"Everything's gone"

Ardis David, 81, is staying at a resort along the Gunflint Trail while she waits to find out whether her cabin on Seagull Lake has burned down.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Ardis Davd, 81, is waiting as patiently as she can to find out whether her cabin has burned down.

David is one of those people who couldn't get to her property after the fire flared up on Tuesday afternoon. In fact, while being escorted by local law enforcement, she found herself in the middle of that flare up.

"All of a sudden there's smoke and fire coming through all the woods we were driving past ... and the policeman took us a little further and I knew he was trying to make up his mind whether it was safe or not, and finally he stopped and said, 'it isn't safe,'" she said. "And so he turned around and that's why we're here. I have not seen the remains, so to speak. We have not had the funeral."

No officials have told David that her cabin is gone. She was in the Twin Cities when the fire started, but she's heard from neighbors that it burned down.

Smoke from a nearby fire
Smoke from the Ham Lake fire turns the sun a hazy red over the Gunflint Trail in northeastern Minnesota. Fire officials say 16,500 acres of land along the Gunflint Trail has burned, torching some 40 outbuildings and homes.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

David's cabin has been on the shores of Seagull Lake since 1970. That's where, shortly after her husband died at a young age, she bought some land and ordered a prefab cedar cabin. In less than one summer she had it all put together.

"Not me alone," she notes. "My sons, daughters, their friends, people who walked by and said 'what are you doing?' and then I'd ask them to help. We built all by ourselves."

It became the kind informal resort for family and friends that you find all over this part of Minnesota.

David loves to share the uniquely Up North stories that come from 37 years of owning a cabin. Like the time a bear knocked out all the screens in her front porch. Or when a mother moose came sniffing around the back step.

"And I hear something at the back door. And I go to the back door, and here's mama moose looking in my screen. And I didn't have a camera," she said.

But now David is almost afraid of what she'll find when she goes back to the place that created those memories.

"I had antiques in there, my daughter's an artist; there were picture that she had been painting. People would give me a gift and I'd hang it up on the walls. Everything's gone. Everything's gone."

David hopes to head out to her property Wednesday and see what remains. She says maybe she'll salvage a few things and put them in a new cabin she wants to build with the insurance settlement.

"We'll recover," she said. "I think I can get together again and maybe it won't ever be the same, but we'll have a place again."

Ardis Davids says she's always wanted to write a book about the adventures she's had at her cabin, and says this fire may have just written the last chapter for her.

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