Our “spring fling” cooled its heels as I key this week's Gunflint scoop. The crisp turn around has made for crusty remains over our northern landscape. Snow leftovers have frozen into a compact mass of almost solid ice.
In concert with our frozen failure of the past couple of weeks, debris that has been drifting down out of the forest with each passing breeze is now exposed, making for unsightly litter on our once untouched white carpet.
Our semi-winter-like revival leading to such brittle ground level conditions surely authenticates our Ojibwe neighbors, honoring our month three full lunar experience, as the “crust on the snow” moon. Such a moniker is most fitting right now.
According to the snow depth on the Wildersmith roof before February’s winter downfall, I approximate the loss of nearly two feet of snow. The spared hard-pack is measured now in only inches depending upon one’s location in the upper Gunflint.
A brief dusting in this neighborhood last weekend did little more than cover up a few sun drenched bare patches. For the record, around this place, we’ve not received any significant measureable fluff since the 10th of this past month. If not for the unseasonal rain during the warm-up, I’d say the area is heading toward a long dry time until green-up.
This would suggest the area might be in for dangerous wildfire conditions should the moisture “gods” not intervene once the snow cover disappears. Thought should be given by area property owners to begin planning for re-upping of wildfire sprinkler systems soon as lake ice is out.
Speaking of wildfire, the Gunflint community will be recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Ham Lake fire tragedy of May 5, 2007. I’m told the Trail Volunteer Fire Department is planning a gathering on the corresponding 2017 anniversary weekend. The event is intended to reflect on those tragic days in our history and to celebrate survival and glorious rebirth. More information will be made as it becomes available.
In addition, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, in partnership with WTIP and the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, will likewise be memorializing the historical event at the Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center with a new temporary exhibit for this summer. Further, exhibit space will be devoted to more than just the Ham Lake happening, but also an expanded look at fire history of the territory.
The GTHS will be hosting an official grand opening of their display on July 4th. However, the new display will be up for visitors when museum & nature center opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend.
In the meantime, these organizing partners are still seeking commentary from area folks who have a story to tell of their lives during the raging days of fire and turbulence. These stories will be preserved in audio, video and/or printed media for perpetuity. If one has a story of our inferno history to share, please make a contact with the GTHS at 388-9915 or Joe at WTIP 387-1070 for more information.
With the “Vernal” season at the cusp, sounds of the times are augmenting with each passing day. Since our last meeting on the radio, crows have returned to our Mile-O-Pine vicinity with a murder of conversation.
In regard to sounds of creatures in our “wild neighborhood” an interesting and amusing feature in the Jan/Feb. issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer takes a look at some northland noisemakers. Authored by Mary Hoff, the review titled “Squeaks, Whistles, Grunts and Hummms” examines how and why untamed critters communicate messages to kin and others, including maybe us invasive beings. As we get closer to this spring concert of natures’ choir, I suggest it as inspiring reading in preparation.
With winter on the downslide, a couple of end of season events highlight the calendar over the next two weekends. The first of such is the Cook County Snowmobile Club trout derby. This annual event on Gunflint Lake takes place this Sunday, March 5. Ice angler registrations run from 9 to 11 am with all catches to be weighed in by 2 pm. In addition to hard water fishing, prizes drawings, food and fun are the order for the day.
The following weekend (March 12th) goes to the dogs, as the “Dog Days of Winter” happens in the mid-Trail area on Poplar Lake. Lots of fun and unique activities are scheduled for folks of all ages. For more immediate details check out the Trail Center Restaurant Dog Days of Winter website, and I’ll have more info in next week's report.
Let’s hope the staggering “old man of the north” can hang on just a bit longer to see these Gunflint pastimes are not complicated by another display of his wimpiness.
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and chronicled in natural mystery!