As the 10th segment of 2012 is fading fast, the Gunflint wilderness is becoming a place of ‘almost’ happenings. Snowshoe hares are almost white, the white tails are almost into the rut, the tamaracks are almost undressed of their needles, the “falling leaves” moon is almost full and it’s almost November.
Atmospheric conditions through the territory were rather uneventful since we last met on the radio. However, we were finally blessed with a decent episode of rain. Although it was far from enough, the inch or so recorded in various places along the byway did at least ease the wildfire danger temporarily. Temperatures in the meantime have remained a bit on the mild side, which again reinvigorated the biting bugs.
Yours truly made what is hoped to be a final venture into the lake a few days ago. It was not for a refreshing dip, but to bring in wildfire sprinkler system lines. Clad in my waders, the cold was not too intense until my unprotected hands entered into the removal process. Believe me, the water is already icy cold, probably not real close to the freezing point just yet, but dangerously cold if one were to go in accidentally. Late season canoe and boating folks should be extra cautious!
During this past weekend, as the area celebrated “moose madness,” the Smiths took pleasure in actually spotting a big ungulate while returning from our weekly supply run to Grand Marais. This hefty cow was spotted munching in the swamp waters just above the Laurentian Divide. So at least one real moose was observed during the days that have been promoted to honor their presence among us, hurrah!
With the autumnal defoliation of leaf bearers, it is heartening to be able to look deep into the forest and get a good look at what this past growing season did toward re-generation of the coniferous forest. It is simply amazing to see how quickly uncountable patches of young conifers have taken hold in the wasteland created by the Ham Lake fire of five years ago. Many of the aspiring jack pines are already three to four feet high.
Even more astonishing is how anything could grow up here with so much granite and so little soil. These two components, coupled with the fact that the area has been starved for abundant moisture over the past decade or so, surely authenticate that miracles of nature cannot be stifled. Guess we could equate the toughness of these baby trees with the good folks who call this area home year round. It’s a hardy combination to say the least: tough trees, tough people.
Wondrous natural things unfold daily in these parts, many of which go unseen by the human eye. I was fortunate to witness one such happening last week during my final stint of the season as a volunteer at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.
The day was cloudy, cool and gloomy as I looked out over the Saganaga Lake Bay just east of the parking area. Relatively calm waters prevailed as I noticed the usual mother mallard and her now-grown family had been joined by a “sort” of ducks.
A sprinkle of showers suddenly rang down on the feathered bunch and for some reason unbeknownst to me, the rain set off a frenzy of aquatic activity that was quite raucous. It appeared there might have been something of nutritional interest below the surface that stimulated an almost synchronized diving event.
In unison, it was comically, a bottoms up, as their little white rumps flashed skyward like an ice fisherman’s tip-up. The event went on and on for several minutes as the once calm surface was ravished!
The amusing episode could not have been better choreographed if it were an Olympic presentation. Then again, maybe that’s what it was, Nature’s Olympics, north woods style!
The waters eventually became still and reflective once more as the quackers took refuge for a little R & R on a mini island of rocks. Surprising how easily one can be entertained out here in border country!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the next wilderness entertainment package!
Airdate: October 26, 2012