A Big Smooch for Isabella!

5.5 years into this farm business, I’m only beginning to improve at getting away. This week, with only a few days notice, I squeezed in a 44-hour bro vacation with the fella who has been breaking away with me on these for well-nigh a quarter-century. Even shorties like this have a manner of impacting the biz, but I relish the challenge of making it happen. One of the main reasons I’m doing this, after all, is for the sake of increased flexibility, so it feels amazing to successfully build in an adventurous experience even a short distance away from home.

Everything came together, as if choreographed in some grand symphony, but really I just got lucky. Last week’s sun produced temperatures in the grow room nearing 80 degrees, causing the microgreens to be ready for harvest a day early, which was crucial, because we left on our usual harvest day (after quick and easy morning deliveries). Also, I feel most fortunate to have invested in a $2000 commercial refrigerator (critical at this time of year when the walk-in cooler isn’t available). It’s an under-counter stainless steel job, pictured here, so it also serves as my main workspace for planting and such:

That combination of luck and hard work allowed for a two-night adventure to Isabella, MN, for the sake of skiing the Flathorn-Gegoka ski trails. I reckon Dan and I skied 25 kilometers of the 30 km system, and it exceeded all expectations. The glide was perfect, which allowed for a rather leisurely experience as we enjoyed large stands of 100-year-old red pines that went on for mile after mile.

In many places the single-track trail was barely wide enough to accommodate the snowmobile-pulled groomer.

Flathorn and Gegoka Lakes were ringed by large, impressive stands of pine, as were most points in between.

A cloudy day yesterday, it wasn’t nearly as cold as it looks.

There are some things I’d do differently next time. For one thing, way out in the far reaches of the system, as we enjoyed the benches of a lean-to shelter while consuming sweet, juicy clementines, I realized it might’ve been smart to dress a bit warmer in case of emergency. A pack of matches and headlamp might also be a good idea. That said, even the most citified of skiers is unlikely to become lost or confused, because every trail intersection is numbered and clearly marked on maps posted throughout this beautiful place (24 numbers and maps posted at each). They do a great job for a large trail system maintained entirely by volunteers. The sacrifice of time required to keep this trail going is an incredible act of generosity on the part of what I suspect is a skeleton crew.

Just to demonstrate how remote this place is, the bar pictured below is the only establishment between Two Harbors and the trail (by way of Hwy 2 to Hwy 1), a journey of maybe 50 miles (No gas stations or much of anything else. That is, unless you’re like me, and love the beauty of mile after mile of unbroken forest).

Can a place possibly look more northern than this? Also, we didn’t hear a single snowmobile.

And, because I thought the old Blatz sign was so cool, I had to capture it from this angle too:

Observe the wood stove poking out of the ceiling. Have you seen that in a bar before?

We stayed in a little off-grid, wood-heated cabin about 15 miles away.

Oddly enough, though there were a handful of other cabins spread out very generously, we were the only ones there. It was a nice treat compared to our usual stay at the abandoned shack on the Pigeon River I’ve written of in the past, because this was such a quick, short trip. We saved about 16 hours of effort between the shortened drive time, and also negating the need to ski 5-6 hours in across rough backcountry. In an added bonus, firewood was provided, but it was wet as heck!!! Each chunk weighed about double that of a properly seasoned piece of wood.

Alas, the stuff still burned, and we enjoyed this old sauna immensely:

Between the cabin and the ski trail there were many miles of charred Superior National Forest, which occurred during last summer’s forest fires. What a mercy that neither Snowcountry Lodge, nor the area surrounding the ski trails were burned. The fires really threaded the needle in cutting it close, though. I can’t imagine all the nail-biting going on during this calamity.

I remember getting up to harvest at midnight to harvest as this fire burned, because the smoke forecast was pretty horrific for the morning after. I feared my packaged microgreens would smell like a smokehouse, so we finished things up just in time.

Staying at this particular lodge isn’t for everybody. Not only is it rather rustic, the establishment lacks a certain attention to detail. It was just fine for our purposes, though, and very very private.

We weren’t able to see the nearby lake from our cabin, due to the presence of a ridge that surrounds the lake and impedes the view. This place, the Glacial Esker Bunkhouse, does have a stellar view, however:

I took a peek inside the aged structure. The master bedroom just off the main floor has a bed facing a private fireplace, which I suspect has resulted in the conception of more than one Minnesota child over the years. You’d need to burn a ton of wood to heat the large building that sleeps 9, however, so buyer beware!

My friend, Danny, only had these two days to make the trip happen, so I’m super grateful that we decided to shell out the additional $160 each. This decision resulted in a simpler, more realistic trip, which allowed us to make ample use of our limited time. We arrived home feeling refreshed. Not only could we drive to the cabin, we ate like kings with steak on the first night and Fred Faye’s lamb chops and lamb steak on the second.

Also, we recorded two podcast episodes out here, and I’m stoked to share these with you on March 14th, and on 3/22. I’ve got Part 2 of my current series scheduled for this week, so these’ll have to wait.

With that, I’m off to plant some more seeds. Cheers!

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