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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 19

Wildersmith Let it Snow
Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by Fred Smith
February 19, 2021    

With all of North Country frozen in time, news of anything but weather is difficult to find.  There just aren’t too many folks moving about, and the same continues with beasts of the forest, for the most part.                                                                                                                           

The weather yoyo has been at the bottom of a free-wheeling spin since our last WTIP meeting. Thermometers here at Wildersmith have been mired below zero since just before midnight on Thursday, February fourth, and remained so, as I compiled this weeks’ Gunflint report this past Tuesday evening, the 16th.                                                                                                 

The math is easy as I was at two hundred sixty-six consecutive hours and counting, of below zero.  A few more will have been tacked on before we climbed out of the freezer Wednesday.                                                                                                                                     

There may be historical documentation somewhere in Gunflint territory confirming such long stretches of bitter cold, in days gone by. It seems the current freeze up would surely rank right up there on the list. If not, this time must be a modern day record of some kind. At least, I have no record of anything like this in my twenty-two winters on the Mile O Pine.                            

For sure, there has been no snow pack melting, much less any additions as the “brittle Grinch” kept snow accumulations to places south, where folks don’t have the same  appreciation as Gunflinter’s do.                                                                                                     

And to take things one step farther, nearly every bit of moisture in the air has been squeezed out into extremely low humidity’s. Any shuffle across the floor, and with a touch to anything metallic gives one a tingling zap as a reminder. Humidifying components just can’t keep up.                                                                                                                                            
Ice on area lakes has without a doubt taken on a new dimension of thickness, but it may be hard to tell how much. While ice anglers are a hardy bunch, there’s been little activity go by in a good many days. So augers are on hold and may be in need of extensions when line wetting once again picks up.                                                                                                                             
Fisher people are no exception in regard to being scarce during the spell. Animal traffic remains sporadic in spite of the need to eat. New tracks in the snow indicate both a fox and a wolf have been snooping around.  Pine martens have come back with an apparent yearning for a poultry snack.                                                                                                                                   
And a hungry downy woodpecker has discovered a can of bacon grease to its liking, having been here day after day to peck away at the frozen treat. The little gal/guy in the black and white check suit with a red beret is so intent, it perches on the lip of the can for long periods of time, letting no others in for a share.                                                                                  
On several of the bitter mornings, we’ve had a pink haze at the feed trough. It’s not from the sun arising to a skinny cloud cover, but flock of pine grosbeaks. For a few winters we’ve observed very few, so it’s exciting to see a return of these rose feathered beauties. So that’s about it from the cold and quiet “wild neighborhood.”                                                                 

News from the Gunflint Trail Historical Society finds the staff and Board busy in preparation for the coming season, in spite of not knowing what COVID might allow. During the winter, the second annual Gift Club was successfully conducted and endowed, thanks to twenty five charitable Society members.2021 programs are being scheduled, a couple new exhibits are in the works, staffing is rounding into shape with the hiring of a new Nature Center Director and a Campus Operations Assistant and the 2021 membership renewal campaign is underway.                     

The GTHS on-line, silent auction closed this past Tuesday after a ten day run, and was a tremendous success. Funds raised will go to assist in sustaining general Campus operating expenses. Thanks to all who donated items and services, the staff for organization/marketing and all who did some energetic bidding!                                                                                            
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in a special wilderness way!