Wildersmith on the Gunflint Sept. 23, 2009

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Our calendars say it’s fall, but atmospheric conditions continue to reflect summer in September. Mostly sunny skies have provided some delightful days for the unfolding of fall over the last three weeks, a perfect time for leaf-peeping expeditions.

However, there is some trepidation that goes along with the mild conditions that have been the rule. A continuing mini-drought in the north woods is cause for great concern.
Since Aug. 29, rainfall in the Wildersmith neighborhood as amounted to a meager 3/100ths of an inch. There may be areas of the region that have been blessed with a heavier shower or two, but for the most part, the territory is badly parched.

Our environment actually seems drier than early May 2007, when the Ham Lake tragedy was ignited. So it is nerve wracking to say the least, thinking that one carelessly discarded cigarette, an unattended campfire or some lightning could spark another nightmare. Wonder if burning bans shouldn’t be the order?
It would seem prudent that residents of the region should be running their wildfire sprinkler systems every few days to keep the immediate areas around their properties dampened down.
Dust on backcountry roads has covered the paralleling vegetation to an ugly degree. I’m afraid that an extended fall color show might be taking a hit. Leaves are drying and wilting to the last stages of life before their normal time, diminishing their usual colorful quaking.
Since we last met on the airwaves, the final hummingbird has departed the sweetness station above our deck. So dodging their flight patterns while out there is put on hold until next summer.
The tiniest and meanest of the flying critters, however, have been re-energized with our abnormal warmth. Those ornery black flies are thinking that it must be a new year and are bent on torture once again. It doesn’t take long to arouse their ire if one gets into disturbing soil or low brush. Come on Mamma N, we need a freeze!
A night or so ago, our evening dock time featured a Canadian goose landing on the far shores of Gunflint Lake. Enjoyment for us observers was enhanced by some apparent leadership confusion amongst the flock. The approach headed back and forth, around and about before finally sitting down on the wine-colored surface.
The process kind of reminded me of our current congressional situation in D.C., a lot of “honking” and floundering in different directions. To complete my analogy, after floating and squawking along the shore, the honkers lifted off. They soared and swooped a while longer before setting down once again. This time, landing was a bit farther away from their original position.
Darkness finally consumed the daylight and hid them from view, so one can only guess what happened next. I wonder if a new morning found them headed in another direction.
Recent bear calling cards confirm that the blueberry season is definitely over. Signs of nourishment now indicate that red is the berry color of choice. Raspberries and thimbleberries are gone too, so they must be after high bush cranberries or the low-hanging fruit of mountain ash trees.
On a recent trip to town, we followed one of the roly-poly ursine cubs down the road for a short distance. It sure was a cute little teddy in spite of knowing that it could grow up to be an annoyance some day. Then again, they only become vexations when we humans are about and invite alternatives to traditional bear pastimes. Guess maybe we might be considered the real annoyance.
Keep on hangin’ on, appeal to the rain gods, and savor some quick gold in them thar hills.

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