Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education person for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with the Superior National Forest Update. For the week of October 10th, here’s the scoop on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.
Highway 61 road construction along Lake Superior is finally starting to come to an end with more and more pavement daily. But - for a while longer, stay patient and plan on some extra time coming up to the Forest from the south. Once here, you could encounter log trucks on the same routes as last week in the Gunflint District: Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45. Plus, there will now be trucks hauling on the Mark Lake Road and the Caribou Trail. It is busy time of year! Tofte is a little less busy with truck traffic on Cook County 3 near Vyre Lake, and on both the Grade, and the 4 Mile Grade. There are still people stopped to look at foliage, as well as people pulled over for hunting grouse, deer, or, until the twelfth, bear, so watch out for vehicles parked along roadsides.
We’ve had an uneventful year for fire, and the threat of wildfire is nearly past, but you may be smelling some smoke in the air this week. Piles in timber harvest areas are being burnt to prepare for reforestation. You may also see fire crews in the Sawbill Trail area. They won’t be burning, but will be working on reducing understory fuels. If you are planning on burning brush yourself, be sure to get a permit and choose a day with good burning weather. Remember it is illegal to burn trash in a fire in Minnesota - and generally frowned on to burn your marshmallows.
October 15th marks the end of water and trash pick-up at fee campgrounds on the Tofte and Gunflint districts. Weather depending, sometimes water will be left on later in the season, but consider that a bonus and don’t count on it past the 15th. It is not the end of camping though, campgrounds will still be open to use, and fall can be great bug free time to get in a camping trip. Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this time of year is great as well. Remember that even though you don’t have to pay for permit after October 1st, you need to fill out the self-issued permit before you go - it helps us to keep track of how many people are using the wilderness.
Traveling without permits right now are thousands of migratory birds. You may have heard that this year had a ‘fall out’ event where weather conditions caused these migrants to end up at ground level in large numbers. You’ve probably seen birds flying across the road in numbers, particularly at dawn and dusk. What you probably didn’t see is that there are also large numbers of tiny saw-whet owls migrating as well. These are pint sized owls, only about as big as a pop can. Unlike bigger owls, they can’t find prey easily in snow, and are forced to move south. Since they move at night on silent wings, they pass unnoticed, except to Forest biologists who band some of them on the way through.
Have a great week in the Forest. Take advantage of our moonlit and longer nights, and go for a night hike. Who knows, you may see an owl. Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.