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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Apr 16

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Wildersmith Sign Only

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 16,2021    

April days can always amaze folks in the North woods. From blizzards to blazing heat with most everything in between.                                                                                                        

This past week or so, it’s been “Mother Nature” to the rescue. In the nick of time, the old gal has been a “drought buster” with some much needed rain. Though the days have been dismal gray with cool temperatures, spirits have been raised along the Trail with a good soaking.                                                                                                                                              

Going into this weekly writing exercise, the Wildersmith rain gauge has collected over two inches since our last radio gathering. While this may not seem like much compared to other places in the country, the amounts in this neck of the woods are healthy and gratefully accepted anytime.                                                                                                                          

The heavenly liquid pretty much closed the season on remaining snow cover. Further, it got the dry creeks running into area lakes, and eased frost from the ground allowing for firming up of sloppy backcountry roads. One night of heavy downpours even did a wash-out job on the busy County Road 20 (South Gunflint Lake Road) requiring some serious maintenance work by County Crews. Those of us who travel this road frequently appreciate the quick response to fixing the overnight creek creation                                                                                       

Smaller lakes are beginning to loosen from shorelines while wetlands and swamps along the Byway had opened entirely as my last trip into the village revealed. I’m not hearing from Poplar, Seagull or Saganaga Lakes as to their ice conditions, but outside my door, the Gunflint still looks pretty solid. With more rain and warmer conditions, it would be my prediction the big ones will be open in the next week.                                                                                                                       

My ice out prediction might be considered in opposition to other components of the natural world. I crossed paths with a snow shoe hare just days ago, and this little bunny was still snow white. It stood out in stark contrast to the brown earth under its’ scampering feet.                  

Having not started the winter to summer apparel transition, one might wonder if this lagomorph knows something we don’t about weather in the coming days/weeks. Could there be one more gasp of winter on the way? Just in case, I have not put my snow shovel away, but I did have the vehicle winter wheels replaced with the summers’.                                                       

Natural world adventures in Gunflint Territory happen with almost daily regularity. There was no exception to this statement with a memorable visit from a Wildersmith neighborhood pine marten. While the weasel family kin make frequent appearances to our deck side feed trough, this stop-over was different as the lush fur ball did not eat and run as is usual. It did eat, but did so in a leisurely fashion and in an unusual manner, over an entire afternoon. The entertaining element for us observers was the contortionist abilities demonstrated by the little guy/gal.                                                                                                              

To further explain, a number of various eatery structures are available for different critters; birds, squirrels and martens. In this instance, the marten stations are not currently being outfitted with protein to reduce bear temptations. The only items available presently are sunflower seeds in the bird trays and in the squirrel lunch boxes. Upon the marten’s arrival, the seed trays had been scarfed up by other critters, leaving the lunch boxes as the only eateries.                  

An interesting side to this saga is these mini-shed like rodent feeders are less than six inch cubicles. For listeners not familiar with a marten, they are about the size of a cat, and surely have no business thinking they might get inside one of these units. If you could wad one up into a ball, it would look to be big as a Cantaloupe or maybe one of those mini-watermelons.                   

On this particular day, the hungry marten was a combination of curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity. It was not to be denied entry for lunch. In unexplainable fashion, the animal contorted its body, climbing inside the cubicle, and munched the afternoon away, occasionally sticking its head out for surveillance of impending danger.                                                                       

In twenty-two winters here, we have never seen such antics. It was a three hour, one act performance, one we might never see again.                                                                             

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, just waiting for the next chapter in a Gunflint story.