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Superior National Forest Update: July 24

Hi.  I’m Ali Bickford, Information Specialist at the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Duluth, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of July 17th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
The Superior National Forest is roughly the size of the state of Connecticut, and the Supervisor’s Office, or SO, is its capital city.  We at the SO provide support and forest level direction to the five ranger districts.  In addition to administrators, there are biologists, archeologists, computer specialists, and public relations people all working for the Forest in Duluth to help our field going people in places like Tofte and Grand Marais, as well as Ely, Cook, and Aurora. So Next time you’re in Duluth, feel free to stop in and say hi, we would love to see you!
This should be a good weekend for outdoor recreation, so you may want to postpone that trip to Duluth for a rainier day.  There are some logging operations going on that you might run into during your travels, so watch out for log trucks near Harriet and Wilson Lakes as things wind down on those timber sales. But a crew just started by Hogback Lake this week, so there will still be some traffic on the east end of the Wanless Road and on Lake County 7.  Another crew is on the Dumbbell River Road and log trucks will be hauling there for at least the next week.  Those trucks will be heading west on the Wanless Road, toward Hwy. 1. 
There may be the odd log truck on the Grade and Sawbill Trail, as well.   Be aware that the Fourmile Grade between Richey Lake Road (FR 346) and Lake County #7 was closed this week to replace a large culvert at Wanless Creek.  The plan is to have that open for this weekend, but there is always the possibility of a delay.
Our midsummer is marked by two of what you can call “55 mile per hour flowers”.  These are plants you can identify from your car window when cruising past at 55.  You’ll see the broad white umbrellas of small flowers that belong to a cow parsnip, significantly taller than the other plants along the roadway.  This giant plant can get up to 8 feet high in one season.  It is a native species, but is often confused with a non-native invasive species called giant hogweed.  Giant hogweed is a relative of cow parsnip, but hogweed makes cow parsnip look small.  Hogweed can easily be taller than a house, but its main problem is that touching it causes an awful rash and blisters that can last for a year.  Luckily for us, it isn’t found here yet. Like many invasives, it is brought into an area by people on their travels.  You can help keep plants like hogweed from coming into our area by cleaning your shoes and recreation equipment before you travel back to the Northwoods.  By the way, cow parsnip can also cause a rash for some people, so if you need to clear it, cut it by hand, and use gloves don’t use a weed whip as they spray the juices around.
Our other 55 mile per hour plant is a lot friendlier.  The purple magenta flowers of fireweed are seen along many roadsides from now until the end of summer.  In fact, this plant counts down the summer with flowers starting at the bottom of the spike, and progressing upward each week.  When the flowers reach the top, summer is over.  The plant is called fireweed because it grows in openings after a fire, but it is just as happy to grow in openings caused by roads. 
Also in those openings, you will find ripe blueberries.  That means that you will also find lots of cars parked along the sides of the roads where people are blueberry picking.  If you are parking, try to find a wider spot in the road so you don’t block the roadway, and pull off as far as you safely can.  You may want to have a passenger get out and help spot the edge of the roadway though, many of our roads have an abrupt drop off, and you want to avoid accidently parking in the ditch.
Many of our fire crews have been out west helping with wildfires in Washington and California.  This is possible because so far, this has been a year with low fire danger on the Forest.  Remember that even in low danger times, you need to make sure any fire you light is out when you leave it.  Don’t decide that it is ok to just let a campfire burn out just because it isn’t a high fire danger day - always put your fires out.
With that though, have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Ali Bickford with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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