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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 on the Gunflint - August 10, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith         August 10, 2018    
Gunflint weather, well this is the reason folks live and visit here. It’s been just swell not too hot and not too cool. However, a summer anomaly saw the Wildersmith thermometer nudge down to thirty-nine one night last week, the same time International Falls hit thirty-four. As you might expect, this was fine with yours truly. The moose and I detest sweating!                                                                                                                                                     
The upper Trail was also blessed with another dose of rain, as showers Saturday night and late afternoon Sunday dealt this neighborhood four-tenths of an inch. So this is good as residents remain leery of wildfire potential with so many visitor campfires out in the forest.                                     

Speaking of visitors, vacation times are peaking with outfitter and resort parking lots overflowing along this Scenic Byway. Marking this second weekend of August, summer is dwindling quickly and back to school is but a couple weeks away.                                                                                       

Nevertheless, activity along the Trail is on full speed ahead. With hoopla of the mid-Trail fundraising hoe-down into the books, the “Sound of Music” will echo along the Trail Sunday.  Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert installment number six, begins at 5:00 pm in the Schaap Community Center (Fire Hall # 1). A final call to Patsy Coleman might still secure your ticket reservation at 313-673-6202, but don’t wait too long.                                                                                                   

Many notable local artists;  including Phillis Anderson, Kathy Bolstad, Mike DeBevec, Mike Roth and Michael Ferguson to name but a few, are performing. Also in the talented line-up are the SVEA women’s ensemble, the Borealis Brass Quartet, the Sky Blue Jazz ensemble and the Third Stream ensemble. With these area professionals, the afternoon should be sweet as the pristine forest backdrop! Attendees can plan to “meet & greet” the performers along with refreshments at both intermission and after the concert.                                                                                                                                   

A shout out is given in regard to the Gunflint Trail Historical Society’s August meeting this coming Monday, the 13th. The gathering will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center beginning at 1:30. Following the monthly business report, speakers John Hutchinson along with Gary & Mary Connell will reflect on “Tommy Banks-The Gangster of the Gunflint.” Treats & drink will be served following what should be an intriguing journey back in Gunflint history.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Next up for residents and visitors, the Dark Sky Caravan is on the way along Highway 61 through Cook County, with the last stop being up at end of the Gunflint Trail.                                                               

Celestial gazing will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center/Fire Hall this coming Thursday, August 16 and Friday, the 17th. Free to the public, shows in the GeoDome Mobile Planetarium Theater will be held on the half hour beginning at 5:00 pm each day and continuing until 11:00 pm. Outside telescopes will also be set up by the Dark Sky delegation and members of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society. Please note these dates are correct as an incorrect date was released in the News Herald last week.                                                                                                                    

This heavenly opportunity is being presented by the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium through the University of Minnesota Duluth, in partnership with The Gunflint Trail Historical Society with cooperation from the Trail Fire Department.                                                                                 

Visitors are urged to carpool where possible, wear weather appropriate clothes, include bug spray or nets for out of doors viewing and bring flashlights to find your vehicles during the darkest hours.                                                                                                                                                                     

Come one night or both, rain or shine, don’t miss it. This is a rare north woods experience, likely the darkest place in the lower forty-eight for touring the universe.                                                                

As the crazy days of summer keep slipping away, I can’t help but relish the excitement of migrations to winter confines, stashing of cold season vittles, preparation of warm dens, the spectacle of autumn and of course, the first tinge of crystal in the Byway ditches.                                                                                                                                                            
Adult loons will soon be in the gathering mode and hummingbirds appear to be tanking up in readiness for their airing southward. It’s still summer for a few weeks, but I’m feeling a tempering of things. Ahh the Gunflint, “N” is for north and “N” is for nice!                                                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and our natural world is always on the verge.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 3, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       August 3, 2018

 July along the Gunflint Trail has quietly faded away. We’re off into the eighth stanza of 2018. It seems implausible we Gunflinters should be observing autumn signs nudging their way into the summer green, but such is the case.
The past seven-day segment has been much the same as those preceding. It’s been warm and nice. The territory did get a minor dropping of rain last Saturday, amounting to barely two-tenths of an inch along the Mile O Pine. There was more bark than bite as thunder garnered more attention than raindrops, and there was more of the same early evening Sunday. Then a hefty dose drenched the territory to greet the new month with one and three-tenths inches here in the Wildersmith gauge.                                                                
A suggestion to area residents, with the ignition of a small wildfire southwest of Seagull Lake during the past few days, would be to crank up those wildfire sprinkler systems to add a little more moisture and confirm operational fitness.                                               
Getting back to those signs of fall mentioned earlier, I‘ve noticed hillsides in the upper Trail region with a splash of gold as juvenile birch or aspen have discovered the daylight minutes diminishing. Further, the aureus of dogbane is increasing along roadsides while goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, and milkweed are casting new tones to the North woods spectrum. 

Since the Ojibwe, “blueberry moon” is next in the lunar line-up, it’s appropriate for the final blueberry push. I don’t see any slacking in the number of visitor vehicles out along the Trail. All are parked in precarious places with drivers immersed somewhere in the wild filling buckets and baskets.  

While on the invasive plant pull up at Chik-Wauk last Saturday, yours truly found a cache of Juneberries AKA serviceberries or even Saskatoon berries. They are sure easier picking than the blues, and I think, even sweeter. I heard of a recent pastry delight baked with a combination of rhubarb and juneberries. It sounds great with a dip of vanilla, but not for those of us with sugar concerns.
Speaking of sweetness, fun in the mid-Trail gets underway Wednesday in the Schaap Community Center facility, at 12:00 noon. The flea market and gift boutique starts things off, followed at 1:30 by the live auction and finally, the drawing for the beautiful mid-Trail quilter’s 2018 patchwork.                                                                                                                                                                               
This mid-Trail event is the second leg of the Gunflint Trail triple pursuit for support of the volunteer fire department. This in mind, the first leg, our Gunflint Trail Canoe Races, of two weeks ago, raised over 24 thousand dollars. These funds are vitally important, so everyone possible, please get out and support our neighbors in the middle.   

Almost before one can blink their eyes, the last fundraiser for the fire department takes center stage on Sunday, August 12th with the Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert. This event is usually a sell-out with only 150 seats available in the Schaap Center for the 5:00 pm performance, better get reservations made ASAP.  Give Patsy Coleman a call at 313-673-6202. 
The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is excited to announce a special event coming to end of the Trail on August 16 & 17. The Society, with cooperation from the volunteer fire department, and in partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth, is bringing the GeoDome mobile planetarium theater to our upper reaches.                                                                                                                                                
This is the final stop for the “Dark Sky Caravan” delegation which starts at the UMD Planetarium on Saturday, August 11th. With daily stops along the north shore, it ends at one of the darkest places in the country to gaze the celestial. All are being held at the Seagull Lake Community Center and fire hall on the dates listed above.
Events are free with programming from 5:00 pm until 11:00 pm both days. Planetarium shows will be offered on the half-hour with observations in the out of doors too when darkness is most consuming. In the event there are cloudy skies, programs will be limited to the GeoDome. A side note confirms the caravan visit will coincide with the annual Perseid Meteor Showers. 
UMD staff and students will lead attendees through a dynamic digital space exploration experience.  Volunteers from the Arrowhead Astronomical Society will be offering live sky consultation. This educational outreach from the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium through the University of Minnesota will be an experience to remember. Mark your calendars, and bring a flashlight to find your car in the late night darkness.
Not speaking of dark skies now, but of another dark item in creation, a bear made a visit to Wildersmith a few days ago, our first of the season. Happily, the visit was casual and did not involve my having to banish this ebony critter from the property. This observation happened during a dockside fishing event as my wife was startled to see a big “Bruno” showing off its aquatic skills not far from where she was sitting.                                                                                                 

As she was landing her usual “pet smallie” the hefty critter gave her the eye but never missed a stroke while continuing on by. She was nevertheless a little unsettled after hearing about the Leo Lake gal who recently bumped into one while berry picking. The north woods character eventually exited the big pool a ways down the lake and disappeared into the forest, no harm, no foul!                                                                      
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with endless natural world adventures!                                                                                                                                                        


Moose Encounter

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 27, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     July 27, 2018    
The Gunflint summer just keeps rollin’ along, well into month two of the three segment stint. The past week has been silky smooth with tolerable daytime temps, and cool sleeping nights.                                                                                                                                                                                    

The only thing to have made it even more perfect would have included a little rain. A few sprinkles are all this neighborhood has received, and the forest floor is crunchy once again.                            

When this report hits the airwaves, beams of the Ojibwe, “halfway moon” are lighting up our lives. And at this yearly mid-point, blue-tipped fingers are busy picking what looks to be a great crop of purplish north woods jewels. While some reports find buckets full, I received word of a mid-Trail gal who’s claimed six gallons already, and one at end of the Trail with over 8.                                                                                                                                                                    

More blues activity can be noted along the Trail as postings are proclaiming the annual “Biggest Blueberry” contest. Sponsored jointly by Visit Cook County and the Trail business community, weigh-in stations are located from middle to end of the Trail. I’m told berries are quite plump this year, so competition to get the blue ribbon will be keen.                                                                                      

A final tally of the Gunflint Canoe Races fundraiser from last week is not yet available with donations still coming in and final expenses yet to be paid. However, one thing known for sure, the event went off without a hitch under splendid weather conditions. Congratulations and thanks to organizers and volunteers for another job well done!                                                                                                                                         

With funding support for the Trail fire department still on our minds, the territory is now pointing toward the annual mid-Trail flea market, gift boutique, and live auction. Mark your calendars for the afternoon of Wednesday, August 8th. This is another joyous happening along the Gunflint.                                                                                                                                                                 

Meanwhile, the last summer support trifecta for our firefighters is not far off either. The sixth annual “Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz Concert” brings the sweet sound of music to the Trail. The performance will once again be held in the Schaap Center facilities (fire hall #1) on Sunday, August 12th at 5:00 PM. Ticket reservations can be made with Patsy Coleman at 313-673-6202 or online at PColeman@ More details and a run-down of several local performers taking part will be mentioned as the event gets closer.                                   

As July winds down, another great program is being offered at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this coming Sunday. The “original airborne” drones will be the subject of discussion as Douglas Hall talks about “Dragonflies.” The presentation begins at 2:00 pm.                                                                 

In another Nature Center programming note phase two of the invasive plant program gets underway Saturday at 10:00 AM. More volunteers are needed to help in an invasive plant pull-a-thon along the Moose Pond Road leading to the Chik-Wauk site. Bring bug nets, gloves and drinking water. Who knows, a moose might even make an appearance.                                                  

In our “wild world”, some folks in these parts have considerable disgust for our eager beaver construction crews. Beginning as early as the 1600’s fur trappers pillaged them to near extinction. During the 20th-century conservationists started to help them recover, and since then scientists have learned over the years that beaver built water features help address many environmental problems. Such is noted in the July /August edition of the Sierra Magazine where an article proclaims these animals as great “Ecosystem Engineers” who create wetlands, filter pollution, store groundwater, store carbon, reduce flooding runoff and sustain fish and bird habitat.                                                                                                                                                                              

The Sierra article is worthy of every Gunflint lovers’ attention. Perhaps we should be swearing by the beavers, not at them!                                                                                                                                            

Since we last met, perhaps the best looking moose in the territory was caught on camera by a gal in the mid-Trail area. The handsome chap was spotted along Hungry Jack Road, and I’m happy she shared the digital with me, so I could share it with you on my website column. It’s under the drop down “Community Voices” column.                                                                                                                                                                  

Concluding this weeks’ scoop, the Wildersmith two extend a huge thanks to everyone in the WTIP family, both new and renewing members, for their generous support in the “20 More” funding drive. Furthermore, congratulations are offered to the staff and dedicated volunteers for their outstanding organization and leadership during this huge endeavor. Northshore Community radio is what it is because of everyone coming together in a time of need. WTIP heads onward and upward for “20 More” years.                                                                                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, teeming in natural and human spirit!


Fran & Fred Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 20, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith

 Three weeks into July and summer is spinning out of control in the upper Gunflint. The end of week two found the Byway weather outside, frightful. “Old Sol” was a beast, with muggy conditions for a few days. Relief oozed in last Sunday afternoon, with hope for clear skies and cool temps as the Gunflint Community headed into last Wednesday’s canoe races. 
For the first time in several Sundays,’ the area missed a substantial rain. That being said, rushing rivers and rising lake levels throughout the territory have likely steadied. Whereas Gunflint Lake had been quite low following the meager spring snowmelt and minimal rainfall, it has risen nearly a foot over the past month. 
Although we are but a month into official summer, it seems there some interesting changes going on.  Maybe it’s just me, but it appears the blueberries have come on a couple weeks earlier than usual, and fireweed is in bloom a bit prematurely. Meanwhile, if folks are looking as they travel along the Trail, one can see Spreading Dogbane turning golden, which is perhaps the earliest indication of autumn.
Reporting on critters of the “wild neighborhood”, a gal in the mid-Trail area tells of a seldom observed natural happening. She was in the right place at the right time to see what turned out to be a Luna Moth emerging from its chrysalis.                                                                                                     
She says, as the “coming out” commenced, the head was an ugly looking glob, but as things progressed things got better and better. When all was done, the amazing pale green nocturnal lepidopteran insect was a spectacle to behold. 
Another mid-trail episode was shared by a lady on a recent Leo Lake kayak expedition.  In this case, she was just into her journey when distracted by something moving around her feet. Able to glance down into the bow area, a slithering passenger was discovered. Being not too fond of snakes, this screaming gal never paddled so fast in finding a place to land, nor did it take her long to “de-kayak”.    
Apparently, the north woods serpent was equally uncomfortable with the situation as it escaped simultaneously during the onshore confusion. Somehow it got out without being seen as it could not be found in a subsequent craft inspection. Neither relaxed or refreshed from the usual aquatic experience, she got back in and paddled home in record time, proving her cardio system must be in great shape during such a stressful time. By the way, she can outrun a bear too!                                                                                                                                                                                   
An amusing situation occurred a few days ago around out hummingbird feeder. I was casually walking by the nectar jar when I observed a bumble bee sipping at one of the florets. While the bee was enjoying the sweetness, a hummer buzzed in for a drink as well. As the scene unfolded, the bee would not allow the tiny bird to land. I watched for several moments as the bee kept the bird in a holding pattern, launching strafing attacks each time the bird tried to land. In the end, the bird gave up and darted off. The bee continued guzzling for some time before departing on an apparent sugar high.                                                                                                                                                                                     
In a programming note from the Chik-Wauk Nature Center, a class on Lichens is being offered to interested folks. The class will be held on August 24th in the Nature Center. Pre-registration is necessary as class size is limited.  Find out more by checking on the Chik-Wauk website. 
For immediate consideration though, this weekend will provide more learning experiences up at the end of the Trail Museum site. Saturday is the first phase of an experience in learning about invasive plants of the area, and the need to eradicate them for the sake of native flora. Events get underway at 10:00 o’clock and continue through the day. Then on the next Saturday, July 28, the second phase of the program will involve a planned pulling of the nasty invaders around the Chik-Wauk Campus. In the context of what “Smokey the Bear” might say, “Only we can prevent invasive plant expansion.”                                                                                       
Then on this Sunday, don’t forget the “The Man Behind the Mystery” in the Nature Center at 2 p.m. as David Battistel presents more research on the historic Paulson Mine. 
In the midst of all these activities, “the” community radio station of the North Shore is seeking new and continued member support in their summer funding drive. Heading off into the third decade of broadcasting, toward “20 more years” of community service and audio excellence, WTIP needs you! 
Please don’t be bashful about stepping up with whatever resources you can share to keep radio alive and well here in the Northland and around the globe. Stop by and pledge in person at the studios; click and join at; or give our operators a call now…at 218-388-1070 or toll-free 1-800-473-9847.  
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in “zippity, do dah style!


Moose cow and twins on the Gunflint - Photo by Colin Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 13, 2018

A few days reprieve from summer misery was punctuated by another sticky one last Saturday. Then intense rain sent the last of Independence Day visitors scurrying out of the woods, back to metropolis on Sunday. So it’s damp and somewhat quiet as I begin this week’s Gunflint Scoop.                                                                                                                                                     
The frenzy of summer activities starts peaking next week. A good part of this report is about event reminders for both residents and listening visitors heading this way. A double feature kicks-off this next Wednesday, the 18th.                                                                                                                                                  
The 41st floating of the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races hits the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge beginning at 4:30 pm with food service. Paddling fun will run from 6:00 until about 8:30, concluding with the drawing for the grand prize, a kayak.  
Then during the same Canoe extravaganza, our North Shore air waves’ sensation will be embarking on their next 20 years of community radio, with the WTIP summer membership drive, direct from the shores of Gunflint Lake.
Back in broadcast studios on Thursday, this important event will conclude at noon on Tuesday, July 24.   
Proceeds from both of these fundraising endeavors go to support great community causes. Everyone’s participation is vital!      
A week from this Saturday, on July 21, a week of regional invasive plant education, investigation and eradication begins up at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center. Collaborative efforts between the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, the Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center and Cook County Invasive professionals, will start with classroom presentations at 10:00 a.m

This phase will be followed by outdoor investigative/ identification hikes around the Chik-Wauk campus extending through the afternoon. All are welcome, with no pre-registration necessary.                                                                                     
On Sunday, July 22, Chik-Wauk Nature Center programming continues with David Battistel presenting more research on The Man Behind the Mystery, John Paulson, and saga surrounding the rise and fall of the historic Paulson Iron Mine. The event starts at 2:00 p.m.    
Whether one is a first time Trail visitor or an age-old resident, there is nothing more exciting than getting to see a moose. In fact thousands come out his way just for such an experience, only to find the critters just don’t show up for humans on cue. This in mind, one has to be in the right place at the right time.  
As many moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas reside out this way, little does more to bond wilderness family memories than hitting the moose-sighting lottery.    This was the case at Wildersmith last weekend as our grandson and his gal friend happened upon a momma moose and her twin kids up toward end of the Trail.

In the excitement, digital confirmation shows the better part of the iconic threesome with my column on the web at     
In a startling, but amusing bear encounter, a Trail gal reports she recently bumped into a bear while June and blueberry picking. Surprised to say the least, the lady found the bear was also shocked at her sudden presence and not real happy with the blues picking interruption.   
Now everyone knows you’re not likely to out run a bear. In a state of panic however, she turned and took off running, as did the bear. During the escape mode madness, and falling down once, she eventually felt compelled to glance around to see if Bruno was nipping at her heels. Fate favored her, gasping from fear and near oxygen debt, it was discovered, she had easily out distanced the ebony critter.      
Hmmm… A miracle, yes! Come to find out, in a rather amusing conclusion to this bear tale, while she ran down the hill, the bear went in an opposite direction up a hill. One can never be assured a bear or for that matter, any wild predator will run the opposite direction. This was her lucky day!

Perhaps she should have headed in to Grand Marais and bought a Powerball ticket.                                                                                                                                                                 
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with one Gunflint chapter after another, revealing unexpected mysteries of our natural world.


Fran & Fred Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 6, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by    Fred Smith     July 6, 2018    

Remarkably, this weeks’ upper Trail scoop finds us filing away week one of July. It’s unconscionable how time escapes us so rapidly. In case you didn’t notice, we passed the half-way point of year ’18. Seems like just yesterday, we were embracing its’ arrival.  

The big hoopla of Independence Day has faded into obscurity as we set off into another week of invigorating summer time activities along the Trail. From the looks of things, based on the amount of traffic and clogged business parking facilities, hospitality operations, and area outfitters must be busy; busy; busy.                                                                                                                          
With miserably hot and humid weather conditions gripping most all places south, it’s no wonder this area is inundated with folks trying to escape to a cool spot up north. It has been obviously cooler than civilization south of Cook County, but real cool is somewhat questionable among those of us residents who were experiencing our own bit of tropical conditions for a few days.                                                                                                                                                                              
While in the high seventies to around eighty degrees in this neighborhood, and there’s been some minor whining from yours truly. Remember, I’m the one who has great admiration for warmth not to exceed fifty-five to sixty during any portion of the warm season.                                                                 
Looking back on my fifty-seven years in Iowa and those uncountable stifling summer days, I feel for all folks who’ve been sweating out the hundred degrees stuff. So I’m thankful, the conditions we Gunflinters’ have endured are not as bad as they might be.                                                                              
Speaking more about our version of northland hotness, I can only imagine how irritating the past several days have been for those in our “wild neighborhood” who wear a fur coat year around. From tiny rodents to massive moose, I could see they too might be a little ouchy when they cannot peel off a garment or find a little cool comfort.                                                                                                         
Meanwhile, the other character of weather in this territory found us better blessed as June faded into July. Although amounts of rain can be variable throughout the near sixty-mile Gunflint corridor, all got some much-needed moisture. While dodging a bullet from some violent storms in regions west and south, the upper Trail saw creeks and rivers gushing into area lakes and ponds with a vengeance during the big rain last Sunday. For the weekend past, the Wildersmith gauge collected nearly two inches of the “wet/cooling” stuff.

Being out of doors at various times in the past days, I find the biting bug situation to be increasingly annoying. The black flies are not too engaging now unless one is disturbing the earth, whereas mosquitoes have been fully committed to relieving me of a little blood. Last Sunday they were particularly nasty prior to the rainstorm. So it’s definitely time to be looking at this part of the world through a bug net and slathering other body parts with “deet.”  

Speaking of bugs, as opposed to the incorrigibles just mentioned, The Chik-Wauk Nature Center program for this week features, Pat Thomas who will be sharing her expertise on Pollinators and other “beneficial” insects in your yard. This should be an interesting topic of discussion with so many of the ecosystems arthropods in a state of decline and at risk of expiration. The presentation begins at 2:00 pm, Sunday afternoon.                                                                                                                 
The Gunflint Trail Canoe Races are but eleven days away from this weekend. If listeners haven’t bought into the event grand prize drawing yet, tickets are on sale in the Mid-Trail area at Trail Center Restaurant, and also at Gunflint Lodge, Cross River Lodge, Seagull Outfitters, Voyageur Canoe Outfitters and Chik-Wauk Museum. The prize is another fantastic kayak from the good folks at, Winona Canoe works.                                                                                                                           

In addition to this giveaway, there’ll be a silent raffle for many Trail crafted items and a live auction of other big prizes. Of particular note is a beautiful, locally stitched Gunflint T-shirt quilt, featuring representation from all contributing Trail businesses and organizations.                                                         
Don’t forget, on top of all the fun, this event is our way of supporting the fire and rescue men and women. Pitch in with your resources and volunteerism!                                                                       

In a correction from last week, activities commence on the 18th with food service at 4:30 pm (not 4:00), and races at 6:00.                                                                                                                                            
A reminder is given to all Gunflint Trail Historical Society members of the meeting this coming Monday, the 9th. The gathering will be held at the Schaap Community Center (mid-Trail) beginning at 1:30 pm. Our time will reflect on friends and neighbors who have passed from our midst in the past year, through “Gunflint Trail, Resident Remembrances.” Treats will be served following the recognitions.                                                                                                                                                               
For WTIP, where we’re “going for 20 more” years of quality radio, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day of life in this wild land is special! 



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 29, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       June 29, 2018 
June in wild country is fading into history as the full “Strawberry Moon” beams down on the north woods. Here come July and another American birthday celebration, number two hundred forty-two to be exact.                                                                                                                                     

As June gives way to month seven, July is “busting out all over.” It’s just a “bloomin’ paradise along the Byway. If it isn’t yellow, it’s white; if it isn’t white, it’s pink; if it isn’t pink, it’s orange; if it isn’t orange, it’s purple; it’s a Technicolor eruption. What’s more, this is just the beginning.  Summer is barely a week old.                                                                                                                  

A weekend shower ushered us into this last week of month six, with more good fortune for a wildland that can dry out unbelievably fast. The rain although spotty came with a good bit of pre-Independence day fireworks in this neighborhood. While the Mid-Trail area saw sprinkles to a trace, thunder boomers at the end of the Trail dropped over an inch in some locations. In between, the Gunflint/Loon Lake locale caught nearly a half inch.                                                                      
Connecting with the “wild neighborhood,” we’ve often heard the literary expression of “wolves at the door.” In fact a recent program at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center was even entitled the same.                                                                                                                                                                      
A recent encounter in the mid-Trail neighborhood has a similar resonance. In this case, however, I would call it, how about “moose at the window.”  Two of the iconic critters made a surprise visit to a residence and actually enabled a photo shoot through the glass. Don’t know if this was a just by chance passing through or a couple of peeping “toms.” Whatever the ungulate rationale for being there, a digital is shared for all to see on the WTIP website posting of Wildersmith under the Community Voices column.                                                                                      

After weeks of “hummer” activity at area nectar stations, take-offs and departures have come to a near standstill. It’s obviously nesting time and since the mommas are saddled with all phases of nesting/nurturing duties, they don’t get too far away from those thimble sized incubators. Question is what are all the papas doing during this time, don’t they need fueling refills?                                                                                                                                                                 

A wonder of nature in the backcountry is, why do potholes in the road continue to appear in the same location? Having lived nearly three-fourths of my life in suburbia, I have yet to fully adjust to driving on washboard roads with sometimes cavernous “chuck holes.”                                         

No matter how hard our County Road crews work to maintain them, the seemingly natural speed bumps continue to reappear without fail. Sometimes those jaw-jarring spots happen at the top of a hill, while other times at the bottom and sometimes in between on most every secondary path through the forest.                                                                                                                                                                                        
I suppose it could have to do with the type of vehicles, speed, and usage volume. Then again, weather conditions certainly play a role, especially with regard to precipitation. Knowing the intensity of falling, running and accumulating water can show no mercy, these no doubt takes a toll too.                                                                                                                                                                                          
All told, the rough ride scene is probably a combination of many factors. Regardless, the subject remains an un-curable fact of life in unorganized territory. In the final analysis, the annoying cavities, are what they are, be patient, be attentive, slow down and be good at playing “dodge hole,” as the maintainer will get here and there soon...                                                                                                                                      
With July in our sights, it’s that time when the Gunflint Community starts gearing up for the Canoe Races. Planning is full speed ahead as the big day is little more than two weeks away. Calendars should be marked for Wednesday, the 18th with activities beginning at 4:00 pm and races at 6:00.                                                                                                                                                            
Volunteers are needed beginning next weekend (July 6/7) to help sell kayak raffle tickets during the days leading up to the event, please (call Sally Valentini @ 388-0900 to sign-up), and servers will be needed in the food tent on Race night(call Cindy Ceo @ 388-0305 to assist with this phase).                                                                                                                                                                              
This is the forty-first annual fundraiser in support of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer FD & Rescue crews. Plan to be there for food and fun as WTIP broadcasts the happenings, in concert with the stations’ kick-off of the summer membership drive.                                                                                     

This coming Sunday, July 1st, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is holding an open house on the Chik-Wauk Campus to officially un-vale its Water Craft Exhibit Building. The celebration of timber framing by 19 GTHS volunteers will run from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm. Visitors are invited up to inspect, hear stories of the crafting/raising adventure, and learn of what’s to come. Cake and lite beverages will be served.                                                                                                      

Closing for this week, the annual Northshore Health Care Foundation barbeque fundraiser was held last Sunday at Gunflint Lodge. Over seventy generous folks trekked out the Byway on a splendid day, to enjoy swell dining overlooking the ambiance of sparkling Gunflint waters. Thanks to Foundation organizers and the Lodge staff for a delightful event.                                                                                                                                                     
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every moment is great, under both bright days and dark sky nights!                                                                                                      


Fran & Fred Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 22, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith       June 22, 2018    
After tinkering around in the northland for several weeks, the Solstice of June has declared this summer official. Although its’ been more than summer-like in many areas of the state already, the Gunflint Territory has pretty much been spared the tropical nasties so far. The moose and I hope this temperate spell can be extended into September, and then cool off.                                                          
During the past weekend, our wilderness world received a much-needed blessing from the heavens. Luckily, not falling as a huge deluge, this neighborhood received over an inch during three days of clouds and showers.                                                                                                                          
The moisture was hopefully enough to squelch a recent fire discovered a dozen or so miles northwest of Lake Saganaga in the Quetico. At last report, the ignition had consumed about forty acres and was being monitored while allowed to burn an area apparently in need of fuel reduction.                                                                                                                                                  
Trekking in the forest is a major recreational activity throughout the BWCA and Superior National Forest. While accidents and emergencies do occur on area Trails, such incidents are continually being addressed through advancing technology to assist search and rescue responders in their often difficult emergency missions.                                                                                                                                                    
Local trail users are starting to see new signage on some County trail systems. If listener/readers have not seen them yet, the blue and white signs have a series numbers and letters at the top and bottom. These “Emergency Location Markers” identify wilderness locations using the US National Grid (USNG). USNG use of rescue signs is relatively new and Cook County is beginning to pilot the plan.  USNG signing has been in use on Lake County snowmobile, ski and hiking trails for a few years. Cook County has installed some USNG signs on snowmobile trails, Pincushion Trail, Honeymoon Bluff Trail, some Chik-Wauk Trails and bike trails.
The great thing about the USNG application is even without cell coverage, if a user opens their phone and keeps the browser open, it will work without cell service as it is a satellite-based system allowing 911 Dispatch the ability to pick-up at least some accurate location information.                                                                                                                                                                             
“In an Emergency, call 911”, provide Dispatch with the two larger sets of 4-digit numbers on the sign bottom to accurately describe the location of the caller. The two sets of 4-digit numbers provide location info up to within 10-meter accuracy. As this signage project evolves Cook County will have some 240 locations marked. For more information, one might want to contact the Office of Emergency Management.                                                                                                
Residents along the Trail are reporting more and more moose sightings, any number of which have come in from up on the Sag Lake Trail and around Moose Pond Drive. One fellow has counted five recently, including a handsome set of twin calves. More observations have come from the Iron Lake campground and a few from Mid-Trail neighborhoods. Hurray for Moose!                                                                                                                                                 
Meanwhile, bear mommas are making candid appearances with their cubs in any number of locations. If they are causing trouble with us human invaders, I have not been informed of any, other than the tackle box incident a couple weeks ago.                                                             

 A couple Gunflint Lake residents did a double-take in reporting an unusual summer sighting of a great snowy owl. The observation came just a few days ago in an area of the lower Trail. It was determined to be a male and appeared in healthy condition. This winged predator might have a GPS problem though because it’s not supposed to be around these parts this time of the year. Usual migration takes them to northernmost Canada for breeding season by now.                                                                                                                                                
Special programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center continues with two events this weekend. Saturday the 23rd, The International Wolf Center will be presenting a program on none other than “Wolves”, beginning at 11:30 AM.                                                                                               
Then on Sunday the 24th, bird expert, Kate Kelnberger will be talking about “Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Hummingbirds and Sapsuckers”, beginning at 2:00 PM.                                                      
Both programs are free to the public with support donations being appreciated.                                     
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint, where every day is great, as the planet begins is slow trek the back other direction!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 8, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     June 8, 2018    

Our stickiness of May’s last days is a distant memory. Conditions along the Trail have dropped back into the “cool” of the north beginning with this weeks’ scoop. Thank goodness as a little of the hot and humid gets old pretty quick!                                                                                     
Residents and businesses out this way are thankful for the more tolerable temps but even more, so because our arid ways have been squelched with several droppings from the heavens. In fact, our first weekend of the new month was quite soggy. Most likely the weather was not the best for early season vacationers, paddlers or anglers, but for those of us on edge due to wildfire danger, we’re smiling in spite of cold, dreary conditions.                                                                                                                                                             
The thirsty earth has been gobbling up every raindrop. All of this recent fountain of life will be put to good use as the deciduous forest finishes leafing out, and coniferous cousins are sending this seasons’ shoots skyward. The last of our “green-up” extravaganza is observed in sugar maples. “Mother Natures” exercise in shading the wilderness landscape is now complete, and the natural world is on to weeks of a summer fling.                                                                                                              

Whereas busy lives don’t often allow for contemplation of many simple, natural things going on about us, I spent some quiet time recently, watching our leafy tokens react in a blustery morning wind. While you might think I don’t have enough to do, I find many interesting goings-on in the forest by just letting my senses respond to creations’ stimuli.                                              

In that regard, speaking of our newborn foliage, not only is every leaf species unique in shade, shape, and texture, each seems to have its own character when the wind sets it in motion. To mention a few, I noted some greenery shimmers/quakes; some spin; some turn their bottom sides up; some plane themselves out sunny side up; some flop from side to side and many others just bop around. All the while, they’re swishing some in-audible resonance and hanging on for dear life. It’s a summertime ode.                                                                                                                              

New colors are falling in line for the warm season parade. As the early yellows are fading, other tints of the spectrum have perked up. Right on schedule for the first of June, the pink of wild roses, baby-blue of forget-me-nots and muted red of columbine have spruced up the yard around Wildersmith. Meanwhile, I’m also seeing uncountable tiny white blossoms of wild strawberries. This is a really sweet time of the year.                                                                                           

The return to cool, and some moments downright cold has surely energized the fleet of hummingbirds in this neighborhood. I suppose they must be on the move to tank up as much as possible to stay warm. They are so excited I can barely hang out a fresh jar of sweetness without being swarmed. The other day while hanging the unit up, one of the brilliant ruby throats hovered within inches of my nose, certainly encouraging me to get out of the way.                   

The fox mentioned a few weeks ago, has apparently adopted the Smith’s. It’s not here every day but shows up frequently knowing I’ll throw it a scrap. It also has found enjoyment in the pursuit of squirrels hanging out around my wood shop door. The foxy guy has already caught one, and the other day I saw a red/orange blur go by my window as the fox flashed by chasing one of the rodents around the house. This time the squirrel made it up a tree in the nick of time.                                                                                                                                                                             
The Trail event calendar intensifies this weekend with the Boundary Waters Expo starting Saturday morning over on East Bearskin Lake. Then on Sunday the Gunflint Trail Historical Society holds its annual shrimp boil and bake sale fundraiser.                                                                                     

This happening takes place at the Seagull Lake Community Center beginning at 4:00 pm through 6 pm. John Schloot and his crew will be at the boiling pot as usual for this scrumptious touch of southern cuisine up north.                                                                                                                                  

A donation of $15 per plate is suggested, and you’ll need a few extra bucks to take home some of the baked goodies from the north woods kitchens. Don’t miss it!                                                                                                                                                                          

On a closing note, The GTHS will be having its first membership meeting of the summer on Monday, the 11th. The gathering will include the annual business meeting beginning at 1:30 pm in the Seagull Lake Community Center. After the business of recognizing Board of Trustees with expiring terms of service, there will be an election of new Board members.                              

The days’ program speaker will be Wayne Anderson, who will be “Taking A Walk Down Memory Lane” with reflections on iconic names and places during his many years of life along this scenic treasure. This will be more Gunflint Trail History in the making. Following Wayne’s presentation, treats will be served.                                                                                                                                                                                     

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



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 1, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith   June 1, 2018
Commencing with this weeks’ report during a busy Memorial Day weekend, the North Woods has experienced a sudden turn to summer. Our atmosphere lost its’ spring luster to some ugly July/August stickiness. We can only hope this unpleasant natural sauna is temporary.                                                                                                                                                                              

If you’ve been following my column over the years, it’s plenty evident I don’t favor hot and humid. So with what’s been going on in the last days of May is not making me and the moose very happy. Our only consolation is in knowing the tropical madness throughout Gunflint Territory is not as miserable as it is for our Minnesota brethren to the south.                                                                                 

The unofficial start of the summer season found the Gunflint Byway alive with uncountable visitors during the long holiday. There were people everywhere. If this is an indication of things to come, businesses out this way could have a banner summer time.                        

For yours truly, the weekend found me caught in the midst of chores for two seasons. With help from some great friends, I was putting the dock into the lake one day, while stacking firewood the next. In regard to the woodshed filling, this wood will be remembered as having warmed me twice over, both now and a winter or two down the road.                                                           

Some scattered showers in the upper Trail had done little more than settle the dusty back country roads and barely tempered wildfire danger. At Wildersmith the rain gauge collected less than two tenths, while areas in the mid-trail and up at the end saw a little over a third of an inch. Then in the past couple days “Mother Nature” finally squelched the recent drought with a great one-inch soaker.                                                                                                                                             

One of those earlier shower episodes included some big-time thunder and lightning, so I’d be surprised if there might be a strike smoldering somewhere in the forest. Everyone needs to keep an eye to the sky for smoke signals. Let’s hope the recent moisture episode doused that danger.                                                                                                                                                                                            
Other thoughts about water find area lake temps have really spiked up the past few days. Whereas the water was in the high thirties about three weeks ago as ice went out, this past weekend found it had reached the sixty-degree mark on Gunflint.                                                                                

Another issue finds the late spring/early summer pollen time exploding. I don’t usually pay much attention to the happening, but this dusting seems beyond normal. The collective allergen is layered on everything, from the vehicle to a yellow/ green skim on lake surfaces.                                   

I was over on West Bearskin Lake last Sunday headed for the annual big pancake feed at Camp Menogyn. I couldn’t believe how the wind had blown the pollen slurry into a nasty goop up along the shoreline. It was, and is pretty yucky!                                                                                                             

Speaking of another annual back woods annoyance, the black fly hatching has catapulted the bitin’ critters into our everyday lives. At the same time, mosquitoes are gaining attention too. So the war is on!  Bug nets and a slathering of repellent dupes are called to arms, and all other exposed bodily parts.                                                                                                                                                                     

Bruno reports have intensified since we last met. Members of the Gunflint ebony sloth are getting closer and closer to human interactions, but I’ve heard of no major calamities yet.                       

I did hear of a crazy happening that took place for a fisherman in the mid-trail area. Although details are somewhat sketchy, it seems his tackle box was set on the dock while he tended to some other business. Returning later, the tackle box was found upside down on the dock in a pool of water.                                                                                                                                                                    

Blame is pointed at a bear as the best possible culprit, after having been observed in the neighborhood earlier. Conjecture has it the bear mauled around with the box trying to open it (probably thought it looked like a campers food chest), and knocked it into the lake. Then not to give up on a potential feast, managed to pull it out of the water and back onto the dock.                                                                                                

Apparently finding access too frustrating, the accused departed leaving the angler’s treasures un-opened. When opened by the rightful owner, the box was half full of water and in a tangled mess while revealing a few dings and bite marks. Knowing bears can find a way to get into almost anything, one might guess this bear is off scratching its head in wonder of what it missed.                                                                                                                                                                              

In closing, a reminder is given with regard to the Boundary Waters Canoe Expo. It’s the first big summer event on the calendar along the Trail. Activities and the latest on everything paddling will begin at 9:00 am, next Saturday, June 9, and run through Sunday afternoon. For more info, go to the Boundary Waters Expo website, or email                                                                                              

For WTIP, this Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great as we await a next adventure in the “wild neighborhood.”