Art Classes and Fishing! Social Distancing at Northwind Lodge

I don’t believe there are many resorts in Minnesota whereupon the guests can learn how to paint AND go fishing.  Northwind Lodge is one of the few places that this is possible.  Hats off to jobs well done by Jim and Terri Rhoads of Iowa!  Jim last touched an artist’s paint brush in 3rd grade.   It’s been a while and yet his artwork today would say otherwise.  Terri has a bit more experience and her painting is lively and appealing.  Frames are going to kick both paintings to another level.   Both Jim and wife Terri had a great time as did I.  Art lessons are ALWAYS fun for me as well.   Painting, telling stories, and concentrating REALLY hard make learning to paint a lot of fun!  Two to three hours feels like an hour.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Jim and Terri took up painting when they return home.  It’s a great activity any time of the year.

When not in class, they are on the water, baking pizza on the Weber outside of the cabin, going on hikes,  and of course, catching fish.  This is the greatest way to socially distance out of all the options available.

Paintings by Jim and Terri Rhoads Northern pike on Jasper Lake Jim Rhoads holding a largemouth on Jasper Lake This is a NOT a bluegill

Socially distancing at Northwind Lodge – This is the way to do it.

Thanks to Lauren Johnson and family for these cool candid pics of a week at Northwind Lodge.  I’m guessing they had a great week.

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Little Lake, Big Fish

This is what you get when you have a little lake in NE Minnesota and a kid who likes to fish.  This is John Pconka,  friend of Ben and Andrew Westphal who joined the brothers and their dad, Jeff on a week-long adventure at Northwind Lodge.

John caught this beauty off on dock at Northwind Lodge.

He didn’t have a landing net so he grabbed  this big, honkin’ northern with his hand over the edge of the dock and lifted him out of the water.

Big Northern from off the dock at Northwind Lodge Summer 2020
Probably about 40″ long!

I would say a little bit of luck with a majority of skill would be at play here with John.  Heck, I don’t believe that would have ended well for me.  Pretty impressive for a 17 YO kid from the Chicago area!

This fish was released quickly back into Jasper to continue to maraud and laugh at fishermen who wish they had this chance.  Well done, John!

I have to chuckle.  For my entire life in the resort business right here, I’ve heard countless people who won’t consider a “smaller” lake for fishing because  they believe incorrectly that “there are only big fish in big lakes”.    Time and again, they’ve been proven wrong.

Remember, this fish was caught “off of a boat dock”.

So, how come you aren’t coming to Northwind Lodge to cast off the docks?  If you don’t fish, we also do painting classes.  You can also sit at the beach, paddle a kayak, take out a canoe, paddle a paddle board, peddle a paddle boat, or just read a book – all with social distancing, no crowds, out in the woods.  No masks required for playing outside.  218-365-5489 to see what is currently open in cabins.

The Great Frog Mystery

Free frog clipart 4 - ClipartBarn
Lauren, mom of the Johnson family in Cabin 8 came to report that in the screen door, they had a frog stuck between the 3/8″ metal mesh (inside so kids and adults don’t destroy the screen door on weekly basis) and the actual screen.  She couldn’t figure out how the little guy got in there because it is sealed on all sides.

Both sections of the door are stapled down and then sealed off with wood finishing strips. I know because I built that door.  I went to look at the door and sure enough, there was a small frog inside bouncing around.  Well, if I don’t extract the frog, he’s going to stink in about a day.  He’s still healthy because the sun isn’t up high enough to roast him at 9:30 AM.

Upon my examination, there is absolutely no hole in any part of the screens on either side of the door that would allow that frog to pass.   His eyes alone were almost 3/4 of an inch across and there was NO WAY for that frog to get in there without tools.   He had enough room to hop around and that was it.  Everything was tight on that door.

The Johnson dog looking at the magic frog
I tried to remove the bottom wood strip with my pliers but this job needed more tools. They always do.   I return to the office to get a screwgun, screws, claw hammer, and a flat screwdriver.   I’m gone for about 5 minutes, tops.

I get back to the screen door and start prying the bottom strip off when I just happened to look for the frog.   I stopped immediately when I noticed the frog was gone.   I looked and looked again.  No frog.   No holes.   Pulling either mesh side of the screen off, definitely needed tools.   No visible sign of tampering.  Short of bringing in a forensic examiner, there was zero tampering.  Nobody touched the job in the five minutes I was gone.   But, the frog was nowhere to be found. I reexamined the door for something loose or a hole – one – more – time.   Then I began to wonder if David Copperfield was at the resort this week.   This was one heck of a magic trick.

I told the story to the Johnsons who opened their main door when they heard me pounding the partially loosened trim back into place. Lauren said she was happy that I actually witnessed the frog as well.  We all were head scratching.

Oh, well.   It was better than having to destroy the bottom of the door to get the frog out.  Another mystery in the vacation industry…

Weekend in Review – 4th of July, 2020 – What you missed

Well, despite the less-than-savory news outside of the wilderness bubble in which we are fortunate to live, Northwind Lodge guests appeared to have had a GREAT time social distancing with family and friends.

They caught a bunch of fish in Jasper.  The Rust/Ramsland party in Cabin 6 reported nice-sized largemouth bass caught on weedless worms that we stock in the Fernberg Gallery (weird, I know…but good tackle is like art!)  Cabin #2, the Smith family also caught fish, ate fish, disappeared with their canoe for a day and took painting classes when they weren’t outside having fun.   I didn’t even see Cabin #8 for the entire weekend.  Same with Cabin #3 with the exception of them coming in to see about checkout today.  They wanted to go for one last, Jasper Lake kayak ride on this beautiful morning after our first major rain in months.  They are somewhere out there right now.   TreeTopHaus is still here until tomorrow and I haven’t seen them since yesterday morning.   For several days, the air smelled like pine needles, clean water and mouthwatering barbecue.  Yeah, it was really miserable here with the loons flying overhead calling.

I always conclude our guests are having a good time when we don’t see them for long periods and they check out at the last possible second.  The last thing I want to see are guests chomping on the bit to leave.   They rarely, if ever, seem to do that.

Art lessons with me are pretty hot right now.  I only teach related groups due to China virus  these days, but it seems to be working well.  Six, micro art lessons (2-hours) in four days was a lot of fun and many people took home a rock that they painted as a souvenir and inspiration to pursue painting.   I’m going to have to take another run to Lake Superior for more rocks!  Darn….

In other news, Ely held what could be defined as an almost impromptu (and greatest) Patriotic March on the 4th of July.  I attended as a member of my organization, Fight For Mining Minnesota.  We brought along my painted canoe that, when not being dragged around in patriotic marches, otherwise reside inside the Fernberg Gallery as a large historical display.  A handful of patriotic renegades in Ely cobbled together a parade that was probably the best I have ever seen.  They extended the route for social distancing purposes, worked with the Ely Police Department and City of Ely, acquired the permits, and even arranged insurance via a quick, really-successful, fundraiser.

It was about 92 degrees F, as I walked the route handing out “Iron Range Proud” yard signs along with two young and very motivated helpers.  Ahead of me were logging trucks, fire engines, classic cars, old jeeps, American flags and blue stripes to support law enforcement officers.  The wildly popular, Ely Klown Band played brashly and slightly out of tune to the beat of rattling, pounding drums.  There were heavily decorated ATV’s, side-by-sides, heavy-equipment trucks with Fight For Mining Minnesota banners, more Jeeps, motorcycles, someone with a really huge, old, twin-screw boat on a trailer that I was told was worth over “a hundred grand”, and on and on.  There were “Iron Range Proud” signs for as far as the eye could see plus we handed out another 250 of them to whoever wanted one.   Our Congressman Pete Stauber was there with a trailer and looked me up in the lineup to say “hi”.  As he shook his head in amazement, he said “Ely is going to be put on the map for this one”.  We were both in awe of the spectacle.  It was stunning.  There were Trump/Pence signs from one end to the other for as far as the eye could see.  No other signs were present.  None…

As I walked the street handing out signs next to my canoe (Greg & Jane Mosher pulling the trailer with their SUV in air-conditioned comfort), I got to an area where there were so many people yelling my name for signs and just to give me a thumbs-up, I didn’t know which way to look/turn/run next.   It was pretty crazy and lots of fun!

Then, there was Zup’s market.  I swear Jimmy Zupancich is one of Ely’s most creative business owners.  As per usual, they were almost shoveling candy with snow shovels out to the socially-distanced crowds.   Spectator kids were standing with buckets full of cavity forming goodness.  It was a sea of Tootsie Rolls and a wide variety of other sweets.  They were also tossing what looked to be packages of cookies, and all sorts of toys and potato chips.  As we approached the end of route, a Zup’s, un-decorated, windowless van, suspiciously squeezed off from an avenue into the parade line right behind me as I sat on the back of the trailer.  When it straightened out on the road, the side doors were FLUNG open.  I could have sworn I heard someone yell in a thick, Spanish accent “Say ‘Hello!’ to my little friend!”.  The innocent, unsuspecting bystanders were unmercifully pelted with even more bags of chips, plastic toys, toothbrushes (?) and cookies.  Jim Zupancich, Sr. was sitting white-haired in the passenger seat laughing his head off.

But the pièce de résistance was the funniest part of the parade:  Toilet paper.  Zup’s had a huge trailer full of toilet paper and was tossing rolls to the crowds.  I’ve never seen people holding toilet paper while standing on the side walks before.  This week’s Ely Echo is going to be pretty fun, I’m sure.

As the parade approached its end near Whiteside park, we had run out of Iron Range Proud signs.   Me and the little red-cheeked kid sat on the trailer until Mort Tome was seen standing on the north curb with a garden hose.  The kid and his sister (Mike Banovetz’ grandson and granddaughter), both stopped off to get hosed down in the street with cool water by Mort.   Towering Mort laughed in his usual, bellicose manner, the soaking wet kid thanked him and hopped back on the trailer. It’s little things like that which add life to any painting or story.

All this activity was officiated with  two USAF  F-16’s blasting low and westward down Sheridan Street (Steve Saari organized that) and ended in a raucous fireworks display on over Miners Lake later that evening.

It was great to “feel American” again.

You missed this year’s Ely parade.  Doesn’t mean you have to miss staying in the woods for a vacation in northern Minnesota.  We’re very proud to be Americans up here in Ely.

Polka Time at the Beach

Nothing says “fun at the beach” like a polka in northern Minnesota.   This is my dad playing the song that I remember most as a child growing up, the Tick Tock Polka.  I was always fascinated at how loud his accordion was back then, and like comfort food, that particular polka is very meaningful to me.

My Dad learned how to play while still a 12 year old kid and I remember the story of how when he was in the army in Korea, some of the brass found out that he could play and they miraculously dug up an accordion for him.

In this video of 2015 he’s now 83 years old.  So, for as long as Northwind Lodge (Jasper Lake Resort) has formally been a resort in Lake County, my dad has been playing his accordion.

That’s a lot of history at this Minnesota resort.


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Painting Dogs with Joe

July 5th and another laid back day at Northwind Lodge.  Looks like I’m heading backing to my former life of painting.  I kind of missed it, actually.  It’s nice to be back in familiar waters once again.

 

So, how come you aren’t up here in northern Minnesota enjoying a calm day and beautiful weather and good fishing?

Fish Are Biting!

Reports have been coming in from Northwind Lodge guests.  While the week started out slow, it began to pick up tis pace yesterday as many Northwind Lodge guests caught small mouth and large mouth bass, bluegills, northern pike and perch.  We have several guests at the lodge and everybody has been eating fish in the last two days.  One guest caught an 18″ small mouth bass with several more reported in the 3 to 4 lb. range.  Another party ended up boating about 15 small and large- mouths  combined yesterday (June 15).  As I predicted from looking at the weather, the increasing barometric pressure of yesterday afternoon resulted in great catching action for most of the day but particularily from 3 PM to 9 PM.  One guest had the drag ripped out of his reel by a very large fish which subsequently broke his line and took his lure.  He said “aside from almost losing his rod, he didn’t have a chance.”   Who doesn’t love a violent fish attack?

Fire last night at the beach
Fire last night at the beach

Several guests ended fishing by supper time since they had a good day and wanted to kick back on the beach and enjoy a campfire.  That was evidenced by the Adirondack chairs circled around the fire pit.

Today, a whole bunch are heading over to Wood Lake in search of excellent walleye fishing in the BWCA.  Unfortunately, the  barometric pressure is dropping today, but any movement, even  downward can improve biting activity.   It’s when it sits steady and unbudging (hi or low) that makes fishing somewhat sluggish.

Bug Activity for this week at Northwind Lodge:  I saw a mosquito and killed it.  They are coming out at dusk a bit, but they aren’t here in full force by any means.  That makes sales of bug repellent kind of lousy, but it’s been really nice!

Temperature for this week:   During the day it has reached 80° F for about an hour – once.   At night it is dropping to 45º F or so.  Our cabin guests have all been complaining that they are sleeping too hard and it is tough to get out of bed.

Comments of the week thus far:  From three unrelated parties in three different cabins – “I really love my cabin!” & “We’re having a really great time!”

Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun
Northwind Lodge footpaths in the morning sun

Ely MN Fishing Resorts – Northwind Lodge on Jasper Lake

When you stay at Northwind Lodge, you re probably going to go fishing for our great bass, northerns and sunfish in Jasper Lake.  It’s not unusual to catch 4-5 lb. small mouth bass and 5-6 lb. large mouths.   What can really make the day exciting is catching sunnies and having the northerns tear them off before they get into the boat.   They usually become pretty active in early June and sometimes the northerns can be ferocious and huge.

Jasper Lake is noted for it’s big weed beds and our fish love to hang our in them.   Everybody in in there along with the occasional big walleye cruising under cover.  But, some of our biggest fish have been landed in the shalllows using top water lures.  When the northern pike are hitting top water and bass spinners, it’s all you can do to NOT be fighting a fish.  The big ones are particularly hard on your equipment.   Lures aren’t cheap so we stock for sale a Finesse Leader that is a 30 lb, super fine leader that won’t chase away the other fish in the lake but gives you a greatly improved chance of landing the northern pike of a lifetime as well.

Finesse Leader
Finesse Leader from Red Rock at Northwind Lodge
Connie Wegisin
Connie W. 2014 – Jasper Lake

 

Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Bob N. with Nice Smallie
Neil S. with smallmouth bass
Neil S. with smallmouth bass off the dock

Ely MN Resorts and Rental Cabins the old fashioned way

Staying in a nice cozy cabin in the northwoods of Minnesota on a lake, away from crowds, noise and pollution.   Breathe in that fresh, northern Minnesota air the morning after you’ve slept like a log all night long.  I just heard on Saturday one of our short-stay cabin guests regretted that their schedule would not permit them to stay for a longer duration.  They were in rental Cabin #5 and slept like a stone.  They were even a little late getting out the door because I think they were somewhat reluctant to leave.  The guy REALLY liked that cabin with the view and the knotty pine.

I grew up in the resort business right here at Jasper Lake Resort.  In 1982 we renamed it Northwind Lodge as it has been called for 33 years now.  From my earliest days to the present, the resort business has been a major, all consuming of my life.  As a kid, I grew up with a new batch of people living on our property every Saturday.  They were from Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and from as far away as New York City and Los Angeles, California and all other places in between.  I traveled the world through the eyes and words of our guests.  I heard funny stories, terrible tragedies, and life lessons that stuck with me to this day.   In exchange, we traded tales back with stories of bears and hippies and crazy things we’d seen on the portages and lakes surrounding Northwind Lodge .  There were guests that I hoped would come back because they were just plain fun when they were on vacation here.  The Kaufman clan from Bensonville, Illinois, the Dundek family from Oak Lawn, the Kusynskis from Hickory Hills, the Edwards from Indianapolis, The Freyfogles from Urbana, the Webbs from Racine,  the Niskas from Mountain Iron, the Walkers from Iowa,  are only a few of the many who made “work” not seem like “work”.  Over the years, I’ve concluded that being a resorter is not really a job.  It’s more of a lifestyle and every week, we get to see the extended family come and go.   As a kid, we really got attached to many of our guests and waving goodbye on Saturday was usually a very sad moment.  But there was never much time to lick wounds and be bummed because a new batch friends and family would be arriving at 3 PM and new week would again begin.

We had then, and still have now, a vast majority our customers to Northwind Lodge who call their cabin “home” for a week or two each summer.  A large percentage of our cherished guests have been staying here at Northwind Lodge for three generations spanning 30-50+ years!    Many of our guests also stay in the same cabins for literally decades.  What is really enjoyable is when an entire full house of guests all know each other and can’t wait to get together for another year.  They all know each other and go fishing together, sometimes watch each others grand kids. (Many third gen’s here), go out to dinner or just sit down by a campfire at the beach.  It’s then like a small, quiet neighborhood.  The nice part is that everybody comes, goes, and participates at will with no obligations and they all seem to have a good time.

Still today, we do cabin rentals at Ely MN the old-fashioned way.  We rent the cabins and our guests entertain themselves by doing those resort things like hanging out at the beach, reading a real paper book, going fishing and swimming, going to town for an evening out, taking day canoe trips into the BWCA and returning back to their cabins.  The one ultra-modern thing we have at Northwind Lodge is WIFI in all the cabins.  We fought it for years, but unfortunately, the “new” people coming in have “issues” if they can’t be “connected” all the time. (Yes – I’m being a bit dismissive in my comments about being connected all the time.  Take a break – you’ll live, literally.  Maybe, don’t let your time here slip by, but, if that floats your boat….)  Well, they can now remain “connected” because we have WIFI all over the main resort.  One of our guests is an IT guy and he worked his magic.   I’m still hoping that the computer-addicted will  fight the urge to stay in the cabin all day doing mindless facebooking and surfing when they could be in kayaks and on stand-up-paddle boards instead.   I can understand if they need to get online for work or to contact family or make a telephone call through Gmail.  But in my humble opinion, no one should let the week slip by staring at that digital demon when there is a beautiful lake just out the door.   Everybody can already do that at home.   When in the woods, be in the woods.  It’s an experience that is very hard to find in any metro areas.

Since I grew up here, I already know that it is beautiful especially with the creek going through the yard and access to the lake in about 90 seconds or less from all the rental cabins here at the lodge, but I’m used to it.   What really brings me out of my somewhat jaded view is hearing it from our guests.   This year in particular, I’ve heard “how beautiful it is here” many, many times.  When I hear that, I always wonder what it must be like where they are from.  My guess is that their backyard is also beautiful but in another way, perhaps.  Obviously, what makes it so special here is the pristine nature of the place.  We’ve been here for 76 years now with 71 of those years as a licensed resort.  Everything that was here then is still here now along with the traditions, memories and experiences of our many wonderful guests and friends.

You ought to give us a try, as well.  Two nights is our minimum stay requirement and it is really not enough time to let it all sink in.  Instead of packing in an extra Vegas trip where you can relax with hundreds of others sitting by a pool while getting annoyed by someone who may have imbibed a bit too much or on a cruise where you can stand in line waiting for food that someone sneezed on,  maybe come to the north woods and prepare to be blown away by the lack of people.  We also have a lack of street lights, timberwolves that howl in the distance, bears that occasionally snort around the cabins and loons who call all night long just to make sure you know they are still there.   (It was only in recent years that I suddenly realized that some of our guests are freaked out by the lack of street lights. Sorry, we are never adding street lights, ever.  Get a flashlight and suck it up!)     I cannot emphasize enough what it is like to wake up on a sunny or rainy morning in a cabin tucked away in the northwoods of Minnesota.  In fact, it’s hard to accurately describe.  One needs to experience it in person to actually understand it.  It will make you regret the end of your stay so enjoy it while you can and get a calendar.  Most of our returning guest “X” off the days like a prison sentence until the day they are released and can get back to their rental cabin at Northwind Lodge.