hit pretty hard with a snowstorm that began last night and is continuing today. Trails are in excellent condition for skiing and snowshoeing. A busy season for cabin rentals.

October 22: Big annual “MEA weekend” just completed. Lots of nice people with their great dogs. Good weather as well. Last night, after everyone had left, a group of local wolves (likely the Greenwood River Pack) put on one of the best and longest concerts of howling Ron or I had ever heard. They seemed to be in the vicinity of the French-Canadian Cabin (where quite a number of dogs had stayed with their owners this weekend). Eddie and I were quiet for a time, but eventually were compelled to join the wolf choir – from the safety of our compounds. The cat hid.

October 18: A great autumn so far, with just enough rain to keep the forest fire danger at bay. The camp is ready for winter with woodsheds brimming. Ron and Steve have completed fall brush-cutting and windfall-clearing  on the ski and snowshoe trails. “MEA weekend” is full, but there are lots of cabin openings throughout late October and November – Thanksgiving weekend is wide-open. And it’s never too early to reserve for winter dates (as many are already doing).

July 23: Spectacular weather – a bit cooler with a thunderstorm some nights. Plenty of cabin openings for July and August.

Fishing has been good in July, especially for yellow perch and large bluegills, mixed with a few walleyes and many northerns.
When Ron takes me (Willie) down to the lake for a swim, Cougar (the cat)still follows along (like the puppy he thinks he is), but so far merely sits on the shore and observes.

May 27: Beautiful weather with intermittent rain. Still watching the fox den up the road – mom (vixen), dad (dog-fox), and two black kits, one red. Lots of folks observing their antics the past month. Several new moose calves in the area as well. Fawns will occur in the next week or so.

April 1: Trails are in very good condition for hiking. Several weeks of summer in last half of March, followed by 3″ of snow as the month finished. Back to spring now.

Plenty of cabin openings during the next few weeks. Lots of saw-whet owl and wolf noise at night lately, along with spectacular northern lights. Ice has disappeared out on the marsh and the lake. Eagles and turkey vultures have returned. Swans and geese are back. Woodchucks are out of hibernation and foraging on the meadows.
Great time of year to be in the woods!

Beautiful orphaned orange cat hanging around camp since February is now adapting to the good life around the log cabin with me (Willie) and Ron. We call it “cougar” and it even trots down the the lake with Ron and me and watches me fetch sticks and gazing at the rafts of ducks.


Ron’s Mining News – a great local concern
Autumn 2015: Many significant things have happened on the mining fronts since the below comments were written several years ago. Ron will send you an update paper if you give him a call at 218.365.2126.

May 31st will be our last hearing before the Governor and Executive Council. It will be interesting to watch the five state executives, all members of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, essentially take our properties, homes, and livelihoods away from us (if they do) for use by international mining corporations.

April 10: Attorney General refuses us an opinion on eminent domain, saying that when mining companies, DNR and private property owners have a conflict over exploratory drilling, the Attorney General will have to represent DNR and their mining company friends.

April 1: Still waiting for an opinion from the MN Attorney General’s office as to whether mining companies actually can implement eminent domain at such time as they come to drill on private lands. No word yet on when the next Executive Council meeting will be held. Probable date is their regular meeting on June 6.

March 15: With their refusal to hear our bill in the Natural Resources Committee, H.F. 2477 is effectively dead for the 2011-2012 session of the Legislature. We’ll keep you posted on other avenues of effort.
See http://www.hastingsstargazette.com/event/article/id/26971/group/opinion for a piece we wrote on mining company influence in the Minnesota Legislature and private property.

March 12: Still hoping to pick up Senator Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen to sponsor a companion bill in the Senate. We have about seven sponsors in the House and need to get a hearing before the Natural Resources Committee by Friday the 16th or our bill is dead for the year.

March 4: Our time to work on the legislature has been extended. We will not be on the agenda of the State  Executive Council for March 8 as previously thought. We will be scheduled for a later date sometime after early April. We are picking up more interest from members of the House and Senate.
February 28: More good news from the legislature – finally a Republican co-sponsor in the Minnesota House, making H.F. 2477 (eliminating eminent domain as a coercive weapon in mineral exploration under private lands) a truly bipartisan bill.

Along with co-sponsors listed below, Rep. Kim Norton of Rochester today added her name to the bill.

Many of us have been working on this since last spring – our bill to get rid of eminent domain in the mining statutes has been introduced by Rep. Nora Slawik of Maplewood, with co-sponsors Rep. Mindy Greiling and Rep. Alice Hausman. The bill, House File 2477, if passed, will help many of us northeastern property owners resist destructive copper, nickel, titanium and platinum exploration beneath private property in this area east of Ely.

The Minnesota DNR Lands & Minerals’ vision for this forested, lake-filled part of NE Minnesota seems to be large open-pit and underground mines for the benefit of Canadian, Swiss, and Chilean corporations. Surprisingly, our local NE Minnesota representatives and senators are supporting this dark nightmare on the pretense that it will bring employment – the “jobs mirage.”

Get in touch with Ron (courses@schooloflogbuilding.com or 218.365.2126) if you want to be added to an email update list about this issue, and assist us in keeping this beautiful part of the state wild and beautiful.

October 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, 2011 – early tricks and treats for the bear (s) ransacking the dumpster and the dog food barrels next to Eddie’s pen – in the middle of the night. Ron spends long hours picking up the mess from the nearby woods each day. If Amber, my old golden retriever friend, was still around, she’d take care of that bear. She had chased at least two of them out to the highway in her time. I’m sure I could do as well, but Ron doesn’t want me to get in a fight with a bear at my age (11). As we all know, bears are usually hibernating by this time – but for the warm weather.

October 5: Big day at the Capitol in St. Paul, with Ron, Steve and many other local property owners testifying before the Executive Council about the mineral leasing issues in northeastern Minnesota. The U.S. Forest Service and the state DNR are both encouraging five international mining corporations to explore and eventually mine for copper, nickel, gold, titanium and other valuable minerals near the sources of two major watersheds in the northeast. These exploratory drilling efforts (as much as 4.000 feet deep) are on public and private land, and, if successful, won’t bode well for the present tourism-related economy in the Ely area – not to mention the likely permanent damage to the Lake Superior and Hudson Bay watersheds – both of which have their beginnings in the vicinity of Snowshoe Country. Contact Ron for more info on this and how you can assist.


Governor Mark Dayton shows Emma photos of his dogs on an I-Phone after the Executive Council hearing.


October 6: The forest fire north of here closer to the Canadian border is now  under control. It did not affect this area at all.

Plenty of cabin openings during September and into fall. Lots of good canoeing, fishing, and hiking.

Wild rice harvesting is over. A fairly good crop this year here on Sand Lake. Granddaughters Erin and Emma on Labor Day:



September 28: The water’s high (and comfortably cool) in the lake and Ron still takes me down for a swim and some stick-fetching occasionally. I was excited to see the picture of me chasing sticks on the front page of the Minneapolis StarTribune on the 25th (article on the unfortunate mining land-grab by the DNR and mineral companies).

Here at Snowshoe Country we run a volunteer National Weather Service observation station with their loaned equipment, taking high/low temperatures each day along with snowfall/snow depth. A sample from each snow event is melted in order to gauge and report the water content. The immediate area represented is a small plateau on the continental divide between the St. Louis River (Atlantic) and Greenwood/Stony River (Hudson Bay) watersheds, and including Sand, Greenwood, Cougar, Lobo, Stony, and Bonga Lakes.

This is also the long-time home of the Great Lakes School of Log Building, teaching men and women of all ages the craft of workmanlike Scandinavian log construction, to give them the background to build their own economical cabins, homes and saunas they can be proud of. More information at www.schooloflogbuilding.com.

Lots of northern lights this year. Photo from Duluth News Tribune:


March: Bradley and Sonny Wonder spotted the first woodchuck outside the French-Canadian Cabin on March 19th, the earliest sighting ever. They (the woodchucks) have also been moseying around the building yard on sunny days.

In preparation for next winter, the boss has been repainting and pine-tarring his old wooden Troll Turskis and his white army skis late this winter. The tools are a torch, spatula, brush and some pine tar. This is a general procedure to protect the wood and cause waxes to adhere better. His preference is for the army skis nowadays – wider and better for bushwhacking, and his warm Sorel boots fit comfortably into the bindings, without a change of boots.


February: Ron almost smacked a moose a few weeks ago with his vehicle on the way to the mailbox. Skidded and ended up right beside the big critter. I barked a bit to make sure it went off into the woods.

Marc and Sarah Julien came by for some snowshoeing late in January.They were taking a break from building their log house near Colfax, Wisconsin and were students here in September of 2009.


Visitors Joey, Justin and best friends pose near the sauna:


Paul, Kaleesha, Bock and Audrey enjoyed the trails while lodging at the Sunrise Cabin recently:


After one of the December storms:


Several barred owls have been seen lately, along with one great gray owl, some snowshoe hares, and, of course, the “resident” red fox, who loves spilled dog food.

The roads are full of snow buntings (also known as snowbirds or snowflakes) exploding and scattering just ahead of Ron’s Subaru on our daily trips to the mailbox five miles away. These songbirds, additionally known as dark-eyed and slate-colored juncos, are residents of the high arctic who winter in our northern latitudes. Males comprise much of the little groups, with females and young delegated to the more predator-risky edges of a particular flock.


On a less happy note, Amber passed away recently at the age of fourteen and Ron, Eddie and I miss her a lot. I still trot around our cabin at night hoping somehow that she’ll reappear, and I’m saving her toys…

On 9/27, Ron wrote:

We took that last ride to the veterinarian in Ely this afternoon, Amber-bamber and I. Very sick recently, she wasn’t having as much fun the last week or so, but we know she had a good, long life. She had her little head in my lap the whole way there and we stopped by the roadside a few times to talk and reminisce. She passed quietly and quickly while I petted her. Dr. Chip, the vet, was very gentle and kind.

She loved kids more than anything. We will always remember the November ice-skating day a few years ago when she repeatedly helped granddaughters Erin and Emma get up after their tumbles while learning to ice-skate. She was always right there on the spot for them. And she had hundreds of friends among the cabin renters and log building students, joining us many times for slide shows and morning lectures in the classroom – especially enjoying the popcorn and other treats.

So, one of the sweetest little dog buddies we ever had is now buried, snug in a blanket, comfortable on her doggie bed, atop a small knoll south of the boathouse, overlooking the lake where she always had such good fun chasing sticks and shaking water on everyone – with canine cousins Teddy, Raven and Willie through the years. Her headstone is a flat piece of Ely greenstone.

Rest in peace,  little Amber – you old red hug-retriever. One of the very best, you were.


Amber in happier times: watching a snapping turtle lay her eggs next to Amber’s yard, June, 2007.

Ron’s kind of known for his habit of trying to whistle red foxes up to his car on Highway 2. He did it again today fairly successfully. Two weeks ago he whistled up a large radio-collared timber wolf, then got out of the car…then got back in quickly as the critter approached him to within a few yards. Dumb…

Earlier this summer:

While Ron was painting up his two old Grummans recently, news came that fiddler, mandolinist, guitarist, & all-around musician/teacher, Bill Hinkley, had passed away. He, Judy Larson, and Garrison Keillor, had borrowed those very same canoes in 1974, along with some tents and cook kits – from Ron – for a monumental canoe trip on the upper Mississippi River, which was broadcast on Keillor’s (then) daily morning show on MPR.
Seems long ago for Ron, and Amber and I weren’t even puppies yet.
Garrison did some nice tributes to Bill on his show, as did Jon Bream in the Minneapolis StarTribune. You can enjoy them, with music, on Keillor’s websites.

Canoeing on the lake is good and Ron has taken us swimming and stick throwing frequently. Visitors have been swimming both at the canoe landing and the nearby beach.

Unusual spring. Tundra swans, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes and Canada geese have all been observed in the Sand Lake vicinity this spring, and the latter three types, unlikely though it seems, could be hanging around the area.  A very large group of geese, flying chaotically from the east at treetop level, landed on Sand River Memorial Day weekend.

A U.S. Forest Service employee claims she observed a wolverine walking around our driveway entrance one morning in early May. We saw one here in 1980 and there have been sporadic sightings in NE Minnesota through the years.

And it’s early egg-laying for the painted turtles on the beaches and roadsides, while the various kinds of frogs are still vocalizing in the marsh by the building yard. This is a snapping turtle by the sauna well on 6/4/10 laying her huge stash of eggs in a hole she dug moments earlier.


The woodchuck in the den between Ron’s office and our dogyard is keeping our attention (& sometimes making us bark) each day as she comes and goes on her foraging jaunts. Dandelions and just plain old grass are the big favorites with the chuck crowd right now. Next month the newly-borns will be following the adults around. There seems to be a family beneath every woodpile and cabin. The fox in the front meadow is hanging around close in hopes of a meal, and vixen often uses abandoned (read “eaten”) woodchuck’s dens as makings for her own.

An April trip to Arizona for an International Log Builders’ Association conference still has Ron stricken. He sits and gazes at the Sedona rocks on his desk. The magic red rock country around Sedona, the Grand Canyon, the deserts of the central and the forests of the north, will do that to you, he says, not to mention thinking about all the neat kinds of cactus.





Doubtless he’ll “desert” (sorry) us again for other trips to the Southwest in the future. But we had lots of fun in his absence with his stand-in caretaker, concierge, office manager and National Weather Service Sand Lake Station daily instrument-reader & compiler, Madelyn, who treated us extremely well – like the best friends that we dogs are to everyone.

Ron visited the North American Bear Center in Ely in March for a lecture by researcher Lynn Rogers. It’s open each day this time of year, and the three resident bears came out of hibernation very early.

bear2 blackbear1

And the March log building course took a Saturday night trip to the International Wolf Center to observe the weekly feeding of road-kill deer to the resident 5-pack, after which we (also) had dinner in Ely, appetites sharpened and whetted.

awolf bwolf

Cabins full of guests in late March – snowless, so they had a good time leisurely sauntering around the trails, hitting the sauna, and even taking Eddie for walks (like a jet airplane on a rope). Sand Lake wolf pack howling a lot lately, likely voicing welcome to the hundreds of deer returning (very) early to our high plateau (Superior Uplands) from their wintering yards a thousand feet lower near Lake Superior.

Lots of cabin openings for March and April – some on weekends, lots on weekdays.

13 year-old Amber enjoyed some leftover dinner with her visiting cousin, Raven, 15.


Moonrise, weekend of February 27-28


One of the trails after the snowstorm of January 23-25: click to enlarge.


After this two-day blizzard, hundreds of small trees and bushes were weighed down over the trails. On February 6th and 7th, Ron’s son, Steve, and two friends, Aaron Mertes and Dan Donnelly, worked hard to remove all of the obstacles, pack the trails, and make them better than ever.

The town of Ely has had their winter festival and the snow carvings were spectacular. Here are a few:

2bears snowsculp2

snowsculp30002 snowsculpt1

You may want to take a glance at a January-born female bear cub (named Hope) near Ely. The North American Bear Center’s researcher, Lynn Rogers, installed a video camera inside the den of Lily, a research bear, and displayed the birth of a cub in late January. You can follow the progress of the cub and mother at www.bear.org. Daily explanations of what’s happening appear just below the live video. For now, the cub is content to suckle milk, sleep, make noise, grow, and play with mom, but it makes appearances from time to time, and the sow (mother) leaves the den now to forage occasionally. When you visit Snowshoe Country, you may want to visit the Bear Center west of Ely – 30 miles from here.

When you visit – on your way up to Snowshoe Country just before Mt. Weber, which you will view mainly when you’re southbound, pause and consider the two-mile stretch of 300+ year-old Eastern White Pines along the road. Think about how when these giants were seedlings, the 3-400 year extended-winter regime of the Little Ice Age held full-sway over Europe and North America. And, culturally, in Europe it was the time of the Late Baroque, and some great composers were busy dreaming up what would become some of the most important western classical music, e.g., Vivaldi, J.S. Bach, Handel, Telemann, Pachelbel, and Scarlatti.


A common sight on Co. Rd. 2 lately as people come and go to Snowshoe Country:

two moose

Several funny happenings on Christmas week. Some guests encountered a fox on a trail with a snowshoe hare in its mouth. Vixen was so preoccupied she almost walked into the snowshoers.

A couple staying in the Sunrise Cabin had their skis and tracks peed on by several timber wolves sauntering through their yard of an early morning.

And lots of moose on the roads licking that tasty salt. Ron and I (Willie) almost nailed two on a night trip from Duluth. Many guests have encountered moose the past two weeks – on the road – also some wolves, a fisher and a lynx.

Bears are back in hibernation now after a brief period of getting up and ambling around during the warmer part of November. May they rest well and not be confused again by unseasonably warm weather.

Woodchucks (groundhogs) are undergoing a much deeper hibernation in their home dens. There seems to be a record population the past few years, including some black colored ones. Few know how complicated their burrows are, with separate rooms for bathroom, food storage, sleeping, and even a nursery. Both parents tend to the youngsters until they disperse to begin their own lives in mid-summer. They will be out scurrying around again in mid-April. Meanwhile, we will all miss watching them.


From the past: 2008 & 2009:

Painted and snapping turtles finished laying their eggs in early July in roadways and beaches – anywhere there’s gravel and sand. Young frogs and toads are still crawling around all over the place. Here’s an image of Amber last year conversing with a snapper laying her eggs by the dogyard. Several months later, some 80 babies crawled from the hole – on their way to the water.


And an excellent winter 08-09 was – with nearly 130 inches of snow. Thanks to all of the interesting folks (and your great dogs) who enjoyed the cabins, skiing, snowshoeing, and trails this past season. We sincerely hope that you will come back for some canoeing and hiking fall. Some cabins are almost always open, even on short notice.

Some remnants of the winter happenings are below:

Greg and Traci Pence, from Lakeville, got close to an otter emerging from a hole in the ice on the Sand River near camp in late March:


Music at Snowshoe
Guests Ralph and Mary Brindle of Edina filled the forest around Sand Lake with great music from their alpenhorns (alphorns) on a winter weekend.


180px-Vulpes_vulpes_laying_in_snow MPj02625380000[1]Real fox news.
The resident fox is still running around our yard and by the other cabins scarfing up scraps and just gawking at us silently from time to time. He/she appears to have a more difficult time getting through the snow with the short legs. This pictured one is identical to our local “yard fox,” before it recently ate a 20 pound (approximately its own weight) bag of dog food left unintentionally in the driveway by Ron. It then tore the sack to shreds and most likely went off for a very long nap, probably appearing like this:

med_river_otterTimber wolf & otter happenings.
Some guests have been viewing river otters at work and play over on the Sand River (where there are holes in the ice) and also around places where folks have been ice-fishing – where they can fetch an easy meal. Erin says this one’s name would be Otto the Otter.

Ron’s twice a day journey to the mailbox up on Highway 1 is usually uneventful except for an occasional moose sighting. However, on Groundhog Day he was reading a newspaper in the Toyota cab when two wolves strolled down the road  almost right up to his truck.

The evening after Christmas, a three or four-wolf choir put on quite the howling concert out by the marsh near the road. When Ron checked out the tracks later, it appeared that the local pack was on the trail of a buck who forgot to migrate from the high country in time (usually by early December). All parties were finding the deep snow difficult to jump through. Conclusion unknown…

Lots of moose have been seen eating salt on the highway this season. While Ron was pushing snow on December 12th, a moose walked right in front of the pickup at the base of the driveway. No camera handy, of course. Had there been, the photo would have looked like this:

Country of endless snow.


Ron, who keeps a precipitation station for the Minnesota Climatology Office, measured a total of 163.8 inches of snowfall here at Sand Lake during the winter of 2007-2008 (November – April). As is often the case, This was one of the higher snowfall sums recorded in the state. For more daily info on relative snowfall, check out:

Early-season ice skating.
After shoveling snow from the ice, skating was fun on Thanksgiving weekend for granddaughters Emma and Erin. Here’s Erin and me (Amber) taking a break on the ice.

erin & amber 08

Fish news.

Fishing has been fair this winter, but was even better last fall. During September, on a day following extremely violent lightning storms with 2+ inches of rain, walleyes were on a feeding binge on the shorelines. Minnows took these from shallow water for John Nelson of Minneapolis.


The wild rice crop on Sand Lake was good in 2008 and some folks were out in early September obtaining some rice samples for educational project displays – visiting group of naturalists from Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. L-R: Josh, Jessamy, Kelly, Alexis, and John in front.


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