Tuscarora Lodge and Outfitters News
November was a pretty quiet month with very little snow to speak of. The lake did its usual ice dance. Cold nights would leave a skim of ice around the outer edges and back in the shallower bays. After the weak winter sun rose and the wind picked up, the ice would break up into great tinkling chunks and float across the lake, piling up like pancakes with each surge of water. The waves would lap along the shore and coat every surface in a glaze of ice.
Round Lake finally froze over on November 19th. The ice boomed and popped in the quiet as the ice grew. Without snow to mix with the growing ice making it opaque, the black lake surface was smooth. Great fissures could be seen along the surface as the lake tried to break free of winter’s cold grasp.
December arrived with winter’s full furry. A three day blizzard dropped a thick, soft blanket of snow all along the Arrowhead. Those closer to Lake Superior saw multiple feet of snow. Round Lake received 8 – 10 inches which is still a healthy bit for one storm. The first day of snow was sticky and fell without much wind, flocking the evergreens with holiday cheer. Then the snow just kept falling, and falling, and falling.
When the snow stopped, the wind and cold took it’s place. The lake was scoured of snow by the biting wind. It almost looked like the lake was open and had white caps! The temperature rarely rose above zero last week. That this the price we pay in December for clear blue skies and starry nights!
Once the wind chill is back to being reasonable and the temperatures hover above 0, there will be lots of snow to play in. Some of the cross country ski trails in the area are already being groomed ( http://www.gunflint-trail.com/things-to-do/winter/trail-conditions/#xcski) Until then, we stay inside with a mug of cocoa and watch the weather change.
Red squirrels are our constant companions up here in the North Woods. They do not migrate south in the winter like the loons. Nor do they sleep away the cold months like the chipmunks. Their chiding calls can be heard ringing through the forest in every season. Playful antics and streaks of rusty red liven the boreal forest even in the bleakest of weather.
Tiny little red squirrels are constantly teasing the dogs, daring the large canines to get as close as they can before they sail off into the tree tops to chatter and scold the foolish pups. Their tiny tracks crisscross the snow as they make their way over to the bird feeders, scattering the jays and ignoring the caws of protest. They adapt easily to a close proximity to people. While never tame, they are more than willing to live in tandem with us, if only for the food. Squirrel raids on food packs of unsuspecting campers in the summer are persistent and ruthless.
In the quiet fall months, when the people grow scarce and the daylight grows more so, these tiny little survivors easily slide back into doing what their kind has been doing for centuries. They stock their winter larders with anything they can find. If you look close, you can see my favorite squirrel habit. The little guys carefully collect mushrooms from the ground, prune them to just the right size, then place them on the ends of balsam branches to dry in the fall sunlight. Once dry they are collected and stored over the winter.
This Thanksgiving, we are thankful for the bounty of the season. We are thankful for our friends and family. And we are thankful for the beauty of the natural world around us, including the red squirrels. If you find yourself with a mushroom on your plate at dinner, just think, a red squirrel just may be dinning on the same thing today!