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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 - September 21, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith        September 21, 2018   
 
The Wildersmith two are back in border country. A quick run south to Iowa for a visit with kids and grandsons was great. However, the atmospheric conditions were not so welcoming.                                                                                                                                                       
 
Although the hot and sticky was not so irritable for Iowans by Iowa standards, it was less than comforting for yours truly. The return to the Gunflint raised a renewed appreciation for the “cool” north.                                                                                                                                                                   
 
In fact, as I key this new scoop, temps in the mid-fifties and a steady northwest breeze have been beckoning a north woods greeting to the second Equinox of 2018.  After several weeks of autumnal temptations, it’s finally here, the second most beautiful time of the year! You all know my favorite!                                                                                                                                                               
 
The joys of this season are upon us along the Scenic Byway. Our “technicolor” bonanza is exploding as the spectrum of gold to scarlet and then hues of brown signals an end to summer, heading us toward the sparkle of a crystal time.                                                                                                                                  
 
Some flakes of fall are already trickling down. Of particular note, venerable white pine needles of a year ago are cascading in blizzard-like fashion blanketing the forest floor. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings so to speak, or better yet, in the treetops, cinnamon scales of western white cedars are soon to be raining down.  Our tawny new carpeting is but one of uncountable annual treasures of a year coming to an end and adding yet another layer to the accumulated duff from thousands of years ago.                                                                                                                     
 
The Tsunami of usual “Leaf Peepers” should not delay getting up this way. Some deciduous members of the forest are now in the shedding mood. An example of such and another joy for the Smith’s is the wondrous way falling leaves take their place along the Mile O Pine and other backwoods arteries.                                                                                                                                                                               
 
Such a celebration is underway and was somewhat surprising upon our return from the southern trip. It’s not quite a “yellow brick road”, but conjures up thoughts of such with windrows of golden leaflets neatly swooshed into formation by a few passing vehicles.                                       
 
If this bounty of beauty wasn’t enough, a timely inch of rain has dampened the earth, and along with its congregate collection of downed leaflets stirred our sense of smell with the initial essence of the harvest season. Oh, if we could only bottle up this magic aroma.                                                                                                                                         
 
And, as if to compliment this refuge of charm, the next couple days will see heavenly beams shining down with the full Ojibwe “wild rice” moon (Manoominike-Giizis). Furthermore, other happenings in the heavens find winged folk of all varieties in varying stages of migration. Most notable are wedges of Canadian Honkers leading the way southward. Back down on earth, the Gunflint Trail snowbirds are taking flight as well.                                                                                                                                                                                     
 
In a bit of people news, an announcement from the Chik-Wauk Campus comes regarding the cancelation of this weeks’ (Saturday) program in the Nature Center. Scheduling complications mean the presentation on “Bats” as presented by Peg Robertsen cannot be held and will have to be re-scheduled for next summer. The Chik-Wauk staff regrets and apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused.                                                                                                                                                   
 
In closing, the words of photographer, Jacques Dupont come to mind. “We see so many ugly things in the world, but the splendor of nature is a superb counterbalance.” The Gunflint North has it all! Don’t miss seeing her in full-color dress.                                                                                                   
 
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, truly, a sanctuary of abundant wonders.                                                

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Eagle Sentinels

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 7, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      September 7, 2018    
           
As our north woods days fly rapidly by, it seems hard to accept we are headed into the final months of 2018, and one week of September is into the books. Furthermore, with this weeks’ broadcast, its’ even more difficult to fathom, yours truly kicking off the 17th year of doing news and views from the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                  

When former editor of the News Herald, Vicki Biggs-Anderson, twisted my arm into taking on this responsibility, following the legendary Justine Kerfoot, I never dreamed it would extend this long. It’s been a delightful journey for me first as a newspaper columnist and now as a member of the WTIP radio family.                                                                                                                                    

I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful folks through this weekly media exchange, and remain deeply indebted to those who have helped me along the way.                                                               

Lastly, but surely not the least, WTIP listeners, website readers, and streamers are what this is all about. The sharing of news tidbits and occasional pleasant audience comments make this weekly scribing and audio endeavor terrifically rewarding. Thanks so much!                                                                                                                                               

Now for a little news, the atmospheric conditions in the upper Trail over the past seven days have varied little from those of the previous few weeks. The area remains under moderate drought conditions with nearly un-measurable rainfall in the Wildersmith neighborhood. At the same time, temps have been as would be expected for this time of year. To summarize, the region has experienced warm “Indian summer” days and comfy cool nights, with only a few drops of rain and not a hint of frost.                                                                                                                                        

On a related atmospheric note, but not specifically related to just our Gunflint territory, the July/ August edition of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer features a nice article entitled “Clues in the Clouds.”                                                                                                                                                                    

With violent weather extremes seemingly consuming many places on our continent, it looks to be a good idea that we check out the heavens to learn what clouds can tell us. In this land of both blue and often gray skies, knowing what certain cloud conditions mean can be vitally important to life on the planet. Did you know, “at any time, clouds cover about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface?” Check it out, at the library or online at mndnr.gov/mcvmagazine.                                                                                                                                                                                       

If folks in the territory failed to get to the doings at Chik-Wauk last Sunday, they missed a swell afternoon of North-country sweetness. Ominous late morning clouds and a brief downpour threatened to wash out our GTHS activities, but well over three hundred folks showed up anyway and brought sunshine with them.                                                                                                                                            

Beyond all the wonderful visitors, a few facts of the day included: 40 to 50 donated pies, over three hundred fifty slices served, uncountable scoops of ice cream, provided by the good folks at Gunflint Lodge and countless dancing gyrations to delightful music by the North Shore Community Swing Band. People were swingin’ and a swayin’!                                                                                                                                   

Since Chik-Wauk is all about history, the day of pastries and cream was topped off with people reunions and reflections back in time. While Gunflint neighbors, David and Patsy Coleman, drove to the festivities in their 1923 Model T Ford, perhaps the last living Trail pioneer, 97-year-old Rolf Skrien, charmed many long-time friends by making it out to his former stomping grounds. Thanks to everyone for making this another great day at end of the Trail!                                                                                                                              

More from Chik-Wauk, with kids back in school, obviously the Tuesday kids’ days are over, as are the USFS Tuesday afternoon programs. However, weekend programming in the Nature Center continues, only switching to Saturdays instead of Sundays. These educational and entertaining programs will go on through September 22nd.                                                                                               

This Saturdays’ program features David Grosshuesch, from the USFS. Dave will be talking about owls. So if you “give a hoot” mark your calendar, and be there at 2:00 pm.                                  

One more Gunflint Community scoop reminds folks of the September Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting this coming Monday, the 10th. The meeting will be held at 1:30 pm in the Schaap Center (Fire Hall #1).                                                                                                                                      

This month’s program will reflect on the “Early days of Gateway Lodge on Hungry Jack Lake” as related by Bob Gapen with supporting comments from Richard Fink. The usual treats and conversation will follow.                                                                                                                                                

Saving the best of North Country life for last, observing a couple “wild neighborhood” critters never gets old and is always a cherished moment.  Thus, I share the sighting of a bear crossing the Mile O Pine and a return to Wildersmith of a fox who’d been AWOL for many weeks. The bear was not stopping for a photo-op while the foxy one checked in at my wood shop door, remembering, I was an easy touch for some kind of a poultry hand-out.                                                                                        

If those episodes’ weren’t enough, a couple living on Hungry Jack were thrilled at a close-up visit of two bald eagles doing sentinel duty over their lake. They shared a digital which can be seen alongside my website column at WTIP.org, under the Community Voices drop-down menu.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint trail, where every day is great, as the journey into autumn continues.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - September 7, 2018

National Forest Update – September 6, 2018.

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, administrative assistant on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update.  Every week, we try to bring you information about events that might affect your visit to the national forest, along with updates on what’s happening out there in the natural world.

What’s happening right now in the natural world is the shift into fall.  What was visible in a few places last week is now visible all over.  Understory plants like sarsaparilla, dogbane, and ferns are all turning yellow, along with some of the trees and shrubs.  We had our first frost warning on Wednesday night which sent a lot of people scurrying out to cover their tomatoes, hoping to coax the plants into letting those last few green ones become red.  September is the start of our fall color reports and blog, so look on our website for links to fall photos and musings on the season, as well as links to fall color around the country at other national forests. 

September is also the start of hunting season in Minnesota, which means that people should start wearing blaze orange when out in the woods, and start keeping their dogs close.  Bear season began at the start of the month, but the season on many small game birds also started.  Whether you are a hunter or not, keep an eye out for each other and stay safe out there.

Unfortunately, a few drownings in the area have been in the news.  The water is beginning to get colder now, and the fall sun is less powerful, so it is easy to get hypothermic once you get wet.  It is easy to get fooled in the fall into thinking that it warmer than it really is and overestimate your swimming ability and endurance.  It’s a good season to take an extra moment and really do a safety check before swimming or boating.

Speaking of endurance, this is the weekend of the Superior Fall Trail Run.  It is really three races on the Superior Hiking Trail, with the ‘shortest’ being a marathon of 26 miles, and the longest being 100 miles from Gooseberry to Lutsen.  Be aware that for the next three days there may be runners crossing roads at intersections with the Superior Hiking Trail, and if you are walking on the Trail, you may encounter and need to yield to runners.  Be sure to give them some encouragement if you see them – they have a long way to go.

With low bug numbers and the start of fall colors, it is a great time for camping and fishing.  The road system is in good shape, and log hauling is only present in a few areas.  On Gunflint, expect trucks on Cook County 7, the Caribou Trail, and Pike Lake Road.  On Tofte, trucks are using the Dumbbell River Road, the Wanless Road, the Trappers Lake Road, Lake County 7, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, and the Caribou Trail. 

Even though fall has started, you still need an issued permit for overnight trips in the Boundary Waters, and our fee campgrounds are still operating on a fee basis.  While it is tempting to leave your camper at a campground as a weekend get-away, remember that you have to be present at your campsite every day.  People leaving material, including campers, for 24 hours with no one in attendance could be cited.  You are also not allowed to camp anywhere, including outside of campgrounds, for more than 14 days in one location, and, you may not have more than nine people at any site. Designated group campsites and long term sites vary from these rules, so if you are using one of those sites, see the campground host for specific information.

Fall has also always been associated with fire, both in a good and bad way.  A nice warm campfire, marshmallows, and a cup of hot chocolate is one of the best ways to take advantage of an earlier sunset, but leaves and dry conditions can also set the stage for wildfires.  Many people on our fire crews, as well as other fire certified staff, have been out west helping to contain the fires in Montana, Colorado, and California.  They need a break, and we don’t need a fire back here at home in Minnesota.  Make sure your campfires are dead out and report any smokes you may discover as you travel through the woods.

Enjoy the next week of early fall, and some of the best that Minnesota has to offer outside. 

Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 31, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith         August 31, 2018    
 
Many aspects of warm season life along the Trail are waning. As I scanned the territory for news this week, the blueberry moon has faded to its final quartile, to welcome September. With the long Labor Day weekend ahead of us, summer is on the ebb for family vacationers with school days now but hours away. Add this to the diminishing chlorophyll production in the forest and one would think visitors and residents along the Byway might be down in the dumps.                                                                                                                                           

Quite the contraire however, the color of a new season is creeping evermore over the northern horizon, recharging everyone’s batteries as autumn fever hits the Trail. The usual fall changes are exploding rapidly, and the area should be near full-color bloom in a couple weeks.                                                                                                                                                                                      

I’ve been tracking the transition of a couple sugar maples in the upper Trail reaches. They are sending a scarlet letter of invitation to leaf peepers. Simultaneously the granite hillsides are lit up brighter with each passing day. A couple friends down the road hiked the Magnetic Rock Trail a few days ago and expressed surprise at the early color spectacle in advance of official “Tagwaagin”(fall, in Ojibwe) on September 24th.                                                                                                    

Our part of the universe is truly a magical place this time of year. For backcountry adventurers, the hottest of days are in the rearview mirror and frosty nights will soon invigorate late season paddlers and campers with bounteous enthusiasm. For yours truly, it’s a season for unique anticipation of all verses in an autumn serenade.                                                                   

The only complication with what’s going on around us is the upper Gunflint area went yet another week with little significant rain. While neighborhoods in the mid-Trail received a couple shower downpours, at the keying of this report last Sunday evening, the Wildersmith rain gauge had captured less than one-half inch. The wildfire danger needle remains at the top of its range from Gunflint Lake to Saganaga at Trails End.                                                                                                      

Meanwhile, there have been no stressful extremes on the thermometer, but the lake water temps have waned into the low sixties.                                                                                                                                 

If listeners haven’t filled the holiday weekend calendar, a reminder for your Sunday is the “sweet treat” social up at Chik-Wauk.  Serving of Trail-made pies and ice cream runs from noon to 4:00 pm. As mentioned last week, there’ll be a lot of things to see, hear and do around the Campus. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society invites one and all to come and enjoy a day of north woods enchantment!  Who knows, it might be a lucky moose viewing day!                                                            

Just when residents seemed to have had an uneventful summer with bear activity, I’m told there were some property invasions in the mid-Trail/Poplar Lake neighborhood. I don’t have any particulars other than the Momma and cubs were not invited, but gained entry by coming through window screens and un-secured doors. It’s that time of year, so we might expect more of such vandalizing acts.                                                                                                                                                  
Another couple down the road mentioned hearing some unusual meowing around their yard a few days ago. They knew of no one in the neighborhood with a feline pet, so it was perplexing as to what was going on.                                                                                                                                                              

After a period of investigation and listening, the only critter observed was a blue jay. When the jaybird finally left its perch, it did so spewing the same cat-like sound they’d been hearing.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Very interesting, I’ve heard of ravens and crows mimicking other animal sounds, but never a blue jay. Maybe this one had a case of laryngitis?                                                                                               

Being the Wildersmith air traffic controller and re-fueling agent, I’m observing a noticeable decline in arrivals and departures from our sweet nectar station. Guess our ruby throat “Hummers” must be in pre-flight staging to head south.                                                                                                            

A few neighbors report they are observing only females and young ones, so where have all the papas gone?  Humm, it looks like another northland mystery?                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint, where every day is great, and one better is always, yet to come!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 24, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith           August 24,  2018   
           
Heading into August’s final stanza, Miinike Giizis, the Blueberry Moon, will cast its’ splendor on the northland this weekend. Although the season of blue gems has pretty much been picked over by both man and beast or withered on the vine, the memory of such sweetness resonates in this lunar magic.                                                                                                                                                                                       
In a related heavenly note, the stars aligned for some human enchantment up at end of the Trail last weekend. As the Dark Sky Caravan from the University of Minnesota Duluth pulled into the Seagull Community Center on its final stop up the North Shore, the sky blue yonder couldn’t have been more dazzling.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Nearly 250 visitors got a spectacular tour of the nighttime universe in the GeoDome Theater planetarium.  Then they experienced a hands-on opportunity in high-tech telescopic viewing of Mars, Saturn and the like. With help and narrative from the Dark Sky student delegation, the two-night celestial celebration was a twinkling sensation!                                         

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society facilitated the Dark Sky event in cooperation with the Trail Fire Dept., and thanks to the UMD staff along with many volunteers who helped make the event one to excite and remember.                                                                                                                                                 
Since we last met on the radio, atmospheric conditions have been seasonally warm and even sticky on a couple days. While on the moisture side of the weather ledger, precipitation deliveries have avoided this part of the world like we have the plague.                                                                           

While there are no known fires burning in the County, as of this keying exercise, our drought situation should be affirmed in capital letters. Prospects for wildfire in the upper Trail territory are worrisome with no burning bans in place and countless opportunities for bad decisions with fire throughout the wilderness.                                                                                                  

Meanwhile, over sixty fires are burning across the border in Ontario. Such being the case smoky skies have been coming and going for several days over this area. A little rain dancing should not be out of reason.                                                                                                                           
 
Over the past week, with several trips up to end of the Trail, I notice daily changes as the forest continues slipping into its’ autumn cloak. Birch gold is becoming more pronounced and there are a couple Tamaracks who’ve begun their autumn transition almost a month early. Could this be a sign of something atypical to come?                                                                                                                      

The Smith’s had an unusual threesome of gnawing critters in the yard recently. The munching trifecta was unique because one might never think of them together in close proximity. By closeness, I mean they were within two feet of each other.                                                                                              

Whereas red squirrels seldom tolerate the company of chipmunks in their dining area, the two were seemingly unconcerned they were in joint company with a woodchuck. Yes, a woodchuck, chipmunk, and squirrel “brunching” within a bite of each other. Is this a sign of coming together or what? Maybe we humans could take a lesson from this!                                                                
 
A note from the Chik-Wauk Nature Center reminds all moose lovers, the big icons are the subject of this Sunday’s programming. This is another in the Chik-Wauk, Sunday summer nature series. Renowned researcher, Dr. Seth Moore, from Grand Portage will be speaking on the plight and progress of moose survival in northeastern Minnesota, beginning at 2:00 pm.                            

A final shout out from the GTHS is given for pie donations to the annual social on September 2nd. Pie orders are still being accepted by event coordinator, Judy Edlund at 388-4400. With the sweet social growing every year, upwards of fifty pies are needed, don’t miss this chance to show off your pastry delights.                                                                                                                       

In addition to the P & IC, the Museum gift shop is holding a sidewalk (driveway sale); author, Cary Griffith, will be signing his book GUNFLINT BURNING; there will even be used cookbooks on sale; the sound of music will again echo up the Sag Lake Corridor and of course, more Gunflint stories to be learned in the Museum. You won’t want to miss it, noon to 4:00 pm, one week from Sunday!   
                                                                                                                                     
For WTIP, this Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as Nature’s bountiful beauty begins taking a turn!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 17, 2018

Wildersmith n the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith    August 17, 2018
    
As in other places of the universe, the upper Trail has eclipsed the half-way point of our eighth yearly segment. After some swell north woods days early in the month, the beastly star of daytime light blistered the Gunflint last weekend.                                                                                                             
Not having been exposed too much of the oft summer season misery, the conditions had many of us two-legged beings sticky and complaining. While not as steamy as many points to the west, south, and east, when the temp reaches mid-seventies to mid-eighties, it’s jungle like in the forest. Yours truly, for one, hope’s for some natural air conditioning by the time this weeks’ Trail scoop hits the airwaves.                                                                                                                                                 

The mid-Trail fundraiser for the Fire Department and Rescue team went off with another bang, back on the 8th. Once again a nice turn out of local supporters had a good time socializing with friends and neighbors and then picked-up many flea market treasures at bargain prices.                                                                                                                                                                          

The live auction followed the usual format of vigorous bidding for a trove of great gifts, all donated by area crafters, artisans, and businesses. Auctioneer, Michael Valentini kept things lively with his humor and insistent fun loving badgering of bidders into digging a little deeper, for a good cause.                                                                                                                                                               

On a rather interesting note, five locally baked and donated pies were auctioned off, each garnering between 75 and 100 dollars, and a swell twice smoked ham brought in $200. The day ended as Derek and Andrea Hofelt from Loon Lake Lodge had the winning ticket in the drawing for the 2018 mid-trail quilt.                                                                                                                                           
 
After the dust settled, the mid-Trail Community netted a record $15,500.00, all of which will be donated to the GTVFD.  Congratulations to the organizers and many volunteers for their dedicated efforts, and thanks for a swell afternoon!                                                                                               

More news comes from the end of the Trail where another Sunday program in the Chik-Wauk Nature Center features Teresa Marrone. Ms. Marrone will be expanding the discussion on Non-Invasive and Invasive plants, following the Scenic Byway/Chik-Wauk invasive plant pulling program of a couple weeks ago. The presentation will get underway at 2:00 pm.                                                                                 

It’s the time of year when the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is calling on all area pastry specialists to pre-heat the oven, and roll-out some crust. Yes, the annual Pie & Ice Cream Social will be held two weeks from Sunday, September 2nd, up at Chik-Wauk. Yes, I said September, it’s almost here. So I’m calling all pies. Give Judy Edlund a call 388-4400 to let her know your pie will be there.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Sweets will be served from noon until 4:00 pm. As an added sugary treat, the Northshore Community Swing Band will be playing for your enjoyment from 12:30 ‘til 2:00 pm. The days’ proceeds go to assist in Chik-Wauk Campus operations. A donation of $5.00 per person is suggested.                                                                                                                                                                  

Although a few die-hard blues pickers are still out in the woods, the purplish nuggets must be starting to dry up. An indication of such could be the case as the Smith’s recently came across a hungry momma bear and her twin kids feasting on dumpster delicacies along South Hungry Jack Road. The cubs vamoosed into the forest as we slowed to observe, but momma simply shuffled around back of the unit and peeked at us until we moved on down the road. Berries are about gone, but hunger pangs are forever.                                                                                            

In spite of the recent hot spell, the collection of winter vittles seem to be ratcheting up with the red rodents and “chippies” around the Wildersmith yard. Some days the number of red rodents looks to approach gang size.                                                                                                                   
Furthermore, as one day melts into another, some of us upper Trail residents are feeling the “getting ready” season dwindling. Oh, so many chores to finish and suddenly so few days! Meanwhile, snowbirds are already contemplating migration.                                                                                                                      
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we hear notions of a “September Song.”
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 10, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith         August 10, 2018    
           
Gunflint weather, well this is the reason folks live and visit here. It’s been just swell not too hot and not too cool. However, a summer anomaly saw the Wildersmith thermometer nudge down to thirty-nine one night last week, the same time International Falls hit thirty-four. As you might expect, this was fine with yours truly. The moose and I detest sweating!                                                                                                                                                     
The upper Trail was also blessed with another dose of rain, as showers Saturday night and late afternoon Sunday dealt this neighborhood four-tenths of an inch. So this is good as residents remain leery of wildfire potential with so many visitor campfires out in the forest.                                     

Speaking of visitors, vacation times are peaking with outfitter and resort parking lots overflowing along this Scenic Byway. Marking this second weekend of August, summer is dwindling quickly and back to school is but a couple weeks away.                                                                                       

Nevertheless, activity along the Trail is on full speed ahead. With hoopla of the mid-Trail fundraising hoe-down into the books, the “Sound of Music” will echo along the Trail Sunday.  Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert installment number six, begins at 5:00 pm in the Schaap Community Center (Fire Hall # 1). A final call to Patsy Coleman might still secure your ticket reservation at 313-673-6202, but don’t wait too long.                                                                                                   

Many notable local artists;  including Phillis Anderson, Kathy Bolstad, Mike DeBevec, Mike Roth and Michael Ferguson to name but a few, are performing. Also in the talented line-up are the SVEA women’s ensemble, the Borealis Brass Quartet, the Sky Blue Jazz ensemble and the Third Stream ensemble. With these area professionals, the afternoon should be sweet as the pristine forest backdrop! Attendees can plan to “meet & greet” the performers along with refreshments at both intermission and after the concert.                                                                                                                                   

A shout out is given in regard to the Gunflint Trail Historical Society’s August meeting this coming Monday, the 13th. The gathering will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center beginning at 1:30. Following the monthly business report, speakers John Hutchinson along with Gary & Mary Connell will reflect on “Tommy Banks-The Gangster of the Gunflint.” Treats & drink will be served following what should be an intriguing journey back in Gunflint history.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Next up for residents and visitors, the Dark Sky Caravan is on the way along Highway 61 through Cook County, with the last stop being up at end of the Gunflint Trail.                                                               

Celestial gazing will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center/Fire Hall this coming Thursday, August 16 and Friday, the 17th. Free to the public, shows in the GeoDome Mobile Planetarium Theater will be held on the half hour beginning at 5:00 pm each day and continuing until 11:00 pm. Outside telescopes will also be set up by the Dark Sky delegation and members of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society. Please note these dates are correct as an incorrect date was released in the News Herald last week.                                                                                                                    

This heavenly opportunity is being presented by the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium through the University of Minnesota Duluth, in partnership with The Gunflint Trail Historical Society with cooperation from the Trail Fire Department.                                                                                 

Visitors are urged to carpool where possible, wear weather appropriate clothes, include bug spray or nets for out of doors viewing and bring flashlights to find your vehicles during the darkest hours.                                                                                                                                                                     

Come one night or both, rain or shine, don’t miss it. This is a rare north woods experience, likely the darkest place in the lower forty-eight for touring the universe.                                                                

As the crazy days of summer keep slipping away, I can’t help but relish the excitement of migrations to winter confines, stashing of cold season vittles, preparation of warm dens, the spectacle of autumn and of course, the first tinge of crystal in the Byway ditches.                                                                                                                                                            
Adult loons will soon be in the gathering mode and hummingbirds appear to be tanking up in readiness for their airing southward. It’s still summer for a few weeks, but I’m feeling a tempering of things. Ahh the Gunflint, “N” is for north and “N” is for nice!                                                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and our natural world is always on the verge.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 3, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       August 3, 2018
   

 July along the Gunflint Trail has quietly faded away. We’re off into the eighth stanza of 2018. It seems implausible we Gunflinters should be observing autumn signs nudging their way into the summer green, but such is the case.
                                  
The past seven-day segment has been much the same as those preceding. It’s been warm and nice. The territory did get a minor dropping of rain last Saturday, amounting to barely two-tenths of an inch along the Mile O Pine. There was more bark than bite as thunder garnered more attention than raindrops, and there was more of the same early evening Sunday. Then a hefty dose drenched the territory to greet the new month with one and three-tenths inches here in the Wildersmith gauge.                                                                
 
A suggestion to area residents, with the ignition of a small wildfire southwest of Seagull Lake during the past few days, would be to crank up those wildfire sprinkler systems to add a little more moisture and confirm operational fitness.                                               
 
Getting back to those signs of fall mentioned earlier, I‘ve noticed hillsides in the upper Trail region with a splash of gold as juvenile birch or aspen have discovered the daylight minutes diminishing. Further, the aureus of dogbane is increasing along roadsides while goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, and milkweed are casting new tones to the North woods spectrum. 

                                                                                                                                                                                    
Since the Ojibwe, “blueberry moon” is next in the lunar line-up, it’s appropriate for the final blueberry push. I don’t see any slacking in the number of visitor vehicles out along the Trail. All are parked in precarious places with drivers immersed somewhere in the wild filling buckets and baskets.  

                                                                                                                                                                     
While on the invasive plant pull up at Chik-Wauk last Saturday, yours truly found a cache of Juneberries AKA serviceberries or even Saskatoon berries. They are sure easier picking than the blues, and I think, even sweeter. I heard of a recent pastry delight baked with a combination of rhubarb and juneberries. It sounds great with a dip of vanilla, but not for those of us with sugar concerns.
                                                                                                                                          
Speaking of sweetness, fun in the mid-Trail gets underway Wednesday in the Schaap Community Center facility, at 12:00 noon. The flea market and gift boutique starts things off, followed at 1:30 by the live auction and finally, the drawing for the beautiful mid-Trail quilter’s 2018 patchwork.                                                                                                                                                                               
This mid-Trail event is the second leg of the Gunflint Trail triple pursuit for support of the volunteer fire department. This in mind, the first leg, our Gunflint Trail Canoe Races, of two weeks ago, raised over 24 thousand dollars. These funds are vitally important, so everyone possible, please get out and support our neighbors in the middle.   

                                                                                                                                                        
Almost before one can blink their eyes, the last fundraiser for the fire department takes center stage on Sunday, August 12th with the Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert. This event is usually a sell-out with only 150 seats available in the Schaap Center for the 5:00 pm performance, better get reservations made ASAP.  Give Patsy Coleman a call at 313-673-6202. 
                                                                                                                                            
The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is excited to announce a special event coming to end of the Trail on August 16 & 17. The Society, with cooperation from the volunteer fire department, and in partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth, is bringing the GeoDome mobile planetarium theater to our upper reaches.                                                                                                                                                
This is the final stop for the “Dark Sky Caravan” delegation which starts at the UMD Planetarium on Saturday, August 11th. With daily stops along the north shore, it ends at one of the darkest places in the country to gaze the celestial. All are being held at the Seagull Lake Community Center and fire hall on the dates listed above.
                                                  
Events are free with programming from 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm both days. Planetarium shows will be offered on the half-hour with observations in the out of doors too when darkness is most consuming. In the event there are cloudy skies, programs will be limited to the GeoDome. A side note confirms the caravan visit will coincide with the annual Perseid Meteor Showers. 
                                                                                                                                     
UMD staff and students will lead attendees through a dynamic digital space exploration experience.  Volunteers from the Arrowhead Astronomical Society will be offering live sky consultation. This educational outreach from the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium through the University of Minnesota will be an experience to remember. Mark your calendars, and bring a flashlight to find your car in the late night darkness.
                                                                                                                                             
Not speaking of dark skies now, but of another dark item in creation, a bear made a visit to Wildersmith a few days ago, our first of the season. Happily, the visit was casual and did not involve my having to banish this ebony critter from the property. This observation happened during a dockside fishing event as my wife was startled to see a big “Bruno” showing off its aquatic skills not far from where she was sitting.                                                                                                 

As she was landing her usual “pet smallie” the hefty critter gave her the eye but never missed a stroke while continuing on by. She was nevertheless a little unsettled after hearing about the Leo Lake gal who recently bumped into one while berry picking. The north woods character eventually exited the big pool a ways down the lake and disappeared into the forest, no harm, no foul!                                                                      
 
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with endless natural world adventures!                                                                                                                                                        
 

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Moose Encounter

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 27, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     July 27, 2018    
           
The Gunflint summer just keeps rollin’ along, well into month two of the three segment stint. The past week has been silky smooth with tolerable daytime temps, and cool sleeping nights.                                                                                                                                                                                    

The only thing to have made it even more perfect would have included a little rain. A few sprinkles are all this neighborhood has received, and the forest floor is crunchy once again.                            

When this report hits the airwaves, beams of the Ojibwe, “halfway moon” are lighting up our lives. And at this yearly mid-point, blue-tipped fingers are busy picking what looks to be a great crop of purplish north woods jewels. While some reports find buckets full, I received word of a mid-Trail gal who’s claimed six gallons already, and one at end of the Trail with over 8.                                                                                                                                                                    

More blues activity can be noted along the Trail as postings are proclaiming the annual “Biggest Blueberry” contest. Sponsored jointly by Visit Cook County and the Trail business community, weigh-in stations are located from middle to end of the Trail. I’m told berries are quite plump this year, so competition to get the blue ribbon will be keen.                                                                                      

A final tally of the Gunflint Canoe Races fundraiser from last week is not yet available with donations still coming in and final expenses yet to be paid. However, one thing known for sure, the event went off without a hitch under splendid weather conditions. Congratulations and thanks to organizers and volunteers for another job well done!                                                                                                                                         

With funding support for the Trail fire department still on our minds, the territory is now pointing toward the annual mid-Trail flea market, gift boutique, and live auction. Mark your calendars for the afternoon of Wednesday, August 8th. This is another joyous happening along the Gunflint.                                                                                                                                                                 

Meanwhile, the last summer support trifecta for our firefighters is not far off either. The sixth annual “Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert” brings the sweet sound of music to the Trail. The performance will once again be held in the Schaap Center facilities (fire hall #1) on Sunday, August 12th at 5:00 PM. Ticket reservations can be made with Patsy Coleman at 313-673-6202 or online at PColeman@ chem.wayne.edu. More details and a run-down of several local performers taking part will be mentioned as the event gets closer.                                   

As July winds down, another great program is being offered at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this coming Sunday. The “original airborne” drones will be the subject of discussion as Douglas Hall talks about “Dragonflies.” The presentation begins at 2:00 pm.                                                                 

In another Nature Center programming note phase two of the invasive plant program gets underway Saturday at 10:00 AM. More volunteers are needed to help in an invasive plant pull-a-thon along the Moose Pond Road leading to the Chik-Wauk site. Bring bug nets, gloves and drinking water. Who knows, a moose might even make an appearance.                                                  

In our “wild world”, some folks in these parts have considerable disgust for our eager beaver construction crews. Beginning as early as the 1600’s fur trappers pillaged them to near extinction. During the 20th-century conservationists started to help them recover, and since then scientists have learned over the years that beaver built water features help address many environmental problems. Such is noted in the July /August edition of the Sierra Magazine where an article proclaims these animals as great “Ecosystem Engineers” who create wetlands, filter pollution, store groundwater, store carbon, reduce flooding runoff and sustain fish and bird habitat.                                                                                                                                                                              

The Sierra article is worthy of every Gunflint lovers’ attention. Perhaps we should be swearing by the beavers, not at them!                                                                                                                                            

Since we last met, perhaps the best looking moose in the territory was caught on camera by a gal in the mid-Trail area. The handsome chap was spotted along Hungry Jack Road, and I’m happy she shared the digital with me, so I could share it with you on my website column. It’s WTIP.org under the drop down “Community Voices” column.                                                                                                                                                                  

Concluding this weeks’ scoop, the Wildersmith two extend a huge thanks to everyone in the WTIP family, both new and renewing members, for their generous support in the “20 More” funding drive. Furthermore, congratulations are offered to the staff and dedicated volunteers for their outstanding organization and leadership during this huge endeavor. Northshore Community radio is what it is because of everyone coming together in a time of need. WTIP heads onward and upward for “20 More” years.                                                                                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, teeming in natural and human spirit!
 

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Fran & Fred Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 20, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith

 Three weeks into July and summer is spinning out of control in the upper Gunflint. The end of week two found the Byway weather outside, frightful. “Old Sol” was a beast, with muggy conditions for a few days. Relief oozed in last Sunday afternoon, with hope for clear skies and cool temps as the Gunflint Community headed into last Wednesday’s canoe races. 
                                                                                                                                                                 
For the first time in several Sundays,’ the area missed a substantial rain. That being said, rushing rivers and rising lake levels throughout the territory have likely steadied. Whereas Gunflint Lake had been quite low following the meager spring snowmelt and minimal rainfall, it has risen nearly a foot over the past month. 
                                                                                                          
Although we are but a month into official summer, it seems there some interesting changes going on.  Maybe it’s just me, but it appears the blueberries have come on a couple weeks earlier than usual, and fireweed is in bloom a bit prematurely. Meanwhile, if folks are looking as they travel along the Trail, one can see Spreading Dogbane turning golden, which is perhaps the earliest indication of autumn.
                                                                                                           
Reporting on critters of the “wild neighborhood”, a gal in the mid-Trail area tells of a seldom observed natural happening. She was in the right place at the right time to see what turned out to be a Luna Moth emerging from its chrysalis.                                                                                                     
She says, as the “coming out” commenced, the head was an ugly looking glob, but as things progressed things got better and better. When all was done, the amazing pale green nocturnal lepidopteran insect was a spectacle to behold. 
                                                                                          
Another mid-trail episode was shared by a lady on a recent Leo Lake kayak expedition.  In this case, she was just into her journey when distracted by something moving around her feet. Able to glance down into the bow area, a slithering passenger was discovered. Being not too fond of snakes, this screaming gal never paddled so fast in finding a place to land, nor did it take her long to “de-kayak”.    
                                                                                                                                  
Apparently, the north woods serpent was equally uncomfortable with the situation as it escaped simultaneously during the onshore confusion. Somehow it got out without being seen as it could not be found in a subsequent craft inspection. Neither relaxed or refreshed from the usual aquatic experience, she got back in and paddled home in record time, proving her cardio system must be in great shape during such a stressful time. By the way, she can outrun a bear too!                                                                                                                                                                                   
An amusing situation occurred a few days ago around out hummingbird feeder. I was casually walking by the nectar jar when I observed a bumble bee sipping at one of the florets. While the bee was enjoying the sweetness, a hummer buzzed in for a drink as well. As the scene unfolded, the bee would not allow the tiny bird to land. I watched for several moments as the bee kept the bird in a holding pattern, launching strafing attacks each time the bird tried to land. In the end, the bird gave up and darted off. The bee continued guzzling for some time before departing on an apparent sugar high.                                                                                                                                                                                     
In a programming note from the Chik-Wauk Nature Center, a class on Lichens is being offered to interested folks. The class will be held on August 24th in the Nature Center. Pre-registration is necessary as class size is limited.  Find out more by checking on the Chik-Wauk website. 
                                                                                                                                                                                   
For immediate consideration though, this weekend will provide more learning experiences up at the end of the Trail Museum site. Saturday is the first phase of an experience in learning about invasive plants of the area, and the need to eradicate them for the sake of native flora. Events get underway at 10:00 o’clock and continue through the day. Then on the next Saturday, July 28, the second phase of the program will involve a planned pulling of the nasty invaders around the Chik-Wauk Campus. In the context of what “Smokey the Bear” might say, “Only we can prevent invasive plant expansion.”                                                                                       
Then on this Sunday, don’t forget the “The Man Behind the Mystery” in the Nature Center at 2 p.m. as David Battistel presents more research on the historic Paulson Mine. 
                                                                                                                        
In the midst of all these activities, “the” community radio station of the North Shore is seeking new and continued member support in their summer funding drive. Heading off into the third decade of broadcasting, toward “20 more years” of community service and audio excellence, WTIP needs you! 
                                                                                                                                  
Please don’t be bashful about stepping up with whatever resources you can share to keep radio alive and well here in the Northland and around the globe. Stop by and pledge in person at the studios; click and join at WTIP.org; or give our operators a call now…at 218-388-1070 or toll-free 1-800-473-9847.  
                                                                                                                                       
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in “zippity, do dah style!
 

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