Hi. I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For mid-February, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Since December, we’ve been talking about clearing trails of fallen trees from that month’s heavy snow event. While a majority of designated ski and snowmobile trails have been cleared with a huge amount of help from supporting trail organizations and clubs, there are many miles of unplowed back roads used by snowmobiles which remain blocked. We continue to work on tree removal, but for now, it is still a good idea to check with District offices before you head out to see if your choice of route has been cleared.
Our winter wilderness rangers report that conditions on lakes are pretty bad. There’s a deep layer of slush under the snow which makes snowshoeing or skiing difficult. Our current cold snap should freeze that slush, but if it is well insulated by snow cover, it could take a while to freeze. Until it does, people venturing out onto the ice should pack extra socks and be prepared in case you get your feet wet. Wet socks at ten below go beyond uncomfortable and into the danger zone, so throw some extra socks and even a towel into your backpack.
Off the lakes though, this should be an excellent week for skiing. The snow is nice and firm and fairly new, and the temperature is perfect if you are dressed for it. If you’re out skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, you might run into a Forest Service employee asking you to take a visitor use survey. This is a national survey, and your input is an important part in the creation of an accurate picture of how the Superior is used for recreation. We’d really appreciate it if you can take the time to take the survey. It will help us better manage the Forest, and in the long run that will help you as well.
Our days are noticeably longer now, and the sun is much warmer than it was in December, but for deer and moose, this is a hard time of year as the food supplies continue to dwindle. Whether it is because of salt on the roads, plants along the roadside, or just that sunrise and sunset are aligning with commute times, there are plenty of deer near or on roads right now, so keep a sharp eye out. There are plenty of deer that have been hit on the sides of the roads as well, which means you also have to watch out for the low flying crows, ravens, and eagles doing the clean-up. If you’re lucky, you may even see a wolf or two getting in on the free meal.
As you drive in the Forest, you may have to deal with deer and eagles and other animals in the road, but this week you won’t have to deal with many log trucks. There are only a few timber sales going on with truck traffic. On the Gunflint District, 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. There’s no hauling taking place on the Tofte District right now.
So, between the light truck traffic, the longer days, and the good weather, this will be an excellent couple of weeks to get outside and play in the Forest. Enjoy it, and until next time, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update.