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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Dec 11

Wildersmith Let it Snow
Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith
December 11, 2020    
This weeks’ Gunflint scoop comes with another dismal report on our missing white factor. Another seven days with nary a flake in this neighborhood, and nothing positive projected for drought relief in the near future.                                                                                                

While temperate conditions continue for this time of year, cooler night hours have enabled ice making on some lakes. Gunflint and Sag waters remain dashing the shores as most others in the territory have closed up. Gunflint Lake has skimmed in places a couple times, but the slightest breeze has sent it a packing.                                                                                                   

With minimal snow to insulate against the lake freezing process, ice has easily thickened to the point of being safe for locals to do some recreating. I’m told there is three to four inches of clear ice built up as this report comes off the keyboard.                                                                    

It is making for excellent skating conditions. Reports tell of dozens lacing up their skates and venturing out onto the ice on Tuscarora and Seagull. All must be reminded, no ice is completely safe. It is still early, so check it each time you step out onto the hard water.                      

The nephew of “old man winter”, “Jack Frost” paid a visit to the upper end of the Trail last Saturday evening. By Sunday morning his visit was a breath-taking surprise.                           

The lacy brush work on tree tops and mountainsides blended into the cloud laden skies making it difficult to distinguish where earth ended and heaven began. With only a patch work of white on the boarder country landscape, “Jack’s” always unique artwork provided a spiritual uplift with a “Hallmark” holiday moment that’s been absent since October. He’s a “Plein Aire brush work master.                                                                                                                           

Speaking of another holiday moment, the sentinel of the season along the Trail has once again been lighted at the west end of Birch Lake. It is somewhat analogous to the star lighting the way on Christmas Eve over two thousand years ago. It kind of makes me wonder if it was as dark on that celebrated journey as it is now, when driving out into a seemingly dark hole along the Trail.                                                                                                                                   

Continuing thanks are extended to the good folks over on the Birch and their helpers from Arrowhead Electric Coop who have been lighting up our holiday times with this extraordinary good deed for many years. With so many things shut-down in our lives over the past months, this act of kindness is a light of hope!                                                                                     

Living out in the woods has its’ advantage during the dark times of COVID shutdown. We who live here reside in the best place on the planet to socially distance. In addition, to keeping at a safe distance, we have plenty of time to relish even more the activities in our natural surroundings.                                                                                                                                            

Such was the case a few days ago when action at our wilderness food trough provided a new experience in nature. Past observations of a wolf chasing deer through the yard, “Peeping Tom” bears on the deck, a fox licking out a fry pan and an affair of white tail mating are but a few of the back yard events during my twenty plus years at Wildersmith.                             

Another “wild neighborhood” encounter took place recently that I have never seen before. In as much, it is documented that preying raptors can often follow land based predators to a meal opportunity. I’ve also witnessed birds following other birds to attempt at cashing in on another’s food stash site. This observation was a fleeting version of such involving a well-recognized blue bird.                                                                                                                                              

“Piney” the marten stopped by not long ago for its daily pick-up of a poultry scrap. The animal doesn’t always eat in front of us gawkers, but usually heads off into the woods toward what I suppose is a den, to eat in private.                                                                                      

In this scene, an audience of blue jays were perched in the trees watching as the marten grabbed the treat. While it took off down the deck to the ground and toward wherever, a curious jaybird swooped down and proceeded to follow the fury critter. The flight pattern was not four or five feet above the scampering animal. Both quickly disappeared into obscurity of the forest.                                                                                                                                            
No doubt the wily jay was in hope the fowl morsel would be dropped, with a chance to scarf up the barnyard treat. The ending to this saga of being in the right place at the right time, remains a mini-mystery. Nevertheless, it was another engaging snippet of life in the woodsy world we are seldom privileged to witness.                                                                                                          

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with wilderness calm and quiet, to renew and inspire!