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Superior National Forest Update - April 13, 2018

National Forest Update – April 13, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Michael Crotteau, district ranger on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that may affect your visit to the Superior.  It is a Friday the 13th edition, and there may be more April snow on the way, but we’ll try to help you get through the next two weeks at least.  Hopefully, the next time we talk to you, there will be blue skies, greening grass, and short sleeves - but it is northern Minnesota, so don’t count on it.

Road conditions continue to vary mile by mile and hour by hour.  Shady spots where the ground is still frozen are solid and easy to travel, but low lying areas in the sun may not be up to holding the weight of large heavy vehicles.  With this in mind, there are weight restrictions in place for gravel surfaced Forest and county roads, but be alert for soft spots and washouts even if your rig is well below the weight limits. 

You should also be alert for deer.  If you have been out driving at all, you are probably well aware that this is the season that deer are on the roads.  Grassy berms along Highway 61 and other roads provide some of the earliest grazing opportunities, and deer seem to all agree that the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  You should never text while driving, but this is a good time to try to minimize all distractions and really watch for animals in and alongside the road.  As you watch while one deer crosses, don’t forget about all of its friends who are likely to cross right afterward.  It only costs you a few seconds to really slow down or even stop and wait to make sure the whole herd is across.  Of course, it’s not only deer you have to watch for, it is all the scavengers feeding on the deer that didn’t make it to the other side of the road.  When your car scares birds off a dead deer, the crows, ravens, and gulls can usually get enough altitude to make it over the roadway, but startled eagles (and turkey vultures) are often only at windshield height as they cross. (in fact, I saw a turkey vulture earlier this week between Tofte and Grand Marais – a sign that spring is indeed here as they are returning to their summer breeding grounds from their winter vacation homes in the southern and southeastern US).  Other than when they are flying across in front of you, it is a great time of year to watch our eagles.  Most eagles should be into laying and incubating eggs, but you can still see some carrying sticks around and doing courtship flights where the pair lock talons in flight.  For some great close up views, visit the Minnesota DNR’s bald eagle cam on the web.  Or, of course, you could be a pitcher at a Twins game….

Because of soft roads, there is very little logging activity right now.  Trucks may be found on the Trappers Lake Road in the Tofte District, and on the Greenwood and Firebox Roads on the Gunflint.  Otherwise, things are waiting until the roads firm up again in summer.

With snow and damp, it may seem strange to think about fire, but that’s just what is on the minds of our fire crews at Tofte and Gunflint.  The fire weather outlook calls for near normal temperatures and precipitation through June, which means the prediction for the spring fire season is that most days would only have the potential for small fires, but there may be a day here and there with the potential for larger fires.  Either way, a large number of our wildfires are started by people, so as the woods dry up in the spring, it is time to get your Smokey on and be careful with fire.  You can actually start this now by getting acquainted with the Firewise program and doing some yard work to make your yard area surrounding your home Firewise.

When writing these updates, we ask for input from everyone working at the Forest Service locally.  The best response we received this week was a terse two-word reply:  “Still winter”.  Hopefully, by the time of our next update in two weeks, that won’t be the case, and we will be undeniably moving into spring.  In the meantime, take the time to visit the Forest and enjoy the changing seasons. 

Until next time, this has been Michael Crotteau with the National Forest Update.
 

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