Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Absolutely don’t make your bed...


My husband, Bill and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary on Feb. 13. Isn’t that our paper anniversary? It is, because I googled it to find out. So next year is our cotton or second anniversary that I will probably celebrate the same way as our first, snowmobiling! I said it was “better than a shrimp dinner,” to be out on the sleds. With our busy schedules I am amazed we find the time and energy.

Adding a wee bit of friction to the months of our first year of marriage were my gallbladder ordeal, the move from Ely, painting the new house, and learning to be Innkeepers at Soudan’s Vermilion Park Inn. We began the Innkeeper training process in summer for a mid-October takeover. There was a big rush of guests the first weekend we were in charge, and I didn’t “stroke out”…followed by frustrating moments learning the reservation system, winterizing, then decorating for the holidays. The Inn at Christmas was beautiful. December parties arrived, with a caterered Welsh dinner and theatrical reading of “A Child’s Christmas In Wales”.  We hosted an evening reading for poets which featuring my brother Paul and a poem he had published in the Atlanta Review.  In early January, we held an Open House for our neighbors, the residents of Soudan. 

Now we are knee deep in snowmobile season, without a doubt! Last weekend brought an interesting assortment of guests to the Inn: southern snowmobilers seeking trails with snow-cover rather than dirt, elderly Texans exploring winter, old friends meeting and staying at the Inn, and two grateful women with a dog who needed a place to hold up during the heavy snowstorm that swirled through.

The snowbound friends plugged in their crock-pot with the vegetarian carrot stew they made at a lake cabin they had stayed at in Ely, and invited all of us to eat! Hospitality reigns supreme at the Inn. There’s always coffee being brewed and food being brought in for sharing at the large wood kitchen table.

Saturday morning, our guests from Texas, the Martins, were headed out to snowmobile on rented machines. Mrs. Martin was getting her day planned and found me cleaning a room near the kitchen and asked me sweetly with wide-open brown eyes, “I have never stayed at a bed and breakfast before, so do I have to make my bed?” With great enjoyment I replied, “ No, you absolutely do not have to make it, that’s your space and you do whatever pleases you because you are on vacation!” She was relieved to hear that and robustly headed to dress for outdoor adventure.

Also staying at the Inn was a family with two teen daughters. The parents were in one room and the daughters reluctantly decided they could tolerate one another for a couple of nights while sharing a separate room down the hall from their folks. The folks seemed to enjoy their space and demonstrated they were in fun spirits with a prank they involved me in. They were expecting the arrival of two male friends who were enroute on sleds from Two Harbors. The expected friends also had a room reserved at the Inn…so they thought. Moments before the travelers arrived, the mischievous couple handed me a ten dollar tip to participate in a bit of “Tom Foolery.” When the two traveling friends entered through the front door, all dressed in gear and looking completely worn out, I gingerly told them I didn’t have a room as previously stated, due to a glitch in our reservation system. However, I apologetically said I may have a room in the basement next to the old morgue. (The entire Inn was a hospital in its former life.) 

All I could see during this tall tale I was spinning were two increasingly aggravated heads, still with helmets on, staring at me with blackening eyes under bushy eyebrows. Soon I sensed it had gone far enough, so I quickly reached into my pocket and pulled out the ten dollar tip, and waved it as I confessed, “Your friends say hello, they are here and paid me to do this AND I am SO sorry!” We all had a good laugh.

The previous weekend we had a group of seven Canadian men venture down by snowmobile from Winnipeg. Since they did not have vehicles, they asked me if I could drive them to Tower for drinks and dinner and then pick them up. I enlisted Bill to assist with his Suburban, because I couldn’t fit them all in a single Jeep load. In keeping with my flamboyant, slightly theatrical nature, I was prompted to dress the part. I wore a long black blazer, black slacks, my white pleated shirt, red plaid bow tie, a black velvet feathered hat and a killer pair of red plaid, Doc Martens, Mary-Jane-style-shoes…. with black leather-stud covered toes and heels. They screamed,”Rob Roy, I’ll hunt you down!” I added white gloves, too! I played the part and earned a thirty dollar tip, while providing myself a mini-theatrical production that a gal such as me fuels herself with. After leaving the theater scene in Ely, you didn’t really think I’d hang it up did you?

Between checking in guests, grocery shopping and ironing or mangling sheets at the Inn, plus my work at the Timberjay, I have concluded I am too busy, however…….I’ve actually had some time to get out on my own snowmobile. In the fall of 2015 I bought a used 2000 Arctic Cat in Babbitt, a 2-up rider and so comfortable. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the woods and lakes from new perspectives. Some may say snowmobiles are too noisy….but I figure you’ll get noise with fast transportation. I used to cross country ski for years and don’t any longer as a result of a knee injury. Truthfully I just like the thrill of driving that sled. 

Bill and I rode into the Lake Vermilion Park east of Soudan last weekend, on the trail that is for bicycles in season. We rode past old mining gorges, plenty of pine forests on the hilly, curvy trail that seemed to head mainly downhill to Armstrong Bay on Lake Vermilion. I was glad not to be pumping uphill on a bike. I was thrilled to see what was around the next corner as it was all a new surprise. I let Bill take his turn at driving by the time we moved out from the woods onto the lake. I sat back and studied the rocky shoreline and the islands; it was my first viewing and I was thinking how much the east end of Lake Vermilion resembles Burntside Lake. 

I had spent summers as a kid on the west end of the lake and would still know how to navigate over there, but this east end is a big challenge that I am enjoying. When summer arrives we plan to have our pontoon boat out to explore, so this is a good start. Bouncing along toward Tower, I considered all the vacated lake places with darkened forlorn windows that reflected the orange setting sun. Docks lifted toward the sky, on hold, through many frozen nights before they feel warm sun and are adorned with lawn chairs and colorful beach towels again. We continued buzzing across the ice and I thought about construction costs involved in some of the mammoth homes, the lovely interiors they must have, the bathrooms, the vacuuming, the taxes! Then I spotted a modest-sized cabin with its old, many-paned windows, funky shingle siding in gray and red, and I smiled because to me that is what a cabin on a lake was when I was young and what I prefer even now.

Before we know it snowmobiling season will be over and I’ll be drifting on a breeze, avoiding rocks with my pontoon boat on Vermilion’s east end. Bill and I will be easing out of the Inn as the summer managers return from wintering in Arizona, which will give us more time to put in some gardens and work on the exterior of our house in the cotton year of our marriage. Until next time, enjoy your life and keep your eyes on the trail ahead!


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