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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fred Smith

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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 - August 18

As August passed the halfway mark on the calendar, our north woods splendor has extended into yet another week. Temperatures have been in the cool comfortable range, and the territory got some much needed rain. At Wildersmith, the rain gauge caught an inch, whereas the Mid-Trail area received considerably more during a mid-week deluge.                                                 
This same Mid-Trail storm occurred in the midst of their property owners’ big fundraising event. It didn’t dampen enthusiasm though. Showing true north country grit, folks outlasted the downpour, and in the end raised a whopping $13,000 in support of our dedicated Gunflint fire and rescue crews. Congrats and a big thanks to the organizational leadership and their crew of able volunteers. What a fun event, thankfully under the “big top.”                                                                                 
Speaking of fun and enthusiasm, the last activity of the day found Poplar Lake resident, Keitha Herron the most excited person in attendance. Her name was drawn as winner of the beautiful 2017 Mid-Trail quilters’ project.  Congrats to Keitha, and a big thank you to all those talented stitchers.                                                                                                                                                                    
More news from the Mid-Trail comes in the report of a big cat sighting. Recently, a fellow Gunflinter living on Tucker Lake advised me of observing the cougar in a driveway while passing through the Rockwood Lodge neighborhood. The feline described was big and had a long tail, so no doubt it was what it was. The sighting was reported to the DNR, with a confirmation from that agency of another such cat being seen a couple days earlier down along the “Big Lake” shore near Tofte.                                                                                                                                                                               

Although I’m still observing berry pickers parked in various spots along the Byway, I wonder if the purple treasures might be dwindling. My reason for this curiosity comes from an apparent increase of bears appearing  back into areas of residential habitation                                          

Maybe it’s just by chance I came across a pair of the critters, but with sweet berries on the wane, perhaps they might be starting to gather in search of human littering remains as they begin amassing winter pounds. Then again, maybe the burly animals might have been taking a short cut to just another berry patch.                                                                                                                             
Interest in hummingbird traffic around here whetted my appetite for knowing just how fast they fly. With constant activity onto and away from our nectar station, the tiny avian zoom around at what seems to be jet-like speed. Brief research from one “Google” source found they aren’t about to break the sound barrier, but do average between 25 and 35 MPH, and can reach up to 60 in some of their diving antics.                                                                                                 

To match their tightly wound propelling abilities (at up to 70 wing beats per second), they obviously have highly developed navigation systems to avoid mid-air collisions. On two separate occasions recently, one of the winged speed demons was in direct line with my head only to abort a collision and break off at top speed. With fierce competition for a gulp of sweet nectar, their in-flight air to air combat is nothing short of spectacular. What marvelous beings of creation!                                                                                                                                                                                                      
It may seem early to be thinking of winter, but some of us north woods beings are taking stock of their things to do list. I’ve already taken inventory of the wood shed status, and piled brush for snow season burning. Meanwhile, over on Loon Lake, friends are laying up their birch cuttings and splitting for colder times. It won’t be long folks until we’ll be getting real serious about buttoning up for the winter season.                                                                                                                        

If you haven’t noticed, September is less than two weeks from reality. A lot of activities are coming down the pike as month nine hits the Trail. The biggest of which is a new school year, but first up out this way, Labor Day weekend breaks right out of the blocks.                                                          

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society kick starts the autumn run with its annual pie & ice cream social on Sunday, September 3rd. The event is held on the grounds of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center from noon until 4:00 p.m.                                                                                                            

In addition to the luscious sweet treats being served, there’ll be a local author book signing, needle basket crafting, gift shop sidewalk sales and great music from the Northshore Community Swing Band. Should be a great day for an up the Trail outing, who knows there might even be some fall tinting in the hills!                                                                                                                                                        
On a related note, the “P & IC Social” coordinator, Judy Edlund is already on the look out for area pastry specialists to sign up with a donation or two. Give her a call at 388-4400 to confirm a sweet contribution. Pie & Ice cream trivia from a year ago tells of between 35 and 40 pies being served along with buckets of ice cream!                                                                                            
The yearly concert in the forest charmed attendees once again, last Sunday. “Woods, Winds and Strings” No. 5 played to a near full house in the Mid-Trail fire department storage building, turned concert hall. Kudos goes out to the gifted performers, and to the organizing folks bringing them together, along with many community volunteers. On this afternoon, the wild land hills came alive with the “sound of music.”                                                                                                        

In closing for this week, don’t forget all the activities up at Chik-Wauk this Saturday on National Honey Bee day. Things will be buzzing from 11:00 a.m until 3:00 pm around the campus.                                                                                                                                                                
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, among uncounted treasures of creation!
 

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The wonderful new sign at Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center, as mentioned by Wildersmith last week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 11

Lest WTIP listener/readers think I might have slipped and hit my head while scribing the news last week, I did not.  As you might recall, I spaced off into oblivion while sharing about the “blueberry moon” and subsequently short circuited right into a discussion about the coming eclipse as a lunar experience.

Obviously, I must have had an “eclipse of the mind” to have not caught such a dimming blunder before it hit the air waves. 

Furthermore, any number of proof readings by we Smiths never caught the snafu, and it even got by staff scrutiny at the station.                                                              

The reporting glitch didn’t come to my attention until shortly after the second airing when I suddenly remembered the heavenly occurrence is of the solar nature. By then it was too late, and must have had folks scratching their heads in wonder as to how I could make such a foolish mistake. But I did, and regret wasting people's time putting out incorrect information while jeopardizing the integrity of future reporting.                                                                                                                         

So all the other info listed was correct, it will happen on August 21; the celestial phenomena will not be total for us at 48 degrees north; and the best view of “Sol’s” brief disappearing act in the Midwest will be a couple states to the south.    

News of this week finds the entry into August week two as north woods nice. Although shy of a good rain, there have been spotty incidents of shower downpours off and on over several days, but not amounting to much.                                                                                                                                                                         
Meanwhile, complaints about the temps being either too hot or too cool are not being heard. This goes for the lake water temps as well. Here on the Gunflint, the rippling liquid has been holding in the low to mid-70s, just right for fun in and on the “old gal.”                                                            

At the mid-point of official summer, autumn continues to nudge its way onto the scene. The fall advance is noted in places with sugar maple leaves fading to a lesser green tint; rose hips along the Mile O' Pine gaining some scarlet tone; and roadside grasses at the seed stage with flaxen shades of their final hurrahs.                                                                                                                    

With summer not yet giving way to the harvest season movement, another hatching of mosquitoes reminds us “it’s not over ‘til it’s over." This batch is of smaller character, but seems hungrier than their cousins of a few weeks ago.    
                                                                                                             
The Smiths meanwhile encountered a couple of “wild neighborhood” critters recently. It turned out to be a near-miss situation as they crossed our vehicular path without looking both ways. In fact the meeting was a double jeopardy incident as a food service 18-wheeler was coming at us from the opposite direction. The scene turned out to be a lucky day for a momma moose and her calf as well as both vehicle occupants when making moose-burger was avoided.    

Cruising the Trail a day later, I had a similar up close meeting with a young "Bruno.”  It too must have been more concerned about getting to a blueberry patch than watching for traffic along the road. Once more, a collision was averted, and the startled bear stopped long enough to look back at me in wonder. I suppose thinking, from where did that noisy, iron beast come.                                                                                                                                                                                           
Being absent for a good share of the summer, hummingbird flights have returned to our international feeding terminal. Arrivals and departures are nonstop. I’m supposing they have been on nesting duty, and with parenting out of the way, the hovering minis are free to begin bulking up for the soon to come southern trip. So the hum of birds is now in concert with that of mosquitoes buzzing about in search of a little protein.                                                                                                    

Speaking of concerts, the sound of music will be in the air on the Trail Sunday. Woods, Winds and Strings Concert (and a little jazz too) number five will be in the Fire Hall at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow in the Schaap Community Center next door. Ticket reservations are still available at broadcast time, but must be made ASAP by calling Patsy @ 313-673-6202.                                                                 

As of this newscast moment, results of the goings-on at the Mid Trail hoedown this past Wednesday are not available. A report of their events will be included in next weeks’ Gunflint news.  
  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, in a land of majestic backwoods history!
 
 

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Joe Pye weed by Liz West, Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 4

It’s been delightful along the Gunflint if one is partial to 80 degrees and a beastly sun beating down. The stickiness of last weekend made for an unpleasant few days in “moosedom” and caused yours truly some crankiness.                                                                                                               

As luck would have it though, a brief blessing from the rain gods last Sunday afternoon tempered the heat in border country. Although more precip is always welcome, beginning this week's scoop, some natural air conditioning has calmed my mood.                                                                                                                           
Having departed July and moved into August, the universe is but days away from the Ojibwe, full “Blueberry Moon.” In the words of North Country phenologist Larry Weber, “August is awesome” as our natural world is seeing new things blooming, others maturing and many more fading into next season obscurity.                                                                                                                                            

If this isn’t enough mysteriousness, the “man in the moon” will eclipse parts of the planet into total darkness later this month (on the 21st). Word in this territory indicates the lunar path will not make it 100 percent at this latitude. Nevertheless the heavens will be somewhat dimmed of lunar illumination around here. I’m told Missouri is the place to be for the full affect in the Midwest.      

New floral blooming is taking the byway spotlight by storm. Fireweed, black eyed Susans, goldenrod, yarrow and an early patch of Joe Pye weed have caught my attention on several up the Trail treks in recent days.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
The shower mentioned earlier couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m certain these new flowering Trail starlets are drinking it up. The power of “Sol” has dried the area considerably since we last met. Thus low level wild fire risk, during the past several weeks (since Memorial Day) has hiked up into the moderate danger category. Everyone is urged to exercise common sense/caution when it comes to sparking that primeval survival force of a fire at the campsite or wherever.                                                                                                                                                                                  
In addition to all these nature made comings and goings, several manmade affairs dot the calendar. The “biggest blueberry contest” continues into week three.                                                   

WTIP listener/readers are reminded once more of the Mid-Trail fundraising event taking center stage Wednesday, the 9th at Fire Hall  No. 1, beginning at 12:00 noon.                                                        

Next is act two in the Mid-Trail date book with the Woods, Winds and Strings Concert, Sunday, the 13th. It too is held in Fire Hall No. 1/Schaap Community Center beginning at 4:00 p.m. Ticket reservations can be secured from Patsy @ 313-673-6202. 

Then two weeks from now, on Saturday, the 19th, a celebration of National Honey Bee Day will find special presentations at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center. Running from 11:00 a.m. til 3:00 p.m, activities include a pollinator-focused nature hike at 12:30; Bumblebee Identification; Building for native bees; Making seed paper; Wax crafts and Children’s bee and flower crafts.

Featured speaker, local beekeeper, Mark Ditmanson will talk on diversity and importance of the wild bee population along with beekeeping in the Boreal forest at 1:00 p.m. At approximately 2:00 p.m., a couple of Master Gardeners will discuss the need for pollinator plants and bee habitat in garden plots. Things look to be a buzzing that day at end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                                                                    
If area folk were not in attendance for the programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center last Sunday, you missed an energetic and informative session with Saturday morning WTIP commentator and outdoor specialist, Larry Weber.   

In this day of alleged “Fake News,” he gave attendees the real scoop on “Spiders of the North Woods.” It was so enlightening I am now counting spiders in the same category as beavers in terms of top level engineering design and craftsmanship excellence. Mr. Weber clued us in on architects of the original “world wide web," from identification of our crawling eight-legged neighbors, to separating the boys from the girls; and to their abilities in silky web construction. Not only are these beings awesome fine line fabricators, they are terrific recyclers! Should Larry ever pass this way again, it is well worth the effort to spend time with him!                                                                                

Along with the mention of beavers a few lines ago, I found a thought-provoking article worth reading in the August/September National Wildlife magazine. While a lot of folks out this way have little good to say about the gnawing critters, specifically in regard to their cutting this or blocking that on and along our water-ways, this scribing looks at the busy “aamikwag” (Ojibwe) differently and sees “Beavers as Ecopartners.” The commentary, by Anne Bolen, may not change North Woods opinions but nevertheless provides an alternate perspective. Hope all beaver fans, or otherwise, can get a chance to read it.                                                                                                                                                     
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with the “greatest show on earth” right outside our front door!
 

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A lovely young buck was spotted on Moose Pond Road this week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 28

Summer is humming along out Gunflint way. With month seven on its last legs and August pushing the issue, there’s a subtle hint of fall showing in Trail territory.                                          

Dogbane turning gold, lupine blooms fading to seed pods and rose hips popping out on wild rose bushes, validates summer is peaking. Further authentication, of the season at hand, finds berry picking season in full swing.                                                                                                

A trip along the upper Trail requires drivers to maintain keen observation as the blueberry picking folk might be caught pulling their vehicles from secret off road places, while others, in a frenzy to get out in the patches, barely get off the hard surface. In either case, traffic safety is jeopardized for a few weeks.                                                                                                                                                            

In regard to the excitement of blueberry season, week one of the Gunflint Trail “biggest blueberry contest” is ending, and week two commences this weekend. What a unique idea by whoever suggested such. I find the contest interesting in that it’s called the “biggest” when the big winner each week will be measured in grams.                                                                                            

Weigh-in stations are located at several places along the Trail from Bearskin Lodge to Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. I was present for a weigh-in at Chik-Wauk last Saturday when a young gal presented her largest purple pearl. It came in at a whopping .78 of a gram. After the official documentation, she promptly ate it.                                                                                                                                                                                            
There are some neat prize opportunities for the weekly winners. Sorry, but no store purchased specimens allowed. Learn more here. 

Final results of last week's canoe races have been tallied. This year's fundraiser for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department generated a donation of just over $20,000. Another great effort, and thanks to all!                                                 

This in mind, with August but days away, the second event on behalf of the Trail Fire Department & Rescue Squad is coming on fast. The annual Mid-Trail Flea market, Gift Boutique and Live Auction happens on Wednesday, August 9th. Event activities begin at 12 p.m.  in Fire hall # 1, Mid-Trail.                                                                                                                                                     

The now famous Mid-Trail quilters have another work of art that will be given away to conclude the afternoon festivities. Tickets continue on sale for that drawing from folks living in Trail Center neighborhoods. The Live Auction is always a raucous happening with lots of frivolity, so mark your calendars and don’t miss it!                                                                                                                                  

The month eight Gunflint calendar features another event on the second weekend. The fifth annual Woods, Winds and Strings Concert with a little jazz too, hits the Trail on Sunday, August 13th, also in the Mid-Trail Fire Hall facilities.        

Beginning at 4:00 p.m., this event has continually been a sell-out with only 150 tickets available. Ticket reservations can be made by calling Patsy at 313-673-6202 or by email at pcoleman@chem.wayne.edu.

This performance is an outstanding chance to hear the talent of many local musical artists together in concert amidst great outdoor ambience.    

Before all of these August happenings, July begins its fade away at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this coming Sunday the 30th. Nationally known phenologist, retired Duluth science instructor and Saturday morning  WTIP commentator, Larry Weber will be the featured program speaker.                                                                                                                                                                     

Living in an area where uncountable insects and crawling things command our attention, Mr. Weber will be acquainting attendees with one of those classifications. Having written many books on our out-of-doors, he will be telling us about the original fiber optics producers, “Spiders of the North Woods.” The program begins at 2:00 p.m.                                                                    

An added note on the Chik-Wauk facility comes to mind with the new signage along the Trail. It’s located at the turn off onto Moose Pond Drive (County Road # 81). If you haven’t been out and seen the new unit, I’m telling you it’s a work of art.

Kudos go to Bruce Kerfoot and Bill Douglas for the magnificent stone work foundation, and the Seatons (Dave and Nancy) for their design and production of the woodwork. A few ladder signs are yet to be completed, then the new display board will better head visitors in the right direction for stories about the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                     

A week of news from the Gunflint doesn’t seem complete without a story of a critter in our “Wild Neighborhood.” This time the wilderness celebrity is a white tailed deer.                                                      

Over the past several years, members of our venison herd are seldom seen in these parts due to an imbalance in the predator-prey environment. So the gal that spotted this one was quite surprised “when what to her wondering eyes should appear,” but a handsome young buck in the early day sun.                                                                                                                                              

Of amusing significance is the copper-tone beauty was observed not on a typical wild land trail, but on Moose Pond Road near--what else?-- the moose pond. What a whimsical situation! See a digital of “Mr. Bright Eyes” walking toward the photographer’s vehicle alongside this report.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great in the “Land of Sky Blue Waters.”       

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 21

Another superior weather week along the Gunflint is into the books. Heading into the final stanza of month seven, the territory has escaped the miserable heat and humidity to date that has had areas to the south in a strangle hold for weeks. If we can get by another few weeks, the area will have had a marvelous “up north” summer.  

Rain accumulations have slackened over the past days, but still dropping just enough in this neighborhood to keep the dust down and wildfire danger low. Nevertheless, residents and visitors can never take fire potential for granted. It’s always plausible where there are people.  

The rising lake level of the past six weeks on the Gunflint Gal has stabilized, and dropped ever so slightly since peaking with my DNR measurement mid-month. It seems as though this body needs in excess of at least an inch a week in the watershed to hold steady against the outflow toward its final destination in Hudson’s Bay. Here at Wildersmith, we’ve had slightly over one-half inch since we last met.

While talking of water, the temperature of the lake at my dock has been registering in the high 60s to 70 at a depth of four feet. It will get one’s attention at first dipping, but becomes more comfortable after the old body adjusts.  

A few mornings ago, following a brief early-hour thundershower, I was sitting at my window to the forest world. Clouds were parting, and the flora was dripping as spears of sunbeams danced about wherever openings in the foliage would allow. The magic of the moment was captured as growing air movement had rain droplets wiggling loose from a trillion needles and leaflets. Catching the glistening rays, the rainy residuals were falling like sparkling diamonds.

Whereas the masses of droppings were crystal clear, a couple hangers-on found a spontaneous moment in the sun, refracting light into eye popping sapphires. Lasting for only an instance, the liquid blue gems were suddenly gone, lost on the forest floor to nourish the beings of “mother earth.” What a sparkling way to kick off another day as the beat of wilderness enchantment goes on and on with adventure after adventure!

Quiet as a windless north woods night, a momma bear and her three cubs came through a couple's yard one night recently. Although windows were open there was no “bear talk” to be heard by those inside. However, the “Bruno” family wasn’t aware of their cameo appearance on the trail cam, so like us humans in this day and age, you never know who might be watching.

While thinking of bears in the woods, it dawned on me the hungry blueberry consumers are soon to be in the patches scarfing up the purple gems. A gal up at Chik-Wauk came by on my volunteer day last week to show off a handful she had picked on the site. So the purplish treasures are on the way, and pickers might expect to share the patch with not only friends, but maybe a bear. We should all remember bears were here first, so it is prudent to yield without question! 

Canoe races hit the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge this last Wednesday evening for the 40th time. Another big turn-out enjoyed the aqueous events, especially the canoe tug-o-war and of course, the gunnel pumping.  

Congrats and thanks to Canoe Races chair, Arden Byers, and his great crew of volunteers for putting together another super-organized Community event. A report on proceeds from the fundraiser will be available next week. 

Finally, after a splendid program last Sunday on” Wolves at Our Door,” the Chik-Wauk Nature Center has another interesting program on the docket this weekend. Plan to be there Sunday, July 23, at 2:00 p.m. for the story of a Wisconsin logging company located in Port Arthur, Ontario, which built and traveled the “Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad.” Historian David Battistel will take attendees back in time for another look at events shaping the Gunflint Territory.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with countless places to see and things to do!                               
    
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 14

Time is flying as we hit the halfway mark in July. Although twilight remains ‘til nearly the ten o’clock hour each evening, daylight minutes that are slipping away are barely noticeable.  

Vacation adventurers are packed into the territory taking advantage of outdoor living at its best. Parking facilities at area outfitters and resorts are filled to overflowing as are pull-offs for hiking trails and watercraft access points. 

Upper Trail weather has been fairly accommodating, too. It would seem a couple mildly sticky days and sporadic rains probably have not dampened spirits. Even the moose and I cannot grouse too much since we last met on the radio. 

Speaking of rain, we had plenty in June and the spell seems to be spilling over into July. We in the Wildersmith neighborhood have picked up well over another inch since the 4th of July. So area lakes continue their upward climb, putting some residents’ docks at surface level. 

Having spent the lion's share of my life in "urbania," I had little regard for the perils of travel on rural roads. Since 1999, I have learned a lot about living in back country, especially our arteries of mobility, as “Mother Nature” has her way with most everything as we all know. 

One such natural happening captures my attention whenever we are blessed with copious amounts of rain. Out here in the woods, evidence of what falling and running water does to porous gravel roads is plain dreadful. Gaining access to the Wildersmith place requires four and one-half miles of traveling on crushed rock. Over the years, I’ve come to know the road pretty well with regard to avoiding those teeth-jarring potholes. It’s my observation that no matter how many times the County Roads crew grades them smooth, those bumps in the road always re-appear, and in the same location.

Wondering why, it’s my idea maybe roadways were not intended to be as currently located. Secondly, in concert with early engineering design and the difficult lay of the land, droppings from the heavens just cannot be controlled by the “gal” in charge. Water goes where it wants to go. And, lastly, vehicle users complicate washed-out spots by pounding our way through such indentations over and over again with little concern. All this seemingly meaningless bumpy commentary has been stimulated by six weeks of inordinate rain around here, good for the forest but not for the roads. My attention to wash-board pathways is renewed with every instance of precipitation and each trip down the road.  

To an extent, on a somewhat positive note, these nature-made speed bumps are worthy as a means of slowing the pace of visiting suburban folk, while also improving regular user driving skills at avoiding the difficult road to wheel terrain. All being said, back road bumps are what they are, a way of life in unorganized territory. 

Back to news of greater importance, Sunday programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this weekend features a visit from the folks at the International Wolf Center in Ely. The presentation “Wolves at Our Door” will be held from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. All are welcome!

Then on Tuesday, the 18th, a “Fishing Basics” class for children will be held at the Nature Center as well from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Space is limited and registration is free, but must be done in advance. There is still time, so give Chik-Wauk a call by Monday at 218-388-9915. 

If these two events aren’t enough busyness, the 40th annual Gunflint Trail Canoe Races hit the water on Wednesday, the 19th. As usual they will be held on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge. Events run from 4:00 until 8:00-ish when the gunwale pumping and the grand prize drawing for the kayak will conclude the excitement. Food tent (open at 4:30), races (beginning at 6:00), a silent auction, and continuous raffle prize drawings highlight what is always a great night in the Gunflint Community. All proceeds again go to support the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.

A note from the “wild neighborhood” tells of a sighting not happening much out this way anymore. With the whitetail population about totally decimated in the upper Trail, it is pretty exciting when there is an observation. The Smiths were fortunate during a recent trip home from the village to come upon a doe and her two fawns along the Trail. While all animal babies are cute, in my opinion there are none more precious than recently born deer, and these were no exception. There was some indecision about crossing the road in front of the vehicle, both by mom and her youngsters, so we stopped to allow their terror to calm. Then watched with interest as the mom guided them bounding off into the forest. It was amazing the grace with which the little ones navigated such difficult terrain being probably only a couple weeks old. 

Finally, a huge Wildersmith thanks to all who stepped up in support of WTIP for the “Summer of Love” membership drive. It goes without saying the family of listeners are simply the greatest. This is your radio station, and everyone should be proud of what is made possible through your resources. Eternally grateful, the staff and volunteers look forward to bringing you more high-quality radio entertainment and information in the days, months and years to come!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with anticipation of learning something new daily!
 
 

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Fred Smith, Wildersmith on the Gunflint, on the grill at the WTIP summer pledge drive

Wildersmith: July 7

It’s hard to fathom, but the universe is into the second half of year 2017. This weekend confirms such in Gunflint territory with Aabito-Niibino Giizis, the Ojibwe “half-way” full moon early Sunday morning.  
                                                                                                                                                       
Also known by the Algonquin as the “full buck” moon, this lunar experience kicks summer into full gear although some express opinion summer begins waning after Independence Day.                                                                                                                                                                    

Nevertheless, sunny days are here again! Out this way, we finally got out of the rainy weekend rut that had many residents and business folks gloomy for most of June. Temps have remained near perfect recently for us critters who have affection for natural air conditioning. We can only hope like conditions hang on through the next 60 days, getting us into early autumn.                                                                                                                                                                                           

The abundance of moisture in the last 30 days has sure raised lake levels. Here at the Wildersmith dock, the DNR lake level gauge shows a rise of a good eight inches on the Gunflint since Memorial Day weekend.  The added precipitation and cool clouds have kept the water temp in the low 60ss at this locale as my scoop comes your way.                                                                                    

Confirming summer is full speed ahead, the WTIP “Summer of Love” membership canvas is into overdrive as I speak.  I hope everyone listening will show their love for this broadcast gem of the north, by stepping up with another renewal of support, and further encourage new members to join the WTIP family.                                                                                                                                                               

In these times of questionable continuing governmental support for our community radio, it is critical for those who cherish our communication endeavor to stand tall and not waver. WTIP needs you! Call or click and join now!  

As the territory rolls into month seven, week two, Gunflint Trail Historical Society members, Trail residents and visitors are reminded of the second summer meeting for the Society. This gathering will be held on Monday, the 10th in the Seagull Lake Community Center, beginning at 1:30 p.m.                                                                                                                                                         

After the usual business meeting, the program feature is our remembrance tribute to family, friends and neighbors who have passed from our midst during the past year. This celebration of their lives closes another chapter in ongoing Gunflint Trail History. All are invited to be there and share in looking back on how these folks played a part in the Gunflint of today. Sweet treats, coffee and conversation will follow.  

Forest enhancement continues, and times are intriguing as “Mother Nature” extends her hand at growing things. New flowering items are waiting in the wings.  And I’m captured by how quickly the candles of new growth that appeared just a couple weeks ago, have suddenly become almost full-fledged branches in the coniferous forest.                                                                                        

Sweetness is coming on too as fruits of the forest begin to ripen. Wild strawberries have been picked in this yard and a fellow up the Trail tells of picking his first blueberry. So pickers get ready, including you bears. Life is always a joy watching woodsy rituals come and go.   

Not only is border country flora busy doing its thing, so too are forest animals, all in the interest of survival. I’ve had a couple reports of beaver activity on and along the Trail. “Beaver and Beaver Builders” must be in the process of upgrading lodge facilities in a pond location south of the Laurentian Divide.                                                                                                                                                   

Apparently construction materials in their immediate locale have become scarce as they were recently observed dragging new timber cuttings across the Trail black top. Then again, the fresh aspen trimmings could have been for the food shelf. Whatever the mission, their work ethic is tenacious.                                                                                                                                                                           

Another recent account came from a couple of Iowa fishermen who were thrilled at the sighting of an osprey over on Hungry Jack Lake. The excitement of observing such was the birds’ fish catching skill.    

I’m told they saw the exercise in avian angling sequence, from its location high in the sky to the jet-like approach, the splash down entry, the catch, and then lift off, in search for a dry dining location. I don’t know of their finny catching success that day, but the fellows sure caught a neat glimpse of life on a north country lake.  

Once again, don’t forget the “Summer of Love,” call now at 218-387-1070 or 1-800-473-9847; or click and join at WTIP.org ; or stop by the studios at 1720 West Highway 61 to pledge a little love for our Community Radio.                                                      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, charged with the touch of wilderness spirit!
 

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Recent rains have brought out an abundance of wild flowers

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 30

Rain on the Gunflint! It’s another weekend washout as Trail news spews from my keyboard. However, since “water is life,"  life is just swell out this way.                                                                 

Territory streams and rivers are gushing, lakes are rising and wildfire danger remains subdued. Our most precious natural resource has cascaded from the heavens for the second straight week, thus, kicking off month seven on a wet note.                                                                               
Along with soggy conditions, temps have been cool, much to the chagrin of early season vacationers, but have me and the moose smiling. On another note, it’s a good bet, but bad news, mosquitoes will find the abundance of new standing water to their re-productive delight.     

While rivers are roaring with liquid, on the few sunny days we’ve had during the past seven, our Scenic Byway ditches are running what looks like “rivers of gold.” Canadian hawkweed, buttercups and other blooms of yellow have intensified into a flowing mirage of ground level sunshine. About the only thing interrupting the waves of golden hue are patches of orange hawkweed cousins, daisies and invasive lupine. It’s summer complexion at its best!                                                                                                                                                                                
Speaking of things wet, I can’t help but recommend reading The Nature Conservancy summer edition. This periodical delves into “rethinking water on a thirsty planet.”  I found several articles vexing in consideration of humans taking our most critical resource for granted through greedy, wasteful practices.  There’s a lot of bad stuff going on!    

The overall magazine theme concerns our misuse/management of this life sustaining element. The subject matter is even more disturbing when I read of state and federal government representatives putting the quality of northland clean water in jeopardy for the benefit of big money investors and a select segment of voters, in order to get re-elected.                                                      
Then again, isn’t what a lot of things, elected officials do, about ego fulfillment in concert with extending lifetime careers as self-anointed “servants” all on the public's tab?                  

Enough “soap boxing”, this Nature Conservancy reading is good stuff, cover to cover, with implications for all area folk and WTIP website readers/listeners who cherish our land of pristine waters. It sure can catch one’s attention!                                                                                                                                                                                  
he Northshore Health Care Foundation (NSHCF) held its’ annual fundraising barbeque this past Sunday at Gunflint Lodge. I’m told it was the best turnout in history of the event. Congrats to the NSHCF organizers, the Gunflint Lodge staff and all who braved the heavenly deluge for a fine gathering and a worthy cause.                                                                                                                                     
As the calendar turns to July this weekend, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is inviting all to an open house at Chik-Wauk this coming Sunday. The event is being held in recognition of the Ham Lake fire 10th anniversary, and to formally show off the museum's summer exhibit of the historical tragedy. Special guests from the US Forest Service will be stationed near the display to talk about and answer questions in regard to yet another chapter in Gunflint Trail history. Cake and refreshments will be served from 11:00 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the nature center patio.                                                        
Planning for the 40th Gunflint Trail Canoe Races has been going on behind the scenes for several months. The July 19 date is now in sight, and its full speed ahead to have all components ready.                                                                                                                                                                 

This big community happening needs the help of about 100 volunteers so if area folks haven’t signed up yet, get on the phone with Chair Arden Byers ASAP at 388-9475.                                    

Kayak and general raffle tickets are on sale at Trail Center Restaurant, Chik-Wauk Museum and several businesses along the Trail. There are several ticket selling slots open for sales at Trail Center on various dates starting today and running until just before the 19th, so give Arden a call and lend a hand! All proceeds go to support the GTVFD and RESCUE squad, so WE NEED YOU!                                                                                                                                                            

Friends down the road report the momma bear and her quadruplets are back hanging out. The recent visit comes two weeks after they were dispatched following several hours of turmoil in the tree tops by a pair of the young’uns. This time all four of the fluffy varmints displayed tree climbing skills, however they were more easily coaxed down when resident warnings were issued.                                                                                                                          

As the “dog days” of summer approach, here’s hoping everyone has a safe and sane national birthday celebration. Happy Fourth of July…and don’t forget, WTIP’s “Summer of Love” membership drive is coming next week too!                                                                                                                                                

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as “Mother Nature” beckons for our heavenly and earthly stewardship!
 
 

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Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center had an interesting visitor this week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 23

Blessings from the heavens have been raining down on the territory as I begin keying this week's scoop. When one resides where wild fire can often be lurking, any rain is always a good rain in spite of the damper it might put on outdoor activities. Then again, energized wilderness folks are pretty much undaunted by difficult weather happenings.  

With the richness of wet soil, blooms are exploding all over border land. The golden floral edging along the Scenic Byway is growing by the day, while the rainbow of lupine spires is adding multiple tints to this journey through the northern Riviera.

And in other unique places, one can encounter wild roses flashing their pinkish splendor. Despite the recent gloom overhead, Mother Nature's pallet can’t help but brighten one's day.                                                                    
All growing things considered, we are slowly being consumed by the green forest monster. This big green scene makes one feel pretty minute in the total scheme of living beings.                                                                     
To go along with the glory of “Neebing” (summer in Ojibwe), a flurry of critter sightings has been reported. Yours truly had the good fortune of meeting a little gang of fox kits over the past few days. The little cuties were flirting with danger along the Trail near Little Iron Lake. Three foxy faces were peeking out of the roadside weeds, and then jumping frightfully into the air like popcorn popping as I crept by. Sure hope traffic through that area gives them a break.                                                                                                                                                     
Some residents can go days, if not weeks, without seeing a moose, and then out of nowhere the north woods originals are making all kinds of appearances. One couple spotted two in separate sightings through the mid-Trail area and another couple recently found a momma supervising swimming lessons for her twins in a pond up near end of the Trail.                                  

One just has to be in the right place at the right time. Somehow visitors to the territory seem to assume moose should be found just around the next curve. Tongue in cheek, I direct them by the Poplar Haus (old Windigo Lodge) as there is always one there.                                                                                                        
A snappy happening was observed up at the Chik Wauk Nature Center site last weekend. A fairly large snapping turtle meandered away from the bayside water apparently in search of a nesting site for her egg laying exercise. The hard shelled old gal ended up along the parking area perimeter near the museum entrance where she dug a hole in the sand and gravel and proceeded with her second step in motherhood.                                                                                                                                                   

It would seem doubtful the hatching process could become reality with invasive humans prodding around close by, in addition to the danger of some protein consumer sniffing out the eggs. Further complications might involve the up to 125 days of incubation running up against early cold weather when those eggs need 80 degree warmth.                                                                                                   

Regardless of the outcome, this was exciting viewing for staff and visitors. The nesting site will bear watching, as once again you have to be in the right place at the right time.                                                                                                                                                                         
During a recent “wild neighborhood” excursion, I came across a grouse hen alongside the county road. As usual, she reluctantly, sauntered out of harm's way. While slowing for the observation, I discovered the reasoning for not making a swift escape was her brood of chicks. The little puff balls were all scattered on either side of my pathway, and like the little foxes mentioned above, had no clue about dangers of playing in the road. There is little doubt momma grouse was about to pull her feathers out trying to keep them safe.                                                                                                                                                                  
One can be in the right place this coming Sunday at the Chik Wauk Nature Center as a program on “Loons from a Loon Enthusiast’s Point of View” is on tap at 2:00 p.m. Phyllis Sherman, who has been a volunteer since 2003 for the DNR non-game division Loon Watch Program, will be the presenter. It looks to be a meaningful and fun hour with loon-inspired door prizes for attendees.                                                                                                                                   
It’s with sadness area residents have received word on the passing of Ken Rusk. Since the late 1960s he’s been a seasonal resident of the upper Trail with his late wife Nathalie (“Nat”). Ken, who would have been 100 in October, died in White Hall, Wisconsin last weekend.                                                                           
In spite of the sorrow surrounding his departure from our midst, this north woods gentleman will always be remembered for the joyous smiles he brought to every occasion. Gunflint community condolences are extended to his survivors and many friends.                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and  overflows  with majesty and adventure! 

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Lilacs are blooming in some areas, but not the Wildersmith yard yet.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 16

It’s hard to imagine June is half gone, and by the next time we meet on the radio the Summer Solstice will have passed us by. With this universal turning point, it seems unthinkable the slow trickle down of day light minutes begins.                                                                               
With seasonal vacation times barely underway, and so many things to do in Gunflint territory, it’s hard reckoning how one will be able to explore all the opportunities before fall slows things down.                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of things to do in the coming weeks, historical site leaders throughout the county have been meeting over the past winter exchanging ideas and coordinating plans to enhance guest attendance and better meet visitor needs.                                                                              
One such plan is what they are calling a “Passport into the Past." Designed to encourage visitors to seek out each of the Arrowhead historic facilities, each organization will be establishing key program offerings and events between July 26 and September 4. On one’s first trek to a paticipating county historical site the visitor will get their “Passport” and a subsequent stamp confirming that visit. The PP document will then be stamped at each site with the idea to get a stamp from each society by summer's end. Just think how much Cook County history can be soaked up during the summer trek.                                                                                                                                                        
The key event for the Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be its annual pie and ice cream social on September 3.

For additional Cook County historical venue activities one will want to make a contact with each of the other five around the county. I feel confident information will be forthcoming on WTIP and also be available on the Cook County Visitors Bureau website. Stay tuned!                                                                                                                                                                               
A look at atmospheric conditions finds Gunflint weather pretty spectacular since we last met. Comfortably cool nights and warm days have been the order. However, deliveries from the skies have been on the lean side in this neighborhood and on up the Trail, so all growing things could use a good rain. On a somewhat related outdoor note, the lake water temp is up into the high 50s at the Wildersmith dock.                                                                                                         

Speaking further of environmental things, this territory has many cases of micro climates. A sampling finds lilacs in full bloom in obviously warmer inland locales while a similar shrub has barely unfurled leaves, and flowering buds have yet to show signs of purplish tint here in the colder Wildersmith yard. If they don’t hurry up the frost might get them!                                                                                                                     
Since our last discussion about the loons at the Chik-Wauk site abandoning the nesting platform, it is reported mom, pop and chick have returned and hang out in the bay waters.  Another report from the museum staff tells of hikers finding prized Lady Slippers in bloom along the Moccasin and Blueberry Trails. They won’t last long so a trip up that way to Chik-Wauk has some degree of urgency.                                                                                                                                               
A big weekend for outdoor adventurers is on tap this weekend (Saturday and Sunday). The third annual Boundary Waters Canoe Expo is being held once again at the Seagull Lake public landing. Many exhibitors and organizations will be on hand under the big-top displaying the latest in wilderness gear and living techniques. So why not make this a comprehensive trip with a stop at Expo and the Chik Wauk Museum & Nature Center. All are invited!                                                                  

The big shrimp boil fest up at end of the Trail last weekend was a tremendous success. From all appearances, it seemed the event drew a record crowd, although I have no accounting of the fund raising effort. With many folks hitting the buffet line multiple times, if anyone went away hungry, they had nobody to blame but themselves.                                                                                                                              

Leadership of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society extends huge thanks to all the organizing volunteers and of course, the hungry north woods folks savoring not only great cuisine, but also, just the joy of Gunflint community. Another thank you goes out to dozens of baked goods donors. What an array of sweet treats, heaven on earth for those with a sweet tooth.                                                                                                                                          
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, for which we’re all grateful.

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