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Wildersmith on the Gunflint October 20

October 20, 2017     Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
Our northern forest has pretty much shed its autumnal coat. The deciduous tree scene is largely gray, scraggily skeletons, lurking amongst their evergreen cousins. The last vestige of descending things will be laid to rest by this airing as Tamarack gold layers up on the landscape.

Fitting for the advance of ghost and goblin time, an eerie quiet hangs over the landscape during the time we mourn the death of summer leaves and the mosaic of falls’ last hurrah. With the growth of our wildland world taking its final bow, the long stillness of winter is waiting in anticipation as “Mother Nature will soon be issuing a first “winter watch.”

Several frosty mornings of late are setting the stage, and days of clouds hang cold and heavy over border country. It goes without saying these billows of heavenly drab might soon deliver moisture of frozen character. Anecdotally, I observed the first skim of ice on a bird water dish and on a Trailside pond last Tuesday morning.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Meanwhile, around the Wildersmith place, “getting ready” chores are about complete, so the “wizard of winter wonder” can bring it on. My last dip in the lake, to retrieve wildfire sprinkler hoses, found the liquid in the low fifties, a real attention grabber.                                                                                                                                                                                          
In the past few days, I’ve started placing a little daytime sustenance out on the deck side feed trough. Our first returnees, those “whiskey jacks” and blue jays, were joined last Monday by an infrequent visitor of ebony character. We seldom have ravens land here, although they are often rapping overhead. So getting to see one up real close was a treat. Guess some fatty meat scraps were more than this dapper corvine could resist, prompting the fast food stop-over.
A couple reported a busy beaver along the Trail just days ago. This critter of former fur trade notoriety was engaged in laying up cold season vittles. “Bucky” was so engrossed in dragging a fresh aspen branch across the black-top it failed to look before crossing. The gnawing herbivore narrowly missed becoming a “road-kill’ statistic as the attentive driver braked just in time allowing this paddle tail varmint another chance on life.  
The incident happened in the area just above the observation pull-off at the Laurentian Divide where a roadside pond accommodates beaver lodging, and is also the home of Beaver & Beaver Construction. So if locals are driving through this area, be on the watch to give this guy/gal a break.                                                                                                                                                                                  
Speaking of another chance on life, a number of stately young red pines had theirs literally cut short. They were destroyed in a recent nature trail slashing occurrence along the Seagull River in the upper Gunflint region. Whether the episode was a case of vandalism or an ill-advised, un-supervised agency endeavor, it is tragically dis-heartening.

These were trees planted by volunteers following the Ham Lake fire during the Gunflint Green-up efforts of 2008, 9 and 10. Just getting their roots firmly established, after nearly ten years, many were eight to ten foot tall. Hopefully, those responsible can be found and held accountable for their actions.

 “Moose Madness” throughout the county this weekend holds hope for some candid Alces Alces appearances. Although the north land icons don’t take well to public appearances, this would be the right time that a few might step out of seclusion and show off a little bit of Trail legacy. Its’ Minnesota Education Association weekend and visitors by the hundreds will cruise the Byway, searching, in hope of catching a glimpse from “moose-dom.” Good luck and happy viewing to all!

By the way, while moose searching, it will be the last chance for a visit to the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center up at Trails end. The historical facility will close its doors for the season at the end of the day Sunday. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society thanks the thousands of visitors for coming this season. 

Everyone is invited back, come next spring, as two new facilities will be taking shape around the campus. These additions will be first hand history in the making as the GTHS builds to share more of the Gunflint Trail story.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, no matter what the season!