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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Fred Smith

Contributor(s): 
Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a native Iowan re-located to the wilderness of border country at the end of the century, has been writing of happenings in the upper Gunflint territory for going on eight years, first with the local paper, and since December 2008 for WTIP North Shore Community Radio. Fred feels life in the woods is extraordinary, and finds reporting on it to both a reading and listening audience a pleasurable challenge. Since retirement as a high school athletic administrator from Ankeny High School, Ankeny Iowa in 1999, the pace of Fred's life has become less hectic but nevertheless, remains busy in new ways with many volunteer activities along the Trail. Listen at your convenience by subscribing to a podcast.


Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

 


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Moose - Barbara Friedman via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint November 3, 2017

WTIP News November 3, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith

The usual warning of November hit a few days early this year. The curtain call of autumn came abruptly last week with our first winter storm. Although it was not as bad here as other places in the northland, the four to six inches in the upper Trail was a good start to the new season. However, there is a qualifier to this report; the earth is still warm and much could be melted from the ground up by broadcast time, we’ll see!      

The first snow of the season always creates a great deal of excitement for everyone in border country, regardless of the annoyance or hardship it may cause. Most who live above forty-eight or forty-nine degrees north can hardly wait for the first episode of natural tree decorating.                                                                                                                                                                

The late October dropping in this neighborhood did not disappoint as the wet sticky white clung to everything pointing skyward. Every year I swear the first coating is the most beautiful ever, and this year is no exception. For those trying to capture digital winter splendor, this was the place to be. The magic of snow covered pine was especially glorious along the Mile O Pine as I begin keying this weeks’ Gunflint scoop.                                                                                                                   
The recent winter-like happening didn’t come close to the record Halloween season storm of twenty-six years ago. In all likelihood, most 2017 ghosts did their trick or treat thing, like snowshoe hares, blending inconspicuously with our pale landscape.                                                                                                          

With our eleventh month only hours old, the full “freezing over moon” will be beaming down on the northland this weekend. Incidentally, as the monthly lunar experience graces our frosty forest, the reality of standard time makes its’ semi-annual return. Don’t forget to “fall back” as you retire on Saturday evening, or you’ll be out-of-step with the rest of humanity next morning.                                                                                                                                                                 
Another feature of the first snow allows us residents to see who of the “wild neighborhood” has been prowling around during darkness hours. Tracks in the fluff revealed a pine marten stopped by the Wildersmith place, likely looking for a hand-out of the usual poultry parts.

Meanwhile, a neighbor down the road had a visit from a fisher (a marten on steroids) while another left foot print evidence of being here too.  Tracks in the snow never cease to stir up adventurous thoughts about success in the realm of predator pursuit and prey survival.                                   

A day or so prior to the siege of ice and snow, during an evening drive along the Trail, the Smith’s came upon two moose blocking our path. We hadn’t seen one in some time, so as usual, this was a treat.                                                                                                                                          
Both were cows, not hanging out together, but separated by a couple miles. Fortunately, their silhouettes against the setting sun back drop were observed early enough to avoid a collision, and neither chose to be stubborn about getting off the road, so “no harm, no foul” to either moose or vehicle.                                                                                                                                                  

Other animal tidings would find it reasonable to assume, bears have retired to dens, while whitetail deer hunting season commences this weekend. Safe and happy hunting to all! For the next couple weeks, those in outdoor activities should be dressed in warning gear and on the look-out for those folks in blaze orange or hot pink sitting out in the woods trying to act like a bush.                                                                                                                                                

Listener/readers will remember my commentary a few weeks back about a bear pilfering my greasy bar-b-que gloves. I was surprised just days ago when an anonymous reader or readers in Iowa took pity on me, and shipped a replacement pair. What a neat, but unsolicited gesture! Thank you so much, Mr. &/or Mrs. whoever you are!                                                                                                         

It’s with sadness I announce that word has been received on the death of another Gunflint Trail neighbor. Jean Foster, of West Des Moines, Iowa and a longtime summer home resident on the west end of Gunflint Lake passed away on October 25, in Des Moines. Gunflint Community condolences are extended to her husband, Robert, three daughters and a granddaughter.                                                                                                                                               
A final note comes for all WTIP users. At this time next week the WTIP family will be in the middle of its fall/winter membership drive. The excitement begins on Thursday, November 9 and runs for five days, ending at noon on the 13th.                                                                                                    

As with every fund drive, member participation is critical to ensure continued growth of WTIP, the BEST in community radio. If you are a current family member, we need you to re-invest. If you have never joined, but enjoy what this broadcast Phenom has to offer, you’re invited to “Join Together” with the extended WTIP family from around the globe.                                                                                                              

It’s easy to do and your support is so appreciated. Phone in a pledge, do so on-line, or even better, stop by the studios. For more details, go to the web site, WTIP.org.                                                                                                             
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Trail, where every day is great, especially when “Biboon” (winter) gets rolling!
 
 

Listen: 

 
LeaflessTrees.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

Listen: 

 
LeaflessTrees.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 27

WTIP News     October 27, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October splendor has been shining down on the Gunflint territory over the past seven days. Temperatures have been bouncing around between cold and moderately warm for this time of year. Our only glitch in the atmosphere comes in regard to being left on the dry side of the moisture ledger for more than two weeks along the Mile O Pine. 

 With less than two tenths here at Wildersmith during this time, it makes one a little nervous concerning fire danger since protection systems have been put to bed for the coming winter. 
                                                                             
Since we last met on WTIP, the upper Gunflint landscape has edged ever closer to winter. Few leaves are left hanging while Tamarack needles have had their day of glory, and are tarnished into the dusting off stage.                                                                                                                             
I’m always amazed at the seemingly un-countable shades of brown summoned by “Mother Nature” as summer dries up through the autumn season. With hues from buff to coffee bean brown, we’ve got them all, along this magnificent scenic by-way.                                                             
So the Gunflint color show continues with now toasted embellishments, still beautiful in such a distinct way. It’s surely worth another trek out this way, to soak it all in, before the next act takes our border country stage.                                                                                                                                                             
These times in the wildland are exclusively unique. Quiet rules supreme as summer/fall hubbub has almost ground to a halt. There are few snippets of hullabaloo pollution disturbing the tranquility of nature doing its thing. Sounds of late October are minimal except for those of natural creation.  
                                                                                                                                              
Winds in the pines whisper sweet nothings of warm day remembrances, while waiting to turn on a warning roar from the great “spirit of the north.” Added accompaniment comes from white caps dashing the granite shores. All the while, those in our ‘wild neighborhood’ chirp, chatter, squawk and snipe at each other, as they go about their daily survival routines. 
                                                                                                                                 
We who stay to endure the cold and white can peacefully reflect on these cherished wilderness blessings right outside our back doors. It’s a time when cool evenings deliver the romantic aroma of smoke from a wood burning stove, favoring thoughts of a warm cozy doze in the recliner. It’s a time when tree sap starts thickening down to the roots. It’s a time when snowshoe hares pull up their white socks to belly wader heights while other fur bearers are changing to heavy duty camo apparel and some burrow in to cold season quarters.  It’s a time to relish! 
                                                                                                                                                               
Although winter-like conditions are only in the long range planning stages, I’ve noticed the cold season “welcome wagon” out along trail sides over the last few days. Those neighborly snow buntings seem to be getting an early start on gathering seed fare from roadside shoulders, and are erupting with skyward flare at the approach of an on-coming vehicle. To see the perky little avian confirms a sign of things to come. 
                                                                                               
In the meantime, on recent days when the sun shines warm, hordes of obnoxious summer time bugs have been re-invigorated. Black flies, mosquitos and pesky gnat like critters are re-enforcing cries from us humans for cold and to stay cold! I’ve even seen a few folks outdoors doing pre-winter chores wearing their bug nets. Buggy conditions like we’ve been enduring of late are usually un-heard of as trick or treat night nears. 
                                                                                  
Speaking of Halloween night in the offing, the first quarter of the “freezing over” Ojibwe moon, is on high right now.  We could do well to have a little of its “cold spirit” to send the swarming nasties a packing.                                                                                                                                                           
Until this happens, Gunflinters can think back to the blizzard of flakes that stopped ghosts and goblins activity deep in its tracks in 1991. There were no bugs then, but up to forty plus inches of snow. Those were truly, the “good old days.”  
                                                                                                   
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, regardless of what might be causing those bites and itches!
 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 20

October 20, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
Our northern forest has pretty much shed its autumnal coat. The deciduous tree scene is largely gray, scraggily skeletons, lurking amongst their evergreen cousins. The last vestige of descending things will be laid to rest by this airing as Tamarack gold layers up on the landscape.

Fitting for the advance of ghost and goblin time, an eerie quiet hangs over the landscape during the time we mourn the death of summer leaves and the mosaic of falls’ last hurrah. With the growth of our wildland world taking its final bow, the long stillness of winter is waiting in anticipation as “Mother Nature will soon be issuing a first “winter watch.”

Several frosty mornings of late are setting the stage, and days of clouds hang cold and heavy over border country. It goes without saying these billows of heavenly drab might soon deliver moisture of frozen character. Anecdotally, I observed the first skim of ice on a bird water dish and on a Trailside pond last Tuesday morning.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Meanwhile, around the Wildersmith place, “getting ready” chores are about complete, so the “wizard of winter wonder” can bring it on. My last dip in the lake, to retrieve wildfire sprinkler hoses, found the liquid in the low fifties, a real attention grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                          
In the past few days, I’ve started placing a little daytime sustenance out on the deck side feed trough. Our first returnees, those “whiskey jacks” and blue jays, were joined last Monday by an infrequent visitor of ebony character. We seldom have ravens land here, although they are often rapping overhead. So getting to see one up real close was a treat. Guess some fatty meat scraps were more than this dapper corvine could resist, prompting the fast food stop-over.
                                                                                                                     
A couple reported a busy beaver along the Trail just days ago. This critter of former fur trade notoriety was engaged in laying up cold season vittles. “Bucky” was so engrossed in dragging a fresh aspen branch across the black-top it failed to look before crossing. The gnawing herbivore narrowly missed becoming a “road-kill’ statistic as the attentive driver braked just in time allowing this paddle tail varmint another chance on life.  
The incident happened in the area just above the observation pull-off at the Laurentian Divide where a roadside pond accommodates beaver lodging, and is also the home of Beaver & Beaver Construction. So if locals are driving through this area, be on the watch to give this guy/gal a break.                                                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of another chance on life, a number of stately young red pines had theirs literally cut short. They were destroyed in a recent nature trail slashing occurrence along the Seagull River in the upper Gunflint region. Whether the episode was a case of vandalism or an ill-advised, un-supervised agency endeavor, it is tragically dis-heartening.

These were trees planted by volunteers following the Ham Lake fire during the Gunflint Green-up efforts of 2008, 9 and 10. Just getting their roots firmly established, after nearly ten years, many were eight to ten foot tall. Hopefully, those responsible can be found and held accountable for their actions.

 “Moose Madness” throughout the county this weekend holds hope for some candid Alces Alces appearances. Although the north land icons don’t take well to public appearances, this would be the right time that a few might step out of seclusion and show off a little bit of Trail legacy. Its’ Minnesota Education Association weekend and visitors by the hundreds will cruise the Byway, searching, in hope of catching a glimpse from “moose-dom.” Good luck and happy viewing to all!

By the way, while moose searching, it will be the last chance for a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center up at Trails end. The historical facility will close its doors for the season at the end of the day Sunday. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society thanks the thousands of visitors for coming this season. 

Everyone is invited back, come next spring, as two new facilities will be taking shape around the campus. These additions will be first hand history in the making as the GTHS builds to share more of the Gunflint Trail story.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, no matter what the season!

 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 20

October 20, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
Our northern forest has pretty much shed its autumnal coat. The deciduous tree scene is largely gray, scraggily skeletons, lurking amongst their evergreen cousins. The last vestige of descending things will be laid to rest by this airing as Tamarack gold layers up on the landscape.

Fitting for the advance of ghost and goblin time, an eerie quiet hangs over the landscape during the time we mourn the death of summer leaves and the mosaic of falls’ last hurrah. With the growth of our wildland world taking its final bow, the long stillness of winter is waiting in anticipation as “Mother Nature will soon be issuing a first “winter watch.”

Several frosty mornings of late are setting the stage, and days of clouds hang cold and heavy over border country. It goes without saying these billows of heavenly drab might soon deliver moisture of frozen character. Anecdotally, I observed the first skim of ice on a bird water dish and on a Trailside pond last Tuesday morning.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Meanwhile, around the Wildersmith place, “getting ready” chores are about complete, so the “wizard of winter wonder” can bring it on. My last dip in the lake, to retrieve wildfire sprinkler hoses, found the liquid in the low fifties, a real attention grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                          
In the past few days, I’ve started placing a little daytime sustenance out on the deck side feed trough. Our first returnees, those “whiskey jacks” and blue jays, were joined last Monday by an infrequent visitor of ebony character. We seldom have ravens land here, although they are often rapping overhead. So getting to see one up real close was a treat. Guess some fatty meat scraps were more than this dapper corvine could resist, prompting the fast food stop-over.
                                                                                                                     
A couple reported a busy beaver along the Trail just days ago. This critter of former fur trade notoriety was engaged in laying up cold season vittles. “Bucky” was so engrossed in dragging a fresh aspen branch across the black-top it failed to look before crossing. The gnawing herbivore narrowly missed becoming a “road-kill’ statistic as the attentive driver braked just in time allowing this paddle tail varmint another chance on life.  
The incident happened in the area just above the observation pull-off at the Laurentian Divide where a roadside pond accommodates beaver lodging, and is also the home of Beaver & Beaver Construction. So if locals are driving through this area, be on the watch to give this guy/gal a break.                                                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of another chance on life, a number of stately young red pines had theirs literally cut short. They were destroyed in a recent nature trail slashing occurrence along the Seagull River in the upper Gunflint region. Whether the episode was a case of vandalism or an ill-advised, un-supervised agency endeavor, it is tragically dis-heartening.

These were trees planted by volunteers following the Ham Lake fire during the Gunflint Green-up efforts of 2008, 9 and 10. Just getting their roots firmly established, after nearly ten years, many were eight to ten foot tall. Hopefully, those responsible can be found and held accountable for their actions.

 “Moose Madness” throughout the county this weekend holds hope for some candid Alces Alces appearances. Although the north land icons don’t take well to public appearances, this would be the right time that a few might step out of seclusion and show off a little bit of Trail legacy. Its’ Minnesota Education Association weekend and visitors by the hundreds will cruise the Byway, searching, in hope of catching a glimpse from “moose-dom.” Good luck and happy viewing to all!

By the way, while moose searching, it will be the last chance for a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center up at Trails end. The historical facility will close its doors for the season at the end of the day Sunday. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society thanks the thousands of visitors for coming this season. 

Everyone is invited back, come next spring, as two new facilities will be taking shape around the campus. These additions will be first hand history in the making as the GTHS builds to share more of the Gunflint Trail story.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, no matter what the season!

 

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 13

WTIP News     October 13, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
I can’t believe the days could go by any faster either here or anywhere. We Gunflinters are nearing the half-way point of month ten as the tourist season is slowing to a crawl.   

Weather over the past seven has remained moderate and somewhat dry in the upper Trail region. In spite of a frosty spot here and there, the area has escaped a killing freeze up to this weeks’ news release.

 We could easily be lulled to sleep on this issue, but it’s going to happen, so we year around folk had better be getting those outdoor water facilities prepared. Of special note is the winterization of the wildfire sprinkler systems.

 Since we last met on the radio, yours truly has scratched a few chores off my winterizing list. The snow blade has been mounted and a snow blower check started on the first pull so my check-offs are dwindling. One more trip into the cool lake will bring in the sprinkler system lines and the biggest tasks will be history.   
 
Our color extravaganza is starting to become distant in the rear view mirror. Showers of leaves have been the order over the past few days, and Tamarak needles are gaining their golden glow rapidly.                                                                                                                                     
Speaking of autumnal views, each day provides an expanding opportunity to see through “the forest for the trees.” One often takes for granted wildland things seen in the woods until the leaves are on and the foliage hides them away. Well, the time has come back to us with thinning gold tokens, opening up for a renewed slant on things once hidden, but now revealed.                                                                                                                                                                                       
This time of year is never more magic than when one treks down a back country road. With the greedy world about to consume us, it is soul soothing to stroll or drive down one of these off Trail Gunflint roads.      
                                                                                                                                 
A damp earth fragrance, a leaf strewn path, a calm breeze, a sky of blue sharing both sunshine and puffy clouds, occasional avian tweets, drumming grouse, and squirrels scrambling here and there are blended with the serenity of almost zero civilization hubbub. Thus, we observers are charmed with a formula for the idyllic life experience. That’s the way it is with sights and sounds of October in Gunflint country.   
                                                                                                                                                                         
On these cool nights, good reading is a must as we hunker down by the wood stove. Recently, I came across an intriguing article in the fall edition of INTERNATIONAL WOLF magazine. I would think anyone concerned that indigenous lives matter might share my interest in this article focusing on the relationship between the Anishinaabe (Original Man) and Ma’iingan (the wolf) in a creation story.                                                                                                                                                                     
Author, Tovar Cerulli, reflects on the direction of wolf management in the eyes of the Ojibwe through a unique spiritual and cultural understanding of the wolf. I am no professional critic, but I recommend this thought-provoking selection. Chase it down in your local library or perhaps find it on line at internationalwolf@wolf .org.

So many bruin stories continue flowing in I can “bearly” keep up. Two instances of larcenous bear activity have occurred in this neighborhood within recent days.  
  
The first report came from a gal up the hill from Wildersmith telling about finding her car door ajar, only to open it fully and have a young bear jump out. The next night, “Bruno” came back and opened the vehicle door again, climbed in and did some real damage while sniffing and scrounging for some kind of treat.  
   
Then in another semi breaking and entering episode; I believe it to be a bear, got into my barbeque storage bin and made off with a pair of blue hot material gloves. Seems funny this nosing around has never happened before, as these gloves have been in that unit for years. I’m guessing the critter might have sniffed an air of cooking grease on the gloves and decided they were for the taking.    

An interesting fact is the gloves were heavy duty leather welding gloves, and if consumed it must have been a chewing good time. Funnier yet, how about the bear passing a little leather, neighbors might keep an eye out for a blue calling card that is definitely not of blueberry consumption. 
      
On a final note, a couple AWOL “whiskey jacks” (Canadian Jays) have returned from summers’ wherever. These camp robbers are busy every day in a re-education of us Smith’s to be out at the feed trough promptly with a treat. My how trainable we have become!    
                         
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as we await winter to round the bend!
 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 6

WTIP News     October 6, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint         by Fred Smith

The atmosphere in the upper Trail has been pretty seasonal since we last met on the radio, cool but not cold at night, and warm but not too hot under sunshine. Furthermore, enough moisture has dampened north-country to maintain low fire danger, and enhance the aroma of fall.                                                                                                                                                                      
In the midst of one of those recent precipitation droppings, we had a spectacular rainbow grace our northern heavens. While we in these parts expect color luminosity from the Aurora at night, fine rainbows are not unusual.   
                  
The fact this one hovered over the north shore of Gunflint Lake in Canadian skies makes it somewhat atypical. Usually an east or west phenome, this celestial spectrum happened when rays of “old Sol” were piercing the drizzle laden cloud cover from the south around the noontime hour, creating a beautiful, but short lived prismatic episode. How about this, a tinted rendition of “Mother Nature” simultaneously on earth and in the skies!    

October has crept up on us so fast we have barely noticed its arrival. A week into the books finds it unimaginable the full “falling Leaves” moon has passed us by. Yes, it happened quietly on the fifth, if you hadn’t noticed. 

Our avian migration continues as we now add “snow birds” to the flocks, winging all directions south.  With seasonal neighbors taking off, those of us choosing to stay and hold down the fort, find the urgency of “getting ready for winter” in clear focus.

My good neighbor down the road and his grouse hunting buddies from metropolis came to my aid this past weekend. They provided big manpower in bringing the dock a shore; helping to motor the boat down the lake for its return to winter storage; and in closing up an exterior lake water system. What would we do without neighbors? These major chores checked off the list, the Wildersmith two are moving on to a sundry of less heavy duty items.

The color show of our upper Gunflint is waning as this scoop hits the air. With maple leaves down and birch tokens piling on, stage two finds a quaking golden hue of aspen at its peak. Looking out our window to the forest, the buttery tones are so bright it looks as though the sun is shining, even on a cloudy day. As the emerald plumage of summer succumbs to a colorful end and descends unto another layer of history, the spotlight is set for a final act of this autumnal drama, as we wait for those aurous tamarack needles to drop the season ending curtain.

Memorable animal tidbits have come my way recently. The first of which comes from the mid-Trail neighborhood. To preface this one, for many years, neighbors in that area of the Trail have offered sustenance to any number of fox. 
                                                                                                  
In this tale of the woods, a bear was observed dipping into the food cache intended for the fox, at an unnamed residence. While the bear was partaking, a fox came onto the scene. In a sudden fit of rage, the fox took after the startled bear and ran it off. The fox came back to feed after the chase.                                                                                                                                                                         
While eating the fox noticed the inquisitive bear returned, peeking around the corner of a building nearby. Apparently feeling the bear did not understand, Mr./Ms. Fox took out in hot pursuit once again. This time, in hope of putting a little more meaning into its grub rights, the fox gave chase and got close enough to give the unknowing Ursae a good bite on the rump. I have not heard of any further confrontation, so I’m assuming the fox got its point across. The scene kind of harkens back to those old “Uncle Remus” stories about “Braer Fox and Braer Bear” read when I was a kid.                                                                                                                                                                                       
I’m told the four bear cubs’ Mother, got into trouble by being aggressive with some gals down the road and has since been dispatched. This is sad, but not too un-expected, as the sloth had been interacting in people neighborhoods for much of the summer. It was bound to happen, but now there are four orphan cubs that definitely will be challenged with surviving the coming winter. Furthermore, should the little ones make it through the winter they too are in danger of gravitating to their mothers’ fate having been reared in human proximity?                                                                                                                                                   
In a more laughable, man/animal convergence, a couple was driving the Trail recently when a moose came up out of the ditch causing and immediate stoppage and stand-off as to who might have the right-of-way.  
                                                                                                                                                 
It seemed the moose didn’t care to cross, but set off ambling along the shoulder. The couple proceeded slowly with the moose right beside the vehicle. Thinking the moose might be a problem, the driver increased speed to get around and move away from the big guy. However, as the vehicle sped up so did Mr. Moose. Soon the moose broke into a gallop staying alongside on the shoulder path.  
                                                                                                                          
The moose, apparently running for gold, competed for some distance. In the end however, this iconic critter conceded to being just a sprinter and not a long distance runner, dropping off into the ditch and heading for the timber. Final race results indicated DNF, the moose did not finish.

Congratulations and thanks to Sarah Hamilton and her staff at Trail Center for entering the humanitarian relief effort for people of Puerto Rico. She is sending a first shipment of her mid-Trail produced “Camp Chow” (dry packaged meals) to help feed hungry people. For more details on this heartfelt endeavor or to maybe help out in some way, go to the website, campchow.org.      
                                                                                                                                    
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, in the land of cool, blue waters!
 

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Bear Cub by Wayne Kelso via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint September 29

WTIP News     September 29, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith

The Equinox of last week says its fall, but summer managed what yours truly hopes is one last gasp as I hit the key board last Sunday evening.  In spite of it being quite warm and sticky over the past weekend, conditions weren’t as intolerable as they have been in places not too far south. Around the upper Gunflint, maybe the moose were the only ones suffering heat issues.
                                                                                                                                                              
Speaking of moose, one made a trek down the Mile O Pine in recent days. It was sighted by one neighbor, but my only official confirmation came in the form of hoof prints. Over the years they are seldom seen out this way. In fact only one observation was noted last year, so maybe this is it for the season. By the way, I’m told this iconic visitor was a young bull.     

Although summer took a swipe at us wildland folk, our autumn décor is un-shaken. On top of this “leaf peepers’ delight, the sweet essence of the season has captured us. This bouquet of cedar, pine, and spruce mixed with the scent of damp earth and dying leaves summons an incomparable nasal sensation, the likes of which cannot be put in a bottle. Ah, fall, how treasured thou art!       
 
 If the smell of the season isn’t enough satisfaction, my visual senses were up lifted at sunset on the evening of the Equinox. Hoping to get a glimpse of “old Sol” as it settled over the due west horizon, I headed toward the Wildersmith dock. Upon my arrival, I was disappointed to find a bank of clouds looming in the western sky.   Settling in anyway, I soon detected a sliver of clearing encouragement just at the boundary between granite and the heavens. My perseverance was soon rewarded as the cloud cover separated on its’ eastward trip, creating open space where the now “red, molten steel” day-star appeared in totality.                                                                                                                                               
With a solar hot iron bar reflecting down the rippling Gunflint water, I was immersed in this celestial happening. It was as if something super-natural fashioned the moment allowing me to watch the sun melt away into the final leg of its annual trip south. At this particular spot in the universe, by 6:55 pm central daylight time, our daily solar disappearing act was all over, and autumn is now leading us toward winter.                                                                                                                                                   

The “gang of five” bears continue appearing here and there along the south shore of Gunflint Lake. There’s been concerned conversation on whether the four cubs might be able to survive winter. With four tummies to fill over the summer, it doesn’t appear they grew as much as a normal twosome might. They remain relatively small and surely have been weaned from momma. While she is bulking up, it would appear the little ones might not add enough body mass before denning time, to sustain them during the winter slumber. And mom, in her long winters’ nap, surely won’t be providing.                                                                                                                 

It’s another wonder of nature. Guess we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope the little “Teddies” make it to spring.    
 As flashes of aspen gold blur the granite hillsides, the highlands are echoing the noise of more air traffic headed south, as Canadian geese continue honking their “V” formations overhead. Meanwhile, adult loons appear to have taken flight and there are no humming birds around here anymore. But the chickadees, nuthatches, “whiskey jacks” and blue jays are energized while juvenile loons gather for their first excursion to the gulf.

In the meantime, on land, there still has not been a turtle hatching at Chik-Wauk.  Another surface report came my way telling of a half dozen geese landing on the byway black-top in the upper end of the Trail. While probably unusual to land in such a hard surface locale, it seems their feeling of entitlement to take one-half from the middle of the road might parallel that to which moose often subscribe. The six-some had little regard for blocking traffic and took their sweet time before waddling out of the way. For some vehicle operators, the scene might have inspired a decision to have goose for dinner.                                                                                                                      

One additional “growing things” note comes to mind, here it is a day or so from October and the Wildersmith two are finally watching as tomatoes have commenced ripening. While I guessed some time ago, either fried green or pickling would be the standard for this season, “better late than never” patience, pays off.                                                                                                                                                         

It’s with sadness I report the passing of an upper Gunflint Trail neighbor. Word has been received on the death of Cornelia Einsweiler. She and husband Bob have been summer residents in the Seagull Lake area for decades, dating back to the days of Chik-Wauk Resort operations. Cornelia died in Austin, Texas to where she and Bob had been evacuated from their Florida home during the rage of Hurricane Irma. Gunflint Community comfort and condolences are extended to her surviving family and friends.                                                                                                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as daytime minutes dwindle, and talk of winter is being whispered.
 

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Canada geese - Shaun Whiteman via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 22

The Smiths are back from a run to Iowa for a visit with family. Quick as the trip was, I barely missed a beat during our flight from northland autumn. The mosaic of color has stepped up, and looks to be at a mixed bag stage as the Gunflint news hits the air waves, plenty of color and diminishing green.

I was happy with a return to an over flowing Wildersmith rain gauge. The Mile O Pine neighborhood was getting a little crunchy when I departed. Apparently some wind accompanied the moisture delivery as lawn chairs on the deck were blown about, but luckily no major trees were downed, at least around this place. So, with nearly an inch and one-half recorded, folks in these parts can be a little less worried about wildfire danger, for the time being.   
                                                                                             
This time of year is so intriguing. Clouds hanging heavy and cool fall dampness give off an eerie feeling of winter. Summer is gone! Little more than twenty-four hours ago, our universe passed true east is east, and west is west with the Equinox. I am so captured by watching the sun set at due west on this special day. To me, the Equinox just seems to set the planet right every six months. Hopefully this astronomical happening might cause a calming in the raging atmosphere of our hemisphere, over the past few weeks.        
                                                                                                                     
Rituals of our season continue to unfold. Fall is a time of un-dress in the forest. The 2017 generation of deciduous foliage is falling like winter flakes, accumulating to form the next decaying layer in a thousand year pilgrimage to build an inch of “mother earth.”  On a related note, during my brief time away from the home place, the white and red pine congregation initiated their annual needle shedding. Although this undertaking is not yet complete, the forest landscape is being re-carpeted with trillions of delicate terra-cotta toned stylus. Meanwhile, waiting in the tree tops, white cedar fronds are hanging out to add more texture as a finishing touch to this yearly, earthen floor covering event.  

I don’t know if the next subject is symbolic of early things to come, but those Canadian honkers have been flying for several weeks now. Until just last week, in our years living along Gunflint Lake, a flying wedge has not been seen setting down for R & R here in the mid-lake area. That being said, a large gaggle sto-over was not only unusual, but noisy as well. The stay was short lived however, as the flight director was disturbed by a passing watercraft and the airborne tour was quickly resumed.   

Watching the red rodents (squirrels) around the yard, I’ve observed they are expanding their winter menu cache. Not so exuberant about toting off sunflower seeds right now, they are harvesting coniferous cones. At almost every turn, I find a pile of white and/or red pine cone, remains. From the remains piled here and there, it would seem the portion they are storing away would be a bitter, sticky mess. Obviously these gnawing critters know something I don’t by including pine seeds as part of their diet fare, along with my ration of sunflower seeds from the winter seed trough.  

A reminder once more is given for the special program at Chik-Wauk Nature Center Saturday (the 23rd). Professor Evan Larson, from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville will be on the CW campus to talk of his research concerning the historic log exhibit at the museum which he discovered in an island forest on Lake Saganaga. The presentation will begin at 2:00pm.  

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, among the wonders of “Mother Nature.”
 

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