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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

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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Grouse Photo by Andy Ellena.JPG

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                                                                                                                                                           

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!


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 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!


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!


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                                                                                                                                                                               

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!


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
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!


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!


BlackBearAndMotherSQ by beingmyself via Flickr.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 9

Wildersmith on the Gunflint
by     Fred Smith
August 9, 2019

The universe has passed the half way point between the solstice and the equinox, and summer days are beginning to wane. Nevertheless, Gunflint happenings continue with zest. Aside from angling, paddling, hiking, swimming and countless other North Country recreation opportunities, several organized events remain before vacation time ends and school days begin.                                                                                                                                                                                              
In advance of itemizing things on the calendar, summer days are edging more toward fall. I see a few immature maples trees have joined Dogbane in the observation of decreasing daylight minutes. Some of these twiggy youngsters are feeling the notion to ease chlorophyll production in favor of autumnal pigments.                                                                                                              

At ground level, more gold has popped out in the name of Black eyed Susan’s. One cannot drive too many places along the Trail or back country roads without catching a glimpse of their bright yellow faces giving you a dark eyed wink. Several other aurous blossomed plants are waiting in the wings, and may debut during the next week.                                                                                                  
Upper Trail weather conditions have been near perfect since our last WTIP gathering, warm, but not hot, with a couple meager rain showers keeping the August dust to a minimum.                       

Following the mid-Trail fundraising celebration of a few days ago, this next week is a buzz with events to keep everyone hopping from place to place.                                                                  

Monday finds the Gunflint Trail Historical Society kicking things off with their August membership meeting.  The site is the Seagull Community Center (fire hall # 3) beginning at 1:30 pm. Following business reports, the program features Richard Fink sharing history of “The Bunn Family of Swanson’s Lodge.” Treats and conversation will follow. All members and friends are invited.                                                                                                                                                                         

The schedule for later in the week gets really hectic. Friday, the 16th, the Dark Sky Caravan arrives at end of the Trail for the first of its two day run.  Programs get under way in the University of Minnesota Duluth Geo Dome at 6:00 pm in the Seagull Community Center, and extend until 10:30 both Friday and Saturday.                                                                                                                                                                  
As darkness consumes the territory, telescopes in the adjacent parking lot will provide visitors with a chance to get up close and personal with the full “blueberry moon” as UMD students provide assistance and commentary on our Trails’ end night sky.                                             

This is a great show and was well received last year. All residents and visitors are invited. It would be a good idea to bring bug dupe and a flash lite (it’s extremely dark when it’s time to find your vehicle at departure time).  The Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be serving beverage and treats too.                                                                                                                                                    

Then on Sunday, folks can get a double dip of activities. At 2:00 pm Dr. Seth Moore, from Grand Portage will be presenting a Sunday program in the Nature Center at Chik-Wauk. Dr. Moore will be sharing his research information on Lake Trout.                                                         

Things move back down the Trail for the 7th annual Gunflint, Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert. Music will ring out into the forest beginning at 4:00pm in Fire Hall #1. A meet and greet the artists reception will follow in the Schaap Community Center. Last minute ticket reservations can be made by contacting Patsy Colemen @ 313-673-6202.                                                           

One final event notice is extended reminding Trail folks and others within listening distance to mark their calendars for the annual Pie & Ice Cream Social put on by the GTHS at Chik-Wauk. Sunday, September 1st is the date to mark as we celebrate the Labor Day weekend. Serving the sweetness of Gunflint Trail pastry artisans begins at 11:00 am and runs until 4:00 pm.                                                                                                                                                                                             

As a special treat, the Northshore Community Swing band will also be playing to sweeten the day even more, and early Holiday shopping can begin at the Chik-Wauk sidewalk sale. Being a Society fundraiser too, a suggested donation of $5 per slice per person is appreciated.                                                                                                                                                                                       

As a reminder to all who usually provide the pies, Coordinator, Judy Edlund would like to hear that your pastry will be appear. Please give her a call at 388-4400 to confirm.                         
Phew, is that a list or what?                                                                                                                                       

In closing, if you didn’t get to the Nature Center last Friday or Saturday, to be in on the Monarch hatching, or observe it on Facebook, you missed a rare, seldom seen natural world happening.                                                                                                                                                                          

Seven chrysalises opened into those orange and black beauties right in their screened incubator.  After drying their wings for four hours, they were happily released into the border country wild.                                                                                                                                                                           
Don’t despair if you missed the first batch, and are interested, there are additional ops to see this magic, as several more egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterflies, are being monitored in the facility. Watch for progress updates on the Chik-Wauk website over the next couple weeks. Those who watched were simply enchanted!                                                                                                    

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, each so incredibly beautiful and naturally comforting!


Photo by vitalishe

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 2

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      August 2, 2019    
August has slipped in the back door just when folks were getting accustomed to July. While some bemoan month eight as summer at its end, there are many days left on the summer calendar. With wild babies yet to grow and flowers still to bloom, the Gunflint territory can look forward to warm season opportunities for a few more weeks.                                               

Notwithstanding all this summertime talk, I’ve detected a snippet of fall in a few places along back country roads. Yes, Dogbane is signaling of change to come with its ground level golden hue. Along with fireweed, these perennial north woods floras seem to always be the first to spill the news. Added to this reveal, a few days ago brisk northwesters and high temps barely into the sixties confirmed my autumnal disclosures with a cool air freshness requiring the closure of windows at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                 

Previous to our brief cool down, the upper Trail had been privy to splendid atmospheric conditions. With about an even split between days of  sun and clouds, temps have been tolerable, while a couple of thunder boomers sandwiched in, coughed up nearly an inch and one half in the Wildersmith neighborhood and likely more in the elevated mid-Trail areas.                                                                                                                                               
A couple of lightning strikes caused some angst for fire and emergency crews. One such set off a small blaze over near Daniels Lake and another struck near a campsite of Girl Scouts in the BWCA. In both situations, after affects resulted in the fire being controlled by FS crews while Search and Rescue folks found the scouts to be unharmed.                                                              

As August is the month of the Ojibwe, “blueberry moon”, reports tell me the harvest of the blue-purple gems is not too prolific in several secret patches. Guess, a lot of bushes just have no fruit, and what berries being found are somewhat small. Not knowing what’s to blame, we’ll tack it on the black fly pollinators and the “rain gods,” both of which did not fulfill their usual responsibility. Nevertheless, pickers are still out along the Trail in the bush gathering what they can.                                                                                                                                                                    

From what I can see, June berries, and wild raspberries look to be sparse as well. However, it appears there will be a bumper crop of mountain ash and thimble berries both of which will be welcomed by the bears.                                                                                                                       

Speaking of harvests in another aspect, the green count for Canoe Races “43” has been tallied. This years’ contribution to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was over $22,000. Adding a little race trivia, over 120 racers participated and just fewer than 400 people were served in the food tent. A job well done by all!                                                                                 

With the paddling races into the history books, attention points to the next Trail event. Wednesday, the 7th is the big day in mid-Trail neighborhood. Activity begins at the mid-day hour with the flea market, Gunflint’s version of “American Pickers.” At the same time, artisan creations will be on sale in the boutique, and this is followed by the, always fun, live auction. The afternoon concludes with the quilt raffle drawing. All County and Trail residents and visitors are invited, it’s always a blast!                                                                                                                                                                                

Excitement in the mid-Trail area will have barely settled down, as eleven days later, on the 18th, the forest will break out in an afternoon of music, with the Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz. Many talented area performers, both returning and new, will strike the first notes at 4:00 pm in Fire Hall #1.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Seating is limited to one hundred fifty, and reservations go fast, so get on the phone to Patsy Coleman @ 313-673-6202 ASAP. Proceeds from both of the above mentioned events go to the GTVFD after expenses.                                                                                                                                             
Last week I mentioned the increased hummingbird activity around Wildersmith. In the days since, the chase for nectar has broken into all out warfare. The combative little gals/guys are in non-stop airborne combat with aerial acrobatics probably unheard of by even the most skilled USAF flyers.                                                                                                                                                                                 

When a stop at the sweetness bottle does occur, the pause is for scarcely a couple seconds. It’s a wonder they can even get a gulp before being driven off. In any event, it’s made for a wild air show, daybreak to darkness.                                                                                                                     

In closing, mark your calendars for August 16 and/or 17. The GTHS in partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth is bringing the Dark Sky Caravan up to end of the Trail once again. Come and celebrate a rising of the “blueberry moon” and the fiftieth anniversary of landing on the moon. More details next week.                                                                                                                

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as our summer song leads into the final stanza.


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 26

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith    July 26, 2019    
It seems hardly believable we can see the end of July as this Gunflint scribing comes your way.  But it’s true, as our next WTIP gathering will be in August.                                                                

While a major share of the Midwest was sweltering in miserable heat over the past week, we in the Northern Riviera dodged a bullet. Although it was warm and sticky at times, we can be thankful the mercury was nowhere near the triple digits.                                                                     

Further appreciation is expressed with another good dose of rain since our last audio meeting. A nice down pour dropped nearly an inch in the Wildersmith neighborhood.                                
The wet occurrence came during a brilliant, but spooky lightning display over Gunflint Lake and the surrounding area, just a short time after the annual canoe races finished the forty-third yearly paddle.                                                                                                                                                                 
It would seem the forest couldn’t have avoided a lightning strike somewhere. To date though, I’ve seen neither smoke nor heard reports of such. However, one can never rule out a sky to ground contact smoldering that might pop up in days ahead. In the meantime, Gunflinter’s will keep their fingers crossed hoping there is no issue.                                                             

Speaking more of the canoe races, the event was another huge success with throngs of people cheering on the racers in a sundry of different race classes. Further, visitors and supporters dug deep to pool funds in support of our firefighters and emergency crews. While contribution dollars are still coming in, there is no final tally to report, but it appears 2019 will be similar to the $20,000 plus of last year.                                                                                                                        

Two items can be confirmed though; number one, the winner of the Wenonah Kayak is Dan DuCharme of Hudson, Wisconsin, and number two, is everyone had a good time! Huge thanks are extended to organizers and their crew of community volunteers on a job well done!          

With August in sight, I’d like to give a shout out for the seventh annual afternoon of the Classical and Jazz Music concert. Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings…and a Little Jazz will be collaborating with a “Sound of Music” in the Gunflint Forest on Sunday August 18 at 4:00 pm. The event will again be held at the Fire Hall #1 (Mid-Trail).                                                                                   
Tickets can be reserved by contacting Patsy Coleman @313-673-6202 or online @ As in past years, all proceeds, after expenses, will go to the GTVFD.
The mid-Trail hoedown fundraiser organizers remind folks, tickets are still being sold for their big raffle on August 7th. The time for this event commences at the noontime hour with the flea market, at Fire Hall # 1 & Schaap Community Center.                                                         
To say it’s busy along the Trail this time of year is pretty much and understatement. Activity at the Chik-Wauk Campus continues. This weeks’ Sunday program at the Nature Center features a concert with Jazz Guitarist Briann Morrison and Vocalist partner Roxanne Bergland. This end of the Trail performance will begin at 2:00 pm and all visitors, friends and neighbors are invited. The concert is free, but goodwill donations are appreciated.                                                                                                                             

I’m hearing bear activity in the mid-Trail area has diminished somewhat. Perhaps it’s due to the coming of the blues, blueberries that is.                                                                                             

The “Biggest Blueberry Contest” is now under way up the Trail. Designated weigh-in sites are posted, and I’m beginning to see empty vehicles parked at the usual spots along the black-top indicating pickers are out there somewhere, buckets in hand.                                                         

There have been no reports of harvest quantity, but the recent rains must have helped. We’ll see what reports come in during the days ahead.                                                                                       

During my volunteer day at the Nature Center last Saturday, I observed a number of excited pickers bring in their prizes to be weighed, many of them youngsters, with blue stained paws, so not all were being weighed.                                                                                                                                
Finally, while bear activity appears to have calmed, arrivals and departures from the hummingbird nectar station at Wildersmith have exploded. The mini birds have been AWOL for long periods so far this summer, but all that is history now as they are tanking up at the rate of a bottle a day. They have even dive bombed me, as I put up the re-fills. Happy days are here again!                                                                                                                                                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as July pulls away from this idyllic location!


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 19

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 19, 2019
Commencing this weeks’ Gunflint scoop finds the weather outside’s been frightful. Hot and humid has quite a few of us thinking of frost, including the moose. The land of natural air conditioning is on the “fritz.”                                                                                                                                       

One positive about the atmospheric conditions was the territory at long last got a dose of rain. Amounts were spotty from the few reports received with the mid-Trail area getting the most. In this Gunflint Lake neighborhood, the Wildersmith gauge gathered just shy of eight tenths of an inch. Then another round dumped a half inch or better just a few days ago.                                                                                                                                                                      

Although we can always use more, it soaked up the forest floor to ease wild fire danger somewhat. One thing it didn’t do was add much to the watershed whereby declining lake levels might be stabilized.                                                                                                                                                                       
So with lake water temps going up, surface levels are still going down. By the way lake water temps here on the Gunflint Gal are hovering around the seventy-two-degree mark.                              

A related rain note comes with a minus sign. The moisture seems to have energized, excited and enraged the mosquito population. Couple this blood-sucking component with the stickiness, and conditions have made for less than human comfort.                                                                     

It’s hard to tell if the rain did the wild berry crops any good. I’ve been getting a few discouraging reports on the blueberry crop, and my observation of June Berries looks about the same.                                                                                                                                                                                   
While thinking of the sweet berry harvest, those thoughts probably seem a little premature. However, my speculations of autumn were awakened a few days ago on a trip up toward end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                                             
Hidden in a few select locations, I observed golden leaves on some juvenile birch trees. It could be the dry conditions are responsible, but maybe not as the daylight minutes have diminished since the solstice, sending a signal to some green things. I’ll get a lot more excited about the autumnal coming when I see Dogbane turning gold along the roadsides.                                                                                                                           

In related flora notes, as the summer calendar completes the one-third segment, early blooms of the invading Hawkweed and Lupine are beginning to fade and rosehips have cast off those rosy-pink petals in a number of places. In the mid to late summer categories, I see Cow Parsnips and Fireweed making initial appearances along with that nasty sweet white clover, so perhaps the juvenile birches know something we don’t                                                                                                                                                                                  
All of us at WTIP are in a recovery mode after a great six day run for the “Radio of 2000 Lakes” summer membership drive. What a sensational showing of love and support for North Shore Community Radio.                                                                                                                                          
The Board of Directors, staff and dozens of volunteers are indeed grateful for the pledges by new and renewing members and business underwriters to keep this radio “phenom” going full speed ahead. Thanks so much!                                                                                                                                        
Joining the WTIP family can still happen, so if anyone listening missed their chance to pledge, it can still be done with a call or a click.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Final results of the forty-third Gunflint Trail canoes races are yet to be revealed as the event completed a paddling extravaganza this past Wednesday. I’ll have details in next weeks’ news.                                                                                                                                                                                
In the meantime, folks along the Gunflint should mark their calendars for the next big Community happening. The annual Mid-Trail flea market, gift boutique and auction will be held on Wednesday, August 7th, at the Schaap Community Center.                                                                                                

I’m told the 2019 quilt edition is another beauty, and tickets are on sale throughout the area. So one and all should get their tickets, you can’t win, if you don’t enter. The drawing for this grand prize will end a day of fun and fundraising for the GTVFD.                                                                            

I just received word from the Nature Center at Chik-Wauk about a natural world exhibit that not many humans get to observe. A live display of Monarch caterpillars in the chrysalis stage of development has been brought in from a milk weed patch in the north woods. It will be interesting to watch their progress toward the day when they can be released as orange & black beauties. Visitors better not delay getting up there to see this marvelous exhibit “Mother Nature” will not wait.                                                                                                                                                                
Sunday programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center resumes this weekend. The Campus welcomes back David Battistel, Gunflint Researcher/Historian from Thunder Bay. David will talk about “LeeBlain…Ghost Town of the Gunflint.” The program will commence at 2:00 pm, all are invited to hear this seldom heard chapter of Gunflint history.                                                                   

A reminder that Tuesday, “Kids Day” at the Nature Center continues 11:00 to 4:00, and Tuesday USFS presentations also happen up at the Museum beginning at 2:00pm.                                                

Also next week, look for new programing on Thursday afternoons, beginning the 25th. Campus visitors can take a trip through the “Nighttime Galaxy” with Joel and Josh in the Nature Center, beginning around the three o’clock hour.                                                                                                        

This is the first event in a pilot of exploratory partnership between the GTHS at Chik-Wauk, the USFS Gunflint Ranger District and the University of Minnesota Duluth. More information will be forth coming.                                                                                                                                                                              
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the buzz of summer takes on many meanings!