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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Contributor(s): 
Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a native Iowan re-located to the wilderness of border country at the end of the century, has been writing of happenings in the upper Gunflint territory for going on eight years, first with the local paper, and since December 2008 for WTIP North Shore Community Radio. Fred feels life in the woods is extraordinary, and finds reporting on it to both a reading and listening audience a pleasurable challenge. Since retirement as a high school athletic administrator from Ankeny High School, Ankeny Iowa in 1999, the pace of Fred's life has become less hectic but nevertheless, remains busy in new ways with many volunteer activities along the Trail. Listen at your convenience by subscribing to a podcast.


Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

 


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 8

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 8, 2019    
           
The last chapter of 2019 is unfolding, and the Ojibwe, “freezing over” moon, unquestionably defines the theme. Our last few days along the Gunflint Trail have been cold with temperatures locked below freezing.                                                                                                                                                                        
Although not too unusual, the shivery conditions have crept onto the scene quicker than some had hoped. We commence a long, beautiful time, of stillness in the forest.                                                                                                                                                                  

The earth up this way is now frozen to about four to six inches, and going deeper each day, so it’s now able to support snow. This neighborhood had a thin layer of white as I set to keying this weeks’ scoop and has added more since. At the same time, water on smaller inland bodies has been under a “Zamboni” spell since our last meeting on the radio.                                                                                                                                                       

With exception of the big lakes, ice has skimmed in varying thicknesses, smooth as glass. Barring a heavy dose of snow anytime soon, rough seas and/or a warm-up, hard water should grow to be safe for human usage perhaps by Thanksgiving. I can see water solidarity being a skaters’ delight based on current surface observations.                                                                                                                                                                                   

The onset of “Biboon” (winter in Ojibwe) up the Gunflint has shown dramatic changes. Visitor traffic has suddenly come to a halt as most businesses have closed down for this shoulder season. About the only excitement up or down the Trail are “white knuckle” navigating of Byway slippery spots, and roadside explosions from hosts of “winter welcoming” snow buntings. Oh yes, there’s an occasional critter crossing as well.                                                                                   

Speaking of critters, on a recent trip up to Trails’ end I met up with a dapper cross-fox. I had crossed paths with one up on the Sag Lake Trail this past summer, but it was in motley summer attire. It’s hard telling if this was the same I met earlier. Regardless, this one was outfitted in regal winter fleece, a mixture of black, silver and rust, with a luxurious fluffy tail. Truly a striking example of nature’s wonder!                                                                                                                                                                 

Another report came to me, regarding a border country battle for the attention of the opposite gender. Somewhere up in this neck of the woods two Bull Moose were observed in an antler to antler confrontation. Other than hearing of this happening, I have no word as to a winner being declared.                                                                                                                                                                             

Betting that bears have turned in for the winter, I have commenced opening the deck side feeding station. Within minutes, “wild clamor” must have echoed through the forest on the “moccasin telegraph.” Chickadees, nuthatches, juncos and blue jays swooped in and have been here non-stop ever since.                                                                                                                                                                          
Of course my ever present squirrelly friends sprung out of the trees too. There is frequent mayhem for the mini-red rodents as they nervously try to minimize jaybird access. It looks to be a busy winter at the Wildersmith seed cafeteria, and I’m anxious for return of those whiskey jacks and pine marten cuties.                                                                                                                                                                                   
While nearly every Gunflinter seems to have a fox tale to tell, a fellow recently shared one of his, after reading of the return of my furry red friend.                                                                                              

As the story goes, this guy and his family raise free range chickens. Among them, a rooster is “Chair-chicken of the Board.” It dictates control over most all things chickens do, including hen scratching areas around the yard.                                                                                                                                                     
Mr. Rooster is quite territorial and scurries around keeping others of the flock out of his pecking territory. Further, it gets after several household cats too. Guess the cats fear this feathered bully too.                                                                                                                                                                       
A while back, this ruffian cockerel discovered a fox in his part of the yard. Perhaps mistaking foxy for one of the felines, it decided to assert his jurisdiction by lighting out after this uninvited visitor.                                                                                                                                                                
Now the fox was having none of this, and reversed pursuit on this rascal rooster. The chase was short as this barnyard fowl obviously “bit off more than it could chew.” In fact, it became the “chewee”, He’ll strut and crow his stuff no more, a final lesson learned.                                                                                          

As in many lifetime happenings, for beings of all species, timing is everything. The fox didn’t even have to get into the hen house for its chicken dinner while for the rooster, neither timing nor judgement favored him on what turned out to be a bad feather day.                                                                                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the land of whispering pines!
 

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Fox by David Grinstead

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 1

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 1, 2019
    
 
What happened to October? November has suddenly opened the gates to our next thirty days.  The reality of month eleven finds Mother Nature giving us her final warning, and the warmer season has made its’ final curtain call.                                                                                            

The “gal” in charge of all things natural has been busy checking things off her list. She too has been “getting ready.” Three items of current note include:  golden needles trickling down from those beautiful Tamarak torches, the first skimming of ice on ponds and wetland swamps along the Trail and this weekend, she takes back control of the timepiece. Don’t forget to “fall back” before retiring Saturday night as we go back to “nature’s time.”                                                                                                                                        

Meanwhile, her kin, “old man winter,” dropped another dose of the white stuff on parts of the Trail late last week. Although it was much lighter than the first attempt, it made for winter driving conditions along the Byway. Good planning on my part had winter wheels in position where the rubber meets the road. Since that episode, things have vanished back to normal. Nevertheless, I’m declaring winter official as the temp has remained below freezing in this neighborhood for few days (my self-contrived criteria for such).                                                                                                                                                               

With exception of inland lakes yet to freeze, I’d say the rituals for dealing with character of the next six months are in order. In fact, taking this “getting ready” to the next level, organizational planning is already under way for the first big snow activity up the Trail. Yep, the call is out for volunteers to help administer the annual Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Races. Director Cathy Quinn is hard at work on the event which will be held on January 11th. If residents and others didn’t get their “E” mail volunteer sign-up notice, Cathy needs to hear from you, 387-3352.                                                                                                                                                                               

One day last week, as I was finishing up the snow blade installation, I had one of those eerie feelings I wasn’t alone. This turned out to be no Halloween trick as I puttered around putting tools away.                                                                                                                                                                            
As this feeling dogged me a little, I started looking around. Sure enough, my hunch soon became a reality, and it wasn’t “Sasquatch.” The friendly fox that buddied around with me late last winter came out of the woods and meandered down to see what was going on. I soon confirmed this was definitely the one AWOL, as it was quite familiar with the process to get a free hand-out.                                                                                                                                                               
With my furry red pal right behind me, I trudged down the drive way to my wood shop where treats are kept in the freezer. Mr. Fox has a good memory and was not bashful as it came right up to the door threshold.                                                                                                                                                                     

The hungry critter caught me unprepared for early season hand-outs, but a couple frozen Ciscos seemed like a good offering. I tossed them out on the ground, but after a little sniffing, the Fox kind of turned up its nose.  Guess it may not have been in the mood for frozen fish at this particular moment.                                                                                                                                                                 

I next turned to a bag of old frozen French fries I’d been saving for my Whiskey Jack visitors. Offering a few of these morsels was “just what the Doctor ordered.” Foxy scarfed them down like a hungry teenager at McDonalds. I’ve got to assume it was the greasy aroma and not a need to load up on Carbs. Anyway, after a second helping of FF, it trotted away into obscurity.                                                                                                                                                        

Apparently, it came back later, as next morning the Ciscos were gone as well, or maybe some other craving varmint sniffed them out in the darkness. To assure me he favors my kindness, it was back a couple days later.  So I have the responsibility of “pet-manship” in the cold days ahead.                                                                                                                                                                                      

I don’t know how Halloween went for area ghosts and Goblins, but there was nothing scary around WTIP this past week. There were no tricks, but plenty of treats as new and renewing members showed their continuing loyalty during the “Fearless Radio” autumn support campaign.                                                                                                                              

The Board of Directors, management staff and uncountable volunteers cannot say enough in thanking the wonderful family of WTIP Radio listeners.                                   

Together we did it, made the goal! With all the gracious support, WTIP will continue to bring you the best Community radio has to offer!                                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and some are even better than great!
 
 

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Frosted Trees - Martine Lambrechts.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 25

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October 25, 2019    

 
The downfall of summer, along the Gunflint Trail, is characterized by the waning Ojibwe, “falling leaves” moon. In fact most deciduous tree branches are barren and lurking overhead with an eeriness of pre-Halloween fright. It’s as if those scraggily arms might just reach down and grab you from the landscape.                                                                                                                                                                                

Speaking of these sometimes scary occasions, yours truly had a spooky happening a while back that is fitting to share during the WTIP “Fearless Radio” membership drive. The episode took place after my recent winterization of neighborhood wild fire sprinkler systems.                                                                                                    

In order to complete this task I have to go into the Lake. This requires getting into my wet suit in order to deal with the now frigid lake water. This is all simple enough, and when the job is done the suit is rinsed out and hung up to dry outside my back door. I don’t give the process much thought as the black garment usually takes a couple days to dry.                                                                                                                     

Now if one gives the scene a nonchalant glance, it appears like a headless person lurking there. I’ll often walk by the empty ebony garment several times before it gets dry enough for indoor storage.                                         

The drift of my tale is revealed after my first hanging the suit up a few days ago. My wife summoned me to run an errand out to the wood shop, whereby I dashed out the door at around twilight time. Without giving this any consideration, out I flew, and there was this ominous being sneakily hanging right in front of me.                                                                                                                                  

To say I was taken aback for a moment is an understatement! My heart jumped in fright at the sight of this shadowy being, a “Sasquatch” or “Big Foot” look-alike at the very least. The breathless gasps relaxed as reality regained a grip. It seems laughable now, but it was an uncanny, wilderness moment.                                                                                                                                                                                     

As October fades, the unexpected ghost of winter has departed the territory, for the time being. Since the spotty winter storm of two weekends ago, warmer temps, even including a couple sunny days, have been energizing out here in the wild land as we Gunflinters check off the “getting ready” chores. The list for yours truly is down to less than the fingers on one hand, and among them a cord or so of firewood left to stack in the shed.                                                                                                                                   

Speaking of the storm, a narrow band of about twenty some miles was in the bullseye. Barely a trace accumulated around Tuscarora Outfitters on Round Lake, to upwards of eighteen inches deep in the woods in the mid-Trail snow zone. Closer to Wildersmith, our measurement pales in comparison to the foot piled up just over a couple ridges to the south at my neighbors on Loon Lake. “Mother Nature” and “old man winter” operate in funny ways and on their own terms!                                                                                         

The few days of “Moose Madness” weekend featured some actual moose appearances for a few Trail residents and visitors. The Smith’s were also among those treated to an Alces-alces moment. A young Bull ambled down the Trail in front of us one evening while another couple shared the siting of a big cow near the Trail/Moose Pond Dr. intersection. Yet another was said to have been seen on the South Gunflint Lake road.                                                                                                                                                                              

While I’m not hearing of too much bear activity in this neighborhood, the Smith’s did cross paths with one of the jet black growlers a few days ago.  And, some darkness hour travels have provided some golden/green eyed glimpses from roadside ditches of fox on the prowl.                                                                        

In closing this week, the voice of “Fearless Radio” is screeching for listener support during the days of this fall membership campaign. There is nothing tricky about WTIP as the station is the real thing, offering the best of information and entertainment. To keep this broadcast endeavor alive and well requires sustaining financial commitments from many sources, the most important of which is our listener members.                                                                                                                                                                           
So the hope is all will open their Halloween cache, and treat WTIP by re-upping or joining a new with your autumn assurance. The current drive lasts until noon on Monday, but don’t delay! Call in with your pledge, 387-1070 or toll free @ 1-800-473-9847; or click and pledge at WTIP.org; or stop by the station in person, 1712 West Highway 61.                                                                                                                    

The future of your Community Radio station depends on “we,” and as the song lyrics proclaim, “you plus me, equals “we.” Thanks so much in advance for stepping up!                                                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as starlit heavens meet woods and water.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 4

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October 4, 2019

           
Enter October! Autumn is full speed ahead. The month of the Ojibwe, “falling leaves” moon is right on track with sights and scents of this marvelous time in border country. There are not enough descriptors to fully illustrate the grace of all natural goings-on about us.                                      

An example of such was the case during a recent, out the window observation on a dismal morning. I couldn’t help but notice the profound beauty in the gold and green leaves still attached in the distant tree tops. While “old Sol” was totally redacted, the brightness of the leafy array still glistened as if the sun was beaming through the forest. What a natural means of chasing the gloom away!                                                                                                                                                                     

Aside from colorful tokens taking an earthly position on the landscape, the Wildersmith neighborhood tinkered with freezing temps a few days ago. Daytimes have since cooled, making a compelling case for heat from the wood burning stove. It’s hard to argue, but there is nothing like the warmth from a flickering fire, in an iron box, to warm the soul.                                                               

Hence the seasonal character of wood smoke wafting from chimneys along back country roads harkens with nostalgia and romance of days long ago.                                                                                                                                                                             

Add to this aromatic essence, the charm of a walk in the woods, or going about one’s pre-winter chores and you have a recipe which would be magic if it could be sealed in a bottle. I for one am captured by the scent of “Dagwagin” (fall in Ojibwe). Damp earth and decaying flora mingle to wake up the senses, issuing the call of Nature’s final warm season chapter.                                                                                         
This natural issuance of colder tidings to come was further confirmed last weekend.  My good neighbor and his buddies from metropolis came over to help bring the boat and dock ashore to its winter resting place. I didn’t check the lake water temp, but even in my wet suit, the Gunflint liquid got my attention. Thanks to these steadfast fellows, I can check this item off the “getting ready” list.                                                                                                                                                                                

The same crew spent some time in the territory, searching for our Minnesota “chicken birds.” While the companionship of hunting in this great outdoors was great, the actual shooting was not so good. Only one grouse was taken for all their stomping around.                                                                                      
They did find there is at least one more grouse out there, as a digital shot was taken of one in an unlikely place, where it was dangerous to shoot. See their proof of such in my website column, under the community voices menu at WTIP.org.                                                                                                                                                           

However, their time was well spent in another aspect as they spotted a few moose, two of which were bulls in full head dress. How appropriate with county wide “Moose Madness” just weeks away. So the energy and excitement of hunting was not a total loss.                                                                                                                                                               

Engaging things are still happening at Chik-Wauk. Though the season is winding down toward closing on October 20th, there is plenty to learn and observe with indoor exhibits and especially, out of doors along the hiking trails.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Folks should mark their calendars for Saturday October 19th as a special event is scheduled in the Nature Center on MEA weekend.                                                                                                                 

Travis Novitsky will be there to share “Images and Stories of Adventures under the Night Sky.” Travis is a life-long resident of the north shore of Lake Superior and a citizen of the Grand Portage Anishinabe Nation. A self-taught nature and wildlife photographer, his favorite subject is the night sky. For over twenty years, he’s recorded starry nights. I’m sure, “The sight of stars make him dream”, as the glittering universe did for Vincent-vanGogh.                                                                                                                               

The program will commence at 2:00 pm, under the panoramic starlit dome provided by the University of Minnesota Duluth, with professional commentary and assistance from GTHS volunteer Joel Halvorson. This is another Chik-Wauk program you won’t want to miss!                                   

On one more note from the North Country, and it’s kind of a “believe it, or not” revelation. A neighbor gal down the road reports she found, and picked some blueberries last Sunday. Yes, heading into October, fresh blue gems! How could they have been missed by hungry bears?                                                                                                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with uncountable natural bounty!
 

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Photo by Phyllis Sherman

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 27

Wildersmith on the Gunflint by Fred Smith
September 27, 2019    
           
As I’ve been observing goings-on this time of year, I suddenly came to realize another anniversary of scribing Gunflint happenings has come and gone. It seems unimaginable I’m entering year eighteen of this weekly sharing of news and views, and it’s been a great run!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
This being said, I’m trekking on looking for more to share of upper Gunflint Trail happenings for this great community radio resource.                                                                                                                               

Its’ no surprise this autumnal adventure likens to the nickname of “fall.” Fall is an understatement, as I’ve watched the natural world in the Wildersmith neighborhood since we last met. Routines of September are literally “falling” in showery gusts, and we’re just days into the official season.                                                                                                                                                                                   
Leaves that were sparkling in varying hues, just seven days ago, are falling by my windows, as if they were flakes of December. In concert, yearling needles have disembarked from high in the white pines, blanketing the earth like the first skiff of snow, and scraggily fronds from the white cedar forest are stacking on roof top edges like February ice dams.                                                   

As this time of colorful excitement reigns over the woods, the medium of earthly texture is also one to behold. The next edition is layering up on thousands of previous applications. From a mixture of leafy roadside windrows to the velvet soft carpet of tawny coniferous needles, ground level has cushy allure that is easily over looked with all eyes focused in the tree tops. Oh how we love this time of year!                                                                                                                                                

Meanwhile, the weather outside has been less than frightful. A string of “Indian Summer” day’s cheered folks up after a series of endless, dank segments prevailed for weeks in August and earlier in our month nine. A couple days even turned sticky for the moose and me, but temps have cooled some along the Mile O Pine as we prepare to open October for business.                                                                              

An unusual critter happening was reported just days ago. Whereas housing is an ongoing concern for all beings of creation, one residential resource recently became a multiple use unit over on Hungry Jack Lake.                                                                                                                                     

It’s seems a Loon nesting platform which had been vacated by its intended inhabitants apparently drew the attention of an inquisitive rodent engineer. Lakeside residents were surprised last week to see a Beaver had climbed aboard this floating real estate and found it to meet requirements for a little R & R. The warm sun was quite inviting as the animal spent time re-arranging the digs so it could take a snooze. Guess it spent considerable time enjoying a stopover at this mini island resort. The flat tailed critter found this special place so nice, it made a return visit this past Tuesday.                                                                                                   

Confirmation of this event can be found on my website column at WTIP.org and scrolling down on the Community Voices menu.                                                                                                 

Another mysterious event took place right here at Wildersmith. The beginning of this north woods episode dates back to America’s birthday. Two small decorator flags were put out for the observance of July 4th. The flag sticks were stuck into flower planters where all was beautiful and patriotic for several days.                                                                                                                                                     
Little attention was paid the red, white and blue until a couple weeks’ later, when one flag came up missing. Living many miles off the beaten path this seemed odd, as there are seldom any human visitors down this way who might have had a hand in this larcenous incident, and why would the culprit take a flag? Several searches were conducted around the yard but to no avail and eventually called off.                                                                                                                                 

Then just a week or so ago, the tip of some colorful material was found to be peeking out from a needled patch down toward the lake. Close examination uncovered the missing banner. Except for being a bit faded, it was intact with the support stick. Happy days were here again, and it was replaced from where it had disappeared.                                                                                    

The oddity of this activity was soon to be repeated. Two days after being put back in place, it was gone again. The search resumed, and it did not take long before the missing was found, again.                                                                                                                                                                        
Now the mystery remains as to who is behind these events. Suspected repeat offenders include a squirrel, a crow, a raven or possibly a blue jay, all of whom have been hanging out at various times of late.                                                                                                                                      

Imagine the scene with anyone of my suspects taking off with “old Glory” in a beak, talons or teeth, seems crazy!  Perhaps a “critter cam” is likely to be the next step in closing this wilderness investigation.                                                                                                                                                  
One more note from the “wild neighborhood”, it’s blaze orange time. The quest for grouse and bear is in full swing. Be seen and be safe when trekking in the woods. And speaking of hunting bears, keep in mind bears are hunting too. They’re trying to pack on the pounds, so avoid possible conflicts by not tempting them through careless human behavior.                                                                                                 

In the meantime, For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and mysterious things can happen!
 
 

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Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 13

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by    Fred Smith
September 13, 2019    
 
The Ojibwe, “wild rice” moon will illuminate the northland this weekend as we close down week two of the month. Fall has taken a big step forward along the byway over the past seven.                                                                                                                                                                               
Serious colors are poppin’ like corn in a kettle. With steady changes by the day, it’s a good bet there’ll be plenty of gold in “them thar” Gunflint hills as this scoop hits the air waves. Taking this autumnal advance forward a little more, golden flakes are beginning to descend along the Mile O Pine. Other items of note include some striking scarlet maples in isolated locations and a progression of golden seed cone clusters on the white cedar population.                              

While our seasonal occurrences’ continue to unfold, border country weather has been mostly dismal. Patches of sun and blue have been minimal, giving way to gray heavens and several shower opportunities. Couple the wetness with daytime temps in the fifties to sixty range and we’ve had days to encourage jackets, hats, even gloves and a hint of wood stove smoke.                                                                                                                                                                                    

The cool days of late are not to be taken with too much dismay. Conditions of wildfire danger are holding in the moderate to low levels. As this has not always been the case at this time in recent years, I’m not winterizing the wild fire sprinkler system just yet.  A dry spell could still be in the cards. While every day in the woods is great something positive can still be said for cold gray skies and dark lake waters.                                                                                                                                                                            
Speaking of lake waters, temps are falling to the point where any human entry will take one’s breath away. At our Wildersmith dock the mercury was in the mid-fifties as of last weekend. It’s not too early to caution boaters and paddlers of hypothermic dangers as temps continue the spiral toward hard water. Be safe and take no chances that might endanger yourself or those who would have to rescue.                                                                                     

Stacking firewood is the current chore on my “getting ready for winter” list. The supply of un-split is now done and into the shed while another pile of previously split is awaiting placement, all of which is for winter 2020 and 21. So I will be many times warmed by the time this is put away and before it’s turned into ashes next heating season.                                                                                

Whereas family vacation activity along the Trail has diminished, it’s a swell time of year for the last paddle of the season. There must be many such folks still out in the wilderness based on traffic parked in the various outfitter parking lots. We can look for more visitors in the next few weeks as “leaf peepers” join in a trek up the Trail for a glimpse of our north woods tapestry. It’s a bounty beyond description!                                                                                                                  

Another prize in this magical forest remains open for viewing at end of the Trail. While there was some misinformation floating about, the Chik-Wauk Museum Campus is serenely spectacular and inviting through October 19th, MEA weekend.                                                                               

Nature Center programming has a couple more interesting events on the calendar. This Saturday, the 14th, Peg Robertson will be enlightening attendees on “Bats”, and I don’t mean those used by the Twins. The presentation will begin at 2:00pm.                                                                      

On a closing note, it’s with sadness the Gunflint Community mourns the loss of a good friend and neighbor. Alice Weck, age 82, passed from our midst recently after a courageous battle with difficult health issues. Alice was born in Kansas City, Mo and lived in Ohio before moving to Minnesota and retiring in paradise, with her dear friend Biz at Voyageur Point on Polar Lake in 1998. Alice was active in mid-Trail activities and will be remembered for her ever present and welcoming smile.                                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, full of charm and adventure!
 

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Larry Wooding Photo by Mona Hanson (338x450).jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 6

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
September 6, 2019   
           
It’s not too surprising the way days fly by, a week of month nine is into the books. It seems like a long long time from May to September, but folks are suddenly humming an Equinox tune. Although official autumn is a couple weeks down the road, yours truly believes it’s fair to say, the Gunflint is really into this fall thing.                                                                                                      

Fall is a time for heavy thinking as one can reflect on the mystery of our earthly presence over decades as compared with times for uncountable wild things in our natural world whose span of life endures about four months. The next few weeks spell the end for a good many wild growing things we humans often take for granted. Guess we should pay homage to these beautiful beings one more time by getting out and enjoying them as they pass from our midst with flying colors.                                                                                                                                                            
Yep, we’re mellowing into September. We have thoughts of bear and grouse hunting, peeping at a different rainbow of colors, all the while, waiting for frost covered ditches and a crinkling of ice on the bird bathing dish. It seems month nine couldn’t have come at a better time.                                                                                                                                                                                                

If there was ever a time of peace on earth, it was never more evident for yours truly than during a quiet time on my volunteer day at Chik-Wauk last week.  Looking across the Sag Lake Bay, east of the campus, a whisper of air abruptly sent a patch of reeds and cat tails a swaying gently. Simultaneously the glass like surface was disturbed with a subtle applique’ of ripples. A mini paddling of ducks hidden in the long green stems were spooked into a smattering of splashes only to quiet as the greenery swung back in opposition. An eagle soared on a thermal while the sun pierced thin puffs of heavenly moisture.            

Then the universe around me was captured in a rapture of quiet as “Mother Nature” held her breathe to calm the scene. It was such a simple happening, but so exhilarating at a time when human turmoil torments our every waking hour.                                                                                                                                                                        

Speaking of sweet times, the ninth annual Pie & Ice Cream social at Chik-Wauk last weekend was so extraordinary that some late comers missed the pastry part of the Trail bake-off. At eight slices per pie, nearly fifty pies were not enough to fill every plate for an estimated four hundred visitors.  Nevertheless, ice cream filled the void for several.                                                              

The weatherman smiled on end of the Trail while lively visiting and reminiscing happened to the accompaniment of the North Shore community Swing Band. It was a glorious day in the wilderness. To view a sampling of pie eating satisfaction, see the face of a happy pie eating expert, scroll down to Wildersmith under the Community Voices column on the web at WTIP.org.                                                                                                                                                                               

Thanks to Gunflint Lodge for the ice cream donation, all the pie bakers, our consummate GTHS event organizer, many volunteers, the Band, the Campus staff and of course all the attendees for a splendid day at end of the Trail.  There’ll have to be more pies next year!                                   

A reminder to GTHS members and area visitors, the last membership meeting of the season will be held this coming Monday, September 9th. The gathering is at the Schaap Community Center (mid-Trail fire hall # 1), beginning at 1:30pm. The usual business meeting will be followed by Dan Helmerson, who will be sharing a pictorial of “Canoeing through the Superior National Forest…along the Gunflint Trail… 1917.”  Coffee and conversation will follow as we bid farewell to a great summer of historical Gunflint reflections.                                                                                                                                                  

See you all at “Radio Waves” this weekend!                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the cooling northland!
 

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Chik-Wauk Bay (Gunflint Trail Historical Society)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 30

Month nine commences this weekend under the expectant spell of a “new moon. His lunar highness, better known as the Ojibwe, “wild rice moon” sets us off into the next 30 day segment of Indian summer.

I’m never ceased to be amazed at the beauty of autumn moons, so this new celestial cycle, over the northern landscape, will be one of scintillating promise.           
                  
It’s going to be September alright. The longer days are dwindling fast, lake waters are chilling and morning air has a cool whisper of freshness we’ve not had since April. The days of this past week have been superbly comfortable, even with inclusion of a couple timely showers to keep wildfire danger in check.                                                                                                                             
The journey toward the Equinox along this spectacular Gunflint Trail has gained added momentum as we bid August farewell. Subtle changes have been noted with increased aspen and birch tree gold, while an occasional scarlet blush on a few maples of the wildland forest confirms what’s going on.                                                                                                                                                          
At more earthly levels, trailside grasses are calling it a growing season in several tones of flaxen while rosehips are nearing total crimson in anticipation of the first crystal morning to complete their run in the sun. As one treks through backcountry either on foot or by vehicle, all of these fall rituals are inspiring beyond explanation.     
                                                                                                
Meanwhile critters of the rodent variety are scurrying around the yard collecting a sundry of wild edibles for their winter cache. While I’ve not observed any larger members of the “wild neighborhood”, others are reporting Brunos and moose sightings at select locations.      
                                                         
A friend reported concern for a really young loon he came upon while drowning some finny bait recently. It seems the chick was barely out of the fuzzy stage and parents were not to be seen. Though it appeared healthy, worry would be that this one will not be physically ready to join other young’uns when it’s time to head south. Being an apparent late season hatching, hope is time and temperate conditions will give it a chance.   
                                                                               
It’s a time where we northwoods humans are taking a more serious look at the calendar. “Getting ready for winter” has more intense overtones as allowances for all the chores are beginning to narrow. For some it’s getting the dock in and boat put away and firewood stacked, while for others it’s packing up for the snowbird trip. Ah, so many things to do!                                                                                                                                                                    

While times of snow and cold seem in the distance, the clock is counting down as we become engulfed in the colorful days ahead.         
                                                                                                                                
A final reminder, its pie and ice cream time at Chik-Wauk. The GTHS invites all in the territory to come up and celebrate the Labor Day weekend with a little sweetness on Sunday, September 1st, between 11:00 and 4:00. A donation of $5.00 per serving, along with a beverage is suggested for this society
fundraiser.       
                                                                                                                                       
If listeners have been in attendance before, remember parking is difficult, so carpool if you’re able. Shuttle service will be available from the Sag Lake Landing. Be assured there will be no shortage of Trail made desserts and lively atmosphere.  
                                                                                           
The staff at Chik-Wauk reminds visitors of two upcoming Nature Center programs in September. Please note a change in the schedule for these programs as they are switching to Saturday instead of Sunday.

So on Saturday, the 14th, Peg Robertson will be presenting a program on “Bats,” and on Saturday, the 21st, Chel Anderson will be talking about “Beavers and their place in the Ecosystem.” Mark your calendars for these special events.                                                                                                    
A final great naturalist program is on tap for the MEA weekend in October. More details will be forthcoming as that time nears.        
                                                                                                          
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with the essence of season three, flavoring border country!
 
 

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Monarch Butterfly Photo by David Clode on Unsplash (1).jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 23

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     August 23, 2019    
           
Gunflint territory heads into this last August segment having experienced a mixed bag of weather since our last visit. A touch of summer heat last Saturday was quickly doused with heavy rain and blustery northwesters on Sunday, bringing on an autumn chill. It was cool enough to require moving the vehicle HVAC from AC to heat in less than twenty four hours.                                                                                                                                                           
In regard to the precip’ mentioned, the rain was in the form of a gully washer, this neighborhood had not seen for most of the summer. It amounted to slightly over one and one-third of an inch.  After only puny rainfall efforts over the past few weeks, it was welcomed by the thirsty earth, in spite of doing a washout out job in places on back country roads and driveways.                                                                                                                                                                     
It’s anyone’s guess as to what conditions will be like by the time we roll into September next weekend.                                                                                                                                                           
After a hectic weekend of Trail activities, the area looks to be somewhat calmer this time around. Guess it might be the quiet before the storm as August week four closes down summer ushering in excitement of all things connected with a change of seasons.                           

A wrap up of efforts to support the GTVFD, finds the Canoe Races, the Mid-Trail extravaganza and the Classical Music Concert of last Sunday having amassed over $42,000. What a great Gunflint Community effort, of which all should be proud.                                                                                             

A couple weeks ago, the Labor Day celebration seemed remotely in the distance. In the blink of an eye, it’s time to plan the last summer holiday hurrah.                                                                                           

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society hopes residents and visitors alike will set aside a little time for some end of the Trail hospitality and sweetness. As mentioned in recent Wildersmith columns, the annual Pie & Ice Cream Social is scheduled for September’s first Sunday, of course the 1st  day. Listeners should mark their calendars as the event is always a big day at the Chik-Wauk Museum Campus.                                                                                                                                                                        

Beginning at 11:00 am and running until 4:00, there’ll be live music, a gift shop sale, a book signing, Historical exhibits, re-connecting with friends and neighbors and of course, ice cream and pie. A trip up the Trail for a little pre-fall color will enhance an always special day in the wild country.  Another reminder to Gunflint bakers, Judy Edlund is waiting for your pastry contribution call, 388-4400.                                                                                                                                                                                    

n the meantime, as we herald an end to bug season, a Sunday program at Chik-Walk Nature Center seems appropriate as David Etnier, an acclaimed entomologist will talk about tiny critters in and above our north woods lake waters. The program will begin at 2:00 pm, and will not “bug” you.                                                                                                                                                      

Proclaiming the end of bug season, I do so somewhat with tongue in cheek. Mosquitos have been considerably ornery at sundown as many can attest having been out for the Dark Sky observances last week. Nevertheless, apart from bites and itches, the event was illuminating under the light of the “blueberry moon.” Big thanks to the crew from UMD and GTHS volunteers who made it all possible.                                                                                                                              

With another note on things that fly, activity at the Wildersmith nectar bottle has suddenly diminished to almost zero arrivals in the last week. One would suppose the little hummers might be south bound?                                                                                                                      
Then a fellow asked a recent question in regard to Loons being quite active in late daylight hours at couple locations. I’m thinking the Loon parents might be in the gathering mode, laying out plans for departure in the same direction?  In the case of either avian, it could be another early sign of the season ahead.                                                                                                                                                       
The county’s “biggest blueberry contest” has concluded its seasonal run with confirmation that the harvest was not like last year’s boomer. The blue ribbon winner for 2019 was less than one-half the size/weight of 2018’s champ, though random picker reports still find an occasional prolific patch. Guess it’s kind of like fishing, sometimes you hit ’em and other times you don’t.                                                                                                                                                                                

One berry species having a really good year are those on the Mountain Ash trees. They are just coming on in this neighborhood while I’ve heard report of the Cedar Wax Wings already feasting at other places along the Trail.                                                                                                                        
In closing, excitement was intense last weekend end as more Monarch Butterflies emerged from their cozy chrysalises at the Nature Center. A number of fortunate young people and their parents were on hand to share the opportunity to observe, and then got to tag the orange and black beauties. Most poignant for all in attendance came when they were released into the wild in advance of the ritual migration to Mexico!  A total of seventeen were released with another batch yet to enter the natural world.                                                                                                                                           

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and as the color mosaic intensifies, some, are even better!
 

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