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Wildersmith January 4

Gunflint Trail (Bearskin Lodge/Flickr)
Gunflint Trail (Bearskin Lodge/Flickr)

Finalcut_Wildersmith_20130104.mp35.97 MB

Happy New Year everyone from the upper Gunflint Trail! Here’s wishing for an upbeat 2013!
The passing of 2012 was quiet and uneventful along the scenic byway. Mother Nature kissed off a record year with a light snow freshener of about three inches in the Wildersmith neighborhood and other varying amounts throughout the corridor.
Chapter 13 of the young century was unwrapped with a breath of cold from the great Northwest. Old Man Winter dropped in with gusty winds. He gave the weather forecasting folks an opportunity to finally warn people who can’t figure out it’s cold enough to be dangerous. Yes, we had wind chill!
Although temps were not that real mucous-freezing kind of minus 40 to 50 below, the annual calendar transition made for super ice-making conditions on area lakes. A friend down the road called to inform me there were eight inches of clear crystal on the Gunflint surface. That’s pretty good when she only first covered up a few days before Christmas.
Yours truly hopes the coming yearly segment is not a repeat of the previous. We surely don’t need back-to-back atmospheric happenings that shattered records in all sorts of categories.  In fact, many climatic legends of which folks have been able to brag were altered. It’s embarrassing to our tough weather survival persona.
Reflecting on the winter of 2012, it was pretty much a season that wasn’t, both on the front end, January through March, and then again on the back end, November and December.
A view at the temperature side of the ledger found neither true border country bitter cold nor extended periods of sub zero which is this territory’s character. The resulting over-all warmth led to the latest freeze up on Gunflint Lake (Dec. 29, 2011), and the earliest ice-out (Mar. 25, 2012) in any living resident’s memory.
As to the white count, the area around Wildersmith received a puny 50 inches total as it too made a premature exit along with its frozen lake surface cousin. This amounts to about one-half the usual dose.
The stunted winter led to an early spring with flora budding out in abundance not long into April. Our sad moisture situation led to a dangerously dry time that had folks on edge concerning wildfire. Fortunately there were no calamities close by.
Obviously, residents were able to get their wildfire sprinkler systems up in preparedness with the early available open lake water. We were all thankful that the units did not have to be used except for an occasional practice run.
The long spring oozed into summer with a brief late May, early June respite from the drought conditions. Lake levels rebounded with an increased bubbling frenzy from streams and rivers of the watershed.
This wetter period was short lived from the summer solstice on, as precipitation frequencies dropped. The lake level here on the Gunflint and most other bodies dwindled to unusually low levels, leaving broader shorelines, unnerving rocks for boat operators and some precarious dock situations.
A warmer than usual summer sun dried the territory out once more, again complicating normal activities in a tinder-dry forest.  Although there were not too many unbearably hot days, there were, nevertheless, more days of perspiring than one would like at this latitude, while lake water temps topped out in the mid- to upper 70s (almost like bath water to we northerners).
Conditions of parching extended into autumn, with everyone hoping that there would be a turn around. Such was not to happen however. Hopes were raised for perhaps an early winter as we had a day of some brief flurries and sleet late in September. This flicker turned out as only a false alarm.
The lack of dampness extended right up ‘til New Year’s Eve, leaving streams with barely a trickle, fall colors somewhat abysmal and the forest flora desperately thirsty going into the frozen earth season. The first substantial snow did not come until right after Thanksgiving, and that gave way to an early December meltdown.
In spite of the atmospheric negatives during the past year, our wilderness forest and its inhabitants remain unbelievably adaptable. Both the deciduous and coniferous character seemed to have had a good growing year, and the animals of the wild neighborhood remain energetically involved in survival.
Hope always springs eternal throughout this northern paradise, so I’m betting that 2013 will see a natural bouncing back. Needless to say, yours truly is continuing with the snow dance ritual.
Closing this week’s commentary, excitement is building for the big Gitchigami Express sled dog race. The event, which treks only through Cook County, including a leg running out through the Gunflint woods, commences this Sunday morning (Jan. 6) from Grand Portage.
So this weekend is going to the dogs, get out and show them your support! The racers will be expected at Hungry Jack Lodge late Sunday afternoon. Spectators will be able to meet the mushers that same evening during their banquet feed at Trail Center. Monday’s leg will commence after their breakfast from Windigo Lodge at around 9 a.m.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor thoughts for a great new year!

Airdate: January 4, 2013