Wildersmith On the Gunflint Sept.16, 2009

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It has been two weeks since September took over and the Gunflint territory is still waiting for some fresh frosty air to greet our morning inhaling. In fact, temps have been some 10 to 15 degrees above normal. So the moose and I have been laying low.

I did commence with some firewood cutting for the winter 2010-2011. Although the area around here is extremely dry, there was enough humidity to bring on perspiring for the first warming phase of this wood-gathering process.
The rain gods have again forsaken this neighborhood of the Gunflint region, while other areas have been drenched during a couple clouded episodes.
It would seem that wildfire danger should be in the extreme category, yet in more fortunate parts, the situation is judged to be only moderate. Hope residents and visitors continue to exercise GOOD judgment with campfire situations.
I don’t really know whether dry conditions are big a factor in the fall color evolution, but I do know that, dry or not, the deciduous gang along the Mile O’ Pine is bursting into splendor. Some maples and aspen have even begun to dispatch their gold and red tokens earthward.
Further, the coniferous cousins are showing yellow to brown needles from the previous year’s growth. It won’t be too much longer that a soft carpet of needles will be joining leaf litter already starting to accumulate under foot.
A few reports on unusual wild critter behavior have come my way. The first is in regard to a downy woodpecker that has an apparent sweet tooth. Some folks down on County Road 50 have one that has become a frequent visitor to their hummingbird feeder. I’m told that the usual insect collector has found a way to get its beak into the tiny nectar orifices and slurp away.
Guess it should be OK that the sweetness not go to waste, as there are few if any of the mini-helicopter-like birds left in the area. I wonder who is following who south, the geese or the hummingbirds.
A few days later, a rather large bear was observed getting some aquatic exercise. It is well known that bears can swim, but we don’t often see them working on their strokes. This one was on an endurance outing, having swum from the Canadian side of Gunflint Lake to the American side.
As is often the case, there were no border patrol officials around to check the ursine citizenship papers, but then again, who would be willing to challenge the entry anyway? Stepping on the rocky shore, it shook off and ambled into the woods.
I’ve shared before about the gourmet fox of the neighborhood. Now I have come across another woodsy being that has expanded consumption beyond the usual nuts and seeds.
There are two fine black cherry trees that reside at the bottom of the Wildersmith driveway. This year they are loaded and ripening fast. In recent days, noises have been coming from the branches and it turns out that it isn’t of the chirping variety. The strange “unck, unck, unck” turns out to be from a bunch of chipmunks.
They have been observed picking one cherry at a time and scampering off with delicate fruit. In another incident, one was seen stuffing its jowls to mump-like proportions before dashing off to winter quarters. These would have made some fine juice for northwoods jelly, but it appears they will be going to a good cause, the wild critter food bank.
In a final wild happening, I’m told that several loons have been seen gathering. This is another call of September. I’m sure loon conversation was about the annual itinerary for the soon-to-be trip south and east.
However, one remains around here as I’m still hearing its nightly conversation. Perhaps it is an adolescent that is still not able to taxi for take-off.
The “Taste of the Gunflint” tour last Saturday was another successful Gunflint community endeavor. A couple hundred visitors from not only around the county and state, but from coast to coast signed in at guest books at area lodges.
Fine fall weather prevailed as folks enjoyed volunteer prepared treats from the “Taste of the Gunflint” cookbook. And much socializing took place with cordial hospitality being the order of things among Gunflint Trail business owners and “Taste” volunteers welcoming tour visitors.
Proceeds from donation jars, local author book sales and Chik Wauk museum gift shop sales go toward continuing fundraising efforts for the museum’s completion. Thanks to all participating businesses, organizing volunteers and visitors for making this a great event.
Before we meet again on the radio, the equinox of autumn will have things in a due east-is-east and west-is-west alignment. The bid farewell to the season of growing will be made and trudge into winter will be welcomed.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season!

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