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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 July 30

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The “full buck” moon has passed over our northern paradise, and month eight is but days away. Summer is zipping by at an alarming rate. And although we are only six weeks into the official season, there are subtle signs of fall already happening along back country roads.
A couple maple trees along the Mile O’ Pine have noticed the decline of daylight minutes and have commenced with chlorophyll reduction. In another location, a few moose maples are turning orange-red with seedpods of the most beautiful crimson. And lastly, wild rose hips are brilliant scarlet to a deep maroon as they wait on some frosty morning to set themselves for harvest.
Speaking of harvest, the green thumb of Loon Lake tells me that she is already harvesting ripe tomatoes and green beans are coming on. Guess that this should be expected with her expertise and the unusual early start to the northern growing season.
The atmospheric conditions along the Trail continue to be marvelous. Another weekly rain kept the forest lush and wildfire danger in a reduced state. But we woodsy folks are still waiting for enough rains to fill the watershed so that streams start running and lake levels are given an upward boost.
For the first time this summer, something has perturbed the mosquito population.
Without warning hordes of the hungry bloodsuckers erupted in the north woods last weekend. So in spite of the wonderful days, being outside at almost any time of day found folks either swatting furiously, slathered in bug dope or covered in netting. In my opinion, these little stingers are worse than the late spring onslaught of black flies.
Suddenly there is more than kinfolk competition at border country hummingbird oasis. Some folks over on Loon Lake report that bumblebees are swarming about their nectar bottles. Obviously more aggressive than those green hummers, the black and gold buzzers are making it difficult for the dainty birds to spend much time nourishing themselves.
At our Wildersmith drinking station, it has not been as intense from a bee standpoint. A few honey-type bees have been around, but this has not slowed what seems like a million arrivals every day.
I watched with interest recently, when one of the tiny birds dipped its beak 20 times for a slurp of sweet juice. One would wonder how it could avoid a slam to the deck below after gorging itself…but it soon made a mad dash back into the forest. 
Not long ago I was told a bear story that may be the topper of all time. It seems that a Gunflint Lake west end resident was having difficulty with a bear trashing bird feeders. Rather than succumb to the bear and just take the feeders down, a light came on with regard to rigging up a rope/pulley system from deck rail to a nearby tree where the feeder could be cranked out away from the bear’s reach. It must have been along the line of what a camper might do to store a food pack overhead between two trees.
The system was fabricated, thinking that Bruno was now outsmarted. It was not long however, that the resident looked out the window to see the bear perched on the deck railing. Believe it or not, here was the hungry black critter cranking in the feeder paw after paw.
One has to wonder if the bear was somewhere close, watching and learning as the human part of this equation operated his invention, or maybe Mr./Ms. Bear was operating on a higher level of engineering intelligence than we might give credit. And we thought the Hamm’s bear of yesteryear canoeing the Seagull-Sag Lake area was smart.
I’m told that a tap on the window startled the bear and it nearly fell off the deck, catching itself at the last moment by its mighty front claws. Pulling itself back up, a second knock on the window sent it scrambling away.
Another chapter is probably in the offing, as I’m guessing that it’s back to the drawing board in an attempt to prove man superior to beast…we’ll see. Stay tuned. Meanwhile the bear’s current fancy is probably focused on fruits of the forest.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a forest experience.
Airdate: July 30, 2010


Wildersmith July 24

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Once again my thanks go out to that nosey canine over on Hungry Jack Lake for sending everyone the scoop from up the Trail during my absence. Although we have had some hotness of our own, it is nothing compared to what they have one tier of states to the south. I’d swear that someone has moved the equator northward based on the heat and humidity.
The Smith trip to Iowa for a brief visit with family and friends confirmed why we chose this place for retirement. Every state has something special about its character but coming back to the U.S./Canadian border is really cool.
I talked with a fellow recently who travels the world for his occupation; he maintains that of all the places he visits, this is still the most beautiful place in the world…hard to argue.
Folks are having a “berry” merry time in the fields of blue. One can hardly maneuver a curve on the Trail without finding a vehicle abandoned for a day of filling a bucket with those indigo pearls. The Smiths have not been out yet, but a dear gal down the road has supplied us with a couple batches; the quality of such is the best I’ve seen in a few years.
Although the choice is blue, those wild raspberries are quite popular too. So one could easily imagine a confectionary concoction of a blueberry/raspberry pie easily becoming a reality.
Our return is little more than a week old now, and the Trail has experienced some spectacular days. Cool nights and tolerable daytimes have been the order. One good rain soaked the territory with around an inch most places. One can only hope that the pattern continues as July fades toward August, particularly from a cool and wet standpoint.
The lake water temp has made it to 70 off the Wildersmith dock. It is a good thing too, as a windy day late last week turned the Gunflint Gal into raging turmoil.
A canoeing crew happened by during the morning and sure enough, one tipsy craft was swamped by one of those huge rollers. Fortunately the incident occurred not far from shore near our dock. Except for a good soaking of packs and passengers, no harm was done. And after bailing out the canoe and shaking things off, the bouncy trip continued.
Excitement abounds at neighborhood nectar bottles. Arrivals and departures from our feeding station have been nonstop since coming back to the woods. The little green hummers have already consumed two bottles of sweetness (that’s two cups). One has to wonder if they might be tanking it back to a nest for nourishment of the new generation. Whatever the case, they sure suck up a lot of juice in those needle beaks and make a lot of trips to somewhere…bet they’re exhausted by sundown.
Property owners as well as the general public are again reminded of the Septic System Workshop coming up this next Monday and Tuesday. Organizers encourage all to attend in the West End on Monday July 26 at Birch Grove School…4:30 to 7 p.m., or Tuesday July 27 on the Gunflint Trail at Fire Hall #1 (Poplar Lake Town Hall)…9 a.m. to noon. We are beyond the pre-registration deadline…but walk-ins are welcome.
Another Gunflint Trail Canoe Races extravaganza is history, and we know who carried home the grand prize Wenonah Canoe. Big thanks go out to the organizers and all who pitched in to make it happen.
The next Gunflint Community gatherings will be the annual mid-Trail Flea market auction and boutique August 14 at Fire Hall #1, followed by the third annual Taste of the Gunflint. That will happen Saturday, September 11 at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature center site…more details to come.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the fleeting summer in border country.

Airdate: July 23, 2010


Wildersmith July 9

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Cool June passed…and the season of sweating has been added to our time of swatting. July came in hot as a bottle rocket, and the moose and I are none too happy.
And…as if sweating hasn’t been bad enough, flies of several different sizes have been totally obnoxious. Some are known to be biting deep enough to draw red human liquid while other just torture with a nip at any place they can get an opening.
The upper Trail territory got its weekly shower last Thursday. This is the second week in succession where the rains have come on that day. We are grateful as another half inch was added to area lakes. However, many streams are still barely trickling.
The scorching early July mercury readings have caused a spike in lake water temperatures. They are almost to the point of being reasonable for body dipping. Here at Wildersmith, the last thermometer check showed 68.
The month of the full “buck moon” has brought on the beginnings of berry harvest time. Both blue and raspberries are coming on fast, and blue-fingered zealots, especially, have taken to their favorite patches along the upper byway.
Threatening clouds and off and on heavy downpours did not dampen the Fourth of July celebration at the end of the Trail on Saganaga Bay. With the big top pitched and canopies protecting various displays, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society unveiled the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. 
An estimated crowd of 350 was on hand as a program of tributes and thanks was graciously extended. Enthusiasm was exuberant as featured speakers Superior National Forest Supervisor Jim Sanders and Gunflint District Ranger Dennis Neitzke shared thoughts on the marvelous effort put forth by the historical society of our Gunflint community.
Especially poignant was the fact that several kin from Chik-Wauk Resort’s first family of owners, the Nunstedts, were present. In addition, representatives of the last private owners, Ralph and Bea Griffis, were on hand to share in the festivities…commemorating the rebirth of this historic place in the wilderness.
Attendees got a chance to reminisce about connections with Chik-Wauk’s magic of days gone by…while they marveled at the splendid restoration and story-telling exhibits.
Thanks go out to everyone in the Society that helped in organization of the event, from the splendid tent raisers to the great parking crew and right on to the gals who served refreshments. It’s surely a day that will go down in history!
Barely able to catch a breath following the museum/nature center opening, the Gunflint community is gearing up for the next extravaganza. The annual Gunflint, Seagull and Saganaga property owners Canoe Race fundraiser is but two weeks away.
Although the organizational wheels have long been turning for our July water happening, things are beginning to really intensify. It’s set for Wednesday, July 21in the late afternoon. As has been the case for many years, the paddling gala takes place on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge.
Remember, this is one of two major fundraisers along the Trail for our Volunteer Fire Department, and you can purchase raffle tickets. They are on sale at several locations along the Trail as well as the night of the event. There are dozens of great donated prizes and, of course, the grand Wenonah Canoe.
On a final note, upper Trail residents are alerted to a workshop presented by the Cook County Coalition of Lake Associations, the county Planning & Zoning Office and the Tofte/Schroeder Sanitary Sewer District. The workshop will provide information about proper care and maintenance of private sub-surface sewage treatment systems, as well as the proposed new standards.
All property owners are invited to attend at either of two sites: July 26 in the west end at Birch Grove School (4:30 to 7 p.m.) or up here in the woods July 27 at the Fire Hall on Poplar Lake (Gunflint Fire Hall # 1) from 9 a.m. to noon. Pre-registration is requested by July 14. For registration forms call Biz Clark at 388-0115 or email to
Keep on hangin’on, and savor a trip along the Trail.
Airdate: July 9, 2010


Wildersmith July 2

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And we’re off…into the second half of 2010. June slipped away just as quickly here in the wilderness as it does in the bustling…semi-civilized…urban clutches.
Atmospheric conditions in the upper Trail remained rather tranquil over the past seven days. Temps were moderately cool and spotty showers drenched some areas… while others barely dampened rain gauge bottoms.
Beauty along the byway intensified as drifts of daisies pushed their way into the furrows of golden blooms. And…although fall is a ways off…the fluorescence of orange hawkweed reminds one of autumn shades to come.
As of the full strawberry moon of this past weekend…I’m observing that the hummingbirds have returned. With new parenthood under way, they are attacking the sweet juice station with increased frequency…so once again…the airways are busy at Wildersmith International.
The saga of cabin-infiltrating squirrels on the south shore of Gunflint Lake continues. Latest report is that attempts are underway to live trap the frisky critters. When corralled they will be hauled away to some distant locale and released. Makes me wonder if they might become pests for another resident, or will they beat the releasers back home?
A fine turnout came to another North Shore Health Care Foundation barbeque last Sunday evening. The annual feed at Gunflint Lodge packed the house to overflowing as 70 foundation supporters dined on the usual smoked ribs, chicken and salmon along with all the trimmin’s. The diners were serenaded by the sweet music of Loon Lake’s Gerald Thilmany. Proceeds from the event go to the organization’s growing endowment fund. Thanks to all who attended.
The June meeting for the Gunflint Trail Historical Society was held on the grounds of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center last Monday. A large gathering of Society members were given a sneak preview of the new facility. Along with the tours of the exhibits and trails, members were also treated to a fine shore lunch. A crisp north wind reminded folks about the pleasure of being lakeside in border country. What a splendid day! 
The coming weekend is loaded with county Independence Day celebrations, none of which is any bigger than the long-awaited public opening of Chik-Wauk as an end of the Trail destination.
Located on Moose Pond Drive (Cook County #81) near the end of the Trail…area folks and visitors can make a day of it by coming early…hiking the new trail system (10 a.m.)…bringing a picnic lunch to have on the grounds (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.)…attending the grand opening program (at 1 p.m.)…being in on door prize drawings…watching as the winner is drawn for the famous Chik-Wauk quilt…being a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony…touring the new museum facility and getting in on some afternoon refreshments. It should be a great day!
Those planning to attend should be aware of signs along the Trail with directions for parking and shuttle service to the site. Parking on the immediate Chik-Wauk grounds is limited and restricted. Check the website……the Chik-Wauk Blog…or stay tuned to WTIP for more journey details…car pooling is recommended even to the special parking lots throughout the end of the Trail area.
Following the opening day festivities…the facility will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 17 (MEA weekend). There is an admission fee. Gunflint Trail Historical Society members and families are admitted free (GTHS memberships can be renewed/purchased at the site).
Then after all the daytime activities up at the end of the Trail…there is still time to hit the many fireworks celebrations. Remember the forest is still dry and vulnerable in many places…so have a safe and sane Fourth of July.
Keep on hangin’ on…and savor this special time along the Gunflint!

Airdate: July 2, 2010


Wildersmith June 25

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What a week for the northland. The Solstice sends us off into summer…and we celebrate the full strawberry moon.
The Gunflint weather has been mostly nice…not too hot…with a couple rain attempts that made for some lasting puddles and increased creek trickles. The first real thunderstorm of the season skulked about the upper Trail last Thursday (June 17t). Some zips of lightning zapped through the hillsides to the north and west and several thunder boomers echoed across area lakes.
At this point, I have heard of no strikes being reported, but as we all know it might be several days before a strike could evolve into flames. Let’s hope that all those charges from heaven grounded away from vulnerable fuels. And thank goodness we were spared the damaging winds that blasted other parts of the state.
Days around the solstice can be just delightful, especially at sunrise and sunset. Recent clear skies as the sun ascends from and descends over the Canadian horizon are capturing the visual senses per usual. There aren’t enough descriptors to fully articulate this northern wonder…you just have to be here.
And if there isn’t enough color in those arrivals and departures of Sol, how about the golden blooms that line the byway? The yellow blossoms brighten the near 60-mile trek from beginning to end like billions of earthbound starlets waving in the breeze. What a sparkling time of year. Remember to take a little time and enjoy the view.
Thousands of squirrels continue to pester many Trail residents. Some folks down the road report that during their winter absence, one of the rodent families opened a new entrance into their cabin.
This is not a new occurrence, as it probably happens more frequently than we would like to admit. In fact, their story harkens back to my experience with squirrels in the HVAC system of my truck a few years back. However, it’s a first for these Gunflint Lake residents who usually have experiences with mice.
The dilemma is how to rid this clan from crawling between the walls of the home. A discussion around the table with friends the other night offered minimal solutions besides calling in a professional exterminator. Yet a couple ideas seemed worth exploring after smoke and dynamite were ruled out.
One suggestion was to put some of those fabric softening sheets down through the hole in the side of the cabin. The fragrant smell did not set well with the little varmints and five of the half dozen sheets were promptly carried right back out by the unhappy visitors.
Since that effort was unsuccessful, the idea of using mothballs came to the front. The thought of fumigating the unwelcomed with that familiar closet scent of yesteryear would seem to hold more promise. I am told that the hole is filled with moth balls and screening has been placed over the entry hole.
Airdate: June 25, 2010


Wildersmith June 18

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The Gunflint territory was blessed with a bit more moisture since we last met on the radio. Although amounts varied from mid-trail to the end, another half inch or so was welcomed in most places by the dry forest floor.
Most days of the past week have been cloudy and temperatures marvelously cool. The moose and I are smiling, knowing that we have escaped one more week of the usual warm, sultry weather.
The northland will celebrate the calendar turn to summer in a few days with old Sol reaching his pinnacle in the northern hemisphere climb. So this last weekend of spring succumbs to the solstice of summer. We will soon see the minutes of daylight start to trickle away as folks begin squeezing as much as they can out of sunrise to sunset.
Looner activity after dark along the shores of Gunflint Lake in the Wildersmith neighborhood has been quite vociferous in the past few evenings. The magic of these wondrous birds captivates one’s imagination with regard to what the actual conversation is all about.
Several folks have mentioned… with wonder… what has happened to the hummingbirds. Most little red feeding stations have been abandoned in recent days except for an infrequent arrival. It would be my best guess that they are in the nesting mode. However, I still wonder why they don’t need a sweet drink during this time of bringing new members into the world.
Some friends report an extremely large patch of moccasin flowers found in an undisclosed location. They said there must be at least a hundred. The shade of the blooms seem to be a paler pink than usual, but they are nevertheless a splendid view. It makes me wonder if the subdued color could be due to the dry conditions of the past months.
I received an answer to my question about the blueberry crop in last week’s column. A fellow in the mid-trail area reports that he has already found berries on the bush in his neighborhood. Of course they are in the unripened stage, but with the recent rains, the picking might be early in 2010. Pray for more heavenly liquid and fear not…the blues will be coming.
In my travels along the Trail last week, I came upon a handsome bull moose. The big fellow was in complete summer attire, including a head dress of the most beautiful dark velvet. Then a few days later, during a passing of Swamper Lake, my wife and I got to see a moose practicing its front crawl strokes as it headed to the far shore. This was a first-time observance of a moose swimming.
I was happy to read about recent DNR reports being more positive concerning the moose numbers decline. The topic of herd numbers slumping has been of research interest for the past decade. Hopefully investigators are accurate and the downward trend might be reversing…guess time will tell.
Due to summer flower planting at Wildersmith, I had to relocate a feeding station for the local squirrel clan. The feeder was located just above a hanging pot which became a prime site for both finding and burying sunflower seeds by the pesky rodents. Thus the plants of the container were under continual excavation.
Who would have thought that moving the feed unit could cause such amazing confusion for the little red beings, even though it was only shifted a few feet away from the previous spot? The tiny critters came and sat at the old site…looking around and chattering “what for” about the goings-on with their lunch box.
It seemed to take several hours before they figured out to just move on down the deck rail for their usual treat. Talk about being conditioned! The episode was quite amusing.
Time is growing close for the annual North Shore Health Care Foundation Barbecue fundraiser. The date is Sunday, June 27 at Gunflint Lodge…BBQ buffet is open from 5 to 8 pm. Everyone is invited and reservations can be made by calling the foundation office at 387-9076. Proceeds go to the Foundation Endowment Fund.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a trip through paradise.


Wildersmith June 10

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Week one of June saw a significant turnabout in upper Gunflint  Trail weather. The sultry end to May gave way to some glorious cool days, and territory residents even got a smidgen of rain during the period…little under a half inch at Wildersmith.
There are more blooms to brag about.  Should frequencies of rain increase, there could be a bumper crop of wild strawberries, and the same could hold true for raspberries as I see what must be a billion blossoms along our Mile O’ Pine.
It’s a bit early to pass judgment on the blueberry potential. With the thousands of acres left barren by the Ham Lake fire, every one knows that plants of the blue have taken over just about every spot on the sunny hillsides.  We just need abundant moisture to ensure plenty of blueberry hills.
And believe it or not, I observed some domestic perennials in flower down the road. The northern ritual for peonies is about three weeks early as are the lilacs in the Wildersmith yard. Both may have been shivering, however.
Several next generation wild critters have been making candid appearances. Yes, many of the newborn are out and about.  I have a report of twin moose calves being seen along the Trail, and I came upon a pair of gawky yearlings in the middle of the black top in a curvy stretch along the Cross River last Saturday morning.  Then a momma grouse was seen strutting across the Mile O’ Pine with a line of puffballs strolling not far behind.
A few days later, during a trip to Grand Marais, the Smiths came upon a fox that had her kits out of the den and along the road in the vicinity of the Rockwood Lodge turn off.  If traveling in this locale, be mindful it’s a 40 mph zone, and be ready to give these young’uns a break.
There is a short stretch along south Gunflint Lake Road where I always see a number of snowshoe hares hanging out. I haven’t seen any of their little ones, but surely, with their skills in multiplication, they can’t be far away.
Planning for the next big Gunflint community event is gaining intensity. Of course I’m speaking of the grand opening of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center on July Fourth.  A special preview is being offered to members of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society at the next regular meeting June 28.  A fish fry is being held on the shore of Sag Bay at the museum site beginning at noon.  All current members are invited. After lunch and the usual meeting, attendees will be encouraged to tour the museum and walk the trails.  

Look for many more announcements in days to come on the programming times for events on the Fourth of July at Chik-Wauk.

While all this museum hoopla is going on, organizers of the annual Canoe Races have not been sitting idly by.  Coordinators of this year’s event have the wheels in motion for another big fundraising effort.  The Trail Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue team is the recipient of resources generated by this water spectacle that has been going on for 30-some years. Tickets are on sale now and continue until the evening of July 21 for the huge raffle drawing and grand prize giveaway, a Wenonah canoe.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some of the wilderness activities. 

By Fred Smith
Wildersmith on the Gunflint



Wildersmith June 3

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Gunflint welcomes the month of the strawberry moon.  For the moose and me, the greeting is with trepidation due to the recent hot humid days along the Trail. Further, the thought of sticky repetitions during weeks to come makes us break into a nervous sweat.

Week one of the sixth refrain in 2010 finds the territory still wanting for rain. A brief shower last Sunday did nothing more than make mud spots of the dusty accumulation on resident vehicles. At Wildersmith, the eight one-hundredths is the only wet blemish in three weeks.

Lake water temps have risen rapidly in the past 10 days while levels continue to quietly diminish in the arid conditions. At our mid-lake dock, the water is hanging in the mid 60s. This is already getting close to last year’s high of 76. I’ve had several reports of swimmers testing the waters during the long Memorial Day weekend.

June is certainly busting out all over. It’s a bloomin’ paradise as the first, wild roses of summer have popped to attention along backcountry roads. And, although not pleasing to some northern folks, the purple spires of lupine are beginning their summer takeover amongst patches of columbine and those diminutive forget-me-nots. So although there have been no rainbows in the heavens, there is plenty of heaven right here on earth.

The annual Memorial Day weekend fundraiser at YMCA Camp Menogyn seemed to be another huge success. When the Smiths arrived, the grand lodge was literally stuffed with people, pancakes and pork. It was a sparkling day cruising across the lake to the festivities at the camp. Everyone must have gotten their fill as the trip back found the pontoon seemingly sitting lower in the crystal water. Thanks to everyone who supported the event.
I don’t have numbers on another weekend event along the Trail, but there sure was a lot of activity up and down the byway with the big garage sale. It had to be like heaven to treasure hunters as almost every mile or turn in the road found a place to explore new/used belongings.

Recently, a gal down the road was in peaceful slumber. Unexpectedly, there rose such a clatter she sprang from her bed, to see what was the matter. She heard banging and bumping while heading downstairs, proceeding to close all the windows and batten down the hatches.

The sudden realization came to her that she had not taken in the bird feeder that was hanging off her second story deck. Turning on outside lights and looking about she found the feeder to be missing, and there was “Bruno” trying to climb down to fetch its treasure.

After three tries at coming down head first, it turned around and came partway backwards before finally falling onto the lower deck. This was a yearling, and it must be the same one that has made several bad decisions this spring, which resulted in at least two more deck-side tumbles.

Unhurt, the burly cub refused to depart in spite of any number of noisemaking attempts by the nervous human inside. After an hour and a half of scarfing up sunflower seeds and sitting for a rest on the cabin step, the unassuming bear left looking for another nutritional adventure.

The interesting part of this happening is that the bear actually scaled the side of the house to steal its treasure from the second story deck. We all know what good tree/pole climbers the ursus can be, but shinnying up the side of a house, this is a new one…must have had a good set of spikes!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a story from the forest! 


Wildersmith May 27

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The woods are in the midst of the “full flower” moon as May winds down.
Over last week, the upper Trail territory has seen the warmth of Zigwan increase. Not unexpected, but the sultriness of the atmosphere is giving us an early sample of things to come.
It is hard to believe that Neebing is only about three weeks away, and with the coming solstice, our daylight length will begin its gradual turnabout. My, how the days go by!
Since summer is tapping at the door, it’s appropriate that our leaf-out season is about complete. By the time this column is released, even our tiniest leaflets will have reached maturity. A few birch and area maples are the only trees with infant sized foliage. Meanwhile, aspen of the northland are quaking at every breath of air.
A trip through border country finds one driving in the green tunneled forest. Things seen through winter’s skeletons are now obscured by various shades of chlorophyll and trembling textures.
The rain gods have again moved this area off the priority list. At this writing, streams have dwindled back to mere trickles and the forest floor is crunchy dry once more.
Through the first couple weeks of month five, the Wildersmith rain gauge had accumulated slightly over two and a quarter inches of precip. I thought the drought was on its way out, but my thinking was obviously premature.
The sad part of this continuing dry commentary is that all governing agencies have lifted fire bans throughout the county. Thus forest dwellers are left at the mercy of users’ common sense in regard to burning. Pray that common sense, although not so common these days, will prevail, and there will be no scorching multi-million dollar accidents during this parched time.
On a happy note, another sign of Neebing’s approach happened May 18 when the hummingbirds returned to the sweet tank at Wildersmith. Traffic has been on the daily increase since, and I was even buzzed in a low approach by one of the mini-jets while out in the early daylight hours a couple days later.
With the humidity at hand, spotting a moose in a situation out of water these days is unusual. However, last week I did see a handsome bull across from the Blankenberg turn off during one of my many trips to the Chik-Wauk museum. This guy had his sleek summer coat on and the developing antlers were in lush dark velvet. He checked me out while I was doing the same of him, and then went back to munching some late spring tenders.
On the same trip when Mr. Moose was sighted, one of those black fuzzies came up along the Trail near Seagull Outfitters. This ursus was a big one, and it thought about crossing in front of my truck, but suddenly decided the forest on that side of the road was less risky and ducked out of view. How about that, this was a wild two-critter sighting, on one trip, experience!
It also sounds as if an ursus cousin is providing some not-too-happy experiences for folks along the mid-trail area. In fact, it may be tipping the scale toward being a dangerous character. It is hoped that all humans will do their part in not tempting this ravenous critter, and that Mr. Bear will do its part too by going away.
Gunflint history unfolds somewhere every day, and it is never more evident than that which is going on at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center site. Exhibit installations will be winding down by the end of this week, then its a few weeks of fine tuning before the big day on July 4. Another historic wilderness moment will be recorded.
In working with Split Rock Design Studios’ team, I can assure everyone that the story about people of the Gunflint is going to be told in breathtaking style. The best descriptor is ‘splendid’!
Just a reminder, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society’s next meeting will be held this coming Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day) at 1:30 p.m. at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center. Everyone is invited...refreshments will be served.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the spirit of the wilderness!




Wildersmith May 20

FinalCut_Wildersmith_20100519.mp38.29 MB

With a major May rain in the upper Trail reaches, all kinds of happy things are happening. Fern fronds are beginning to unfurl, the forget-me-nots have forgotten-us-not, the golden lions are just dandy and the swamps/ponds are alive with peepers.

An inch at Wildersmith and just over in isolated places was an unexpected blessing. So for the time being, wildfire danger is tempered. This does not mean that careful use of fire in the forest should not be of critical concern.

Week three of May has warmed considerably. Our cold of the first couple stanzas wilted during the fishing opener weekend. It is amazing how warm 50 to 60 degrees can be. In fact yours truly actually broke into a sweat (bad for me and the moose) while getting the dock put into the lake last weekend.

Nice as the past few days have been, there are a couple reminders in the shaded woods where one can find samples of the winter past. For example, a mini-glacier (winter ice dam) can still be seen along the south Gunflint Lake Road. This is heart warming for those of us that prefer the time from October to April, but sadly, this seasonal remembrance will fade into trickles, but not to be forgotten. Perhaps it can make it to June.

Lakes were a-hummin’ as angling season got under way. Water temps are still cold (high 40s at the Wildersmith dock), so walleye fortunes may have been tentative depending upon the locale and fishing expertise. Nevertheless, with a great spring weekend, fishing could not have been better.

History is being made this week as the cold stone walls of the historic Chik-Wauk Lodge are coming alive. The museum design folks from Split Rock Studios arrived this past Monday to begin the installation of museum displays.

The dream of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is soon to be a reality. As this magical resort of decades past is transformed into a place where the legendary history of the Gunflint Trail can once again be relived, excitement abounds. The July Fourth grand opening cannot come soon enough!

In addition to lakes being abuzz with fisher folks, there is considerable buzzing on land as well.
The wet flora and sudden 60s has beckoned those bitin’ flies. The slightest outdoor activity that disturbs anything at ground level and the swatting battles are on. Since they are a bit early, I’m in hope that there will be an early departure.

The skeeters are being seen but have not been appreciably hungry as yet. They should be warned however, that dragon flies have been spotted and the hovering gang will be ready for the annual mosquito feast.

The first bear episode in several years happened at Wildersmith last week. A yearling bear made its way onto the deck one afternoon. Snooping around and finding nothing edible, its memory suddenly failed. It couldn’t remember how it got up there.

The deck is a one way up and the same way back off, but this youngster was lost. Not realizing that the first step off the dead end was an 8- to 10-foot drop, the burly one decided to duck under the rail and climb down. Surprise, surprise, there was nothing to grab on to, and down it went.

I’m not sure how it landed, but by the time I could get out to encourage the departure, cubby was out of sight. All I could see was where it dug in to make its getaway. I wonder if this might be the same clumsy one that fell off a deck at a place down the road a couple weeks ago…must be a slow learner!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a springtime adventure!