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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fred Smith

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.



What's On:
Golden rod and tansy blooms line roadside ditches as fall approaches

Wildersmith August 26

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August is waning in the northland. You can feel it in the perpetual whispering through the tall pines. Almost Indian summer days have been the order, mostly sunny and warm with pull-up-the-covers nights.

A couple days have been more than just breezy too. Winds thrashing down Gunflint Lake caused considerable angst for most marine navigators regardless of skill level.

A couple of obviously unassuming urbanites, who had no business in the first place even venturing out onto the rough waters, had a tough trip motoring east up the Gunflint Gal last week. They then found the turnaround for a return trip westward even scarier, as their craft was being tossed about like one of those hot colored fishing bobbers on some 4- to 5-foot rollers.

In a wise effort to avoid an unwanted dip in the lake, they pulled in at a south shore dock a couple places down the way. They were found in a shocked state, wondering if they were headed in the right direction to Gunflint Lodge and how far it was, by yours truly and my good neighbor walking up the Mile O Pine.

Since the Lodge was yet a few miles away, being a good Gunflint Samaritan, my kind neighbor cranked up his car and gave one of the two out of breath wannabe adventurers a ride back to his point of departure. The other member of the party sat down alongside the road with her big dog and waited for the partner to come back with transportation.

Potential tragedy was avoided by this couple, but I can’t imagine for the life of me why anyone in their right mind would tempt fate with Mother Nature causing such a stir?

One of our local berry picking enthusiasts tells me of finding a nice patch of raspberries. In the center of the matted prickly stalks was a nest of some proportion where an animal had apparently been holing up.

She’s guessing, and I’m betting that she’s right, it must have been a spot where br’er bear settled in for a nap and, most likely, easy red berry picking.

With September lurking, northland folks can see the handwriting on the wall. Roadside weeds are a hodgepodge amongst the golden rod and tansy blooms, twisting in the winds, only now unable to untangle themselves. Time is running short for berry picking Brunos, hummingbirds seem to be nervously intolerant of each other at the nectar station and I’ve observed a couple of the non-parental loons partying overhead during the sundown hour. It seems they must be in the early stages of the impending gathering prior to their long trip (probably checking their GPS bearings).

On the domestic side, anxiety is growing for gardeners up this way in regard to green tomatoes that are surely never going to ripen before frost. There is also a sense of ‘just how long do I have left before I should start thinking about winterizing the boat and pulling in the dock.’ Yes, it’s unmistakable, summer is almost gone and for some, breakin’ up, as always, is hard to accept!
But, take heart northlanders, the wonders of autumn are accelerating. The Labor Day holiday is both an ending and a beginning. Our granite mountainsides and rugged valleys will soon be alive with a color show to boggle the mind, and the solitude of crystal blue lakes will capture the momentary reflections of border country in its fall ‘go to meetin’ attire. It’s a time of celebrating the memories of a season past in Technicolor, so come along and enjoy the journey.

Speaking of Labor Day weekend, folks up this way should be marking the calendars for a trip to the end of the Trail on Sunday the fourth. Yup, plan to come up to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center for the second annual pie and ice cream social.

Organizers of the fundraiser will provide a taste of the Gunflint with great pies baked and donated by area residents and businesses.

The sweetness festivities will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Why not make a day of it? Plan to take in the museum, hike the trails and enjoy treats from the best along the Gunflint!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a wilderness in transition!

Early fall is making its first appearance up the Gunflint!

Wildersmith August 19

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Pre-autumn is evolving steadily throughout the upper Trail territory. New eye-catching observations have added to the items mentioned in last week’s news.

Despite the continuing dryness pattern, the days have been marvelously tolerable in terms of coolness. We even had a couple nights at Wildersmith where the mercury bottomed out in the low 40s.

Now that summer has matured and is nearing the end of her run, folks are beginning to note that it’s almost September. That means it’s time for the season of getting ready for winter, and a sundry of other activities.

Those who have not really been paying attention to the escape of our summer are getting edgy about the supply of firewood being adequate, closing up any household fresh air voids and an assortment of other tasks that will make winter maybe more comfortable and less costly.

Around the woods, critters have long been tending to some of those tasks. Chipmunks continue dashing about the yard with jowls full of winter meal items and their distant kin, those pesky red squirrels, are into their annual digging, stashing and covering a variety of winter menu items all over the yard.

It’s a “berry” good time in the forest as blueberry collectors are having a heyday. This includes the black Bruno population that is also thinking ahead to some long days of slumber. Adding to the fruity mix are wild raspberries and an assemblage of other hanging provisions that don’t necessarily have great human appeal, but are nevertheless quite vital to many in the wild neighborhood.

Most notable among the not-so-edible fruit are the high bush cranberries and the mountain ash. Branches draped with these berries are sagging with what looks to be a bumper crop, and are just beginning to stage their color transition.

A trip to the end of the Trail last weekend provided the initial sampling of “gold in them thar hills.” Several swatches of quaking buttery nuggets on adolescent birch and aspen saplings are growing evidence that change is in the air.

The past week has been terrific for late day dock time. Although clouds have been an issue on a few occasions, when skies have allowed, this is the time for magnificent displays of old Sol as he sinks behind the Canadian hills to our northwest.

Time flies by so quickly. It will be just a matter of days until the setting will be cast back on the American side of the border as the great luminary continues the southerly trek.

The ends of sun time in the northland have been nothing short of spectacular as the big orange ball descends the horizon with a piercing laser reflection on the rippling wine-colored Gunflint waters.

This is not just a Gunflint happening but one that frequents every one of the 1,000-plus lakes in the county; hope everyone is getting out and enjoying just one more aspect of northwoods magic at their special wilderness place.

The August mid-Trail happening was a big hit, and once more the Gunflint folks stepped to the plate and delivered another grand slam for the Trail volunteer rescue and fire fighting gang.

It is reported that over $6,600 was raised in the Saturday afternoon flea market, gift boutique, live auction and quilt raffle. A fun time was had by all and many wonderful items found new homes. Big thanks go out to organizers, those who donated prizes/goods for the various activities and the many attendees who opened their wallets. By the way, that splendid mid-Trail quilters’ 2011 artistry was won by Linda Maschwitz of St. Paul. Congrats to Linda!

Looking back at the two annual summer happenings that combine to support these dedicated emergency folks, a total slightly over $21,100 has been raised. Congratulations to all the Gunflint community and hundreds of other friends, visitors and the like who made it all possible.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sweet wilderness!

Airdate: August 19, 2011

Gunflint Lake

Wildersmith August 12

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The Full Sturgeon Moon marks a split of August in half as we near the end of week two. The calendar still beckons summer in the wilderness after a few more days of sultriness, but for some unexplained reason, the night winds seem to be blowing a light fall tune.

All full moons stand as moments of universal flare, but the Blueberry/Sturgeon Moon is special like other approaching quarterly lunar experiences. It signals passing of summer’s baton to an awaiting Wild Rice Moon in month nine, and the delivery of fall’s multicolored bounty. How exciting!

As I key this week’s news, the territory has settled into another of those dry spells. The temps have cooled to a wonderful pleasantness, yet front after front keeps passing the upper Gunflint with barely a drop of precipitation.

Foolishly, we get excited with this weather forecasting fraud, calling for rain. However, those cover-your-rear, 20-percent predictions just haven’t been cutting it in these parts. I have started to look at the prognostication scheme from an opposite perspective: there is an 80 percent chance that it won’t rain, and I’m almost always right on.

Anyway, all those little creeks that were gurgling with excitement following the big gully washer a few weeks ago are now thirsty rock beds. Meanwhile the surface level here on the Gunflint Gal has resumed its decline after being stabilized for several days after the July 20 deluge.

Declaring it early autumn may seem somewhat premature, but I see signs popping out here and there along the back country roads. Some ground cover has assumed its golden hue and the rose hips are anywhere from orange to deep maroon depending upon their patch locale. On another note, there is moose maple along the Mile O’ Pine already topped with their orange leaves and seed pods of brilliant scarlet.

If these subtle signs aren’t enough, over a dozen late summer blooms have brightened the northern forest in the past 10 days. From birds-foot trefoil to woodland sunflowers, and everything in between, backcountry flora is a menagerie of aurous hues.

There’s been a momma mallard hanging around the Wildersmith dock of late. She has three fluffy paddlers trailing in her wake. Folks down the lake indicated that she started with seven in her raft, but hungry pangs of the wild have depleted her family.

The tiny puffs hardly seem they’d be worth it, but I guess if some hungry critter gets enough of them it might silence the gnawing. I can only guess that the mini-duck dinners went to an eagle, a northern pike, one of those nasty snapping turtles or maybe all three.

Surviving to this point calls for the three remaining to do some fast growing, when I think that the call of nature for a southern flight to open waters is not far off. I find it hard to believe that they develop so rapidly when all they seem to do is float about skimming insects off the water. Guess those bugs must be mighty nutritious.

Residents and visitors are reminded once again of the big mid-Trail happening this weekend (Saturday). Find your way along the Trail to Fire Hall #1 around 1 p.m. for three hours of fun and fundraising. Crammed into the segment are the flea market, gift boutique, live auction and quilt raffle drawing. What better cause can we support than that of our Trail volunteer fire fighting and rescue teams?

By the way, that very firefighting crew we need to support nipped disaster in the bud when a fire broke out near a campsite in the Loon Lake vicinity this past Monday. Thanks to all who responded. It could have been bad as the winds grew vicious later in the same day.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the fading days of summer.

Airdate: August 12, 2011

Photo courtesy of Chauncer via Flickr.


Wildersmith August 5

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2011 in the upper Gunflint Territory is starting to show signs of aging as we compete the first week of August. With six weeks of the official summer season behind us, the newborn critters of spring have now carved out their own notch for living space and are getting more independent of mom’s care with each passing day.

Growing up has to begin with day one, as time for being ready to get a grasp on the perils of the harsh season ahead is limited in border country.

I noticed a couple fawn twins the other day whose backs were now about belly high to their mom as they meandered with her to Trail’s edge near the Seagull Creek Fishing Camp. They had long ears, gawky teenage-looking bodies and a twinkling adolescent look in their eyes while I passed them by. It made me wonder if Mom might have been giving them a little advice on the dangers of road crossing.

Later, up in the bay at Chik-Wauk, I found Peat and Re-Peat, the three-week-old loons, in a training session with either Mom or Pop, practicing their diving skills. The dark gray puff balls were getting right after it, reflecting eons of their genetic make-up.

Under the careful parental eyes they made their plunge and then popped up spitting, sputtering and fluffing their tiny wings in a spray of water. These little ones are late hatchlings, so their summer days have to be packed with intense learning of survival lessons and at the same time, growing their bodies in preparation for the long haul south in just a matter of weeks.

Our season of blue is the center of attention for bears, residents and visitors. Berry picking regulars tell me that they are lush with many green ones yet to ripen. One gal already claims to have over two gallons frozen for safekeeping. All we need now is additional rain to encourage further bluing of the heavenly morsels.

Week after week there is always a big summer event happening somewhere in the county. Up the Trail is no exception, as the annual Mid-Trail fundraiser for the Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue crew is set to happen next Saturday, August 13.

Activities get under way at Fire Hall # 1 along the Trail beginning at 1 p.m.
The usual flea market and gift boutique kick the event off. Then the great live auction commences at 2.

The auction is lively and fun under the leadership of long-time arm-twisting auctioneer, Phil Serrin. Following the auction, the drawing for the beautiful mid-Trail
Quilters’ 2011stitching edition will be held. Tickets are still on sale for that event, so if you haven’t got yours yet, there’s still time.

Over the years thousands of dollars have been raised to benefit our Gunflint Fire/Rescue Volunteers. Gunflint Trailers from end to end as well as area visitors are invited to come, have some fun and show their support.

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be holding its August meeting this coming Monday, the 8th at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center. A short business meeting and museum operations update begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by a video/slide program featuring the life and times of another Gunflint icon, Rolf Skrien. Rolf and many of his family will be in attendance.

All members and wannabes are welcome, treats and drink will be served!

Keep on hangin’, on, and savor the thrills on blueberry hills!

Airdate: August 5, 2011

Photo courtesy of espie via Flickr.

This month, be on the lookout for folks with buckets of blue, as well as a rising of the Blueberry Moon

Wildersmith July 29

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With the fifth July weekend at hand, out northland bids farewell to month seven. Looking to August, we wilderness folks are hoping that we’ve seen the last of that blistering summer character.

The atmosphere in the upper Trail mellowed at the end of last week, and the territory has dried out from the gully washer of 10 days ago. It would be swell if the worst of summer was now behind us, although the current reprieve could be temporary as everyone knows. The comforting thing about this place is that summer sweltering seldom goes on for more than just a couple weeks.

That big July 20th rain raised havoc with area roads and driveways. With unofficial amounts ranging from 3 to as much as 7 inches, washout ruts and gullies are testing driving skills. We now have some real nature-made speed bumps on many backcountry roads.

I’ve been hearing numerous reports of some humongous snapping turtle observations. They’ve always been here but for some reason they are becoming more brazen.

One has been seen laying its eggs in front of a fellow’s garage door, some distance from the more usual shore-side happening. Meanwhile, a gal was sitting on a dock up along the Sag Lake corridor dangling her feet in the water recently when one snuck up and took a bite of her toes. I guess the bites were minor, but would that ever be a shock! I’m told that there was a stringer of fish tied near by so that would be a good indication of why Mr. Hardshell was hanging around.

Another critter visit came to the west end of Gunflint Lake when a male, female and juvenile white pelican landed and hung out for about an hour. A website search found them to be quite rare in this area. The observer is thinking that they might have been displaced by the many Canadian wildfires in their breeding grounds of Ontario.

Blueberry picking is intensifying throughout the burned out hills of the Ham Lake wildfire. Traveling along the Trail will soon require attention to more than the usual critter crossings. Harvesters will be pulling off and on to the roadway in dozens of locations. This brings on the need for caution, so slow down, and be on the lookout for folks with buckets of blue, as well as a rising of the Blueberry Moon (Miinike-Giiizis).

Many of the summer yellows are showing signs of fading, being replaced by some of the later season golden blooms, namely those starry black-eyed Susans. Meanwhile, lupine spires have gone to the green seedpod stage (perfect time for pulling if you want to rid the invaders).

Adding to the floral color show are the brilliant magenta licks of fireweed. Being an almost fall flower, it seems as though they are coming on early; then again, it’s almost August. Perhaps this might be a prerequisite of an advanced autumn coming. We can only hope so!

With the onset of month eight, I will be looking forward to the first turning of sugar maple leaves. It happens almost like clock work soon after the first week of Auggie as a couple youthful saplings along the Mile O Pine suddenly realize that daylight minutes are on the downslide. When that happens, it will be only a few short weeks until the big splash of color is on!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the rippling blue waters!

Airdate: July 29, 2011

Photo courtesy of Simply Bike via Flickr.

Canoeists fight the wake in the Women's Solo Races

Wildersmith July 22

The spirit of our atmosphere is snarling as the once wonderful summer got ugly hot since our last visit. With the sparse moisture we’ve had since first of the month, that beastly sun boiled our northern earth into tropical misery.

Needless to say, there are some of us wilderness beings that are none too happy. Namely, the moose and me! As an indication of how hot it must be for the critters, I observed some crows along the road with beaks wide open, panting like dogs.

The sudden unbearable heat has caused a big spike in lake water temps. At last check, the water at the Wildermith dock was 74. This is within two degrees of the warmest I recorded in 2010, and we’re barely through one-third of the official summer quarter. If it spikes much more, we may be having a natural fish boil. At the very least, fishermen will be searching at even greater depths for those prized lake trout.

For about 10 days, not a drop of rain had fallen around our neighborhood, that is, until the deluge of this past Wednesday (3 1/3 inches at Wildersmith). Apparently, Mother Nature decided enough is enough for this thirsty territory. Thank goodness, the watershed north of the Laurentian Divide finally got a great dousing. Although it came much faster than we wanted, dwindling lake levels rose and dry river beds are gurgling with what they should be.

I measure the water level each week for the MN DNR. The Gunflint Lake surface has been dropping at an alarming rate, even more so than in 2010 when it was at an unheard-of low level when freeze-up came in December.

Observing over the past three years of measurements, I find that it takes nearly an inch of rain a week to keep the Gunflint Gal stable. It seems the watershed is lucky if it has been able to get that much in a month over the past several years. So this H20 happening was just what the doctor ordered.

Exciting news has come from the Chik-Wauk Museum manager. As many have been anxiously waiting, the hatching announcement “it’s a loon,” was made last week on July 15.

The loon tike has been given the handle of Peat, and has been hiding out under mom and pop’s wing since taking its first splash in the bay. I’m told that the pair resumed turns setting on the nest, and next day its little brother/sister cracked out into the world. Rumor has it the second hatchling is going to be called Re-Peat. At last report, the new family had moved into exploring the sky blue waters.

It was hot on the old lake last Wednesday night, no pun intended, as the annual canoe races took front and center up the Gunflint Trail. The event on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge is believed to be the 35th such happening for the great volunteer fire department and rescue crew fundraiser.

With nearly 100 volunteers from up and down the byway lending a hand, the evening was a huge blast. Thanks go out to Tom and Melissa from over on Tucker Lake for their skilled organization and leadership.

Final tally that will be donated to the GTVFD from the evening’s fund raising endeavor was $14,500. Look for race results to be published in the News Herald next week. Once again, the Gunflint Trail community stands tall and proud, thanks to all who worked and donated prizes and of course, all the racing participants.

And, if readers/listeners haven’t been thanked enough, yours truly would like to congratulate all who opened their hearts and wallets to continue supporting the “little station” that continues “thinking it can!” The wonderful giving, from the now over 1,000 members, is truly an unbelievable tribute to our northland community.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the thought of cool breezes!

Gunflint Trail Canoe Races Official T-Shirts

Katelyn Dold - Women's Eating Contest Winner

Ben Mommer - Men's Eating Contest Winner
Photos by Melissa Anderson

July 20, 2011


-  Victor Bohnen & Jake Bendel
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd  - Alex & Steve Bultera
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  John Juran & Zack Dickhausen
Wilderness Canoe Base



1st -  Evan & Justin Hawley
Panda Drive

2nd -  Will Gillette & Isak Preus
Heston’s Lodge

3rd - Jaret Baker & Frankie Miller
Gunflint Pines Resort


REGULAR PADDLING Adult & Child to 13

 1st - Dave & Will Seaton
Hungary Jack Outfitters

2nd - Clair Sherburn & Victor Bohnen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  Tessa Olson & Abby Prom
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st -  Amy Peterson & Rachel Bohnen
Adventurous Christians

2nd - Tessa Olson & Jessie Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Paige Thornton & CassieVogt
Bearskin Lodge



1st - Kris Schultz & Victor Bohnen
Adventurous Christians

2nd - John Juran & Zac Dickhausen
Wilderness Canoe Base

3rd - Kent Kaiser & John Eloranta
Gunflint Lodge



1st -  Kaitlin & Bob McCloughan
Bearskin Lodge

2nd -  Patty Johnson & Mike Crook

3rd -  Ron Karczewski & Louis Heurvey
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Curtis Blake & Jamie Fisher
Seagull Fishing Camp & Tuscarora

2nd - Sherri Prom & Jake Bendel
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  Jennifer Thomas & Chad Goodale
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Abby Prom & Alex Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Austin & Clair Sheburne
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Rolf & Kari Preus
Heston’s Lodge


BACKWARD PADDLE Adult & Child to 13

1st - Josh Prom & Kris Schultz
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Dave & Will Seaton
HungaryJack Outfitters

3rd - Steve & Nick Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Tessa Olson & Jen Thomas
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Kristin Ostrowski & Jessie Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Katie Vandeboomen & Sherri Prom
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Curtis Blake & Lance Husky
Seagull Creek Fishing Camp & Gunflint Lodge

2nd - Alex & Austin Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Pete Keltz & Carl Hoag
Tuscarora Outfitters & Hungary Jack Lodge


1st Monica & Steve Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd Fred Watson & Susan Alexander
East Bearskin

3rd Patty Johnson & Mike Crook



1st - Maggie Harings & Curtis Blake
Tuscarora Lodge & Seagull Creek Fishing Camp

2nd - Shelby & Daniel Ahrendt
Tuscarora Outfitters

3rd - Jamie Fisher & Aaron Mueller
Tucscrora Lodge & Seagull Creek Fishing Camp



1st - Tessa Olson
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Jessica Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Katie Vandenboomen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Fred Watson
East Bearskin

2nd - Victor Bohnen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - John Eloranta
Gunflint Lodge


Roger Lynn on Flickr

Wild Flowers And Berries Scatter the Forest Floors

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Summer is flying by as we have reached the midpoint of July with the full “half-way moon,” all on this same weekend.
The past seven has been splendid along the Trail with both marvelous warm days and tolerable sleeping nights. A couple of well-deserved showers that amounted to just under an inch in the Wildersmith rain gauge extended comfort concerning wildfire danger. If we can just get the rain gods to continue the offerings, all will be peachy for forest dwellers and visitors.
The fruits of the forest are beginning to bear rewards for early searchers. One fellow has been out hitting his secret strawberry patch and has found enough to begin measuring for that initial batch of jam. Meanwhile, a couple gals have made some calls to their prime blueberry heaven and have come back saying that it is still early, but did not get blanked. From what I’ve observed along the Mile O Pine, it looks as though the wild raspberry crop might be a bit sparse, but the thimbleberries could be quite prolific based on the bloom.
Another of our senses has been tapped over the past week or so with the wild rose bloom. The running for the roses is not only special at Churchill Downs but it is perhaps even sweeter in this northern paradise. Get out and smell the roses!
Talk about moments in paradise: A couple Hungry Jack Lake residents shared another one of those goose bump sequences while kayaking last week. They soon found themselves paddling in concert with a loon on the mirror-smooth surface. Guess the handsome bird swam right between them under clear water for the most part with an occasional pop up for a look-see at its floating mates, before fading away for a little fishing action.
If that wasn’t enough of loon fraternizing for one day, at the far end of the lake, they came upon a loon pair who was going through some early training with two new family additions.
Although such experiences were over quickly, I feel certain that these instances will be frozen in their memory bank forevermore.
I can’t imagine that any Gunflint resident hasn’t had at least one red squirrel experience. Most of them are amusing, but occasionally one will happen that raises one’s ire, as well as blood pressure.
Most will remember the writing a year ago spring of a couple that returned from winter hibernation in warmer climes to find the rodents living in the walls of their cabin. A recent tale of the little varmints comes from over on Tucker Lake where the resident seamstress heard a ruckus in her kitchen.
Investigation found her startled to see one of these red guys/gals sitting on the countertop munching from a bowl of trail mix. Point of entry was found to be via a freshly crafted hole in a window screen.
I’m guessing that critter’s nose could not resist the healthy aroma from that bowl of gorp. It is interesting that after being uninvited, the fluffy-tailed scamp made a quick exit out the same hole from which it had came. Those folks are lucky that they aren’t still chasing it around the house, like has happened many times to yours truly in my wood shop.
One of those days to remember happened for the third annual Gunflint Trail Historical Society fish fry fundraiser this past Monday. Upwards of 150 people enjoyed a splendid day and shore-side meal at Chik-Wauk Museum.
The fine eats were prepared by the staff from Gunflint Lodge. Everyone enjoyed the day’s program as one of our Gunflint treasures, Harriet Taus, shared stories about her pioneer dad and mom, Charlie and Petra Boostrom. A big thanks is extended to all the Gunflint community that helped make it happen!
Next big Gunflint Trail gathering is this coming Wednesday (July 20) for the annual Gunflint Trail Canoe Races. Events open at 4 p.m., races at 6 on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge. Come on out and have some fun in support of our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue crews.
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the rush of summer!

Photo by Crane Farm on Flickr

Wildersmith: Savoring the Natural Sounds of the North

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Here we are, with one week of month seven behind us along the Gunflint Trail.
The past Independence Day holiday weekend was pretty much normal with a day of un-bearable humid heat and followed by two splendid cooler segments.
That really hot day led into an after dark thunder/lightning show at the upper end of the byway. Mother Nature’s booming and cracking proved to be a lot of bark, but not too much bite in terms of rainfall produced. Significant amounts of precip were spotty with only two-tenths of an inch at Wildersmith.
The electrical storm did little damage other than to separate the Trail residents from outside world telephone contact for the better part of three days. Once again, one of the contemporary conveniences that we so much take for granted caused considerable angst for those so dependent. As long as the inconvenience was, we are thankful for the technicians who spent their holiday working to get us back on line!
Folks who relish the subtropical had to be smiling with that first really hot day of the summer in these parts. The conditions were great for the growing forest flora, but for me and the moose, it was pure misery. One day is more than enough!
During my most recent stint of volunteer work at the Chik-Wauk Museum, I discovered what may be the first sampling of an autumn dream. While nosing around the grounds, I found some leaves on a small plant that have turned to fall red/orange already. And, the fruit on their stems was ripening to a bright scarlet.
It turns out, that after some research in a museum plant book, this little shrub proved to be a skunk currant. Regardless of our season being in the hot spectrum, the maturing red fruit and colorful leaves provided a cool outlook for things to come in a few short weeks.
The magnificent Gunflint is truly a sensory place. I’ve been proclaiming its beauty for several weeks through that of the human eye, but have not dwelled on the charm captured by our auditory receptors.
As I recuperate from surgery a couple weeks ago, my sedentary time has found me listening with a little more intensity. I’ve been hearing things that have always been here, but are often taken for granted.
For the most part, in this pristine place, silence is golden. Nevertheless, there is noise of Nature that can be as captivating as the visual.
For instance, how often do we pay attention to the whisper of air moving through a coniferous treetop? The rustle of quaking leaves in a zillion deciduous cousins offers a different shush through the landscape. At the other end of the air current continuum, a roaring eruption from the north/northwest can change a northern lullaby into a booming hard rock concert of waving and thrashing.
Of course there are more to audio offerings when it comes to the thousand-plus lakes in the territory. The extreme of sound bites over our sky-blue waters ranges from almost negligible at the time of a pre-dawn sunrise to deafening violence during one of the many big time blows.
From joyous ripples to crashing rollers, harmony is created in the collision between H20 and our granite shorelines. And, in echoing reverberation, gulps, burps and gurgling create a marvelous response as lake containment lines alter the tone of a symphony in northern waters.
At a time when both wind and water provide background music over the land, a listening ear can be charmed with both solo and choral episodes from forest fauna. We are treated to tweets, chirps, whistles, yodels, screeches and hoots to name but a few…all of which can entertain at any hour of the day or night.
To say that the area is a musical phenom is an understatement. The wilderness is a serine, rhythmic community unto itself and in performance mode continually.
So as more settled sections of America celebrated another birthday with various versions of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” we in unorganized territory had a concert of our own that is ongoing with new compositions ever more.
Hope you had a safe and happy Fourth of July! See you at the big Chik-Wauk shore lunch this coming Monday, 12 noon.
Keep on hangin’ on and savor some tunes of the north!

Photo by J. Pellgen on Flickr

Wildersmith: The Month of the "Half Way," Moon Marks Mid-Summer

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Our northern summer is in full stride now. The month of the “full buck” or “half way” moon (Aabito-Niibino Giizis) signals the beginning of the wind down of 2011.
An exciting holiday weekend is expected along the Trail as America celebrates another Independence Day.
June bade farewell after Mother Nature provided some much needed rain to the parched Gunflint Territory. Although rainfall amounts last week did not match that which was dropped in southern parts of the county, it was nevertheless a blessing in regard to temporarily stemming wildfire danger. At Wildersmith, the rain gauge measured just over eight-tenths of an inch.
With one of the warm months now under our belts, many folks are happy that we escaped some of those miserable hot days. As an example of just how wonderfully cool it has been during month six, the water temp at our Gunflint Lake dock is barely out of the 50s. If we can just get by another 60 without blistering, both the moose and I will be quite satisfied.
Floral displays along the byway are magnificent, with a drift of daisies now infiltrating the roadside buttercups, wild roses, hawkweed and lupine. It’s show time for sure, and a trip out the Trail to view such will be refreshing as a summer rainbow.
Good news comes from the Chik-Wauk loon nesting platform. At this writing, the pair has settled back in after losing their first reproduction effort to an eagle. They have been sitting on the nest for a little over a week. Many interested folks are keeping their fingers crossed for a hatching sometime in the third week of July.
I’m not sure what’s going on in the bug business. The area is experiencing a second coming of those nasty black flies. They are usually done and gone by this time so now we are getting a double whammy of blood-sucking critters.
I talked to a couple local gals recently that were in full agreement that my idea of a good freeze would be right, even if it is only month seven. The black fly resurgence can only be justified if there are more blueberries to be pollinated and I believe that that job has already been done.
The annual North Shore Health Care Foundation barbeque was held this past Sunday evening at Gunflint Lodge. Another scrumptious meal was presented by the Lodge staff. Attendees were entertained by the joyful playing of Loon Lake resident Gerald Thilmany in a splendid lakeside setting.
The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is readying for their annual shore lunch fundraiser Monday, July 11. The fish fry extravaganza, provided by Guide Dennis Todd in concert with the Gunflint Lodge, will be held at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center site beginning at noon.
The Society will be holding their regular monthly meeting following lunch, with a visit from IRRB commissioner Tony Sertich. After his presentation, there will be a time for sharing stories of the Trail. Wannabe members are welcome. Plan a day of it, visit the historical gem at the end of the Trail and get in on some great shore-side food!
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some wilderness magic!

Photo by Amanda Slater on Flickr

Wildersmith: Wet Season and Wildlife Encounters

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Summer solstice has marked a passing of the baton in our northern half of the universe. The Gunflint territory accepted its departing of spring in a rather damp way. Finally, the “spirit of wet” offered up some much needed rain. It’s amazing that the forest is so lush when the past few weeks have been so dry.
With the ascension into “Neebing” (summer in Ojibwe), the trek toward this next season is marked with clusters of seeds clinging to the alder and maples along the Trail. Meanwhile I see that mountain ash trees are suddenly heavily laden with their young fruit, and a golden glow of seasonal yellow flowers is leading the way for any venture up or down the scenic pathway.
The fruits of summer couldn’t have picked a more welcome time to receive Natures’ sprinkling too. One observer tells that the blueberry patches she’s checked are loaded with potential.
Several moose sightings have been brought to my attention of late. In nearly all cases, the observations have been of cows and calves. This is heartening when we keep hearing about the demise in their numbers throughout moose country.
Yours truly caught a glimpse of one mom and baby in the vicinity of Washout Road’s intersection with the Trail last week. And then some Ohio visitors were treated to the sighting of a yearling bull in the east bay at Chik-Wauk Museum. This young fellow was complete with brand-new velvet spikes on his forehead. Now the challenge comes for these youngsters to keep a few strides ahead of the hungry wolves and bears that would gladly do them in.
During this same trip, other members of our wild neighborhood caused another vehicle slowdown on the Trail. This time a momma fox and her four kits were lolly-gagging on the roadway not too far east from Trail Center. The little ones were having a great game of tag as they darted on and off the blacktop.
Twice I came to a complete stop to avoid a squishing incident. It was apparent that the mother had lost control of the mischievous red foursome. It would be a good idea to slow down while passing along this stretch with the hope that these babies get to grow up.
A couple folks down the road shared an interesting experience about one of our many black brunos. It seems that their waterbed had reached the end of its usefulness. Following the usual process of getting most all the water extracted, there was just enough left to make the unit difficult to get out of the house.
Human ingenuity suggested that rather than dragging it through the house, why not open the window, take out the screen and ooze it out that opening? The idea worked to perfection, case closed.
Action to get the old bed bladder away from where it lay outside the window was temporarily forgotten. Next day the lady of the house happened to look out that same window. She was startled to see papa or momma bear had taken a napping position on the discarded waterbed unit, and it must have felt juuuuust right! Thank goodness this was an out of the house experience.
This is another example of one person’s trash being another’s treasure, only with a north woods twist!
During my stint as a volunteer at the Chik-Wauk Museum last week, my neighbors tell that one of those ursine paid a visit to Wildersmith. It was a big one. And no, the bear doesn’t poop in the woods. It did in my yard!
Lastly, for those readers and listeners who don’t live in these parts, I share that some other wilderness beings that can bite are alive and well at this time. I’m talking mosquitoes. They are a part of summertime life for sure, and the Wildersmith two seem to attract them like magnets. In the midst of summer, I’m already yearning for a good freeze to get even with the ornery nippers!
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor this land of sky blue waters!