The eleventh chapter of Gunflint's 2015 story is fading fast. Final thoughts reflect an unusual month with little or nothing to show in terms of winter character. Unless conditions change in the next few days, border country might usher in December with a brown landscape for the first time in many years.
After a healthy dose of preliminary rain, a snippet of winter oozed in last weekend with some puny snow. There was barely an inch counted out this way. With any kind of sunshine, this thin coating will evaporate like relatives when it's dish-washing time after Thanksgiving dinner.
The “Mom in charge of things” set the thermostat back to a more normal setting following this feeble snow attempt. In fact, the neighborhood around Wildersmith experienced our first single digit mercury readings for a couple mornings. Throughout these northerly reaches, the frigid setting found us getting into ice making on smaller lakes and swampy wetlands.
Minnestota’s rifle season for whitetails found the hunters I know around Gunflint Lake blanked over the past two weeks. It’s a sad consolation, but at least they had tolerable weather conditions during the fruitless pursuit, and their ammunition will not go bad, so there willl always be next year. Perhaps “old man winter” will thicken ice soon in hopes “hard water” angling might treat outdoor sports-people better.
A trip out and about last Sunday turned heartening for yours truly. With all the leaves down, sightseeing through the forest provides a remarkable view of the fire-ravaged upper Trail territory. What’s so amazing is the new growth of coniferous beings that had been obscured by leaf foliage. As far as one can see, countless acres of youthful evergreens are popping skyward to begin displacing the skeletal wildfire remains.
Most of the visible new growth along the Trail comes in the form of naturally propagated jack pine while in select places off-road, many sections of spruce, white and red pine have taken off as well. The off-road growth was fostered through efforts of hundreds of Gunflint Green-up volunteers planting in partnership with the USFS efforts, this happening over several years since the Ham Lake tragedy in ’07.
If humans did not live in the area, this horrific blaze would have been a welcome means of wilderness revival. However, tragic as it was for hundreds of our Gunflint neighbors, we are thankful to have survived, and are now able to proudly observe a healthy new spirit of forest growth.
This phenomenon of rebirth sure has taken off quickly. Remarkable indeed is the resiliency of the natural world to start itself anew, without us and in spite of us. In a few more years, this National Scenic Byway will again be a tunnel through the pines.
Congratulations to “Mother Nature” on a continuing job well done! And many thanks to others who care so deeply for this extraordinary place on the planet.
Here’s hoping everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday. As we head off into the season of “material grabbing madness,” may “common sense” show some resurgence so “Black Friday” does not become a nightmare of singing the “blues.” Remember it’s the coming of December, a time to be ritualized in mystery, grace and divine significance of the holiday season.
Speaking of the holiday season, if Gunflint Trail listeners haven’t heard, the second annual holiday open house, put on by our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, is scheduled for Saturday, December 5. All Gunflint residents are invited.
The doings extend during the hours of 3-6 pm at the Schaap Community Center (mid-Trail fire hall # 1). In the spirit of this giving season and doing good for others, your donations to the local food shelf would be welcomed at the event. Mark your calendars for this time of food, fun and refreshments.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! With snow shovel in hand, I'm waiting, waiting and waiting.
(Photo by Chauncer on Flickr)