Hi. I’m Anna Botner, Wilderness Specialist on the Gunflint and Tofte Districts of the Superior National Forest. We’ve got a bit more snow, and as it accumulates, so do the opportunities for winter recreation on the Forest.
Light snow cover means that some roads that are usually impassable this time of year look fairly drivable. But, watch out! Appearances can be deceiving! It is easy to get stuck at the bottom of a hill if you are in a conventional two wheel drive car, even in small amounts of snow. Make sure the safety equipment in your car includes a strong tow strap, shovel and sand, just in case. Cat litter, by the way, isn’t recommended for traction. Spinning tires can heat up the snow under it enough to create water, that will simply dissolve the litter. If you bring a cell phone, don’t forget a charger, but remember there are lots of places on the Forest where it will not work.
Do you need a Christmas tree still? Our three million acre Christmas tree lot is still open. Pick up a permit at a District office for five dollars, and then go pick your tree. There are some simple guidelines to follow concerning where you can harvest a tree, and an expedition into the woods in search of the perfect balsam fir is a great tradition to either follow or start with your family.
While driving, you’ll discover that there isn’t a lot of logging traffic right now except for the Sawbill Trail, the Grade, the Pine Mountain Road, the Pike Lake Road, and the Bally Creek Road. Though truck traffic is light, remember that they will have a harder time stopping on snow covered roads.
There is enough snow to ski in some areas, but most trails are not being groomed as yet. Presently, the recommendation is to use older skis, as you may be skiing on rocks some of the time. This is also a good time of year for lake skiing. As always when traveling on ice, watch for weak spots and be prepared in case you go through with ice picks, rope, and a change of clothing, in a waterproof bag. The best thing to bring with you when traveling on ice is a partner - rescues with a friend are a lot easier than by yourself.
If you’re snowmobiling, 4 inches of snow cover is required for cross country travel. For trail conditions, check the Minnesota DNR website. As of December 18th, most area trails are either closed or in poor condition.
Fat tire bicycles have been in the news recently, as more and more people take up the sport. There are no specific fat bike trails in the Superior National Forest, but they are welcome on Forest Roads. Bikers need to remember that they are sharing the roads with vehicles, and possibly snowmobiles. Bikes are not allowed on trails with other use designations, such as ski trails, snowmobile trails, or snowshoe trails.
Think snow, and enjoy a safe holiday season! This has been Anna Botner with the Superior National Forest Update.