Atmospheric conditions along the Gunflint Byway have remained on the passive side of the ledger. As the area reaches the mid-point of our 11th month, unless things change abruptly, those not in tune with winter will be happy as clams noting the long cold season is being shortened by one segment.
This neighborhood has been yo-yoing since we last met, with abnormal warmth, then a couple days near normal and then back to September character. A skiff of white was recorded, but vanished quickly in the midst of one more “El Nino” swoosh.
It would appear the actual lake freezing over, as acclaimed by the Ojibwe “freezing over moon” of November, will probably be put off until next month. The usual skimming over of our smaller lakes, ponds and swamps by this time of year just isn’t happening.
Although the larger Gunflint Lake is traditionally one of the last territorial bodies to become solid, this “old Gal” is still offering a summer-time lure. Last Sunday, the purr of an outboard motor was heard near sundown from a late season angler heading home. Yes, fresh water angling in the midst of firearms deer hunting season. Wonders of the north land never cease to amaze!
In further testament to our extending tepid spell, another week has passed and more bear wanderings are being reported - no denning up just yet. Perhaps they are holding out for Thanksgiving leftovers.
A couple down the road had the thrill of recording a night time photo-op with a Canadian Lynx. This is the first “kitty” report heard from out this way in quite a while. They sent me a digital of the cat which was unfortunately not crisp enough to share, but you can take my word, this feline of the north was a handsome critter. Snowshoe hares and grouse should beware!
Speaking of grouse, their numbers must be in an upswing cycle. It must have been a fertile year for chick production. In my travels through this neck of the woods I see uncountable numbers of the seemingly dimwitted “chicken birds.”
Continuing avian excitement engulfs the Smiths anytime we step out the door. For some reason, known only to our winged neighbors, the chickadees and nuthatches are infatuated with our presence. I’ve heard of this from other long time Gunflint residents but this tweeting experience is a first in going on 17 winters here. It's like an attack of the birds. They expect to be fed, and we have fallen right in line with their feeding-frenzy expectations. This experience with our feathered friends, in addition to being enjoyable, has proven educational too. Getting an up-close look at their routine of hammering each morsel into a nook or cranny of tree bark is amazing to watch. Their system of warehousing and inventory control would probably even wow “Amazon.”
All this being said, guess we (Smiths) might be included in the “dimwitted” category for getting such a kick out of their greedy companionship!
Last weekend a winter season visitor came back to our deck side feed trough. “Piney” the marten stopped by, having not been seen since the meltdown of last spring. It was easily recognized as one of our previous marten visitors with a tiny notch missing from one ear. Hungry as usual, it spent considerable time munching sunflower seeds much to the annoyance of the usual squirrels and bluejays.
One adventure of north woods living is wondering and imagining where these “wild neighborhood” critters have been, and what they’ve been up to during their transient times. We’ll obviously never know, but it’s energizing nonetheless realizing this one survived the wild for another year, and came back looking quite healthy and remembered a nice place to get an easy meal.
Although not a whitetail deer has been observed for months around Wildersmith, there must be scent of such a return in the air. Wolf reconnaissance has been noted (although not physically witnessed) with evidence from the timber canines found along our Mile O Pine. So the saga of predator and prey lives on, only now a human factor has been tacked on for a few weeks. It is hoped the stars of fate are aligned for both the stalked and the stalkers in this wilderness drama.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! We're keeping an eye out for the stalled “great northern express!”