Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For mid-December, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
We have finally gotten what most of us have been wishing for: a good helping of snow! But, it was wet and heavy, and brought down a lot of trees across trails and roadways, which wasn’t something any of us were wishing for. Since the last edition of this update, there has been a lot of work done clearing Forest Service roads and by our trail partners clearing ski and snowmobile trails. For the most part, plowed Forest Service roads are now cleared, but there are still a few spots being worked on. Unplowed roads are not cleared yet, and it may be a while before all of them are. Great headway has been made on trails, with an estimate of 75% of our ski trails now open. Pincushion is mostly groomed, George Washington Pines is groomed, and trails at upper and central Gunflint are mostly there as well. The trails at Flathorn/Gegoka near Isabella are partly groomed, but most of the trails are cleared and packed and good to ski on.
Winter conditions change more often than our radio updates, so for up to the minute information, go to our website, www.fs.usda.gov/superior and check the links from our recreation section to the people who are doing the grooming.
On the roads going to your trail, you might encounter some logging traffic. Log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade. Portions of Old Greenwood Road, Greenwood Road, and Firebox Road are also snowmobile trails, so be aware that there will be log trucks on segments of these trails when snowmobiling in this area. There will also be log hauling on the Trapper’s Lake Road and Forest Road 170.
The other traffic you might encounter on January 2 is from the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This is an international volunteer effort to count winter birds and track their numbers. It is one of the largest and longest running citizen science projects, and the results are used in many scientific papers. One ‘count circle’ is centered on Isabella, and there will be people with binoculars walking, skiing, snowshoeing, and driving in that area on the second, counting all the birds they can find. It is a great project to be a part of, though it seems as though it always falls on the absolute coldest day of the year.
If you are already planning for the Boundary Waters next summer, be aware that the BWCAW limited entry points lottery opened December 16 and closes on January 12. Reservations for BWCAW entry opens January 27. If you can’t wait until summer, you can do some winter wilderness exploration with a self-issued permit available at most entry points, or at our offices, but make sure you do have a permit with you. Our offices will be closed on January 1st, and then again on January 18, so plan accordingly
Take advantage of our snow while we have it, and get out on the trails. Happy New Year to all, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.