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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a native Iowan re-located to the wilderness of border country at the end of the century, has been writing of happenings in the upper Gunflint territory for going on eight years, first with the local paper, and since December 2008 for WTIP North Shore Community Radio. Fred feels life in the woods is extraordinary, and finds reporting on it to both a reading and listening audience a pleasurable challenge. Since retirement as a high school athletic administrator from Ankeny High School, Ankeny Iowa in 1999, the pace of Fred's life has become less hectic but nevertheless, remains busy in new ways with many volunteer activities along the Trail. Listen at your convenience by subscribing to a podcast.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.


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Photo via Aberdeen Uni Web Team

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 19, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       October 19, 2018    

It’s Sunday evening once again, and as I begin this weeks’ Gunflint report, the weather outside, remains frightful, for October that is. A couple days of predicted sunshine have failed to materialize, but we Gunflinters’ are hopeful for a warm reprieve before the real thing sets in for the next six months.                                                                                                                                        

As last weeks’ scoop hit the airwaves, this neck of the woods hit an early trifecta of snow. Our third snow in three weeks blanketed the area with autumn not even a month old on the calendar. The white stuff even hung around on the cooling earth for a couple of days before rain and above thirty-two finally did it in.                                                                                                                                             

So the “fall” look is back to normal, although the first color phase of the season took a beating with snow, sleet, rain, and wind. Leaves have been falling like snow, leaving a good deal of the forest with skeletal remains lurking overhead. If I had a nickel for every needle and golden token in the yard, the “National Debt” would be reduced to zero. Fortunately for us woodsy residents, we are not concerned about raking.                                                                                                                              

Our second act of this colorful bounty is jumping out at us in flaming torches of golden lace. Of course, I’m talking, “Tamarack time.” These magnificent, needle dropping conifers have seemingly turned on overnight. In select locations along the byway, they are simply breath-taking, nestled in between their evergreen cousins and nearly naked, deciduous neighbors. To capture this beauty, a trip out this way with a digital recording device will favor an exceptional reward.                                                                                                                                                   

Speaking of more photo-ops, I’ve recently been made aware of an unusual happening along a back country road. While hiking in search of the perfect autumnal scene, this fellow had a critter whisk by alongside his path.                                                                                                                           

Startled at first, he was surprised at a Lynx coming so close. Furthermore, the close encounter with nature was more remarkable, when the Canadian cat stopped a short distance away, sat down and gave him a curious look.                                                                                                      

Well, he was in the woods for picture taking, so that he did while the cat remained, posing and of course, trusting this two-legged creature was only shooting a camera. What a rare opportunity!                                                                                                                                                                            

Another familiar “wild neighborhood” critter paid the Smith’s a visit Sunday. When we least expected it, “piney” the marten cruised down our deck rail. Sorry to say, there were no treats available.  Due to bears having not crashed for the winter, I’m not tempting Bruno’s up onto the deck with treats intended for other animals.                                                                                         

One thing I know is this marten was no stranger to the place as it went right to where its’ goodies are always kept.  Sorry, I was not able to accommodate, but it will no doubt be back.                                                                                                                                                   

The neighborhood fox has been getting more consistent in daily visits of late. However, there were a couple days when I was busy indoors and did not get outside to please him, so he left obviously disappointed. In telling the next door neighbors about missing “Foxy's” feeding time, they told me not to worry as it came up their driveway on one of those days with some actual wild game in its mouth. A red squirrel had filled the bill.                                                                           

On a somber note, the Gunflint Lake shore residents are saddened with the passing of two long-time friends and neighbors. Marge Estle of Lake Villa, Illinois passed on September 14, and Bud Beyer of Glenview, Illinois passed on October 8th. Marge, 99, was a seasonal resident in the summer home group and served as secretary of the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association for many years. Bud, 78, lived seasonally on North Gunflint Lake Road and will always be remembered for his kind and gentle ways. The Gunflint Lake Community extends condolences to their family and many friends.                                                                                                                                   

Once again, times are crazy exciting around the WTIP studios and a few other venues around the county. The All-Star radio ssss-port drive is into its second full day of activity. WTIP hopes you will return to action as a member of the team.                                                                                   

If some of you listeners have been in the UP state (unable to Pledge) and never joined this phenomenal team, there’s still a spot on the active roster, and it’s time to get on board!                     

All it takes is a quick call on the phone, 1-800-473-9847; a click on “pledge now” at; or better yet, stop by the studios at 1712 West Highway 61 and get your name posted on the line-up page, with a pledge of support. WTIP needs you, be an All-Star patron now and forever!                                                                                                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and wonders in the natural world are un-ending!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 12, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       October 12, 2018   

Since our last visit on the radio, atmospheric conditions have not changed much. Dreary would be the best descriptor of the past several days.  
With the sun on sabbatical, about the only thing to brighten the daytime hours have been our on-going color extravaganza. Even at that, the autumnal sonata has been tempered somewhat as a couple days of pre-winter snippets reminded us of what life can be like at forty-eight degrees north.   
One night found the gales of November battering the county a few weeks early. Then twenty-four hours later, the first measurable snow laid a luster of purity on the northern landscape.                                                                                                                                                                            

Folks in the upper Trail dodged a bullet in regard to the howling wind storm. While the village and both directions along the Superior Shore were bashed with downed trees and massive power outages, damage out this way was minor in comparison. Nevertheless, branches were down and intermittent flickers in our power service kept us border country folks on edge for several hours. The gusts in the pines along the Gunflint Lake shore were convincing enough to send the Smith’s to the lower level for a time. Luckily, the big whites around here stood firm, green tops up.                                                                                                                                                             

Almost in a case of not to be out-done, another climactic character stepped up during the next diurnal segment. Although the weather service gave hints of such, few would have bet the forecast of white would occur. This time the prediction was right.                                                                          

Last Friday morning broke with a fresh coating of white with the flakes still coming down in this neighborhood. When all was said and done, a few hours later, two plus inches of the wet heavy stuff was recorded.                                                                                                                                                             

I have no reports from the mid-Trail snow zone, but I suspect folks residing in this area got even more, as they usually do. Friends reported the driving conditions on the Trail were treacherous as they headed into civilization, nearly prompting a turn-around to cancel their trip.                                                                                                                                                                                    
Some of the fall tokens have called it a year, but in spite of the early season weather oddities, the fall leaf spectacular has shown some true grit. A trip along the backcountry blacktop remains simply stunning, with a blur of birch and aspen gold flanking the Trail for most of the fifty-seven-mile journey.                                                                                                                                                                                     

My plans for getting some winter chores done during this mayhem were set aside temporarily as walks, steps and the deck had to be shoveled. How about that for October 5th? Although it’s been nothing to write home about, a slight warming has occurred since, and the white is gone.                                                                                                                                                               

With that, I’m back at the “getting ready for winter” list. Tasks are getting crossed off slowly. The most noteworthy jobs are finished, that being the boat and dock, and now the winterizing of the Wildfire Sprinkler Systems this past weekend. This being said, I was back into the lake water for the second consecutive weekend, leaky waders and all, burr! So now if the “great spirit of the north” wants to get serious about ice making, he can have at it!                                    

Speaking more of things fall, the last membership drive of the year for “the voice of the north,” is but days away. By this time next week, WTIP will be in the middle of their autumn fundraising endeavor.    
As in every audience canvassing and new member recruitment, this time remains as critical as the last in order to stay on budget for the year, and continue providing the quality programming radio listeners and cyberspace users have come to expect.    
The theme for this dollar pursuit is all about Sssssports!  Join the team and be a WTIP “All-Star.”                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The Wildersmith guy hopes all will be ready to open those wallets and purses as the excitement of another WTIP fund drive gets underway this coming Wednesday, October 17th. It’s easy as a click on the keyboard (, or toll-free telephone call (at 1-800-473-9847).       
On a final note, with “Moose Madness” just a week away, it’s appropriate to announce one of the iconic “twig eaters” has been making some marketing appearances up the Trail. I last observed the big guy in the wetland near the road to the old Blankenberg pit. Others have seen him too and are raving about the big rack hanging overhead.                                                                                        
It would seem a good time to get a little more Trail “leaf peeping “in, make a stop at the Chik-Wauk Campus and maybe by chance, catch a glimpse of this wonder of the woods.  I’m betting your chances are better at seeing Mr. Moose than they are at winning the current monster Powerball!                                                                                                                                                
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, whether cloudy or clear!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 5, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       October 5, 2018
Here’s October! She banged at the door. We let her in, and there’s no turning back. It seems almost unimaginable, but the Universe is nearly one week into the final quarter of ’18.                                                                                                                                                                                 
 Also unthinkable was waking up to white on the ground in the Wildersmith neighborhood and other places in the upper Gunflint on the last Saturday of September.   Although such a winter preview is not totally unheard of, the dusting to a half inch in places was a surprise.  Most snow melted by mid-day, in concert with the warm earth and peeks of sunshine.  Intermittent sunshine through-out the day alternated with banks of clouds and rainy-snow showers on the heels of gusty “Nor westers”, so conditions didn’t feel very autumn like.                                                               

In spite of the day remaining quite raw, escapades of another north woods spectacle were shared by friends over on Hungry Jack Lake. Rainbow after rainbow crossed the lake through countless squalls as the spirit of “Sol” beamed through the elements. The color marvel crowned the heavens in awesome spectrum until setting in the southwestern sky.                                                                                                             

Needless to say, for listener/readers outside the territory, as one would expect, it’s been cold. The Smiths’ have had a fire in the wood burning over half a dozen times prior to the calendar turning over. This is unprecedented during our nineteen years in border country.                                                     

The good news is our dock and boat have been brought ashore and put to bed. It wasn’t an easy chore as air temps colder than the lake water, and rough seas made the task not too pleasant. We Smiths’ were blessed to have a good friend, and his buddies from Metropolis, who braved the elements to help get the job done. By the way, the water temp, at the time was in the low to mid-fifties, so there was a definite incentive to get in and get the equipment out.     

More glad tidings come from the beautiful Mile O Pine as the sugar maple spectacular is lighting up our lives. In spite of not having the billions of such trees found in the highlands above Lake Superior, we nevertheless cherish the gold to scarlet radiance afforded us. This years’ short-lived natural majesty seems to be the best ever. However, I’ve probably said this before.                                                                                                                                                                                               
The crimson of the forest in this neighborhood is not limited to maple tokens. A few days ago, my red fox friend stopped in for a visit once again. It had not been around for a couple weeks.                                                                                                                                                                                     

The cool to cold conditions have brought on remarkable changes in the foxy critters’ apparel. Boy, has it ever bulked up with the winter coat while the tail is fluffy and wide as its body. Overall, it looked like it had just come perfectly groomed from a salon, nothing like the mussed, scrawny fellow of a few short months ago.                                                                                                                                     

This visit was more than the usual grab and go scene. On this stop-over, it spent all morning with me, following like a puppy dog begging for a treat. When I was busy, and not paying it attention, the handsome red dude would lie down and wait until I moved on.                                                                                                                                  

On a couple of occasions, it would come to my wood shop door and give me a forlorn look, as if to say, don’t you see me. These moments were a special up-close experience as I looked into its penetrating amber eyes. The look in those golden spheres was piercing and yet, a soul-stirring reverent sense of beauty.                                                                                                                                                           
I’m uncertain if we have adopted each other permanently, but for several hours, the company of man and beast was unexplainably curious and trusting.                                                                                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, amongst the charm of “Mother Natures’ favors.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 21, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith        September 21, 2018   
The Wildersmith two are back in border country. A quick run south to Iowa for a visit with kids and grandsons was great. However, the atmospheric conditions were not so welcoming.                                                                                                                                                       
Although the hot and sticky was not so irritable for Iowans by Iowa standards, it was less than comforting for yours truly. The return to the Gunflint raised a renewed appreciation for the “cool” north.                                                                                                                                                                   
In fact, as I key this new scoop, temps in the mid-fifties and a steady northwest breeze have been beckoning a north woods greeting to the second Equinox of 2018.  After several weeks of autumnal temptations, it’s finally here, the second most beautiful time of the year! You all know my favorite!                                                                                                                                                               
The joys of this season are upon us along the Scenic Byway. Our “technicolor” bonanza is exploding as the spectrum of gold to scarlet and then hues of brown signals an end to summer, heading us toward the sparkle of a crystal time.                                                                                                                                  
Some flakes of fall are already trickling down. Of particular note, venerable white pine needles of a year ago are cascading in blizzard-like fashion blanketing the forest floor. Meanwhile, waiting in the wings so to speak, or better yet, in the treetops, cinnamon scales of western white cedars are soon to be raining down.  Our tawny new carpeting is but one of uncountable annual treasures of a year coming to an end and adding yet another layer to the accumulated duff from thousands of years ago.                                                                                                                     
The Tsunami of usual “Leaf Peepers” should not delay getting up this way. Some deciduous members of the forest are now in the shedding mood. An example of such and another joy for the Smith’s is the wondrous way falling leaves take their place along the Mile O Pine and other backwoods arteries.                                                                                                                                                                               
Such a celebration is underway and was somewhat surprising upon our return from the southern trip. It’s not quite a “yellow brick road”, but conjures up thoughts of such with windrows of golden leaflets neatly swooshed into formation by a few passing vehicles.                                       
If this bounty of beauty wasn’t enough, a timely inch of rain has dampened the earth, and along with its congregate collection of downed leaflets stirred our sense of smell with the initial essence of the harvest season. Oh, if we could only bottle up this magic aroma.                                                                                                                                         
And, as if to compliment this refuge of charm, the next couple days will see heavenly beams shining down with the full Ojibwe “wild rice” moon (Manoominike-Giizis). Furthermore, other happenings in the heavens find winged folk of all varieties in varying stages of migration. Most notable are wedges of Canadian Honkers leading the way southward. Back down on earth, the Gunflint Trail snowbirds are taking flight as well.                                                                                                                                                                                     
In a bit of people news, an announcement from the Chik-Wauk Campus comes regarding the cancelation of this weeks’ (Saturday) program in the Nature Center. Scheduling complications mean the presentation on “Bats” as presented by Peg Robertsen cannot be held and will have to be re-scheduled for next summer. The Chik-Wauk staff regrets and apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused.                                                                                                                                                   
In closing, the words of photographer, Jacques Dupont come to mind. “We see so many ugly things in the world, but the splendor of nature is a superb counterbalance.” The Gunflint North has it all! Don’t miss seeing her in full-color dress.                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, truly, a sanctuary of abundant wonders.                                                


Eagle Sentinels

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 7, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      September 7, 2018    
As our north woods days fly rapidly by, it seems hard to accept we are headed into the final months of 2018, and one week of September is into the books. Furthermore, with this weeks’ broadcast, its’ even more difficult to fathom, yours truly kicking off the 17th year of doing news and views from the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                  

When former editor of the News Herald, Vicki Biggs-Anderson, twisted my arm into taking on this responsibility, following the legendary Justine Kerfoot, I never dreamed it would extend this long. It’s been a delightful journey for me first as a newspaper columnist and now as a member of the WTIP radio family.                                                                                                                                    

I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful folks through this weekly media exchange, and remain deeply indebted to those who have helped me along the way.                                                               

Lastly, but surely not the least, WTIP listeners, website readers, and streamers are what this is all about. The sharing of news tidbits and occasional pleasant audience comments make this weekly scribing and audio endeavor terrifically rewarding. Thanks so much!                                                                                                                                               

Now for a little news, the atmospheric conditions in the upper Trail over the past seven days have varied little from those of the previous few weeks. The area remains under moderate drought conditions with nearly un-measurable rainfall in the Wildersmith neighborhood. At the same time, temps have been as would be expected for this time of year. To summarize, the region has experienced warm “Indian summer” days and comfy cool nights, with only a few drops of rain and not a hint of frost.                                                                                                                                        

On a related atmospheric note, but not specifically related to just our Gunflint territory, the July/ August edition of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer features a nice article entitled “Clues in the Clouds.”                                                                                                                                                                    

With violent weather extremes seemingly consuming many places on our continent, it looks to be a good idea that we check out the heavens to learn what clouds can tell us. In this land of both blue and often gray skies, knowing what certain cloud conditions mean can be vitally important to life on the planet. Did you know, “at any time, clouds cover about three-quarters of the Earth’s surface?” Check it out, at the library or online at                                                                                                                                                                                       

If folks in the territory failed to get to the doings at Chik-Wauk last Sunday, they missed a swell afternoon of North-country sweetness. Ominous late morning clouds and a brief downpour threatened to wash out our GTHS activities, but well over three hundred folks showed up anyway and brought sunshine with them.                                                                                                                                            

Beyond all the wonderful visitors, a few facts of the day included: 40 to 50 donated pies, over three hundred fifty slices served, uncountable scoops of ice cream, provided by the good folks at Gunflint Lodge and countless dancing gyrations to delightful music by the North Shore Community Swing Band. People were swingin’ and a swayin’!                                                                                                                                   

Since Chik-Wauk is all about history, the day of pastries and cream was topped off with people reunions and reflections back in time. While Gunflint neighbors, David and Patsy Coleman, drove to the festivities in their 1923 Model T Ford, perhaps the last living Trail pioneer, 97-year-old Rolf Skrien, charmed many long-time friends by making it out to his former stomping grounds. Thanks to everyone for making this another great day at end of the Trail!                                                                                                                              

More from Chik-Wauk, with kids back in school, obviously the Tuesday kids’ days are over, as are the USFS Tuesday afternoon programs. However, weekend programming in the Nature Center continues, only switching to Saturdays instead of Sundays. These educational and entertaining programs will go on through September 22nd.                                                                                               

This Saturdays’ program features David Grosshuesch, from the USFS. Dave will be talking about owls. So if you “give a hoot” mark your calendar, and be there at 2:00 pm.                                  

One more Gunflint Community scoop reminds folks of the September Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting this coming Monday, the 10th. The meeting will be held at 1:30 pm in the Schaap Center (Fire Hall #1).                                                                                                                                      

This month’s program will reflect on the “Early days of Gateway Lodge on Hungry Jack Lake” as related by Bob Gapen with supporting comments from Richard Fink. The usual treats and conversation will follow.                                                                                                                                                

Saving the best of North Country life for last, observing a couple “wild neighborhood” critters never gets old and is always a cherished moment.  Thus, I share the sighting of a bear crossing the Mile O Pine and a return to Wildersmith of a fox who’d been AWOL for many weeks. The bear was not stopping for a photo-op while the foxy one checked in at my wood shop door, remembering, I was an easy touch for some kind of a poultry hand-out.                                                                                        

If those episodes’ weren’t enough, a couple living on Hungry Jack were thrilled at a close-up visit of two bald eagles doing sentinel duty over their lake. They shared a digital which can be seen alongside my website column at, under the Community Voices drop-down menu.                                                                                                                                                                                                     

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint trail, where every day is great, as the journey into autumn continues.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 31, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith         August 31, 2018    
Many aspects of warm season life along the Trail are waning. As I scanned the territory for news this week, the blueberry moon has faded to its final quartile, to welcome September. With the long Labor Day weekend ahead of us, summer is on the ebb for family vacationers with school days now but hours away. Add this to the diminishing chlorophyll production in the forest and one would think visitors and residents along the Byway might be down in the dumps.                                                                                                                                           

Quite the contraire however, the color of a new season is creeping evermore over the northern horizon, recharging everyone’s batteries as autumn fever hits the Trail. The usual fall changes are exploding rapidly, and the area should be near full-color bloom in a couple weeks.                                                                                                                                                                                      

I’ve been tracking the transition of a couple sugar maples in the upper Trail reaches. They are sending a scarlet letter of invitation to leaf peepers. Simultaneously the granite hillsides are lit up brighter with each passing day. A couple friends down the road hiked the Magnetic Rock Trail a few days ago and expressed surprise at the early color spectacle in advance of official “Tagwaagin”(fall, in Ojibwe) on September 24th.                                                                                                    

Our part of the universe is truly a magical place this time of year. For backcountry adventurers, the hottest of days are in the rearview mirror and frosty nights will soon invigorate late season paddlers and campers with bounteous enthusiasm. For yours truly, it’s a season for unique anticipation of all verses in an autumn serenade.                                                                   

The only complication with what’s going on around us is the upper Gunflint area went yet another week with little significant rain. While neighborhoods in the mid-Trail received a couple shower downpours, at the keying of this report last Sunday evening, the Wildersmith rain gauge had captured less than one-half inch. The wildfire danger needle remains at the top of its range from Gunflint Lake to Saganaga at Trails End.                                                                                                      

Meanwhile, there have been no stressful extremes on the thermometer, but the lake water temps have waned into the low sixties.                                                                                                                                 

If listeners haven’t filled the holiday weekend calendar, a reminder for your Sunday is the “sweet treat” social up at Chik-Wauk.  Serving of Trail-made pies and ice cream runs from noon to 4:00 pm. As mentioned last week, there’ll be a lot of things to see, hear and do around the Campus. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society invites one and all to come and enjoy a day of north woods enchantment!  Who knows, it might be a lucky moose viewing day!                                                            

Just when residents seemed to have had an uneventful summer with bear activity, I’m told there were some property invasions in the mid-Trail/Poplar Lake neighborhood. I don’t have any particulars other than the Momma and cubs were not invited, but gained entry by coming through window screens and un-secured doors. It’s that time of year, so we might expect more of such vandalizing acts.                                                                                                                                                  
Another couple down the road mentioned hearing some unusual meowing around their yard a few days ago. They knew of no one in the neighborhood with a feline pet, so it was perplexing as to what was going on.                                                                                                                                                              

After a period of investigation and listening, the only critter observed was a blue jay. When the jaybird finally left its perch, it did so spewing the same cat-like sound they’d been hearing.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Very interesting, I’ve heard of ravens and crows mimicking other animal sounds, but never a blue jay. Maybe this one had a case of laryngitis?                                                                                               

Being the Wildersmith air traffic controller and re-fueling agent, I’m observing a noticeable decline in arrivals and departures from our sweet nectar station. Guess our ruby throat “Hummers” must be in pre-flight staging to head south.                                                                                                            

A few neighbors report they are observing only females and young ones, so where have all the papas gone?  Humm, it looks like another northland mystery?                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint, where every day is great, and one better is always, yet to come!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 24, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith           August 24,  2018   
Heading into August’s final stanza, Miinike Giizis, the Blueberry Moon, will cast its’ splendor on the northland this weekend. Although the season of blue gems has pretty much been picked over by both man and beast or withered on the vine, the memory of such sweetness resonates in this lunar magic.                                                                                                                                                                                       
In a related heavenly note, the stars aligned for some human enchantment up at end of the Trail last weekend. As the Dark Sky Caravan from the University of Minnesota Duluth pulled into the Seagull Community Center on its final stop up the North Shore, the sky blue yonder couldn’t have been more dazzling.                                                                                                                                                                                  

Nearly 250 visitors got a spectacular tour of the nighttime universe in the GeoDome Theater planetarium.  Then they experienced a hands-on opportunity in high-tech telescopic viewing of Mars, Saturn and the like. With help and narrative from the Dark Sky student delegation, the two-night celestial celebration was a twinkling sensation!                                         

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society facilitated the Dark Sky event in cooperation with the Trail Fire Dept., and thanks to the UMD staff along with many volunteers who helped make the event one to excite and remember.                                                                                                                                                 
Since we last met on the radio, atmospheric conditions have been seasonally warm and even sticky on a couple days. While on the moisture side of the weather ledger, precipitation deliveries have avoided this part of the world like we have the plague.                                                                           

While there are no known fires burning in the County, as of this keying exercise, our drought situation should be affirmed in capital letters. Prospects for wildfire in the upper Trail territory are worrisome with no burning bans in place and countless opportunities for bad decisions with fire throughout the wilderness.                                                                                                  

Meanwhile, over sixty fires are burning across the border in Ontario. Such being the case smoky skies have been coming and going for several days over this area. A little rain dancing should not be out of reason.                                                                                                                           
Over the past week, with several trips up to end of the Trail, I notice daily changes as the forest continues slipping into its’ autumn cloak. Birch gold is becoming more pronounced and there are a couple Tamaracks who’ve begun their autumn transition almost a month early. Could this be a sign of something atypical to come?                                                                                                                      

The Smith’s had an unusual threesome of gnawing critters in the yard recently. The munching trifecta was unique because one might never think of them together in close proximity. By closeness, I mean they were within two feet of each other.                                                                                              

Whereas red squirrels seldom tolerate the company of chipmunks in their dining area, the two were seemingly unconcerned they were in joint company with a woodchuck. Yes, a woodchuck, chipmunk, and squirrel “brunching” within a bite of each other. Is this a sign of coming together or what? Maybe we humans could take a lesson from this!                                                                
A note from the Chik-Wauk Nature Center reminds all moose lovers, the big icons are the subject of this Sunday’s programming. This is another in the Chik-Wauk, Sunday summer nature series. Renowned researcher, Dr. Seth Moore, from Grand Portage will be speaking on the plight and progress of moose survival in northeastern Minnesota, beginning at 2:00 pm.                            

A final shout out from the GTHS is given for pie donations to the annual social on September 2nd. Pie orders are still being accepted by event coordinator, Judy Edlund at 388-4400. With the sweet social growing every year, upwards of fifty pies are needed, don’t miss this chance to show off your pastry delights.                                                                                                                       

In addition to the P & IC, the Museum gift shop is holding a sidewalk (driveway sale); author, Cary Griffith, will be signing his book GUNFLINT BURNING; there will even be used cookbooks on sale; the sound of music will again echo up the Sag Lake Corridor and of course, more Gunflint stories to be learned in the Museum. You won’t want to miss it, noon to 4:00 pm, one week from Sunday!   
For WTIP, this Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as Nature’s bountiful beauty begins taking a turn!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 17, 2018

Wildersmith n the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith    August 17, 2018
As in other places of the universe, the upper Trail has eclipsed the half-way point of our eighth yearly segment. After some swell north woods days early in the month, the beastly star of daytime light blistered the Gunflint last weekend.                                                                                                             
Not having been exposed too much of the oft summer season misery, the conditions had many of us two-legged beings sticky and complaining. While not as steamy as many points to the west, south, and east, when the temp reaches mid-seventies to mid-eighties, it’s jungle like in the forest. Yours truly, for one, hope’s for some natural air conditioning by the time this weeks’ Trail scoop hits the airwaves.                                                                                                                                                 

The mid-Trail fundraiser for the Fire Department and Rescue team went off with another bang, back on the 8th. Once again a nice turn out of local supporters had a good time socializing with friends and neighbors and then picked-up many flea market treasures at bargain prices.                                                                                                                                                                          

The live auction followed the usual format of vigorous bidding for a trove of great gifts, all donated by area crafters, artisans, and businesses. Auctioneer, Michael Valentini kept things lively with his humor and insistent fun loving badgering of bidders into digging a little deeper, for a good cause.                                                                                                                                                               

On a rather interesting note, five locally baked and donated pies were auctioned off, each garnering between 75 and 100 dollars, and a swell twice smoked ham brought in $200. The day ended as Derek and Andrea Hofelt from Loon Lake Lodge had the winning ticket in the drawing for the 2018 mid-trail quilt.                                                                                                                                           
After the dust settled, the mid-Trail Community netted a record $15,500.00, all of which will be donated to the GTVFD.  Congratulations to the organizers and many volunteers for their dedicated efforts, and thanks for a swell afternoon!                                                                                               

More news comes from the end of the Trail where another Sunday program in the Chik-Wauk Nature Center features Teresa Marrone. Ms. Marrone will be expanding the discussion on Non-Invasive and Invasive plants, following the Scenic Byway/Chik-Wauk invasive plant pulling program of a couple weeks ago. The presentation will get underway at 2:00 pm.                                                                                 

It’s the time of year when the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is calling on all area pastry specialists to pre-heat the oven, and roll-out some crust. Yes, the annual Pie & Ice Cream Social will be held two weeks from Sunday, September 2nd, up at Chik-Wauk. Yes, I said September, it’s almost here. So I’m calling all pies. Give Judy Edlund a call 388-4400 to let her know your pie will be there.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Sweets will be served from noon until 4:00 pm. As an added sugary treat, the Northshore Community Swing Band will be playing for your enjoyment from 12:30 ‘til 2:00 pm. The days’ proceeds go to assist in Chik-Wauk Campus operations. A donation of $5.00 per person is suggested.                                                                                                                                                                  

Although a few die-hard blues pickers are still out in the woods, the purplish nuggets must be starting to dry up. An indication of such could be the case as the Smith’s recently came across a hungry momma bear and her twin kids feasting on dumpster delicacies along South Hungry Jack Road. The cubs vamoosed into the forest as we slowed to observe, but momma simply shuffled around back of the unit and peeked at us until we moved on down the road. Berries are about gone, but hunger pangs are forever.                                                                                            

In spite of the recent hot spell, the collection of winter vittles seem to be ratcheting up with the red rodents and “chippies” around the Wildersmith yard. Some days the number of red rodents looks to approach gang size.                                                                                                                   
Furthermore, as one day melts into another, some of us upper Trail residents are feeling the “getting ready” season dwindling. Oh, so many chores to finish and suddenly so few days! Meanwhile, snowbirds are already contemplating migration.                                                                                                                      
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we hear notions of a “September Song.”



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!