Marcia Roepke
Trail Time

Trail Time

Trail Time March 4, 2022

By Marcia Roepke

I’ve had one of my favorite hymns in the music playlist of my brain for the past few days. It’s called “In the Bleak Midwinter.” The opening lyrics go like this:

In the Bleak Midwinter

Frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron 

Water as a stone 

Snow had fallen, snow on snow

Snow on snow

In the bleak midwinter

Long ago

Those lyrics sum up life on the Gunflint Trail for the past few weeks, except for the bleak part. Snow has fallen, snow on snow. Snow on snow on snow. And there’s more snow predicted for this weekend. I’m not complaining, just reporting to all of you who love it here and can only be here in your imaginations right now. So if can imagine a very snowy year, you’ll have an accurate picture. Or you can check out one of the Gunflint Trail web cams. Before I moved here full-time, I visited those web cams on an almost daily basis. The Gunflint Lodge has the clearest camera and it’s live, but Seagull Outfitters as well as Rockwood and Golden Eagle Lodges have great views, too.

Before this last series of storms I was out roving around with the dog at dusk. The wind sounded like the ocean, like the tides were surging and waves were crashing. I could hear a sound like a roar coming from above the trees, but I couldn’t feel much wind at ground level. Noise absolutely filled the air. And the next day big weather hit.

 Since I’ve moved here, I’ve found that my relationship with the weather has changed. It plays a much bigger part in my life than it used to. And whatever the current reality of the Weather is, it elicits one of three behaviors:

  1. Talking about the weather
  2. Actively dealing with the weather and
  3. Preparing for dealing with the weather

And this is a four-season activity – or maybe I should call it a hobby? If it is a hobby, it’s one we share with all our neighbors. There isn’t a gathering or meeting where The Weather isn’t discussed at some point. If life were a play, The Weather would have the largest non-speaking role on the stage. The Weather wouldn’t speak but it would make sounds, like the sounds it has been making lately: the wind in the trees and the sound of icy snow pellets being blown against surfaces of roofs, house siding, windows and coat sleeves. Those same icy pellets blown against a face don’t make much noise, but they bring a uniquely unwelcome sensation. Oh, and here’s some expert advice for you: Don’t wear a skirt while snow blowing.

The young families that are working and raising kids while living on the Gunflint Trail and dealing with The Weather are some of the most amazing people I know. And one of my favorite young families owns and runs Loon Lake Lodge: Derek and Andrea and their three sons.

I went ice-fishing with them a few weeks ago in the bay right out from their historic lodge. I had never been ice-fishing before – that is a pursuit that Lars does by himself — and I got to see some pros at work: Derek drilling holes in the lake and baiting hooks while Andrea wrangled the youngest member, who announced his need for a nap soon after I got there. The older two kids fished for an impressive length of time considering the dropping temperatures. It had been sunny that morning and the temperature had hovered around 10 degrees above zero. Perfect winter weather! But the sun hid behind some very snowy-looking clouds by the time Lars and I got there. Then the Weather and its favorite companion, the Wind, arrived. I guess they wanted to fish too. Anyway, by the time somebody much younger than I mentioned hot chocolate, I was ready to call it a day. Alas, still no lake trout for Lars and I! But Derek and guests regularly haul them out of Loon Lake. Our time will come. I can feel it.

This winter I’ve been thinking a lot about the invisible life under the snow, under the earth, under the ice, where everything is getting ready for the burst of growth that spring will call forth. In the visible world, we’ve been lucky to see many moose tracks around our place in the deep snow. How I envy them their four long legs and feet! They easily wade through snow that I find daunting without my snowshoes strapped on. Our trail camera is on the fritz so I rely on prints in the snow to tell me what’s going on with the wildlife. This year’s plentiful snow creates a fresh new palette of white every few days for the animals and birds to make their prints, and thereby tell me a part of their stories.

And while we enjoy – and sometime endure – all these usual delights of winter on the Gunflint Trail, war is happening across the world – while the snow falls and we feed the birds and shovel the snow and help our neighbors. Because of that, I dedicate this Trail Time to neighbors of a friend who lives in London’s East End: to Vlad and Natasha and all their family, both in and outside Ukraine.

To find Gunflint Trail web cams, go to