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Superior National Forest Update January 5, 2018

National Forest Update – January 4, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Wendy McCartney, fuels technician, with the first National Forest Update of the year.  The Update is the Superior National Forest’s way to keep you informed on things affecting recreation on the National Forest - road conditions, special events, or news in the natural world.  For a frigid week in the middle of winter, there’s actually a lot going on out there right now.

There’s no doubt that it’s been cold.  On paved well-traveled roads, black ice can be a problem as the water in car exhaust freezes to the cold asphalt and creates a thin layer of glare ice.  Watch out for this on Highway 61, particularly in areas where the road is shaded during most of the day and on bridge decks.  In the Forest though, on our less traveled roads, the cold and snow has actually improved conditions in some areas.  Soft roadways are not a problem right now.  Earlier in the season, we had to close some roads temporarily due to extreme ice conditions, but there has now been enough snow on top of the ice to create a layer with some traction.  This is not to say that you should be tearing down the roads at high speed - there are still plenty of slick spots especially in places where the snow cover has worn through back to the ice.

You won’t be encountering many logging trucks this week.  There’s very little hauling going on right now.  On the Gunflint District, trucks are hauling on the Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County14.  People need to pay particular attention on the Firebox Road as it is dual use with a snowmobile trail.  There’s no scheduled activity on the Tofte District.

This weekend, you may encounter some different kind of traffic.  There are two race events going on January 6th and 7th.  On the 6th, the Norpine Fat Bike Classic is happening on the Massie - Hall Ski Trails and their connector trails.  It is a 24 mile race from the Superior National Golf Course almost to Cascade Lodge and back.  Skiers should be aware of bikers on the trail.  Usually bikers are encouraged to yield to skiers, but this weekend, skiers should have some sympathy for racers and let them roll.  Most of the route is actually groomed for dual use ski and bike this winter, so there should be ample space for both activities. 

The other race is the 100 mile Gunflint Mail Run Dog Sled Race.  This event starts at Trail Center on the Gunflint and runs on trails roughly parallel to the road up to Trails End and back.  The route crosses the road several times, creating plenty of spots for spectators to watch the dog teams.  Drivers on the road need to watch for parked vehicles and pedestrians and follow directions from volunteers at trail crossings.  If you are snowmobiling, be aware that dog teams will be on the snowmobile trail between County 92 and the Blankenburg Pit between 8 am Saturday and 3 am Sunday morning.  Be extra cautious if riding this section.

There’s some wildlife activity out there too.  The annual Christmas Bird Count in Isabella was possibly the coldest one on record.  There were low numbers of finches, redpolls, and pine siskins, but these birds congregate where there is a good cone crop and they were probably just somewhere else this year.  Some birds are actually starting to think spring.  Courtship is starting in our early nesting eagles and owls who could well be sitting on eggs by the end of the month.  And, there are some chickadees starting to sing their spring dee-dee song as our days start to lengthen.

But for now, bundle up, and make sure you’ve got a bucket of winter safety gear in the vehicle.  Enjoy our Minnesota winter and our snowy forest.  Until next time, this has been Wendy McCartney with the National Forest Update.
 
 

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