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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 25, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     January 25, 2019    

Last weeks’ report had barely hit the airwaves when my mention of the usual north woods January cold spell being AWOL surrendered to a big turn-around. Folks living in the territory know of what I’m talking, while others in WTIP range, who may be wondering what it’s like on the Gunflint, can be assured it has been seriously cold.                                                                

How cold was it? Temps have remained below zero here in border country for most days since a week ago today (Friday). While temperatures vary considerably from place to place, at Wildersmith, thirty below zero and lower was common for a number of mornings with a brisk minus 40 recorded last Sunday morning.                                                                                                                                                       

These are actual thermometer readings, not the hokey wind chill sensationalism from the weather media. If one lives out this way, you don’t have to be told its dangerously cold when even the slightest the wind is blowing as such is done in Urbania for oblivious younger generations                                                                                                                                                    

Needless to say, outdoor activities around here have been curtailed except for critter feeding time, runs to the mailbox and many trips to the woodshed. The Smith’s have just hunkered down and enjoyed the warmth around a crackling wood burner. The romance of cozying up on a still, bitterly cold night in the north woods can’t be matched, especially when one doesn’t have to get out in the morning for a trek to work.                                                                                                              

Meanwhile, miracles of life below zero go on un-interrupted amongst our “wild neighborhood” critters. How those pert little chickadees and nuthatches survive is incredible. And as if frost on the windows wasn’t enough evidence of bitter cold, jay birds and pine grosbeaks were fluffed up like puff balls as they wait for time at the feed tray. While pine martens and squirrels, with frosted whiskers and nary a shiver, seem undaunted in their daily morsel search.                                                                                                                                                             
During our last trip to the Village, we came upon a moose trio in the middle of the Trail near Little Iron Lake. It was a momma and her twin adolescents. Getting to see them in multiples is always a treat.                                                                                                                                                                                     

They were blocking traffic, of course, so we slowed to a stop. Momma readily departed into the ditch. However, it was a different story for her kids as they struggled to remain upright on the icy surface. After some slip-sliding about, the gawky juveniles made it to the safety of the snowy roadside and disappeared into the forest.                                                                                          

Visiting with a friend a few hours later, it was disclosed she came upon a trio in the same location just moments after we had passed. Guess the salt on the road must have been a tasty attraction in that locale and lured them back onto the ice-covered blacktop.                                                                                                                    

The storied John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon heads north from Duluth to Grand Portage, starting on Sunday. While the 2019 course has been shortened to three hundred miles, it will nevertheless be heading up the Gunflint Trail to Trail Center Monday, with early leaders expected around 10:00 am. After a mandatory layover, all should be departed by around 10:00 in the evening on their way to the Grand Portage finish.                                                                                                                         

The best means of catching a glimpse of the mushers as they come up this way would be to check the Beargrease website or to be in the mid-trail area during the day. Of course, there will be plenty of canine energy, excitement and color as usual out here, and at Grand Portage, which is not that far away. Come on out and give these teams a Gunflint Community welcome.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where life below zero is great, even though a bit unforgiving for the faint of heart!