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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fred Smith

Contributor(s): 
Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a native Iowan re-located to the wilderness of border country at the end of the century, has been writing of happenings in the upper Gunflint territory for going on eight years, first with the local paper, and since December 2008 for WTIP North Shore Community Radio. Fred feels life in the woods is extraordinary, and finds reporting on it to both a reading and listening audience a pleasurable challenge. Since retirement as a high school athletic administrator from Ankeny High School, Ankeny Iowa in 1999, the pace of Fred's life has become less hectic but nevertheless, remains busy in new ways with many volunteer activities along the Trail. Listen at your convenience by subscribing to a podcast.


Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint November 23,2017

WTIP News     November 24, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by  Fred Smith

‘Tis the season, let the holiday madness begin, while we “Gunflinters” watch the chaos from afar. Blessed is our border country peace and quiet with the bounty of “Amazon” and UPS just a click away. No crowds, no fuss, what a deal!                                                                                                          

Speaking of good tidings for the coming season, the Smith’s will be looking forward to those good folks over on Birch Lake lighting up their annual holiday sentinel in the coming days. With exception of some decorative lighting in the mid-Trail business area, this sparkling testament to the holidays, adds a glitter of excitement to the otherwise absolute dark of night, along the byway.                                                                                                                                                                         

Another seasonal happening is the Borealis Chorale held in early December at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in the village. Several of our Gunflint Trail neighbors are members of this amazingly talented choir and orchestra. I’m told practices have been long underway.                                                                                               

We at Wildersmith hope your stuffing day was a pleasant gathering of family and friends.  The Smith’s had the pleasure of working/serving at the forty-fourth UCC Community dinner. Locally, this long running Thanksgiving celebration is such a joy for both the preparing volunteers and those who come to partake in the bounty.                                                                                                                                                        

Nationwide, and even on the local scene, there is however some measure of sadness. If we, in this self-proclaimed greatest country of the world, really pay attention, over forty millions of our fellow citizens struggle with hunger while living in poverty, including thirteen  millions of children who go to bed hungry each night.                                                                                                                                                  

How can we ever be so self-satisfied in times of this on-going need, while over indulging? This is a “great American tragedy” and should be real food for thought as we begin to “just go nuts at Christmas.”  Instead of putting Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, every one of means should be looking at themselves in this mirror asking, “what can I do”!  Solving this domestic hunger problem alone will better define the US of A as “truly” great!                                                                                                                               

Reflecting on our wild country weather, it’s been pretty seasonal for the second straight week. A couple mini snow, sleet and freezing drizzle episodes have been the only moisture happenings in the upper Trail region. Meanwhile the mercury spiked up for a drippy day or two and then scurried back down to make more crust on the miniscule fallen white.                                                                                             

With coldness in mind, the big lakes up this way remain rolling with even the slightest whimper of wind, while ice making continues on lakes south of the Laurentian Divide. I’ve observed Poplar Lake, the largest down that direction, has put its’ on winter coat, so those up toward Trails end, can’t be too far behind. A couple nights of calm air should do the trick.                                                                                      
 
By the way the average “ice on” for the Gunflint is in the second week of December. I’m guessing the yearly “ice on” contest pool for those living around Gunflint Lake is taking dates right now!                                                                                                                                                                                         
A fresh skiff of snow last Saturday night covered the crusty blanket in the yard around Wildersmith. Not to beat a deceased horse about my observance of tracks in the snow, foot prints in the fluff were so many one would think a herd went through. Fox and pine martens, to mouse tunnels and other neighborhood beings in between, left their imprints. All of which were headed in a hundred different directions.                                                                                                                           

Cross country skiing is on the minds of many, and trail preparations are well under way. However, the grooming process is only in the packing stage. According to Dan Baumann at Golden Eagle, the snow base is adequate, but tracks have not been laid as this weeks’ report airs. I’m sure other sections of the mid to upper Trail system are at similar stages of getting ready. A check of lodge websites will surely advise when final touches have been applied. In the meantime, skiers are welcome to come out and get on the packed lowland stretches.                                                                                                                    

Recently, during a break from saw dust making, a frenzy of blue jays caught my attention. At our deck side eatery, two of the provision stations feature ear corn on a spike. I watched as half dozen jaybirds took turns badgering each other for position in order to chow down on the golden grains.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Now some of you listener/readers might be wondering if this guy doesn’t have enough to do, other than watching a flock of birds making pigs of them self. Guess I don’t, but I did find interesting, there was one, a bully amongst the bullies; two, there may be some apparent pecking order; and three, the number of maize seeds gorged into their gullets ranged from six to twelve per stop.                                                                                                                                                        

The gluttonous interlude found the two cobs devoured of their golden elements in fifteen minutes. While it would seem they might choke, none did during this chapter of my “wild neighborhood” story.                                                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as each one offers something new, to see and learn! 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint November 17

WTIP News     November 17, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith

As “old father time” would have it, we’ve passed the halfway mark of November.  While the days have whisked by, the day of the big gobbling bird is suddenly on the menu. Although we Americans should be giving thanks every day for our bounteous blessings, its striking many can only bundle thanks into one day a year.                                                                                                               
“Old man winter” has pulled in his horns in recent days. However, it didn’t begin until he had delivered some frosty reminders of things to come. During the cold snap, the Wildersmith neighborhood recorded our first below zero temps and a couple days where the mercury could rise only into the single digits.                                                                                                                                        
Talk about dedication or maybe craziness, during one of those single digit days last week, a boat of fisher people went by on the Gunflint Gal. To yours truly, one must have a serious addiction to angling to be wetting a hook in such bitter conditions and dangerously cold waters. Fishing through the ice is one thing, but the risk this time of year seems not worthy.                                         
The other element of the season has been sparse, as a few clippers have whistled through dropping only a skiff each time. Nevertheless, it was enough to freshen up the six to eight inches already layered throughout the territory until the recent meltdown.                                                                                           
An interesting article caught my attention recently in the November-December issue of MINNESOTA CONSERVATION VOLUNTEER. Author Mark Spoden relates to sounds in the cold stillness of the woods from a deer hunters point of view. As I have often talked about din in the winter forest, Spodens’ spin on trying to be noiseless while getting from the vehicle to the deer stand is abundantly humorous. In addition his commentary is thought provoking on the incidental clatter we take for granted, inadvertently made while trying to be quiet in a noise-filled world. I urge listeners to get a copy of MCV and enjoy this article. Regardless of one’s enthusiasm for hunting, the last paragraph says it all!                                                                                                                                  
 I can’t help but reflect joy in the pure beauty of driving down a back country road this time of year. Such white charm is never so taken for granted until on a return trip from the village, I perused through forty plus miles of man-made slop on the Trail with temps hanging around the freezing point. It’s amazing what a mess we humans can make out of such purity, all for the sake of drivers never having to slow down.  I can accept it has to be for safety benefit, but it is so grungy.                                                                                                                                           
Contrast was stark as I departed the public thoroughfare onto the privacy of the Mile O Pine. The gray/brown wintry sloppiness of human conveyance routine, suddenly gave way to another world.                                                                                                                                                                        
Roadway snow remained white as the day it fell. Except for the snow plowers’ blade and a few pair of tire tracks, the path less traveled showed nary a trace that anyone had passed. This un- tainted majesty of winter off the beaten Trail goes unmatched in the total scheme of natures’ seasonal bounty, including our autumn color show. To carry beautiful viewing a bit farther, snow in general covers up a lot of the worlds’ ugliness. How lucky are we backwoods beings!                                                                                                                                                                                        
The season of joy and giving got off to a rambunctious start last week with the “Join Together” membership drive here at WTIP. As always, energies were in high gear as staff and volunteers put together a well-oiled program seeking year-end financial support for this shining beacon in the north.                                                                                                                                                         
Once again, members, both renewing and new, stepped up with their pledges to help see WTIP through the winter ahead. Five and one-half days, of both frivolity and yet serious commitments, netted the WTIP Staff and family of listeners hope and happiness for a bright 2018. From everyone at the station, congratulations and thanks to ALL that made it possible. What a Family!                                                                                                                                                                
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the symphony of cold stillness, reveals!
 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint November 10, 2017

WTIP News     November 10, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith

Here we are smack dab into November, and the character of month eleven seems right on schedule. Border country has experienced a little bit of everything weather-wise. Since we last gathered on WTIP, about the only climatic element which we’ve seen little of is sunshine.                                                          

Over the last week it’s snowed some, melted some, rained some and snowed some more. As I scribe this weeks’ news, the gales of November are slamming waves against the granite shores of Gunflint Lake and frigid temps have taken over. There’s plenty of bite in the frosty air.                                                                                                                                                                         
Clouds over head caused this territory to miss the “freezing-over” moon of last weekend, but the spirit of “his lunar highness” has been gaining momentum in recent days. With exception of the bigger bodies of water, lakes are iced over along the Trail, and wetland ponds are locked up for the winter. Yes, the “freezing-over” moon is doing just that!                              

The great Minnesota deer hunting season kicked off last weekend, and reports from hunters around the Gunflint Lake area are disappointing. Few if any tracks have been observed let alone the real thing. One hunter stated, the only tracks in the snow have been those of the Gunflint/ Loon Lake wolf pack. It’s for certain the wolves are so in command they have forced the deer population into near extinction in the upper Trail. This venison happening has occurred by both consumption and herd migration toward the North Shore highlands above Grand Marais. Though few and far between, there are a handful of the white tailed critters around, so perhaps this next week will see a little luck for those sitting in the woods.                                                        

Around Wildersmith, the fisher is becoming an everyday kind of guy/gal. One night it will make enough clatter while rummaging around to wake me up, then on other darkness sojourns it just leaves imprints in the snow as an attendance check-in. To date there hasn’t been too much animal protein as an attraction, but nevertheless, it has a greedy appetite for sunflower seeds.                                                                                                                                                                
A fellow down the road reported another chapter in the wildland predator/prey saga. This time he spotted a pine marten loitering around the yard. Apparently hungry, “old Marty” had its eye on a squirrel who’d been munching around his feed tray.                                                                                 

To make a long story short as possible, the marten got after the red rodent chasing it up a tall spruce tree. Cornering lunch potential at the tree top with no means of escape, a leap to the branch of a nearby tree found the marten having nabbed a squirrel dinner. With a meal secured, it was next seen scrambling down the timber and then scampered off into the forest.                                                                                                                                                                                        
As the snow has been thawing some, then re-freezing to a crusty state to make natural seed sources scarce, avian traffic has become a blur in recent days. Most notable seed tray visitors have been those blue bullies of the airways. At times we have a “blue wave” of jays swarming the feed tray. Since we’ve seen almost no blue in the skies of late, they do offer a bit of azure brilliance, but scare the daylights out of all the little winged fellows.                                                                      
More sadness has befallen the family of Jean Foster who I mentioned as passing away in last weeks’ column. Just six days following her death on October 25th, husband Robert Foster died in Hospice on November 1st. The two resided in West Des Moines, Iowa, but spent summers on Gunflint Lake for decades. Life takes many turns as it has in the case of Jean and Bob where ironically, their times together continue in another heavenly place. Peace and sympathies to their daughters and granddaughter from the Gunflint Trail friends and neighbors.           

Word is out on a Bluegrass Concert Saturday (the 11TH) up this way. The event will be held in the Conference Center at Gunflint Lodge beginning at 7:30. Featured artists are Bluegrass Hall of Famer, Dick Kimmel and Pamela Longtine.  For ticket information call, Gunflint Lodge 388-2294 or go to their website, https://www. gunflint.com/bluegrass-stringband-concert/                                                                                                                                                                              
The WTIP fall/winter membership drive is in full swing. My “Join Together” pitch from last week is now a reality. WTIP needs you!                                                                                                        

Please don’t forget your end-of-the-year giving couldn’t go to a more worthwhile community non-profit venture. Show your support with a pledge by calling 387-1070 or toll free at 1-800-473-9847; or click and join online at WTIP.org; or stop by the studios at 1712 West Highway 61 and commit to help in person. Thanks in advance for caring, from the Wildersmith two!                                                                                                                                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Trail, where every day is great, as told by winds through the pines!
 
 
 

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Moose - Barbara Friedman via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint November 3, 2017

WTIP News November 3, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith

The usual warning of November hit a few days early this year. The curtain call of autumn came abruptly last week with our first winter storm. Although it was not as bad here as other places in the northland, the four to six inches in the upper Trail was a good start to the new season. However, there is a qualifier to this report; the earth is still warm and much could be melted from the ground up by broadcast time, we’ll see!      

The first snow of the season always creates a great deal of excitement for everyone in border country, regardless of the annoyance or hardship it may cause. Most who live above forty-eight or forty-nine degrees north can hardly wait for the first episode of natural tree decorating.                                                                                                                                                                

The late October dropping in this neighborhood did not disappoint as the wet sticky white clung to everything pointing skyward. Every year I swear the first coating is the most beautiful ever, and this year is no exception. For those trying to capture digital winter splendor, this was the place to be. The magic of snow covered pine was especially glorious along the Mile O Pine as I begin keying this weeks’ Gunflint scoop.                                                                                                                   
The recent winter-like happening didn’t come close to the record Halloween season storm of twenty-six years ago. In all likelihood, most 2017 ghosts did their trick or treat thing, like snowshoe hares, blending inconspicuously with our pale landscape.                                                                                                          

With our eleventh month only hours old, the full “freezing over moon” will be beaming down on the northland this weekend. Incidentally, as the monthly lunar experience graces our frosty forest, the reality of standard time makes its’ semi-annual return. Don’t forget to “fall back” as you retire on Saturday evening, or you’ll be out-of-step with the rest of humanity next morning.                                                                                                                                                                 
Another feature of the first snow allows us residents to see who of the “wild neighborhood” has been prowling around during darkness hours. Tracks in the fluff revealed a pine marten stopped by the Wildersmith place, likely looking for a hand-out of the usual poultry parts.

Meanwhile, a neighbor down the road had a visit from a fisher (a marten on steroids) while another left foot print evidence of being here too.  Tracks in the snow never cease to stir up adventurous thoughts about success in the realm of predator pursuit and prey survival.                                   

A day or so prior to the siege of ice and snow, during an evening drive along the Trail, the Smith’s came upon two moose blocking our path. We hadn’t seen one in some time, so as usual, this was a treat.                                                                                                                                          
Both were cows, not hanging out together, but separated by a couple miles. Fortunately, their silhouettes against the setting sun back drop were observed early enough to avoid a collision, and neither chose to be stubborn about getting off the road, so “no harm, no foul” to either moose or vehicle.                                                                                                                                                  

Other animal tidings would find it reasonable to assume, bears have retired to dens, while whitetail deer hunting season commences this weekend. Safe and happy hunting to all! For the next couple weeks, those in outdoor activities should be dressed in warning gear and on the look-out for those folks in blaze orange or hot pink sitting out in the woods trying to act like a bush.                                                                                                                                                

Listener/readers will remember my commentary a few weeks back about a bear pilfering my greasy bar-b-que gloves. I was surprised just days ago when an anonymous reader or readers in Iowa took pity on me, and shipped a replacement pair. What a neat, but unsolicited gesture! Thank you so much, Mr. &/or Mrs. whoever you are!                                                                                                         

It’s with sadness I announce that word has been received on the death of another Gunflint Trail neighbor. Jean Foster, of West Des Moines, Iowa and a longtime summer home resident on the west end of Gunflint Lake passed away on October 25, in Des Moines. Gunflint Community condolences are extended to her husband, Robert, three daughters and a granddaughter.                                                                                                                                               
A final note comes for all WTIP users. At this time next week the WTIP family will be in the middle of its fall/winter membership drive. The excitement begins on Thursday, November 9 and runs for five days, ending at noon on the 13th.                                                                                                    

As with every fund drive, member participation is critical to ensure continued growth of WTIP, the BEST in community radio. If you are a current family member, we need you to re-invest. If you have never joined, but enjoy what this broadcast Phenom has to offer, you’re invited to “Join Together” with the extended WTIP family from around the globe.                                                                                                              

It’s easy to do and your support is so appreciated. Phone in a pledge, do so on-line, or even better, stop by the studios. For more details, go to the web site, WTIP.org.                                                                                                             
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Trail, where every day is great, especially when “Biboon” (winter) gets rolling!
 
 

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LeaflessTrees.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

Listen: 

 
LeaflessTrees.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 20

October 20, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
Our northern forest has pretty much shed its autumnal coat. The deciduous tree scene is largely gray, scraggily skeletons, lurking amongst their evergreen cousins. The last vestige of descending things will be laid to rest by this airing as Tamarack gold layers up on the landscape.

Fitting for the advance of ghost and goblin time, an eerie quiet hangs over the landscape during the time we mourn the death of summer leaves and the mosaic of falls’ last hurrah. With the growth of our wildland world taking its final bow, the long stillness of winter is waiting in anticipation as “Mother Nature will soon be issuing a first “winter watch.”

Several frosty mornings of late are setting the stage, and days of clouds hang cold and heavy over border country. It goes without saying these billows of heavenly drab might soon deliver moisture of frozen character. Anecdotally, I observed the first skim of ice on a bird water dish and on a Trailside pond last Tuesday morning.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Meanwhile, around the Wildersmith place, “getting ready” chores are about complete, so the “wizard of winter wonder” can bring it on. My last dip in the lake, to retrieve wildfire sprinkler hoses, found the liquid in the low fifties, a real attention grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                          
In the past few days, I’ve started placing a little daytime sustenance out on the deck side feed trough. Our first returnees, those “whiskey jacks” and blue jays, were joined last Monday by an infrequent visitor of ebony character. We seldom have ravens land here, although they are often rapping overhead. So getting to see one up real close was a treat. Guess some fatty meat scraps were more than this dapper corvine could resist, prompting the fast food stop-over.
                                                                                                                     
A couple reported a busy beaver along the Trail just days ago. This critter of former fur trade notoriety was engaged in laying up cold season vittles. “Bucky” was so engrossed in dragging a fresh aspen branch across the black-top it failed to look before crossing. The gnawing herbivore narrowly missed becoming a “road-kill’ statistic as the attentive driver braked just in time allowing this paddle tail varmint another chance on life.  
The incident happened in the area just above the observation pull-off at the Laurentian Divide where a roadside pond accommodates beaver lodging, and is also the home of Beaver & Beaver Construction. So if locals are driving through this area, be on the watch to give this guy/gal a break.                                                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of another chance on life, a number of stately young red pines had theirs literally cut short. They were destroyed in a recent nature trail slashing occurrence along the Seagull River in the upper Gunflint region. Whether the episode was a case of vandalism or an ill-advised, un-supervised agency endeavor, it is tragically dis-heartening.

These were trees planted by volunteers following the Ham Lake fire during the Gunflint Green-up efforts of 2008, 9 and 10. Just getting their roots firmly established, after nearly ten years, many were eight to ten foot tall. Hopefully, those responsible can be found and held accountable for their actions.

 “Moose Madness” throughout the county this weekend holds hope for some candid Alces Alces appearances. Although the north land icons don’t take well to public appearances, this would be the right time that a few might step out of seclusion and show off a little bit of Trail legacy. Its’ Minnesota Education Association weekend and visitors by the hundreds will cruise the Byway, searching, in hope of catching a glimpse from “moose-dom.” Good luck and happy viewing to all!

By the way, while moose searching, it will be the last chance for a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center up at Trails end. The historical facility will close its doors for the season at the end of the day Sunday. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society thanks the thousands of visitors for coming this season. 

Everyone is invited back, come next spring, as two new facilities will be taking shape around the campus. These additions will be first hand history in the making as the GTHS builds to share more of the Gunflint Trail story.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, no matter what the season!

 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 20

October 20, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
Our northern forest has pretty much shed its autumnal coat. The deciduous tree scene is largely gray, scraggily skeletons, lurking amongst their evergreen cousins. The last vestige of descending things will be laid to rest by this airing as Tamarack gold layers up on the landscape.

Fitting for the advance of ghost and goblin time, an eerie quiet hangs over the landscape during the time we mourn the death of summer leaves and the mosaic of falls’ last hurrah. With the growth of our wildland world taking its final bow, the long stillness of winter is waiting in anticipation as “Mother Nature will soon be issuing a first “winter watch.”

Several frosty mornings of late are setting the stage, and days of clouds hang cold and heavy over border country. It goes without saying these billows of heavenly drab might soon deliver moisture of frozen character. Anecdotally, I observed the first skim of ice on a bird water dish and on a Trailside pond last Tuesday morning.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Meanwhile, around the Wildersmith place, “getting ready” chores are about complete, so the “wizard of winter wonder” can bring it on. My last dip in the lake, to retrieve wildfire sprinkler hoses, found the liquid in the low fifties, a real attention grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                          
In the past few days, I’ve started placing a little daytime sustenance out on the deck side feed trough. Our first returnees, those “whiskey jacks” and blue jays, were joined last Monday by an infrequent visitor of ebony character. We seldom have ravens land here, although they are often rapping overhead. So getting to see one up real close was a treat. Guess some fatty meat scraps were more than this dapper corvine could resist, prompting the fast food stop-over.
                                                                                                                     
A couple reported a busy beaver along the Trail just days ago. This critter of former fur trade notoriety was engaged in laying up cold season vittles. “Bucky” was so engrossed in dragging a fresh aspen branch across the black-top it failed to look before crossing. The gnawing herbivore narrowly missed becoming a “road-kill’ statistic as the attentive driver braked just in time allowing this paddle tail varmint another chance on life.  
The incident happened in the area just above the observation pull-off at the Laurentian Divide where a roadside pond accommodates beaver lodging, and is also the home of Beaver & Beaver Construction. So if locals are driving through this area, be on the watch to give this guy/gal a break.                                                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of another chance on life, a number of stately young red pines had theirs literally cut short. They were destroyed in a recent nature trail slashing occurrence along the Seagull River in the upper Gunflint region. Whether the episode was a case of vandalism or an ill-advised, un-supervised agency endeavor, it is tragically dis-heartening.

These were trees planted by volunteers following the Ham Lake fire during the Gunflint Green-up efforts of 2008, 9 and 10. Just getting their roots firmly established, after nearly ten years, many were eight to ten foot tall. Hopefully, those responsible can be found and held accountable for their actions.

 “Moose Madness” throughout the county this weekend holds hope for some candid Alces Alces appearances. Although the north land icons don’t take well to public appearances, this would be the right time that a few might step out of seclusion and show off a little bit of Trail legacy. Its’ Minnesota Education Association weekend and visitors by the hundreds will cruise the Byway, searching, in hope of catching a glimpse from “moose-dom.” Good luck and happy viewing to all!

By the way, while moose searching, it will be the last chance for a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center up at Trails end. The historical facility will close its doors for the season at the end of the day Sunday. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society thanks the thousands of visitors for coming this season. 

Everyone is invited back, come next spring, as two new facilities will be taking shape around the campus. These additions will be first hand history in the making as the GTHS builds to share more of the Gunflint Trail story.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, no matter what the season!

 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 13

WTIP News     October 13, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
I can’t believe the days could go by any faster either here or anywhere. We Gunflinters are nearing the half-way point of month ten as the tourist season is slowing to a crawl.   

Weather over the past seven has remained moderate and somewhat dry in the upper Trail region. In spite of a frosty spot here and there, the area has escaped a killing freeze up to this weeks’ news release.

 We could easily be lulled to sleep on this issue, but it’s going to happen, so we year around folk had better be getting those outdoor water facilities prepared. Of special note is the winterization of the wildfire sprinkler systems.

 Since we last met on the radio, yours truly has scratched a few chores off my winterizing list. The snow blade has been mounted and a snow blower check started on the first pull so my check-offs are dwindling. One more trip into the cool lake will bring in the sprinkler system lines and the biggest tasks will be history.   
 
Our color extravaganza is starting to become distant in the rear view mirror. Showers of leaves have been the order over the past few days, and Tamarak needles are gaining their golden glow rapidly.                                                                                                                                     
Speaking of autumnal views, each day provides an expanding opportunity to see through “the forest for the trees.” One often takes for granted wildland things seen in the woods until the leaves are on and the foliage hides them away. Well, the time has come back to us with thinning gold tokens, opening up for a renewed slant on things once hidden, but now revealed.                                                                                                                                                                                       
This time of year is never more magic than when one treks down a back country road. With the greedy world about to consume us, it is soul soothing to stroll or drive down one of these off Trail Gunflint roads.      
                                                                                                                                 
A damp earth fragrance, a leaf strewn path, a calm breeze, a sky of blue sharing both sunshine and puffy clouds, occasional avian tweets, drumming grouse, and squirrels scrambling here and there are blended with the serenity of almost zero civilization hubbub. Thus, we observers are charmed with a formula for the idyllic life experience. That’s the way it is with sights and sounds of October in Gunflint country.   
                                                                                                                                                                         
On these cool nights, good reading is a must as we hunker down by the wood stove. Recently, I came across an intriguing article in the fall edition of INTERNATIONAL WOLF magazine. I would think anyone concerned that indigenous lives matter might share my interest in this article focusing on the relationship between the Anishinaabe (Original Man) and Ma’iingan (the wolf) in a creation story.                                                                                                                                                                     
Author, Tovar Cerulli, reflects on the direction of wolf management in the eyes of the Ojibwe through a unique spiritual and cultural understanding of the wolf. I am no professional critic, but I recommend this thought-provoking selection. Chase it down in your local library or perhaps find it on line at internationalwolf@wolf .org.

So many bruin stories continue flowing in I can “bearly” keep up. Two instances of larcenous bear activity have occurred in this neighborhood within recent days.  
  
The first report came from a gal up the hill from Wildersmith telling about finding her car door ajar, only to open it fully and have a young bear jump out. The next night, “Bruno” came back and opened the vehicle door again, climbed in and did some real damage while sniffing and scrounging for some kind of treat.  
   
Then in another semi breaking and entering episode; I believe it to be a bear, got into my barbeque storage bin and made off with a pair of blue hot material gloves. Seems funny this nosing around has never happened before, as these gloves have been in that unit for years. I’m guessing the critter might have sniffed an air of cooking grease on the gloves and decided they were for the taking.    

An interesting fact is the gloves were heavy duty leather welding gloves, and if consumed it must have been a chewing good time. Funnier yet, how about the bear passing a little leather, neighbors might keep an eye out for a blue calling card that is definitely not of blueberry consumption. 
      
On a final note, a couple AWOL “whiskey jacks” (Canadian Jays) have returned from summers’ wherever. These camp robbers are busy every day in a re-education of us Smith’s to be out at the feed trough promptly with a treat. My how trainable we have become!    
                         
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as we await winter to round the bend!
 
 

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