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Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Contributor(s): 
Fred Smith
Fred Smith, a native Iowan re-located to the wilderness of border country at the end of the century, has been writing of happenings in the upper Gunflint territory for going on eight years, first with the local paper, and since December 2008 for WTIP North Shore Community Radio. Fred feels life in the woods is extraordinary, and finds reporting on it to both a reading and listening audience a pleasurable challenge. Since retirement as a high school athletic administrator from Ankeny High School, Ankeny Iowa in 1999, the pace of Fred's life has become less hectic but nevertheless, remains busy in new ways with many volunteer activities along the Trail. Listen at your convenience by subscribing to a podcast.


Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

 


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Fran and Fred Smith Photo by CJ Heithoff

Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 28, 2021    

           
The Gunflint Trail is now what residents have been waiting for, a blur of green.  A dose of rain has helped put the final touches on leaf out in upper Trail territory.                                  

This being said, a glance out the window finds it hard to see years of blow down rubble typical of living in the forest, once “Mother Nature” and “old Sol” start stirring Chlorophyll spirit. And the once brown, needle laden earth is being consumed with all things green.            

A couple days ago the Ojibwe, “budding flower” moon cast its’ golden gaze to the spring goings-on, and sure enough, the “Forget me nots” have popped their buds turning the Wildersmith yard sky blue over the past few days. Sprinkled in amongst the petite blue blossoms, I’m seeing wild strawberry flowers as the first fruit of the summer. This place is just magical with the ageless miracles of re-birth. What a creation!                                                      

While the majesty of this northern paradise is awe-inspiring, many folks have been brought back from spring gazing, to the reality there are a few “wild neighborhood” adversaries around, who in order to survive, will make life for us two legged beings very uncomfortable. At this point, I’m talking “Black Flies.” To date they are making the mosquitoes look like choir boys.           

The ornery little nippers have been near un-bearable in the last week. I heard from one gal who counted twenty-one bites on her hands after one outing. And another gal indicated she might be trying a bath in bug dupe. As for yours truly, I have my share of itchy scars after scrounging around in the dirt to repair a water system problem.                                                      
While this nipping nonsense will calm down in favor of the “skeeters”, the presence of our black fly hoards bodes well for blue berry pollination. If rains come in a timely manner, the territory could see a bumper crop of the “blues” come late July and August. You pickers, keep those fingers crossed.                                                                                                                                    
The summer vacation period becomes official with this Memorial Day weekend, and with it, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society is opening its Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center doors to visitors for the eleventh year tomorrow, Saturday. Hours for the Museum remain 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.                                                                                                                   

As COVID-19 restrictions have been eased across the State, visitors are still encouraged to remember cautions necessary when being around others, regardless of vaccination.                  

Chik Wauk is excited to announce two new exhibits in the museum (The Powell family story is the 2021 special collection along with a permanent cultural /wildfire history presentation). The new interpretive cabin, closed in 2020 due to COVID, will now be open for first time viewing, and the Watercraft exhibit is also being enhanced with the addition of another significant historical unit. So make plans to take a trip to end of the trail a 2021 priority!                                                                                                                                         
I’d like to give a big shout out to dozens of folks who have been doing the Trail clean-up over the past few weeks. Thanks a million for your beautification efforts. While their job is now done, this littering problem is on-going. Every user is encouraged to keep their trash in the vehicle and stop whenever possible to pick-up after those who don’t give a hoot.                                           
In closing, I’m announcing this will be my last account of weekly happenings along the Gunflint Trail. As many listeners know, living in the woods can be difficult and challenging. While the Smith’s are presently in good health, the sands of time are sifting away faster than we wish. So we will be moving from this wonderful unorganized territory at the end of June, going back to Iowa where we will be more accessible to our kids.                                                                     

The past twenty-two years of life in the wild land have been an incredible experience. This Gunflint Community has been something to behold, and as an Iowa invasive, we at Wildersmith are so grateful to have been included as a part of so many wonderful happenings.                      

It goes without saying the opportunity to scribe this weekly column for nearly eighteen years has been an unbelievable privilege. I’m indebted to Vicki Biggs-Anderson, then Editor and Jay Anderson, News Director at the Cook County News Herald and Deb Benedict and Matthew Brown at WTIP, and their staffs, for undying support over these years.                                            
All of these people made this very amateur broadcast journalist sound better than I really am. You will never know how much I appreciate your friendly and professional leadership during my news scooping years                                                                                                                   
And speaking more of undying support, the community of readers and listeners has made this chapter of my life rewarding beyond belief.  I cannot thank everyone enough for supportive comments, snippets of life in your Gunflint neighborhood and just being tuned in each week. You are truly amazing!
           
With that I say farewell, and best wishes to all in this precious place.                                   

For WTIP… this is Wildersmith… along the Gunflint Trail… where every day… has been
Great… and will always… be remembered…  

Happy Gunflint Trails… until we meet again!!!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 21

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 21, 2021    

           
This week’s report confirms the last pile of snow along the Mile O Pine has faded into a mash of wet leaves, so all character of winter has now succumbed to the warmth of May at this end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                          

All of Nature’s spring things are popping now. As Hummingbirds made their presence known up this way in the past week, so too are the snowbirds. Our seasonal neighbors are rolling in just as the weather actually took a warmer tick upward from the first weeks of the month.                                                                                                                              

Summer forest camouflage is growing intensity, and the territory should be completely leafed out by the next time we meet. Any skeletal ugliness of winters’ deciduous continuum will be in a state of chlorophyll bliss.                                                                                                   

At this point there are more shades of green than one could ever imagine. One can just take a look at Roget’s Thesaurus for all the tints of green, and we have most of them up here in the woods. I’m also noticing a delicate greenish tinge on Tamaraks, while their coniferous cousins are sprouting buds of the next generation needles.                                                               

While places closer to Grand Marais have long been in bloom, this end of the Trail is finally showing a little color. Marsh Marigolds and Cilia are the first wild flowers doing their warm season rehearsal along back country roadsides. Of course, those “dandy lions,” while they too have a role in this summertime drama, they are of the nuisance category so I don’t count them. And a Sunday cruise down the MOP was also flavored with those “fiddle head” ferns uncoiling skyward for a rendition of a summer time sonnet.                                                                   

Spring is a great show-off time. Of course a good rain would spur things along even more. It is amazing flora are progressing as well as they have with another week of dry crunchy steps and choking back road dust.                                                                                                            

As I keyed this weeks’ scoop last Sunday, there is smoke in the air. Although I was later told the source is many miles away, history of such a scent always puts one on edge. Happily the Wild fire sprinkler system is tuned up. In fact, Gunflint Lake was sharing a little liquid charm on the parched earth around Wildersmith as I scribed this column.                                                             
Many lake side docks are re-appearing after a cold season of in-activity on shore. The Wildersmith boat landing is no exception, thanks to much appreciated assistance from some special friends.                                                                                                                                 

The first time of relaxing on a dock out over any lake is such an enriching experience, and the Smith’s did just that to initiate our dock’s 2021 re-entry. And it only gets better as those Canadian sunsets over border country lakes will charm the soul with heavenly beauty over the next few months.                                                                                                                                               

A neighbor reports bear activity around her place, but none have bothered to stop by this place, at least during daylight hours, however, a calling card was left on the road. Meanwhile, a feline was observed down the road a piece, but observers were unsure as to it being either lynx or bobcat as it made a hurried exit into the forest.                                                      

On a less exciting note, an invasion of the insect world has taken over the north woods. If it isn’t mosquitos, it is black flies, and adding insult to the welt producers, an explosion of several varieties of ants have added to the buggy antagonism. Oh well, this is life in the north woods, guess bugs have to eat too!                                                                                                                 

In closing, a recent online posting from VisitCookCounty.com tells of an exciting opportunity for both individuals and families interested in the adventures of canoeing in the BWCA. Gunflint Trail Outfitters will be hosting an hour of free canoe paddling, along with instruction if needed, during the summer from June 14 through July 17th. The event is entitled, “Wet Your Paddle” on the Gunflint Trail. For more information and scheduling, go to VisitCookCounty.com/WetYourPaddle                                                                                        

And while you’re out at the end of the Trail for a joyous canoe experience, plan to stop by the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center to make it a complete day of outdoor enjoyment while learning more of Gunflint Trail cultural and natural stories.                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day, is a storied example of Mother Nature at her best!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 14

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 14, 2021    

           
Life along the Gunflint continues to whiz by as we reach the mid-point of May. So far, the fifth stanza of 2021 has felt more like late March or April in this neighborhood.                       

As I hit the keyboard for this weeks’ report, my cook-out for the mom is this household required a winter coat. A brisk northwest wind, temps in the high thirties and occasional flurries of snow were a bit un-characteristic of what one would normally expect for Mothers’ Day, even at forty nine degrees north.                                                                                                                           
What’s more, the first ten days have been much the same. A few segments of sunshine have been up-lifting, but did little to ease the chill.  This being said, green-up has been stalled slightly.                                                                                                                                     
Folks out this way are looking for a warm-up by this weekend and hold hope for some draught relief. Another week went by with barely a sniff of precipitation in this locale. Liquid that did fall was mixed with snow at times, and overall, amounted to little more than a dust settling event.                                                                                                                                        
I sound like broken record as the dry story in the upper Trail has not changed, and urging all to not attempt any burning is likely to irritate listeners as much as it agitates me having to constantly harp on the issue. We Gunflinters’ are all in this together, so please keep being careful and also prepared.                                                                                                        

A reminder to all Trail residents, the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative is hosting a question and answer open house today (Friday, May 14) at the Schaap Community Center (Mid-Trail) 10:00 am to 1:00pm.                                                                                    
Representatives from AEC will be addressing a proposed plan to enact vegetation control in the power line Right of Ways with herbicide applications in Gunflint territory during the coming summer. This plan has brought forth a number of questions and many environmental concerns. This is a chance to get answers and to also voice your opinions.               
By the way, AEC will also be hosting a tree give away as incentive to come and learn. So, all are encouraged to attend.                                                                                                                  

With “mud season” in the rear view mirror, warm season fun takes a big step forward this weekend. Angling time for walleyes will open, and we’ll see a huge uptick in wilderness activity. The question is, how warm will it be?                                                                                      

Best of luck to all, as the fishing is always great, while catching fortunes can be un-predictable. While lake water temps remain dangerously cold, the wild land offers a warm welcome to the Gunflint Trail lake waters. Be safe motoring the Trail, during your stay, and please,” leave no trace.”                                                                                                                        

Trail volunteers will be out and about in the coming days picking up litter. If you are traveling the byway, please “give them a break”, slow down, and “give them a thank you thumbs up.”                                                                                                                                                
The “wild neighborhood” around Wildersmith has been quiet in days since we last met. An occasional visit from a curious pine marten, hungry red squirrels begging at my wood shop door and Minnesota “chicken birds” darting in front of me on the daily mail run, make up my only recent animal observations.                                                                                                                       
I am hearing of bear appearances in mid-trail neighborhoods, but no reports of Ursus misconduct. Meanwhile, I’m pleased to announce none of the “Brunos” have self-invited themselves to my deck, as yet.                                                                                                            
And, a neighbor tells of meeting a moose momma and her calf during a recent trip down the Trail. He said the two icons looked like a billboard picture with a forest back-drop as he came upon them.                                                                                                                                          
I’m always interested in hearing of resident/ animal tales. So, if local listeners have something to share, I’d enjoy hearing from you.                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, come rain or come shine!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 7

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 7, 2021    

           
The Smith’s are back in the woods once again. A swell visit to Iowa found us re-uniting with kids after sixteen months of COVID caused separation. While Zooming is an alternative, there is nothing like the presence of real hugs and face to face conversation.                                           

Here we are a week into month five, and winter is but a memory, except for counting five piles of snow holding out along the Mile O Pine. Ice is history on the Gunflint having made its official exit on April 24.                                                                                                            
Being out of the territory, I do not have reports from the other big lakes, but I presume they became fully liquid near the same date as Gunflint. It’s all about “cool, clear waters” lapping at the granite shore lines during the next six months for folks in this neck of the woods         

Absence of precipitation is haunting the upper Trail again. While away from this neighborhood, a mere one tenth of an inch was the only accumulation in the Wildersmith gauge. And there has been little more than a snippet in this neighborhood, since I commenced with this weeks’ scoop last Sunday evening.                                                                                                    

This being said, danger for forest ignition is at a serious level for a second time since March. We surpassed the fourteenth anniversary of the Ham Lake tragedy a couple days ago, and the nightmares still linger when it gets crunchy dry under foot. Residents and business owners are keeping fingers crossed for both a blessing from the heavens and no unnecessary or careless use of fire by humans.                                                                                                              

In the meantime, everyday has spring becoming more assertive. While the area is still a few weeks away from being fully verdant, progress is being made. I see green tip buds on birch and aspen around the house, chives and rhubarb are discernable and some unknown blue flowers are blooming up next to the house.                                                                                                           

Elsewhere in the wild land, I see hares, with exception of their white socks, have put on their summer camo and squirrels are molting in preparation for sultry days ahead.  It’s also a good bet fox kits, wolf pups and moose calves are coming into the world, and bear cubs are exploring new outdoor surroundings after several weeks of feeling their way around in a dark den.                                                                                                                                                     

Aside from avian, little things that fly are starting to buzz about. Common flies, moths, butterflies, and yes, mosquitos are beginning to occupy air space. On a related note, the loons have returned to their nesting site around the bay at the Chik Wauk Museum Campus.                        

I had one of those reconnaissance “skeeters” annoying me just a few days ago. Further, with creeks still gushing from rains of a several weeks ago, the annual black fly bloodletting spree is soon to be in the offing. So this rite of spring has me scrambling to find the bug dupe and head nets as I hang up the snow scoop and pick-up blown down remnants from the winds of winter.                                                                                                                                                                   
Oh, and on a final wild critter note, plenty of Arachnids have emerged. Spiders are busy at spinning their north woods fiber network, as I discovered while catching some of the silken stuff across the face while out in the yard a couple days ago.                                                                       

A reminder to area lake/ property owner associations and less organized neighborhoods, the annual Trail clean-up takes place this month. The County Highway Department will be picking up collection bags along the Trail on the afternoon of Thursday, May 27th.                                                                                                                                                    

If you haven’t picked a spot and want to help spruce up (no pun intended) the Trail, contact the GT Scenic Byway Committee at 388-2275 to learn of an organizer in your neighborhood/area. Remember, littering begets more littering, so at your convenience, let’s get to picking, up.                                                                                                                               
Wishing all Moms’ a huge thanks and a splendid weekend, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where the nurturing of “Mother Nature’s” is celebrated every day!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Apr 23

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 23, 2021    

           
Month four along the Gunflint has whizzed by, and we head into the final verse as this weeks’ scoop hits the air. All has been quiet in this neighborhood as roadside snow banks wither and mud is firming up.                                                                                             
 Enthusiasm is building to get out on the lakes as hard water on the big lakes is giving way to open patches. Reports from Seagull and Saganaga Lakes tell of rippling bays while Gunflint is open only at the west end at the moment.                                                                          
 
At Wildersmith our Gunflint Lake shore line is open as I started this report last Sunday evening. The annual meltdown from northwest to southeast is pretty certain to be completed by this weekend if not stalled by a cold snap.                                                                                           
 
Whatever the timing, I’m in hope winds will remain calm during the solids to liquid transition so as not to stack too much ice along the shore. The annoying shore line build up here has often played havoc with my lake water system, and I don’t care for climbing out on the chards to un-complicate the confrontation between ice and that water pipe.                                         
 
Weather conditions dried out after the soaking of the past ten days. Since then, we’ve had some spectacular sunny days, although temps have not been all that warm.                          
 
One could say it’s been about normal with nights being cold enough to make ice and daytimes in the high thirties to forties. Such weather circumstances match up well with the moniker of the full Ojibwe, maple sugar, moon which will be lighting up the north land this coming Monday evening.                                                                                                                                  
 Although not too unusual, snow was being predicted for border country, while I worked at my keyboard. It turned out this was no “April Fools” prank. A grumpy “old man winter” lashed out with nearly four inches of white in this neighborhood. Winds howled like January and I had to scoop and plow one more time. Perhaps this will be a final curtain call.                       
 
During the fine days of the previous week, yours truly took advantage to start opening things up around the place. To mention a couple chores, a pile of fire wood left under canvas cover last fall was moved to the woodshed and driveway gravel was put back in place after being relocated during the snow removal process.                                                                                    
 While the woods is reasonably damp right now, folks are reminded to get those wild fire sprinkler systems tuned up as the territory can wither fast when May comes onto the scene. Remember the Ham Lake inferno, be prepared!                                                                          
 I have not heard of any bear visitations yet, but they cannot be far away. Only we humans can prevent bear confrontations. Bears were here first, so let’s give ‘em a break, and be proactive in not tempting our “Bruno” neighbors into situations, where they will end up making a nuisance of themselves.                                                                                                         
 With plenty of bare ground with which to find nourishment, I’ve closed the deck side cafeteria for the coming season. It’s been a shock to the red squirrel clan around here, but they will just have to be digging into countless holes in the duff, where they have stashed a couple hundred pounds of seeds during colder times. From the number of holes appearing around the yard, they are not going to go hungry.                                                                                                   
 
In closing, hope you all remembered “Earth Day”, and maybe planted a tree or something green. We have the choice, so “why not do a positive thing for our earth and climate EVERY day!”                                                                                                                                                
 For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, waiting for the green!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Apr 16

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 16,2021    

           
April days can always amaze folks in the North woods. From blizzards to blazing heat with most everything in between.                                                                                                        

This past week or so, it’s been “Mother Nature” to the rescue. In the nick of time, the old gal has been a “drought buster” with some much needed rain. Though the days have been dismal gray with cool temperatures, spirits have been raised along the Trail with a good soaking.                                                                                                                                              

Going into this weekly writing exercise, the Wildersmith rain gauge has collected over two inches since our last radio gathering. While this may not seem like much compared to other places in the country, the amounts in this neck of the woods are healthy and gratefully accepted anytime.                                                                                                                          

The heavenly liquid pretty much closed the season on remaining snow cover. Further, it got the dry creeks running into area lakes, and eased frost from the ground allowing for firming up of sloppy backcountry roads. One night of heavy downpours even did a wash-out job on the busy County Road 20 (South Gunflint Lake Road) requiring some serious maintenance work by County Crews. Those of us who travel this road frequently appreciate the quick response to fixing the overnight creek creation                                                                                       

Smaller lakes are beginning to loosen from shorelines while wetlands and swamps along the Byway had opened entirely as my last trip into the village revealed. I’m not hearing from Poplar, Seagull or Saganaga Lakes as to their ice conditions, but outside my door, the Gunflint still looks pretty solid. With more rain and warmer conditions, it would be my prediction the big ones will be open in the next week.                                                                                                                       

My ice out prediction might be considered in opposition to other components of the natural world. I crossed paths with a snow shoe hare just days ago, and this little bunny was still snow white. It stood out in stark contrast to the brown earth under its’ scampering feet.                  

Having not started the winter to summer apparel transition, one might wonder if this lagomorph knows something we don’t about weather in the coming days/weeks. Could there be one more gasp of winter on the way? Just in case, I have not put my snow shovel away, but I did have the vehicle winter wheels replaced with the summers’.                                                       

Natural world adventures in Gunflint Territory happen with almost daily regularity. There was no exception to this statement with a memorable visit from a Wildersmith neighborhood pine marten. While the weasel family kin make frequent appearances to our deck side feed trough, this stop-over was different as the lush fur ball did not eat and run as is usual. It did eat, but did so in a leisurely fashion and in an unusual manner, over an entire afternoon. The entertaining element for us observers was the contortionist abilities demonstrated by the little guy/gal.                                                                                                              

To further explain, a number of various eatery structures are available for different critters; birds, squirrels and martens. In this instance, the marten stations are not currently being outfitted with protein to reduce bear temptations. The only items available presently are sunflower seeds in the bird trays and in the squirrel lunch boxes. Upon the marten’s arrival, the seed trays had been scarfed up by other critters, leaving the lunch boxes as the only eateries.                  

An interesting side to this saga is these mini-shed like rodent feeders are less than six inch cubicles. For listeners not familiar with a marten, they are about the size of a cat, and surely have no business thinking they might get inside one of these units. If you could wad one up into a ball, it would look to be big as a Cantaloupe or maybe one of those mini-watermelons.                   

On this particular day, the hungry marten was a combination of curiosity, ingenuity and dexterity. It was not to be denied entry for lunch. In unexplainable fashion, the animal contorted its body, climbing inside the cubicle, and munched the afternoon away, occasionally sticking its head out for surveillance of impending danger.                                                                       

In twenty-two winters here, we have never seen such antics. It was a three hour, one act performance, one we might never see again.                                                                             

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, just waiting for the next chapter in a Gunflint story.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Apr 09

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 9, 2021    

           
Skies have been sparkling along the Gunflint Trail on the first weekend of month four. Temps have been warming steadily after the minus two experienced at Wildersmith on April “fools” day morning. Since then, spring has swallowed a big gulp of winter since our last gathering on WTIP.                                                                                                                                              

Border country landscape still has patches of winter memories, but is now in various shades of brown. A good deal of windrowed snow remains along back country roads where the sun is shadowed by coniferous shade. It’s a good bet this too could be gone in a week or so with the rather unusual April heat.                                                                                                             

There is increasing talk of ice out on area lakes. As I keyed this weeks’ scoop last Sunday evening however, the big ice cube on Gunflint looks to be pretty tight along the shore at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                

Remembering the last two years, Gunflint Lake ice was going out during the day of the Walleye opener on the second Saturday of May. It’s a good bet the hard water will easily be gone before months’ end at the rate things are going.                                                             

Other signs we have turned the corner are noted with pussy willow buds popping like corn in a hot pan, a couple reports of rhubarb and daffodil sprouts have been reported peeking out of the warming earth and needles of the coniferous forest are suddenly, brighter green.                   

On a cautious note, the territory went yet another week with no precipitation. And our first thunder of the spring echoed down the lake earlier in the week, but boasted more “bark than bite,” dropping a mere quarter inch of rain. We are thankful for the dampening and hopeful of more by the time this report hits the air.                                                                                          

Several days have been quite breezy and coupled with the now dry forest duff and brush, wildfire danger has many of us on edge. An example was noted in a fire that could well have been disastrous last Saturday in the southern part of the county along highway 61.                    

With ice still on, getting wildfire sprinkler systems set to go is complicated at best, so ice out soon is critical. In the meantime, since about 98% of Minnesota wildfires are ignited by careless humans, Gunflinter’s encourage any and all throughout the County to self-impose their own burning ban. We should do this in the absence of a governmental decree. There’s no need for campfires or any refuse ignition until we get wet.                                                                                   

Speaking of breezy days, a couple area fishermen had a couple get away not long ago as the trout season wound down. While it is not unusual for finnies to get away under this ice, this angling expedition is one for the books.                                                                                          

It was during the last days of March when the two ventured out on a gusty day to set-up and drill for a little jigging. They had no sooner set-up their ice houses than a gust of wind caught the units and sent them sailing off across and down the Gunflint ice. Tethering to their four wheelers was not enough as connections gave way to “Mother Nature’s ire. Luckily the shanties were not occupied.                                                                                                           

Thoughts of angling suddenly turned to search and rescue. Not knowing where the shacks would end up in the blizzard like conditions, one could only imagine where the units might be found along miles of shoreline.                                                                                                           

So the four wheeler quest began. Eventually one unit was re-possessed in a small bay about a mile across the lake. At this time it is unknown if the other shack was ever found. It will likely be retrieved at some point in time, but perhaps in the trees somewhere along the shore.                    

An interesting tidbit related the temporary fishing hut was found to be good condition after the wild ride. Propane heater/tank, tackle and bait containers and all other gear was intact.                                                                                                                                                     
So once again the fishing intent was great, and even one (fish shack) was caught, but in the end, another (shack) got away. It seems hard to escape that at least something always gets away or lost in every deep water excursion. Another fishing story for the ages!                                                

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as life picks-up anew in the wild land forest.                                                                                             
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - April 02

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
April 2, 2021    

           
Back to the beautiful Gunflint woods after a first visit out of state in fifteen months. Following a couple winter like acts of the past week, it’s now April, no “fooling.”                                               

While I don’t know if this has any meaning, as to this time of the year, while shoveling from the weekend snow, a dark brown item appeared as my scoop passed by. I thought it must be a bit of lint off my apparel, but closer examination found it to be wooly caterpillar. Laying a finger close to the fuzzy critter, I nudged it, finding life as it coiled in reaction, no “April Fool” here. An anomaly  yes?                                                                                                             

The “wow” of the north woods was once again highlighted with a spectacular full, Ojibwe, “crust on the snow” moon, last weekend. The past few full lunar happenings in this neighborhood have occurred behind clouded skies. With clear skies this time, and on the “breast of new fallen snow” the “big cheese” cast near daylight, after dark, on objects below. If listeners weren’t up to see the late night landscape, you missed another Gunflint delight!                   

As winter sputters to an end, it has been mixed with enough spring teasing to open up occasions of mud. With the warmth of the past few days and April at hand, I would declare “mud” season is now official. Such is most noticed along back country roads and on vehicles traveling them. I will just concede to driving the dirt colored vehicle until green-up commences.       

On our trips south toward the village, we are always on the look-out for an experience having never before observed, and it usually happens. This trek was no exception.                                

Our attention was suddenly captured as we approached the Trail intersection with Birch Lake Road. For those not familiar, this is near the location of the Christmas season sentinel cared for by the good folks on Birch Lake.                                                                                                    

For some reason the magnificent, lonesome pine was lit up, twinkling like it was December. Wondering as we neared, what could be going on, had the lighting crew slipped a belt?                                                                                                                                                              
It was soon discovered “old Sol” had risen into an exact position, sending rays into the crystal luminaries, and giving off the appearance, of their being energized by man.                            

While the symbols of light to the world are beautiful after the dark, they seemed more awe-inspiring with enabling from the sun. Sparkling like pearls of dew or rain drops after a morning shower, the solitary scene was akin to a starlit heaven only here on earth. What a refreshing encounter on a bright cheery morning!                                                                                               

Having been out of the territory for a week, our return out the Byway was equally exciting although there was nothing physically observable. As we trekked through the pines, along still snow covered ditches, it was just a “hard to explain,” spirit of the Trail that seemed to reach out with a welcome. So magical and reverent!                                                                                

It was not until we pulled into the driveway and stepped out of the vehicle when we were greeted by a Mile O Pine reality, welcome wagon. I don’t have an official descriptor for a group of squirrels, but there was an excited gang on hand.                                                                        

While the little rodent folk can be annoying at times, it kind of warms one’s heart even though you know they are not really interested in your return, so much as they know, you will be opening the feed bin.                                                                                                                           

Nevertheless, the quiet of the forest was interrupted with excited chatter as they scampered madly about, and into the wood shop where the goodies are kept. I had a devil of a time shooing them out, until I grabbed a handful of seeds to lure them back into the out of doors. Boy, am I well trained!                                                                                                                       

In closing, the border territory is now playing the April waiting game. Waiting for snow to melt, ice to go out, rain to fall, mud to dry, green to come, flowers to sprout, animal babies to be born and the annual re-birth of Gunflint adventures.                                                                          

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every North woods day has a unique splendor!
 

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Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 19

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
March 19, 2021    

           
Spring along the Gunflint seems to be back on track following a brief guest appearance from “old man winter” about ten days ago. The one and done snowy stop over happened just as last weeks’ scoop hit the air waves, so it missed deadline.                                                                   

Just when we were beginning to see brown patches of ground, the late season happening was the first big snow in this neighborhood since the Christmas Holidays. The dropping saw near nine inches here at Wildersmith and upwards of near a foot at end of the Trail. While this was nice and much overdue, total snow measured at this location, to date, is just short of sixty inches, far below what normally would be expected.                               

Accumulations diminished as one headed down the Byway toward the village. At the same moment, we may have experienced the last sub-zero temperatures of the season on a couple mornings following.                                                                                                                                    

While people who live at forty-nine degrees north and beyond have affection for the cold, whiteness, fishing on hard water and  skiing or sledding on the fluff, enough has become enough. Perhaps I’ve shoveled, cranked the snow blower and plowed for the last time. At least one would think so ending week three.                                                                         

Getting back on track is surely the order as the Vernal Equinox sets the course for re-birth this weekend. The calendar and day light saving time are now in sync, so to speak.      Speaking of DLST, I’ve heard scuttle someone in D.C. governmental leadership is introducing legislation to enact daylight saving time permanently, no more “falling back.” Obviously this person doesn’t care the sun would not be rising until about nine in the morning at these latitudes, and kids in this neck of the woods will be heading to school in the dark. Don’t those folks have more important issues with which to deal?  At the moment of this keyboard exercise, the hour lost has me a bit blurry-eyed.                                                                  

Meanwhile, as the warm-up starts to escalate, ice on Gunflint Lake has not started to make its disappearing act, at least along the Wildersmith shore. Neighbors fishing in this locale report hard water out here remains in excess of two feet. While two feet of ice is two feet, this thickness remains like our snow, less than normal. It’s been pretty much a non-winter, except for one week.                                                                                                                                                 

I was out on the ice a few days ago with the neighbors and their grand-sons. It was a beautiful day, and what a good time those young lads were having, even though catching action was slow. A flag finally tipped up, and the excitement was over flowing onto the ice.                          

A nice eater trout was pulled through the hole by a nine year old followed by grins and high fives all around. One couldn’t help but reflect on an old adage dating back to the “Greatest Generation”, that “no boy is ever bad, when he’s fishing with his dad,” or Grand-dad.”                        

It would be a fair assumption the critters snoozing away the cold season may be rolling over and opening an eye to check on conditions for emergence. “Woody the Chuck” AKA ground hog was right again, as conditions have confirmed his six more weeks’ prediction of back on February second.                                                                                                                            

It’s funny the mythical prognosticator, historically, has always predicted with one hundred present accuracy. So we can expect “chippies” skunks, “Bruno’s and other dozing folk soon to be adding new chapters of Gunflint tales.                                                                                    

While there is still a good bit of snow on the ground, most folks paying attention to the beautiful Gunflint Trail know there is plenty of mankind littering hidden below. This in mind, the Scenic Byway Committee is reminding lake homeowner associations, it’s time to start thinking about the annual Trail clean-up, due to commence in May.                                                                

Please get those pick-up teams organized and ready to hit the Trail when the ground is bare. The official date for County pick-up crews to gather up the roadside bags of collection will be announced as soon as confirmed, around May day or sooner. I’ll have more info as it becomes available.  Thanks in advance to all pitching into those bags.                                           

Speaking of the recent extension of daylight minutes, both “nighttime and daytime” things are going on right now at the community radio station, up on the hill, along the north shore. The WTIP family is in the midst of their own rendition of spring renewal with the “Night and Day” membership support campaign.                                                                                                

As I introduced last week, the drive for both renewing and new family members kicked off this past Wednesday and continues through this coming Monday at noon.                          

While face to face visits to the station during the drive are still COVID restricted, daytime operators would love to talk with listeners on the phone, and 24-7 online communications of support will also be deeply appreciated.                                                               

If you haven’t “sprung” into action, it’s time to move into spring with your caring gift either “Night or Day.” Locally call at (218) 387-1070; or toll free at 1-(800) 473-9847; or “click and join” on line at WTIP.org                                                                                                                 

For WTIP, this Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as spring will soon be “busting out all over!”
 

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Wildersmith Let it Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 12

Wildersmith on the Gunflint      by     Fred Smith
March 12, 2021      

 
It’s been a slow news week as March and spring are striding along the Trail hand in hand with the second week of month two, coming to an end. Winter, in the meantime, has withered away in border country after what has barely been a five-month appointment. At the moment, cold season 20-21 is about six weeks short of what we might normally expect.               

Winter beauty remains once one departs the grungy look of receding roadside snow mounds and crud in congregations of community living. It is so refreshing to turn onto the Mile O Pine or other backcountry roads and be greeted with the pristine of crystal, even knowing its future is pre-determined. The grace of living where few people tread is beyond memorable in many ways.                                                                                                                                               

While there is still snow on the ground and ice on the lakes along the International Border, temps this week and other characters of the seasonal transition tell a different story.         

Added to the drippy rooftop edges and spots of slushy snow, the roller coaster ride along our Scenic Byway is sporting dips that will rock your molars if hit at full speed. So earthly warming started around tree roots a week or more ago has extended to depths of roadside culverts as frost is starting to seek a way out.                                                                                          

Another item of vernal notice is the return of crows to Gunflint neighborhoods. A “murder” of the ebony beauties has been scrounging around the yard in recent days and carrying on yackety-yak conversation in the treetops.                                                              

Also in the winged world, a couple of those “Minnesota Chicken Birds” (grouse) have been hanging out up in the Mile O Pine tree tops nibbling on soon-to-be, birch, and aspen buds, as crusty snow is complicating nutritional gathering at ground level.                                                           

The third confirmation is not a component of “Mother Nature’s” doing but is decided by man-kind. Saturday night before bedding down, it’s time to “spring ahead” with our clocks. Guess this is man’s attempt to jump-start the season of re-birth in advance of the Equinox, although we all know, it’s a self-serving intention. Somehow, I wonder if we really ever recover the hour misplaced year after year when we “fall back.” Those hours seem to always get lost in the mayhem of our daily lives.                                                                                                     

This time of year can be identified as being hazardous to one’s health. The scene applies to both people on foot and humans behind the wheel. Our slow meltdown has backcountry roads, driveways, and walking paths in the mode for accidental falls and skids. Daytime melting and nighttime re-freezing can make for wicked glazing. Whereas we will be donning bug nets in a few weeks, right now is the time to slow down, watch your step and pull on those ice grippers if you live in the north woods. Be safe and remain upright!                                                                                   
Speaking of things that happen on snow, it would appear the days of power sledding dwindling fast. Sledding trails that can be viewed from the Gunflint blacktop look to be getting quite beat up from not only the traffic but also from the beaming rays of sunshine. Unless there is a late-season surge of white, those howling machines will soon go to off-season storage. Meanwhile, cross-country skier opportunities remain viable although the snow may be sticky in places where the sun pierces the shade.                                                                                

With a closing note, remember the voice of the northland has you covered “Night and Day.” Keeping WTIP alive and well depends heavily on listener/member support. The “Night and Day” spring membership renewal kicks off this coming Wednesday, March 17th, and runs through noontime on the 22nd.                                                                                                              

Be ready to “spring” into action with a call-in or on-line show of affection for this connection to the “Riviera of the north.” The little radio station that always thought it could, still can, with continuing efforts from our growing family of listeners.                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as life out here in the slow lane is extraordinary.
 

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