Our Gunflint wilderness celebrates the Ojibwe, “Great Spirit” moon as this report hits the waves of space. The luminous glow settles over us following a week of pressing cold in border country.
The frostiness has not been intolerable by northwoods standards. However, after the extreme warmth through the end of 2015, 2016 has taken a little getting use too.
As our mercury dipped into the minus 25 to 35 range, conditions for the trout season opener were difficult, to brutal at best. The penetrating misery was enhanced by brisk, bone-chilling northwest winds from last Saturday through Monday’s MLK Day.
The only angler comment I heard was that it’s always great to be here, but not much fun, as catching for this fellow’s party was sluggish. Their weekend found only three finny prizes brought on to the ice, hardly worth frozen fingers and wind bitten cheeks.
My fisherman friend did indicate ice on the recently frozen Gunflint Lake measured about eight inches in this neighborhood. It’s without question we’ve added more crystal since this keyboard exercise was started last Sunday evening. So safe hard water trekking is improved but still merits caution.
There are many stunning scenic places throughout this great country, but I have trouble imagining one finding many to top the majesty of our Sawtooth mountain-tops this time of year. As the Smiths departed for church in Grand Marais this past Sunday, with the temp hovering at 30 below, frosted surroundings up over the ridge above Gunflint Lake soon found us traveling in a land of enchanting hoarfrost.
Against the backdrop of a sunny sky-blue heaven, Jack Frost honored the territory with his best freeze dried creativity. Cruising along the byway, around every curve and over each undulation, we were greeted by peak after peak with a “zillion”, unimaginable, frigid glazed pine spires.
The horizon of this icy needled forest encompassed us in creation's cold radiance. Once more we were immersed in the powerful Gunflint awe! Life can’t be much better!
Caution, moose at play! Nighttime travelers on the Trail from the north Brule River bridge to Bearskin Road and on through the Iron Lake locale report numerous sightings in the past week. One fellow reported seeing five throughout these areas last weekend during his early evening journey.
Further, during our weekly run to Grand Marais, plenty of tracks in the most recent snow addition revealed uncountable areas where moose had been cavorting on the miles long salt lick. On an added note, a number of the critters sited were mentioned to be rather small (perhaps yearlings), but not to be confused as deer. A thought mentioned by one fellow was maybe these mini-versions could have been elk, could this be?
In the vicinity of Gunflint lodge, a fellow reports the sighting of a really big, lone wolf. Then, on a return trip from the village, a similar animal crossed my path on the Trail south of Loon Lake. Either there are two of these big guys around, or my observation might be one in the same. If size counts, in wolf rank and file, this guy must surely be “leader of the pack.”
This area might also be hosting a “big” cat. Since my last scoop, a Trail neighbor announced a large feline, sporting a long tail, was spotted near the Trail intersection with Greenwood Road. Sometimes referenced as catamount, mountain lion, cougar, panther, or puma; they’re not traditional Gunflint wild residents, but have been sighted on occasion as transient visitors hunting deer.
Should anyone happen to see this large “pussy” cat while out in the woods, be sensible and cautiously get to a safe situation. Most cougars are usually intimidated by humans, but if it seems aggressive, put on a threatening act, make yourself look big; wave your arms; shout and scream. By all means, don’t run from the scene as these animals love the chase, and such would be short, versus a human. Any big cat sighting should be documented with the DNR folks ASAP.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! This is the place for “grand”, wintertime scenery!
(photo: ForestWander.com via Wikimedia Commons)