Month five is almost into the books as spring surged during the past seven. Clear skies provided this territory with a perfect “budding flowers” moon, setting the stage for luminous blooming, while the day of official summer looms on the horizon.
Flowering has finally reached the upper Trail. Marsh marigolds, squill, wild strawberry blossoms, forget- me-nots and of course, those “dandy” lions head the list of north-country returnees. Adding to the resurgence of growth, fiddlehead ferns are uncoiling their fronds, and domestic rhubarb has popped up enough to provide the first “pie plant” desserts of the season.
Green-up of the deciduous forest has intensified right on schedule. From those late bloomers about to explode their buds to hillsides alive with verdant haze, if green is one’s color there are many shades from which to choose. Total leaf out should be complete in a week or so.
It’s amazing how resilient plant life can be, considering the area had passed another week devoid of moisture. We’ve been “bone” dry, choking in late summer dust along back country roads. A blessed rain finally quenched our thirsty forest since mid-week. A six-tenths dose, late Tuesday, has lessened wild fire danger, so folks out this way have dodged a flaming bullet for the time being.
Considering forest fire danger, the recent decision for a prescribed burn that escaped control west of the Ely area, is simply mind boggling. I realize these procedures are a necessary forest practice, but it's apparent science-based conditions, supporting the right time for a intentional burn, can well be one in the same with warnings of wildfire potential. So why would you ignite one?
In the meantime, common sense says, Trail residents had better be taking their own prevention measures, even though the area has been dampened down. Periodic running of wildfire sprinkler systems is recommended to keep a dome of humidity over properties during our increasingly frequent dry spells, and tending to “firewise” needs is vitally important right now and always.
There are good things and some not so good with each of our border country seasons. Everyone out this way is smiling with the warm sunshine. But sad to say, those “black fly terrorists” have a grin on their faces too, in anticipation of a little bloodletting. I’ve been into my netting for the past week, and thus far my batting average against the fierce nippers is far better than our Minnesota baseball Twins.
Along with the no-nonsense biting flies, the season ahead looks to be gloomy from a “tick” standpoint. A hiker I heard of reported picking off fifty of the creepy things following a recent trek along the Border Trail. In the meantime, mosquitoes are amassing troops out there somewhere with only a few small battalions appearing around sunset thus far.
So if one thinks winter is less than accommodating, think again, this time of year has its distressing elements too. All these biting critters are making me think freeze!
Speaking of the tourist times ahead, several businesses catering to such have seen operator changes over the past few months and years. New management has been on board at Clearwater Lodge for the past couple years, while Big Bear Lodge has also come under new proprietorship. In addition, those at the helm of Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters are beginning their second year. While just recently, a changing of the guard has taken the reins at both Rockwood Lodge and Loon Lake Lodge. Everyone in the Gunflint Community welcomes and wishes these new wilderness hosts well, in their Trail endeavors.
Critter notes are scant as I air this week. No bear adventures have been reported, but I have observed a number of north woods bunnies scampering about, some still in dirty white socks. Grouse meanwhile, (“you know, those Minnesota chicken birds”) too numerous to count, have dared frequent pedestrian catastrophes in front of my vehicle.
In regard to grouse, another sighting found that although their hunting season is closed to humans, the times are always open to predators. I came upon a fox, trotting along the Trail not long ago, with a nice “chicken bird” in its jaws. The now faded red one was so intent it did not flinch or waver from its roadside course as I drove by. My hunch is a hungry batch of kits was waiting for lunch back in the den.
In the past couple days, a solemn report came my way of the loon pair at the Chik-Wauk Museum nesting platform having abandoned the site. Reasons are unknown, but suspect would be an airborne predator pilfering the eggs, it’s happened before. The possibility remains that hormonal instincts might re-balance and they will return to try again. Stay tuned for any updates.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Savoring northern magic and swatting all at the same time! Have a safe Memorial Day!
(photo by Mike Quinn via Wikimedia Commons)