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Superior National Forest Update



Contributor(s): 
USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update - February 16, 2018

National Forest Update – February 15, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, 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.  Even though it is midwinter, there’s a lot going on outside.

You may have been watching the Winter Olympics this past week, and while the Superior doesn’t have its own luge run, we can give you great skiing opportunities, thanks to the grooming efforts of our trail partners.  The Sugarbush Trail Association, which maintains the Sugarbush Ski Trails with trailheads at Britton Peak, Moose Fence, and Oberg Mountain, is hosting a candlelit event this Saturday, February 18th from 6 to 8.  You can ski, snowshoe, or hike on candlelit trails, then stop by the bonfire to warm up with cocoa and cookies.  That’s my idea of a Winter Olympic event:  bonfire with cocoa and cookies.  I could medal in that.  All this will take place at the Oberg Mountain parking lot, just up the Onion River Road north of Tofte.

Our other ski areas are looking good too, though the recent warm days may have caused some bare spots.  Skiers need to be aware of potential hazards with relatively low amounts of snow in some areas.

Fat tire biking isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but we’ve heard good reports from bikers using fat bike designated trails at Pincushion, Norpine, and Flathorn.  If biking, please be sure to stay on bike designated trails, and only bike when the snow is firm enough to support you. 

Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  But for now, the roads are in good shape, and on the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so no truck traffic.  There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and FR 152 C off the Lima Grade.  This week, and for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  Also, be cautious on the Firebox Road and FR152C since those routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

Another non-Olympic winter event takes place this weekend:  the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  You don’t even have to stir out of your house for this one.  Just grab your coffee, and watch your bird feeder for a little as 15 minutes, or as long as you want, and record your observations at birdcount.org.  This takes place from this Friday, February 16th through Monday, February 19th.  This a great example of citizen science in action.  The data from thousands of observers across the world gives ornithologists a snapshot of birds all over.  Last year, more than 160,000 people participated!  Go to birdcount.org for details.

So, enjoy the Olympics, but take some time out to get away from the TV and do your own version of winter sport.  It can be skiing, or snowshoeing, or counting birds, or just taking in a bonfire with a cup of cocoa.  Enjoy the winter!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - February 2, 2018

Superior National Forest Update – February 2, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that might affect your visit to the Superior during the next two weeks. 

February 2nd is, of course, Groundhog Day.  Up here in the north woods, the chances of seeing a groundhog, let alone his shadow, on February 2nd, are pretty remote.  Groundhogs are ground dwelling relatives of squirrels, and have an extremely large range stretching from Alaska all the way down to northern Alabama.  They aren’t terribly common in northern Minnesota compared to other parts of the state.  This isn’t because of our weather, it is because in many places the soil here is too shallow to be able to dig a nice tunnel system.   A true hibernator, a groundhog’s burrow has get below the frost line so the animal won’t freeze during the winter months while asleep.  Their burrows are usually a single long tunnel, up to 45 feet long, with a main entrance on one end, and an emergency exit on the other.  There are short side galleries off the main tunnel for sleeping and food storage.  This time of year, you’ll find the groundhog curled up in a hibernation chamber with a slowed heart rate and a body temperature equal to that of the surrounding environment.  It’s been found that hibernators usually rouse a few times during the winter, but sometimes only to the point of normal sleep.  One current theory is that they actually need to do this in order to dream.  Occasionally, a groundhog will rouse enough to eat and possibly poke their nose out of the burrow in midwinter, but I don’t think they really care about their shadow at all.

If you poke your nose out of your warm house and head out into the woods, you’ll find that there are no active timber sales on the Tofte District right now.  On the Gunflint logging trucks are only expected on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road (dual-use snowmobile trail), Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Forest Road 152C off the Lima Grade.  Be particularly cautious on the Firebox Road and 152C because these routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

If it is too cold to go out though, you might be spending some time planning for next summer.  You are now able to make reservations for summer time Boundary Waters entry permits online at Recreation.gov.  If the Boundary Waters isn’t for you, you can also currently make summer reservations for many of the National Forest campgrounds on the same website. 

Speaking of websites, we’ve added a link on our Special Places page to an interactive map of the North Shore Scenic Drive.  We may drive Highway 61 daily, but this map gives others a great look at our North Shore.  Check it out, and send it off to people living in other places so they will be jealous.  Just don’t mention the subzero weather we’re having right now. 

That cold weather does make for excellent star gazing at night.  Cold air is usually more stable than warm air, and visibility is great for celestial objects.  The recent lunar eclipse on the morning of January 31st was a beautiful event that hopefully a lot of people were able to see.  If you were up before dawn to see that, you might also have noticed that Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are all in the eastern sky before sun up.  It’s a great time to look for these planets if you walk the dog in the morning.

Whether walking the dog, driving Highway 61, or heading into the woods, enjoy the Forest.  Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update December 22, 2017

National Forest Update – December 21, 2017.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with a late December edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest for the end of 2017.

This is the astronomical turning point of the season, the winter solstice.  December 21st was our shortest day and longest night of the year, with a day length of only 8 hours and 32 minutes in Duluth.  That gives you only 16 minutes of day on either side of your eight hour working day, so if it seems like you can’t get anything done, you are probably right.  The winter solstice day is somewhere around six and a half hours shorter than the longest day of the year in June.  But, from here on, we start adding minutes to the day, slowly at first, with the rate peaking at the spring equinox.  It may not seem like it, but spring is on its way.

Spring may be ahead, but winter actually caused our roads to improve this last week.  Ice was covered by a good layer of snow which provides some traction.  Be wary though, people have gotten stuck in parking lots where the snow layer was plowed back down to the ice.  There’s now enough snow that unplowed roads are mostly impassable, and are being used by snowmobiles.  Snowmobiles are allowed on unplowed roads, as well as in the general forest if there is over four inches of snow cover.  Other than snowmobiles, there isn’t much activity out there on the roadways.  There are no active timber operations on the Tofte District, and on Gunflint there will be trucks only on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14. 

Of course, there’s a lot of opportunity for other activities off the roads.  Ski trails are being groomed in most areas, though under heavy tree cover, there still are some patches with only light snow.  We are designating a few trails for fat tire bikes this year; check at our office or on the web for exact locations. 

While driving to a trail, keep an eye peeled for owls.  This year has seen a large irruption of owls where they move south out of Canada during the winter.  Particularly visible are snowy and great gray owls.  Snowy owls are possibly the owl most likely to be seen hunting during the day.  They spend summers in the arctic where there isn’t a lot of night, so they have to be good daylight hunters.  These beautiful white birds are often spotted near open areas, so look for them where there is a field or wet meadow.  Great gray owls are, as the name implies, very large and gray.  They have a hunting technique of swooping low over openings, which unfortunately brings them into contact with cars as they swoop over the road.  A visitor recently brought in a great gray who was found on the road, apparently unable to fly.  Our district offices are not equipped for animal care, and we usually refer people to licensed wildlife rehab people and facilities in the area.  This time, however, one of our biologists was on hand to examine the bird.  He is a bird bander, and knows how to handle owls in a way that is both safe for the bird and the person.  A great gray has talons that are over an inch long, with plenty of strength to drive them right into your hand, so they are a bird that must be treated with respect.  This particular bird was not happy at being in a box, but calmed down quickly once it was taken out.  It turned out that the bird was uninjured and probably had just been stunned and confused after being caught in the slipstream of a truck.  She was released back into the woods, away from the highway, gliding away on silent wings.

Enjoy your holiday season and our Minnesota winter.  Until next time, actually next year, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update December 8, 2017

National Forest Update – December 7, 2017.

Hi.  I am Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest in December.

What has been up until the last couple of days has been the temperature, followed by this cold snap into winter.  Our early snow followed by unseasonable warmth resulted in some truly awful forest roads, even by Minnesota standards.  Compacted heavy snow mixed with rain and subfreezing nights made ice rinks out of the Forest roadways.  The conditions were bad enough that the Forest took the step of closing some sections of roadway to the general public for safety purposes.  It only took a minute of travel on the Four Mile Grade between the Sawbill trail and County Road 7 to make the decision to turn around… and that itself was pretty hard.  Our colder temperatures are actually helping make the road less slick, and the closed sections should be open in the near future.  People planning on visiting the Forest should visit our website first and look for Alerts, which are located in the right sidebar.  Current road closures will be posted there.  Even if you are not planning on using the Four Mile Grade, you should be aware that all the roads are icy and people should be very cautious.

Be particularly cautious if you are in an area with active timber hauling.  Gunflint hauling is taking place on Firebox Road (dual use with snowmobile trail), Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14.  On the Tofte District, hauling is on the Pancore Road, Sawbill Trail, 4 Mile Grade, Lake County 7, and the Trappers Lake Road.

What would make someone venture out into the woods this time of year you ask?  Holiday greenery, that’s what!  Permits to cut a Christmas tree are only $5 at Forest Service offices, or free to fourth graders participating in the Every-Kid-In-A-Park program.  Fourth graders interested need to first enroll in the program and get a voucher online at everykidinapark.gov.  The Every-Kid-In-A-Park program will give free admission to fourth graders and their families to national parks across the country.  Because the Superior National Forest doesn’t have an admission fee and isn’t a park, you get a free tree instead.  So load up the kids, a sled, the dog, and some hot chocolate and don’t forget enough rope to tie the tree on securely, we don’t want it bouncing down the highway. 

While you are out there, you can also get a permit to harvest balsam boughs for wreaths.  We actually recommend balsam for Christmas trees as well, the needles stay on the tree longer than spruce, and they smell better.  It should be noted that you are not allowed to take either white pine or cedar for a Christmas tree.  Tree identification sheets are available at our offices and online, in addition to more specific instructions on how and where to harvest a tree. 

Cross country ski trails have been in pretty sketchy condition this season so far.  Our website has links to all the organizations which groom the trails, so you can find out where the best snow is.  Fat tire bikes have become a great new way for people to get outside in the winter.  Because of this, we are opening a few sites to fat tire biking this year.  We ask bikers to make sure that the surface is firm enough to not leave big ruts behind you, and stay off the section of the trail tracked for skiing.  As a reminder, bikes are prohibited on ski trails other than what are designated.  Fat bike trails can be found in the Pincushion Mt ski area, the connecting trail between Lutsen Mt Road and the Norpine Trail system, and at the Flathorn Gegoka ski area.  For more trail information, go to the Visit Cook County website.

If ice skating is your thing, there has been spectacular skating this season on some of the smaller lakes.   They froze completely smooth and are snow free.  You have a huge surface to play on and you can’t beat the view.  Watch out though, while we have too much ice on the roads, we really could use more ice on the lakes.  Some larger lakes are still open in the middle, and every lake should be treated with caution right now, just be careful.

Whether skating, skiing, biking, or driving, have a great time in the Forest - and don’t forget the hot chocolate when you get home!  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm for the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update November 24, 2017

National Forest Update – November 23, 2017.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  With the change of season, we’re changing this program to air only every other week until spring.  Here’s what’s happening these next two weeks.

With the advent of winter comes winter driving.  With temperatures right around freezing, we can have some hazardous icy conditions out on the roads.  You might be in a clear area where the warm sun keeps the road above freezing, then go over a hill or hit a shady patch, and suddenly the road is covered in ice, or just hit that time of day when the day’s puddles become the night’s ice rink.  Watch out, and leave plenty of following distance between you and the car ahead.

There are plenty of good reasons to get out though, despite the possible ice.  One is that it is again the season for holiday greenery!  Permits for Christmas trees are only five dollars, and they smell so much better than the artificial variety.  Balsam firs make for fragrant long lasting Christmas trees, and in many places their removal might actually help the forest ecosystem.  Know your trees though, it is illegal to cut white pine or cedar with a Christmas tree permit, and while it is legal to cut a spruce, they lose their needles in a hurry.  If you have a child in fourth grade, they are eligible this year for a free permit through the “Every Kid In A Park” program.  Visit “Every Kid In A Park” online and register - full details and links can be found on the Superior’s website. You may also wish to harvest balsam boughs for making wreaths.  A personal use permit for making up to five wreaths is available for $20.  Princess pine, a small pine tree shaped club moss often used to decorate wreaths, may not be harvested on the Superior.

For full details on harvesting balsam boughs or Christmas trees, refer to our Holiday Greenery flyer, or our Holiday Greenery web page.   You’ll find lots of identification info as well as the rules and guidelines on harvesting.

If you’ve eaten too much turkey, and would like to start on your New Year’s resolution to exercise ahead of time, you’ll be interested to know that the Superior National Forest, in partnership with local trail partners, has decided to open limited sections of the trails at the Norpine and Flathorn/ Gegoka Trail Systems to dual use of fat tire biking and cross country skiing.  These sections of trail, in addition to single track bike trails at Pincushion, are now open to fat tire cyclists.  Visitors who are interested in fat tire biking opportunities on the Norpine Ski Trail System or at Pincushion should check the Visit Cook County website for current trail conditions and opportunities.  Cyclists who are interested in exploring the trails at Flathorn/ Gegoka should contact National Forest Lodge in Isabella for trail conditions and information.  Links to both websites can be found in the Current Conditions box for those trails on our website.

As a reminder, this dual use is being authorized in partnership with area ski and cycling associations and it is our hope that the use of fat tire bikes will not detract from the skiing experience.  Cyclists are reminded that bikers should always yield to skiers and they should only use the portions of trail which are not tracked for skiing.

Speaking of dual use, logging truck traffic is lighter this week.  Winter hauling on Gunflint is taking place on the following roads: Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, and the Gunflint Trail.   Tofte logging traffic will be on the Pancore Road, Sawbill Trail, the 4 Mile Grade, Trappers Lake Road, Temperance River Road, and the Wanless Road.  Remember that if a small road looks plowed, there is a good chance it is being used to haul on. 

Whether you hit the trails on a fat tire bike, or go off in search of the perfect tree for your living room, get out and enjoy our winter.  It beats sitting at home waiting for spring, because it will be a long wait!  Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update November 10, 2017

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  With the change of season, we’re changing this program to air only every other week until spring.  Here’s what’s happening these next two weeks.

Winter is definitely here, especially inland, up over the hill.  Snow may have melted along the shore, but you don’t have to get too far from Lake Superior until you hit the white stuff.  While the trails aren’t groomed, people have already been skiing at Pincushion.  This is the time of year though that snowmobiles can really do some damage to that base layer of snow which gives us good trails all winter.  On trails, take it easy so you don’t dig through the snow to the ground, or wait until trails are packed by a groomer.  Cross country snowmobile travel isn’t allowed until there is four inches or more of snow on the ground, and snowmobiles are never allowed on plowed roads. 

Lakes are beginning to ice in, but none of them are really safe to be on yet.  Most large lakes are still open, but at least Sawbill is iced over.  Some roads are iced over too - it’s time to remember all you forgot about winter driving over the past several months.  Slow down, be cautious, and give yourself time to relearn how your vehicle handles and brakes on snow and ice.  There are fewer people out on the roads in the winter, so leave an itinerary of where you are going with someone.  That way, if you do run off the road, someone will eventually come looking for you.
 
Truck traffic is using the same roadways as last week.  Hauling on Gunflint is taking place on the following roads: Firebox, Blueberry, Greenwood, Shoe Lake, South Brule, Lima Grade, Ball Club, Devil Track, Forest Road 1385 and the Gunflint Trail.  Tofte logging traffic will be on the Pancore, Sawbill Trail, Dumbbell River Road, Wanless Road, Lake County 7 and 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Perent Lake Road, Trappers Lake Road, Temperance River Road, and the Six Hundred Road. 

There are plenty of hunters out in the woods during deer season.  Whether or not you are hunting, stay safe and wear orange when you are in the woods.  You and your pet!  Respect no trespassing signs on private land, and remember that some private roads may be closed to motor use, even if they cross public land.  Use your Motor Vehicle Use Map to find out what roads are open to what use in the winter.  If you don’t like paper, but love technology, you can download these maps and use an app that shows your exact location on the map.  Remember, take those deer stands down after season, and no permanent stands are to be left on National Forest lands.

Along with our activities, our birds are shifting to winter.  Flocks of snow buntings along the roadsides create beautiful displays of black and white wings when they take off, but are unfortunately easy to hit with vehicles.  There are still lots of migrating hawks, particularly rough legged hawks, which can be seen perched by the side of Highway 61.  Redpolls and pine grosbeaks are back for winter at feeders, but since there are still a few bears up and about, you should still be taking in those feeders at night.

We are looking for some citizen science input on lynx.  Winter snow makes these secretive cats easier to find because of their tracks.  If you find lynx tracks, take a picture with your phone.  Put a glove or coin or something else near the track in the photo to show how large it is.  If your phone notes the GPS coordinates with the photo, that’s great, otherwise note the area you where you found tracks, and let us know. 

It is time to quit complaining about the end of fall and start enjoying our Minnesota winter.   Those last minute fall chores that never happened because of the snowfall, well, you’ll just have to figure them out next spring. Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update October 13

National Forest Update – October 12, 2017.
Hi.  I’m Cathy Peterson, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of October 13th.

With frost on the ground, it is not only time to find the ice scraper you stored in the garage all summer, but it is time for us to shut down the water supply at the fee campgrounds before the pipes freeze.  Since there are many campgrounds on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, it usually takes us a week or so to shut them all off.  We will try to update our website on which campgrounds will have water, but just to be safe, plan on bringing water with you if you are camping.  Camping fees will still be collected if the water system is still on, but if the system is shut down, there will be no fee for camping.  It is also the end of garbage service at the campgrounds, so plan to pack out your garbage.  If the dumpster is locked, please don’t pile garbage bags next to it for the bears to get into.  The locked dumpster just means that garbage service won’t be available until next spring and you will have to bring your garbage home for disposal.

If you do head out to the campground, you’ll find that this is a pretty good time of year for camping.  You have to make sure to pack warm enough gear to deal with cold nights, but there are no mosquitoes, and the early sunsets mean you don’t have to stay up late to enjoy the starlit skies and a campfire.  For Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips, remember to fill out a self-issued permit at the entry point for both day use and overnight trips.

You could smell smoke in the air which is not from a campfire in a few places.  Our fire crew will be conducting pile burning in several areas on the Forest over the next two weeks.  These burn piles are being attended to and are checked daily until they are out, please don’t disturb them. 

The Forest is a busy place in the fall.  There are still leaf watchers cruising the forest, though many of the leaves are now down.  Grouse hunting continues, so wear orange whether you are hunting or not.  We are also seeing lots of ATV use right now.  Our Motor Vehicle Use Map is available at all Forest Service offices as well as online and this map is the authority on which roads and trails are available for ATV use.  Signs on the ground may be incorrect; when they don’t agree with the map, assume the map is correct.  With our rainy fall, trails and roads can be soft.  ATVs should make sure to follow Tread Lightly guidelines and avoid creating ruts, holes, or otherwise digging up the surface of the trail or road.

There is also a lot of logging traffic out there.  Be careful and watch for logging trucks if you are on an ATV, pick up, or car.   On the Gunflint District, expect hauling on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, and CC14.  On the Tofte District, look for trucks on the Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Dumbell River Road, the Wanless Road, Lake County 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, the Perent Lake Road, the Trappers Lake Road, and the road south of Windy Lake.  Also over the next two weeks, there will be trucks hauling gravel along Forest Road 170, the Grade, west of the Sawbill Trail as crews work to resurface 3.6 miles of the road. 

However you decide to enjoy the fall - camping, canoeing, hunting, driving, or hiking - it’s time to get outside and take advantage of the last few weeks before the snow flies.  Until next time, this has been Cathy Peterson with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update October 6

National Forest Update – October 5, 2017.
Hi.  I’m Debbi Lamusga, information receptionist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of October 5th.
This is usually our peak time for fall colors, and for fall color photographers.  There are more people than leaves out there right now, so watch out on every corner.  As far as the leaves are concerned, the maples were hitting peak when we had all the rain and wind this past week, and they didn’t last too well.  Our aspen and birch though are right now at the top of their game, and the woods are a beautiful contrast of yellow hardwoods and dark green conifers.  If you are out in the woods for colors, make sure you are colored orange so hunters can see you.  If you’re hunting, be extra careful as there are more people than usual prowling the back roads and trails.  Whether you are driving for hunting or in search of the perfect fall photos, you should know that in addition to knocking down leaves, the heavy rains made some good sized ruts in some of our roads, particularly at the edges.  These can be a bad surprise when you come over the hill and find deep washouts on your side of the road and another vehicle on the other side.  Be prepared that you may have to slow down and stop over any hill or around any corner.
 And finally, if you just can’t get out in the woods this fall, or would like to share the fall colors with your friends in Florida, friend the Superior National Forest on Facebook for our fall color blog and links to photos of the Superior in her autumn splendor.
It’s the season for a little autumn camping and fishing.  Our fee campgrounds will continue to have water available through October 20th, so it is not too late to have a few more nights in a tent.  Docks will start to come in in mid-October, but should all still be in position this next week.  We are starting to see some frost and freeze advisories, so if you do go camping, pack the heavy sleeping bag and the extra jacket even if it seems plenty warm in the sun of the afternoon.  Stay bear aware too this time of year.  Our local bruins are still up and very active this time of year as they try to pack on a few more pounds before settling in for the winter, so when camping be sure to secure all your food and garbage in a bear secure manner.
There is some logging activity this week with hauling being done.  For the most part, trucks will be in the same locations as last week.  On Gunflint, trucks are using Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, and Ball Club Road.  On the Tofte District, look for trucks on the Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Dumbell River Road, the Wanless Road, Lake County 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, the Perent Lake Road, and the Trappers Lake Road.   New this week will be harvest activity on the west side of the Timber Frear area, with trucks using the road south of Windy Lake.
Enjoy our second yellow peak of fall, and maybe have a campfire complete with hot chocolate or hot cider, neither of which seems right in the summer but both seem so right in the fall.  Until next week, this has been Debbi Lamusga with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, administration assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 21st.

This week marks the official start to fall – the autumnal equinox.  From here on in, days will be shorter than nights.  These days around the equinox are also when day length changes the fastest, so if it seems like today was a lot shorter than yesterday, you are right.  We are losing about three minutes of daylight every day right now.  By the end of the month, our days will be shorter by about half an hour than they are now.

On the plus side, that gives us some really wonderful chances to see the night sky.  People are becoming more interested in dark skies and controlling light pollution.  We are lucky to have some of the darkest skies around up here and some of the clearest air as well.  Those two factors combined allow us to see the Milky Way plainly every clear night, and enjoy the aurora when it happens.  Dark skies and clear air are two things that you can help control.  Minimize yard lighting, and use “on/off” or motion control switches instead of having lights that stay on from sunset to sundown.  Use shades on outdoor lights, and point them down instead of into the air.  If you use lighting on outdoor advertising, point the lamps down at the sign instead of up at the sign.  Clear air of course corresponds to clean air, so any action you can take to reduce pollution will help with our starry skies.  This is a good time of year to check furnaces to make sure they are operating efficiently and not polluting.  If you heat with wood, tend your fire so that it is burning well and with minimal smoke.

While astronomy tells us that it is just the start of fall, the forest tells us that it has been fall for a couple of weeks now.  Fall colors are progressing rapidly across the forest, but may not last long as there is a lot of rain and wind in the forecast.  There are a lot of drivers out right now, so watch out for vehicles and make sure you are driving and parking in a safe and respectful manner.  Grouse season has begun, so whether or not you are hunting, you need to be sporting your orange.  I’ve heard it’s the new black.  If you are hunting, be extra aware of firearm safety and what is down range as there are plenty of other people out in the woods.  Remember, it is against the law to discharge a firearm from a vehicle, across a road, or within 150 yards of a recreation site, building, campsite, or residence.  There are several sets of hunter walking trails on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts where we maintain grouse habitat.  For locations and trail maps, see our website under Hunting, or visit a district office. 

Fall logging continues as well.  On the Gunflint District, look out for trucks on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and Bally Creek Road.  On the Tofte District there will be hauling on Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Clara Lake Rd, and the Caribou Trail.

Whether you are hunting for grouse, fall colors, or the Milky Way, fall is a great season to get outside.  Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this is Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: September 15

Hi. I’m Cathy Jasperson, customer service representative at the Tofte office with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 14.

As you head out into the Forest this coming week, you may encounter a lot of traffic. A “lot of traffic” here isn’t exactly a “Chicago rush hour,” but it will be enough that you’ll have to keep your eyes open and be ready for other vehicles on the road. One source of traffic will be the fall color season. Colors are really ramping up right now, and the Forest Service is getting a lot of inquiries on when the peak of fall color will be. This coming weekend should be a pretty good one for fall color in some areas, although there are plenty of other areas which still are hanging on to summer. Differences are due to variations in microclimate where even the south side of a hill can have a different climate than the north side. The differences are also due to the individual tree: Stressed trees usually change color sooner than completely healthy trees. Does that mean you should worry about the birch in your yard if it turns early? Not necessarily, but you may want to investigate what could be stressing it and see if there is something you could do. Overall, this should be a good year for fall colors. Fall colors could be the silver lining of our somewhat cloudy and rainy summer. If you are driving looking at colors, please respect other drivers and let them pass if they want, and park where it is safe to do so. 

The other source of traffic will be some logging trucks. There are several active sales right now, and there are many roads which will be hosting truck traffic. On the Gunflint District, look out for trucks on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and Bally Creek Road. On the Tofte District there will be hauling on Dumbbell River Road, Wanless Road, Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Clara Lake Road, and the Caribou Trail.

Added to that, there also may be vehicles from hunters parked along the roads. The bear season is active right now, and small game and grouse seasons both start on September 16. If you plan on hiking in the woods, this is the time to start wearing orange. 

All that makes it sound like a very busy season, which it is in some regards. This is the time of year though that we see use drop in the Boundary Waters and on other lakes. Boaters and canoeists need to be aware that you are less likely see other people, and you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient in an emergency. Carry a spare prop and paddles in your boat, and bring supplies enough to last a night, just in case. Make sure your trailer has a spare tire and that it is functional, and that you have the right size wrench along to put it on. Let people know where you are going and when you will return. If you’re canoe camping, make sure you are equipped for spending a day sitting out storms or wind. We may not get hurricanes up here, but fall winds can certainly bring conditions not suitable for canoeing.

Despite all those warnings and traffic, this is one of the best times to get out and enjoy the Forest. Bugs are low, temperatures are nice, and the scenery can be spectacular. 

Have a great week in the woods, and until next week, this has been Cathy Jasperson with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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