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Superior National Forest Update



Contributor(s): 
USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update - June 8, 2018

National Forest Update – June 7, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, front desk staff, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of June 8th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

We are starting to see some real summer now, not only with temperatures, but with black flies, mosquitos, and ticks.  All of these lovely blood suckers are happy to have so many people returning to the outdoors.  Black flies and mosquitos around here are mostly just annoying.  They can be annoying enough to truly ruin a camping trip, but still, they are just annoying.  Ticks, however, are a different story.  Ticks can carry many diseases among them Babeosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted-Fever, and Lyme Disease.  Here in Minnesota, we’ve now seen incidences of all three of these diseases.  Lyme Disease cases are occurring in larger amounts than before, leading some people to tie the increase in disease to an increase in ticks possibly due to climate change.  Regardless of the cause, it is a disease to treat seriously and take steps to prevent tick bites, and to know what to do when you find an attached tick.  Prevention is the best idea – wear long pants, and as silly as you may feel, tuck them into your socks.  This won’t keep the ticks off, but it will make them stay on the outside of your pants where you can spot them.  Use insect repellents on your clothing to keep the ticks away as well.  If you find an embedded tick, use tweezers to remove it without pinching the body.  The idea is to prevent injecting the contents of the tick into you by squeezing the tick.  Inspect yourself often for ticks – if removed early, there isn’t time for the disease-causing organisms to go from the tick into you.  Luckily, by taking measures to prevent tick bites and prompt removal of attached ticks, we can still enjoy our trips into the forest.  Except for those pesty black flies and mosquitos!

You won’t have to worry about much logging traffic though.  Things are similar to last week.  Logging trucks are using the Trappers Lake Road, the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Old Greenwood Road (Forest Road 144).  Do still watch out for rough roadways, though some grading is starting to take place.

The other thing to watch for on roadways are fawns and moose calves.  You should watch for the adults too, of course, but we’ve had a lot of people seeing the newborns out with their moms.  Remember, a moose with a calf is very protective, and you should not try to approach them for photos.  People have been charged by protective mama moose, and you really don’t want a moose mad at you.  Deer protect their fawns by hiding them while mom goes out grazing.  Fawns will lie perfectly still when you stumble across one.  Don’t try to pick it up, or try to help it – it is just fine.  Also, don’t stay near for too long, you’ll only stress the poor thing.  Just leave fawns alone and mom will come back and take care of it. 

People also like to “help” abandoned bunnies and chicks who “fell” out of the nest.  As nice as the thought is, bunnies and chicks usually don’t need help.  Snowshoe hare moms leave their young alone, just like fawns, and abandoned bunnies are not really abandoned at all.  The mom is usually very secretive, and you may never catch her coming back to nurse the young.  For baby birds that seem to have fallen, well, that’s part of learning to fly.  Chicks will fall, or fly, out of the nest and be not quite good enough to fly back up.  Mom will still feed them on the ground, just let them be.

I hope you make some time this week to get out in the woods and search out some of these young animals and their parents.  It looks like we could have some great weather, so get out there!

Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 1, 2018

National Forest Update – May 31, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Brandee Wenzel, administration and support assistant, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For start of June, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

With the start of the summer months, we are getting some good thunderstorms.  Just a reminder to everyone, lightning is nothing to play around with.  Most lightning strikes occur in front of the rain, so if you are out on the water and hear a storm approaching, don’t wait until the rain starts – get off the lake and seek a safe place to ride out the storm, immediately.  If you are on land, avoid sheltering under tall trees, and minimize your contact with the ground.  If you’re in your house, well, have a second cup of coffee and enjoy the show.

The rain we have been getting has helped a bit with fire danger, but it is still pretty dry.  We need a good soaker to really relieve the fire danger.  Green up has also helped a lot as wet live vegetation is pretty resistant to fire, and the rain is also helping forest green up to progress.

Rain is also letting us start to grade some roads.  Many roads are still in pretty rough shape from winter and spring – the 600 Road, in particular, has some large sinkholes in it, so drive with caution until we can make some repairs.  If you run across any particularly noteworthy road problems while you are out driving, please take note of where the problem is, take some photos if you have a phone with you, and report it to either the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger Stations.

There is still not a lot of timber hauling going on out on the roads.  You can expect truck traffic on the Trapper’s Lake Road in Tofte, and on the Greenwood and Firebox Roads in Gunflint. 

You can start to expect more visitor traffic though.  Be patient and respectful of visitors that might be a bit lost, or are driving a bigger rig than they are used to.  If you are one of those who might become a bit lost, be aware that automobile GPS units often have problems with our roads.  Some snowmobile trails appear as roads on a GPS, and some roads don’t appear at all.  Your best bet is to purchase a visitor map from one of the districts which will have all the roads on it.  Navigate from the map, and don’t trust that calm voice coming from your GPS which tells you to turn down a trail into a lake.

You will also have to be patient on our main street of Highway 61.  Culverts are going to be replaced in several places along the highway causing one lane traffic with flaggers or temporary stop lights.  Just plan for delays, don’t try to make up your lost time by speeding after you pass the construction. 

This weekend is graduation for seniors in both Grand Marais and Silver Bay.  Congratulations to all of them!  Unfortunately, there are often auto accidents associated with graduation, so please celebrate with care.  Don’t let you or your friends become a statistic this weekend by drinking and driving or letting someone else get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t.  We look forward to all of you heading off into life this fall, whether college, job or tech school. 

Enjoy your weekend, and until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 18, 2018

  Superior National Forest Update – May 17, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Supervisory Administrative Support Assistant, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 18th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

The old saying of “In Minnesota, if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour” has been very true this week.  Rain, 80 degree days, frozen bird baths at night, sun, calm, and wind:  we’ve had all but snow, and cross your fingers, we won’t be having any of that.  Winter, spring, and summer seem to be shifting as smoothly as a sixteen-year-old learning to drive a stick shift, but the progress, just like the young driver, is still always forward.  We had a lesson in how close winter still is when we dug into a gravel pit on the Forest and found the frost only 2 and a half inches below the surface.  Despite the frost in the ground, hummingbirds returned to the Forest in time for Mother’s Day.  It is always incredible that such a tiny animal can navigate across the entire country, fueled by nothing but tiny insects and flower nectar… and a lot of bird feeders.  If you are feeding hummers, make sure to use straight sugar water with no colors added.  The color of the feeder itself is good enough and dyes can be bad for the birds.  Change the liquid frequently, if it is getting cloudy before you change it, you need to change it more often.  Put the sugar water out when it is at outside temperature, not hot off the stove, or cold from the fridge, and the birds will love you for giving them some extra easy to find energy.

On the opposite end of the animal size scale from hummingbirds, moose are starting to calve.  Mom and baby moose have been spotted in several places on the Forest.  Be careful though, cow moose will not appreciate your getting close for a photo of their baby.  Stay well away, and stay on mom’s good side.

Outside of the animal world, we’ve been making progress on doing some spring prescribed burning.  Specifics of burns are posted on our website and on Boreal.com, so if you smell smoke, you can check to see if we are doing a burn.  If you end up near a burn, please respect all signage and don’t interfere with the fire crews.  It has been very dry the past week, so be very careful with fire, and keep an eye out for possible burn restrictions in the coming week. 

The dry conditions have also put us in the odd position of both having weight limits on roads due to soft areas, and also having the roads to hard and dry to grade in other areas.  The two together mean the roads are still in pretty poor condition, though they are a lot better than they were a week ago.  The weight restrictions mean that there is still limited logging traffic. On Tofte, logging traffic can be expected on the Trapper’s Lake Road and DMIR Grade (FR380).  On the Gunflint side, there are operations off of Greenwood Road and Firebox Road, but no hauling until road restrictions are lifted.

Going fishing?  You’ll be happy to hear that our docks are now all in at boat accesses!  Campgrounds will be entering fee status soon, possibly this weekend, but we are waiting for some water systems to come online.  Be prepared though to pay a fee for overnight camping in the fee campgrounds.

It’s a great time to get out in the woods this next week.  You can hunt for warblers with binoculars, or fish with a hook.  It’s just nice to get outside and watch as the trees change from bare to buds to leaves.  Spring in the north:  Don’t miss it!  Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 11, 2018

National Forest Update – May 10, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, on the Gunflint Ranger District of the Superior National Forest, with this week’s National Forest Update.  This is the Friday May 11th, edition, and there is a lot going on out there.

Spring is creeping northwards, slowly but surely.  Down in the Twin Cities, trees are fully leafed-out now, but up here, buds are just starting to swell.  Tamaracks are showing a pretty good dusting of green on them, pussy willows are blooming, and grass is greening up.  Frogs are calling from every small puddle, and birds are singing in the morning.  There are lots of sparrows right now moving through, including some that you don’t see except in the spring.  Hummingbirds traditionally show up on Mother’s Day, we’ll have to see if they are on time this year. 

Mother’s Day also means that it is almost fishing opener.  You can drop a line for walleye starting on May 12, if you can find open water.  Lakes are actually opening pretty fast considering how deeply frozen they were just a few weeks ago.  Many of the smaller lakes are open, but the larger border lakes are still fairly well frozen.  Because of the late break up of ice, we haven’t been able to get all the docks in at our boat landings yet.  They should be in within the next two weeks, but in the meantime, prepare to launch your boat with no dock if you are planning a fishing trip.  There are a few spots in the area where fishing will still not be allowed.  These areas are where fish are pushed to very high concentrations due to the ice.  Check the DNR website for locations of these temporary restrictions.
 
We are a bit later than many years in being able to turn on our water systems at fee campgrounds.  Until they are turned on, we won’t be collecting fees at campgrounds for camping.  If you are camping, be ready for either possibility – have water with you in case there’s none available yet, and bring money with in case the fee season has started.

If your camping brings you into the Boundary Waters, the issued permit season has begun.  Overnight visitors need to have a permit issued at a Forest Service office or at a cooperator’s business.  Because of ice, our wilderness ranger crews haven’t been out in the woods yet, so canoeists may run into portages where winter deadfalls have blocked the trail.  If you do run into situations like that, take note of where and when and let us know so we can plan to take care of it. 

There isn’t very much truck traffic on the roads this week as the road conditions remain poor.  There may be logging activity near Sawbill Landing and off the Greenwood and Firebox Roads, but we only anticipate hauling on the DM&IR Grade, also known as FS380.   

Fire danger can change rapidly in the spring.  Our April Showers in May have brought relief for a while, but the sun will soon dry everything out again.  We’ve had some ‘red flag’ days already, and be on the lookout for more to come.  The conditions did eventually let us conduct our wildlife opening burns, but we’d rather not have to deal with any wildfires.

Enjoy the spring weather, and good luck to everyone who is heading down to the water with a pole in hand!

Until next week, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - April 27, 2018

National Forest Update – April 26, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, a wildlife biologist on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, everything, or at least a reasonable amount, of what you need to know when you are visiting the Superior this week. 

It is nearly May, and winter is, hopefully, maybe, cross your fingers, over.  After some truly spectacular storms, the lake has calmed down, the snow has quit, and it seems spring is actually here to stay.  With spring comes the migrating birds.  Robins went from some sporadic sightings to large numbers in people’s yards over the past week.  Most of the robins are males right now, arriving early to set up territories.  You can observe a lot of fighting and other territorial behavior as they settle disputes over who owns which patch of grass, which can be pretty entertaining for us.  Sparrows have also started to trickle in, and the clear plaintive whistle of the white-throated sparrows can be heard welcoming the warmth to the north woods.  Their song is supposed to sound like ‘Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody’, or if you learned it north of the border, they sing ‘Dear sweet Canada, Canada, Canada’.  Mixed in with the white throats are white-crowned, tree, and other sparrows.  These birds all love seeds, so it is a good time to keep the feeders full and sprinkle some millet on the ground as well.  Yellow-rumped warblers are the leading edge of warbler migration, and they’ve been seen in Duluth.  They’ll be working their way north along with the rest of the warbler tribe as our insect population increases.  Speaking of insects, butterflies are back. Mourning cloak butterflies with dark wings trimmed in cream are fluttering along roadsides.  These hardy insects actually hibernate through winter, so they are some of the first butterflies to appear.

If you do have bird feeders, you need to start taking them in at night because butterflies aren’t the only hibernators awakening.  Bears are starting to roam, and they are pretty hungry right now.  We heard one description of someone who had taken in the feeders but had the bear come up to the deck to lick the grate on their grill.  So, plan on hiding in the garage anything that could even remotely be thought of as tasty to a hungry bear.  Remember that bears are after food, and not particularly interested in you.  So long as you don’t put yourself in a situation where you are a threat to them, they are going to leave you alone.  It is in their nature though to chase dogs, so keeping your dog leashed and under control when outside is a good plan.  While you’re at it, with the birds returning and starting to nest soon, it is also a good time of year to keep Kitty indoors. 

There’s no logging traffic on the roads right now, but that it because the roads are very treacherous.  Our timber crews are really recommending staying off the back roads for a while unless you really need to be out there.  It is a mix of soft roadways, ice, and still deep slush in some places, so until it all melts and dries up, roads are hazardous.  If you have to be driving, leave word on where you are and when you are expected to return.  Take it slow, and expect the road conditions to change around every bend.

Most snowmobile trails in the area are closed or in poor condition according to the DNR website, and off-trail use of snowmobiles is not allowed if snow cover is less than four inches.  The trails are not in good condition for ATV use either.  It is easy for ATVs to create ruts and damage trails in the spring, which will ruin good riding for the rest of the year.  Don’t ride on closed trails or roads, but also use good sense and don’t ride when your machine will dig ruts even if the trail is theoretically open.  Check the Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use map to see if your route is open: some routes open mid-April, but some won’t be open for use until later.  You should also check for any posted temporary closures due to seasonal conditions.  Use of ATVs off of designated routes is not allowed on the Forest.

The remaining snow and the damp conditions reduce fire danger, so over the next few weeks, the Forest will try to conduct some spring prescribed burns.  Most of these are to maintain wildlife openings near the shore.  These openings are used by migrating birds and help keep the diversity of habitat available in the forest.  We can’t tell you the exact times of these burns because they are weather dependent, but you can check our website or Boreal for more information. 

Starting next week, May 1st, issued permits will be required for overnight trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  You can reserve these online at Recreation.gov, and pick them up at Forest Service offices and cooperating businesses after watching our Leave No Trace video.  To accommodate wilderness explorers, our offices also start our summer schedule of being open seven days a week, 8 to 4:30. 
Enjoy the return of birds, butterflies, and life to the Forest while you wait out mud season.  While you wait, this a probably the week to put away your snow blower and winter toys, and unearth the lawn mower and summer toys.  You might even look a little at the boat and canoe, but there’s no rush on that yet.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - April 13, 2018

National Forest Update – April 13, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Michael Crotteau, district ranger on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that may affect your visit to the Superior.  It is a Friday the 13th edition, and there may be more April snow on the way, but we’ll try to help you get through the next two weeks at least.  Hopefully, the next time we talk to you, there will be blue skies, greening grass, and short sleeves - but it is northern Minnesota, so don’t count on it.

Road conditions continue to vary mile by mile and hour by hour.  Shady spots where the ground is still frozen are solid and easy to travel, but low lying areas in the sun may not be up to holding the weight of large heavy vehicles.  With this in mind, there are weight restrictions in place for gravel surfaced Forest and county roads, but be alert for soft spots and washouts even if your rig is well below the weight limits. 

You should also be alert for deer.  If you have been out driving at all, you are probably well aware that this is the season that deer are on the roads.  Grassy berms along Highway 61 and other roads provide some of the earliest grazing opportunities, and deer seem to all agree that the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  You should never text while driving, but this is a good time to try to minimize all distractions and really watch for animals in and alongside the road.  As you watch while one deer crosses, don’t forget about all of its friends who are likely to cross right afterward.  It only costs you a few seconds to really slow down or even stop and wait to make sure the whole herd is across.  Of course, it’s not only deer you have to watch for, it is all the scavengers feeding on the deer that didn’t make it to the other side of the road.  When your car scares birds off a dead deer, the crows, ravens, and gulls can usually get enough altitude to make it over the roadway, but startled eagles (and turkey vultures) are often only at windshield height as they cross. (in fact, I saw a turkey vulture earlier this week between Tofte and Grand Marais – a sign that spring is indeed here as they are returning to their summer breeding grounds from their winter vacation homes in the southern and southeastern US).  Other than when they are flying across in front of you, it is a great time of year to watch our eagles.  Most eagles should be into laying and incubating eggs, but you can still see some carrying sticks around and doing courtship flights where the pair lock talons in flight.  For some great close up views, visit the Minnesota DNR’s bald eagle cam on the web.  Or, of course, you could be a pitcher at a Twins game….

Because of soft roads, there is very little logging activity right now.  Trucks may be found on the Trappers Lake Road in the Tofte District, and on the Greenwood and Firebox Roads on the Gunflint.  Otherwise, things are waiting until the roads firm up again in summer.

With snow and damp, it may seem strange to think about fire, but that’s just what is on the minds of our fire crews at Tofte and Gunflint.  The fire weather outlook calls for near normal temperatures and precipitation through June, which means the prediction for the spring fire season is that most days would only have the potential for small fires, but there may be a day here and there with the potential for larger fires.  Either way, a large number of our wildfires are started by people, so as the woods dry up in the spring, it is time to get your Smokey on and be careful with fire.  You can actually start this now by getting acquainted with the Firewise program and doing some yard work to make your yard area surrounding your home Firewise.

When writing these updates, we ask for input from everyone working at the Forest Service locally.  The best response we received this week was a terse two-word reply:  “Still winter”.  Hopefully, by the time of our next update in two weeks, that won’t be the case, and we will be undeniably moving into spring.  In the meantime, take the time to visit the Forest and enjoy the changing seasons. 

Until next time, this has been Michael Crotteau with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 30, 2018

National Forest Update – March 29, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  This is a season of change, so there are a lot of things going on in the Forest that you should be aware of.

The biggest change that happens every spring is the change of frozen water to liquid.  For us, that means that unpaved roads in the Forest are changing from hard concrete to mushy sponges.  In response to this change, the state, county, and Forest impose load restrictions in the spring.  Weight restrictions went into effect March 22 for many state, county, and Forest roads.  In most cases, the restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of eight weeks.  For details on what this means, visit ‘Current Conditions’ page of the Superior National Forest’s website for links to all the state and county road restriction pages.

Even if you are driving a lightweight vehicle well within the guidelines, these restrictions should be a signal to drive with extra caution.  This time of year, there are always portions of roads that wash out, and the state of the roadway will change significantly between north facing and south facing slopes, and between shady and sunlit areas.  When driving, if you are in a place where you have concerns, don’t hesitate to stop in a safe place, get out of your vehicle and inspect the road before you attempt to drive on.  Before you go, check our website for any alerts about washouts along your route.  Getting stuck in the mud is no fun at all, so be patient and realize that you may have to take a few detours.

You may be sharing the road with some timber hauling.  Hauling is taking place on the Firebox and Greenwood Road, and on the Stoney Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.  This will take place as conditions permit, which is to say when the roads are solid.  Some of this hauling will take place at night when the temperature is lower, so be cautious if you are driving in these areas after dark.

As spring moves on, we are losing ice slowly from our lakes.  There is still a fairly thick layer of ice on most inland lakes, but if you are ice fishing, you should always be checking for yourself.  One suggestion is to bring along a cordless drill and a 5/8 inch wood auger bit – the kind with a spiral flute on it.  With that equipment, it is easy to drill a quick hole in the ice and check the depth with a tape measure.  If you are fishing, the trout season ends the weekend of April 1, and walleye season has already closed.  Check the DNR fishing regulations before you go, and bring your license.

Ski and snowmobile trails are deteriorating as well.  Our website has links to all our partners who groom the ski trails so you can get current trail conditions.  There are also links to the DNR snowmobile trail conditions site, but things change faster in the spring than websites can track.  Use your discretion and if it looks like you’ll damage the trail with your machine, don’t use it.

However, spring isn’t all mud and trail deterioration.  There’s a lot of animal activity.  Bears have been spotted in the area, and they will be headed for their favorite bird feeders because there isn’t a lot of other food out there right now.  If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of deer on the road right now.  They are drawn to roadsides where melting snow has exposed the grass.  Slow down, and keep your eyes peeled for when the herd decides the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  We’ve also had a lot of reports of howling coyotes recently.  Coyotes are known in some parts of the country as song dogs or yodel dogs, and it can be a wonderful experience to hear them singing to the moon on a still night. Coyotes are not going to bother people, but they don’t particularly care for dogs in their territory, so keep an eye on your pup when they head out to relieve themselves. 

All these animals are stirring with the warmth.  Even with the mud, and the soggy roads, you can probably feel it yourself.  It’s spring, and time to get outside and enjoy the sun. 

Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 16, 2018

National Forest Update – March 15, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Hayley Henderson, CCMI contractor with the Forest Service, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  We are on the edge of spring but don’t get too excited yet.  Remember that March is one of the heaviest snowfall months of the year and you never know what might happen.
What has happened so far though is some deterioration of our winter trails?  Right now, trails are mostly rated as good, with some icy conditions on south-facing slopes.  With about of warm weather ahead of us though, users should beware of more glazing of trails and possible bare spots.  Snowmobile trails are rated fair to good, with a couple of very goods, but still, watch for soft spots as melting is expected to continue.  But it is March, and we still may be in line for a good dumping of snow before winter is done, so don’t put away your snow toys yet.  Don’t forget that snowmobiles are not permitted on ski trails; we’ve had indications that a couple of people appear to have missed that message.

The roads are much like the trails.  They are still firmly frozen and good for travel, but just be aware that in the sun the layer of frozen snow may be turning to truck-eating mush in the near future.  If you are unsure, get out and check the road before you go down it.

We are coming close to March 19th, the date ice houses must be removed from lakes in northern Minnesota.  Ice fishing will continue, but you cannot leave your house on the ice unoccupied overnight.  Every year, it seems someone pushes the season and ends up floating out into the lake, or having a vehicle drop into the water.  Don’t let it be your embarrassing picture that is in the news; check ice thickness and be careful.  After all, it could be a lot worse than just embarrassment.

There’s still too much snow on the ground to worry about fire danger, though we are sending some of our fire people to southern forests where the fire season has started already.  But, it’s never too early to start thinking about Firewise!  Firewise is the idea that you can help protect your property by managing it in a way that reduces the possibility of a structure fire.  Materials about Firewise are available online and at the Forest Service offices in Tofte and Grand Marais.

There isn’t a lot of timber activity right now on our eastern side of the Forest.  Hauling is taking place on the Greenwood Road, the Firebox Road, the Greenwood Lake Access Road, the Homestead Road in Lutsen, the Caribou Trail, Cook County 39, the Ward Lake Road, and Forest Road 333.  The Firebox Road and Forest Road 333 are also snowmobile trails, so be extra careful traveling on them.

Biologists have been conducting owl surveys at night recently.  This is the time of year when owls can be quite vocal, so they are easy to locate.  Hawks generally have to fly south in the winter because the snow covers the ground and the hawks can’t see the mice to catch them.  Owls, on the other hand, locate their prey by hearing and can hear the mice right through the snow.  This saves owls the work of migrating and also allows them to start nesting long before the hawks arrive to compete with them for nest space and food.  The facial disc that gives owls their distinctive face is actually part of their hearing mechanism.  The visible disc is the edge of a reflector made of harder feathers that works like a satellite dish to bring sound right to their ears. 

Enjoy the warmer weather, and maybe use it to take a walk outside at night and listen for owls.  After all, they are probably listening to you.  Until next time, this has been Hayley Henderson with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 2, 2018

National Forest Update – March 2, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.

Thanks to Mother Nature, it’s a different world out there.  Is it too early to say if March will come in like a Lion or a Lamb?  We know February sure went out with a bang. In the past week and a half we have gotten anywhere from 8 to 30 inches of fresh snow from Silver Bay to the top of the Arrowhead and up the Gunflint Trail and more is expected early next week.  If you haven’t made time yet, it’s time to get those snowshoes or cross country skis out and hit the trails and enjoy what has been given to us.  My suggestion would be to stay on the trail, because it’s deep!  If you are one that likes to compete in a good old fashioned cross country ski and you missed signing up for the Birkebeiner last week, this Saturday, they are having the Sugar Tour ski challenge on the Sugarbush Ski trail system out of Tofte.  Meet at the Oberg Parking lot and they will take registration starting early Saturday morning.  The event begins at 10:00 and goes until 2:00 p.m.  They are offering a 5k, 8k, and 18k distance skis along with some other events for the whole family.  If you are one that prefers the motorized approach to winter recreation, the snowmobile trails are groomed perfectly for a nice, smooth ride.  With the warmer temperatures, you will be in for some great snowmobile trail riding.  The different trail groomers have been extra busy this last week keeping all of our trails in tip top shape.  Thank you so much!
 
If you are planning a winter camping trip, travel across lakes by ski’s or snowshoes is becoming more difficult with the amount of snow we have.  Being that the weather is warmer, overnight winter camping is picking up.  If you go, make sure you pay attention to leave no-trace camping techniques or stop in a Forest Service office or check out the BWCAW trip planner on the Forest Service website and get a refresher on what to do if you go.   

This week, the Forest was visited by a film crew that was taking footage of outdoor recreation sports on the Superior National Forest.  One of your friends or relatives may be highlighted in a National Forest commercial within the next year that spotlights the beautiful Superior National Forest.  A big thank you goes out to the Cook County Visitors Bureau for their help with this.   
For those of you traveling back roads, remember, reports from the locals on the Gunflint trail are that the moose are still hanging around the roadside and licking salt off the roads, so please travel with care.   There are probably more critters than the moose hanging out on the road.  If you have stepped off the beaten path, it’s tough moving around out there, and even tougher for them to jump over the big road banks to get back where they belong.  There is no need to race where you are going, take your time, drive slowly and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.   People have reported seeing boreal owls and great gray owls in the Forest and even in their yards.  This new snow will make dinnertime a challenge for them, so you may see more owls hanging around your bird feeders looking for an easy meal of mice.
 
Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  In years past, the road restrictions have gone on as early as mid-March, but as late as into the month of April.  Warmer temperatures will determine when restrictions are put in place.  At this time we have no idea how soon or how late they will occur, it will all depend on that big yellow thing in the sky.  We will also be springing our clocks ahead on March 11th so it won’t get dark so early. 

As for now, the roads are in good shape.   On the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so there is no log truck traffic. There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road.  Also, for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  As always, be careful on the roads that are also snowmobile trails, like the Firebox Road.

Enjoy the winter, it sure looks like we will have it around at little while longer.  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - February 16, 2018

National Forest Update – February 15, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  Even though it is midwinter, there’s a lot going on outside.

You may have been watching the Winter Olympics this past week, and while the Superior doesn’t have its own luge run, we can give you great skiing opportunities, thanks to the grooming efforts of our trail partners.  The Sugarbush Trail Association, which maintains the Sugarbush Ski Trails with trailheads at Britton Peak, Moose Fence, and Oberg Mountain, is hosting a candlelit event this Saturday, February 18th from 6 to 8.  You can ski, snowshoe, or hike on candlelit trails, then stop by the bonfire to warm up with cocoa and cookies.  That’s my idea of a Winter Olympic event:  bonfire with cocoa and cookies.  I could medal in that.  All this will take place at the Oberg Mountain parking lot, just up the Onion River Road north of Tofte.

Our other ski areas are looking good too, though the recent warm days may have caused some bare spots.  Skiers need to be aware of potential hazards with relatively low amounts of snow in some areas.

Fat tire biking isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but we’ve heard good reports from bikers using fat bike designated trails at Pincushion, Norpine, and Flathorn.  If biking, please be sure to stay on bike designated trails, and only bike when the snow is firm enough to support you. 

Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  But for now, the roads are in good shape, and on the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so no truck traffic.  There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and FR 152 C off the Lima Grade.  This week, and for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  Also, be cautious on the Firebox Road and FR152C since those routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

Another non-Olympic winter event takes place this weekend:  the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  You don’t even have to stir out of your house for this one.  Just grab your coffee, and watch your bird feeder for a little as 15 minutes, or as long as you want, and record your observations at birdcount.org.  This takes place from this Friday, February 16th through Monday, February 19th.  This a great example of citizen science in action.  The data from thousands of observers across the world gives ornithologists a snapshot of birds all over.  Last year, more than 160,000 people participated!  Go to birdcount.org for details.

So, enjoy the Olympics, but take some time out to get away from the TV and do your own version of winter sport.  It can be skiing, or snowshoeing, or counting birds, or just taking in a bonfire with a cup of cocoa.  Enjoy the winter!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update. 
 

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