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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Contributor(s): 
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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Wildersmith August 27

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 The upper Gunflint finally received some rain that is worthy of mention. Upwards of three-quarters of an inch soaked most areas. We are thankful, yet hopeful that more will be following soon, as the forest remains plenty thirsty.
 
A couple warm sticky days dogged folks in the territory again this past weekend. But as we head to the month of the full “corn” moon perhaps some frost will coat a pumpkin or two in the next couple weeks.
 
Even with the warm weekend, I’ve detected a drop in the water temperature at the Wildersmith dock. It appears that Gunflint waters may have peaked a week or so ago at 76 degrees. The current reading was at 71.
 
The water level steadied with the rain but is still within and inch or so of dropping off the DNR measuring scale. When that happens, launching the boat from our dock will require some careful maneuvering to deeper waters.
 
An interesting avian occurrence was shared by a neighbor recently. While bringing in the sweet nectar bottle for nighttime protection from the Brunos of the woods, one of those tiny humming hovercraft was so anxious for a bedtime snack that it landed on the bottle perch while it was being carried to the cabin.
 
The little winged folks are often pretty brave with humans about, but this is the first I’ve heard of such a happening. One can be happy that it wasn’t a bear pursuing a last-minute bite.
 
Speaking of bears, I’ve had several reports of sightings, but no incidents of ursine vandalism or breaking and entering. Residents and visitors must be doing a better job of minimizing temptations.
 
Wolf observations continue from many places along the Trail. Most seem to be coming the stretch above Kings Road to the Cross River Pit. It seems that the wilderness warriors are a lot more visible this summer than in the past. Perhaps that’s an added reason for not seeing the usual whitetails, they’re scattered and running for their life.
 
It will be of interest to see what the 2010 fawn numbers are as we advance into the cold weather season. The same inquiry will be made of moose calves.
 
Last winter there were very few baby deer from the previous spring…in the gang that comes by here. It seems certain that two or maybe three packs are culling the deer herd in large numbers up this way.
 
The squirrels of this neighborhood are adding to the mystery of forest life right now. They have begun to harvest cones from high in the white pines. The clunk of a cone careening down from 60 to 70 feet onto a cabin roof surely gets your attention… particularly in the twilight hour before sunrise. Why do they have to go to work so early?
 
Area residents are again reminded of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting this coming Monday, August 30, at 1:30 p,m. at Hungry Jack Lodge.
 
The next Trail happening is scheduled for September 11. The third Taste of the Gunflint will take place that afternoon at the Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Plan a leaf-peeping trip up the Gunflint and stop in for some great northwoods sweet treats at a pie and ice cream Chik-Wauk fundraiser. Mark your calendars…more info to come.
 
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the seasonal “Change and Parting.”

Airdate: August 27, 2010


 
 

Wildersmith August 20

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Hot and sticky was the character of the Trail last week, as the territory was again dealt little more than a few sprinkles. Wildfire danger has ascended into the “high” category by the judging agency, so residents are edgy in regard to the crunchy conditions throughout the forest. Strangely, I hear no scuttle about campfire/burning bans as rain predictions continue to be a nonsensical fraud around here.

During this keyboard exercise, some partial climatic relief is headed in by way of Canada. Northwest winds are howling down region lakes with the promise of cooler area-wide temps.

The roaring winds in the darkness of last Sunday night and Monday morning had a familiar sound of January coming through the pines, and the prognosticators even mentioned that contemporary scare word ”windchill” for pre-dawn hours in early week data. How about that for a turn-around?

Coupled with dwindling of day light minutes and powder dry soil conditions there is a growing explosion of gold in scattered patches of birch and aspen. A few maples along the Mile O’ Pine have tinges of scarlet, but I’m afraid they might wilt into winter without achieving their full flair, even though it has been humid. I remain amazed that the forest is as lush as it is in this persevering boundary country drought.

The waters of the “Gunflint Gal” keep on tricking away down the Granite River. Add in daytime evaporation and I’ve been measuring the decline at about a tenth of a foot per week on the DNR lake level gauge. It’s going to take months, if not years, to fill ‘er back up.

A happy Trail note was struck last Saturday afternoon as the Mid-Trail gang put on their 2010 flea market, gift boutique, auction and quilt raffle. A big crowd filled fire hall #1 for the fun and refreshments, in addition to taking home some great deals.

When the dust had settled, the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department came up the biggest winner. Some $5500.00 was generated for their coffers from some very generous participants. By the way, the annual Mid-Trail quilters’ work of art was won by Ray Ahrens who has a cabin on Hungry Jack Lake. Great organization made the afternoon fly by. Thanks go out to everyone that lent a hand in making it happen.

The August meeting of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is little more than a week away. Members and wannabes should mark their calendars for Monday the 30th. This month’s meeting site will be at the new Hungry Jack Lodge beginning at 1:30 pm. Aside from the usual business, there will be a review of the initial weeks of Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center operations. Treats will be served once again.

It seems hard to believe that the yesterdays’ summer is almost gone. Autumn is on the way. Concerns in these parts have turned toward back to school, making jelly, plucking garden crops, getting on with firewood collecting and splitting, wondering about dock removal and snow clearing equipment tune-ups.

It’s a time where the young grouse now look like mom. Velvet is sagging from local ungulate antlers, bears are making hogs of themselves, hummers are nervously hovering in increased numbers at sweet juice bottles, snowshoe hares are having thoughts about a new winter coat, rodent species are collecting every seed possible for the cold weather menu, winged things are thinking about edging southward and lake water temps have peeked warm enough for the shallower bodies to be almost covered in lily-pads and algae.

Yes, the first frost could be just a few weeks away. We can only hope it will be of enough consequence that a farewell bid can be made to our miserable late season mosquitoes.

By the time we meet again on the radio, the “sturgeon moon” will have us headed toward September. Time flies when you’re having fun!

That’s all for now. Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a lasting summer fling!

Airdate: August 20, 2010

One of Fred's Gunflint Lake neighbors caught this video of a bear getting into things it shouldn't.


 
 

Wildersmith August 13

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It’s August, week two, and there barely has been a drop of rain in the upper Gunflint since we last met on the radio. Less than a quarter of an inch in the first eleven days of month eight along our Wildersmith south shore and coupling that with most of July’s precip’ coming in the first half, it’s clearly understandable why I’m saying it’s as dry as the proverbial bone. 

One of the few creeks visible from the high country Trail has stopped pumping water over the mini falls into Larch Creek. Yes, that sparkling little liquid plunge over the granite just southwest of the Seagull Guard Station has ceased tumbling. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it without at least a trickle in my eleven years of residence. 

A few miles down the Trail, water is so low that one can hardly call the Cross River by such a name. It’s sad to see everything on the forest floor so parched. I had a suggestion from our state to the south that they will gladly pump as much water up this way as we would like if the Gunflint would furnish the hose.  

Outside of the frustration about moisture, the other facet of our atmospheric conditions has been rather like a yo-yo. Finally dismissing the heat and humidity of last week with a few marvelous forty-degree nights and daytime sixties, there was a feel of fall in the air. Now, as I key this column, the territory is right back into more of those summer "dog days." 

With many cloudless skies of late, there has been a marvelous twinkling through the tree tops. It’s that time of year when those coniferous cones are oozing that sticky concoction. A magical crystal display glistens in the low heavens when gently swaying branches and sun beams interact with the gelatinous droplets. It’s another sample of "Ma Nature’s" superb ability to embellish our world. 

There is on-going conjecture about extending fiber optics through the territory, but recently there have been some splendid natural fiber installations on cool early mornings in the neighborhood. Those arachnid spinners have been producing a glorious network east of the house. Their efforts would surely make even the most comprehensive man-made venture green with envy. The intricate workmanship of these dew catchers is something to behold as they shimmer from branch to branch and leaf to leaf.

I’m still hearing about bucket-buster patches of blue morsels being discovered. Always found in a surprising secret location that no one, not even a bear, has yet detected. I listened with interest the other night as collectors of indigo pearls defined dirty pickers and clean pickers. It seems the defining moment comes after returning home with a full container and has nothing to do with one’s hands or seat of the pants. "Clean" pickers meticulously bring them home pretty much void of stems leaves and other debris, while the "dirty" pickers strip berries in one fall swipe (bear style), usually leaving the sorting of morsels from chaff to someone else. Which style fits you? 

The mid-Trail folks will be sending summer on its way this Saturday. The annual August afternoon of fun and fundraising will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Fire Hall Number One. Everyone is encouraged to join in the festivities and lend another hand in support of the Gunflint Trail firefighting volunteers and EMTs. There will be a lot of flea market stuff and the auction is always a blast, culminating in the drawing for that great Mid-trail Quilter’s creation.

So, all you visitors and Gunflinters come on down! 

That’s all for now. Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the aging summer!

Airdate: August 13, 2010


 
 

Wildersmith August 6

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Enter August, the month of the Sturgeon Moon. Mother Nature has again turned on the moose and me with some miserable "Augustus" humidity. About two days of this has me yearning for those magic "S" and "C" words associated with December.

A couple days last week were heavenly up this way. A surging northwest wind overpowered its southerly counterpart and reminded me of just how wonderful fresh air from the north can be. It is just one opinion, but the aromatic nip of currents from Canada and beyond is beyond compare with the dank muggy from points south. No wonder thousands of visitors head this way from the metropolis when the thermometer heads upward.

But here we are once more in the grasp of ugly stickiness. Further, the Natural Gal has issued another backorder on precipitation. It seems totally unfair that border country should be choking in dust for what seems like an eternity…but what are you going to do when every rain prediction barely wets the bottom of the rain gauge? We could sure use a siege of 40 days and 40 nights to get things flowing again!

The lake water level on Gunflint Lake is ebbing lower and lower with each passing week. Long-time residents along her shores claim to have never seen it this low. The same can be said for her big sister, Saganaga, with new mini-islands of granite popping up where they have never been observed previously.

On a more positive note, for those liking to dip in the lakes, water temps have risen to near the mid-70s on the deeper bodies. This is about where it topped out last summer. So come on in, the water’s fine!

Harvest season continues but may be slowing some as the arid conditions are not pumping up those blues like they were a couple weeks back. Meanwhile the colorful berries of late summer are changing their hue in some places.

Berries of the mountain ash, high bush cranberries, pin cherries and some domestic black cherries here in the Wildersmith yard have all turned to the ripening stage. So another luster of autumn is added to the growing golden ground-level floral experience.

One can only hope that all this earlier-than-usual maturation in the fruit of the forest might indicate an advanced transition to winter. At least a few of we forest dwellers hope so.

In its first month of operation, the newly opened museum and nature center at Chik-Wauk has been quite an attraction for both residents and vacationers. Averaging over 100 visitors per day, the 3,000th person crossed over its threshold July 28 to see and hear the story about people of the Gunflint.

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society’s officers and board of trustees are extremely pleased with the turnout and reviews from attendees. The facility remains open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 17.

Special events are happening there, too, as every Thursday the USFS is presenting an afternoon program on Becoming a Boundary Waters Family. In addition, the annual Taste of the Gunflint will be held on the Museum grounds Saturday, September 11 with a pie and ice cream social/fundraiser.

Don’t forget the August 14 mid-Trail fundraising extravaganza for our Trail Volunteer Fire and Rescue crews. It commences at 1 p.m. in Fire Hall # 1. So activities beyond the usual fishing, camping, hiking, canoeing and the like are keeping the calendar squares filled throughout the Gunflint Community.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor summer fun on the Gunflint!

Airdate: August 6, 2010


 
 

Wildersmith July 30

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

 
 

Wildersmith July 24

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

Airdate: July 23, 2010


 
 

Wildersmith July 9

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

 
 

Wildersmith July 2

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

Airdate: July 2, 2010


 
 

Wildersmith June 25

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

 
 

Wildersmith June 18

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