I am one of the lucky ones. I was born here and have lived all my life on the Gunflint Trail (except for the usual stuff- college and military). Our family were some of the first white settlers in the area. They built their own log cabin from trees in the forest, had an outdoor biffy, and carried water from the lake. Our only neighbors were the Native Americans, we did not electric service and the road was not plowed all winter (as they say- we wintered in). We had a big root cellar, bought wild rice from our neighbors and went deer hunting in the fall for our winter meat.
Our family built a lodge and rental cabins by hand, to create and operate Gunflint Lodge. Our first guests were fishermen, coming for the native lake trout in the deep waters of Gunflint Lake. Our employees were Chippewa guides, waitresses and housekeepers, and a cook from the winter logging camps, serving hardy meals family style. The only option for schooling as we grew up was a correspondence course, for studying at home at the kitchen table with a lantern.
Eventually our guides took me in tow and taught me the necessary wilderness skills so that I too could become a northwoods guide- canoeing, camping, portaging, and fishing. At first, since I was kind of a scrawny kid, I had to hide a rock under my seat to level the canoe when I had a heavy fisherman in the front seat. As we grew up we all helped run the resort- from bailing boats to trapping minnows, from waitressing to doing dishes to making beds–it was all just part of our country living, where you did what was needed. Eventually my sisters and I all headed out to college in different parts of the country, coped with the challenges of a different life style, and got our degrees. I went on for 2 years of active military service, since it was obligatory back in those days.
In 1963 I returned to the lodge, with a young wife and one son. In the coming years I took over the management of the lodge from my mother and began to expand the facilities to appeal to couples and families. Eventually we winterized the property and became a year around vacation destination with cross country skiing, dog sledding and snowshoeing to go with all the summer activities. We continued to expand the lodge with upscale cabins (hot tubs, rock fireplaces, saunas, etc), a riding stable and the first canopy tour in Minnesota. Gunflint became a popular honeymoon destination, a romantic couples getaway, and a retreat for women’s groups, to go with the families and the fishermen.
In 2016, after a career of over 50 years, we sold the lodge to a nice family and they continue, much as we did. My wife and I moved to a homestead on Tucker Lake, on a side road off the Gunflint Trail. Since I know all the lakes and lands so well it was a natural to consider a second career as a realtor.
My style is that first I want to find out what a buyer is really looking for- type and size of lake setting, year around or seasonal, what species of fish they like to catch, do they boat or canoe, and what makes them interested in the Gunflint area. It is rewarding to find just the right property for a new owner which I can do with my background in the area. I don’t mean to brag, but I am the only realtor who has born, raised and lived on the Gunflint Trail all my life, and I know the area like the back of my hand.
If you are interested in joining us in the Gunflint area it is easy to start communicating—by phone, e-mail, or letter. It would be a pleasure to start a conversation.
Bruce Kerfoot, agent for the Lutsen Real Estate Group
6 Wolf Point Trail, Grand Marais, MN 55604