It’s frightful what’s been going on in the north woods since we last met on the radio. Over the past seven, with temps some twenty degrees above normal, there’s a scent of spring in the air, but it’s supposed to be winter! There’s just no seasonal bite anymore.
All this being about six weeks early, the upper Gunflint is flat out into our icky ice and mud scene. Locally, we in the Wildersmith neighborhood are being terrorized with the worst case of slippery wet conditions in 17 years. Movement out of doors has been at no more than snail's pace, either on foot or in the vehicle, for fear of ending up on one's posterior or careening off into the woods on wheels.
Improvements are slow to happen as areas along the shaded Mile O Pine have been spared the power of “Old Sol” to some extent. Slow melting has allowed daily oozing, which then has been refreezing to skating-like surfaces by the next AM. This is further complicated by a few open places where beaming rays have gashed the frozen surface with patches of bare road. So one moment, one can splash along safely, only to end up slip sliding along on water slick ice.
At the time of this broadcast/scribing, the Wildersmith driveway remains a slippery path to vehicle disaster with all friction applications being of little support. That in mind, the truck sits on high ground until further notice.
The wilderness landscape has become a patchwork of white and brown. In our yard, it is interesting to assess how winter winds dispersed the snow. Spots where gusts had direct access, a thin coating has easily been whisked away by our meltdown. Meanwhile, protected places have substantial white remnants, in spite of being reduced by a considerable amount during the past days.
Observing sunrise on the morning before daylight savings time, confirmed to me spring is now in command. Beams of light lit up the forest and revealed the first return of arachnids. Their network of fiber optics is already strung between our coniferous appendages. It was quite surprising to see the filaments so soon.
Even more startling, a couple creepy crawlers have made illegal entry into our house, yuck! At ground level, a “murder” of crows has returned and is busy picking through winter remains while breaking silence of the neighborhood with raucous conversation.
Another sign of more “Vernal” times finds tree juices thawed to resume the flow skyward. This is evident as the snow has melted away from the base of trees creating interesting tube-like exposures of bare forest earth in the white.
In another moment of flowing spring energy, a couple fellows down the road have tapped their way into several Mile O Pine maples. This collecting process is obviously in quest of sweet nectar for syrup making.
The fisher that had been making appearances at several locations down the road, recently made its way to the Smith place. This large version of a pine marten apparently knew its way around here, perhaps affirming a previous visit. Unfortunately, all the cupboards were bare as it arrived checking out each feeding station. With noses pressed to the window glass watching such an uncommon visitor, this ferocious critter seemingly gave a glance our way, as if to say “where’s the beef” and then scampered off into the forest.
A few days later the maple sap collectors mentioned earlier had an exciting moment when they happened upon a Canadian lynx. The handsome feline was caught in a sitting pose, either sunning itself along the county road, or doing a little hare reconnaissance. It was interesting the north woods cat did not make a move until the fellas were about six feet away before loping off into the trees toward Gunflint Lake.
In a sad note, “Dog Days of Winter” activities scheduled on Poplar Lake last Sunday, went for naught. A casualty of all this warm sloppiness, events had to be cancelled. Hopefully, energy for this event carries over to next year with hope for revival of a real “Northwoods” winter.
Before signing off…after all this talk of spring being in the air, winter has come back. A falling of some 12 to 14 inches of snow covered the Wildersmith neighborhood and has put things on hold once more.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Regretting a winter lost, but savoring a rebirth of the forest!
(photo by Phillippa Warr via Flickr)