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Superior National Forest Update

USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.

What's On:

Superior National Forest Update: May 20

Hi. I’m Cathy Peterson, business management on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 20th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

 It’s spring, and there are a lot of things happening outside. Hummingbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks have made their way back to the north country. While the grosbeaks can find seeds fairly easily this time of year, flowers are a bit harder to find. If you have a hummingbird feeder, now’s the time to fill it. A simple solution of four parts water to one part sugar works as well or better than commercial nectar. You don’t need to boil the water, but if you do heat the water to dissolve the sugar, make sure it is back to room temperature before you put it out for the birds. Most feeders hold a lot of nectar, and it often goes bad before it runs out. Usually, you only need to fill feeders halfway. You should be replacing nectar every few days, or sooner if it gets cloudy.

Along with the birds returning, baby animals are starting to show up. Cute as they are, remember they are wild creatures. Don’t crowd even tame appearing animals, you don’t want them to get too used to humans. Watch out too for little ones on the road, they really don’t have any ‘car smarts’ yet.

There are some big ones on the road, too -- big in the sense of logging trucks. More weight restrictions have been lifted, and there is a fair amount of timber work going on right now. Log trucks are hauling on the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369), Dumbbell River Road (FR 174), the Wanless Road (FR 172), Lake County 705, Cook County 33 (the Perent Lake Road), and The Grade (FR 170) in the Tofte District. On Gunflint, there will be heavy log truck traffic on the Greenwood and Shoe Lake roads during the next couple of weeks. Harvest is currently taking place off of Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Firebox Road, with operations scheduled to begin off of the Trestle Pine Road (FR1365) soon. With the dry weather, clouds of dust coming down the road means either a log truck or a Tasmanian Devil is approaching. Either way, you’ll need to pull over and give them room.

Most, if not all, of our docks will be in the water this weekend, which is great news as it is supposed to be fantastic weather. If, instead of boating, you are planning a hike, or are planning on going into the wilderness, be aware that footpaths in many places are still very brushy from the winter storms. Portage trails and latrine trails in the wilderness, and hiking trails both inside and outside the wilderness, all may take a bit more effort to hike. There will be fallen branches and brush across the trail in some places. We are working on clearing these trails, but it may be a couple of months before they are totally cleared.

As weather conditions allow, fire crews will be working on prescription burning. These preemptive actions clear out the fuels at ground level which could cause hazardous conditions in the event of a wildfire. Details can be found on our website and at our offices. The area where the burn is occurring will be marked with signs on the roadway.

May 27, next Friday, is the deadline for registering for the June 11 “Take a Kid Fishing” event. It is possible that we may be filling open spots after that date, but it would help with our planning to have registration done by next Friday. There is only a limited number of spots, so register early to make sure your child can come fishing with us. “Take a Kid Fishing” is open to children 5 through 12. Call the Gunflint Office at 387-1750 to register or for more information.

Try taking a kid fishing this weekend, too, or just go out yourself. It looks like a great weekend to get out on the water!

Until next week, this has been Cathy Peterson with the Superior National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, information receptionist, on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of May 6, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Things are really starting to pick up for spring.  Starting on May 1st, Forest Service offices have gone to their summer hours, 8 to 4:30, seven days a week.  That means that we have new summer seasonal staff like me starting, so stop in and say hi.  Part of the reason for the change of hours is the yearly start of the quota permit season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  From now until October, you will need an issued permit for overnight trips into the Boundary Waters, available at Forest Service offices or various cooperating business.  Day trip permitting doesn’t change.  Day trips will still need a self-issued permit, available at entry points or offices.
Lakes in the Boundary Waters, along with lakes everywhere else, are mostly open.  Some bays may still have ice, making some portages difficult to access, but even that should be breaking up soon.  Outside of the Boundary Waters, we are in the process of preparing campgrounds for the fee season, which will start around May 13th with the fishing opener.  Docks are next on the spring to-do list.  Most are sitting on shore at this point, but the boat ramps are usable as soon as the lake is open whether the dock is in or not.
Getting to the lake may actually be the hardest part.  Roads are still soft, and some have crumbling shoulders and potholes.  Many of the roads which were not plowed in the winter have downed trees across them from the heavy snow ‘snowdown’ event this past winter.  We are making progress opening up these roads, but it takes time, and there are many roads which are still impassable in sections.
The counties have partially lifted the spring weight restrictions on roads.  There are links to their websites from our Current Conditions webpage.  Forest Service roads still are under spring weight restrictions, but that will probably be changing in the next few weeks as things dry up.  Until then, there is still minimal truck traffic in the woods.
The drying out is also starting to affect fire danger.  This time between green up and snow melt can be dangerous.  It has been 9 years since May 2007 when the Ham Lake fire on the Gunflint Trail burned 76,000 acres and a number of homes and structures.  We don’t want a repeat of that, so please be careful with fire this spring.  Before you start a fire, check what restrictions are in force currently, and get a burning permit if required.
One of the least welcomed signs of spring is the emergence of ticks.  They are starting to be active and looking for meals.  The nymphs of the deer tick are very tiny and hard to spot, so the best thing to do is try to prevent getting any.  Put on repellent, and make a fashion statement by tucking your pants into your long white socks.  We know you’d rather wear sandals and shorts, but you really don’t want to get any of Minnesota’s tick borne diseases, and covering up is one of the best ways to prevent infection.
Despite their stingers, bees are much nicer than ticks, especially the fuzzy slow buzzing bumblebee.  There are 18 kinds of bumblebee in Minnesota, and citizen science is being used to keep track of them.  Not much is really understood about these pollinators, so on this Saturday May 7th, there will be a workshop 10 am to 4 pm at the Gunflint Ranger Station to learn to identify bumblebees and help create the Minnesota Bee Atlas.  There is a $20 registration fee, call our office for further details.
So, take the time and get out and enjoy this beee - utiful spring, and until next time, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: April 22

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For mid-April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Spring continues to arrive.  The ‘green line’ of opening tree buds is a little north of the Twin Cities, and is moving northward at about 15 miles a day.  That means that up here, it will still be a while before we see leaves on the trees.  But, the grass by the roadsides is starting to show some green, and all the deer are busy eating it.  And, by ‘all the deer’, I mean a lot of deer along the road!  The good news is that they are moving a little less often across the road since there is now green grass to be found on both sides.  Still, it remains the season to really watch for deer.  When you do see deer, you’ll notice that they are looking fairly shaggy as they are losing their heavy winter coats.  Some snowshoe hares are showing signs of springtime molting as well, but most are still in the white of winter.  Snow depth varies greatly with no snow along the shore, but there is still three feet in some locations inland. 
All that melting snow means that the gravel and dirt roads in the Forest are very soft and require some attention while you are driving.  You also have to beware of some really deep, suspension-eating, potholes on the paved roads.  That means that regardless of what road you are on, pay extra attention this time of year.  On the plus side, you shouldn’t have to watch out for logging trucks in the woods.  Spring road weight restrictions are still in force, and large trucks are not out on the forest roads.
In addition to potholes in the road, melting snow creates small spring ponds, known as vernal pools.  Frogs are beginning to call from these pools on warmer nights.  Both chorus frogs and spring peepers are beginning to sing.  Many birds have returned as well over the last two weeks, and a dawn chorus of bird song is ringing out in the woods.  Song sparrows, white throated sparrows, fox sparrows, purple finches, robins, and redwing blackbirds are all singing right now, with warblers yet to arrive.
Lakes are well on the way to melting.  Most lake ice at this point is not safe to travel on.  Even thick ice is now full of air pockets and is not as strong as it may look.  The southern part of the state has recorded some of the earliest ice out dates in history this spring, so don’t go by the calendar and assume the ice is safe because it always has been at this time of year.
Despite all this melting and wetness, we are in the spring fire season.  The dead remains of last year’s grasses and annual plants dry quickly into tinder in the warm sun, and green water-rich leaves have yet to appear.  Spring fires, like the 2007 Ham Lake Fire, can become huge, so be aware that you need a burning permit now, and you should pay attention to how dry the area around your fire is.  We are taking advantage of the spring fire season by conducting some prescribed burns when the weather permits.  This means that you may see signs warning of smoke and fire equipment ahead when you are out. 
You may also see a sign telling you about a visitor use survey ahead.  This is part of a national use survey to help us better serve visitors.  If you have time, please talk to the surveyor.  Usually they will conduct a short interview after you return to your car from your hike or bike ride about your experience in the Forest.  These interviews help to shape our management of recreation areas.
Get out and enjoy some of those recreation areas this spring, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: April 8

Hi. I’m Patty Johnson, fire management officer on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the beginning of April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.

Spring conditions continue to arrive across the forest, despite the setback of some April snow. Mice can no longer rely on hiding under snow cover, so the dinner table is set for hawks. Many species, including the harriers you can see along roads, are moving north as the snow retreats. Along with feeding, spring is a time for raptors to reform pair bonds and do some spring cleaning and remodeling on last year’s nest. Eagles were able to start this process earlier as they never left the area. Their favorite food, fish, was available through the winter this year in Lake Superior, and their second favorite food, road kill, was also in good supply along Highway 61.

Other animals are on the move as well. That roadkill supply is on the increase as deer are spending a lot of time walking across the roads. This is one of the prime times of the year for deer collisions, so watch out as you drive. Going along with this is the spring arrival of turkey vultures, just in time to help clean up all those deer carcasses. Smaller things are making appearances as well. On warm sunny days, insects are appearing in our air again, but luckily no mosquitoes yet. A worm was spotted wiggling on top of the snow, and was probably wishing that it hadn’t come out of its burrow yet. On the larger side of animal life, bears should be waking up. Though there’s been no reported sightings of bears at our offices, it is time to start taking in your bird feeders at night or they will become bear feeders.

The spring weight limits on roads are still in force, so there is very little truck traffic on forest roads. Though you don’t have to watch for trucks as much, you do need to pay attention to road conditions as they may vary considerably from one corner to the next. On gravel roads, soft shoulders and washouts are concerns, but on the paved roads we’ve had a lot of black ice in the mornings as the temperature shifts from above to below freezing. One roadway sign of spring is that the Cut Face Creek rest area is now open, and soon will be followed by the other rest stops along the highways.

Some spring burning restrictions have gone into effect in Lake and Cook Counties. Burn permits are now needed for both counties, so make sure to get one before you decide to burn that spring brush pile.

It is a great time of year to go exploring near thawing creeks and waterfalls where rushing water and ice make beautiful contrasts between moving and frozen water and between winter and summer. Watch for icy spots, soft roads, and suicidal deer, but do take the time to get outdoors and enjoy spring returning to the forest.

Until next time, this has been Patty Johnson with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: March 25

Hi.  I’m Mary Ann Atwood, administrative support assistant on the Gunflint Ranger District, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Gunflint and Tofte Districts of the Superior National Forest.
For late March and early April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Spring brings a variety of changes from natural to regulatory. 
In the natural world, birds are migrating.
According to the American Bird Conservancy, the Superior National Forest is one of 100 globally important bird areas, an ideal location for bird-watching!
While in the Duluth area you may hear the Konka-ree spring song of the red wing blackbird as well as a symphony of other spring migrating species.  Along the north shore…the warblers will soon be on their way…
Birds, including eagles, that winter in the northland, are busy laying eggs or caring for their hatchlings.  The Highway 61 eagle’s nest just south of Grand Marais was lost in a recent wind storm, however the eagles are busy rebuilding in the same area.
The DNR reports active bears near Hibbing raiding bird feeders.  Might be a good time to quit feeding, or take your feeders inside at night unless you want to provide breakfast for a newly-awakened hungry bear.
Human activity also changes in the spring
While driving forest roads, be mindful of soft spots, eroded shoulders, and possible flooding from plugged culverts.  Please report any major problems on forest service roads to district offices.
Weight restrictions on gravel roads are in effect in both Lake and Cook Counties.  While some logging operations continue in the forest, logging trucks will NOT be on the roads. 
Spring brings changes: Fire & Ice
Ice houses on non-Canadian border waters should have been removed by March 21st.  Ice houses on Canadian border lakes need to be removed by March 31st.   
In southern Minnesota early ice out dates have been reported. That may or may not be the case for our northern lakes.  If the ice on your favorite lake was safe in March 2015, it may not be safe in March 2016.
2016 fishing licenses went into effect at the beginning of March. Check the DNR’s 2016 fishing regulations before heading out.  You can get a copy of the fishing regs at Forest District offices or on-line at
If attempting a last bit of winter fun - skiing or snowmobiling - you may encounter trees and branches have fallen across trails.  Deadfalls may not be cleared for several weeks.
Spring weather means the Forest Service will no longer be grooming the George Washington Pines cross country ski trail system.
Snow depths in the forest range from non-existent to DEEP.  Timber crews, working 20 miles inland, report snow depths of two feet and continue to wear snowshoes as they accomplish their tasks.   
The DNR started burning restrictions in the central part of the state on March 21st.  As of this recording, burning is still permitted in Lake and Cook Counties.  Check with the DNR or a Forest Service office for current restrictions before you burn.
In the immortal words of Yogi Bera, when describing changes in spring weather, “It was a dry rain.”
Until next time, this has been Mary Ann Atwood with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: March 11

Hi. This is Chris Beal, wildlife biologist on the Gunflint District, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the beginning of March, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.

The main story on the forest this week is the end of winter and the beginning of the mud season. Winter recreation is coming to an end as snow melts and ground is exposed, and yet it still isn’t warm enough for most of our summer fun to begin. It is a good time of year though to go on a wander through the woods looking for signs of spring. The chickadees are singing spring songs, there’s a smell of moist earth in the air, and on a sunny day, you can tell that summer is just around the corner. Beware though, winter is still here on this side of the corner. It is actually easy to become hypothermic this time of year. People dress optimistically for the warmth of the middle of the day, but the temperature can drop quickly. Damp air and rain can cool a person much faster than dry winter air and snow, so your body may actually lose heat faster than in midwinter. Be aware that it ain’t summer yet, and dress according to what the weather is, not what you are hoping it will be.

Lakes are very slushy, and even if fish houses do not have to come off the lakes yet, it is a good idea to get them off early. The DNR has set a date of March 21st for most of the Forest, and March 31st for the Canadian border waters, but given the slushy conditions, it may be hard to haul houses off the lake by those dates. Be sure to check ice thickness before you venture onto the ice, particularly if you are using any equipment to move your fish house.

If lakes are slushy, roads are icy. Compacted snow on roads has changed to ice in many areas, and the clear portions of roads are very soft and muddy. Cook County has imposed seasonal weight restrictions due to the soft roadways, and shoulders of roads are becoming particularly untrustworthy. Some of our field going personnel have reported that there are many stretches of roadway where they’ve been forced to travel at 20 miles per hour or below due to the combination of ice and soft roadways. The weight restrictions do mean that there won’t be any timber hauling going on, so you shouldn’t have to worry about logging traffic.

If you are trying to squeeze a little more winter in, and decide to go skiing or snowmobiling, be prepared for the conditions. 4 inches of snow cover are required to legally run a snow machine cross country, and we are running out of snow fast. On trails, remember that it is easy to damage soft trails in the spring, and if you want nice trails next winter, you should treat them carefully now. It is harder for a skier to damage a trail, but skiers need to watch out for the trail damaging the skier. Trails in spring can be icy and fast, and when you are coming down a hill at top speed and hit a patch of bare ground at the bottom, you come to an abrupt stop. Through the years, several people have discovered that this is an easy time of year to break your leg.

If mud season is starting to sound pretty dangerous and gloomy, don’t forget that it is also the time of returning life to the forest. Eagles are on eggs, ravens are flying around with sticks in their beaks, and birds are starting to sing. It is great time to be outside, just be careful how you get there!

Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: February 26

Hi.  I’m Patrick Krage, assistant fire engine captain, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For late February, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
The variety of weather we’ve had, from biting cold to almost balmy, from snow to rain, has really impacted all forms of recreation, and work, on the Forest.  There is a lot of slush on the lakes, and in subfreezing temperatures, it will freeze to snowmobile tracks or cross country skis as soon as it gets exposed to air.  One way to deal with this on a sled is to go faster, but the faster you go, the harder it is to see dangerous thin ice, or to stop when you do see it.  Give yourself extra space around possible danger zones at lake outlets and inlets and look for other signs of thin ice.  A friend was telling me about seeing an otter appear on the lake, and realizing that the otter’s sudden arrival meant there must be a hole through the ice in that location.   Also, keep an ear open for ice house removal dates.  They are coming up sooner than you might think. 
Off the lakes though, the trails are in pretty decent shape.  While we’ve had some thaws, they’ve usually been followed by a little snow, so ski trails are good.  Most snowmobile trails are good as well, but some may be rough where slushy snow has refrozen into bumps.  We are asking for a little help on wilderness portage trails though.  Some portages are still blocked by trees downed in the December ‘snow-down’ storm.  We don’t want you to clear trails, but if you are out in the Boundary Waters, please note what the conditions are on any portages you cross.  Photos would be particularly useful.  Reports and photos can be sent to the Tofte and Gunflint email addresses listed on our website, or taken to our offices.  This information will be used as we plan for trail clearing during the summer season.
As far as work in the Forest is concerned, warm weather has kept some swampy areas soft, making it hard for timber harvesting equipment to move in the winter.  This caused a break in timber activity, but this week, things have picked up again.  On the Gunflint District, visitors should expect logging traffic on the Greenwood Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, northern end of the Bally Creek Road, and The Grade.  On the Tofte District, logging traffic can be expected on the Honeymoon Trail, Caribou Trail, and Clara Lake Road.  Some of these roads are very narrow and winding.  Drive slowly and attentively; log trucks don’t stop on a dime, and they generally don’t back up long distances for passenger cars.  There are also ongoing state logging operations using some of these roads, which may add to the traffic. 
There is actually a little fire news as well.  The DNR is adjusting the burning permit season due to lack of snow cover in some areas and warm temperatures.  It seems odd to think about fire in February, but if you are looking to burn brush piles, you should do it sooner rather than later as there may be an early start to the fire season this year.  Check on permit needs, keep the fire in a clear area away from other flammable material, and never leave a fire unattended, even in winter.
With spring coming up fast, these next few weeks may be the final weeks to really get out and enjoy winter.  So, hit the trails, and until next time, this has been Patrick Krage with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: February 12

Hi.  I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For mid-February, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Since December, we’ve been talking about clearing trails of fallen trees from that month’s heavy snow event.  While a majority of designated ski and snowmobile trails have been cleared with a huge amount of help from supporting trail organizations and clubs, there are many miles of unplowed back roads used by snowmobiles which remain blocked.  We continue to work on tree removal, but for now, it is still a good idea to check with District offices before you head out to see if your choice of route has been cleared. 
Our winter wilderness rangers report that conditions on lakes are pretty bad.   There’s a deep layer of slush under the snow which makes snowshoeing or skiing difficult.  Our current cold snap should freeze that slush, but if it is well insulated by snow cover, it could take a while to freeze.  Until it does, people venturing out onto the ice should pack extra socks and be prepared in case you get your feet wet.  Wet socks at ten below go beyond uncomfortable and into the danger zone, so throw some extra socks and even a towel into your backpack.
Off the lakes though, this should be an excellent week for skiing.  The snow is nice and firm and fairly new, and the temperature is perfect if you are dressed for it.  If you’re out skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, you might run into a Forest Service employee asking you to take a visitor use survey.  This is a national survey, and your input is an important part in the creation of an accurate picture of how the Superior is used for recreation.  We’d really appreciate it if you can take the time to take the survey.  It will help us better manage the Forest, and in the long run that will help you as well.
Our days are noticeably longer now, and the sun is much warmer than it was in December, but for deer and moose, this is a hard time of year as the food supplies continue to dwindle.  Whether it is because of salt on the roads, plants along the roadside, or just that sunrise and sunset are aligning with commute times, there are plenty of deer near or on roads right now, so keep a sharp eye out.  There are plenty of deer that have been hit on the sides of the roads as well, which means you also have to watch out for the low flying crows, ravens, and eagles doing the clean-up.  If you’re lucky, you may even see a wolf or two getting in on the free meal.
As you drive in the Forest, you may have to deal with deer and eagles and other animals in the road, but this week you won’t have to deal with many log trucks.  There are only a few timber sales going on with truck traffic.  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade.  There’s no hauling taking place on the Tofte District right now.
So, between the light truck traffic, the longer days, and the good weather, this will be an excellent couple of weeks to get outside and play in the Forest.  Enjoy it, and until next time, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update.



Superior National Forest Update: January 29

Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, wildlife biologist, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the end of January, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Work continues clearing trails and roads from our December ‘snow-down’ storm, but most of our trails are now open thanks to a lot of dedicated trail volunteers, partners, and our own trail crew.  If you’re snowmobiling or skiing though, be aware that many trails are not open to their full normal width, and you need to be aware that you may hit a narrow spot on the other side of the hill.  If you’d like to lend a hand and help out with this effort, contact Jon Benson at either the Gunflint or Tofte Ranger District, and he’ll find the right activity for you or your group.
In the last update, we talked about reporting lynx sightings and we’d like to thank the people that have seen lynx and reported the sighting.  We biologists though are doing more than just looking for lynx, we’ve been collecting scat.  It’s not that we are so interested in lynx poop – we are interested in the lynx DNA which can be recovered from scat.  The DNA allows to tell which animal has been where, and also how the animals are related.  All of this is helping us determine if we have a healthy population of lynx here on the Forest.
There will also be lots of dog tracks in the woods starting Sunday.  Leaving those tracks will be the dog and sleds competing in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race.  Watching the mushers pass at a road crossing is always an exciting event.  If you’re planning on being a spectator, we ask that you take care in how you park your car on the road.  You need to leave enough space for possible log trucks to pass your car safely, but also beware of ditches that are filled with snow and may look like a firm surface.
Which roads may have those log trucks?  On the Gunflint District, 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.   Less is going on in Tofte this week.  Hauling will be taking place on the Tomahawk Road, probably beginning this weekend.  There will also be log trucks on the Honeymoon Trail, traveling between the Caribou Trail and the Poplar River area.
Best of luck to all the mushers in the race!  And whether you are racing, skiing, or just enjoying the winter scenery, have a great time out in the Forest.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.



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.