Wildersmith May 17

Loon (aaronHwarren/Flickr)
Loon (aaronHwarren/Flickr)

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Our second week of month five found that stubborn Old Man of the North slipping some but still unwilling to relinquish full command of his extended reign over the upper Gunflint atmosphere. The weather on our big Mother’s Day and fishing season opener was more of an April Fool’s celebration than that of a budding spring experience.

As expected, the ice remained solid on most of the big lakes, while howling northwest winds and snow squalls dominated the scene along the Mile O Pine Saturday and Sunday. By the end of Saturday and into Sunday our ground was white once more. And melt water standing on the Gunflint Lake ice cake was skimmed like it was December all over again.

Outside of the persistent big lake ice and prior to the weekend blast, our only remnants of winter were splashes of windrowed November and December snow in roadside ditches.  The new snow came hard and furious but measured less than an inch at Wildersmith.

With a warming forecast for border country going into week three, it’s a good bet the Trail corridor will be void of most white by the time this keyboard exercise hits the airwaves. Meanwhile, the prognosis for open waters on all area lakes remains tentative on the natural calendar.

Two issues of concern face area residents. The first issue is a potential for big winds on the days when the ice cake breaks from shorelines and begins to move. Strong air currents from any direction could prove dangerous for lakeshore fixtures like permanent docks and water lines. Those ice cakes have minds of their own and are willing to take out anything in their path with even a slight push from troubled breezes.

Our second item of concern is that even with the huge amounts of snow melt, the area is fast becoming tinder-dry. This neighborhood and on to the northwest has been void of significant rain for the past couple weeks with less than one-tenth of an inch in the Smith rain gauge. The latest snow will contribute little relief as the powerful sun will wipe it out in a matter of hours.

Many of us are fearful of wildfire potential, and doubly so when the ice is preventing the re-upping of wildfire sprinkler systems for the coming season. It would seem that burning bans for the area would be a no-brainer until both green-up and rain become reality.

Hope springs eternal as north woods flora are proceeding to sprout buds in spite of shivering temps for many days in May. Nearly every deciduous shrub and tree in the neighborhood has reached the green-tip bud stage. It would seem that the plant world will do some rapid catching up with a few consistent days of sunny warmth, and we’ll be green as usual when June comes a-calling.

Several folks have reported loon voices in the heavens over the past week or 10 days, but one has to question if their navigation systems might be a little confused with little open water on which to land. Wonder how long they can maintain a holding pattern, and if they run short of fuel, can a slippery wet ice landing be maneuvered. If our wilderness ambassadors do happen to land, how about a subsequent take-off?

Our forest has taken on a quieter note with the disappearance of those raucous crows and blue jays. I’m guessing they’re off to nesting somewhere. While I hear that the first hummingbird has been observed southwest of Grand Marais along Superior’s north shore, they had best consider waiting a spell before coming back to these parts.

In spite of the alarming decline in our county moose count this past year, several folks have reported sightings of moose with young’uns in the upper end of the Trail.  Perhaps they might be seeing the same ones, but it makes for happy reporting that not all have been wiped out. Maybe the surviving herd benefitted from the long winter with some of their parasitic nemeses possibly freezing out.

On a final note, congratulations to the folks down at Clearwater Lodge for becoming the owners of a newly-carved replica of their famous Billy Needham totem pole. The new one is in place where the original sentinel watched over lodge activities for some 65 years.

The new reconnection with Clearwater’s historic past was made possible through the generosity of Clearwater Lake resident craftsman Bob Olson. A formal unveiling will be announced sometime this summer, so check the Clearwater blog in order to be there for this next chapter in their story.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some wilderness time in the warming sun!

Airdate: May 17, 2013


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