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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 31, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith         August 31, 2018    
Many aspects of warm season life along the Trail are waning. As I scanned the territory for news this week, the blueberry moon has faded to its final quartile, to welcome September. With the long Labor Day weekend ahead of us, summer is on the ebb for family vacationers with school days now but hours away. Add this to the diminishing chlorophyll production in the forest and one would think visitors and residents along the Byway might be down in the dumps.                                                                                                                                           

Quite the contraire however, the color of a new season is creeping evermore over the northern horizon, recharging everyone’s batteries as autumn fever hits the Trail. The usual fall changes are exploding rapidly, and the area should be near full-color bloom in a couple weeks.                                                                                                                                                                                      

I’ve been tracking the transition of a couple sugar maples in the upper Trail reaches. They are sending a scarlet letter of invitation to leaf peepers. Simultaneously the granite hillsides are lit up brighter with each passing day. A couple friends down the road hiked the Magnetic Rock Trail a few days ago and expressed surprise at the early color spectacle in advance of official “Tagwaagin”(fall, in Ojibwe) on September 24th.                                                                                                    

Our part of the universe is truly a magical place this time of year. For backcountry adventurers, the hottest of days are in the rearview mirror and frosty nights will soon invigorate late season paddlers and campers with bounteous enthusiasm. For yours truly, it’s a season for unique anticipation of all verses in an autumn serenade.                                                                   

The only complication with what’s going on around us is the upper Gunflint area went yet another week with little significant rain. While neighborhoods in the mid-Trail received a couple shower downpours, at the keying of this report last Sunday evening, the Wildersmith rain gauge had captured less than one-half inch. The wildfire danger needle remains at the top of its range from Gunflint Lake to Saganaga at Trails End.                                                                                                      

Meanwhile, there have been no stressful extremes on the thermometer, but the lake water temps have waned into the low sixties.                                                                                                                                 

If listeners haven’t filled the holiday weekend calendar, a reminder for your Sunday is the “sweet treat” social up at Chik-Wauk.  Serving of Trail-made pies and ice cream runs from noon to 4:00 pm. As mentioned last week, there’ll be a lot of things to see, hear and do around the Campus. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society invites one and all to come and enjoy a day of north woods enchantment!  Who knows, it might be a lucky moose viewing day!                                                            

Just when residents seemed to have had an uneventful summer with bear activity, I’m told there were some property invasions in the mid-Trail/Poplar Lake neighborhood. I don’t have any particulars other than the Momma and cubs were not invited, but gained entry by coming through window screens and un-secured doors. It’s that time of year, so we might expect more of such vandalizing acts.                                                                                                                                                  
Another couple down the road mentioned hearing some unusual meowing around their yard a few days ago. They knew of no one in the neighborhood with a feline pet, so it was perplexing as to what was going on.                                                                                                                                                              

After a period of investigation and listening, the only critter observed was a blue jay. When the jaybird finally left its perch, it did so spewing the same cat-like sound they’d been hearing.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Very interesting, I’ve heard of ravens and crows mimicking other animal sounds, but never a blue jay. Maybe this one had a case of laryngitis?                                                                                               

Being the Wildersmith air traffic controller and re-fueling agent, I’m observing a noticeable decline in arrivals and departures from our sweet nectar station. Guess our ruby throat “Hummers” must be in pre-flight staging to head south.                                                                                                            

A few neighbors report they are observing only females and young ones, so where have all the papas gone?  Humm, it looks like another northland mystery?                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint, where every day is great, and one better is always, yet to come!