Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 18

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Atmospheric conditions in the upper Gunflint have been tranquil with hints of “old man winter” ceding his hold on us in favor of the “gods of re-birth.

 A couple brief snow showers along the Mile O Pine last weekend and then another zero morning on Monday displayed perhaps the last few frosty gasps for our “man of the north.” However, we should remember, a year ago tomorrow (April 19, 2013), the area received up to a two foot dose of his concluding dying snorts, so we can’t sell him short.

Since our last meeting on the radio, our dwindling snow pack has really taken on that dirty gray metropolitan look.  With temps gradually easing up, the piles of winter accumulation are slinking down. The sound of dripping liquid can be heard at almost every turn, and in some cases it’s more like running water. We’ve got water, water everywhere!

In spite of the shrinking snow banks, there’s still plenty of snow to be melted; ice dams to be thawed; water to gush its way into rivers and lakes; and mud to dry. And, speaking of mud, I wouldn’t be surprised if our season of “muck” extends well into the next north woods segment, “getting ready for winter.”
           
Meanwhile those of us in year around residency are taking things in stride by navigating icy, rutted roads with our vehicles and digging ditches to divert the wild run-off in more acceptable directions. I’ve even heard of a couple who are not venturing to far from the back door until there is firmer ground.

The Mile O Pine has been a quagmire, but is grudgingly drying where the powerful sun is able to peek through the pines. At Wildersmith, we are not quite an island, surrounded by this muddy moat, but close. Four wheeled drive still gets us out with a little slip sliding around at times.

It seems uncertain as to when ice will make its departure from border country lakes. The splendid sunshine of several days last week found snow softening into to small ponds on top of the icy depths, but then re-freezing overnight.

How much affect standing water actually contributes to helping the decay is unknown, but it must be of some consequence. Regardless, this gradual day time thawing, followed by night time re-freezing is good, slowing things, so months of winter build –up doesn’t wash us away.

Whatever the ice exit scenario, everyone would hope the winds will be favorable when the big cakes begin to move about so shoreline damage is minimal. In 2013, yours truly was within minutes of seeing my lake water system succumb to a huge icy flow. Only my heroic action with a pry bar, while balancing on the frozen mass, saved the day! Whatta “Superman,” huh?

Now that winners of pools for March Madness have been decided, folks in these parts are picking date predictions of ice out on their favorite area lake. Yours truly is not revealing my pick at this time. It’s a good bet though our opening day of the Walleye season might find an ice auger being the first implement of choice being dropped into area waters. Last years’ ice out on the Gunflint Lake Gal was May 17th, a few days past the angling opener.

Thoughts come to mind that traversing ice at this time of year merits caution. Let’s not tempt fate!  I heard that one of our game wardens went through the ice on Saganaga recently. Fortunately he was able to save himself with his safety picks, lucky guy!

Just a little reminder to property owners in residence now, we need to be getting those wildfire sprinkler system lines out into the lake ASAP once your ice departs. It would also be well to fire up the pump system as a dry run test at the same time.

Remember 2007, ice was out only a very few days, in many lakes, before the Ham Lake Fire ignited and took off. Ravaged were some seventy-five thousand acres with over one hundred forty upper Gunflint Trail structures destroyed, all of which were not in emergency preparedness. Every structure with a functioning WFSS was saved! Please be ready!

News of new babies will be soon wafting through the forest. Wolf pups and fox kits are within days to a couple weeks of being born, and not far onto May the first “bambi’s  and moose calves will be delivered.
           
In the meantime, black bears are soon to be awaking, if not already. Cubs born in late January and February will be making their first appearance outside the birthing quarters.

We should keep in mind that bears are famished as they emerge hibernation. So beware of the marauding bruno families and take care to avoid tempting them with winter feeders and un-protected garbage receptacles.
           
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the evolving times of change along the Gunflint!

{photo by David Hulme via Flikr}


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