Wildersmith on the Gunflint Oct. 21, 2009

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I’m back in the saddle again as the old-time western tune by Gene Autry declares. Not really in the saddle, but back at Wildersmith, sitting at the keyboard.

Thanks again to the “woofer” over on Hungry Jack Lake for covering my brief hiatus. The Smiths took a week away from the wilderness to visit kids, grandkids and a few folks from my old stomping grounds in Iowa.
The trip south started in falling snow and ended coming back northward in near spring-like conditions. So we were welcomed with a pleasant trip home on the Trail as opposed to the icy conditions of the weekend before.

The advance of winter was stunted this past weekend, but appears to be re-energizing as we head toward the last week of October. I hope serious happenings hold off a bit longer, as being away for seven days has put me behind on finalization of a few remaining cold season chores. Wonder if this Halloween will be ghostly white like that of 1991?
The deciduous gold in the hills of border country has finally succumbed, and is now layered on the forest floor. A few birch trees are hanging on to their generation of 2009. However, they are in the minority and will soon join a trillion other skeletons lurking over the territory as trick or treat night approaches.
Meanwhile, its tamarack time, and the lush yellow needles are the last to light up our life before crystals of white blanket the northland for good. Several batches are clustered along the Trail standing like byway beacons when Sol is shining down on them. A trip out to see their splendor will be well worth the time.
Speaking more of the welcome home, it is almost a sure bet that some critter from the wild neighborhood will be hanging out along the Mile O’ Pine to greet our return from an extended absence. This time, a handsome warrior from the local wolf pack was spotted not far from our Wildersmith turnoff.
At first sighting in near darkness, the sheer size of the big animal led us to think doe as we approached. Then it stopped in front of the headlights and turned to face us, confirming what it was, big and healthy.
Interestingly enough, it stepped out of the truck’s path and curiously stood looking at this humming metal monster. I stopped after creeping by, and stared into its eyes. Giving a simulated bark, I piqued more of its attention before it made a casual disappearance into the shadows.
Once again, the wild welcome wagon reminded us of how sweet a home in the forest can be.
Thousands know of the Gunflint Trail as a picturesque spectacle. Yet many in the universe aren’t familiar with this wilderness secret. The country will soon become more aware, as the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration recently gave designation to the Trail as a National Scenic Byway. Nancy Seaton of Hungry Jack Outfitters and chairperson of the local Scenic Byway Committee accepted the award in Washington D.C. this past weekend.
The Trail received Minnesota Byway designation in 1999. Since being granted statewide recognition, the local committee has been working long and hard through a rigorous federal application process.
The national designation means that the Trail can now be eligible for federal funds. Future funding grants can be used to help the local committee in its mission to increase awareness of the Trail as a valuable historic and natural resource; assist in preserving the natural environment and historic sites; enhance the quality of life for residents; support sustainable commerce; and, provide nature and history based experiences for both visitors and residents as they travel through the 57-mile community. Congratulations to all who worked to make this happen!
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor both gray and blue days of October in the north woods!

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