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The dump run


June 14, 2019

The summer after my sophomore year of high school I packed up and headed north. I would spend my summer break along the south shore of Gunflint lake as a “dock boy” for the Kerfoot family at Gunflint Lodge. I didn’t know exactly what I had signed up for, but I would figure it out on the fly.

It didn’t take me long to learn my job description was “whatever needed to be done.” Most days I gassed up boats for guests and worked the waterfront. Weed whipping, mowing and raking were big parts of my day.

Other days proved more adventurous. I can recall chasing a skunk from the trading post, nights as a replacement dishwasher in the kitchen and being knee-deep in sludge helping the maintenance crew under the lodge after a pipe burst.

One particular day stands out. I was just making my early morning rounds, bailing out boats and prepping for the day, when the lodge’s owner, Bruce Kerfoot, paid me a visit. He had volunteered me to pick up trash along a 2-mile stretch of the Gunflint Trail. My colleagues would man the waterfront, I was on special assignment.

I hopped into the camp truck and headed for the gravel pit. The camp truck was a workhorse. I made the “dump run” each night with it, so I was familiar with its personality. It was red, tall, large and loud. Its defining feature was a massive dump box that would haul, store, and dump massive loads. I rumbled into the gravel pit and jumped down from my perch. This was a well-organized event and all involved needed to rendezvous for instructions. We would work for the morning and return around lunchtime and pile the rubbage for collection. I volunteered to take our collective morning haul to the dump. After receiving my assigned section of the roadway, I was off to fill my dump box.

I carefully parked the big red truck along the shoulder of the trail and began my mission. I walked slowly, eyeing the shoulder and ditches with a 55-gallon black garbage bag tightly in my hand. I zigged and zagged in and out of the ditch. I scanned the shoulder and roadway. I eyed the aluminum foil of a gum wrapper glistening in the sun. I balled it up and shoved it into my bag. I walked. I looked. I squatted. I sighed. It would prove to be the only trace of human refuse I would remove from my 2-mile section of trail. This was, of course, a good thing. People weren’t just chucking their Sven & Ole’s pizza boxes out the window on their way up the trail. However, for my still-developing brain, this was not good.

I wanted to impress my boss. I wanted to impress all the folks who had given up their morning to keep the trail pristine. There was no way I was heading back to the gravel pit with a huge dump box filled with one rolled-up gum wrapper tucked neatly in a contractor’s bag.

I snuck into the dump. I backed the big red truck between the Gunflint Lodge and Gunflint Pines dumpsters. I worked quickly. I knocked down the long grass behind the dumpsters and found what I was looking for. A broken bike. Up and over the side of the dump box it went. A couple of old lawn chairs. Up and over. An old tire. Looks good. Half a two-by-four. Perfect. I frantically flung whatever I could find into the box.

I tore out of the dump, dirt flying. I hit the trail and pointed north towards the gravel pit, sweat and shame dripping off me. I sheepishly pulled into the mass of volunteers. My heart pounded with the weight of my deception. I listened quietly as others examined my haul, exclaiming about my roadside trash collection prowess. Many had found only a single candy wrapper, or discarded pop can. The entire group’s effort fit nicely into my contractor’s bag. I chucked the bag atop the mass of debris in the back of the big red truck. I avoided eye contact. I avoided praise. I made a quick exit.

Back to the dump.

Bret Baker is a lifetime resident of Cloquet. He is a proud husband, father, educator and outdoorsman. Bret began guiding fishing trips when he was 16 years old. Today, in his 40s, his passion is to introduce people to the tremendous outdoor adventure opportunities available in our region.


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