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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 by vitalishe

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 2

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      August 2, 2019    
August has slipped in the back door just when folks were getting accustomed to July. While some bemoan month eight as summer at its end, there are many days left on the summer calendar. With wild babies yet to grow and flowers still to bloom, the Gunflint territory can look forward to warm season opportunities for a few more weeks.                                               

Notwithstanding all this summertime talk, I’ve detected a snippet of fall in a few places along back country roads. Yes, Dogbane is signaling of change to come with its ground level golden hue. Along with fireweed, these perennial north woods floras seem to always be the first to spill the news. Added to this reveal, a few days ago brisk northwesters and high temps barely into the sixties confirmed my autumnal disclosures with a cool air freshness requiring the closure of windows at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                 

Previous to our brief cool down, the upper Trail had been privy to splendid atmospheric conditions. With about an even split between days of  sun and clouds, temps have been tolerable, while a couple of thunder boomers sandwiched in, coughed up nearly an inch and one half in the Wildersmith neighborhood and likely more in the elevated mid-Trail areas.                                                                                                                                               
A couple of lightning strikes caused some angst for fire and emergency crews. One such set off a small blaze over near Daniels Lake and another struck near a campsite of Girl Scouts in the BWCA. In both situations, after affects resulted in the fire being controlled by FS crews while Search and Rescue folks found the scouts to be unharmed.                                                              

As August is the month of the Ojibwe, “blueberry moon”, reports tell me the harvest of the blue-purple gems is not too prolific in several secret patches. Guess, a lot of bushes just have no fruit, and what berries being found are somewhat small. Not knowing what’s to blame, we’ll tack it on the black fly pollinators and the “rain gods,” both of which did not fulfill their usual responsibility. Nevertheless, pickers are still out along the Trail in the bush gathering what they can.                                                                                                                                                                    

From what I can see, June berries, and wild raspberries look to be sparse as well. However, it appears there will be a bumper crop of mountain ash and thimble berries both of which will be welcomed by the bears.                                                                                                                       

Speaking of harvests in another aspect, the green count for Canoe Races “43” has been tallied. This years’ contribution to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department was over $22,000. Adding a little race trivia, over 120 racers participated and just fewer than 400 people were served in the food tent. A job well done by all!                                                                                 

With the paddling races into the history books, attention points to the next Trail event. Wednesday, the 7th is the big day in mid-Trail neighborhood. Activity begins at the mid-day hour with the flea market, Gunflint’s version of “American Pickers.” At the same time, artisan creations will be on sale in the boutique, and this is followed by the, always fun, live auction. The afternoon concludes with the quilt raffle drawing. All County and Trail residents and visitors are invited, it’s always a blast!                                                                                                                                                                                

Excitement in the mid-Trail area will have barely settled down, as eleven days later, on the 18th, the forest will break out in an afternoon of music, with the Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz. Many talented area performers, both returning and new, will strike the first notes at 4:00 pm in Fire Hall #1.                                                                                                                                                                                      

Seating is limited to one hundred fifty, and reservations go fast, so get on the phone to Patsy Coleman @ 313-673-6202 ASAP. Proceeds from both of the above mentioned events go to the GTVFD after expenses.                                                                                                                                             
Last week I mentioned the increased hummingbird activity around Wildersmith. In the days since, the chase for nectar has broken into all out warfare. The combative little gals/guys are in non-stop airborne combat with aerial acrobatics probably unheard of by even the most skilled USAF flyers.                                                                                                                                                                                 

When a stop at the sweetness bottle does occur, the pause is for scarcely a couple seconds. It’s a wonder they can even get a gulp before being driven off. In any event, it’s made for a wild air show, daybreak to darkness.                                                                                                                     

In closing, mark your calendars for August 16 and/or 17. The GTHS in partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth is bringing the Dark Sky Caravan up to end of the Trail once again. Come and celebrate a rising of the “blueberry moon” and the fiftieth anniversary of landing on the moon. More details next week.                                                                                                                

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as our summer song leads into the final stanza.


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 26

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith    July 26, 2019    
It seems hardly believable we can see the end of July as this Gunflint scribing comes your way.  But it’s true, as our next WTIP gathering will be in August.                                                                

While a major share of the Midwest was sweltering in miserable heat over the past week, we in the Northern Riviera dodged a bullet. Although it was warm and sticky at times, we can be thankful the mercury was nowhere near the triple digits.                                                                     

Further appreciation is expressed with another good dose of rain since our last audio meeting. A nice down pour dropped nearly an inch in the Wildersmith neighborhood.                                
The wet occurrence came during a brilliant, but spooky lightning display over Gunflint Lake and the surrounding area, just a short time after the annual canoe races finished the forty-third yearly paddle.                                                                                                                                                                 
It would seem the forest couldn’t have avoided a lightning strike somewhere. To date though, I’ve seen neither smoke nor heard reports of such. However, one can never rule out a sky to ground contact smoldering that might pop up in days ahead. In the meantime, Gunflinter’s will keep their fingers crossed hoping there is no issue.                                                             

Speaking more of the canoe races, the event was another huge success with throngs of people cheering on the racers in a sundry of different race classes. Further, visitors and supporters dug deep to pool funds in support of our firefighters and emergency crews. While contribution dollars are still coming in, there is no final tally to report, but it appears 2019 will be similar to the $20,000 plus of last year.                                                                                                                        

Two items can be confirmed though; number one, the winner of the Wenonah Kayak is Dan DuCharme of Hudson, Wisconsin, and number two, is everyone had a good time! Huge thanks are extended to organizers and their crew of community volunteers on a job well done!          

With August in sight, I’d like to give a shout out for the seventh annual afternoon of the Classical and Jazz Music concert. Gunflint Woods, Winds, Strings…and a Little Jazz will be collaborating with a “Sound of Music” in the Gunflint Forest on Sunday August 18 at 4:00 pm. The event will again be held at the Fire Hall #1 (Mid-Trail).                                                                                   
Tickets can be reserved by contacting Patsy Coleman @313-673-6202 or online @ As in past years, all proceeds, after expenses, will go to the GTVFD.
The mid-Trail hoedown fundraiser organizers remind folks, tickets are still being sold for their big raffle on August 7th. The time for this event commences at the noontime hour with the flea market, at Fire Hall # 1 & Schaap Community Center.                                                         
To say it’s busy along the Trail this time of year is pretty much and understatement. Activity at the Chik-Wauk Campus continues. This weeks’ Sunday program at the Nature Center features a concert with Jazz Guitarist Briann Morrison and Vocalist partner Roxanne Bergland. This end of the Trail performance will begin at 2:00 pm and all visitors, friends and neighbors are invited. The concert is free, but goodwill donations are appreciated.                                                                                                                             

I’m hearing bear activity in the mid-Trail area has diminished somewhat. Perhaps it’s due to the coming of the blues, blueberries that is.                                                                                             

The “Biggest Blueberry Contest” is now under way up the Trail. Designated weigh-in sites are posted, and I’m beginning to see empty vehicles parked at the usual spots along the black-top indicating pickers are out there somewhere, buckets in hand.                                                         

There have been no reports of harvest quantity, but the recent rains must have helped. We’ll see what reports come in during the days ahead.                                                                                       

During my volunteer day at the Nature Center last Saturday, I observed a number of excited pickers bring in their prizes to be weighed, many of them youngsters, with blue stained paws, so not all were being weighed.                                                                                                                                
Finally, while bear activity appears to have calmed, arrivals and departures from the hummingbird nectar station at Wildersmith have exploded. The mini birds have been AWOL for long periods so far this summer, but all that is history now as they are tanking up at the rate of a bottle a day. They have even dive bombed me, as I put up the re-fills. Happy days are here again!                                                                                                                                                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as July pulls away from this idyllic location!


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 19

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 19, 2019
Commencing this weeks’ Gunflint scoop finds the weather outside’s been frightful. Hot and humid has quite a few of us thinking of frost, including the moose. The land of natural air conditioning is on the “fritz.”                                                                                                                                       

One positive about the atmospheric conditions was the territory at long last got a dose of rain. Amounts were spotty from the few reports received with the mid-Trail area getting the most. In this Gunflint Lake neighborhood, the Wildersmith gauge gathered just shy of eight tenths of an inch. Then another round dumped a half inch or better just a few days ago.                                                                                                                                                                      

Although we can always use more, it soaked up the forest floor to ease wild fire danger somewhat. One thing it didn’t do was add much to the watershed whereby declining lake levels might be stabilized.                                                                                                                                                                       
So with lake water temps going up, surface levels are still going down. By the way lake water temps here on the Gunflint Gal are hovering around the seventy-two-degree mark.                              

A related rain note comes with a minus sign. The moisture seems to have energized, excited and enraged the mosquito population. Couple this blood-sucking component with the stickiness, and conditions have made for less than human comfort.                                                                     

It’s hard to tell if the rain did the wild berry crops any good. I’ve been getting a few discouraging reports on the blueberry crop, and my observation of June Berries looks about the same.                                                                                                                                                                                   
While thinking of the sweet berry harvest, those thoughts probably seem a little premature. However, my speculations of autumn were awakened a few days ago on a trip up toward end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                                             
Hidden in a few select locations, I observed golden leaves on some juvenile birch trees. It could be the dry conditions are responsible, but maybe not as the daylight minutes have diminished since the solstice, sending a signal to some green things. I’ll get a lot more excited about the autumnal coming when I see Dogbane turning gold along the roadsides.                                                                                                                           

In related flora notes, as the summer calendar completes the one-third segment, early blooms of the invading Hawkweed and Lupine are beginning to fade and rosehips have cast off those rosy-pink petals in a number of places. In the mid to late summer categories, I see Cow Parsnips and Fireweed making initial appearances along with that nasty sweet white clover, so perhaps the juvenile birches know something we don’t                                                                                                                                                                                  
All of us at WTIP are in a recovery mode after a great six day run for the “Radio of 2000 Lakes” summer membership drive. What a sensational showing of love and support for North Shore Community Radio.                                                                                                                                          
The Board of Directors, staff and dozens of volunteers are indeed grateful for the pledges by new and renewing members and business underwriters to keep this radio “phenom” going full speed ahead. Thanks so much!                                                                                                                                        
Joining the WTIP family can still happen, so if anyone listening missed their chance to pledge, it can still be done with a call or a click.                                                                                                                                                                                 

Final results of the forty-third Gunflint Trail canoes races are yet to be revealed as the event completed a paddling extravaganza this past Wednesday. I’ll have details in next weeks’ news.                                                                                                                                                                                
In the meantime, folks along the Gunflint should mark their calendars for the next big Community happening. The annual Mid-Trail flea market, gift boutique and auction will be held on Wednesday, August 7th, at the Schaap Community Center.                                                                                                

I’m told the 2019 quilt edition is another beauty, and tickets are on sale throughout the area. So one and all should get their tickets, you can’t win, if you don’t enter. The drawing for this grand prize will end a day of fun and fundraising for the GTVFD.                                                                            

I just received word from the Nature Center at Chik-Wauk about a natural world exhibit that not many humans get to observe. A live display of Monarch caterpillars in the chrysalis stage of development has been brought in from a milk weed patch in the north woods. It will be interesting to watch their progress toward the day when they can be released as orange & black beauties. Visitors better not delay getting up there to see this marvelous exhibit “Mother Nature” will not wait.                                                                                                                                                                
Sunday programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center resumes this weekend. The Campus welcomes back David Battistel, Gunflint Researcher/Historian from Thunder Bay. David will talk about “LeeBlain…Ghost Town of the Gunflint.” The program will commence at 2:00 pm, all are invited to hear this seldom heard chapter of Gunflint history.                                                                   

A reminder that Tuesday, “Kids Day” at the Nature Center continues 11:00 to 4:00, and Tuesday USFS presentations also happen up at the Museum beginning at 2:00pm.                                                

Also next week, look for new programing on Thursday afternoons, beginning the 25th. Campus visitors can take a trip through the “Nighttime Galaxy” with Joel and Josh in the Nature Center, beginning around the three o’clock hour.                                                                                                        

This is the first event in a pilot of exploratory partnership between the GTHS at Chik-Wauk, the USFS Gunflint Ranger District and the University of Minnesota Duluth. More information will be forth coming.                                                                                                                                                                              
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the buzz of summer takes on many meanings!


Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 12

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     July 12, 2019    
Month seven is cruisin’ along the Trail as we inch toward its’ half-way mark. The territory has remained in a summery way over the past week.                                                                                   

Going into this weeks’ scoop, the hot temperatures and humidity of July’s first segment have mellowed into to more normal North Country ranges. While the human comfort level has improved, folks in some areas of the upper Trail are getting increasingly tense about the dry landscape.                                                                                                                                                                              
The Gunflint Lake neighborhood and northward went another week with scant precipitation. At Wildersmith moisture recorded could not reach the tenth of an inch mark on the gauge. Couple this measly amount with less than two tenths from the week previous and a crunchy forest fuel load is easily understood. Meanwhile spotty sections down the Trail got a good dose just around firecracker day easing concerns down that way, for the time being.                                                                                                                                          
With wild fire danger approaching the extreme level, it would seem governing agencies should invoke complete burning bans before someone or something sets the forest on fire. Adding to nervous thoughts regarding our dry situation have been several days of smoke in the air. While smellers were taking note early in the siege, it came to full bore last Sunday when billows came rolling southward from fires in the NW of Ontario.                                                                

In lieu of waiting for rain to fall and smoke to lift, I would suggest area residents do some preparedness work by wetting down their properties every couple days or so with the wildfire sprinkler system. Building an umbrella/dome of humidity within the systems perimeter offers a good measure of protection.                                                                                                             

Border country heads toward the monthly mid-point with the Ojibwe, “half way” moon in a few days (the 16th). Along with this monthly lunar celebration, the Gunflint Community is looking forward to excitement of the forty-third annual Canoe Races.                                                      

Wednesday the 17th is the big day on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge. Activities get underway at 4:30 with the food tent opening, presentation of silent auction items and a six o’clock call for the first race.                                                                                                                                                                           
Organizers are hoping for a big turn out once again, as the event works to raise funds in support of our great volunteer fire and EMS crews. Tickets for the grand prize drawing remain on sale throughout the business Community and during the night of the event. This years’ winning ticket holder will take home a splendid Wenonah Kayak.                                                                                                     

Just as this event takes center stage, another highly important happening will be ending its run. However, as this scribing hits the air, the “Radio of 2000 Lakes”, summer membership drive is in the middle of its’ six day journey.                                                                                                                       

If listeners haven’t already re-upped or plan to join anew, the time has come to take the plunge into the cool of Northland Community Radio. Dive-in, broadcasting opportunities are beckoning for your support!                                                                                                                                                                                          
It is to join online; toll free @ 1-800-473-9847; 387-1070 locally or stop in at 1712 West Highway 61 to make your pledge. Don’t wait, keep the WTIP radio connection at the top of its game, every contribution matters!                                                                                                         

Un-scheduled activities continue along the Trail. Most noteworthy have been some recent larcenous reports of bears in mid-Trail neighborhoods. I’m told bear break-ins have been confirmed at a number of residences.                                                                                                        

It’s a good bet the hungry bruins are being tempted by human carelessness of some sort. Everyone can help in this matter by taking in those bird feeders, and securing odorous refuse. Remember bears will not be a problem, if we are not a problem.                                          

Other reported animal goings-on have not been so raucous and have often made for interesting photo ops. Included are sightings of wolves, fox, coyotes, moose, beaver and white tail fawns.                                                                                                                                                                                        
A report came to me telling of a big wolf stroking a long distance swim on Gunflint Lake, while a subsequent  sharing told of two beavers doing some unusual saplings harvest along the shore just down lake from Wildersmith. Yet another happening involves the Wildersmith wood chuck who was caught dining among a quartet of squirrels the other morning, what a remarkable five some!                                                                                                                                                                                    

The Gunflint Community is mourning the loss of two neighbors. Longtime residents Paul Kelnberger and Robert Einsweiler have recently passed from our midst. Both of these gentlemen were deeply respected and involved in the Community. To their survivors and friends, sincerest of condolences are extended from our Gunflint Trail family.                                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the calming of forest green.


Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 5

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith
July 5, 2019    
Days go by so fast, it seems as though I missed something with one week of July almost history. Here’s hoping all had a safe and sane holiday.                                                                                         

Since our last meeting on the radio, some nasty heat and humidity has engulfed Gunflint territory. Conditions have been keeping a lot of us woodsy critters in the shade or lake waters. Whereas it’s not hot as most of the US, our definition of heat in the northern forest has many folks crying “ugh!”                                                                                                                                               

Nevertheless, throughout the wild land, forest flora is shooting forth with enthusiasm after being stunted with cool since snow departed. Summer blooming is booming with oranges, pinks and yellows decorating back country roads and the few treeless spaces.                                               

Among wild edibles, strawberries, thimbleberries, Juneberries and blues seem to be shaping up for another juicy harvest. The same can be said for fruit on the Mountain Ash trees which will make a lot of Cedar Wax Wings happy come fall and early winter. All growing conditions being equal, it’s a good bet local green thumber’s are happy too.                                                                                     

The annual explosion of lupines has some folks smiling, while others more in the know are scowling at their noxious presence. While the multi-colored spires can be a blur of beauty to some observers, it’s hard to feel much affection toward the toxic invaders as they crowd out natives.                                                                                                                                                                             

As I kicked-off this weeks’ scoop, this neck of the woods has dried out once again. A couple wimpy showers in this neighborhood netted less than two-tenths of an inch, settling the dust for barely a few hours.                                                                                                                                           

Insomuch as our extended local forecast looked bleak in terms of a serious allocation soon, there’s a 90 % chance prognostications will be wrong. Perhaps a wet distribution will pop up unexpected by the time I hit the airwaves with this report.                                                                                           


Speaking of air waves, the Community Radio station of the northland is kicking off the 2019 summer support drive in the middle of this coming week. Considering WTIP radio waves connect people in this great area, the “Radio of 2000 Lakes” theme seems highly relevant as more earthy waves are dashing shorelines throughout the territory. Activities will get underway next Wednesday the 10th and run until noon on Tuesday the 16th.                                                                                                                            

This fundraising endeavor is the second of three held annually. In concert with the spring and pre-winter events, “Radio of 2000 Lakes” is a critical component to sustain the great broadcast opportunities to which listeners are accustomed.                                                                         

WTIP is counting on one and all to step up and help hit the mark. Be ready to check-in with your pledge of listener love.                                                                                                                          

I’m starting a list of “getting ready for winter” chores. There are buildings to stain, and firewood to stack heading the list as I get into month seven. With July’s weed whipping to do and continual brush to pile for snow season burning, there might not be enough days left if the month careens out of control as did June. So busy is an understatement.                                                                                                                                 

A couple notes from the Gunflint Trail Historical Society calendar remind members and friends of two coming events. First is an invitation to the grand opening celebration of the new Watercraft Exhibit Building at Chik-Wauk on this Sunday, the 7th from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. The second event is the July, Historical Society membership meeting on Monday July 8th. This will be held at the mid-Trail/Schaap Community Center, beginning at 1:30pm. Treats and refreshments will be served at both events.                                                                                                                                                             

A bear or bears have been making the rounds in the Wildersmith neighborhood, but doing so in nighttime obscurity. To date there have been just “calling card” notices, piled here and there with no reported property ravaging. We can only keep our fingers crossed along the Mile O Pine.                                                                                                                                                              

Meanwhile, “Woody” the chuck is making daily visits to share seed vittles with the squirrels. The ground level seed patch is unusually contented with the two rodent species munching away right next to each other. “Woody” used to dash off at the slightest noise or movement from the house. Now it just munches away as I pass nearby.                                                        

My neighbor down the road dispatched one the other day, and I thought it might be the end of this Wildersmith visitor, but it turned out to be just a cousin as “Woody” remains at the feed trough.                                                                                                                                                                      

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, even though it’s been hot and sticky!


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 28

Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith
June 28, 2019  
June has been in a tail spin, winding down to conclusion as the first full week of summer is into the books.                                                                                                                                    

Welcoming July, the universe is within days of reaching the half way point in the year nineteen. It would seem we need not be reminded, but America celebrates its two hundred forty-third birthday before we meet again on the radio. Hopefully, all citizens can come around for at least one day of peace and togetherness!                                                                                                

Speaking further of July 4th Gunflint Trail residents will always remember this day of infamous weather conduct across the territory. Many are already reflecting the day twenty years ago when the evil “derecho” changed the forest and lives for decades, if not forever.      While “Mother Nature” is hard at work in regeneration, folks who endured the terror will never forget the day several hundred thousand acres of forest were flattened beyond belief. We cannot celebrate the event, but cherish the thought there were no fatalities in spite of many injuries. Celebration is in order however, as we remember and give thanks for the hundreds of acts of heroism during this tragic time in Gunflint History.                                                          

Times of reverence and remembering can be shared at Chik-Wauk over the next couple weeks by visiting the Nature Center where many residents have preserved memories of the “Blowdown.”  In addition, there will be video reflections documenting the aftermath.                                                                                                                                                                                       

In the interest of the Gunflint Community Spirit, it would be nice to take a moment in the early afternoon of July 4th to commemorate the day a forest story was rewritten.                                               

Speaking of the forest in another vane, June has not been too kind to the upper Trail in terms of precipitation allotments. Feeder streams have slowed to a trickle and lake levels have been dropping.                                                                                                                                                                                 
The landscape was getting pretty dry until the heavens finally opened up with a timely dose last Sunday. It was a billion dollar rain in terms of tempering wild fire danger, and in this neighborhood, it happened with no lightning or strong winds to compromise wild land character.                                                                                                                                                               

Meanwhile temps have been just delightful, making for some spectacular days and cool comfy nights. The moose and I can only wish this to continue as our day light minutes start dwindling toward fall.                                                                                                                                          
Many activities are on tap up at the end of the Trail Museum Campus. The Nature Center programming continues Sunday at 2:00 pm. This week features David Hakensen of the MNHS. Mr. Hakensen will present stories about the Hoover’s (Helen & Ade) and their life on Gunflint Lake. Author, Helen is remembered for her books reflecting times in un-organized territory.                                                                                                                                                                     

Further scheduling for the week includes the regular Tuesday “Kids’ Day (11 to 4:00); The USFS Tuesday presentation at 2:00; and of course, the temporary “Blowdown” exhibit mentioned earlier.                                                                                                                                                           
Folks will want to mark their calendar for the next Sunday, July 7 for the grand opening celebration of the Watercraft Exhibit Building at Chik-Wauk from 11:00am to 4:00 pm. Cake, Coffee and Lemonade to be served.                                                                                                                      

Whereas wild neighborhood animal activity has been quiet around Wildersmith, I’m elated to say the black fly assaults have seemingly diminished. However, nipping critter activity is building among the mosquito forces. And to take itching matters to the next level, “no seeums” AKA “punkies” or “midges” will soon add to our itching irritation, even through our screened windows.                                                                                                                                                                        

Another biting bug trivia tells there are up to100 species of “no seeums” in North America. It makes me wonder how entomologists know this, if one cannot “seeum?” How can we be so blessed?                                                                                                                                                           

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we delight in natural connections!


Bear Photo by Fran Smith.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 21

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by      Fred Smith     June 21, 2019    
It’s timely the Gunflint Trail is finally fully engulfed in summer as we celebrate the Solstice. Once green with envy of other places already into the summertime look, the territory has caught up.                                                                                                                                                         

The quiet charm of back country roads is never more evident than passing through one of our green tunnels of trees. Like many other off-trail pathways, the Mile O Pine is regal in the shade of its emerald crowned canopy with occasional spears of sunshine spotting one’s way.         

Recently, I read an interesting article telling of a two decade body of research supporting the idea that trees have a calming effect on humans. Whereas we who reside in the forest already know of these behavioral phenomena, any numbers of places where blighted areas have been “cleaned and greened” are showing remarkable reductions in unacceptable societal activities.                                                                                                                                                                               

So even though the cause and effect would seem rather difficult to grasp, it’s hard to argue trees are not critically important. Beyond lakes and challenging terrain, perhaps trees are the major reason so many folks find this place so enticing; picture a canoe, calm water and trees, a zillion of them!                                                                                                                                                                   

One more note regarding the woods around us, as the leaf out is now complete, I continue fascinated by the candles of new growth on red and white pines. It seems these aspiring buds to branches might add an inch per day, and soon will be upwards of a foot or more further toward the heavens by summers end. Do you suppose one could hear them grow during darkness hours as Ag people claim of their corn on hot summer nights?                                                 

After twenty years of life in border country, I still marvel at those Canadian sunsets over Gunflint Lake, as do many others in the Gunflint Community along their favorite lake shore. However, I must confess being no longer in the mandatory work force, I do not often rise with the birds to greet a new days dawning.                                                                                                                                       
Unusual as it may seem, I happened awake last Sunday morning to see a most spectacular sunrise. It might even parallel the grandeur of those memorable day ending scenes. With just the right convergence of gauzy clouds, “Sol” set the heavens on fire, from its eastern most point of entry as far as the eye could see to the west of Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                                 

I’ve truly never seen anything like it, although such cosmic occurrences have eons of history, I’m just seldom awake to be a part of this brilliance. The flaming redness was short lived as the solar power burned though the celestial mist, but for a few brief minutes I was in awe!                             
I’ve been hearing several reports about a momma moose and her twins up toward end of the Trail. Perhaps there is more than one such iconic threesome up in that neck of the woods, but the Smith’s hadn’t observed any of them until we recently happened upon a traffic stoppage where this big old gal and her young’uns were the reason. Those cocoa brown babies were ever so curious watching momma grab munchies from the swamp bottom. What a photo op for several lucky Trail visitors, “real moose.”                                
There’s a notion black flies might be dwindling a bit, but I can’t see it’s happening around this place. For the record, a little research I found declares there are 150 species of black flies in North America, some of which don’t bite. It’s my guess that most of the biting varieties have been hovering right outside our back door based on the welts on my body, eee gads these things are ornery!                                                                                                                                                   
A reminder from the Chik-Wauk Campus is calling all kids on Tuesday, the 25th. It’s Kids’ day at the Nature Center from 11:000am to 4:00pm for youngsters under 18 and all are welcomed free of charge. Staff will have a variety of hands-on activities all related to the natural world around Chik-Wauk. A parent or guardian must accompany children while engaged at the Nature Center.                                                                                                                                                                          

Also on Tuesday, as are all Tuesdays through August 20, USFS naturalists will present themed topics on the North woods. These events will take place on the Museum front porch from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. All are invited!                                                                                                                                      

A sad note has been received on the passing of one of our Gunflint Trail Neighbors. Ron Hemstad passed from our midst last Saturday evening after begin hospitalized in the Twin Cities with some lingering health issues.                                                                                                                                      

The Hemstad’s have a cabin on the Mile O Pine while one of their daughters, Nancy and husband Dave Seaton are long time owners of Hungry Jack Outfitters. Ron, a career attorney, along with Betty, played a key role in developing the organizational charter of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. Gunflint Community condolences are extended to Betty, his children, family and many neighborhood friends.                                                                                                                                      

On a happier note, breaking news from the staff at Chik-Wauk, the baby loon and parents have re-appeared, only having moved to another, safer bay, along the Sag Lake corridor to the west. My apologies for blaming the bothersome eagle                                                                                                                      
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the cool, calming North woods!


CinnamonBear_Photo by Chikwauk via Facebook.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 14

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith          June 14, 2019    
It seems unimaginable, but our north woods universe is at the half-way mark of month six. In a couple days the full “Strawberry Moon” (Ode’imini Giizis) will be lighting up our lives. While by the time we next meet, we’ll also be celebrating the solstice of summer.                                                                      

It’s just impossible to think we will be seeing our longest period of sun time next Friday, and then the slow trek in an opposite direction begins. Guess we can be thankful this astronomical happening is barely noticeable, but then again, based on how rapidly June’s first half went by, is it really as passive as it seems?                                                                                                                                                    
So next weekend we can call it summer and the territory got a warm-up preview for a couple days last week. From this old guy’s point of view, that hot stuff got under my skin pretty quick.                                                                                                                                                                                     

The heat was enough to spurn some new blooming in the yard though and this is good. Forget-me-nots, Columbine and wild strawberry petals popped out overnight as well as a few blossoms on the Honeycrisp tree. Up and down back country roads both Pin Cherry and Juneberry flowers have burst onto the scene mimicking a look of branch coated flakes from a season past.                                                                                                                                                                      

The only thing to temper enjoyment of our floral color exhibit was the big warm-up brought on the first real influx of “Skeeters.” Coupled with their nipping black fly cousins and other un-named irritating pests, life outside of netting hasn’t been the most comfortable. June being designated the month of the “Strawberry Moon” by our Ojibwe neighbors, a gal down in the mid-Trail area has labeled “June, as bug month”, appropriate to say the least.                   

Another note on creepy things has many folks complaining about unusual high numbers of those big black ants. All this unpleasantness however will pass and the beauty of many other aspects of life in wild territory will get us through this time of welts and itching.                                                                           

Plenty of moose sightings have been brought to my attention over the past week including my own observation of long eared juvenile in a Trailside swamp. Another lady from over on Wash-out Road had the “heebie jeebies” scared out of her recently when one stumbled out from the woods in front of her vehicle. Then the obstinate beast proceeded to not allow her passage by taking its half the road out of the middle.                                                                                         

Meanwhile, a couple down the road report a cross-fox has been making nightly visits for trail cam photo ops. And the Smith’s experienced a first bear sighting along the upper Trail in the past few days. Another report from the director at Chik-Wauk tells of and uncomfortable meeting with an upper Trail cinnamon Bruno who’s been hanging around several places.                 

A birthing announcement came from the same gal at the Museum Campus on June 6 with the Loon egg hatching, just one egg I’m told. Apparently the new family was doing well after they vacated the nest platform until breaking news four days later revealed the parents were heard calling and more recently observed swimming around without baby being on board.     
When it appeared the Loon’s had won this natural survival encounter to extend a new generation into being, another element of creation (likely an Eagle) had a sad, but final say in the predator/prey scheme of things.                                                                                                                                                    
Speaking of an eagle, this segues right into the first Nature Center Sunday program of the season on the Chik-Wauk Campus. The program will begin at 2:00pm with a special presentation on Minnesota’s Raptors. Chris Tolman will be the presenter and is said to have some live raptors as part of her program. Admission to this birds of prey event is free, but donations of programming appreciation are accepted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Threatening skies and rain didn’t squelch excitement for the annual shrimp boil last Sunday. If you didn’t make it, you missed another great sampling of southern cuisine in the North Country setting.                                                                                                                                               
Thanks to the Schloot’s from Cross River Lodge for putting together yet another scrumptious feed. Kudos is also extended to the GTHS and the Volunteer Fire Department for the organizational details along with Voyageur Brewing Co. and many Gunflint Community bakers for their contributions to the bake sale part of the event’s festivities.                                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the Gunflint Community celebrates each and every one.


Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 7

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith
June 7, 2019    

It seems odd, but not too surprising, I’m scooping the Gunflint Trail and one week of the new month has already passed us by. When I last reported it was May, guess I missed a week somehow.                                                                                                                                                                            

With summer un-officially declared on Memorial Day weekend, the season is pretty much in full swing now with the school year ending for local students. Further, confirmation is seen in the Gunflint forest with leaf out complete and snow now gone from along the Mile O Pine.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The magnificence of this wild territory is borne out in the rituals of each season, with autumns’ collage of color, winters’ white and now summer green. A drive along the Trail this time of year seems so striking after the mono of winter. What a contrast between the bright deciduous leaves and deep green of the coniferous forest as a back-drop to sky blue water and heavens. A scan across our rugged landscape presents a glowing penetration of magical chlorophyll revival.                                                                                                                                                               

Another aspect of our turning green has caught forest folk’s attention. There’s something in the air and it isn’t the “Sound of Music.” I’m talking tree pollen. It’s as if we’re having an invisible dust storm. The hard to see collection on everything forest is most easily observed when one gets into the vehicle and has to turn on the windshield wipers to whisk the chartreuse powder away. My take on this springtime happening is the stuff is nearly as annoying as black flies. Luckily allergic reactions for yours truly are not a problem with this component of the natural world.                                                                                                                              

Atmospheric conditions over the past week have been on the verge of being a bit more “summer-ish.” Not too surprising though, a few mornings on June’s opening days found us near frost at Wildersmith, necessitating the comfort of warmth from the wood burning stove.                        
The other factor of Gunflint weather had been AWOL, and the area was in need of a precipitation re-fill. Fortunately, the rain gods broke loose with a nice rain in the last few days improving a crunchy situation.                                                                                                                                                                                          

A trifecta of activities going on up the Trail, highlight this second weekend of month six. To kick things off, the annual Boundary Waters Expo commences its two day run at 9:00 am Saturday with a full schedule of events concluding with a bonfire and speaker as the sun begins its descent. Then on Sunday, more activities with speakers, exhibits and things to see and learn take off at 10:30 and run until mid-afternoon at 2:30. This has always been a fun time for wilderness enthusiasts with notable outdoor experts sharing insights, the best and newest in gear exhibits and a gathering of friends exchanging wild land experiences.                                                                      

The BW Expo concludes just in time for attendees to trek on up to end of the Trail for the annual Shrimp Boil. The event is a fundraiser sponsored by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society to benefit operations at the Chik-Wauk Museum Campus. Beginning at 4:00 pm and running until 6:00, it will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center. In addition to the scrumptious dinner fixins’, a bake sale will be going on in a dining room corner with area sweet treat artisans donating their goods for purchase. All Gunflint Community residents and visitors are welcome.                                                                                                                                                                                   

If this isn’t enough, activities spill over into Monday, June 10 as the GTHS has its first membership gathering of the summer.  Held at the Seagull Lake Community Center, it will be the annual meeting, commencing at 1:30.  Following the Society business review and election of new Trustees, long time mid-trail resident Ina Huggenvik will be sharing historical perspectives – titled “One Man’s Dream.” Sweets, coffee and conversation will follow. All current members and wannabe members are invited.                                                                                               

From the wild neighborhood, folks up the hill from Wildersmith had a “Bruno” come for a morning deck-side visit a few days ago. The stopover was brief and with no reported bear shenanigans.  At Wildersmith, we are still tolerating “Woody” the chuck. The skittish critter played peek-a-boo with Mrs. Wildersmith the other day from under the nearby wood shed. Then during a recent task up at Chik-Wauk, I came across the calling card from a moose. While finding such is not too unusual, this scene differed in that the lumpy sample was left on top of an over turned boat near the Water Craft Exhibit Building.                                                                                               

Another update from the Loon’s nest near the Chik-Wauk Campus, finds the iconic Minnesota couple hanging in there amidst harassment from both annoying black flies and a bothersome eagle. If they are able to survive these nasty assaults, chick hatching should occur anytime during the next few days.                                                                                                                                              

In closing this week, a HELP WANTED posting has been extended throughout the territory from the GTHS. Help is needed for supervision in any of the three visitor facilities on the Chik-Wauk campus this 2019 season. Employment can come in the order of either full (up to 30 hours per week) or part-time {flexible job sharing (6 hour days) with others}. If interested see the Chik-Wauk on Facebook or for more details and application filing.                                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the…”sum…sum…summertime!”


Big Fish photo submitted by Fred Smith.jpeg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 31, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       
May 31, 2019    

Spring along the Gunflint Trail has had its good days and not so good since our last meeting on the radio. The Memorial Day weekend had few moments of sunny glory only to be stymied by dismal cold and dampness most of the time.                                                                                                                               

As we bid May adieu, and welcome June, odds are pretty good, as we head toward the Solstice, this seasonal re-birth will be much improved over the harsh past nine weeks. By the time this scoop airs, our last patch of snow will be gone from along the Mile O Pine. And in spite of our lingering winter character, sprouts continue emerging, Squill and Marsh Marigolds are blooming, fiddleheads are uncoiling along back country roads and infant leaves are filling in forest voids.                                                                                                                                                      

June finds many residents returning from their snow bird locations. The past week has seen the wilderness quiet succumb to the drone of engines on both lakes and land.                                             

There were so many angler rigs at the Gunflint Lake watercraft access last weekend, parking was at a premium. Vehicles spilled out onto South Gunflint Lake Road like I’ve never seen before. Such was also the case in parking facilities at Seagull Outfitters and Sag Lake Landing as well.                                                                                                                                                                                           

If this early visitor activity is a sign of things to come, the economic impact for area businesses looks to be bright as the summer sun. Best wishes to all for a great summer of Gunflint hospitality.                                                                                                                                                       

Speaking for the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, I wish to thank both lake property owner associations and many individuals for their participation in the Trail clean-up last week. Thanks are also extended to the County Highway Department for picking up the debris and collection bags left by the volunteer “worker bees.”                                                                                      

Let’s hope Trail users will do a better job of keeping litter in their vehicles for proper disposal during this next year. Such disregard for this beautiful place is unconscionable!                                 

I’m sad to report on the days where we have experienced the glory of “old Sol”, the biting airborne insects are in a harassing frenzy. Whereas there has been much griping about the cold of April and May, one has to admit it held the annoying critters at bay. Now it appears we are going to pay for it.                                                                                                                                                        

The lake water remains quite cold to which I can attest. Putting the dock and boat lift into the Gunflint waters was the order of business at Wildersmith for the Decoration Day weekend. With H20 temps holding in the low to mid-forties, I donned my wet suit, and with the help of my resolute neighbor, we shivered our way to completing the job. Now it’s time to enjoy some Canadian sunsets over Gunflint Lake.                                                                                                                           

While there are a plethora of superb northland photographers capturing the wonders of border country woods, a simple Trail camera located along the Sag Bay at Chik-Wauk seized a moment of animal majesty. The subject was a Canadian Lynx poised in investigatory pose as if it had been choreographed for the shutter click. The digital was placed on Facebook for the world to see, but better yet, why not come up to the Nature Center at Chik-Wauk and view the pic first-hand.                                                                                                                                                         
It was confirmed a day or so ago at Wildersmith that bears do poop in the woods. So we definitely know there have been dark night visitors in this neighborhood. During the daytime, we’ve been entertained by a part-time wood chuck. Whereas there are no garden munchies for “Woody”, it has taken over a ground level patch where squirrels get a daily seed allotment. It’s been a bit un-nerving for my “squirrelly and chippy” contingent.                                                                         

On a closing note, while our Holiday weekend weather was not as hoped, fishing at least, for some involved catching. Neighbors down the road had two days of good luck with “lakers” down on North Lake, but the biggest and best of all was a “hawg” Northern Pike caught right off their Gunflint Lake dock. See the website post ( of my Wildersmith Column (drop down on Community Voices) for verification of this forty inch plus, twenty-five pound surprise.                                                                                                                                                                         
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with a caressing spirit of the natural world right outside our back door!