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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 18, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     May 18, 2018

May is rapidly moving along, surpassing the half-way point heading into this weekend. Warm season rituals continue occurring with each fleeting day.  

Out this way, the most exciting tradition of late has been the final days of hard water on the larger lakes. Gunflint Lake is one of the last to bid ice farewell out. Sure enough, Sunday afternoon (May 13), somewhere between one and two o’clock, the big ice cube took a dip, not to return.   

The prelude to final crystal disbursement is music to our ears. Gnashing of the honeycombed chards always plays a remarkable chiming tune of northern lakes delight. 

On another delightful note, the happening couldn’t have come at a better time for yours truly. The Smiths’, and perhaps other north woods residents have been fretting powerful ice flows for several days as it can play havoc with our lake water systems, shoreline, and some permanent docks.  

Unless one has proficiency in ancient glacial activity, this is an annual contemporary thing of which most folks from “Urbania” have no concept in regard to the “might” of an ice shield, being propelled by even the slightest of breezes. But we are breathing easier now as the ice chunk only moved the heavy steel piping about six feet and did not tear out the system yielding us life’s liquid sustenance. The whole scene makes one feel pretty helpless knowing the solidarity of “Mother Earth” and the power of “old Sol” are the only ice stoppers.    

Approaching the end of springs’ month two, our re-birth is not ready for “prime time” just yet. However, the impeccable ability of “Mother Nature” to start anew has the deciduous “green-up” at the point of explosion. Buds are bulging with enthusiasm as verdant hues are serving up a blur of lush haze on Sawtooth Mountain sides. Leaf out should be completed on schedule by the time we get to June. While our timber flora is unfolding, at ground level, green shoots are piercing the recently frozen earth along the Trail with new energy.  

In spite of the happy days at hand, the last character of our long winter has not disappeared entirely. At the time of this scribing, man-made piles of snow and mini-back woods glaciers, hidden deep in the shade along the Mile O Pine and other backcountry roads remain as memories of the season past.                                                                                                                                                                
Although the 2017-18 snow accumulation out this way was not severe in-depth numbers, it nevertheless has displayed staying power. Around Wildersmith, we’ve had snow of some consequence on the ground since October 27th, a total of two hundred four days so far!  Be assured, I will notify when all sign of winter is gone.     

Taking this brief bit of cold season trivia further, bitter cold was not really severe by past North Country measures. But a sampling of what its’ been like, the day our Gunflint Lake ice went out,( last Sunday), the night before still saw a skimming of ice on the quiet open water strip along our shoreline. So however people define cold, include “persistent” with the descriptors.     

Getting back to warmer spring thoughts, “skeeters” are back in the picture. Both Smiths’ have recorded the first itching nip of 2018. Meanwhile with snowmelt in many places still running lakeward, such is harboring habitat for black fly hatching so we can expect those torturous beings sooner rather than later. One can also add ticks to the list of our disgusting annoyances.   
And, speaking of other creeping, crawling critters, members of the arachnid family are spinning their nighttime web of intrigue as noted in the fiber network glistening through the early morning forest sunshine. Verifying the intricate phenomena, unfortunately, I seem to interrupt the networking every day on my first outdoors trek, by walking headfirst into the invisible filaments. 
While a few bear sightings have been reported, we at Wildersmith can now confirm a first sighting too. Happily, it was not in the yard or up on the deck, but along the Trail.    

Our recent fox visitor made another stop during the past few days. I find it interesting, but not surprising the hungry fellow takes a while to consider consumption of left-over seasoned, cooked meat. It’ll eat it grudgingly, but much prefers its protein raw, like a chicken part. Seems beggars shouldn’t be so choosy.   

On another foxy note, I see where one of this guy’s cousins was not spared by a vehicle in the mid-Trail area. Trail travelers need to give our “wild neighborhood” critters a “brake” particularly as inexperienced babies start exploring the warm blacktop.  
In closing, the territory remains moisture depraved. With all ice out, I can’t say enough about getting those wildfire sprinkler systems ready. Seeing increased visitor traffic due to early paddlers and the opening of walleye season, more human’s mean chances for an accidental fire being set are increased substantially. Since there is no burning ban, residents and businesses have to be ready on their own. Yours truly can attest the water is very cold, but my systems stand ready.    

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in every season.