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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 30, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      March 30, 2018 

Commencing with this weeks’ scoop last Sunday evening, winter and spring are pretty much at a stand-off. Spring tries to take over during daytime and winter digs in again after dark. Who knows what Gunflint conditions will be like as this report airs’.   
Whatever the case, it will be what it will be, as March goes into the books... Remembering thirty days ago when we celebrated the “crust on the snow” full moon, it’s de ja vu “in blue” with “a big cheese #2” in our night sky                                                                                                                     
Un-organized territory ushers in April on the shirttail of a month that has been extremely dry at forty-eight degree north. Checking my daily weather journal, March had recorded only a skiff of snow going into its final days before a light couple inches closed down month three.  We forest folks are in hope there will be some catching up with showers of any nature in the next thirty.    
The landscape in most places up the Trail finds moving about on foot a dangerous endeavor. Several folks are reporting ice build-up in places they’ve never seen before. With our daytime winter oozing, and nightly refreezing, getting around while staying in the upright position has been challenging indeed on uncountable slippery slopes, and it looks to not be improving anytime soon. There are no easy answers to this unaccustomed hard water build-up.

To this point, yours truly has only counted one spin-out onto the ice. Luckily there’s no damage to report, other than my pride.    
Taking our slip-sliding a step further, driveways and roads off the main county arteries offer little relief from this greasy character. So no matter whether one is on foot or behind the wheel, advancing from one place to another right now can be a “white knuckler” experience. Sand and ice grippers are words of the day, every day!                                                                                        
Having not seen a wolf in person for months, the scene changed during the past week when one was observed along the Trail. Although the local pack has been making candid appearances now and then for other Trail observers, I have only come across occasional tracks, scat, and territory marking along the Mile O Pine.     
Not to shock anyone listening to or reading this Gunflint news, I report being privy to a murder in this neighborhood. My first account of the situation came in early twilight hours one morning recently.    
To ease your concerns, I’m talking about a murder of crows, of course! Last week, I mentioned their rackety, yack conversation from afar, and now the ebony critters are gathering in mass most every morning just below our lakeside deck.                                                                                                                 
There has easily been a dozen or two scratching around in what must be at least a trillion sunflower seed remains for breakfast. While it’s a treat when one will actually land up on the deck side feeder, the unique part of their visit is when one is spooked all erupt like a black storm cloud swooping across the sky. Although some may find them less than pleasant among birds, they are spectacular up close in their glistening carbon plumage.  
Speaking of other things shadowy, I just now read an informative article about night skies. Entitled, DARK MATTERS…IN SEARCH OF A STARRY NIGHT it’s authored by Heather Smith (no relation) in the March/April, SIERRA MAGAZINE. The feature is an illuminating (no pun intended) scribing about our dark night skies and/or the lack thereof.  
 I’m in awe of “seriously dark” northern night skies, free of the polluted glow from “Urbania.” I mean, it’s really dark out here, and often driving the Trail at night finds me thinking I could be driving off into a black hole. 
Another view finds me astonished at visitors coming into border country saying “from where do all these stars come, we don’t have this many back home in suburbia.”  

This reflection of how Euro-American invaders lit up America, thus suppressing the grandeur of the galaxy, reveals many taken for granted facts of light and life. Hope you can get a chance to review this great commentary.     
By the way, our “full moon” will be doing a little celestial subduing of its own this weekend. Happening every twenty-eight days, blame for this override of dark night starry brilliance can only be pinned on the “Big Bang Theory.” Once a month, mankind is not in command of flipping the switch.   
As a closing, note, the Gunflint Trail Community bids farewell to Don and Marilyn Kufal as they retire from Gunflint Lodge and head off to Florida for new opportunities. For many years, Don has been a pillar of service to the Community through his efforts with the GTVFD. He has touched many lives during this time and the Community is in-debited to him for his dedication to making this volunteer fire and rescue department the very best it could be. Thanks to the Kufals’, and we wish them the best of luck on their next journey!    
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day and night is great, featuring boundless, heaven to earth adventure!