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Superior National Forest Update December 8, 2017

National Forest Update – December 7, 2017.

Hi.  I am Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest in December.

What has been up until the last couple of days has been the temperature, followed by this cold snap into winter.  Our early snow followed by unseasonable warmth resulted in some truly awful forest roads, even by Minnesota standards.  Compacted heavy snow mixed with rain and subfreezing nights made ice rinks out of the Forest roadways.  The conditions were bad enough that the Forest took the step of closing some sections of roadway to the general public for safety purposes.  It only took a minute of travel on the Four Mile Grade between the Sawbill trail and County Road 7 to make the decision to turn around… and that itself was pretty hard.  Our colder temperatures are actually helping make the road less slick, and the closed sections should be open in the near future.  People planning on visiting the Forest should visit our website first and look for Alerts, which are located in the right sidebar.  Current road closures will be posted there.  Even if you are not planning on using the Four Mile Grade, you should be aware that all the roads are icy and people should be very cautious.

Be particularly cautious if you are in an area with active timber hauling.  Gunflint hauling is taking place on Firebox Road (dual use with snowmobile trail), Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14.  On the Tofte District, hauling is on the Pancore Road, Sawbill Trail, 4 Mile Grade, Lake County 7, and the Trappers Lake Road.

What would make someone venture out into the woods this time of year you ask?  Holiday greenery, that’s what!  Permits to cut a Christmas tree are only $5 at Forest Service offices, or free to fourth graders participating in the Every-Kid-In-A-Park program.  Fourth graders interested need to first enroll in the program and get a voucher online at everykidinapark.gov.  The Every-Kid-In-A-Park program will give free admission to fourth graders and their families to national parks across the country.  Because the Superior National Forest doesn’t have an admission fee and isn’t a park, you get a free tree instead.  So load up the kids, a sled, the dog, and some hot chocolate and don’t forget enough rope to tie the tree on securely, we don’t want it bouncing down the highway. 

While you are out there, you can also get a permit to harvest balsam boughs for wreaths.  We actually recommend balsam for Christmas trees as well, the needles stay on the tree longer than spruce, and they smell better.  It should be noted that you are not allowed to take either white pine or cedar for a Christmas tree.  Tree identification sheets are available at our offices and online, in addition to more specific instructions on how and where to harvest a tree. 

Cross country ski trails have been in pretty sketchy condition this season so far.  Our website has links to all the organizations which groom the trails, so you can find out where the best snow is.  Fat tire bikes have become a great new way for people to get outside in the winter.  Because of this, we are opening a few sites to fat tire biking this year.  We ask bikers to make sure that the surface is firm enough to not leave big ruts behind you, and stay off the section of the trail tracked for skiing.  As a reminder, bikes are prohibited on ski trails other than what are designated.  Fat bike trails can be found in the Pincushion Mt ski area, the connecting trail between Lutsen Mt Road and the Norpine Trail system, and at the Flathorn Gegoka ski area.  For more trail information, go to the Visit Cook County website.

If ice skating is your thing, there has been spectacular skating this season on some of the smaller lakes.   They froze completely smooth and are snow free.  You have a huge surface to play on and you can’t beat the view.  Watch out though, while we have too much ice on the roads, we really could use more ice on the lakes.  Some larger lakes are still open in the middle, and every lake should be treated with caution right now, just be careful.

Whether skating, skiing, biking, or driving, have a great time in the Forest - and don’t forget the hot chocolate when you get home!  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm for the National Forest Update.
 

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