“Old Man Winter” remains in a fickle mood as I begin this week's Gunflint scoop. Our last weekend of February had one day of almost spring-like character and then slipped back into more normal seasonal conditions the next.
Sunny skies and temps around the freezing mark had roof tops dripping last Saturday. Evening saw the thermometer crash rapidly and light snow was soon to follow. By Sunday morning at Wildersmith, the mercury was back near the zero mark and a few inches of fresh flocking had re-decked the forest.
February then went out like a lion, it was a real howling and not from the local wolf pack. Strong northwesterlies, the likes of which we have not seen this season, shook the house at times as “Mother Nature re-arranged our snow cover. The result is some splendid nature made snow sculptures. Talk about a capricious atmosphere!
Strange happenings are going on deep within the bowels of our granite landscape. The normal flow of sub-surface springs into area ditches and culverts has not occurred. Thus, frozen culverts with the usual ice dam build up at the points of entry, is just not there. Although the inconvenience of these mini-glaciers is mitigated along many back country roads, it does not bid well for adequate run-off when the final meltdown occurs. The ability to replenish water levels on any number of upper Gunflint lakes looks to be alarming.
It seemed as though the area was reasonably wet when fall was put to bed. But I guess such was not the case, as aquifers keeping liquid trickling under ice and snows apparently were drier than assumed. This scenario is also troublesome when flora begins to dry out in late April and May. We can only hope “El Nino” cools into oblivion during the next two months, and ushers in much needed rain before the June green-up.
As it might relate to peculiar quirks of nature, there seems to be a chance the “great old man of the north” has put a spell on me. A couple weeks ago, I spent several hours cleaning heaps of snow off the roof, only to have it snow again one day after my job was completed. Since then a few more droppings have built a lesser, but new accumulation. With the bright day of last Saturday, I decided to catch up once again. Sure enough, my clean roof job didn’t make it 24 hours this time, and more was predicted as I was keying this current report.
Maybe Mr. Winter’s trying to get even with me for giving him such a bad time on a rather wimpy performance thus far. A connected thought comes to mind, with my kind regards for snow, if it takes cleaning off the roof to stimulate snow fall, perhaps I should spend more time on the ladder with my snow rake in hand.
Furry weasel activity has been hot and heavy the past week. We had an after dark battle royal, apparently between two critters, leaving blood on the deck. Suppose it could have been two pine martens in confrontation over a poultry part, or maybe a marten and an un-suspecting flying squirrel. Regardless of the match-up, a winner cannot be announced.
Two residents along the south Gunflint Lake shore report visits from a cousin of those pine martens. A fisher, or fishers, have been making nightly rounds at their places in the past few days. They could have been in this yard as well, based on some larger than usual marten-like trails around the place, but have not been observed. One neighbor shared a trail cam picture of one pilfering a chunk of suet from a bird feeding tray. The animal looked to be lush and healthy. Hopefully this guy/gal will avoid a trapper's doom.
In spite of difficult ice conditions, the annual trout fishing derby is still a go for this coming Sunday. Gunflint Lake ice is thick enough to support pedestrian anglers but not the usual vehicles. Fisher folks must sign in before setting out on their quest. Registration is between 9 and 11:00 am. All contest catches must be posted on the big board by 2 pm. The usual raffle, cook-off, and award ceremonies will be held near the boat launch area of Gunflint Lodge. Good luck to all!
On a final note, speaking of fishing and angling fortunes, yours truly got an excited call last weekend from my grandson, Lane, of Sheldon, Iowa. He and his dad had been fishing behind the Lewis & Clark Dam near Yankton, SD, when he hooked into a monster. When finally pulled into the boat a 40-plus pound paddlefish was on the end of the line. What a day! “Google” tells of this finny creature being a kind of throwback to prehistoric times, but not too uncommon in some river systems. It was some kind of ugly, but certainly a fishing memory for the books.
This is Fred Smith, on the trail, at Wildersmith! The “March” is on!
(photo by ForestWander.com via Wikimedia Commons)