Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, interpreter on the Gunflint and Tofte districts of the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update for the week of January 23rd. If, or hopefully when, you get outside to explore the Forest during this this last week or so of January, here’s some things you may want to know.
It’s no news that we have less snow than last year. While we have less snow, right now most cross country ski trails are open and either groomed or hand tracked. That may change, there is sleet and freezing rain in the forecast. The best source for information is our website with its links to our individual trail partners who do the grooming. It is probably worth a quick check before you head out, just so you know what to expect.
Skiing on lakes has been excellent though. Most lakes have a thick ice layer, and there is minimal slush. I did say “most” and “minimal” though. Whenever you are on ice keep your wits about you and be ready to deal with slush pockets, pressure ridges, and other potential hazards. Bring your ice picks, rope, spare clothes, and if at all possible, a partner to ski with.
Sharing the lakes with the skiers are the people ice fishing. With warmer temperatures and less snow on lakes, it is a pretty good winter for fishing. If you are driving to the lake, keep a couple of things in mind. One is that while there is less snow, there is enough now that even large pick ups will get bogged down and stuck on unplowed roads. Don’t take chances - if the road isn’t plowed, it means no one will be driving down it to rescue you. When you do park your vehicle, make sure that you don’t block the road. We’ve also had some “rogue plowing” going on. You are not allowed to plow Forest Service roads without a permit. Permits are free and can be obtained at the Gunflint or Tofte Ranger Stations, and help us keep track of the road system conditions.
If a road is plowed, it probably means a timber sale is going on. Watch for truck traffic near Mark, Pike, and Thompson Lakes in the the Gunflint District, and near White Pine and Outlaw Lakes in Tofte.
Starting January 25, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon will bring mushers and spectators into the woods as well. There will be road signs indicating race crossings, as well as for lots of pedestrians in some areas. And of course, there will be dogs as well - this event is a great reason to get out and see some wonderful canine athletes. Best of luck to all of them.
You can start reserving Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness entry permits for the summer on January 28th at Recreation.gov. Right now, if you go into the Boundary Waters, you still need a self-issued permit, available at the entry point, but it is not too soon to start planning for your summer trips.
Keep thinking snow, and enjoy the winter. Until next time, this is Steve Robertsen for the Superior National Forest Update.