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Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with the National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the second half of January, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
There has been a lot of headway made in clearing roads and trail systems of the trees that fell during our ‘snow down’ event.  A three day effort cleared the Eagle Mountain trail, and the Banadad Trail is about half cleared, up to the yurt on the northern road.  But, trees continue to fall under the weight of snow which just doesn’t seem to be falling off the branches.  Even on routes which have already been cleared, you may find these “delayed” trees blocking your way.  In addition, roads and trails not open in the winter have not been cleared, so there will be more to do in the spring when they become accessible.    Travel safely.
If your reason for travel is to reach a lake for ice fishing, be sure to check the ice thickness.  The Boreal website has a good updated list of ice depth on many lakes, and it is widely variable.  There are only 3 in. of ice on some lakes, which is not safe for even foot travel.  The DNR recommends at least 4 in. of ice for foot travel, and 5 inches for a snowmobile.  If you do venture onto the ice, be prepared with ice picks to haul yourself out and a change of clothing you can leave on shore.  Better still, bring a friend with you.
You may be waiting for summer before you venture on to the lake.  This is the time of year to start planning Boundary Waters expeditions.  Reservations for entry points start on January 27th, so be sure to put that on your calendar.
Another date to put on the calendar is this next Monday.  It is Martin Luther King Day, and in his honor, government offices, including ours, will be closed.  It is a good day to reflect on how far our country has come in equal rights, and how much farther we still need to go.
One of the ongoing jobs of our biologists has been to monitor lynx populations.  We are learning more about this wild cat every year through radio collaring, scat collecting, and citizen observations.  If you see a lynx, or verifiable tracks, call or stop in at a Forest Service office and report the location to the biologist team.  We’d like to know.  If you have your camera or cell phone with, snap a picture too.  If you’re photographing tracks, put a coin or a ruler or your foot in the picture so the size can be estimated.
As for tracks being left by trucks, there is a little less log hauling on the Tofte District this week.  Forest users may see log trucks on The Grade (FR 170), the Sawbill Trail (CC2), the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369), and the west end of the Wanless Road (FR 172).    On the Gunflint side of things, log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Pine Mountain Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade.  Log trucks of course use Highway 61 as well, and I was reminded yesterday by a passing truck that I really need to check my washer fluid more often.
Whether you are skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, or just going for a drive in the woods, we hope you get out and enjoy your national forest during the next week.  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.