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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 May 20

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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!


Wildersmith May 13

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Just when March and April got us all enthused about warm weather things, along comes May with her normal unpredictability, and we are brought back to northern reality. Since the first of month five, it has been cool, cloudy much of the time and, believe it or not, rainy on a few occasions.

The past weekend, which saw many folks gather for the third annual Gunflint Green-up, was just like the previous two years in terms of atmospheric happenings. Once again the Friday night before the Saturday trek into the forest saw snow fall along the upper Trail. Amounts varied from a skiff here and there to almost two inches in the mid-trail area, and we’d thought winter had forsaken us!

However, by midday Saturday the sun poked through the clouds and made for a sparkling time. Nearly 200 green enthusiasts took part in the 2010 event to release previous years’ plantings from undergrowth surrounding them.

The event was culminated with the thank-you dinner held under the big top on the grounds of Gunflint Lodge. Green-Up participants were not only fed sumptuously, but also entertained royally by the Sivertones and the Trail’s End Band. What a fine evening!

Big time thanks go out to Nancy Seaton and her gang of planners for another great Green-Up weekend.

Cold as it has been lately, it would seem not too unusual to have some frosty weather this weekend as the anglers open the season. Many a year has seen opening day with fisher people bundled up, sitting in their watercraft amongst falling flakes. Water temperatures are still icy cold so all are advised to boat and fish with care.

Bear activity continues to increase with calling cards left at almost every turn in the path. A couple along the Mile O’ Pine found that one had been on top of their car in a recent nocturnal episode. Fortunately there was no forced entry.

The neighborhood pine martens apparently became disenchanted with the Wildersmith folks’ late April disappearance. But all must be forgiven as they have once again come back to the feed trough.

Accommodating their nutritional wishes this time of year is difficult so as not to entice one of those black burleys. Placing any of those poultry parts out in the pre-darkness hours can almost ensure an unwanted visitor, so feeding time has to be at sunup. Believe it or not, the pineys have been quick to adjust.

The night prior to keying this column found our Wildersmith neighborhood alive with some after-dark noises. Turns out, it was a fox that barked, and barked and barked. An owl chimed in with an occasional hoot as well. I don’t know if they were in concert or not, but the yipping must have gone on for nearly half an hour. I’m betting that fox has a bad case of laryngitis after all the noise-making.

After several months of nary a moose sighting, at least a half dozen have been spotted at various places along the Gunflint. I happened on a big cow on the Tucker Lake Road recently. She was a bit undecided about what half the road to which she was entitled, so just took hers out of the middle for some distance.

At their best, moose are not the most attractive beasts of creation, and the one cavorting in front of my vehicle was quite slovenly in appearance. In the middle of a seasonal attire change, her coat was in a state of half winter and half summer, motley to be sure. Large as she was, it’s likely that she is soon to be in a motherly way, and that too may have added to her not-so-comely appearance.

Whatever the case, it remains a thrill whenever one crosses your path. To have several sightings reported recently is encouraging, especially when we know that the population has been in a state of decline over the past few years.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor sounds of a springtime night.


Wildersmith May 6

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The Wildersmith two are back in the woods. After a swell 11-day visit to family and friends in Iowa, it’s great to be back at our wilderness “home sweet home.”
Once again my thanks go out my rover friend Rosey and her dad, for sniffing out the upper Gunflint happenings. Nosey Rosey’s continuing perspective from a foot or so above the northwoods earth is always refreshing.
Part of my stint in Iowa included officiating at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, one day of which was spent standing out in the rain. Don’t know if it was those conditions or just being around far more people than usual, but the result was that I contracted a miserable upper respiratory condition. Of course it did not dissipate at the Iowa/Minnesota border and so I continue to hack around.
If there is any world record for continuous days of coughing, I may be closing in on such a mark, or may have already surpassed it. Maybe it could qualify as a Drake Relays Record!
It is interesting that some things never seem to change. Such is the case with the rain gauge here on the Gunflint south shores. Mine was empty when I departed and empty when I returned. The showers of April were pretty much non-existent until the last day of the month. Fortunately the north-country drought has been temporarily stunted with a sweet, six-tenths of an inch of heaven.
So the Gunflint territory enters the month of the “full flower” moon with the dust settled for at least a few days. Only time will tell whether the dry spell might have been broken, and we will actually get some nice May flowers. Although the wet addition is deeply appreciated, it was like pouring a cup into the ocean-- we need MORE.
The brief period of rain last weekend has already had a positive effect on the leafing-out process. Aspen buds popped almost over night while birch and maple buds are burgeoning with hope. On the coniferous side, those little buds have emerged into candles that will become the next generation of forest green by summer’s end.
Outside activities are soon to be altered by our annual tempestuous invasion. Yes the early arrivals have landed. While volunteering at the recent Ham Lake Half Marathon, I was driven from my traffic safety duty along the Trail and into my truck, as hordes of the nasty black flies swarmed me. The rain was a much-needed blessing for both humans, and sad to say, those ornery bitin’ bugs. These winged critters surely must be illegal immigrants, get out the nets and cover up!
By the way, the Ham Lake runs of last weekend (half marathon and 5K) were a huge success. The third annual event saw a record 189 participants. It was a great day, with terrific organization and plenty of Gunflint Community spirit. Congrats and thanks to all for making it special.
Our Gunflint community is on center stage once again this weekend. The third Gunflint Green-up commences Friday and runs through Saturday. Hope to see many of you there, continuing the cultivation of new green along the Trail and enjoying the fun.
The first seasonal bear report has come my way. One has been meandering along the south shores of Gunflint Lake for several days now. Making stops at a number of places and crunching some bird feeders, I’m told, it has been rather obstinate about being uninvited.
At one stop a resident found it sitting on the home’s entry porch, cleaning out a feeder. A frantic holler by the person inside startled the bear so much that it tumbled over backward onto the ground; I guess it was hilarious. In spite of this acrobatic, it still wasn’t anxious to leave.
As both flies and bears add to the renewal of our wilderness experience, a friend in the mid-Trail area advised me that the spirit of northern waters has also come back. First loon sounds of the year have been heard on Poplar Lake. “Happy Days are here again!”
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the buzzing, growling and yodeling sounds of the season!


Wildersmith April 14

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Spring is now official along the Gunflint Lake shores. It is declared so because the lake ice departed in the afternoon of April 10.

Several nights of below freezing temperatures had stalled the ice out when many thought it would go right after April Fools’ Day. Then, night before the sinking of the ice, cold and clouds brought a dose of snow. Three quarters of an inch left the wilderness in short-term pristine beauty, including the remaining coat of ice.

As the power of Sol and a brisk northwest wind grew by midday, the snow-covered ice soon melted into afternoon whitecaps. Suddenly, winter became a distant memory as rollers again slapped the shoreline at Wildersmith.

The early dismissal of our annual frozen happening seems that it may have set some kind of modern day record. Lifetime resident Bruce Kerfoot indicates that never before has he seen such a premature meltdown.

As you might recall from an earlier report, the earliest recorded dates for loss of Gunflint Lake ice that I can find are April 15, 1976 and April 18, 1986. Another record of sorts is noted as the first boat of 2010 went up the lake on the morning of April 11. So history continues to be made throughout the byway corridor, on an almost daily basis.

What might be the final wild tracking adventure of the cold season happened last Saturday. With the new fallen snow, my trek down the Mile O’ Pine to drop off some outgoing mail followed the footprints of a single wolf. The critter must have been a big one as tracks were as large as the palm of my hand.

Another wilderness warrior made an up-close appearance a few days earlier when it crossed in front of my truck along the Trail. This one was quite robust and actually stopped on the edge of the pine forest and stared us down while we observed through an open window.  

Although new spring/summer adventures are sure to cross my path, I am saddened to know that the presence of these warriors will be hard to define for the next several months, even though I know they are somewhere about. Maybe they’ll check-in vocally once in awhile, just to stir the forest spirit. That would be a howl!

The mild winter has sure favored our northwoods ‘chicken birds.’ They can be observed at almost every turn of the road. Come fall, folks who are disposed to shooting the rather nonchalant birds should find abundant grouse for the taking.

Day after ice out on Gunflint, I took to heart that Mother Nature has no intent of blessing this area with rain anytime soon. So I donned the wet suit and went into the 30-something water. Purpose of the dip was to locate pump lines for the wildfire sprinkler systems of the neighborhood. 

My whole body, except my hands, was insulated by the high-tech suit. One gets an instant response as to how dangerous this water can be right now by just dipping the hands in, if only for a few seconds. Talk about HURT!

Anyway that job is done and at least three properties are ready if another wildfire catastrophe would endanger the area. Remembering Ham Lake 2007, everyone in the forest hopes that the units never have to be turned on in an emergency again, but prepared we are.

Thanks go out to the U.S. Forest Service for advancing the final step in wildfire prevention. The burning ban set in place throughout the Superior National Forest and into the BWCAW is greatly appreciated by many nervous wilderness dwellers.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a thought…for the coming of the green.


Wildersmith April 7

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No foolin’, its April already and the forest is easing into week two.  The magic of Easter Sunday opened gloomy, with drizzle and snow along some parts of the upper Trail. Then by afternoon, as if to match the heavenly beauty of the day, sun and blue consumed the gray. It was a spectacular micro analogy to the Christian celebration.

Spring warmth continues to eat away at the ice on area lakes. Nearly all that parallel the Trail are glimmering with enchanting ripples. The larger bodies are still covered with an almost charcoal colored topping, indicating that rot is gobbling up their winter coats too.

The Gunflint Gal has opened at the west end where the Cross River flows in, and there are narrow strips of water winding here and there where winter pressure heaves broke the seal. Being free of ice by this weekend is a pretty safe bet.

Unusual to say the least, the Wildersmith lilac buds look like they could pop any day. Further, where the sun gets a clear shot every day, I have observed the first rhubarb nodules piercing the ground. At this rate, the territory might even have peonies by Memorial Day, instead of our normal Fourth of July explosion.

The quality of this un-timely, but inspiring renewal is of course, dependent upon a big boost from the heavens. Moisture continues to elude the wilderness thicket. Wildersmith moisture for March totaled only four tenths of an inch.

And, the miniscule shower of Easter Morning barely dampened the rain gauge bottom, with five one-hundredths. So it looks like the month of showers might be following suit, but let’s hope not!!

Our choking drought has finally prompted the governing agencies to invoke burning restrictions for the county. Thank goodness! Guess they know what they are doing, but it seems that the move might have been initiated a couple weeks ago, anyway we forest dwellers thank them! Now, everyone has to follow the rules!

Folks that have an open water supply are urged to get their wildfire sprinkler systems up to speed. It wouldn’t hurt to actually run a tank of gas through the unit just to wet things down once a week, until “Mother Nature” gets off her duff with some help.

The avian migration continues, and the feed trough has been inundated with Juncos of late. It is interesting that their beautiful dark gray head, back and wings are a perfect match to the ice on the lake. Robins are back too, flitting back and forth across the Trail in places, yet none have landed around Wildersmith.

A friend down the road, up for a weekend visit, was treated to the observation of grouse courtship. I’m told that the suitors’ strutting ritual was quite entertaining.

The crow multitudes are still hanging out in the neighborhood scratching and pecking what seems like every inch of ground. Their search for nourishment has made them good cultivators, as they have pretty much turned over much of the yard.

They have recently discovered the seed trays on our deck too, sometimes half dozen at once, and are making regular afternoon appearances to scoop up leftovers. One afternoon, 28 were counted. Never before have we had such a rowdy bunch day after day.

Wolves are still patrolling the Mile O Pine and continue to visit a Tucker Lake site to satisfy some vegan need with sunflower seeds. Meanwhile, I have not seen one, but activity around a couple decaying log sights signify that bears have been grubbing around nearby. Sooner or later, one will be leaving the customary calling card to officially declare ‘tis the season.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a happening in our wild neighborhood.

Footprints on Sawbill Lake, photo courtesy of Sawbill Outfitters

Wildersmith April 1

The weather cooled some in the wilderness last week, though it would appear that we have had the last sub-zero temps for several months to come. The mercury slipped just below zero at Wildersmith late last week on a couple nights so the lake ice stiffened a bit.

But I’m guessing that will be the end of serious cold, as prognosticators have indicated that it could be in the 60s as you read or listen to Upper Gunflint news this week.

If such warmth materializes, it is a good bet that lake ice will depart the earliest in nearly three decades. My data only goes back as far as 1982 for ice out on Gunflint, and the earliest ice departure since that year has been April 18 in 1986.

With ice separating from northern shorelines in many places, I can’t see it lasting much longer. If by chance we would get any substantial rain, the time before departure will be reduced even more. 

March has left the higher Gunflint territory much the same as it entered, drier than a bone and far warmer than it should be. Those who favor such lamb-like conditions have had a swell month out in the woods.

Border country was dazzled by the full “egg moon” as month three went into the history books. It’s hard to believe that one quarter of 2010 has slipped by already.

Enter, April, a serious time of re-birth. Some early spring babies will soon be coming into the world, and the last of those that have been slumbering for the past few months are waking up.

I’ve heard that some folks have already observed those pesky chipmunks, although none have shown in this neighborhood, and the skunks have been out and about for a few weeks based on an occasional whiff wafting along the air currents.

Surely, in not too many days, the ursine species will be renewing their forest fellowship along with new fuzzy family additions. Better be bringing in the bird feeders and securing the garbage cans as bears are ravenously hungry following their long winter’s nap.

I have received two reports of fisher sightings during the past week. The seldom seen, larger pine marten cousins were observed in two different locations, one along the south shores of Gunflint Lake and the other over on Hungry Jack Lake.

It may be April, and the snow splotches few and far between, but the biological clock that tells snowshoe hares to put on their seasonal attire must be stuck on winter. I observed one along the Trail a few nights ago and it was still sparkling white, standing out like a sore thumb against the earthen roadside tones. Maybe the changing for this one is on hold until Easter deliveries are completed.

Engulfed in a barren forest right now, there is plenty of unsightliness, but help is on the way. A renewed brightness has arisen along the byway. Deciduous buds are beginning to bulge, and the coniferous wilderness has traded its drab winter flavor for a noticeable infusion of green that invigorates one’s spirits.

At Wildersmith, I have begun to free the young conifers from their winter deer net protection. When released from those bindings, it is like an awakening. One can almost see them stretching in search of sunbeams and warm air. It is energizing to know that the hiatus of growth skyward is about to resume.

On this weekend, when the Christian world once again embraces the ultimate renewal, let me wish everyone a Happy Easter!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a celebration of spring!



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Spring’s here, the sun was due east and west, but the calendar’s new season came in breathing frosty air. Day one of the vernal time dawned frigid as the Wildersmith thermometer fell to just above zero.

It was a bit confusing for the Gunflint Lake gal too, as the water and slush of the past week froze tight once again. While out performing my morning chores, she even  murmured some grumbling tones about having to make ice once more.

Apparently expressing her displeasure with the colder turn of events, the growling lasted for that day and then another. This lake ice vocalizing is unusual for this time of year, but will soon be gone until next December.

Then again, the whole of this past season has been conspicuously lacking of usual character. With Zigwan confirmed, I’ll share just how lacking winter was in upper Gunflint land.

Looking back at my journaling of daily atmospheric happenings, the most startling number is in the snow count. Total snow accumulation for the duration at Wildersmith was a measly 32 inches. This compares with last year when 100 inches were tallied.

While the neighborhood did experience a couple bitter cold stretches, the coldest minimums of minus 33 on January 2 and minus 32 on February 5 are a far cry from minus 40-pluses of 2008-09. Our coldest stretches extended for 10 days during weeks two and three of December, and 20 days from January 26 through Valentine’s Day
Continuing like a broken record, another week has passed with no rain. Rain gods are shunning this area like it has the plague. Clouds come and go, but have shed barely a tear for what seems like weeks. I like consistency in life, but these arid happenings are getting downright ridiculous. Wilderness folk have to be looking for a lot of April showers, or there’ll be few flowers.

The chorus of dawn in the neighborhood has been less than harmonious lately. A murder of crows, with uncanny regularity, has been providing a cacophony of raucous sounds to greet my morning chore time.

They serve to drown out anything that is of natural sweetness, and then, in one black cloud, wing it down the lakeshore screaming like a rally of agitated political demonstrators.

The crow racket is compounded with a couple hammering pileated woodpeckers and the usual blue jay clamor. Don’t know if the jays and the Woody Woodpecker look-alikes are in a battle of the bands or not, but it’s been noisy as a morning of urban rush hour. Peaceful and quiet, it’s definitely not!

Last week’s discussion of biting insect possibilities came to reality on spring’s first day. The sunshine beckoned me outside, in spite of the cold air, to do some firewood splitting. Wouldn’t you know it, a bitin’ critter found its way under my glove during the clean-up process. The nip has the itching character of a black fly, but I have trouble believing they can be out already. Regardless of who or what it might have been, I’m into the antihistamine ointment already.

And lastly, whitetails of the neighborhood are trickling away to south-facing hillsides. Daily browsers are down to just a couple bucks and an apparently orphaned fawn. The little girl deer looks so forlorn. Wonder if her mommy might have become a wolf pillaging statistic, or is she in a parenting way and just sent the young one peddling?

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a journey into the woods!

Members and volunteers hang out and enjoy the treats during WTIP's "So Many Reasons" membership drive

Wildersmith March 18

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Congrats and thanks to all that enhanced the “So Many Reasons” theme for the WTIP spring support effort. The impact that this little station, with the big heart, has on so many folks is beyond comprehension.

With the arrival of our nation’s annual artificial timing debacle, we gained an hour toward the vernal equinox and Zigwan. North woods creeks and rivers are gushing with enthusiasm, although the exuberant rush cannot last too long.

Another week has passed with almost no precip. Soon gurgling streams will diminish to trickles when the snow melt is exhausted. The best we could muster in the Wildersmith rain gauge was under two-tenths of an inch during a couple feeble nighttime shower attempts.

In the early stages of mud season, Mother Nature is once again showing that she is in charge. Her latest display of control is noted in the fact that she has made all the vehicles residing or cruising through the area to look alike. Color variations are neutralized with a good old coat of north woods earthen tones.

Splotches of snow are about all that is left from the winter that wasn’t. Our golden brown needle carpet is now the rule on the forest floor, where a week ago we had about a foot and a half of white. Boy, it has gone fast!

Juices are beginning to flow in the forest flora. I got a first look at some aspiring pussy willow buds as the silver/gray fuzzies are presently peeking out in a couple spots along the Mile 0’ Pine. And, just days ago, I discovered a trickle of sap leaking through the bark of one of my maples.

Spring’s early arrival makes me wonder if we will wage a longer season with the annual bug battles. Don’t know if this could happen, but things will be worse than bad, if the extended warmth allows more multiple hatchings of those miserable black flies.

I’ve already observed the buzzing of several suspicious-looking airborne insects.
Better be digging out the bug netting and deterrent spray! This is another good justification for cold and snow.

As the winter character departs, unsightly remains of human habits are appearing along the Trail. It never ceases to amaze me that many people claiming to adore this part of the universe can be so careless and abusive.

Discarding litter while passing through this miracle creation is unconscionable. A friend once told me that snow covers up a multitude of bad human habits and even some natural ugliness. He was sure right. Guess that is why so many of us wilderness folks have such passion for the pureness of this past season, and disappointment when it comes to an end.

Speaking of another ugly situation, the big meltdown out this way put the kibosh on one feature of Mush For a Cure, part four. Water-covered lake ice and barren trails forced the cancellation of the sled dog and skijoring events. However, organizers and participants made the best of a sloppy situation, as all other scheduled events went off without a hitch.

Pink enthusiasm was at fever pitch, symbolically matching the battle for which the events were scheduled. An early report states that $28,000 will be donated from the Cook County/Gunflint community efforts to assist in national breast cancer research. This amount sets a new record, exceeding last year’s total of $25,000. A hearty thanks to everyone who played a part in making this another memorable occasion.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the birth of a new season!


Wildersmith March 11

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The upper Trail winter that really hasn’t been much, is making a quicker than normal exit. Since our last meeting, the power from Sol in month three, and above freezing temperatures, are gnawing big bites from the measly snow cover day after day.

It seems that the territory will smell of mud much sooner that anticipated. Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, her wintertime offspring, continue to ignore this area with any kind of precipitation.

This is quite worrisome in regard to a brittle forest being uncovered so early from the white blanket. Hopefully all concerned about woodsy conditions, from the Forest Service and DNR to residents and visitors, will approach the arid conditions with burning bans and commonsense fire use.

The beauty of this place is taking on a changing look during this oozing time. The artistry of sun-eaten, snowy windrows is the latest portrayal of natural magic through our blacktop path to paradise.

Gashes in the once smoothly mounded banks now display shards of weeping tears during sunlight hours, and then sparkle like diamonds in headlight beams after dark. This is just one of “so many reasons” to explore the byway forest any time of year.

I’m guessing that unless there is a big turnaround to cold and white, next week at this time we could be looking at pussy willow buds. We even might see a return of Mr. Robin Red Breast.

The latest wildlife adventure at Wildersmith involves my gray jay pals. For months now, it has been just Whiskey and Jack in the daily breakfast routine. A day or two ago, unannounced, they came by with two cousins. The Canadian visitors were not one bit bashful. So I had a quadruple flurry for a brief period, with many landings and take-offs from my bread-filled palm.

You will recall the squirrel and the French fries from last week. This week it is another gourmet tale, only it’s about Whiskey or Jack. This time my feeding routine found one of the guys snooping in my wild vittles container. It contained the usual chicken wing bones, ear corn and sunflower seeds. I turned my back briefly while cleaning out feeders, and sure enough one of the fellows in a gray tuxedo spotted one of those bones. In a blink of the eye, it snatched one and was last seen sailing off through the trees. It was amusing to observe a bird with such a big beakful.

This is another big weekend for north woods activity. The Mush for a Cure event will commence with a kick-off of pink attired events on Friday, then continuing into Saturday with the rousing canine races.

Alongside this flush-colored extravaganza, everyone within listening distance is touting the “so many reasons” phrase, as appeal is made to once again provide resources in support of our community-owned radio station.

A listening experience with WTIP is just one of “so many reasons” to visit this special place in border country wilderness. Along with hundreds of WTIP volunteers, I wish for your continued support of this marvelous listening medium.

Our radio voice has something for everyone, from Grand Portage to the end of the Trail and then some, with a worldwide audience streaming on the Web. Please pitch in!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor whatever the Gunflint has to offer!


Wildersmith March 3

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Month three has “March” ed right in!! The month known for weather of changeable temperament came in like a lamb…thus following suit with the rest of the wimpy winter months the upper Gunflint wilderness has experienced thus far.

So being unable to do anything about the cool things we can usually brag about, a light signaling the birth of another growing season is flickering just a couple weeks away, and that can certainly brighten one’s outlook.

The days of the past week in the woods have again been remarkable, with barely a cloud in the sky.  There were a number of frigid sub-zero…Wildersmith dawns, but the sunshine that followed almost made for light jacket coverings.

Plenty of activity took place on the Trail over the last days of February. Winter Tracks number six literally left marks in the snow with all kinds of happenings. The annual trout derby on Gunflint Lake saw huge participation as weekend events drew to a close on Sunday afternoon.

The Gunflint Lodge waterfront looked like a used truck lot with all the pick-ups scattered about the ice; in addition, oodles of snow machines were scooting about. Everyone seemed to be having a great time on a splendid blue sky day.

It seems that the Gunflint/Loon Lake wolf pack must have moved to new territory. Suddenly the deeryard at Wildersmith has been inundated with a gang of whitetails, indicating that danger is not so imminent.

This is something that has not happened since last winter, with the blame being placed on those hungry warriors.  One thing of note is that there are very few fawns, but the rest of the gathering looks to be quite healthy. So I’m getting a lot of free brush pruning done around the yard.

There is always something to catch your attention when you live in the forest. In the late afternoon, I’ve been watching with interest the hubbub around the avian feeding trays. Traffic is in and out all day long, but as twilight comes on, those tiny masked bandits really get intense.

It’s fascinating to watch the chickadees as they bulk up for the long cold night ahead. The menu choices range from peanut butter cakes to a can of frozen bacon grease and, of course, sunflower seeds. Believe me, they hit them all.

Luckily their rate of metabolism is such that both carbs and fat are burnt up in the nocturnal staying-warm process, or soon they would likely be big as flying tankers.

On another nutritional note, I was entertained the other morning to find that one of those pesky squirrels took a liking to some pieces of leftover French fries. This usual seed and nut connoisseur took to nibbling those greasy potato sticks like there was no tomorrow. Wonder if the wild gourmet had a bellyache after that rich fare?

If silence is golden, then this part of the universe is getting to experience Olympic Gold. The morning after the Winter Tracks weekend was magical in terms of peace. There was no wind whispering through the pines. Only an occasional chickadee flutter and the crunch of deer passing over crusted snow broke the quiet of this wilderness wonder. It was so satisfying to encounter the sound of nothing obtrusive in this clearly messed up world.

There are just so many reasons to visit this place in paradise. So keep on hangin’ on, and savor listening to WTIP, a golden gem of the wilderness!