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Wildersmith February 3

"We all know February can easily mean “proceed with caution.” There is snow yet to fall and winds to howl..."

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February has called on us “up the Trail folks” in more seasonal fashion. Temps have been cold, but not bitter, with some decent snow, but nothing to boast about.

We all know February can easily mean “proceed with caution.” There is snow yet to fall, winds to howl and thermometers that can easily hit the bottom line. So for the next 29 days, one should not be fooled into thinking of spring green too soon.

Our good Objiwe friends and neighbors have such a good handle on this year’s segment that they have aptly named this the month of the full “sucker” moon (Namebini Giizis). Guess it’s best to take heed, for sometimes February does not have a sense of humor, but then again, we who choose to live here relish the grit of winter toughness, so bring it on!

A local angler shared a story of horror for one of the neighborhood whitetails last week. Somewhere in the mid-lake area of Gunflint, he observed a deer streaking down the ice. As it passed fairly close, he saw that the animal had a big chunk of flesh missing from its backside. Obviously, one of the local packs had helped itself to a bit of deer-burger.

The message must have got around the forest quickly about an injured ungulate, because soon after the terrorized deer raced into the distance, wolves one, two and three came out of the forest and onto the lake in determined pursuit. They too faded into the white landscape. It is fair to assume the fate of that injured deer was in the pursuing paws of the warrior hunters; just another day in the wilderness theater of predator-prey

Ice on Gunflint and Sag lakes is now of more substantial condition for travel. However, the usual pressure ridges are popping and shifting in many obscure places. The sudden upheavals and downside drop-offs are causing serious concerns for power sledders skimming over the nearly blinding white way.

Tragedy was averted last week when an unsuspecting fisherman plopped his sled into a drop-off that swallowed up his machine to the windshield top in no time at all. Luckily the person was well aware of the dilemma and did not panic, bailing off the sinking machine and quickly swimming a short distance to safe ice where he scrambled out of the icy water.

Rescued by a companion, he was hustled off to the warmth of a hot shower. Thankfully he was found to be in good condition, unharmed from this harrowing experience, truly a story ending happily.

This frozen water happening was somewhat unusual as the ice fractured and squeezed downward in opposition to traditional upward pressure shifts. The icy layer in this case actually settled to a depth of about four feet, and for some unknown reason, remained there suspended. The suspended ice shelf turned out a blessing, saving the sled from a deep descent to the bottom. Next day the machine was frozen in about two inches of fresh ice. After some careful planning and maneuvering, the snow machine was cut from its icy hang-up and winched onto safe ice.

It has since been disassembled for a drying out, put back together and is now back in service. Sledders should be on their utmost alert to these continuously changing lake ice situations during weather times of up and down temperature swings.

Our Trail went to the dogs this past Monday, and what a day it was for those canines. The Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Race took center stage, and it appeared to be a great experience for dogs, mushers, handlers, sponsors and a few hundred spectators.

Talk about spirit of the wilderness: It was at its peak as energy to run over flowed for the pullers of 16 Mail Run sleds. The rapidly organized event went off without a hitch. To yours truly, it was a howling success!

Congrats to the sponsors and all who lent a hand. It was so neat that one should hope that it will not be just a one-time shot!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the silence of falling wilderness snow.

Airdate: February 3, 2012

Photo courtesy of Acid Pix via Flickr.