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Wildersmith Jan. 13

A wolf near Tucker Lake photographed by Fred's wife, Fran.
A wolf near Tucker Lake photographed by Fred's wife, Fran.

Finalcut_Wildersmith_20100115.mp34.35 MB

Life along the upper Trail remains seasonal in one aspect and puny in another. The past week found the region again hunkered down amidst its usual sub-zero character. Finally, last weekend saw some moderation that made even single-digit temps feel balmy.

On the puny side, we have gone another week and the drought on snow continues. Although the landscape remains pure of crystal, we need a break in this continuing dry spell that has haunted us during nearly a decade of winters.

If flakes don’t start building up soon, our dry time before green-up will be more precarious than usual in terms of wildfire risk.  And, the liquid glacial undulations that froze in a depleted state could thaw, exposing more shoreline than ever before. Guess the prognosticators that said El Nino would crush winter as we like it in northern Minnesota have been right on.

The brutal cold of the past few weeks provides some interesting occurrences that only backcountry folks have the privilege of experiencing. The eerie scrunch of steps in dry snow, unexpected popping of frozen sap in a white pine and the house suddenly creaking are samples of life in the frozen north.

In addition, the sight of frosted foreheads and backs on the deer during these bitter mornings seems almost unimaginable. How cold, but durable, they must be.

At 28 below a couple mornings ago, Whiskey and Jack, my gray jay pals, came to my hands with a delicate frost build-up around their eyes. Without this up close and personal fellowship, who would have thought that this happens, much less that they could still be alive.

We should be amazed at how many of Mother Nature’s critters have evolved to survive in her seasonal conditions. Sad to say, though, that rapidly changing circumstances in our universe are putting the evolution of adaptations for all living things into a critical state.

The recent issue of the “Minnesota Conservation Volunteer” magazine has a section on tree adaptation to climate warming in our northern latitudes. The presentation was interesting in regard to what is happening to the southern boreal forest. The prognostication for these adaptations during the next 100 years is not what we old-timers like to hear…particularly if you have affection for the coniferous forest as we know it now.

Speaking of adaptation and survival, day-to-day is on the minds of wolves throughout the territory. Most recently, a wild game buffet has been opened up on the lake ice in front of Gunflint Lodge. The wolf pack provided the elements and many other wild carnivorous folks have taken part in the feast.

Meanwhile, another feeding station has been noted somewhere along the south shore of Loon Lake. A friend over there tells of one warrior coming up from the lake shore with a leg of venison in its jaws. It carried the meal into the woods, apparently for stashing, and then came back through, headed back to the site for more.

With the local deer population in a dwindled state, one wolf has taken a more vegetarian approach. The hungry critter has been showing up with some regularity to a bird feeding site over on Tucker Lake. It has decided that the oily flavor of spilled sunflower seeds is an acceptable diet alternative. Guess if that tummy is growling, anything will do.

Keep on hangin’ on, pray for snow and savor the winter woods!