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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 17

Lynx at large
Lynx at large

Wildersmith_20140117_finalcut.mp39.05 MB

Hark, world, the northlands month long span of bitter cold has broken.   Week two of the new year, finds the territory in the midst of our version of a “January thaw.”
It’s a welcome reprieve for many area residents.  However, I talked with a local gal who was pleased at finally being above zero, but starts getting nervous when winter edges toward the freezing mark as it did last Sunday.
 I suppose her reasoning is that after all, this is winter and we are not in need of any kind of melt down until April or May. I can’t agree with her more.
Then I talked with another fellow recently that wants the minus thirty to forty something days to go away, but bring on the snow. This snow issue is also found to be agreeable with yours truly.
In spite of the extended sub-zero times since early December, the warmth within the bowels of the earth has kept liquid running. I’m noticing ice dams building along our Mile O Pine where culverts are frozen tight. With water continuing to bubble forth from deep within, it looks as though we’re going to have some bigger than usual mini-glaciers in not too many weeks.
Last weekend, when the layer of warm air was hanging over the cold forest ground, another spectacular build-up of hoar frost took place on the high cliffs over-looking Gunflint Lake. Every time I observe one of these crystal natural wonders, I realize how blessed it is to be living in the midst of such un-ending beauty. Further, as we often get these frosty portraits, each one seems to surpass the memory of any previous.
 Beyond the majesty of our wilderness in winter, being able to catch a glimpse of a few “wild neighborhood” critters on occasion doubles up on our boon of good life things. Sightings of some area favorites have been noted since we last visited over the air waves. Smith travels between Wildersmith, mid-trail and Grand Marais found us crossing paths with snowshoe hares, a Canadian Lynx and moose.
 Both the snowy bunnies and their adversarial Lynx were spotted along county road # twenty. Although neither were in close proximity to being in a chase and catch mode at that moment.
Then on two separate Trail excursions, we came upon moose doing some roadside “brine tasting” after dark. Each time we were startled by their presence, but thank goodness, not close to having one mounted on the hood!
Those white tail pals who hang out around the place have been here and there lately, quite skid dish I might say. The Gunflint/Loon Lake wolf pack has been doing some reconnaissance work along the Mile O Pine as evidenced by their tracks and territorial marking. I haven’t actually seen one but know they’re lurking about surveying the hunting landscape.
A resident shared a Lynx episode of recent happening. It seems some visitors here to see the New Year arrive came upon one of the stately felines sitting in the middle of the road.  It was not far from Heston’s Lodge, again off county road twenty.
They stopped to observe the cat that smugly declined to move from the right-of-way for some time. Eventually the athletic north woods kitty stalked off to the edge of the road. Suddenly it shot up a tree. In a matter of moments it was back down with a “catch of the day.”
Apparently concentrating on the “snack at hand/paw,” it really wasn’t begrudging them from driving past. It was just focused on a red squirrel high in those branches, and it was not going to be denied the exact preying moment by these onlookers.
To end this predator/prey chapter, the border country “Tabby” came walking up the road toward the sitting vehicle right past the surprised beholders with rodent in mouth. It was probably smiling and purring not knowing how the hunting escapade made someone’s day!  What a treat for these folks!
Another dose of entertainment commences for many folks this weekend with the Trout fishing opener on lakes outside the BWCA. Ice on the Gunflint Lake has stretched downward to some twenty-six inches, and is no doubt likewise in most other area locations.
 However, slush still seems to be an issue, and care remains to be exercised on any hard water, regardless of perceived safety or second hand information.
Speaking of ice fishermen, a grandson who lives in northwest Iowa and has a passionate zest for the sport started his college education this week. Boy, they sure grow up fast, makes me feel pretty old! Guess he’ll be hitting the books now, more so than jigging through the ice. Good luck Lane!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor an adventure yet to happen!

{photo courtesy of Michael Valentini}