Wildersmith February 17

"When I step on a sleigh I shiver with excitement and intrigue thinking about how life must have been in northern pioneer days"

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Last week’s border country weather was on the downside of the yo-yo spin with a few days of minus something. How cold was it? Well, according to lore from yesteryear, this mini-subzero stint was nothing more than a blip on data sheets of decades gone by.

Nevertheless a few mornings of the 20s below at Wildersmith were considerably colder that what it has been in the far north woods of late. Cold is in the feel of the beholder, but I determine it’s cold when those first cold sniffles find fluids frozen instantly, and any nose drips are no longer considered such. It was thus declared cold out here as I trudged about doing morning feed chores.

Similar things were happening to deer on those frosty mornings. Eyelashes and muzzle whiskers were heavy with crystals. Frosty elements were also to be found on the eyebrows of the whiskey jacks when they came close enough for a handout; almost makes one shiver just thinking about it.

Even though it was not bitter, as is often the case, we had a first at our house related to cold. In spite of us humans being snug and comfortable on those recent mornings, an open container of grape tomatoes on the kitchen windowsill didn’t take kindly to sitting by the frosty glass. They were discovered apparently frostbitten, with crinkly skin just like those that get nipped in the fall. Now that’s a sign it’s cold!

I can remember reading in one of local author, Helen Hoover’s books, about items freezing on her windowsill. I had trouble relating to such, but now find that even in 21st century times, she was probably not embellishing her tales of the cold.

Brisk as it was, an energetic gang of cross-country skiers gathered at Bearskin Lodge last Saturday for their annual 400K ski a-thon. With many trails in the North Shore system snowless, the Cook County Volks Ski 400 had to alter plans for the day.

The 15 hardy souls who did brave the nippy conditions were thus subdued into skiing the 70+K throughout the Central Gunflint Trails. I ‘m guessing this was a piece of cake compared to the original challenge. Hopefully next year will bring them more favorable conditions.

I’ve been working on a sawdust-making project at a place down the road.
Early last week I discovered a deer/wolf encounter that had taken place just off the Mile O Pine. As one would expect, after no more than a day there were only hair and blood splotches left. However, for several days in succession I find that the warriors have been returning nightly, apparently scratching and scavenging at every morsel of the remains.

Then last Saturday afternoon, my trip back to work brought me into the presence of one of the culprits. It was probably in search of a midday snack when I wheeled upon the scene. It trotted into the forest about 20 feet from my truck, stopping and turning for a curious observation of this roaring interruption.

We both stared at each other, me through the window glass, and it through the crisp afternoon air. No pun intended, this warrior gave me an icy cold, distant gaze. I wonder if it was wondering what I was wondering at this special moment in time. After what seemed like several minutes, it casually meandered off into the obscurity of the forest, to get back on track with daily survival skills.

More romance of the northland was experienced last week as special friends from Iowa shared the enchantment of a great Okontoe sleigh ride. The beauty of clear skies and a full moon on the breast of ‘old’ fallen snow around Bow Lake could not have been more magnificent!

It’s an occurrence that offers wonderful, ageless reflections of days long ago in this quiet wilderness place. Every time that I step on that sleigh I shiver with excitement and intrigue thinking about how life must have been in northern pioneer days. We are so fortunate to have this awesome opportunity in the Gunflint neighborhood!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the good Gunflint life!

Airdate: February 17, 2012

Photo courtesy of Michael Heisel via Flickr.


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