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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - April 10

Wildersmith Sign Only.jpg
Wildersmith Sign Only.jpg

 Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 10, 2020
The shoulder season for Trail businesses is in full swing as the super, Ojibwe, “maple sugar” moon passed over the Gunflint this past Tuesday evening. While the Gunflint winter has its special ambiance of natural calm, this time of year always reflects a void of human activity due to meltdown, but now is compounded with strategies of staying away from one another.                                                                             

The Territory did have a visitor last weekend, arriving in spite of the stay at home order. In a surprise appearance, “old man winter” stopped by for a couple days. It turns out our first shower of April was of the white variety. A couple inches decked out the forest in several places, and hung around as morning temps took on a February feel for about forty-eight hours.                                                               

The happening probably had a few folks growling, but the beauty of a fresh snow perks up border country anytime, regardless of the time of year. While snow has a way of covering the ugliness of winters’ retreat, conditions have since returned to the spring swing in the past few days.                                                                                                                                                                                 
I would guess maple syrup and sugaring processors are busier than beavers now, Daytime temps have been warming quickly to open up the sap run after below freezing nights with regularity both before and since the weekend winter spell.                                                                                                                                                                           
As I view the forest out my window, the winter carpet has diminished to about a foot where not drifted. Its luxurious ivory plush is now stained by trillions of windblown canopy droppings. Muddy foot print paths left by my red rodent pals are all that remains from trails of nighttime visitors. Such curious tracks have simply evaporated to oblivion.                                                           
Looking through the forest down toward the lake, the icy scene remains. Unpredictable as many things are right now, forecasting ice out is the least of our worries. In all likelihood, the crystal layer will be gone long before our lives can return to whatever is normal. I have observed some tannin spots on some of the wetland swamps along the Trail, so “hope springs eternal.”                                                                                                                                                 
From another window, familiar “wild neighborhood” faces streak up and down the food trough rail snitching a bite here and there just steps ahead of being a nutritional element themselves. For some un-explained reason, pine marten traffic has picked up considerably of late, keeping the squirrel population and blue jay flock on edge.                                                           
Speaking of those jay bird bullies, I find it interesting how each seems to have a unique style of shelling kernels from the cobs I provide. While intended for the squirrels, the jays are just too much for the little red critters. Their styles vary from pecking a layer around the cob; to stripping a row from top to bottom (like pecking down a row of letters on a key board); to snarfing morsels in a downward spiral pattern; and everything in between. Regardless of the pecking style, the cobs are generally cleaned in a matter of minutes.                                                                                     
Meanwhile, the foxy gal that was a frequent visitor for several months has turned up AWOL. It might be possible she could be in a motherly way by now and doesn’t venture too far from her kits. It sure would be cute if she would show up someday to let me see her family, if that’s her situation.                                                                                                                                                                             
I’m still not hearing of bear activity. Then again, with Gunflinter’s so focused on staying free of COVID, the “moccasin telegraph” just might not be ticking as usual. On the other hand, perhaps momma bears changed plans after looking out to see a good deal of snow still on the ground. This doesn’t account for pappas though. Guess the day of Ursus appearnces will come sooner than later.                                                                                                                                                                           
As predicted last week, the willows are popping their fuzzy buds in any number of sunny locales. Good thing they had their wooly coats on during the frigid weekend past.                                     
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great! Keep those masks up, keep your distance and stay well. Family and friends are counting on you!