Wildersmith September 28

Fall Colors on the North Shore (Paul Weimer/Flickr)
Fall Colors on the North Shore (Paul Weimer/Flickr)

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With activity slowing toward more quiet times along the Trail, it’s hard to believe that the month of our full “wild rice” moon has slipped so rapidly toward the western horizon.
 
As we celebrate the bounteous lunar cycle this weekend, Dagwagin (fall in Ojibwe) has reached nearly optimum splendor along the byway. The magnitude of this wilderness mosaic is breathtaking in every sense of the word!
 
The atmosphere has become quite fall-like. Frosty temps and brisk northwest winds have amplified the technicolor show playing in our woodsy theater.
 
Although rainfall has been minimal, the area did get a spritzing or two over the past week. Last Saturday even saw a snow squall barrel down Gunflint Lake and through other parts of the territory. This happened as a swell friend, some of his buddies and yours truly grappled around in the 58-degree waves to bring in the Wildersmith dock.
 
A hectic summer schedule for yours truly finally broke last weekend, affording the Smiths and some Hungry Jack Lake friends time to get out and hike in a little bit of this magic. We chose a path least traveled at this time of the year, the blueberry hill spur off the former Gneiss Lake Trail. To say the very least, enchanting was our trek through the rapidly changing granite-based forest, to a rocky summit that could just as well have been the top of the world.
 
Most everyone knows of the tragic Derechos and wildfires that have befallen this section of the forest since 1999. It’s spiritually uplifting to see how Mother Nature is bringing the area back to life.
 
A little more than a decade after the big blow down, and a mere five years since that natural restoration project was interrupted by the scalding Ham Lake Fire, the old gal has sure done a great job. Yes, the skeletons and scars are still to be found. However, these blemishes just add to the mystique amongst a myriad of new green that has blossomed, and is now in the process of autumnal transition. In a few years, with a nudge from Gunflint Green-up plantings and nature’s plan, the serpentine trail will be a coniferous tunnel toward blue heavens.
 
Since opening in June, the tread way to the blueberry top has become well-worn. Close inspection as our quartet trudged along found this wilderness path has also become a thruway for moose traffic.
 
Countless deposits of moose calling cards were observed, but luckily there were no meetings and greetings with these ancient icons. I would guess that the clearing of this pathway, as opposed to the seemingly endless tangle of charred blow down, has made navigating the forest less complicated for those in the moose kingdom.
 
More of this moose magic happened to the Smiths recently when we came upon one of the historic forest symbols while traveling the upper Trail, not far from the Chik-Wauk Museum turn-off. This monster of the byway was as huge as I’ve ever seen with a splendid “wide track” rack.
 
The big fellow seemed a bit belligerent in regard to relinquishing the traveled portion of the roadway while ambling ahead of us for some distance. In addition, he refused a turn about for a photo op, so we were left with only a view from the posterior. Thus we have no digital verification as to its enormity. After providing a view of the back end for a while, he eventually clomped off into the woods and out of sight.
 
From this same area comes word of a momma bear and her two young’uns crossing the Trail. At this time, this little section of paradise is quite like a zoo.
 
With berries long since gone, bear hunger does not go away, with their need to fatten up for a long winter’s nap. There are continuing reports of bruno stops where humans reside, so we need not be tempting them into return visits by being careless stewards of garbage and bird feeding stations. Bears are not necessarily the problem; it is we who often create our own dilemmas with these furry natives.
 
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the woodsy wonders!

Airdate: September 28, 2012


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