The border country landscape will be illuminated this weekend once again as February is signed off into the history book. Our “full snow” moon, which has not lived up to its name in these parts, will still cast a bright iridescence over the wilderness blanket.
While the south end of the Trail has experienced temps that have dwindled the snow pack, our depths out here have remained firm. It’s as white as the days it fell, except for the scenic byway and a few oft-traveled county side roads that look more urban-like than we appreciate.
Speaking of the Gunflint Scenic Byway, collaboration between county highway crews, with their mighty loads of gritty slipping deterrent, and the growing power of old Sol, has left the Trail with more blacktop showing than the snow pack and ice of the last few months. Although the adventure of trekking up or down the Trail always merits caution, slip sliding along should be minimal now except in a few protected areas. Sure as I say this, Old Man Winter will likely bring back our seasonal driving conditions.
Outside of ongoing critter crossings, the major road hazard now is many of the usual frost heaves that Mother Earth has belched up. As the old gal begins her wake-up from winter, drivers had better be paying attention to the warning flags that have been stuck in the snowbanks, or the roller coaster dips will be testing vehicle suspension systems with a lot of bottom banging.
More than a week has passed since our Valentine’s Day dusting, and the upper Trail territory has had some sparkling days. With nighttime temps dipping below zero and then popping up into the 20s during the day, it has been just marvelous for anything one wants to do out in the snow, and oh, those starlit nights!
We all know that critters can tell us a lot about the feel of things happening in the atmosphere. I have found that the up-close relationship with Whiskey and Jack, my Canadian Jay pals, is providing some interesting insights as to when it must seem really cold for these winged folks.
They come to meet me shortly after sun-up each morning. Although I do not have an exact temperature when this phenomenon happens, the past week has had them come by two different days with tiny crests of frost above their eyes. On each of these occasions, the Wildersmith thermometer read minus 17. On other days with lesser cold, but still below zero, the frost has not been observable. Very interesting!
Despite those cold mornings of the past week, there are signals that spring is in the offing. Those yakking crows have returned, and all the other little critters that wing overhead seem to be a little more upbeat. We may be a long ways from the smell of mud at this end of the road, but another good sign is that the green thumb gardener that lives over on Loon Lake has planted seeds under the grow light, and sprouts are already peeking out.
The sixth annual Winter Tracks Festival is now under way, continuing for the next few days. You can check their schedule on the web. Many events have been scheduled including the big trout fishing derby that begins at 9 a.m. Sunday on the west end of Gunflint Lake. Follow the great snow sculptures starting at Trail Center to find winter excitement.
Two weekends later, March 12 & 13, the third Mush For a Cure dog sled race kicks off. Race organizers tell me that over 20 teams have been entered so far with a cut-off entry limit of 50. Last year’s event had 39 entries.
In 2009, the “pink”, barking spectacle raised over $25,000 for national breast cancer research. It should be another colorful extravaganza! Check out the event schedule and lean more about the event online.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a winter weekend on the Gunflint!