“Unspoiled and Unforgettable,” Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail has been a part of the Baumann family legacy for nearly half a century.
Now, with Zach Baumann and his wife Ruth Wagner’s recent purchase of the business from Zach’s parents, Dan and Teresa, Golden Eagle Lodge is set to continue thriving under the ownership of its next generation of Baumann’s.
What started as a “men’s only” resort back in 1945, Golden Eagle Lodge has since been developed by the Baumann’s into one of the premier family resorts along the Gunflint Trail.
In addition to secluded lodging and camping options that “embrace” the natural privacy of the wilderness, Golden Eagle Lodge offers seasonal events at its nature center, boat rentals in everything from canoes and kayaks to pontoons and fishing boats, as well as a plethora of maintained hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails.
“Golden Eagle Lodge was a dead resort when my grandparents bought it in 1976,” says Zach, “having only the main lodge building, four cabins, and no clientele.”
In addition to the many challenges associated with renovating and rebuilding a 1940s era resort, the Baumann family initially had to all live together in the main lodge building, with “the Baumann Boys” (Zach’s dad and uncles) all crammed together in the attic.
“In the early 80s,” continues Zach, “my dad helped expand things by replacing one cabin and building six new ones. One of the original cabins burned down in the late 80s and another cabin was replaced in 1999.”
“Today,” continues Zach, “all of our buildings are built early 80s and newer with the exception of the Lodge and Cabin 1, both of which were built sometime in the mid-40s. Our campground was added in 1999.”
Zach was involved in the family business from a young age. With the exception of the four years he spent at college in Duluth acquiring a degree in business administration with a major in marketing, Zach has lived his whole life at Golden Eagle Lodge and “loved every moment” of life on the Trail.
Ruth Wagner’s family had been vacationing at Golden Eagle Lodge since before she was born, a tradition that they continued throughout her childhood. Because of this she grew up becoming friends with all of the Baumann kids, and as an adult would take “additional fall camping trips to Golden Eagle Lodge to visit with them during what was typically a quieter time of year.”
It was after one of these annual trips in 2016 that Ruth and Zach started dating. They were married soon after in October of 2017. It was also during this time that Zach and Ruth started working towards the goal of taking over the family business.
“I left my job managing a large dairy farm in January 2016,” says Ruth, who has a degree in Dairy Science and Agricultural Business, “at which point Zach and I took over the day-to-day management of the resort.”
“We spent the next several years learning from Dan and Teresa and working out a purchase agreement,” continues Ruth, “and then, on January 1, 2020, we became the third generation of Baumann’s to take over Golden Eagle Lodge. Needless to say, we have big shoes to fill!”
Ruth and Zach have wasted no time in “filling the shoes” of the previous Baumann generations, expanding upon their outfitting capabilities with additional light-weight canoes, and expressing a number of plans to renovate and reinvest in the Lodge, “keeping cabins well-maintained and regularly updated,” according to Ruth.
Last year, Zach laid out a new snowshoe trail that will take folks through a beautiful section of red, white, and jack pines that have just started to grow after a prescribed burn in 2000. The new winter hike also passes above and below “a really cool rock face that is usually riddled with icicles.”
In addition to the new snowshoe trail, Zach and Ruth recently purchased a new 2021 Piston Bully 100 that will allow them to provide an even better cross-country ski experience for their winter guests and visitors.
“This is a huge upgrade from our current PB130,” says Ruth, “which is over 30 years old. We will now be able to provide a wider skate lane and continuous tilling, which will allow us to groom in a far greater variety of conditions.”
“The new machine is quieter, more powerful, and much more eco-friendly,” continues Ruth. “We cannot wait to debut the Central Gunflint Trail System’s trails on December 19, opening weekend.”
While Ruth and Zach have plenty of new ideas for the lodge now that they are in charge, both unequivocally acknowledge the importance of maintaining the “Golden Eagle Experience” as it has been since the first generation of Baumann’s took over in the 70s.
This means no TV’s in rooms, limited Wi-Fi, and above all else, upholding the integrity of the resort by keeping things personal.
“We believe in maintaining an atmosphere of solitude,” says Ruth, “and as such, we see no reason to expand.”
In agreeing with Ruth, Zach adds that they don’t plan on expanding to become a larger entity because “that’s just not who we are.”
“Once you start to grow to a size where you have a difficult time making personal connections with your guests,” says Zach, “or lose the ability to add personal touches to each cabin, you change who you are as a resort. We don’t want to change who we are.”
For more information on Golden Eagle Lodge, visit: golden-eagle.com