Wildersmith April 14

An early spring has made for an active grouse population
An early spring has made for an active grouse population

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Spring is now official along the Gunflint Lake shores. It is declared so because the lake ice departed in the afternoon of April 10.

Several nights of below freezing temperatures had stalled the ice out when many thought it would go right after April Fools’ Day. Then, night before the sinking of the ice, cold and clouds brought a dose of snow. Three quarters of an inch left the wilderness in short-term pristine beauty, including the remaining coat of ice.

As the power of Sol and a brisk northwest wind grew by midday, the snow-covered ice soon melted into afternoon whitecaps. Suddenly, winter became a distant memory as rollers again slapped the shoreline at Wildersmith.

The early dismissal of our annual frozen happening seems that it may have set some kind of modern day record. Lifetime resident Bruce Kerfoot indicates that never before has he seen such a premature meltdown.

As you might recall from an earlier report, the earliest recorded dates for loss of Gunflint Lake ice that I can find are April 15, 1976 and April 18, 1986. Another record of sorts is noted as the first boat of 2010 went up the lake on the morning of April 11. So history continues to be made throughout the byway corridor, on an almost daily basis.

What might be the final wild tracking adventure of the cold season happened last Saturday. With the new fallen snow, my trek down the Mile O’ Pine to drop off some outgoing mail followed the footprints of a single wolf. The critter must have been a big one as tracks were as large as the palm of my hand.

Another wilderness warrior made an up-close appearance a few days earlier when it crossed in front of my truck along the Trail. This one was quite robust and actually stopped on the edge of the pine forest and stared us down while we observed through an open window.  

Although new spring/summer adventures are sure to cross my path, I am saddened to know that the presence of these warriors will be hard to define for the next several months, even though I know they are somewhere about. Maybe they’ll check-in vocally once in awhile, just to stir the forest spirit. That would be a howl!

The mild winter has sure favored our northwoods ‘chicken birds.’ They can be observed at almost every turn of the road. Come fall, folks who are disposed to shooting the rather nonchalant birds should find abundant grouse for the taking.

Day after ice out on Gunflint, I took to heart that Mother Nature has no intent of blessing this area with rain anytime soon. So I donned the wet suit and went into the 30-something water. Purpose of the dip was to locate pump lines for the wildfire sprinkler systems of the neighborhood. 

My whole body, except my hands, was insulated by the high-tech suit. One gets an instant response as to how dangerous this water can be right now by just dipping the hands in, if only for a few seconds. Talk about HURT!

Anyway that job is done and at least three properties are ready if another wildfire catastrophe would endanger the area. Remembering Ham Lake 2007, everyone in the forest hopes that the units never have to be turned on in an emergency again, but prepared we are.

Thanks go out to the U.S. Forest Service for advancing the final step in wildfire prevention. The burning ban set in place throughout the Superior National Forest and into the BWCAW is greatly appreciated by many nervous wilderness dwellers.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a thought…for the coming of the green.


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