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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 18, 2019

Rolf Skrien - photo by ChikWauk
Rolf Skrien - photo by ChikWauk

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      January 18, 2019    
 
As the old-time western hero, Gene Autry, once sang, “I’m back in the saddle again.” Though it’s a feeble analogy, I’m really back at the keyboard again.                                                                    
 
Another trip to Iowa completes the Christmas season with our daughter, along with a visit to some longtime Hawkeye friends, and the Smiths’ have returned to this pure white paradise. Our wintertime traveling was uneventful, and one doesn’t have to go too far south before a little yucky urban snow and mostly browns of autumn extends as far as the eye can see.                                                                                                                                                              
 
Guess we are pretty lucky to have what we have here in border country. Mistakes of “Mother Nature” and the “excesses of mankind” can leave the landscape pretty ugly when its’ not covered with snow or hidden by foliage.                                                                                                                                                      
 
It’s for sure the word is out amongst power sledding fans regarding the areas’ snow cover. During our drive north up highway 61 last Sunday, if I met one, I may have met ten thousand snowmobile units being toted back toward Metropolis.                                                              

The woods must have been howling with sledding traffic last weekend. Suppose there will be more activity around here until other areas of the state get some attention from “old man winter.” In the meantime, one has to be happy for area businesses catering to our snowmobiling visitors as conditions have been a bit late taking shape.                                                                                                                                                                                
 
In contrast to those speeding along the Trails, our great snow cover is also accommodating those who prefer the peace and quiet of swooshing through the woods. The now deep snowpack has allowed groomers to have the ski trail system in what looks to be terrific condition.                                                                                                                                                       

Perhaps not too happy with all the borderland white were the anglers who hit the ice for the trout opener last weekend. After early ice on, and near perfect ice thickening situations, big snows of late have cast a deep cover of insulation and weight on lake surfaces. Such has hidden annoying slush and water above a foot and more of ice.                                                                                 
 
Anglers’ angst, in addition to spotty catching, was exacerbated by having to dig equipment and sleds out of the gooey slop. Of all equipment needed for the fishing excursion, high boots appear to have been the most important!                                                                                                                                                       
 
Not much snow was added in the upper Gunflint territory during my absence (maybe an inch or two in the Wildersmith neighborhood).  In spite of recent accumulations being on the lean side, depths along the Trail range from knee to waist depending upon where one steps. In fact, the buildup on my roof is getting me to think of pulling it off in case another big dose comes our way, thus making the job more difficult than it is presently.                                                                                        
 
At this scribing, temps are relatively warm for these parts. We’ve yet to be on the receiving end of one of those bitter cold, below zero January streaks. It would seem if the area gets by the next two weeks and into February, we may be home free from a bone-chilling “Polar Vortex” for the season. To miss one of these breath freezing happenings likely wouldn’t make too many folks unhappy, although bragging rights for who was the coldest will be left hanging!       
 
With the Ojibwe, “Great Spirit” moon of January lighting up the northern skies in the wee hours of Monday AM, it’s hard to imagine month two is in the conversation already. Although winter is barely a month old according to the calendar, we head into week four with seed catalogs in the mail, packets of garden renewals on display racks and “green thumbers”visioning seed pods and grow lights.                                                                                                           T

The cold of winter can often bring sadness, and such is the case in the Gunflint Community once again. Some reader/ listeners may already be aware of the passing of perhaps the last Gunflint pioneer icon.  It’s with remorse I report the loss of Rolf Skrien at age 97.   Rolf departed from our midst on January 2nd.                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                         
He first came to the Gunflint Trail in 1929 on a camping trip with his father, and so fell in love with the territory, he returned in 1946 after serving his country in World War Two. He called the end of the Trail home for most of his life until settling in Apache Junction, Arizona during his later years.                                                                                                                                                                                         

A celebration of Rolf’s life will be held this Sunday, January 20, visitation at 1:00 pm, service at 2:00 in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The Gunflint Trail Community offers condolences to his surviving family and many friends. More of Rolf’s story can be found in his obit on WTIP.org.                                                                                                                                                                     

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of cold, warm or season of the year!
 

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