The upper Gunflint territory enters December, and I’m beginning to get a little nervous in regard to our area continuing to be missed by major snowstorms. I realize it’s still pre-winter according to the calendar, but moisture reserves of snow in the forest are necessary to avoid an unnerving dry spell before our next green-up. The temperatures have surely favored opportunity for some nice seasonal decorating in anticipation of a delivery.
Speaking of temps, the area experienced some serious cold over the past week. With only a minor warming hiccup last Saturday, the stage was set for the unfrozen big lakes to finally cover up as mercury skidded into the teens below at our place.
Shortly after sending out last week’s scoop, the water on Gunflint started taking on the winter shivers. Ice-up soon progressed to the point where our Wildersmith shoreline froze about a third of the way to Canada. It stayed that way, gaining a little more each day, but still having open water toward the Canadian border.
I was thinking we might get a total November ice-on which hasn’t happened in nearly two decades (November 26, 1996 to be exact). When I was about to write this happening into my weather records diary, Mother Nature initiated a border country tug-of-war. A strong Arctic front crashed down on us Saturday night and the fight was on, wind against ice.
The fury of howling air sent the remaining open water into a churning rage. By Sunday morning, the north wind won the battle. Our infant frozen coating had ceded to the furious seas. The Gunflint gal, except for a protected west end, was in sky blue status once again.
Ice cakes were stacked up on our granite shore as slushy remains bubbled up in rolling waves against a spectacular crystal mass. So the Zamboni process on Gunflint Lake will be re-convening with our next quiet night.
One nice thing about restarting this ice-over happening is that we get a second episode of hoar frosting along our shore. With frigid air over warmer water, the look of a boiling cauldron will be casting moisture-laden clouds ashore to magically glaze every exposed forest appendage. If there ever was a Hallmark holiday card setting, it just had to be captured around here during one of these spectacular times!
A funny thing happened on my way to the mailbox a while back. Approaching the line-up of postal receptacles, I noticed a large black item sitting on top, and thought it was a parcel in one of those black plastic garbage bags. Getting closer, to my surprise, the object turned out to be a common raven.
It took flight as I pulled alongside. I didn’t give much thought about why this ebony critter was there in the first place as a pair has been nesting in the area for a few years. A closer check found the USPS had delivered a package to a neighbor’s box. The item was too big to fit inside, so it was sacked in a protective plastic wrapper and left on top.
Apparently, the container caught the attention of this curious avian and it could not resist a little postal inspection. This inquisitive being didn’t know it’s a federal offense to tamper with other peoples’ mail. I observed it also cared little for the fact the item was a cardboard box wrapped in plastic protection, because it had torn open the bag, pecked about a 6-inch hole in the box and pulled out part of the contents.
Somewhat comical, it was nevertheless a bad scene for the intended recipient as the contents were no doubt damaged, with no recourse. The neighbor eventually got to the mail box and picked up a tattered delivery.
In visiting with him about the incident, he revealed with an iffy grin, catch this; the contents of his package were in fact, a bird feeder.
How about that for a rare happenstance? That bird had some kind of intuition and also a bit of larceny in its heart. But it’s not going to be a jailbird.
Saturday night (December 6) the north woods will celebrate the full “cold/little spirit” moon, and the timing couldn’t be better. With the spirit of our lunar experience and this approaching festive season, a gala open house invitation is being extended to Gunflint residents, their families and friends.
The Gunflint Trail Volunteer fire Department is hosting a “thank you” event at the Schaap Community Center (Mid Trail Fire Hall #1) beginning at 3 p.m. and running until 7 p.m. It’s a time for the volunteers to express their gratitude for the fantastic community support of the three facility improvement projects during the past couple years. Every Gunflinter is invited to kick off this holiday season with friends, food and fun.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sights and sounds of this northern paradise!
(Photo courtesy of Fred Smith)