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Wildersmith February 22

Pine Marten (travelling.steve/Flickr)
Pine Marten (travelling.steve/Flickr)

Wildersmith_20130222_finalcut.mp34.99 MB

Thanks go out to Rosey, that news-scoopin’ K-9 from over on Hungry Jack Lake, for covering my absence last week. After a run to Iowa for another family and friends visit, it’s sure nice to be back in the Gunflint territory. “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home” in the woods!
What’s even better about returning to the wilderness is that the Smiths came back to a nice dose of fresh snow. The neighbors I left in charge of weather did a swell job as about 10 to 12 inches of the stuff helped me re-up my snow removal skills. It seems to be more than a quirk of coincidence that every time I head south, we get snow. Sure makes me wonder if Old Man Winter hasn’t placed a curse on me.
Now that the area is groomed in a new white base, winter activities are just what the doctor ordered. It’s paradise found for anyone who wants to make tracks in the wilderness.
In but a few days we’re heading toward the full “sucker moon” (so named Namebini Giizis by our Ojibwe neighbors). With the updated white blanket, our north woods landscape should be another “cool” neon lunar spectacular.
Along with another cold snap, both accumulating snow and thickening lake ice are secured at just the right time for the annual Cook County Snowmobile Club’s trout fishing derby on Gunflint Lake next weekend. That angling extravaganza is followed by the Mush for a Cure sled dog race  March 9, which also starts on the Gunflint Gal. Both events offer great fun for participants and spectators with lots of things going on in conjunction. Look for more details next week or better yet, check websites if you want info sooner.
Along with the usual rituals of mid-winter championed by mankind, like those mentioned above, there are some natural rites taking shape in some parts of the area. The first is those bone-jarring frost heaves in the Trail asphalt. It seems that they are making their appearance in the usual places, only a bit earlier than normal. So a trip to Grand Marais is becoming a real rollercoaster ride.
Another of those yearly happenings comes somewhat as a surprise since the territory went into winter sleep under extreme drought conditions. Most streams and rivers were barely a trickle at autumn’s end. Yet somewhere in the bowels of this great earth there is still water running.
Thus, winter trickles have finally frozen to the point where they are clogging area road culverts. The ensuing liquid backup is now being dammed into those mini roadside glaciers. Several spots along the Mile O Pine show that tannin-colored water seeping through the snow and thickening with each passing day.
Since the Smiths return to Wildersmith, we have been enjoying an abundance of pine marten visits. The luxurious poultry-loving fur balls have been here at all hours of the day and night. One evening found an uncommon situation, where a pair of them were sitting in the same feeding station partaking. There is usually a big fight when they get this close to each other at mealtime.
The normally carnivorous critters have been munching on not only the coveted chicken parts but also beating the squirrels to their cache of sunflower seeds (must be the oil that catches their attention). The other day I even observed one out hustling the blue jays to a tray of bread cubes. Guess when you’re hungry, most anything will do.
Sadness hangs over the Trail as friends mourn the loss of another Gunflint icon. Ralph Griffis passed away February 9 in Harlingen, Texas, at the age of 87.
Along with wife Bea, Ralph operated the Chik Wauk Lodge from 1957 until it was sold to the USFS in 1980. Through a special use agreement with the Forest Service, he and Bea continued living at Chik Wauk in the summers until departing for permanent Texas residency just before the turn of the century.
He will be long remembered for his caring ways, fishing prowess and captivating smile. He was so proud that the Gunflint community came together to form the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. And, that they worked so hard to turn the Griffis’ beloved lodge into a wonderful museum, preserving the storied Gunflint history. Gunflint Trail condolences are extended to his wife Bea.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a good time on the Gunflint!

Airdate: February 22, 2013