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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 5

Wildersmith Let it Snow
Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
February 5, 2021  

It seems as though we’ve missed something. Oh yes, that’s it, the first week of month two has slipped by nearly un-noticed. This being the case, I’m betting most of us paid no attention to the fabled “Ground Hog” day.                                                                               

It’s any ones guess as to whether “Woody the Chuck” ventured out around Gunflint territory. Regardless of sun or no sun and shadow or no shadow, the legendary critter surely will have forecast an earlier than usual spring, based on another warm cover that’s been hovering over border country.                                                                                              

The area had a brief sampling of real north woods cold, during January’s last gasp. It was finally seasonably cold, with one night of minus thirty and in the mid-twenties below a couple mornings prior, real Zamboni conditions. Although this bitterness slipped back toward the Arctic, causing drippy icicles over the past few days, it sounds like the thermometer yoyo is heading back down as this report hits the air.                                                                            

Meanwhile, Gunflint neighborhoods were re-decked out in white last weekend. The heavenly flakes did not pile up with any gusto, but the add-on around Wildersmith was nevertheless welcomed.                                                                                               

The new fluff did little to alleviate our overall lack of stored moisture. But it’s amazing how the beautiful flocking of white puffs on pine green made for cheerier feelings with us observers. And, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the John Beargrease Marathon sled dogs, to come dashing through the snow.                                                                     

So February’s off and rollin’, and although it’s been relatively mild since taking the stage, her mind for comfort might diminish with little notice. She’s known to have lost her sense of humor in years past.                                                                                                 

While I’ve been whining for several weeks about the areas’ deficient snow, the anomaly seems not to be a one and done situation. Climate researchers are giving account to widespread decreases in lasting snow accumulations across northern forests of the US, since the mid 1960’s. A study by researchers at the University of New Hampshire reports that part of the US has been losing an average of 3.6 snow covered days per decade. (Dybas, Nat’l. Wildlife). And it is well known what’s been happening in other places, for example, the diminishing ice pack in Glacier National Park during the past 100 years.                                                              

I have no accounting for Minnesota on this snow issue, but our location in the northern forest would likely place us in similar latitudinal inclusion. Regardless of where one might be located in northern latitudes, this is an ecological dilemma for everything living in the world under snow. This subnivium is “nature’s igloo”, natural insulation for both flora and many fauna species. (Dybas, Nat’l. Wildlife).                                                                                 

So while my affection for the season of white is based solely on the beauty, peace and purity of this awe inspiring landscape, the dearth of snow is problematic for all humanity from a scientific point of view.                                                                                                          
While we have opportunity to make life style changes that can initiate a reversal of dismal climatic predictions, the question is; “do we have the will to do it”? In the meantime, away from the scientific aspects of the current situation, Gunflinter’s might be doing a little snow dancing!                                                                                                                         

Local musher, Erin Altemus, and her dogs, was leader of the Beargrease teams coming into the Trail Center check point after one day into the Marathon. A great race to the finish, late day Tuesday, found first and second but seconds apart.  Alaska musher, Erin Letzring edged Ryan Redington, also of Alaska, by a mere seven seconds, while the Altemus team completed the over three hundred trip with a fine fourth place finish.                                                       

Congratulations to Erin and all the competitors who took part in honor of John Beargrease and his historic mail delivery runs of days long ago. And thanks to all the local volunteers who helped with the Gunflint Trail leg of the Beargrease journey.                             

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, still waiting for the late arriving, great northern express!