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Wildersmith September 24

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 Autumn is officially declared…and what a package for the north woods: the equinox and the full “corn” moon occurring within hours of each other. What a magnificent time to be in the wilderness.

The collage of fall brilliance truly exploded during the past week. At this writing, sugar maples are at the peak of infrared hues. Shades of red are absolutely breathtaking along the Mile O’ Pine when clouds part, allowing the sun to shine through.  Meanwhile their wild moose maple cousins are chiming in with orange-reds to deep maroon.
It’s a leaf peeper’s dream come true as one traverses the Trail. The yellow brick road of summer blooms has transitioned into a gilded tunnel of quaking aspen and birch tokens.
Windy conditions mentioned last week have continued almost unabated. The sometimes-raging air currents have slowed canoe traffic on the larger bodies as rollers capped in white bashed shorelines. In a few cases, it makes me wonder why the brave at heart have used questionable judgment by tempting fate in such dangerous water circumstances. Luckily I have heard of no tragedies to date.
With colder temperatures of late, and stiff winds, it hasn’t been the best for late day sun gazing around here either. When it has been calm enough to actually sit on the dock, clouds have stymied several evenings of those dazzling U.S./Canadian sunsets.
But all is not gloom and doom because of the frequent gray and cool outside. It’s a time when the magic of wood smoke permeates the forest at certain places along back country paths. 
For those of us who have not taken off on the seasonal migration, puffing chimneys are ushering in a new season just like the striking forest attire. Silvery vapors ascending from a hot wood burning stove cast an unmatched romantic northwoods spell that is a complement to the outdoor aroma of fall in the forest. The two of us at Wildersmith have shared the experience with passers-by too, with the first lighting of our black iron firewood eater, and all is warm and cuddly.
Critter tales are trickling in. A bear made three breaking and entering attempts at a mid-trail residence off Bearskin Road--no damage done, but Bruno was probably a bit out of sorts at not hitting the nutritional jackpot.
Another happening in the woods just east of Wildersmith saw one of those pesky squirrels become the target of a hungry hawk. Observers tell of the hawk circling until it found the right moment for the attack. Then like rifle shot, it came streaking down for the rodent pick-up.
In the blink of an eye, lunch was clutched in the avian talons and hoisted off into the blue. This is an up north example of fast food at its best…not even a McSomething could be had this quick.
Then while hiking with friends last weekend, we came upon a situation where white flakes were flying fast and furious from above. The sun was shining and it was still too warm for snow. Skyward investigation finally located a downy woodpecker high in a dead birch.
The little fellow was busy pecking away in a hole that was already large enough for his full entry. We still don’t know whether it might be a future residence or a big cache of tasty bugs. Whatever the situation, he was making sawdust at a rate that would rival a good chain saw. It was quite interesting to observe this operation of peck and spit.
The honkers are headed south and murders of crows are congregating along the byway for their trek in the same direction, so I’ll fade into the distance too.
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the splendor of border country.
Airdate: September 24, 2010