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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.


What's On:

Wildersmith September 30

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It’s official now, Dagwagin (fall) in the north woods. After weeks of anticipation, the glorious season of color is what it is!

Wow, the digital opportunities are nearly beyond belief as the hues of autumn have exploded throughout the territory during the past seven days. The leaf-peeping fans had better not wait much longer as the colored tokens will soon be falling into history.

Last Sunday, a trip to the end of the Trail was nothing short of magnificent. In places, our trek took us through tunnels of golden ambiance with an occasional opening where a splash of scarlet maple was almost blinding in front of a beaming September sun.

Folks who can never get enough of summer are surely saddened, but for others this season of temperate transition can’t help but bring smiles of deep appreciation for the wonderful things that the natural gallery has on exhibit right now.

Our starlit, dreamcatcher nights are gradually giving way to the distant smell of ice, but regardless of one’s seasonal preference, all days are good, and some are even better here along the Gunflint Byway. So why not come along and enjoy?

October is banging at border country doors. Binaake-Giizis, the month of the ‘falling leaves, harvest and hunters’ moon’, is leaving the station. Scarlet and gold will be dripping from the skies as winds sentimentally whisk the tokens of fall into a frenzy that in 31 days will likely be flakes of white. We might as well get on board, have the ticket punched and enjoy a ride through the sky blue north woods yonder.

In spite of being barely into this gorgeous season, our trip mentioned earlier found us encountering a couple flocks of the winter welcome wagon. Yes, those snow buntings have already shown up and were a blur as they winged up in front of the vehicle leading us through paradise found. It makes me wonder if this seemingly early arrival might be an indication of the old man of the north’s premature arrival.

Moose sightings are on the increase after a warm summer found very few of the massive critters out posing for a photo op. I’ve heard of several vehicle stoppages at various places along the byway in the past week.

The moose rut might be starting to wane somewhat according to the calendar, but to hear tell of a visiting moose caller, the juices are still running. Seems this fellow and his spouse were out hiking and came upon a valley opening onto a small lake. For the fun of it, he decided on spewing a few unk’s and what to his wondering ears should he hear, but a rapid response from yon’ hillside.

This brought on a pair of communications from another direction, followed by a battle clacking of antlers. The first responder then uttered another call. That was followed by the noise of him thrashing through the timber.

As the human part of this equation was beginning to wonder where safety could be sought, a fourth call from moosedom echoed from a third direction. With discretion being the better part of valor, the couple made haste from the territory without looking back.

One will never know what the culmination might have been. It’s nice to know however, that there are still at least some big guys out there somewhere, what with the peril facing the Arrowhead herd.

For the record, the raccoon mentioned last week has not yet taken the bait, but the neighborhood chipmunks have surely enjoyed my sweet corn provision. Guess I might try a little bread and PB&J.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor a little bit of northern heaven!

Airdate: September 30, 2011

Photo courtesy of Sholeh via Flickr.


Wildersmith September 23

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Truly, east is east and west is west as old Sol kisses summer goodbye. “Fire & Ice” over the past week has been a prelude to our northland equinox.

Mother Nature snarled at places close by with the raging Pagami Creek wildfire. Then, not too uncharacteristically, gave us a brief preview of things to come with a day of snow showers, sleet and rain on our 14th day of month nine.

Added to the natural turmoil were a couple mornings of frosted rooftops as the morning temp at Wildersmith hit an early season low of 22. So with sudden abruptness, the garden-growing season has come to an end. Tender veggies got hit pretty hard unless covers were thrown over them.

Moisture accumulations have been minimal, but nevertheless welcomed by both worried property owners and fire fighters throughout the county. Gain in containment of the massive, 100,000-acre burn has been slow, but steady as of this writing last Monday evening.

Meanwhile winds in the fire storm calmed, and thankfully, have remained blowing mostly away from the upper end of the Trail. Let’s hope that it stays that way! After the fires in 2005, 2006, and 2007, Gunflinters feel nothing but sympathy for those folks to the south and west who are experiencing the terror that comes with flames, wind and smoke. Everyone is praying for a safe return to normalcy soon!

As the growing season ended, the intensity of migration has stepped up. The hummingbirds have departed border country for winter places and those flying wedges of Canadian honkers have been observed headed in a perpendicular direction to the jet stream.

Lake water temps have tumbled quickly with the first cold blast. At last temperature check from the Wildersmith dock, the mercury had slipped to 63. This is about 10 degrees down from the warmest point of the summer.

Added to water temps’ demise, our Gunflint Lake level on the DNR measuring gauge has dropped below where I can even get a reading. This attests to the seriousness of drought for this region. For a fact, the surface may be matching last year’s when it was lower than longtime residents had ever seen. It makes me wonder if this trend will ever be reversed, as it’s been a decade with such arid conditions at this end of the Trail.

Out of daybreak last Sunday, a regular wintertime visitor returned to the feed trough. One of those nomadic pine martens apparently remembered where it could get a good chicken dinner. It was thin as a rail indicating that a little poultry plate would be just the ticket. I can only wonder where it’s been all summer?

A night later, an unwanted visitor showed up. This appearance featured the biggest raccoon that I have ever seen. It was sniffing around the deck-side seed trays, but got little more than some smells. It looks like I’ll be trying my skills at live trapping the masked bandit for displacement to another locale.

The woods must seem a lonesome place at times to critters of the forest. Last Sunday, a trip down the Mile O Pine, in a cold drizzling rain, brought us upon a lone wolf.

Although looking quite healthy, it appeared to be rather forlorn as it stood looking toward this humming monster of a truck. After checking us out briefly, it ambled off into the trees. I suppose it was hungry and maybe looking for a comrade or the rest of the pack. At times life must be a struggle for those of the wild neighborhood.

Everyone along the Gunflint is probably torn, wishing for both great sunny days in which to celebrate the color show, and yet yearning so badly for a stint of rain and cool to set the fire danger on its ear. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit of both.

Keep on hangin’ on and pray for wildfire containment!

Airdate: September 23, 2011

Photo courtesy of dbang via Flickr.


Wildersmith September 9

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My how time flies! The first week of our month of the wild rice/harvest moon has slipped away.

With it, yours truly is heading off into year 10 of keyboarding upper Trail happenings. I never thought that this weekly exercise would have lasted this long. I can’t thank everyone enough for reading, listening and sharing a story or two, plus the kind and encouraging words.

As the stained glass window of our wilderness world opens wider with each passing day, our fading growing season is giving way to fleeting autumn colors. It would seem that by mid-month it should be a leaf-peeper’s dream.

Not to rush the Dagwagin (Ojibwe for fall) along, I see evidence in places along the Mile O' Pine where a few young birches are dropping leaves. This seems a bit premature, but it could be due to the dry atmosphere that’s in concert with the relentless winds of the past several weeks. Whatever the reason, it’s a sign of change in the air when you see those golden tokens lying on the ground.

I’m no plant expert, but the past growing season appears to have been quite prolific for tree growth. In spite of being parched throughout most of the summer months, new tree growth along the upper byway, especially on post-blow down natural starts and plantings, has been phenomenal. Many Wildersmith trees have added up to as much as three feet since bud-out time.

With bear hunting season commencing, there is at least one bear that has a leg up on its pursuers. With all this trickery of baiting the Bruno folk, I’m told of one such critter that took things into its own paws and beat the stalkers to the punch.

A hopeful hunter arrived in the area recently with bait stashed in the back of a pickup. Failing to thoroughly think strategies through, the vehicle with a likely aromatic kettle of whatever was parked and left overnight.

Obviously, a bear in the neighborhood did think things through. Sensing that this wild gourmet fare was eventually intended for some furry critter, it might as well be put to good use. Getting to the tasty stuff was no problem, such a wonderful opportunity!

Easily breaking into the pickup box, dining must have been pretty rewarding. Mr./Ms. Bear made off like a bandit, probably with a grinning face, once again ‘bearing’ out that you must be on your toes at all times with Mother Nature’s wild neighborhood.

Another bear report comes from the Seagull Lake area where a few folks have experienced ursine encounters recently. One has to hope that temptations are not being fostered by human activities such as bird feeders and unsecured garbage containers. It would be a shame if a bear had to be dispatched because we two-legged critters put it in an unenviable position. Sometimes it’s hard for us to remember that this was Bruno’s territory first.

The fourth annual Taste of the Gunflint and second pie & ice cream feed at Chik-Wauk Museum was a resounding success last Sunday. The Trail was a-buzz with traffic as hundreds of people enjoyed making their way to check out nature’s wonders and sample tempting treats at the four stops.

Not even scattered downpours, gusty winds and cool temperatures could put a damper on the enthusiastic travelers as they rushed to get in on the action at Bearskin Lodge, Trail Center Restaurant, Gunflint Lodge and the Chik-Wauk site.

Thanks go out to all who made the trip, participating business owners and organizers of the pie and ice cream dessert finale at the museum. What a day!

As a reminder, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be meeting this coming Monday, Sept. 12. This is the last meeting of the summer season. Our featured speaker, with some historical Gunflint anecdotes, will be distinguished north woods resident and author/historian John Henricksson. The gathering will be at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center, beginning at 1:30 p.m. All members, wannabes and Gunflint friends are welcome. Per usual, treats and beverages will be served.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sweet forest!

Airdate: September 9, 2011

Photo courtesy of stpaulgirl via Flickr.


Wildersmith September 2

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September has come a-calling in our north woods. Everything about autumn is for real now!

‘Tis the season, for amorous moose, for white tail deer exchanging their copper colored coats to a camouflage shade of cedar bark and for other resident fur-bearing critters to start thickening their wraps as the cooler nights intensify.

Cattails have matured in roadside swamps, purple asters are twinkling in the spotlight of a dawdling summer sun and skies are murmuring with the seasonal beckon of migrations south.

The harvest season is well under way up the Gunflint too, as folks are laying in all types of berry and garden crop preserves. That green thumb gal from over on Loon Lake has been in the pickle-making business for some time, and now I’m told she is making sunshine pickles on her roof.

Guess it takes about four days of consistent rays to make the curing process work and what better place to get the best of what old Sol has to offer than ‘up on the house top.’ Just when I thought that ‘up on the house top’ was only for reindeer, here’s a new twist. Yes, the onset of a September song is resonating in the forest to a number of different tunes.

The past week again saw raucous winds tormenting those that prefer time in marine craft. It seems that we’ve been experiencing a big November-like blow, down Gunflint Lake about every other day.

For a second consecutive week, a couple wilderness adventurers had to seek refuge at the Wildersmith dock when they could no longer face those angry waves. Some visiting folks have been getting a hard lesson in small craft navigation. Bet they’ll think twice next time out!

A trip down the Trail on a recent cool dewy morning dealt up some spectacular crystal observations. No, they were not frost, not just yet, but it sure reminded me of things to come when Jack Frost starts making his fall calls.

Although Halloween is weeks away, spiders have been spinning their webs of intrigue with regularity. Now the cool of our darkness hours is causing these lacy works of art to capture condensing moisture, making them magically visible as the rays of Sol beam through their silky strands.

This is fiber art at its best! A journey along the Byway gallery in the hour right after sunrise is the best time to experience Mother Nature’s silken handiwork.

To get another Taste of the Gunflint don’t forget the Sunday, Sept. 4, trek out this way. In addition to the end of the Trail pie and ice cream stop at the Chik Wauk Museum,
your taste buds can be whetted at Bearskin Lodge, Trail Center Restaurant and the Gunflint Lodge Bistro. Plan to stop by between the hours of 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to say hello and experience their tasty hospitality. Your diet can be resumed after Labor Day!

Friends and neighbors of the late Dr. Catherine (Catie) Lush are invited to gather on Labor Day at 10 a.m. in the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center. Catherine summered on Gunflint Lake for the better part of seven decades, passing away June 13 at the age of 94.

Another of those great Gunflint icons, this long-time area resident will be remembered for her endearing smile, many years of wonderful friendships and service to folks throughout the upper Gunflint territory, when emergency medical treatments were needed and there was no Grand Marais hospital or EMT personnel.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the blush of autumn!

Airdate: September 2, 2011

Photo courtesy of D'Arcy Norman via Flickr.


Wildersmith August 26

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August is waning in the northland. You can feel it in the perpetual whispering through the tall pines. Almost Indian summer days have been the order, mostly sunny and warm with pull-up-the-covers nights.

A couple days have been more than just breezy too. Winds thrashing down Gunflint Lake caused considerable angst for most marine navigators regardless of skill level.

A couple of obviously unassuming urbanites, who had no business in the first place even venturing out onto the rough waters, had a tough trip motoring east up the Gunflint Gal last week. They then found the turnaround for a return trip westward even scarier, as their craft was being tossed about like one of those hot colored fishing bobbers on some 4- to 5-foot rollers.

In a wise effort to avoid an unwanted dip in the lake, they pulled in at a south shore dock a couple places down the way. They were found in a shocked state, wondering if they were headed in the right direction to Gunflint Lodge and how far it was, by yours truly and my good neighbor walking up the Mile O Pine.

Since the Lodge was yet a few miles away, being a good Gunflint Samaritan, my kind neighbor cranked up his car and gave one of the two out of breath wannabe adventurers a ride back to his point of departure. The other member of the party sat down alongside the road with her big dog and waited for the partner to come back with transportation.

Potential tragedy was avoided by this couple, but I can’t imagine for the life of me why anyone in their right mind would tempt fate with Mother Nature causing such a stir?

One of our local berry picking enthusiasts tells me of finding a nice patch of raspberries. In the center of the matted prickly stalks was a nest of some proportion where an animal had apparently been holing up.

She’s guessing, and I’m betting that she’s right, it must have been a spot where br’er bear settled in for a nap and, most likely, easy red berry picking.

With September lurking, northland folks can see the handwriting on the wall. Roadside weeds are a hodgepodge amongst the golden rod and tansy blooms, twisting in the winds, only now unable to untangle themselves. Time is running short for berry picking Brunos, hummingbirds seem to be nervously intolerant of each other at the nectar station and I’ve observed a couple of the non-parental loons partying overhead during the sundown hour. It seems they must be in the early stages of the impending gathering prior to their long trip (probably checking their GPS bearings).

On the domestic side, anxiety is growing for gardeners up this way in regard to green tomatoes that are surely never going to ripen before frost. There is also a sense of ‘just how long do I have left before I should start thinking about winterizing the boat and pulling in the dock.’ Yes, it’s unmistakable, summer is almost gone and for some, breakin’ up, as always, is hard to accept!
But, take heart northlanders, the wonders of autumn are accelerating. The Labor Day holiday is both an ending and a beginning. Our granite mountainsides and rugged valleys will soon be alive with a color show to boggle the mind, and the solitude of crystal blue lakes will capture the momentary reflections of border country in its fall ‘go to meetin’ attire. It’s a time of celebrating the memories of a season past in Technicolor, so come along and enjoy the journey.

Speaking of Labor Day weekend, folks up this way should be marking the calendars for a trip to the end of the Trail on Sunday the fourth. Yup, plan to come up to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center for the second annual pie and ice cream social.

Organizers of the fundraiser will provide a taste of the Gunflint with great pies baked and donated by area residents and businesses.

The sweetness festivities will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Why not make a day of it? Plan to take in the museum, hike the trails and enjoy treats from the best along the Gunflint!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a wilderness in transition!


Wildersmith August 19

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Pre-autumn is evolving steadily throughout the upper Trail territory. New eye-catching observations have added to the items mentioned in last week’s news.

Despite the continuing dryness pattern, the days have been marvelously tolerable in terms of coolness. We even had a couple nights at Wildersmith where the mercury bottomed out in the low 40s.

Now that summer has matured and is nearing the end of her run, folks are beginning to note that it’s almost September. That means it’s time for the season of getting ready for winter, and a sundry of other activities.

Those who have not really been paying attention to the escape of our summer are getting edgy about the supply of firewood being adequate, closing up any household fresh air voids and an assortment of other tasks that will make winter maybe more comfortable and less costly.

Around the woods, critters have long been tending to some of those tasks. Chipmunks continue dashing about the yard with jowls full of winter meal items and their distant kin, those pesky red squirrels, are into their annual digging, stashing and covering a variety of winter menu items all over the yard.

It’s a “berry” good time in the forest as blueberry collectors are having a heyday. This includes the black Bruno population that is also thinking ahead to some long days of slumber. Adding to the fruity mix are wild raspberries and an assemblage of other hanging provisions that don’t necessarily have great human appeal, but are nevertheless quite vital to many in the wild neighborhood.

Most notable among the not-so-edible fruit are the high bush cranberries and the mountain ash. Branches draped with these berries are sagging with what looks to be a bumper crop, and are just beginning to stage their color transition.

A trip to the end of the Trail last weekend provided the initial sampling of “gold in them thar hills.” Several swatches of quaking buttery nuggets on adolescent birch and aspen saplings are growing evidence that change is in the air.

The past week has been terrific for late day dock time. Although clouds have been an issue on a few occasions, when skies have allowed, this is the time for magnificent displays of old Sol as he sinks behind the Canadian hills to our northwest.

Time flies by so quickly. It will be just a matter of days until the setting will be cast back on the American side of the border as the great luminary continues the southerly trek.

The ends of sun time in the northland have been nothing short of spectacular as the big orange ball descends the horizon with a piercing laser reflection on the rippling wine-colored Gunflint waters.

This is not just a Gunflint happening but one that frequents every one of the 1,000-plus lakes in the county; hope everyone is getting out and enjoying just one more aspect of northwoods magic at their special wilderness place.

The August mid-Trail happening was a big hit, and once more the Gunflint folks stepped to the plate and delivered another grand slam for the Trail volunteer rescue and fire fighting gang.

It is reported that over $6,600 was raised in the Saturday afternoon flea market, gift boutique, live auction and quilt raffle. A fun time was had by all and many wonderful items found new homes. Big thanks go out to organizers, those who donated prizes/goods for the various activities and the many attendees who opened their wallets. By the way, that splendid mid-Trail quilters’ 2011 artistry was won by Linda Maschwitz of St. Paul. Congrats to Linda!

Looking back at the two annual summer happenings that combine to support these dedicated emergency folks, a total slightly over $21,100 has been raised. Congratulations to all the Gunflint community and hundreds of other friends, visitors and the like who made it all possible.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sweet wilderness!

Airdate: August 19, 2011


Wildersmith August 12

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The Full Sturgeon Moon marks a split of August in half as we near the end of week two. The calendar still beckons summer in the wilderness after a few more days of sultriness, but for some unexplained reason, the night winds seem to be blowing a light fall tune.

All full moons stand as moments of universal flare, but the Blueberry/Sturgeon Moon is special like other approaching quarterly lunar experiences. It signals passing of summer’s baton to an awaiting Wild Rice Moon in month nine, and the delivery of fall’s multicolored bounty. How exciting!

As I key this week’s news, the territory has settled into another of those dry spells. The temps have cooled to a wonderful pleasantness, yet front after front keeps passing the upper Gunflint with barely a drop of precipitation.

Foolishly, we get excited with this weather forecasting fraud, calling for rain. However, those cover-your-rear, 20-percent predictions just haven’t been cutting it in these parts. I have started to look at the prognostication scheme from an opposite perspective: there is an 80 percent chance that it won’t rain, and I’m almost always right on.

Anyway, all those little creeks that were gurgling with excitement following the big gully washer a few weeks ago are now thirsty rock beds. Meanwhile the surface level here on the Gunflint Gal has resumed its decline after being stabilized for several days after the July 20 deluge.

Declaring it early autumn may seem somewhat premature, but I see signs popping out here and there along the back country roads. Some ground cover has assumed its golden hue and the rose hips are anywhere from orange to deep maroon depending upon their patch locale. On another note, there is moose maple along the Mile O’ Pine already topped with their orange leaves and seed pods of brilliant scarlet.

If these subtle signs aren’t enough, over a dozen late summer blooms have brightened the northern forest in the past 10 days. From birds-foot trefoil to woodland sunflowers, and everything in between, backcountry flora is a menagerie of aurous hues.

There’s been a momma mallard hanging around the Wildersmith dock of late. She has three fluffy paddlers trailing in her wake. Folks down the lake indicated that she started with seven in her raft, but hungry pangs of the wild have depleted her family.

The tiny puffs hardly seem they’d be worth it, but I guess if some hungry critter gets enough of them it might silence the gnawing. I can only guess that the mini-duck dinners went to an eagle, a northern pike, one of those nasty snapping turtles or maybe all three.

Surviving to this point calls for the three remaining to do some fast growing, when I think that the call of nature for a southern flight to open waters is not far off. I find it hard to believe that they develop so rapidly when all they seem to do is float about skimming insects off the water. Guess those bugs must be mighty nutritious.

Residents and visitors are reminded once again of the big mid-Trail happening this weekend (Saturday). Find your way along the Trail to Fire Hall #1 around 1 p.m. for three hours of fun and fundraising. Crammed into the segment are the flea market, gift boutique, live auction and quilt raffle drawing. What better cause can we support than that of our Trail volunteer fire fighting and rescue teams?

By the way, that very firefighting crew we need to support nipped disaster in the bud when a fire broke out near a campsite in the Loon Lake vicinity this past Monday. Thanks to all who responded. It could have been bad as the winds grew vicious later in the same day.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the fading days of summer.

Airdate: August 12, 2011

Photo courtesy of Chauncer via Flickr.


Wildersmith August 5

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2011 in the upper Gunflint Territory is starting to show signs of aging as we compete the first week of August. With six weeks of the official summer season behind us, the newborn critters of spring have now carved out their own notch for living space and are getting more independent of mom’s care with each passing day.

Growing up has to begin with day one, as time for being ready to get a grasp on the perils of the harsh season ahead is limited in border country.

I noticed a couple fawn twins the other day whose backs were now about belly high to their mom as they meandered with her to Trail’s edge near the Seagull Creek Fishing Camp. They had long ears, gawky teenage-looking bodies and a twinkling adolescent look in their eyes while I passed them by. It made me wonder if Mom might have been giving them a little advice on the dangers of road crossing.

Later, up in the bay at Chik-Wauk, I found Peat and Re-Peat, the three-week-old loons, in a training session with either Mom or Pop, practicing their diving skills. The dark gray puff balls were getting right after it, reflecting eons of their genetic make-up.

Under the careful parental eyes they made their plunge and then popped up spitting, sputtering and fluffing their tiny wings in a spray of water. These little ones are late hatchlings, so their summer days have to be packed with intense learning of survival lessons and at the same time, growing their bodies in preparation for the long haul south in just a matter of weeks.

Our season of blue is the center of attention for bears, residents and visitors. Berry picking regulars tell me that they are lush with many green ones yet to ripen. One gal already claims to have over two gallons frozen for safekeeping. All we need now is additional rain to encourage further bluing of the heavenly morsels.

Week after week there is always a big summer event happening somewhere in the county. Up the Trail is no exception, as the annual Mid-Trail fundraiser for the Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue crew is set to happen next Saturday, August 13.

Activities get under way at Fire Hall # 1 along the Trail beginning at 1 p.m.
The usual flea market and gift boutique kick the event off. Then the great live auction commences at 2.

The auction is lively and fun under the leadership of long-time arm-twisting auctioneer, Phil Serrin. Following the auction, the drawing for the beautiful mid-Trail
Quilters’ 2011stitching edition will be held. Tickets are still on sale for that event, so if you haven’t got yours yet, there’s still time.

Over the years thousands of dollars have been raised to benefit our Gunflint Fire/Rescue Volunteers. Gunflint Trailers from end to end as well as area visitors are invited to come, have some fun and show their support.

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be holding its August meeting this coming Monday, the 8th at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center. A short business meeting and museum operations update begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by a video/slide program featuring the life and times of another Gunflint icon, Rolf Skrien. Rolf and many of his family will be in attendance.

All members and wannabes are welcome, treats and drink will be served!

Keep on hangin’, on, and savor the thrills on blueberry hills!

Airdate: August 5, 2011

Photo courtesy of espie via Flickr.


Wildersmith July 29

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With the fifth July weekend at hand, out northland bids farewell to month seven. Looking to August, we wilderness folks are hoping that we’ve seen the last of that blistering summer character.

The atmosphere in the upper Trail mellowed at the end of last week, and the territory has dried out from the gully washer of 10 days ago. It would be swell if the worst of summer was now behind us, although the current reprieve could be temporary as everyone knows. The comforting thing about this place is that summer sweltering seldom goes on for more than just a couple weeks.

That big July 20th rain raised havoc with area roads and driveways. With unofficial amounts ranging from 3 to as much as 7 inches, washout ruts and gullies are testing driving skills. We now have some real nature-made speed bumps on many backcountry roads.

I’ve been hearing numerous reports of some humongous snapping turtle observations. They’ve always been here but for some reason they are becoming more brazen.

One has been seen laying its eggs in front of a fellow’s garage door, some distance from the more usual shore-side happening. Meanwhile, a gal was sitting on a dock up along the Sag Lake corridor dangling her feet in the water recently when one snuck up and took a bite of her toes. I guess the bites were minor, but would that ever be a shock! I’m told that there was a stringer of fish tied near by so that would be a good indication of why Mr. Hardshell was hanging around.

Another critter visit came to the west end of Gunflint Lake when a male, female and juvenile white pelican landed and hung out for about an hour. A website search found them to be quite rare in this area. The observer is thinking that they might have been displaced by the many Canadian wildfires in their breeding grounds of Ontario.

Blueberry picking is intensifying throughout the burned out hills of the Ham Lake wildfire. Traveling along the Trail will soon require attention to more than the usual critter crossings. Harvesters will be pulling off and on to the roadway in dozens of locations. This brings on the need for caution, so slow down, and be on the lookout for folks with buckets of blue, as well as a rising of the Blueberry Moon (Miinike-Giiizis).

Many of the summer yellows are showing signs of fading, being replaced by some of the later season golden blooms, namely those starry black-eyed Susans. Meanwhile, lupine spires have gone to the green seedpod stage (perfect time for pulling if you want to rid the invaders).

Adding to the floral color show are the brilliant magenta licks of fireweed. Being an almost fall flower, it seems as though they are coming on early; then again, it’s almost August. Perhaps this might be a prerequisite of an advanced autumn coming. We can only hope so!

With the onset of month eight, I will be looking forward to the first turning of sugar maple leaves. It happens almost like clock work soon after the first week of Auggie as a couple youthful saplings along the Mile O Pine suddenly realize that daylight minutes are on the downslide. When that happens, it will be only a few short weeks until the big splash of color is on!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the rippling blue waters!

Airdate: July 29, 2011

Photo courtesy of Simply Bike via Flickr.


Wildersmith July 22

The spirit of our atmosphere is snarling as the once wonderful summer got ugly hot since our last visit. With the sparse moisture we’ve had since first of the month, that beastly sun boiled our northern earth into tropical misery.

Needless to say, there are some of us wilderness beings that are none too happy. Namely, the moose and me! As an indication of how hot it must be for the critters, I observed some crows along the road with beaks wide open, panting like dogs.

The sudden unbearable heat has caused a big spike in lake water temps. At last check, the water at the Wildermith dock was 74. This is within two degrees of the warmest I recorded in 2010, and we’re barely through one-third of the official summer quarter. If it spikes much more, we may be having a natural fish boil. At the very least, fishermen will be searching at even greater depths for those prized lake trout.

For about 10 days, not a drop of rain had fallen around our neighborhood, that is, until the deluge of this past Wednesday (3 1/3 inches at Wildersmith). Apparently, Mother Nature decided enough is enough for this thirsty territory. Thank goodness, the watershed north of the Laurentian Divide finally got a great dousing. Although it came much faster than we wanted, dwindling lake levels rose and dry river beds are gurgling with what they should be.

I measure the water level each week for the MN DNR. The Gunflint Lake surface has been dropping at an alarming rate, even more so than in 2010 when it was at an unheard-of low level when freeze-up came in December.

Observing over the past three years of measurements, I find that it takes nearly an inch of rain a week to keep the Gunflint Gal stable. It seems the watershed is lucky if it has been able to get that much in a month over the past several years. So this H20 happening was just what the doctor ordered.

Exciting news has come from the Chik-Wauk Museum manager. As many have been anxiously waiting, the hatching announcement “it’s a loon,” was made last week on July 15.

The loon tike has been given the handle of Peat, and has been hiding out under mom and pop’s wing since taking its first splash in the bay. I’m told that the pair resumed turns setting on the nest, and next day its little brother/sister cracked out into the world. Rumor has it the second hatchling is going to be called Re-Peat. At last report, the new family had moved into exploring the sky blue waters.

It was hot on the old lake last Wednesday night, no pun intended, as the annual canoe races took front and center up the Gunflint Trail. The event on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge is believed to be the 35th such happening for the great volunteer fire department and rescue crew fundraiser.

With nearly 100 volunteers from up and down the byway lending a hand, the evening was a huge blast. Thanks go out to Tom and Melissa from over on Tucker Lake for their skilled organization and leadership.

Final tally that will be donated to the GTVFD from the evening’s fund raising endeavor was $14,500. Look for race results to be published in the News Herald next week. Once again, the Gunflint Trail community stands tall and proud, thanks to all who worked and donated prizes and of course, all the racing participants.

And, if readers/listeners haven’t been thanked enough, yours truly would like to congratulate all who opened their hearts and wallets to continue supporting the “little station” that continues “thinking it can!” The wonderful giving, from the now over 1,000 members, is truly an unbelievable tribute to our northland community.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the thought of cool breezes!

Gunflint Trail Canoe Races Official T-Shirts

Katelyn Dold - Women's Eating Contest Winner

Ben Mommer - Men's Eating Contest Winner
Photos by Melissa Anderson

July 20, 2011


-  Victor Bohnen & Jake Bendel
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd  - Alex & Steve Bultera
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  John Juran & Zack Dickhausen
Wilderness Canoe Base



1st -  Evan & Justin Hawley
Panda Drive

2nd -  Will Gillette & Isak Preus
Heston’s Lodge

3rd - Jaret Baker & Frankie Miller
Gunflint Pines Resort


REGULAR PADDLING Adult & Child to 13

 1st - Dave & Will Seaton
Hungary Jack Outfitters

2nd - Clair Sherburn & Victor Bohnen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  Tessa Olson & Abby Prom
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st -  Amy Peterson & Rachel Bohnen
Adventurous Christians

2nd - Tessa Olson & Jessie Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Paige Thornton & CassieVogt
Bearskin Lodge



1st - Kris Schultz & Victor Bohnen
Adventurous Christians

2nd - John Juran & Zac Dickhausen
Wilderness Canoe Base

3rd - Kent Kaiser & John Eloranta
Gunflint Lodge



1st -  Kaitlin & Bob McCloughan
Bearskin Lodge

2nd -  Patty Johnson & Mike Crook

3rd -  Ron Karczewski & Louis Heurvey
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Curtis Blake & Jamie Fisher
Seagull Fishing Camp & Tuscarora

2nd - Sherri Prom & Jake Bendel
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd -  Jennifer Thomas & Chad Goodale
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Abby Prom & Alex Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Austin & Clair Sheburne
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Rolf & Kari Preus
Heston’s Lodge


BACKWARD PADDLE Adult & Child to 13

1st - Josh Prom & Kris Schultz
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Dave & Will Seaton
HungaryJack Outfitters

3rd - Steve & Nick Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Tessa Olson & Jen Thomas
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Kristin Ostrowski & Jessie Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Katie Vandeboomen & Sherri Prom
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Curtis Blake & Lance Husky
Seagull Creek Fishing Camp & Gunflint Lodge

2nd - Alex & Austin Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Pete Keltz & Carl Hoag
Tuscarora Outfitters & Hungary Jack Lodge


1st Monica & Steve Bultena
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd Fred Watson & Susan Alexander
East Bearskin

3rd Patty Johnson & Mike Crook



1st - Maggie Harings & Curtis Blake
Tuscarora Lodge & Seagull Creek Fishing Camp

2nd - Shelby & Daniel Ahrendt
Tuscarora Outfitters

3rd - Jamie Fisher & Aaron Mueller
Tucscrora Lodge & Seagull Creek Fishing Camp



1st - Tessa Olson
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

2nd - Jessica Montgomery
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - Katie Vandenboomen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters



1st - Fred Watson
East Bearskin

2nd - Victor Bohnen
Voyageur Canoe Outfitters

3rd - John Eloranta
Gunflint Lodge