Happy New Year everyone! We’re off into the 16th year of this 21st century. And, the Smiths are back in the woods following a Christmas holiday with kids, grandkids, and friends in Iowa. Hope your time together with family and friends was as special as ours.
Our return to the Gunflint found “Santa” had left us a surprising gift of white during our absence. I’m told by neighbors his delivery couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, Christmas Eve, and then more on the next day.
As we departed for Iowa, the forest around this neighborhood was already somewhat flocked. The additional fluff has left the area with thousands of immature trees on the brink of snapping under the weight of monstrous marshmallow puffs. Meanwhile, many brittle elder forest kin succumbed to the stress and are laying across roads, driveways, cross country ski trails, and utility lines.
Along the snow covered Trail, I’m amazed at the number of downed trees hanging on telephone lines. It’s unexplainable how these overhead lines have flexed but not given way. A big secret is why telephone service has not been interrupted under this stress. Guess those installations are stronger than what they appear.
There’s a lot of clean-up work to be done, and to this point, our service provider seems in no hurry to get after this sizeable task. Guess they might be on hold until a break in the communication link occurs. Then workers may start their chain saws.
With over 20 inches of snow on the ground in many areas out this way, the scenery is stunning and winter sports enthusiasts are delighted. Trails for cross country skiers look to be groomed into fine shape. However, with the draping of snow laden brush and branches, clear sailing might be spotty until groomers can get things trimmed back. Users might consider putting a nipper in their pocket to help clear their way.
Trails for snowmobilers face the same issue, with added concern for safe ice on lakes connecting any number of points on the sledding network. While several smaller lakes show ice, it may not be safe, what with the newest application of snowy insulation. And the larger water bodies, like Gunflint, remain very much in a rolling liquid state for yet another week.
Whereas a lack of early snow had organizers nervous, that issue was taken care of as December ended. Excitement is mounting for the upcoming Gunflint Mail Run dogsledding adventure. Plans are being finalized for the event which gets under way one week from tomorrow (Saturday, January ninth).
The run, which was started in the 1970’s, waned until recently, but has been revived over the past few years and is growing with enthusiasm for dogs, mushers, and handlers. For several of the entries, GMR will be a tune-up for the John Beargrease 400 mile dog sledding trek coming out of Duluth at the end of the month.
This two race event commences in the mid-trail area at Trail Center at 8 am. A 12 dog (long) race of 110 miles runs from Trail Center to Blankenberg Pit up the Trail, loops back, and then repeats after a mandatory lay-over. While the eight dog (short) race runs to King’s Road above Gunflint Lake looping back to Trail Center for its finish at about 70 miles. Award ceremonies will be held at Trail Center on Sunday afternoon where a purse of $6,000 will be presented to the two race winners.
Both races use snowmobile trails, so work is going on at a feverish pace to have the race course cleared of snow storm-related obstructions. Many fun activities are planned in conjunction with the race. Go to the Gunflint Mail Run website for special event details.
Visitors and residents are encouraged to make a point of getting out to enjoy our now winter wonderland and show your support of this historical mail delivery enactment of yesteryear. Volunteers are still needed; if you can help, find more info on the same GMR website.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Come on out the Trail for a true winter adventure.
(photo courtesy of Bob Pranis)