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Superior National Forest Update: September 18

Hi.  I’m Tammy Cefalu, wilderness ranger in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update  -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts. Here’s what’s going on in the Forest for the week of September 18th:
Fall continues to progress, in spite of the recent hot weather.  Birches and aspen along the shore are fading from a summery green to yellow green to full-out yellow in some cases.  There’s an occasional maple turning red, and several more as you head out over the hill into the Forest.  The signs are now out marking the Fall Color Tour routes in Tofte, so be sure to check out some of the best fall colors on our favorite roads.  Please be careful of other people on those routes who may be driving slowly, or stopping to take pictures.  You can also get a virtual trip into the woods by heading for the Forest website and checking the weekly fall color reports, photos, and essays. 
September 12th marked the fourth anniversary of the Pagami Creek Fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Tofte.  Hot and dry conditions that year allowed the fire to progress to over 90,000 acres.  If you visit the Pagami area this fall, you’ll find many 2-to-4 foot jack pine growing as the forest renews itself.  You’ll also find black-backed woodpeckers who like the insects in burned trees, and moose enjoying the heavy growth of shrubs and plants in the open areas.  Fire is part of our forest ecosystem, and the Pagami area in Tofte and the Ham Lake fire area up the Gunflint Trail are two places to explore post-fire forest regeneration.
When you are out driving, you will encounter a busy series of logging operations that’ll have trucks hauling.  On the Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Forest Road 332 (a.k.a. Murmur Creek Road), the Caribou Trail, The Grade, the Bally Creek Road, Greenwood Road, Forest Road 141 (a.k.a. Firebox Road), Forest Road 309K (a.k.a. Sunfish Lake Road), Forest Road 325 (a.k.a. S. Brule River Road), the Lima Grade, and the Gunflint Trail.
On the Tofte end, there are two operations, near White Pine Lake and Finger Lake, which should be finishing soon.  But hauling can be expected on the east end of the Honeymoon Trail, down the Caribou Trail (CC4), and on the east side of the Timber/Frear Loop (FR 348) as well as on the Four Mile Grade and The Grade.  Full logging operations will be taking place near Sawbill Landing and Cold Spring Quarry, so log trucks will be traveling on the Wanless Road and the Sawbill Landing Road.  Some of the roads mentioned are narrow, winding, and full of washboard.  So please drive defensively! 
In addition to trucks, you should also be on the lookout for hunters, as the small game and archery deer hunting seasons begin on Saturday, the 19th.  You may see hunters’ vehicles pulled off to the side of roads.  If you’re hiking or running your dog, it is the time of year that wearing orange is fashionable for all (including pets).  If you’re hunting, make sure to park in a safe location, especially if you are on any of the roads that will be used by log trucks.  Remember that it is illegal to shoot from a roadway, over a roadway, or within 150 yards of any developed recreational site, such as a campground, dispersed campsite, trail, or portage.  You may want to check out any of the four freshly maintained Hunter Walking Trail areas.  Go to an office or our website for more information on these sites that are maintained for grouse habitat and hunting opportunities.  If you are engaged in hunting activities within the BWCAW, please be sure to obtain the proper wilderness permits.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Tammy Cefalu with the Superior National Forest Update.