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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 22, 2019

BlackBearandMotherSM by beingmyself via Flickr.jpg
BlackBearandMotherSM by beingmyself via Flickr.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     
March 22, 2019    
 
Gosh, the universe is at the fourth Friday in the month, how time flies! Whiffs of spring are on the upswing along the Gunflint following the collapse of “old man winter” last week.         

Although current conditions could regress, it seems unlikely since the warmth of the continent extends from Fairbanks, Alaska to border country and beyond. It just looks like spring has the upper hand as winter whimpers away.                                                                                                     

This part of the world still looks wintery with plenty of snow and ice left to melt. Nevertheless, the abrupt seasonal changeover gulped up about a foot of the north woods landscape in a short time, before falling back to more seasonable character by last weekend.                        

As one would expect slushy conditions, fog and substantial rain caught many out this way by surprise as this is usually an April/May occurrence. Wildersmith recorded well over an inch of liquid during the cold dampening ordeal with temps not moving far from the mid-to upper thirties for the better part of three days.                                                                                                                             

Folks were slogging around in deep white gush as backcountry roads and driveways turned into quagmires of slippery ruts. Some actually gave up attempting to navigate and just holed up until a welcome freeze slowed things and solidified surfaces.                                                                                    

The result is that numbers of wilderness folk are now dealing with icy drive and walk ways. At the Smith place, our vehicle has taken its transition season place at top of the driveway until further notice. It’s not a matter of getting up our serpentine of slipperiness to the Mile O Pine, but stopping on the way down. This is a minor inconvenience however, compared with potential to slide through the trees and onto the Gunflint Lake Ice.                                                                                                                                

Beyond vehicular difficulties, getting around on foot is dictating the use of studded footwear. So far I’ve remained in the upright position, and hope others in Gunflint Territory are doing the same.                                                                                                                                       

Speaking of lake ice, my neighbor was up for a last shot at a trout or two, and found the conditions for drilling less that favorable. By the time he waded through knee deep slushy water to a drilling site, his interest waned. He did drill through the cold goop, and found the ice in this neighborhood to be only twenty-one inches (plenty safe if one finds a place to stay on top of the semi-melt), but far from the usual depth.                                                                                                                                                            

These messy lake conditions have slowed snowmobile activities too. There’s not been too many anglers passing by lately. Getting off the packed sledding paths is likely to find one stuck in the muck. There have been many reports of riders struggling to get machines dug out of some precarious situations.                                                                                                                                                    

Recently, I had the occasion to look through a Sierra Club magazine. This March-April edition has an interesting article on black bears. The writing by Brandon Keim, titled, “Does A Bear Think in the Woods?” offers some interesting research studies/observations of the Bruno’s, confirming what many of us residing in multi-bear habitat already suspected.                                                                                      

Bears are pretty smart, displaying several attributes which are thought to be unique to human capacity. They are social, “with a society of sorts, using a rich communication system, and govern themselves by long-term relationships and rules of conduct.  Being highly self- aware; they judge, they punish, have gratitude and friendships.” Sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?  I think it would be suggested reading for all who will soon be encountering the “Bruno” winter wake-up and subsequent visits along the Gunflint.                                                                                                                       

Sadness is hanging over the territory once again with the passing of a long-time friend and neighbor. Word has been received on the passing of Mark Patten last weekend.                      

Mark is at peace after struggling with several health issues. He died in Duluth Hospice care.                                                                                                                                                 

Mark will long be remembered for his gracious Christian hospitality at Okontoe on Bow Lake where he and his family are perhaps best known for their wilderness lifetime of reaching out to troubled youth, and their enchanting sleigh ride adventures.                                                                                                                     

The Gunflint Community wishes strength and condolences to his wife, Nancy, his children, extended family and countless friends.                                                                                                                         

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, even at the thought of mud season, and bitin’ bugs, itching to get at us.
 

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