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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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