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Superior National Forest Update - March 8, 2019

National Forest Update – March 7, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update, information for you if you’re headed out the road and into the woods.
With eight foot piles of snow by the curb, it may seem strange to start planning for canoe trips, but if you’ve got a date and lake in mind, now’s the time to reserve an entry permit for the Boundary Waters this summer.  The online reservation system is up and running for permit reservations.  We are asked sometimes why there is a permit system and limited numbers of permits available.  The answer is that we have around a quarter of a million visitors to the Wilderness every year, and the permit system helps to spread those visitors through time and space.  That is key to giving people the best Wilderness experience possible, as well as limiting the stress on the resource itself.  Imagine if all 200,000 people decided to go in on the same lake over the same weekend…it wouldn’t be a pretty sight.  The online reservation system allows you to see in real time the number of permits available at entry points.  We recommend you plan ahead by having several back up dates and entry points for your trip, just in case your first choice has no available permits.  Be open to exploring new places in the BW, and consider boldly going where you haven’t been before.

While thoughts of summer and canoeing are great, the reality is that it is still winter here.  Rather than sit around the house grumbling about it, get outside and take advantage of what has turned out to be one of the best snow seasons we’ve seen in a while.  Ski trails are in excellent shape, and we now have digital georeferenced pdf maps available for Pincushion, Bally Creek, Sugarbush, and Flathorn Gegoka Ski Areas.  These downloadable maps with a geolocating app will put you right on the map on your phone, so you’ll never be lost… until your battery wears out.  A word of caution – always bring a paper map as well; a GPS of any sort should never be your primary source of navigation.  The Minnesota DNR has similar geoPDFs of the trails in all the area state parks, so you can ski for miles!  The DNR site also includes snowmobile trails, so if skiing isn’t your way to get outside, jump on a sled and take off.

Unplowed roads in the Forest can be used by snowmobiles during the winter.  Plowed roads, on the other hand, are not open to snowmobiles, except for certain designated dual use roads.  If you are considering plowing a road, you need to stop by a Forest Service office for a permit.  Restrictions on motorized vehicle use on the Forest are shown on our Motor Vehicle Use Maps, which are also available as georeferenced pdfs on our website, or as hard copies at our offices.

While you are out in the woods, keep an eye on our resident birds such as ravens, owls, and eagles.  These non-migratory species start setting up housekeeping early.  Owls may be on eggs already, and people are observing eagle flights where they lock talons and spiral downwards.  That may look like fighting, but it is actually love and the re-establishment of pair bonds.  The deep snow has forced many animals to use roads for travel, which has created some great opportunities for critter watching.  In the past few weeks, we’ve had reports of people seeing bobcat, coyotes, wolves, marten, lynx, snowshoe hare, and of course, hundreds of deer.  Seeing the animals is great, unless you are going 55 miles per hour and the animal is five feet in front of your car.  Be careful driving, and remember that if you see a deer in the road, it probably has four friends just off the side waiting to run out in front of you. 

As usual, there are also some logging vehicles to watch for as well.  This time of year, be very cautious if you pull off the road.  Ditches are full of snow, and may be plowed level with the roadway.  What appears to be a nice level shoulder may be a pit filled with snow.  You may need to back up to find a safe spot to pull off and let the truck go by.

Trucks will be using the Wanless Road, Lake County 7, Lake County 8, and Cook County 1.  They will also be on the Greenwood Road and Pike Lake Road.  Be especially careful on the Firebox Road and Blueberry Road where the trucks share the road with snowmobiles on the Grand Portage –Gunflint Snowmobile Trail. 

So, while you may be wishing for sun and warm temperatures and green grass, take advantage of our snowy winter while you can.  Honest, spring will come, and sulking in the house won’t speed its arrival. 

Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.