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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: February 21

Snowy landscape
Snowy landscape

Wildersmith_20140220_Final.mp37.56 MB

It’s with a heavy heart that the Smiths return to Gunflint Territory. Followers of this weekly endeavor realize that I have not been at the keyboard over the past month.

Sadly, our time was spent in Iowa with our daughter and her cancer-stricken husband during his final days. Those who have fought this battle or had family members go through the same know of the horrible times.

In our son-in-law’s case, he was not going to get well, but in time, this family will heal and get better. To all of you who have shared your concerns and sent condolences during this difficult time, a sincere thanks from the two at Wildersmith and our daughter in Iowa City.

With winter at the two-thirds mark on the calendar, my return to the Gunflint finds both snow banks and ice dams growing while the temps have been relentlessly buried below zero. Over the past few days, a few folks have been encouraged with a prognostication of seeing the freezing point on the mercury column. This is something not seen here at Wildersmith since late November. In fact some are cheering when we just get above the nothing mark.

Weather is a common tie binding most folks together in this part of the world. A little chitchat over coffee or at the card table is to be expected. Tales of weather woes and extremes at ones place over that of another often becomes a game of one-upsmanship.

How cold was it, who had the most snow or who had a frozen water line or septic problem, keeps conversations lively during this long season. As an example, a call to a lady down the road last Sunday found that she had a cool minus 35 while the Wildersmith thermometer only recorded 34 below. She gave a hearty hurrah as this is the first time this winter her temp has been colder than the Smiths’.

A few weather facts from this Gunflint neighborhood confirm what those of us here already know. It’s been a true, “days of old” winter to this point.

Since our first dose of snow on Oct. 20 and up through this past Sunday’s deposit, I’ve measured 74 inches. This is not too bad for out here in the hinterland away from the more prolific big Lake effect droppings.

Meanwhile, since Dec. 6, we’ve had 66 mornings where the thermometer was below zero. To take that a step farther, of those 66, 44 daytime highs did not get above the zero mark. Even on a number of days where we were not in negative territory, we still hunkered down with single digit readings. My thanks go out to Kathy Lande from up on Seagull Lake for filling in the missing data for the 20 plus days I was away from my thermometer.

To date, our coldest recorded morning low was minus 45 on Jan. 2, and the coldest daytime high was minus 32 on January 6, BRRRR! There was no going outside except to the wood shed on that day! But we still love the magic of Mother Nature’s gifts.

The Valentine’s Day full moon was nothing short of spectacular on the breast of our latest new fallen snow. The landscape was drowned in neon blue, snowy reflections and towering coniferous shadows.

My extended absence has seen the white tail regulars disappear, gone to snow fields elsewhere. Since our return late last week only one has come by seeking a handout. And our daily visits from several pine martens have ceased, but the birds and red squirrels are slowly finding their way back to the feed trough.

Earlier this month, prior to one of my journeys south, I had an up-close experience with a lynx. While cleaning snow from the deck, one of the stately north woods felines ambled from beneath where I was working.

Quietly, it sat down in the snow about 20 feet from me gazing off into the forest. Apparently on the lookout for an afternoon snack, its focus casually turned toward me. For a few moments we made eye contact. It must have decided I was not an immediate threat and resumed the scan for prey. After several minutes the regal cat stalked off into white oblivion. What a wondrous wild woods encounter!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the adventure of this cool northern landscape!

(photo courtesy of Minnepixel)