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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 22

Pine Marten in a Pan by F Smith
Pine Marten in a Pan by F Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint by Fred Smith
November 22, 2019

Gunflint times have made a big turn about as it relates to winter conditions. Our frigid weather of the past month or so eased its grip. Temps in this neighborhood climbed back to more normal last weekend. In fact, the thirties seem pretty balmy compared to the frosty single digits and below since Halloween.                                                                                                                                                       
The Northland has gone through another week of November gray. With minimal peeks of “Sol”, monochromatic is the word of the month. Nevertheless, shades of slate have their place in the universe and can be beautiful too. There are always happenings in the Gunflint wilderness to brighten one’s cloudy day.                                                                                                                                                           

As an example, a couple days prior to winters’ retreat, “Jack Frost” paid his first visit to the Mile O Pine. It was during one of those minus something nights.  “He” dabbed his brush in steamy moisture rising off the Gunflint Gal and dispatched it upon every needle of the shoreline pine forest, as nobody else can. There’s no way to represent in words the majesty of “his” intricate crystal making skills, you just have to be here at the right moment.                                                                                                                         

It’s on a night like the one mentioned above when Gunflint Lake usually sets to making ice for the first time. However, winds were not cooperating this time around so the “old Gal” remains sloshing against the granite along the Wildersmith shore.                                                                                                            

Of the other big lakes up the Trail, I’m told quiet bays are iced over, but main bodies remain like the Gunflint. I did see that Poplar Lake (also one of the larger ones) looks to have put on her hard water coat, as has Mayhew, Birch and Swamper along the Trail.                                                                                                                 

Back to our pre-Thanksgiving warm-up, a good share of our meager snow cover turned to mush and “drippyness.” At the same time, what snow remains is wet and slick as grease on driveways and back country roads. So the path of egress from Wildersmith is already an early winter nightmare.                                                                                                                                                                     

Some wet white was added last Saturday and Sunday evenings in places along the Trail, but was barely measureable, and may be gone by the airing of this weeks’ scoop. So we’ll be starting over with the white carpeting process when the heavy laden clouds let loose.                                                          

This episode of sloppiness surely has negative tones for area businesses having hopes of providing cross-country skiing opportunities by turkey day. Based on the area’s early season “Biboon” experiences, it seemed like a sure thing, but at this keyboarding, skiing is on hold. There’s just no outguessing what “Mother Natures” going to dish up.                                                                                                                                                                

In the midst of this cold reversal, an old friend returned to Wildersmith. One of the pine marten clan stopped by last Saturday evening. It either happened by mistakenly, or a whiff of poultry essence wafted through the woods enticing its nasal senses.                                                                          

The Smith’s actually discovered its’ arrival by mistake. Turning on the deck side light for a weather check, we found the furry critter curled up relaxing in the birds’ winter watering vessel. Luckily the unit was dry, or this could have been a dampening welcome.                                           

We’re confident it’s a returnee because the poultry morsels were missing next morning from the martens’ only feeding cache. So every one in our “wild neighborhood” is now accounted for.                                                                                                                                                                    

News from the Gunflint Trail Historical Society reports work on the installation of an “Allsky” camera is about to become a reality. In partnership with University of Minnesota Duluth, the project has been in the works for several months with leadership and guidance from Joel Halvorson of UMD and Gunflint Lake.                                                                                                           

When the unit is up and running, the world will be able to view this level one dark sky region 24-7 from either the Chik-Wauk website or a link with the planetarium on the UMD Campus. This is a part of an evolving outreach relationship with UMD’s College of Environmental Education to expand broader exploration of the natural world around the Chik-Wauk Museum Campus. Think of the potential for Aurora Borealis observations and other celestial wonders with a cyber click!                                                                                                                                                    

When transmission is available, I‘ll be broadcasting the heavenly news, so stay tuned.                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as adventures of the natural world captivate when least expected!