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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 15

Gunflint territory has been living “Indian Summer” at its best as I begin this week's news. The facts were never more evident than this past weekend when temps warmed under crystal blue following an early September cool spell.                                                                                             

Heading into week three, golden flurries of fall have started trickling down along back country roads. Along our Mile O' Pine, the passage of a few neighborhood vehicles is beginning to windrow an accumulation of flighty birch tokens.                                                                                            

With the start of leaf drop being our first chapter in autumn's fade-away, the second is seen in the sudden decline of hummingbird arrivals and take-offs from our deck side feeding terminal. It would seem most of the mini-drones must have departed the territory as the sweet juice container has remained half full for several consecutive days.                                                                               

The beat goes on for this autumnal passage. During a recent trip up toward Trail's end, I found a micro sampling of fall in full dress. It may be history by this airing, but the scene was glorious around the little waterfalls on Larch Creek just south of the U.S. Forest Service Seagull Guard station. Brilliant reds, orange and golds framed the liquid as it tumbled over the granite barrier. Ahhh, the beauty of border country, that’s why we live here!                                                                                                                                            

The Smiths at long last got an up close peek at the local momma bear and her four youngsters. Having heard uncountable reports of the family, we encountered them twice in less than 24 hours. Those little ones are so cuddly. Too bad they grow-up to be an occasional nuisance. Or do they become annoyances because we humans create the opportunity? I think we know!                                                                                                                                 
Another note from our natural world finds the staff at Chik-Wauk still awaiting the hatching of the snapping turtle eggs. If you will recall from a June Wildersmith column, the eggs were buried in a protected area of the parking lot near the museum entrance. It’s going on 90 days since momma laid them, so if it’s going to happen the little snappers should be cracking out any day. The average incubation is about 70 days, but can extend to up over 90, so internal nurturing is at the long end of this “shell game” process.                                                                                                                                          

A new historical display at the Chik-Wauk Museum this summer probably has not drawn the attention it should. Being located on the front porch, the exhibit is one commanding interest from both a natural and cultural point of view.                                                                                  

The subject of the display is a log which was salvaged from a dead red pine tree growing on Voyagers Island in Lake Saganaga. Through “cross-dating” the natural story can now be told about growth rings being matched to now living trees in the BWCAW. The inner most growth ring was formed in the year 1589 while the outermost solid ring was formed in the early 1900s thus making this tree over 350 years old when it died. Scars within the growth rings indicate the effects of fire that burned around the tree in 1659, 1743 and 1847.                                                                            

Culturally, speaking a large scar on the face of the trunk was created when bark was stripped off by mankind. This was likely done to induce the flow of resin which ultimately was used in the development of gum sealants for the building and repair of birch bark canoes. Tool marks remain visible to this day. Interestingly, now dead for somewhere over a century, small spots of resin can still be found oozing from the log. The peel on the tree seems to have been initiated in the 1770s giving credence to the influence of people in this area during the fur trade era and likely indigenous people before them.                                                                                                                                                   

Discussion of this thought-provoking exhibit leads me to announce a special program coming up at Chik-Wauk on Saturday, September 23. Evan Larson, an associate professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will be on hand to enlarge upon this fascinating history of mankind in nature. Professor Larson discovered the log while conducting research connecting fire relationships and border country inhabitants in Sag Lake territory.                                                                                                                                                                                
The program will be held in the Nature Center facility beginning at 2:00 pm, and looks to be another in the great series of summer programs at Chik-Wauk. Residents and visiting “leaf peepers” are reminded to stop in, see the exhibit and listen to Mr. Larson.                                                                                                    
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as autumn lights up our lives!
 
 
 

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