Wildersmith Jan. 20

Ice fishing shacks dot the landscape
Ice fishing shacks dot the landscape

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The month of the “full wolf” moon has turned fickle as it relates to weather conditions. The only thing we northwoods folks have had to brag about so far this winter has been a siege of cold that set in after Christmas.

The “drought spirits” have maintained their curse over the border country wilderness for a fourth consecutive week. And, now a northland version of the January thaw has squelched even our sub-zero cold. Since we have been a long time without a white blanketing, minus 30-some was the only winter symptom that allowed us to swagger a bit.

It has not been as warm as some traditional first month thaws. However, it has allowed for the chemical action of road treatment to produce enough slop along the byway, that our pristine roadside is now as grimy as a Twin Cities street.

On a more positive note, the warm air suspended over our cold ground has presented Jack Frost a medium with which to decorate the forest in crystal on a couple mornings. The Smiths’ last weekly supply run to Grand Marais was blessed with another dose of Jack’s delicate workmanship, glazing every appendage rising from “Mother Earth.” Once again, the frosted forest was breathtaking!

Thank goodness for the early Janus siege of cold, as the ice on the big lakes is now safe for many modes of traffic. With ice depths of 16 or more inches on Gunflint, hard water angling for lake trout got off to a booming start last Friday.

It is always amusing to hear the drone of snow sleds dragging gear up the lake. Then, the little clutches of shanty towns start popping up on the icy white landscape.

Equally interesting are the countless design fabrications that these fisher folks have either found in some catalog or nailed together in their backyard. There is one such hut down the lake that would remind you of a state fair corn dog stand. Wonder if the dogs are on, or if fish sticks might be the fare?

With all the comforts of home, other than for the frozen foundations, it is hard to understand how the activity can be called a cold weather event. Occasionally I’ll see an angler sitting on a bucket as in olden days (or the seat of a snowmobile), but many are only out in the cold long enough to depart their pickup and run to their shack.

One thing for sure, it is fun to know that all are having a great time fishing, although maybe not as good a time catching. Guess pleasure often comes in the journey and not the final destination.

The weekly wolf sighting report from yours truly is that nine have been spotted.
The Gunflint/Loon Lake pack, as I will call them, has been seen twice. I observed the pack of six traversing from Loon Lake south across the Trail a week ago, and a friend observed apparently the same group cavorting in his driveway a day later. Then last Friday, I caught up with a pair crossing south Gunflint Lake Road, and later the same day, came upon a loner not far from the Pines Resort.

A gal skiing over in the Crab lake area recently was startled while gliding along her trail. Without warning, a whitetail darted out of the woods across her path, and a split second later, brother wolf followed in hot pursuit. The chase of predator/prey continued right on by without as much as a glance. I’m guessing that after catching her breath, the skier probably did an about face.

I don’t know if it was a warm-weather stimulus or not, but I was treated to a bit of deer frivolity during the a.m. twilight last Sunday. There were half dozen or so prancing about the yard when suddenly a game of chase broke out. I’ve never seen so many dashing about at one time, as they ran after each other for lap after lap, on what seemed to be a pre-determined course. Eventually, the racing calmed, but your guess would be as good as mine in deciding which could be declared the winner. For sure, there was a lot of heavy breathing and dangling tongues.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some snowy dreams!


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