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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fran and Fred Smith Photo by CJ Heithoff
Fran and Fred Smith Photo by CJ Heithoff

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 28, 2021    

The Gunflint Trail is now what residents have been waiting for, a blur of green.  A dose of rain has helped put the final touches on leaf out in upper Trail territory.                                  

This being said, a glance out the window finds it hard to see years of blow down rubble typical of living in the forest, once “Mother Nature” and “old Sol” start stirring Chlorophyll spirit. And the once brown, needle laden earth is being consumed with all things green.            

A couple days ago the Ojibwe, “budding flower” moon cast its’ golden gaze to the spring goings-on, and sure enough, the “Forget me nots” have popped their buds turning the Wildersmith yard sky blue over the past few days. Sprinkled in amongst the petite blue blossoms, I’m seeing wild strawberry flowers as the first fruit of the summer. This place is just magical with the ageless miracles of re-birth. What a creation!                                                      

While the majesty of this northern paradise is awe-inspiring, many folks have been brought back from spring gazing, to the reality there are a few “wild neighborhood” adversaries around, who in order to survive, will make life for us two legged beings very uncomfortable. At this point, I’m talking “Black Flies.” To date they are making the mosquitoes look like choir boys.           

The ornery little nippers have been near un-bearable in the last week. I heard from one gal who counted twenty-one bites on her hands after one outing. And another gal indicated she might be trying a bath in bug dupe. As for yours truly, I have my share of itchy scars after scrounging around in the dirt to repair a water system problem.                                                      
While this nipping nonsense will calm down in favor of the “skeeters”, the presence of our black fly hoards bodes well for blue berry pollination. If rains come in a timely manner, the territory could see a bumper crop of the “blues” come late July and August. You pickers, keep those fingers crossed.                                                                                                                                    
The summer vacation period becomes official with this Memorial Day weekend, and with it, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is opening its Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center doors to visitors for the eleventh year tomorrow, Saturday. Hours for the Museum remain 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.                                                                                                                   

As COVID-19 restrictions have been eased across the State, visitors are still encouraged to remember cautions necessary when being around others, regardless of vaccination.                  

Chik Wauk is excited to announce two new exhibits in the museum (The Powell family story is the 2021 special collection along with a permanent cultural /wildfire history presentation). The new interpretive cabin, closed in 2020 due to COVID, will now be open for first time viewing, and the Watercraft exhibit is also being enhanced with the addition of another significant historical unit. So make plans to take a trip to end of the trail a 2021 priority!                                                                                                                                         
I’d like to give a big shout out to dozens of folks who have been doing the Trail clean-up over the past few weeks. Thanks a million for your beautification efforts. While their job is now done, this littering problem is on-going. Every user is encouraged to keep their trash in the vehicle and stop whenever possible to pick-up after those who don’t give a hoot.                                           
In closing, I’m announcing this will be my last account of weekly happenings along the Gunflint Trail. As many listeners know, living in the woods can be difficult and challenging. While the Smith’s are presently in good health, the sands of time are sifting away faster than we wish. So we will be moving from this wonderful unorganized territory at the end of June, going back to Iowa where we will be more accessible to our kids.                                                                     

The past twenty-two years of life in the wild land have been an incredible experience. This Gunflint Community has been something to behold, and as an Iowa invasive, we at Wildersmith are so grateful to have been included as a part of so many wonderful happenings.                      

It goes without saying the opportunity to scribe this weekly column for nearly eighteen years has been an unbelievable privilege. I’m indebted to Vicki Biggs-Anderson, then Editor and Jay Anderson, News Director at the Cook County News Herald and Deb Benedict and Matthew Brown at WTIP, and their staffs, for undying support over these years.                                            
All of these people made this very amateur broadcast journalist sound better than I really am. You will never know how much I appreciate your friendly and professional leadership during my news scooping years                                                                                                                   
And speaking more of undying support, the community of readers and listeners has made this chapter of my life rewarding beyond belief.  I cannot thank everyone enough for supportive comments, snippets of life in your Gunflint neighborhood and just being tuned in each week. You are truly amazing!
With that I say farewell, and best wishes to all in this precious place.                                   

For WTIP… this is Wildersmith… along the Gunflint Trail… where every day… has been
Great… and will always… be remembered…  

Happy Gunflint Trails… until we meet again!!!