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Superior National Forest Update



Contributor(s): 
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 - March 30, 2018

National Forest Update – March 29, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  This is a season of change, so there are a lot of things going on in the Forest that you should be aware of.

The biggest change that happens every spring is the change of frozen water to liquid.  For us, that means that unpaved roads in the Forest are changing from hard concrete to mushy sponges.  In response to this change, the state, county, and Forest impose load restrictions in the spring.  Weight restrictions went into effect March 22 for many state, county, and Forest roads.  In most cases, the restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of eight weeks.  For details on what this means, visit ‘Current Conditions’ page of the Superior National Forest’s website for links to all the state and county road restriction pages.

Even if you are driving a lightweight vehicle well within the guidelines, these restrictions should be a signal to drive with extra caution.  This time of year, there are always portions of roads that wash out, and the state of the roadway will change significantly between north facing and south facing slopes, and between shady and sunlit areas.  When driving, if you are in a place where you have concerns, don’t hesitate to stop in a safe place, get out of your vehicle and inspect the road before you attempt to drive on.  Before you go, check our website for any alerts about washouts along your route.  Getting stuck in the mud is no fun at all, so be patient and realize that you may have to take a few detours.

You may be sharing the road with some timber hauling.  Hauling is taking place on the Firebox and Greenwood Road, and on the Stoney Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.  This will take place as conditions permit, which is to say when the roads are solid.  Some of this hauling will take place at night when the temperature is lower, so be cautious if you are driving in these areas after dark.

As spring moves on, we are losing ice slowly from our lakes.  There is still a fairly thick layer of ice on most inland lakes, but if you are ice fishing, you should always be checking for yourself.  One suggestion is to bring along a cordless drill and a 5/8 inch wood auger bit – the kind with a spiral flute on it.  With that equipment, it is easy to drill a quick hole in the ice and check the depth with a tape measure.  If you are fishing, the trout season ends the weekend of April 1, and walleye season has already closed.  Check the DNR fishing regulations before you go, and bring your license.

Ski and snowmobile trails are deteriorating as well.  Our website has links to all our partners who groom the ski trails so you can get current trail conditions.  There are also links to the DNR snowmobile trail conditions site, but things change faster in the spring than websites can track.  Use your discretion and if it looks like you’ll damage the trail with your machine, don’t use it.

However, spring isn’t all mud and trail deterioration.  There’s a lot of animal activity.  Bears have been spotted in the area, and they will be headed for their favorite bird feeders because there isn’t a lot of other food out there right now.  If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of deer on the road right now.  They are drawn to roadsides where melting snow has exposed the grass.  Slow down, and keep your eyes peeled for when the herd decides the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  We’ve also had a lot of reports of howling coyotes recently.  Coyotes are known in some parts of the country as song dogs or yodel dogs, and it can be a wonderful experience to hear them singing to the moon on a still night. Coyotes are not going to bother people, but they don’t particularly care for dogs in their territory, so keep an eye on your pup when they head out to relieve themselves. 

All these animals are stirring with the warmth.  Even with the mud, and the soggy roads, you can probably feel it yourself.  It’s spring, and time to get outside and enjoy the sun. 

Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 16, 2018

National Forest Update – March 15, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Hayley Henderson, CCMI contractor with the Forest Service, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  We are on the edge of spring but don’t get too excited yet.  Remember that March is one of the heaviest snowfall months of the year and you never know what might happen.
What has happened so far though is some deterioration of our winter trails?  Right now, trails are mostly rated as good, with some icy conditions on south-facing slopes.  With about of warm weather ahead of us though, users should beware of more glazing of trails and possible bare spots.  Snowmobile trails are rated fair to good, with a couple of very goods, but still, watch for soft spots as melting is expected to continue.  But it is March, and we still may be in line for a good dumping of snow before winter is done, so don’t put away your snow toys yet.  Don’t forget that snowmobiles are not permitted on ski trails; we’ve had indications that a couple of people appear to have missed that message.

The roads are much like the trails.  They are still firmly frozen and good for travel, but just be aware that in the sun the layer of frozen snow may be turning to truck-eating mush in the near future.  If you are unsure, get out and check the road before you go down it.

We are coming close to March 19th, the date ice houses must be removed from lakes in northern Minnesota.  Ice fishing will continue, but you cannot leave your house on the ice unoccupied overnight.  Every year, it seems someone pushes the season and ends up floating out into the lake, or having a vehicle drop into the water.  Don’t let it be your embarrassing picture that is in the news; check ice thickness and be careful.  After all, it could be a lot worse than just embarrassment.

There’s still too much snow on the ground to worry about fire danger, though we are sending some of our fire people to southern forests where the fire season has started already.  But, it’s never too early to start thinking about Firewise!  Firewise is the idea that you can help protect your property by managing it in a way that reduces the possibility of a structure fire.  Materials about Firewise are available online and at the Forest Service offices in Tofte and Grand Marais.

There isn’t a lot of timber activity right now on our eastern side of the Forest.  Hauling is taking place on the Greenwood Road, the Firebox Road, the Greenwood Lake Access Road, the Homestead Road in Lutsen, the Caribou Trail, Cook County 39, the Ward Lake Road, and Forest Road 333.  The Firebox Road and Forest Road 333 are also snowmobile trails, so be extra careful traveling on them.

Biologists have been conducting owl surveys at night recently.  This is the time of year when owls can be quite vocal, so they are easy to locate.  Hawks generally have to fly south in the winter because the snow covers the ground and the hawks can’t see the mice to catch them.  Owls, on the other hand, locate their prey by hearing and can hear the mice right through the snow.  This saves owls the work of migrating and also allows them to start nesting long before the hawks arrive to compete with them for nest space and food.  The facial disc that gives owls their distinctive face is actually part of their hearing mechanism.  The visible disc is the edge of a reflector made of harder feathers that works like a satellite dish to bring sound right to their ears. 

Enjoy the warmer weather, and maybe use it to take a walk outside at night and listen for owls.  After all, they are probably listening to you.  Until next time, this has been Hayley Henderson with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 2, 2018

National Forest Update – March 2, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.

Thanks to Mother Nature, it’s a different world out there.  Is it too early to say if March will come in like a Lion or a Lamb?  We know February sure went out with a bang. In the past week and a half we have gotten anywhere from 8 to 30 inches of fresh snow from Silver Bay to the top of the Arrowhead and up the Gunflint Trail and more is expected early next week.  If you haven’t made time yet, it’s time to get those snowshoes or cross country skis out and hit the trails and enjoy what has been given to us.  My suggestion would be to stay on the trail, because it’s deep!  If you are one that likes to compete in a good old fashioned cross country ski and you missed signing up for the Birkebeiner last week, this Saturday, they are having the Sugar Tour ski challenge on the Sugarbush Ski trail system out of Tofte.  Meet at the Oberg Parking lot and they will take registration starting early Saturday morning.  The event begins at 10:00 and goes until 2:00 p.m.  They are offering a 5k, 8k, and 18k distance skis along with some other events for the whole family.  If you are one that prefers the motorized approach to winter recreation, the snowmobile trails are groomed perfectly for a nice, smooth ride.  With the warmer temperatures, you will be in for some great snowmobile trail riding.  The different trail groomers have been extra busy this last week keeping all of our trails in tip top shape.  Thank you so much!
 
If you are planning a winter camping trip, travel across lakes by ski’s or snowshoes is becoming more difficult with the amount of snow we have.  Being that the weather is warmer, overnight winter camping is picking up.  If you go, make sure you pay attention to leave no-trace camping techniques or stop in a Forest Service office or check out the BWCAW trip planner on the Forest Service website and get a refresher on what to do if you go.   

This week, the Forest was visited by a film crew that was taking footage of outdoor recreation sports on the Superior National Forest.  One of your friends or relatives may be highlighted in a National Forest commercial within the next year that spotlights the beautiful Superior National Forest.  A big thank you goes out to the Cook County Visitors Bureau for their help with this.   
For those of you traveling back roads, remember, reports from the locals on the Gunflint trail are that the moose are still hanging around the roadside and licking salt off the roads, so please travel with care.   There are probably more critters than the moose hanging out on the road.  If you have stepped off the beaten path, it’s tough moving around out there, and even tougher for them to jump over the big road banks to get back where they belong.  There is no need to race where you are going, take your time, drive slowly and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.   People have reported seeing boreal owls and great gray owls in the Forest and even in their yards.  This new snow will make dinnertime a challenge for them, so you may see more owls hanging around your bird feeders looking for an easy meal of mice.
 
Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  In years past, the road restrictions have gone on as early as mid-March, but as late as into the month of April.  Warmer temperatures will determine when restrictions are put in place.  At this time we have no idea how soon or how late they will occur, it will all depend on that big yellow thing in the sky.  We will also be springing our clocks ahead on March 11th so it won’t get dark so early. 

As for now, the roads are in good shape.   On the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so there is no log truck traffic. There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road.  Also, for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  As always, be careful on the roads that are also snowmobile trails, like the Firebox Road.

Enjoy the winter, it sure looks like we will have it around at little while longer.  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - February 16, 2018

National Forest Update – February 15, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  Even though it is midwinter, there’s a lot going on outside.

You may have been watching the Winter Olympics this past week, and while the Superior doesn’t have its own luge run, we can give you great skiing opportunities, thanks to the grooming efforts of our trail partners.  The Sugarbush Trail Association, which maintains the Sugarbush Ski Trails with trailheads at Britton Peak, Moose Fence, and Oberg Mountain, is hosting a candlelit event this Saturday, February 18th from 6 to 8.  You can ski, snowshoe, or hike on candlelit trails, then stop by the bonfire to warm up with cocoa and cookies.  That’s my idea of a Winter Olympic event:  bonfire with cocoa and cookies.  I could medal in that.  All this will take place at the Oberg Mountain parking lot, just up the Onion River Road north of Tofte.

Our other ski areas are looking good too, though the recent warm days may have caused some bare spots.  Skiers need to be aware of potential hazards with relatively low amounts of snow in some areas.

Fat tire biking isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but we’ve heard good reports from bikers using fat bike designated trails at Pincushion, Norpine, and Flathorn.  If biking, please be sure to stay on bike designated trails, and only bike when the snow is firm enough to support you. 

Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  But for now, the roads are in good shape, and on the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so no truck traffic.  There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and FR 152 C off the Lima Grade.  This week, and for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  Also, be cautious on the Firebox Road and FR152C since those routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

Another non-Olympic winter event takes place this weekend:  the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  You don’t even have to stir out of your house for this one.  Just grab your coffee, and watch your bird feeder for a little as 15 minutes, or as long as you want, and record your observations at birdcount.org.  This takes place from this Friday, February 16th through Monday, February 19th.  This a great example of citizen science in action.  The data from thousands of observers across the world gives ornithologists a snapshot of birds all over.  Last year, more than 160,000 people participated!  Go to birdcount.org for details.

So, enjoy the Olympics, but take some time out to get away from the TV and do your own version of winter sport.  It can be skiing, or snowshoeing, or counting birds, or just taking in a bonfire with a cup of cocoa.  Enjoy the winter!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - February 2, 2018

Superior National Forest Update – February 2, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that might affect your visit to the Superior during the next two weeks. 

February 2nd is, of course, Groundhog Day.  Up here in the north woods, the chances of seeing a groundhog, let alone his shadow, on February 2nd, are pretty remote.  Groundhogs are ground dwelling relatives of squirrels, and have an extremely large range stretching from Alaska all the way down to northern Alabama.  They aren’t terribly common in northern Minnesota compared to other parts of the state.  This isn’t because of our weather, it is because in many places the soil here is too shallow to be able to dig a nice tunnel system.   A true hibernator, a groundhog’s burrow has get below the frost line so the animal won’t freeze during the winter months while asleep.  Their burrows are usually a single long tunnel, up to 45 feet long, with a main entrance on one end, and an emergency exit on the other.  There are short side galleries off the main tunnel for sleeping and food storage.  This time of year, you’ll find the groundhog curled up in a hibernation chamber with a slowed heart rate and a body temperature equal to that of the surrounding environment.  It’s been found that hibernators usually rouse a few times during the winter, but sometimes only to the point of normal sleep.  One current theory is that they actually need to do this in order to dream.  Occasionally, a groundhog will rouse enough to eat and possibly poke their nose out of the burrow in midwinter, but I don’t think they really care about their shadow at all.

If you poke your nose out of your warm house and head out into the woods, you’ll find that there are no active timber sales on the Tofte District right now.  On the Gunflint logging trucks are only expected on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road (dual-use snowmobile trail), Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Forest Road 152C off the Lima Grade.  Be particularly cautious on the Firebox Road and 152C because these routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

If it is too cold to go out though, you might be spending some time planning for next summer.  You are now able to make reservations for summer time Boundary Waters entry permits online at Recreation.gov.  If the Boundary Waters isn’t for you, you can also currently make summer reservations for many of the National Forest campgrounds on the same website. 

Speaking of websites, we’ve added a link on our Special Places page to an interactive map of the North Shore Scenic Drive.  We may drive Highway 61 daily, but this map gives others a great look at our North Shore.  Check it out, and send it off to people living in other places so they will be jealous.  Just don’t mention the subzero weather we’re having right now. 

That cold weather does make for excellent star gazing at night.  Cold air is usually more stable than warm air, and visibility is great for celestial objects.  The recent lunar eclipse on the morning of January 31st was a beautiful event that hopefully a lot of people were able to see.  If you were up before dawn to see that, you might also have noticed that Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are all in the eastern sky before sun up.  It’s a great time to look for these planets if you walk the dog in the morning.

Whether walking the dog, driving Highway 61, or heading into the woods, enjoy the Forest.  Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update December 22, 2017

National Forest Update – December 21, 2017.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with a late December edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest for the end of 2017.

This is the astronomical turning point of the season, the winter solstice.  December 21st was our shortest day and longest night of the year, with a day length of only 8 hours and 32 minutes in Duluth.  That gives you only 16 minutes of day on either side of your eight hour working day, so if it seems like you can’t get anything done, you are probably right.  The winter solstice day is somewhere around six and a half hours shorter than the longest day of the year in June.  But, from here on, we start adding minutes to the day, slowly at first, with the rate peaking at the spring equinox.  It may not seem like it, but spring is on its way.

Spring may be ahead, but winter actually caused our roads to improve this last week.  Ice was covered by a good layer of snow which provides some traction.  Be wary though, people have gotten stuck in parking lots where the snow layer was plowed back down to the ice.  There’s now enough snow that unplowed roads are mostly impassable, and are being used by snowmobiles.  Snowmobiles are allowed on unplowed roads, as well as in the general forest if there is over four inches of snow cover.  Other than snowmobiles, there isn’t much activity out there on the roadways.  There are no active timber operations on the Tofte District, and on Gunflint there will be trucks only on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14. 

Of course, there’s a lot of opportunity for other activities off the roads.  Ski trails are being groomed in most areas, though under heavy tree cover, there still are some patches with only light snow.  We are designating a few trails for fat tire bikes this year; check at our office or on the web for exact locations. 

While driving to a trail, keep an eye peeled for owls.  This year has seen a large irruption of owls where they move south out of Canada during the winter.  Particularly visible are snowy and great gray owls.  Snowy owls are possibly the owl most likely to be seen hunting during the day.  They spend summers in the arctic where there isn’t a lot of night, so they have to be good daylight hunters.  These beautiful white birds are often spotted near open areas, so look for them where there is a field or wet meadow.  Great gray owls are, as the name implies, very large and gray.  They have a hunting technique of swooping low over openings, which unfortunately brings them into contact with cars as they swoop over the road.  A visitor recently brought in a great gray who was found on the road, apparently unable to fly.  Our district offices are not equipped for animal care, and we usually refer people to licensed wildlife rehab people and facilities in the area.  This time, however, one of our biologists was on hand to examine the bird.  He is a bird bander, and knows how to handle owls in a way that is both safe for the bird and the person.  A great gray has talons that are over an inch long, with plenty of strength to drive them right into your hand, so they are a bird that must be treated with respect.  This particular bird was not happy at being in a box, but calmed down quickly once it was taken out.  It turned out that the bird was uninjured and probably had just been stunned and confused after being caught in the slipstream of a truck.  She was released back into the woods, away from the highway, gliding away on silent wings.

Enjoy your holiday season and our Minnesota winter.  Until next time, actually next year, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update December 8, 2017

National Forest Update – December 7, 2017.

Hi.  I am Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  Here’s what’s up around the Forest in December.

What has been up until the last couple of days has been the temperature, followed by this cold snap into winter.  Our early snow followed by unseasonable warmth resulted in some truly awful forest roads, even by Minnesota standards.  Compacted heavy snow mixed with rain and subfreezing nights made ice rinks out of the Forest roadways.  The conditions were bad enough that the Forest took the step of closing some sections of roadway to the general public for safety purposes.  It only took a minute of travel on the Four Mile Grade between the Sawbill trail and County Road 7 to make the decision to turn around… and that itself was pretty hard.  Our colder temperatures are actually helping make the road less slick, and the closed sections should be open in the near future.  People planning on visiting the Forest should visit our website first and look for Alerts, which are located in the right sidebar.  Current road closures will be posted there.  Even if you are not planning on using the Four Mile Grade, you should be aware that all the roads are icy and people should be very cautious.

Be particularly cautious if you are in an area with active timber hauling.  Gunflint hauling is taking place on Firebox Road (dual use with snowmobile trail), Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Cook County 14.  On the Tofte District, hauling is on the Pancore Road, Sawbill Trail, 4 Mile Grade, Lake County 7, and the Trappers Lake Road.

What would make someone venture out into the woods this time of year you ask?  Holiday greenery, that’s what!  Permits to cut a Christmas tree are only $5 at Forest Service offices, or free to fourth graders participating in the Every-Kid-In-A-Park program.  Fourth graders interested need to first enroll in the program and get a voucher online at everykidinapark.gov.  The Every-Kid-In-A-Park program will give free admission to fourth graders and their families to national parks across the country.  Because the Superior National Forest doesn’t have an admission fee and isn’t a park, you get a free tree instead.  So load up the kids, a sled, the dog, and some hot chocolate and don’t forget enough rope to tie the tree on securely, we don’t want it bouncing down the highway. 

While you are out there, you can also get a permit to harvest balsam boughs for wreaths.  We actually recommend balsam for Christmas trees as well, the needles stay on the tree longer than spruce, and they smell better.  It should be noted that you are not allowed to take either white pine or cedar for a Christmas tree.  Tree identification sheets are available at our offices and online, in addition to more specific instructions on how and where to harvest a tree. 

Cross country ski trails have been in pretty sketchy condition this season so far.  Our website has links to all the organizations which groom the trails, so you can find out where the best snow is.  Fat tire bikes have become a great new way for people to get outside in the winter.  Because of this, we are opening a few sites to fat tire biking this year.  We ask bikers to make sure that the surface is firm enough to not leave big ruts behind you, and stay off the section of the trail tracked for skiing.  As a reminder, bikes are prohibited on ski trails other than what are designated.  Fat bike trails can be found in the Pincushion Mt ski area, the connecting trail between Lutsen Mt Road and the Norpine Trail system, and at the Flathorn Gegoka ski area.  For more trail information, go to the Visit Cook County website.

If ice skating is your thing, there has been spectacular skating this season on some of the smaller lakes.   They froze completely smooth and are snow free.  You have a huge surface to play on and you can’t beat the view.  Watch out though, while we have too much ice on the roads, we really could use more ice on the lakes.  Some larger lakes are still open in the middle, and every lake should be treated with caution right now, just be careful.

Whether skating, skiing, biking, or driving, have a great time in the Forest - and don’t forget the hot chocolate when you get home!  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm for the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update November 24, 2017

National Forest Update – November 23, 2017.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  With the change of season, we’re changing this program to air only every other week until spring.  Here’s what’s happening these next two weeks.

With the advent of winter comes winter driving.  With temperatures right around freezing, we can have some hazardous icy conditions out on the roads.  You might be in a clear area where the warm sun keeps the road above freezing, then go over a hill or hit a shady patch, and suddenly the road is covered in ice, or just hit that time of day when the day’s puddles become the night’s ice rink.  Watch out, and leave plenty of following distance between you and the car ahead.

There are plenty of good reasons to get out though, despite the possible ice.  One is that it is again the season for holiday greenery!  Permits for Christmas trees are only five dollars, and they smell so much better than the artificial variety.  Balsam firs make for fragrant long lasting Christmas trees, and in many places their removal might actually help the forest ecosystem.  Know your trees though, it is illegal to cut white pine or cedar with a Christmas tree permit, and while it is legal to cut a spruce, they lose their needles in a hurry.  If you have a child in fourth grade, they are eligible this year for a free permit through the “Every Kid In A Park” program.  Visit “Every Kid In A Park” online and register - full details and links can be found on the Superior’s website. You may also wish to harvest balsam boughs for making wreaths.  A personal use permit for making up to five wreaths is available for $20.  Princess pine, a small pine tree shaped club moss often used to decorate wreaths, may not be harvested on the Superior.

For full details on harvesting balsam boughs or Christmas trees, refer to our Holiday Greenery flyer, or our Holiday Greenery web page.   You’ll find lots of identification info as well as the rules and guidelines on harvesting.

If you’ve eaten too much turkey, and would like to start on your New Year’s resolution to exercise ahead of time, you’ll be interested to know that the Superior National Forest, in partnership with local trail partners, has decided to open limited sections of the trails at the Norpine and Flathorn/ Gegoka Trail Systems to dual use of fat tire biking and cross country skiing.  These sections of trail, in addition to single track bike trails at Pincushion, are now open to fat tire cyclists.  Visitors who are interested in fat tire biking opportunities on the Norpine Ski Trail System or at Pincushion should check the Visit Cook County website for current trail conditions and opportunities.  Cyclists who are interested in exploring the trails at Flathorn/ Gegoka should contact National Forest Lodge in Isabella for trail conditions and information.  Links to both websites can be found in the Current Conditions box for those trails on our website.

As a reminder, this dual use is being authorized in partnership with area ski and cycling associations and it is our hope that the use of fat tire bikes will not detract from the skiing experience.  Cyclists are reminded that bikers should always yield to skiers and they should only use the portions of trail which are not tracked for skiing.

Speaking of dual use, logging truck traffic is lighter this week.  Winter hauling on Gunflint is taking place on the following roads: Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, and the Gunflint Trail.   Tofte logging traffic will be on the Pancore Road, Sawbill Trail, the 4 Mile Grade, Trappers Lake Road, Temperance River Road, and the Wanless Road.  Remember that if a small road looks plowed, there is a good chance it is being used to haul on. 

Whether you hit the trails on a fat tire bike, or go off in search of the perfect tree for your living room, get out and enjoy our winter.  It beats sitting at home waiting for spring, because it will be a long wait!  Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update November 10, 2017

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior.  With the change of season, we’re changing this program to air only every other week until spring.  Here’s what’s happening these next two weeks.

Winter is definitely here, especially inland, up over the hill.  Snow may have melted along the shore, but you don’t have to get too far from Lake Superior until you hit the white stuff.  While the trails aren’t groomed, people have already been skiing at Pincushion.  This is the time of year though that snowmobiles can really do some damage to that base layer of snow which gives us good trails all winter.  On trails, take it easy so you don’t dig through the snow to the ground, or wait until trails are packed by a groomer.  Cross country snowmobile travel isn’t allowed until there is four inches or more of snow on the ground, and snowmobiles are never allowed on plowed roads. 

Lakes are beginning to ice in, but none of them are really safe to be on yet.  Most large lakes are still open, but at least Sawbill is iced over.  Some roads are iced over too - it’s time to remember all you forgot about winter driving over the past several months.  Slow down, be cautious, and give yourself time to relearn how your vehicle handles and brakes on snow and ice.  There are fewer people out on the roads in the winter, so leave an itinerary of where you are going with someone.  That way, if you do run off the road, someone will eventually come looking for you.
 
Truck traffic is using the same roadways as last week.  Hauling on Gunflint is taking place on the following roads: Firebox, Blueberry, Greenwood, Shoe Lake, South Brule, Lima Grade, Ball Club, Devil Track, Forest Road 1385 and the Gunflint Trail.  Tofte logging traffic will be on the Pancore, Sawbill Trail, Dumbbell River Road, Wanless Road, Lake County 7 and 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Perent Lake Road, Trappers Lake Road, Temperance River Road, and the Six Hundred Road. 

There are plenty of hunters out in the woods during deer season.  Whether or not you are hunting, stay safe and wear orange when you are in the woods.  You and your pet!  Respect no trespassing signs on private land, and remember that some private roads may be closed to motor use, even if they cross public land.  Use your Motor Vehicle Use Map to find out what roads are open to what use in the winter.  If you don’t like paper, but love technology, you can download these maps and use an app that shows your exact location on the map.  Remember, take those deer stands down after season, and no permanent stands are to be left on National Forest lands.

Along with our activities, our birds are shifting to winter.  Flocks of snow buntings along the roadsides create beautiful displays of black and white wings when they take off, but are unfortunately easy to hit with vehicles.  There are still lots of migrating hawks, particularly rough legged hawks, which can be seen perched by the side of Highway 61.  Redpolls and pine grosbeaks are back for winter at feeders, but since there are still a few bears up and about, you should still be taking in those feeders at night.

We are looking for some citizen science input on lynx.  Winter snow makes these secretive cats easier to find because of their tracks.  If you find lynx tracks, take a picture with your phone.  Put a glove or coin or something else near the track in the photo to show how large it is.  If your phone notes the GPS coordinates with the photo, that’s great, otherwise note the area you where you found tracks, and let us know. 

It is time to quit complaining about the end of fall and start enjoying our Minnesota winter.   Those last minute fall chores that never happened because of the snowfall, well, you’ll just have to figure them out next spring. Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update October 13

National Forest Update – October 12, 2017.
Hi.  I’m Cathy Peterson, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of October 13th.

With frost on the ground, it is not only time to find the ice scraper you stored in the garage all summer, but it is time for us to shut down the water supply at the fee campgrounds before the pipes freeze.  Since there are many campgrounds on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, it usually takes us a week or so to shut them all off.  We will try to update our website on which campgrounds will have water, but just to be safe, plan on bringing water with you if you are camping.  Camping fees will still be collected if the water system is still on, but if the system is shut down, there will be no fee for camping.  It is also the end of garbage service at the campgrounds, so plan to pack out your garbage.  If the dumpster is locked, please don’t pile garbage bags next to it for the bears to get into.  The locked dumpster just means that garbage service won’t be available until next spring and you will have to bring your garbage home for disposal.

If you do head out to the campground, you’ll find that this is a pretty good time of year for camping.  You have to make sure to pack warm enough gear to deal with cold nights, but there are no mosquitoes, and the early sunsets mean you don’t have to stay up late to enjoy the starlit skies and a campfire.  For Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips, remember to fill out a self-issued permit at the entry point for both day use and overnight trips.

You could smell smoke in the air which is not from a campfire in a few places.  Our fire crew will be conducting pile burning in several areas on the Forest over the next two weeks.  These burn piles are being attended to and are checked daily until they are out, please don’t disturb them. 

The Forest is a busy place in the fall.  There are still leaf watchers cruising the forest, though many of the leaves are now down.  Grouse hunting continues, so wear orange whether you are hunting or not.  We are also seeing lots of ATV use right now.  Our Motor Vehicle Use Map is available at all Forest Service offices as well as online and this map is the authority on which roads and trails are available for ATV use.  Signs on the ground may be incorrect; when they don’t agree with the map, assume the map is correct.  With our rainy fall, trails and roads can be soft.  ATVs should make sure to follow Tread Lightly guidelines and avoid creating ruts, holes, or otherwise digging up the surface of the trail or road.

There is also a lot of logging traffic out there.  Be careful and watch for logging trucks if you are on an ATV, pick up, or car.   On the Gunflint District, expect hauling on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, and CC14.  On the Tofte District, look for trucks on the Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Dumbell River Road, the Wanless Road, Lake County 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, the Perent Lake Road, the Trappers Lake Road, and the road south of Windy Lake.  Also over the next two weeks, there will be trucks hauling gravel along Forest Road 170, the Grade, west of the Sawbill Trail as crews work to resurface 3.6 miles of the road. 

However you decide to enjoy the fall - camping, canoeing, hunting, driving, or hiking - it’s time to get outside and take advantage of the last few weeks before the snow flies.  Until next time, this has been Cathy Peterson with the National Forest Update.
 

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