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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 8

XmasTreeBuds_Photo by Fran Smith 2.jpg
XmasTreeBuds_Photo by Fran Smith 2.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
January 8, 2021    
           
Week one is into the books and “old man winter” has taken a sabbatical from border country. Just when winter cranked up for Christmas with snow and more seasonal temps, conditions have gone wimpy once again.                                                                                                   

The upper Trail has been experiencing meltdown tendencies since our last meeting on the radio. While these day to day weather ups and downs can happen, with the cumulative affects over the past few decades, such is further confirmation this area is not immune from on-going climatic alterations all over the planet.                                                                                        

My residency at Wildersmith has extended just over two decades. Since those early years of this span, increasingly warmer temps during all seasons, and extended periods of minimal precipitation are clearly noticeable.                                                                                        

Trail residents are likely happy with the climatic trends making for reduced heating needs and snow removal costs. However, conditions as they have be going, don’t bode well for maintaining river and lake levels, and ever present wildfire danger throughout the BWCA and Superior National Forest.                                                                                                
According to one longtime resident, Gunflint Lake froze at the lowest level observed in his lifetime. Unless, there is an unexpected turn around, it could take several years for the area to recover adequate moisture levels both on land and lakes. The on-going drought makes me fearful for what it will be like come April and May.                                                                                       

A measurement of ice depth on the Gunflint last weekend found it to be nine inches, mostly. However, some strange things have evolved in a couple places along our shore. Whereas there are no inland streams entering nearby and no known bottom feeding springs, two areas were discovered to be less than one inch thick and one had a softball sized hole in the thin crystal. Maybe these are ever present, but they have never been found in these locations before.                                                                                                                                              
 

If there are these, there are likely more, so as caution always suggest, no ice is ever completely safe. This is confirmed with a number of instances where individuals have gone through the ice on upper Trail lakes since ice on commenced several weeks back.                               
 

In another rare natural experience, the “spirit of the north” has been born once out again. This subject involved is the Christmas tree adorning the Smith house. The will to live beyond my culling it from the forest did not diminish with the last swoosh of my saw blade. Since being brought into the warmth of the room and given frequent drinks of water, the stately conifer has sprouted new growth from buds once frozen in the waiting state.              
 

Knowing this is only short lived the verdant being is soon to go outside, returned to the earth from whence it came. Nevertheless, “the little tree that could” has been energizing as it sprung to life in man-made warmth like the blooms of spring, sharing its beautiful zest for life with us two legged folk. See a pic of the green new birth alongside my column on WTIP.org under the Community Voices drop down menu.                                                                                     
 

Many of we Gunflinters are saddened by the necessity to cancel the 2021 Gunflint Mail Run sled dog races. As the COVID pandemic continues to sicken, destroy lives and alter all forms of normal, the tough decision to call off this festive activity is understandable. With respect for the lives of all involved, I’m confident that missing this years’ edition will inspire enthusiasm for renewing in 2022, and likely explode into a bigger and better event than ever.                                              

With a related closing thought, the cancellation could turn out a wise choice, since “winter” cannot make up its mind about who it wants to be. The current warm soggy conditions facing the canine athletes and their mushers would be considerably more strenuous than with the usual cold and dry powder. So the Trail looks forward to the great Gunflint race next year! Go Dogs!                                                                                                                                                       
 

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is celebrated, with awe-inspiring spirit!
 

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