Wildersmith on the Gunflint Oct. 28, 2009

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The northland leaves a typical October and enters the 11th hour of 2009. Ready set go, here is November and before we can blink our eyes, the “full beaver” moon will dance its luminous beams over the wilderness.
 
October bids farewell as snowshoe hares and weasels are almost white and most areas of the territory have been blanketed with snow two or three times. In the last week, cold breezes have been dusting off golden tamarack needles in rapid order, while snow buntings, winter’s welcoming committee, are busy leading traffic up and down the Trail.
 
As November has crept up on the forest, there is a skim of ice on swamp waters along the Trail, and it won’t be too many more days until the smaller lakes will begin to crinkle with whispers about their new winter coat.
 
As I finished some last pre-winter chores, I had to go into the lake retrieving wildfire sprinkler system lines. Believe me, the feeling of Gunflint Lake water is downright cold, with the temperature hovering in the high 30s.
 
There has been any number of dwelling fires through out the county recently, and this end of the Trail was not spared the misery when another tragedy occurred last Thursday night. A one-unit, two-cabin complex at the historic Gunflint Lodge was destroyed in a late night/early morning blaze.
 
Fortunately, the nine occupants residing in the cabins escaped injury as the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department arrived within minutes of the call and poured water on the inferno for several hours. Full cause remains under investigation, but early estimates are that an overheated fireplace chimney may have set things off. A quiet night in terms of wind was a blessing for firefighters as they had little difficulty in keeping the blaze from spreading to adjoining buildings and the nearby forest.
 
Owners Bruce and Sue Kerfoot are thankful that there were no injuries, in addition to being grateful to their staff and firefighters for their skill and preparedness during the emergency. Plans are already under way to rebuild the lost facilities.
 
Another sign of the swiftly warming planet was confirmed again the other day when some folks over on Loon Lake observed a handsome cardinal at their feeder. This is not the first sighting of the red birds; one hung out around Heston’s Lodge a couple winters ago. Usually not ranging this far north, they have also been seen in Grand Marais.
 
It is evident that something other than the beauty of this place is drawing them to more northerly latitudes. So the happiness of getting to see one is tainted by the sadness of knowing that drastic atmospheric happenings are negatively impacting our Mother Earth so quickly for all inhabitants.
 
On a happier note, not everything is being degraded by mankind. In fact the hundreds of members of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society (GTHS) are proudly marching on with the preservation of life gone by in their museum/nature center project. The construction season at the nostalgic Chik Wauk Lodge and along its beautiful trail system has wound down for the year with all planned items being completed.
 
Now, activities continue behind the scenes as artifacts and history are being built into displays for installation when the frost goes out next spring. GTHS museum committee members are full speed ahead with the design folks at Split Rock Studios, whittling down a long checklist before grand opening next July Fourth. Meanwhile, fundraising efforts and plans for operations and staffing continue at a hectic pace.
 
The GTHS will begin a search for the museum/nature center site manager in early January. Interested applicants should be checking the website for application details by year’s end, www.gunflinttrailhistoricalsociety.org.
 
Hoping all have a safe Halloween weekend, keep on hangin’ on and savor the dwindling fall season!

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