I’m back in the woods once more! Great to be home at Wildersmith after a fine trip to Iowa for my annual stint as an official at the 102nd Drake Relays in Des Moines.
Once again, my thanks go out to the nosey pup from over on Hungry Jack Lake. Rosey, you’re the top dog at scooping the upper Gunflint News when I’m out of the wilderness.
My return finds that winter has finally succumbed in border country. At this writing, only a few swatches of snow remain in roadside ditches. The mercury is having trouble getting down to the freezing mark anymore and lake ice is dwindling rapidly.
Speaking of ice out, after 147 consecutive days, the frozen cover on Gunflint Lake is now history. Last Sunday, May 8, marked the official disappearing act for 2011.
Although winter is my favorite season, I must say that the sound of water lapping at our shore is music to my ears. Another pleasant occurrence, with the open water, is that the Gunflint Gal is up a good two feet from its record low level at freeze up last December. Now, as snow melt run-off begins to dwindle, if Mother Nature will just break loose with some timely rains over the next few months, the liquid bodies throughout the territory can do a little catching up after several years of being shortchanged.
Residents and early season visitors are being treated to all the good things about spring on the Gunflint Trail. It’s captivating to watch as the thousands of coniferous saplings uncurl from being buried in white for months. With each passing day you can almost mark the gain in strength of their bent-over trunks while their fragile limbs begin reaching skyward.
Green is the word of the month along our wilderness byway. Shoots of ground level flora are piercing the cool earth, enjoying a bit of sunshine before the late month leaf out casts them back into shadows for the short growing season ahead.
Thinking green was also on the minds of nearly 200 friends of the Gunflint environment this last weekend at the fourth annual Gunflint Green-up. Some 10,000 white and jack pine seedlings were planted in several of the burned out areas of the Ham Lake wildfire.
The hard work of starting a new forest where there is very little dirt was celebrated with a kick-off and closing festival of musical entertainment and food under the big top on the grounds of Gunflint Lodge. The weekend was just splendid! Congratulations and thanks to organizers, volunteers and seedling planters for another job well done.
Along with all our flora trends, several critters that have been snoozing over the past six or seven months are making their debut for 2011. Bears, mommas and cubs, have been observed roaming the Gunflint Lake south shore. And, although the ebony bruins can be annoying at times, they are nothing compared to the bloodthirsty mosquitoes, black flies and ticks that premiered almost overnight this past weekend.
Ticks were reported as thick as fleas on a dog’s back by tree planters on Green-up sites. Meanwhile those skeeters made life quite interesting under the big top last Saturday evening and I found some pesky black flies ravenous as ever during outside chores over the past several days. So it’s the dreaded time for bitin’ bugs, get out the Deet and bug nets, drat!
While dodging deer with my vehicle all winter, the warmer season has changed the dodg-ees. It’s been like running a hairy gauntlet trying to miss the snowshoe hares on south Gunflint Lake Road. One day last week, the Smiths counted 11 of the darting northern bunnies around their usual hangout, as we headed out of the woods toward the Trail.
I don’t know where they hung out during the snowy time, but they seem to have returned in numbers larger than last summer. Their warm season camouflage is a bit disconcerting, too, as they blend in quite well with the dirty roadside remnants from winter plowing.
Except for their skills in multiplication, they have poor insight into the hazards of jaywalking, so it’s just matter of time until there’ll be some sad fuzzy fatalities.
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the explosion of seasonal happenings!
Airdate: March 13, 2011
Photo courtesy of mmwm via Flickr.