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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 22

Moose_photobySophiaSimoes on Unsplash
Moose_photobySophiaSimoes on Unsplash

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
January 22, 2021    

The weeks’ North Country weather has been pretty much a carbon copy of its’ January predecessors.  But conditions might be coming back toward normal, at least temperature wise. This neighborhood is now void of any substantial new snow for going on a month. If upper Trail residents and those monitoring forest moisture conditions aren’t getting a little worried about this, they should be. The snow we have will not last long if meltdown comes earlier than April/May.                                                                                                                                   

While it’s hard to place the blame for this white drought, we might be able to place rebuke on a fellow I know who finally broke down and bought his first snow blower. As bad luck would have it, he has only had to crank it up once.                                                                                            

Nevertheless, amidst abnormal snow depths, snow business seems to be gaining momentum. Cross Country ski trail activity looks to be flourishing, and increasing numbers of power sledders are divesting the wilderness of quiet in spite of trails said not to be in the best condition.                                                                                                                                   

In many sledding situations, the fishing opener has brought on most of the howling machines to upper Gunflint area lakes. So this scene is to be understood as these folks get to their spot and sit down to business.                                                                                                               
Speaking of angling, only two reports have come my way, both of which indicated catching was slow on opening day, but, as always, the fishing factor alone was great under nice weather. This is not to say they came away without something in the bucket. A nice eight pounder was caught not far from the Wildersmith shore, and I’m told action picked up by first of the week. So yes, there are fish in at least this lake.                                                                              

A couple moose sightings have been reported over the past few days. One of which involved the Smith’s. We came upon a momma and her yearling in the Swamper Lake area on a return shopping trip from Duluth. It was a “no harm, no foul” off the road meeting. There is increasing evidence of moose activity based on hoof prints coming out of the ditches and onto the Trail in those moose zones.                                                                                                

Our trip however was not totally uneventful as a white tailed moose relation nearly became a hood ornament on my truck in a near miss a short time earlier.                                                       
A sign of return to winter normalcy could be possible as a pine marten made an unforeseen visit over the past few days. The plush little weasel should be happy as the feed boxes had plenty of well-seasoned chicken left from previous presentations.                                            

In recent days, I have discovered downy woodpeckers don’t necessarily have to fill their protein requirements with insects only. I placed the carcass of a roasted chicken on the deck side feed tray for the jaybirds, and found it to be to the liking of a couple daily pecking visitors. While the jays are attending to other menu choices, these little critters have been hammering away in earnest, and have really done a job on the cartilaginous remains. One can learn something new every day in the “wild neighborhood.”                                                                                  

While many animal visitors go unseen for the most part, evidence of their presence does not go un-noticed. The adventure of tracking night time visitors always remains captivating. The mystique of wolves sharing their territory with us never ceases to re-kindle my interest in these treasured inhabitants of the wilderness. I came across tracks just the other day and it sparked my imagination as where it was going, what it was contemplating or who was it after.                                                                                                                                              

Though the existences of these iconic animals’ remain controversial to some, their presence among us is a revered component of both the ecological past and present.                                                                             

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the next adventure could be right behind the next tree or granite escarpment.