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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - September 20

Superior National Forest Update
September 20, 2019

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update.  It looks like maybe it won’t be raining this weekend, so it’ll be a good time to get outside.  When you do head out, here’s the update on all that’s out there.

We are hitting the peak of the fall color season, and that means that there will be some slow moving vehicles, parked vehicles, pedestrians, and photographers out on our Forest roads.  Patience and courtesy will see you through.  Allow cars to pass, and keep the roadway clear if you are driving slowly or stopping.  Please, shut your car doors when you stop so others can pass, and walk or stop to take photos on the side of the road, not the middle.  If you are on the passing end of things, wait for safe passing areas, as the road sides are a bit soft from all the rain. So just relax, and make sure to take the time to enjoy the fall.  The leaves are really spectacular right now, and well worth going out to see.

Driving around here means paying attention to wildlife as well.  Spring and fall around the equinoxes seem to be high points for deer/car collisions.  Animals are moving around a lot during those times of year, and their daily time of high activity coincides with the morning and evening commute for many people.  We’ve had a lot of fog as well, which decreases visibility.  Please slow down on foggy days, make sure your lights are on, and watch out for deer.

Hunters are watching for deer as well, but for a different reason.  The bow hunt is in full swing, and with grouse and small game seasons open as well, everyone out in the woods should be sporting some orange.  Hunters need to be aware that you are not allowed to discharge a firearm, or shoot an arrow, within 150 yards of roads, buildings, or developed recreation sites.  You also may not shoot across trails or roads, so hunters should always be very familiar with their hunting area so they can avoid doing that.  These are really basic common sense rules which safe hunters should follow even without regulations – so, stay safe, wear orange, and good luck!

This fall you make see smoke in the air.  The Forest Service is trying to accomplish pile burning around the Forest and mother-nature isn’t always cooperating.  These are hazardous fuels reduction projects.  If you have questions, call one of the Forest Service offices.

There is some logging activity and trail work being done out there.  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cascade Bluffs Road, Greenwood Road, Blueberry Road, and the Hall Road in Lutsen.  On the Tofte District, look for truck traffic on  the Dumbell River Road, Trappers Lake Road, Caribou Trail, and the road on the east side of the Timber-Frear area.   At the end of the Onion River road out of Tofte there is a construction crew camped out that is building 17 miles of fat tire bike trails between Britton Peak and Lutsen Mountains, so if you go up that road know that there is a crew camped out up there for a little while longer until the trail work is complete.  In the near future, the mountain bikers will have more great trails to explore.

We have two more weekends that our Forest Service front offices will be open to the public before we go back to Monday through Friday hours of operation.  Also, we are advertising our summer seasonal positions on USAJOBS.gov for next summer.  So if you know of anyone looking for summer work experience, send them to USAJobs.gov.  We will be hiring front desk staff, timber, recreation and wildlife positions across the Forest.  Positions will be open for applying to until September 30 so spread the word.  (FYI:  Search for duty locations of Tofte, Grand Marais, Ely, Aurora, or Cook) 

Lastly, there are a lot of fall chores you probably want to get after… window washing, cleaning the car and garage out, winterizing all sorts of things, and seeing if the snow blower runs – but this may be the weekend to set them aside for a while and go out to the woods and enjoy a gorgeous ride or take a hike on a trail.  You might want to throw in some fishing too.   Enjoy the forest, enjoy the day, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Northern Sky Map.  Courtesy Deane Morrison.

Northern Sky: August 31 - September 13

NORTHERN SKY
by  Deane Morrison
August 31 - September 13, 2019

Over Labor Day weekend, the moon is a young sliver that sets before or shortly after nightfall. Each night it moves farther eastward, on its monthly tour of the sky. It’s waxing brighter now, and won’t begin withdrawing from the evening sky until after the full phase in mid-September. So if you’re an evening star watcher and you go out during the two weeks after Labor Day, you’ll probably be seeing a lot of the moon.  

As for the stars, this month the Summer Triangle is high in the south, in prime position for evening viewing. The brightest of the three stars, Vega, in the constellation Lyra, the lyre, is just a hair less bright than the star you may have noticed slowly sinking in the west. That’s Arcturus, the anchor of Bootes, the herdsman, and the brightest star in the northern hemisphere of the sky. In the east, the Great Square of Pegasus, a fall constellation, is climbing into prominence.

Every year the stars and constellations are the same, but the planets move around. This summer, we’ve been treated to the sight of Jupiter and Saturn in the south after nightfall—and Jupiter is so bright, it comes out in the twilight, well before Saturn. On the 5th, the waxing moon hovers near Jupiter and almost directly above Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. At 10:10 that night, Thursday, the 5th, the moon reaches first quarter phase. When the moon is at a quarter phase, the features of the lunar surface cast the deepest shadows, and this makes them stand out in sharpest relief. So this is a good night to explore the lighted part of the moon with binoculars. You don’t have to wait till after ten o’clock, of course; the moon is essentially at the first quarter phase all evening.

On the 7th, the moon will be bigger and brighter, this time closing in on Saturn. You may need binoculars to see it, but the star a few degrees below and right of the moon is the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. The Teapot will be somewhat washed out by moonlight, but if you haven’t seen it yet and would like to, that’s where to look for the lid, at least. On the 8th, the moon will be east of Saturn. On the 10th, the moon will be in the middle of the constellation Capricornus, the sea goat. Capricornus is chevron-shaped, and it’s one of the autumn water constellations. It has no bright stars, so it’s hard to find. But if you note where the moon is on the 10th and then find a star chart, that’ll vastly improve your chances of finding this dim constellation of the zodiac.

Three days later, on the 13th, we get a full moonrise. In Grand Marais, the moon rises at 7:36 p.m., four hours before it becomes perfectly full. Because it’s the closest full moon to the equinox, it qualifies as the harvest moon. The harvest moon got its name because near the time of the fall equinox, the moon can rise less than 30 minutes later from night to night as it goes from almost full to full to a couple of days past full, as opposed to forty or fifty minutes later from night to night near the solstices and more than an hour later from night to night near the spring equinox. The harvest moon gave extra moonlight to farmers working late to harvest their crops before they either froze or spoiled in the field. The harvest moon effect isn’t always as strong as the numbers I just gave would imply, but even so, this nickname for a full moon has a pretty solid basis. 
 

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Crow.  Photo by Glenn Euloth via Flickr and Creative Commons (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

North Woods Naturalist: Crows

Did you know that crows are incredibly intelligent birds?  WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks all things crows with naturalist Chel Anderson in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.

 


 
Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - August 9

National Forest Update – August 8, 2019

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist with the Superior National Forest.  This is the National Forest Update for the week of August 9, 2019.  It’s late summer:  fireweed and asters are blooming, blueberries are ripe, locusts are buzzing, and a few white crowned sparrows have begun singing as they work their way south.  It’s a wonderful time to get outside and go for a walk in the woods.

Our recent batch of cloudbursts has damped down the forest so that fire danger is low right now.  That’s giving our fire people a chance to do some fuel reduction work along the Gunflint Trail.  You may have noticed that there are piles along the Gunflint from the Brule River to the East Bearskin Road.  We are using contractors to clear out small diameter balsam fir in this area.  Small firs are what are called ladder fuels – trees that basically can carry a fire up to the tops of the big pines and start a crown fire.  We’re clearing them out along roadsides so that in the event of a fire, the road would remain usable for evacuation and fire fighting for a longer amount of time.  You can expect to see this activity along roads for the next three to five years.

Cloudbursts have also given us a chance to do some grading, so roads are mostly in good shape.  We aren’t aware of any washouts from the rain, but it wouldn’t be surprising if there are.  If you encounter any, please let us know so that we can get those areas repaired.  Culvert work is continuing on the Grade, but is currently not requiring long closures.  Expect only short delays if you are traveling in that area.  The wet weather has made working in the woods difficult, but logging operations are continuing in some areas.  Watch for logging traffic in Tofte on the Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Perent Lake Road, Lake County 705, the 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, Cook County 27, and Cook County 8.  In the Gunflint District, hauling is going on on the Lima Grade, the South Brule Road, the Cascade River Road, the Pike Lake Road, Cook County 7, Cook County 6, and on the Superior Hiking Trail southeast of Cook County 6.

We’ve been talking for a while now about Smokey Bear’s 75th birthday – and it has finally arrived!  On August 9th you can party with the bear, get a picture, and sign a birthday card.  Smokey’s look has changed through the years, but his message has remained the same… well, ok, it did change a little.  He used to say ‘Only you can prevent forest fires’ and now because we understand that some fire is necessary for good forest ecology, he says ‘Only you can prevent wild fires’.  Accidental human caused ignitions are not what we want on the forest, and Smokey has been right all these years… only you can prevent them by making sure your campfire is dead out, following regulations on burning brush, and teaching your children not to play with fire.  It’s sad to say, but in 2016, data showed that still 9 out of 10 wildfires were caused by humans, around 60,000 each year.  Only you can change those figures.

Smokey’s mischievous cousins are still misbehaving at some of our campgrounds.  Be sure to look for current bear alerts at the campground registration kiosks, or talk to the campground host about bear activity.  But, whether there is activity or not, keep a clean camp, store food in your vehicle, and dispose of garbage immediately in the proper container.  Bar dumpster lids after closing.  It is much easier to keep a bear from becoming a problem than to deal with a bear once it has become a problem. 
So, join us for Smokey’s birthday, or do what he probably would like to do and go for a hike in the beautiful summer weather, snacking on blueberries as you go. 

Until next week, this is Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 7

Superior National Forest Update – June 6, 2019
 
Hi, this is Renee Frahm.  Visitor information specialist on the Superior National Forest, and, very appropriately, this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  We are turning the corner into summer, leaves are growing, wildflowers are blooming, birds are singing, and people are out hiking, camping, fishing, and paddling.

For getting out into the Forest, I’m happy to say that the road system is finally drying out and road restrictions are being lifted a little at a time.  As a result, travel in the Forest should be a little easier than it has been, but also as a result, log hauling has begun in a few spots.  On the Gunflint District, there will be hauling on the Greenwood Road and Blueberry Road with harvest operations beginning off of Cascade River Road.  On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Trappers Lake Road and the Sawbill Landing area.  Despite the drying roads, we have still been unable to get into repair the washout on the Trout Lake access road, so that road is still closed to travel.

ATV trails are drying out as well.  This weekend is the annual ‘Ride Free’ weekend where the DNR waives the need for a recreational ATV registration, and is a great time for out of state riders to try the trails.  Be aware though that there are trails and sections of trails which are still closed.  Check the DNR website for trail closures, and follow posted closure notices.  When using an ATV in the national forest, be sure to have a copy of the latest Motor Vehicle Use Map.  It is the source of information on which roads are open for ATV use, with the map superseding all but temporary closure signage on the ground.  The easiest way to use the map is to download it onto your phone, and use a wayfinding app such as Avenza to track your way through the Forest.  Downloads are available on our website.

This weekend is “Take a kid fishing weekend”.   Together with the Minnesota DNR, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Forest Service there is a free event at the Mink lake Beach this Saturday, June 8th beginning at 9:00 a.m. and goes until noon.  If you are interested in teaching your 5-12 year old how to fish, call the Gunflint Ranger District and sign up.  The number is 387-1750.  They will provide lunch and water and do have some poles and life jackets available.  There are limited supplies, so if you do have your own fishing pole, bring it along. 

Last week, fire crews were able to successfully complete several prescribed fires.  Prescribed fire helps to reduce the chances of wildfire in an area by using up fuel, and also controls undergrowth – which means that the 800 acres burned in our prescribed fires this spring should be great for blueberries in the coming years.  As the forest dries, the crews are shifting to doing fuels reduction with saws in the East Bearskin and Brule River area.  You may hear sawing in that area, but we are working with contractors to minimize noise impacts.  Unfortunately, with the drying forest, the potential for wildfire increases.  This is somewhat offset by the leafing out of deciduous trees and the growth of plants on the forest floor, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the fire danger rating.  Both our district offices have big signs with Smokey Bear pointing to the fire danger rating.  You should always be careful with fire, but when the fire danger is above moderate, you should be extra careful.  It is Smokey’s 75th birthday this year, and I don’t think the bear wants to celebrate by having a wildfire.

Since it is his 75th, we are celebrating in other ways all year.  Stop by the Tofte or Gunflint ranger station and you can take a selfie with Smokey, pick up some coloring sheets for the kids, or even buy some Smokey items!  Remember, only you can prevent wild fires!

Until next time, enjoy the forest, catch a few fish, and watch a few birds.  This has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Photo by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 7

Wildersmith on the Gunflint    by     Fred Smith
June 7, 2019    
 

It seems odd, but not too surprising, I’m scooping the Gunflint Trail and one week of the new month has already passed us by. When I last reported it was May, guess I missed a week somehow.                                                                                                                                                                            

With summer un-officially declared on Memorial Day weekend, the season is pretty much in full swing now with the school year ending for local students. Further, confirmation is seen in the Gunflint forest with leaf out complete and snow now gone from along the Mile O Pine.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The magnificence of this wild territory is borne out in the rituals of each season, with autumns’ collage of color, winters’ white and now summer green. A drive along the Trail this time of year seems so striking after the mono of winter. What a contrast between the bright deciduous leaves and deep green of the coniferous forest as a back-drop to sky blue water and heavens. A scan across our rugged landscape presents a glowing penetration of magical chlorophyll revival.                                                                                                                                                               
 

Another aspect of our turning green has caught forest folk’s attention. There’s something in the air and it isn’t the “Sound of Music.” I’m talking tree pollen. It’s as if we’re having an invisible dust storm. The hard to see collection on everything forest is most easily observed when one gets into the vehicle and has to turn on the windshield wipers to whisk the chartreuse powder away. My take on this springtime happening is the stuff is nearly as annoying as black flies. Luckily allergic reactions for yours truly are not a problem with this component of the natural world.                                                                                                                              
 

Atmospheric conditions over the past week have been on the verge of being a bit more “summer-ish.” Not too surprising though, a few mornings on June’s opening days found us near frost at Wildersmith, necessitating the comfort of warmth from the wood burning stove.                        
The other factor of Gunflint weather had been AWOL, and the area was in need of a precipitation re-fill. Fortunately, the rain gods broke loose with a nice rain in the last few days improving a crunchy situation.                                                                                                                                                                                          
 

A trifecta of activities going on up the Trail, highlight this second weekend of month six. To kick things off, the annual Boundary Waters Expo commences its two day run at 9:00 am Saturday with a full schedule of events concluding with a bonfire and speaker as the sun begins its descent. Then on Sunday, more activities with speakers, exhibits and things to see and learn take off at 10:30 and run until mid-afternoon at 2:30. This has always been a fun time for wilderness enthusiasts with notable outdoor experts sharing insights, the best and newest in gear exhibits and a gathering of friends exchanging wild land experiences.                                                                      
 

The BW Expo concludes just in time for attendees to trek on up to end of the Trail for the annual Shrimp Boil. The event is a fundraiser sponsored by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society to benefit operations at the Chik-Wauk Museum Campus. Beginning at 4:00 pm and running until 6:00, it will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center. In addition to the scrumptious dinner fixins’, a bake sale will be going on in a dining room corner with area sweet treat artisans donating their goods for purchase. All Gunflint Community residents and visitors are welcome.                                                                                                                                                                                   

If this isn’t enough, activities spill over into Monday, June 10 as the GTHS has its first membership gathering of the summer.  Held at the Seagull Lake Community Center, it will be the annual meeting, commencing at 1:30.  Following the Society business review and election of new Trustees, long time mid-trail resident Ina Huggenvik will be sharing historical perspectives – titled “One Man’s Dream.” Sweets, coffee and conversation will follow. All current members and wannabe members are invited.                                                                                               
 

From the wild neighborhood, folks up the hill from Wildersmith had a “Bruno” come for a morning deck-side visit a few days ago. The stopover was brief and with no reported bear shenanigans.  At Wildersmith, we are still tolerating “Woody” the chuck. The skittish critter played peek-a-boo with Mrs. Wildersmith the other day from under the nearby wood shed. Then during a recent task up at Chik-Wauk, I came across the calling card from a moose. While finding such is not too unusual, this scene differed in that the lumpy sample was left on top of an over turned boat near the Water Craft Exhibit Building.                                                                                               
 

Another update from the Loon’s nest near the Chik-Wauk Campus, finds the iconic Minnesota couple hanging in there amidst harassment from both annoying black flies and a bothersome eagle. If they are able to survive these nasty assaults, chick hatching should occur anytime during the next few days.                                                                                                                                              

In closing this week, a HELP WANTED posting has been extended throughout the territory from the GTHS. Help is needed for supervision in any of the three visitor facilities on the Chik-Wauk campus this 2019 season. Employment can come in the order of either full (up to 30 hours per week) or part-time {flexible job sharing (6 hour days) with others}. If interested see the Chik-Wauk on Facebook or Boreal.org for more details and application filing.                                                                   
 

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the…”sum…sum…summertime!”
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 31, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 31, 2019
 
Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  It is the start of June, and summer is upon us at last, so I think we should all be visitors to the Forest this week!

As you head out into the Forest, there are still a few lingering effects of spring.  While weight restrictions are being lifted from many roads, they are still in force on others.  The Lake and Cook County websites have up to date lists on which of the county roads are open to large trucks.  As the weight restrictions end, hauling for timber sales is beginning.  Watch for possible hauling in the Trapper’s Lake Road area and in the areas of the Greenwood, Firebox, and Blueberry Roads, as conditions allow.

“As conditions allow” is a phrase that applies to the prescribed burns happening on the Forest as well.  We’d love to be able to give people lots of advance notice and precise dates on prescribed fires, but it is more important to burn on days when the weather is just right – and nature just isn’t that predictable.  You can find out about planned prescribed fire by clicking on the “Prescribed Fire Information” link on our home page, then on the “Current Year’s Plans” link.  Notices on burns will be tweeted out and posted on our Facebook page as they happen.  Active fires, both prescribed burns and wildfires, can be followed on the national incident information site called InciWeb.  We have links to that as well, or just search for

InciWeb:  “I-N-C-I Web”.  If your travels in the Forest take you near a burn underway, please follow posted information and be extra careful about vehicles and people on the road.  Smoke may restrict sight, so drive carefully.  It is good to bypass these areas entirely if possible.

Birds are doing everything right now.  Some are migrating through, some are setting up nests, and some are feeding chicks.  Peregrine falcons nesting in the cliffs along the shore are in that last stage – feeding chicks.  These nests are pretty closely monitored both by people and by the peregrines themselves who will loudly call and even swoop down at people who get a bit too close.  Peregrines were gone from the North Shore due to DDT until the peregrine falcon reintroduction program in the 1980s brought them back.  It has been a very successful program, and you can now often see these amazing birds as you travel on Hwy 61.  Diving at speeds which have been clocked at over 224 miles per hour, they are the fastest animal around.  We watched a peregrine take a gull over the lake once, and it is pretty incredible to see them in action.  I’m not sure the gull agreed.

Wilderness rangers have begun summer patrols through the Boundary Waters.  They will be working to clear and maintain portages, take care of campsites, and help people traveling in the wilderness.  They also get to pick up litter, which, they are happy to report, has been decreasing over the years.  You can help on this one by following the simple rule of ‘Pack it in, pack it out’ during your wilderness travels – or for that matter, your travels anywhere.  Remember, don’t burn trash in campfires, and don’t dispose of trash in latrine pits.  Just pack it all out.  On a less happy note, the wilderness rangers also report the return of the black flies.  It’s getting to be time to find the head net again.

It should be a lovely early summer week this week, so ignore the black flies and take advantage of it by heading out into the woods. 

Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Big Fish photo submitted by Fred Smith.jpeg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 31, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       
May 31, 2019    

Spring along the Gunflint Trail has had its good days and not so good since our last meeting on the radio. The Memorial Day weekend had few moments of sunny glory only to be stymied by dismal cold and dampness most of the time.                                                                                                                               

As we bid May adieu, and welcome June, odds are pretty good, as we head toward the Solstice, this seasonal re-birth will be much improved over the harsh past nine weeks. By the time this scoop airs, our last patch of snow will be gone from along the Mile O Pine. And in spite of our lingering winter character, sprouts continue emerging, Squill and Marsh Marigolds are blooming, fiddleheads are uncoiling along back country roads and infant leaves are filling in forest voids.                                                                                                                                                      

June finds many residents returning from their snow bird locations. The past week has seen the wilderness quiet succumb to the drone of engines on both lakes and land.                                             

There were so many angler rigs at the Gunflint Lake watercraft access last weekend, parking was at a premium. Vehicles spilled out onto South Gunflint Lake Road like I’ve never seen before. Such was also the case in parking facilities at Seagull Outfitters and Sag Lake Landing as well.                                                                                                                                                                                           

If this early visitor activity is a sign of things to come, the economic impact for area businesses looks to be bright as the summer sun. Best wishes to all for a great summer of Gunflint hospitality.                                                                                                                                                       

Speaking for the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, I wish to thank both lake property owner associations and many individuals for their participation in the Trail clean-up last week. Thanks are also extended to the County Highway Department for picking up the debris and collection bags left by the volunteer “worker bees.”                                                                                      

Let’s hope Trail users will do a better job of keeping litter in their vehicles for proper disposal during this next year. Such disregard for this beautiful place is unconscionable!                                 

I’m sad to report on the days where we have experienced the glory of “old Sol”, the biting airborne insects are in a harassing frenzy. Whereas there has been much griping about the cold of April and May, one has to admit it held the annoying critters at bay. Now it appears we are going to pay for it.                                                                                                                                                        

The lake water remains quite cold to which I can attest. Putting the dock and boat lift into the Gunflint waters was the order of business at Wildersmith for the Decoration Day weekend. With H20 temps holding in the low to mid-forties, I donned my wet suit, and with the help of my resolute neighbor, we shivered our way to completing the job. Now it’s time to enjoy some Canadian sunsets over Gunflint Lake.                                                                                                                           

While there are a plethora of superb northland photographers capturing the wonders of border country woods, a simple Trail camera located along the Sag Bay at Chik-Wauk seized a moment of animal majesty. The subject was a Canadian Lynx poised in investigatory pose as if it had been choreographed for the shutter click. The digital was placed on Facebook for the world to see, but better yet, why not come up to the Nature Center at Chik-Wauk and view the pic first-hand.                                                                                                                                                         
It was confirmed a day or so ago at Wildersmith that bears do poop in the woods. So we definitely know there have been dark night visitors in this neighborhood. During the daytime, we’ve been entertained by a part-time wood chuck. Whereas there are no garden munchies for “Woody”, it has taken over a ground level patch where squirrels get a daily seed allotment. It’s been a bit un-nerving for my “squirrelly and chippy” contingent.                                                                         

On a closing note, while our Holiday weekend weather was not as hoped, fishing at least, for some involved catching. Neighbors down the road had two days of good luck with “lakers” down on North Lake, but the biggest and best of all was a “hawg” Northern Pike caught right off their Gunflint Lake dock. See the website post (WTIP.org) of my Wildersmith Column (drop down on Community Voices) for verification of this forty inch plus, twenty-five pound surprise.                                                                                                                                                                         
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with a caressing spirit of the natural world right outside our back door!
 

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Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 24, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     May 24, 2019    
 
The Memorial Day weekend sends us off into the final segment of month five, and unless conditions have changed in the last few days, one would find it hard to believe the territory is at the un-official start of summer. The past week has been two steps forward and one step back for this blooming season.                                                                                                                      

While spring has been working to take complete control, we at Wildersmith had a morning where frosty roof tops and a little making ice was a reminder of days gone by. So it isn’t over until it’s over, and yes there’s still snowy evidence in a few places.                                                

Meanwhile, on the days we have stepped forward, slow gains are being made on the green-up. As one gazes across the rocky landscape, a green haze is hanging just below the skyline. And in spite of those days when we have stepped back, the verdant fog is growing by the day.                                                                                                                                                                                           

In the bustle of living in organized territory, I seemed not to have had time to catch many of simple wonders of this re-birth time. However, in the golden age of retirement, I find wonder in keeping a watchful eye on a juvenile birch tree outside the kitchen window. The once green tipped buds bulge ever so slightly with each passing morning in anticipation of soon being a grown up leaf. What a joy to be a part of Natures’ unfolding.                                                                                                      

The chilly days of the past week or so have not slowed the return of hummingbirds to the upper Trail. While we have not seen any at Wildersmith, neighbors have had them humming about in search of a little sweetness.                                                                                                                  

A friend over on Loon Lake reports one flew in through the open door of his wood shop. The impatient bird zipped around his head as a reminder it was back and then headed out. Recognizing a call to duty, he hustled right out and proceeded to get the nectar jar filled as this diminutive north woods tough guy summoned. Let alone several four legged neighborhood species, even the birds have many of us in a caring mood.                                                                                                          

During one of many recent trips up to Trails end, a couple neighborhood buddies and I had the rare pleasure of meeting up with a cross fox. In twenty years of living in the woods I had never observed one. Our sighting took place on the Sag Lake Trail, so perhaps folks residing in that neighborhood have seen this handsome critter, and if not they might be on the look-out for it.                                                                                                                                                                        
           
In the week following the fishing opener, the Gunflint Trail has come alive with visitors. It’s as if someone opened the gate at bottom of the hill in Grand Marais. Most of the countless vehicles are either towing or toting water craft of some variety. Without regard for the un-summerlike weather last weekend, the magnetism of this place in the universe has people clamoring to hit the lakes and hiking trails for a bit of wilderness calm and adventure.                                                                                       

With the growing visitor influx, it is timely that the Gunflint Trail Historical Society announces the opening of the Chik-Wauk Campus. Now beginning its tenth season, gates open Saturday, at 10:00am.                                                                                                                                      

2019 is an exciting time in history of the Society as the Campus of Gunflint Trail history opens its long awaited Watercraft Exhibit Building (The WEB). This display of vintage canoes, boats and motors and the role such watercraft played in lives of early settlers, is set in a new timber frame building along the entrance lane to the Museum and Nature Center. Not only are the exhibits awesome, the structure housing them has a contemporary history of its own.                                               

If this is not enough excitement, in the Museum, a new temporary exhibit is being presented. The 2019 display features the “life and times of Tommy banks” and his unlikely friendship with pioneer resident Billy Needham. Tommy was a bootlegger and gangster from Minneapolis in the 1930’s who had a cabin on the Northshore of Hungry Jack Lake.                                             

Folks will want to plan a visit to this magical place at end of the Trail in the coming weeks for all kinds of adventures, from territorial history to many energizing Nature Center activities for both young and old. And speaking of things new, in the Nature Center, the GTHS welcomes, Ed Moran who takes over naturalist duties. Don’t miss stopping by to greet the newest Chik-Wauk staffer.                                                                                                                                                                             

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, watching the brown earth turn green!
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 24, 2019

National Forest Update – May 23, 2019

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist on the Superior National Forest.  It seems like spring has taken a long time coming to the Forest this year, and it may be risky to say so…but I think maybe we can finally take the snow brushes and ice scrapers out of our cars and put away the winter coats.

We have been gearing up towards summer at least.  All our fee campgrounds are now in fee status, which means that the water systems have been turned on and that there is garbage and recycling available.  Remember that dumpsters at campgrounds are only for campers and day users…and not for household garbage.  Also remember that they are not supposed to be feeding stations for bears, so when you are camping, make sure to put all your garbage in the dumpster and then secure the bars across the lid to keep the animals out.  It is particularly important to follow good bear etiquette in the spring because if a bear learns that a dumpster is food supply early on, it may become a pest the entire summer.

The same holds true for your bird feeders at home.  Feeding birds, especially during migration, is both fun and good for the birds.  Feeding bird seed to bears is a different story, so bring the feeders in at night – even if it is raining.  Speaking of birds, we are in our spring peak of bird diversity.  Most of our resident birds have arrived, and we still have some of those that will be moving farther north.  Hummingbirds are back, and it is always amazing to think of those little guys winging their way all the way from the Gulf Coast to our back yards in northern Minnesota.

Birds are lucky because at least they don’t have to travel on the back roads this spring.  Roads are still pretty soft in many areas.  There is a washout on the road to the Trout Lake public water access that has blocked the way to the access.  We are waiting for the road to firm up enough for heavy equipment before we can get in to fix that washout.  Spring weight restrictions are still in place on Forest Service Roads, but will be coming off soon as roads dry out and frost leaves the ground.  That means that right now, there’s no log hauling, but it could start in the next week.  When it does start, look for trucks on the Lima Grade, Greenwood Road, and Blueberry Road on the Gunflint District and on the Trapper’s Lake Road on the Tofte District.

This holiday weekend though, look out for bikes.  It is the weekend of  Le Grand du Nord, a set of gravel road bike races taking place in the Forest out of Grand Marais.  Part of the race is reading the route from cue cards, so we can’t tell you exactly where you’ll find bikers, so be aware they could be anywhere in the area on Saturday.  Of course, there could be bikers around any day, so we should be driving expecting to see bikers all the time.

Our fire shop has been conducting prescription burns as weather permits.  They report that all of their wildlife opening burns are done for the season. The clearings maintained by these burns will benefit animals which eat vegetation close to the ground, like moose and snowshoe hare.  Helping hares will also help lynx who prey on the hare, though the hares would probably rather skip that step.  The burns also benefit smaller critters, like Nabokov’s blue butterfly, a rare species on the Forest.  Prescription burns are also designed with the aim of reducing the amount of fuel in the forest and so reducing the impact of wildfires, and to prepare harvested sites for reforestation.  Since conducting prescribed burns is weather dependent, I can’t tell you precise dates, so if you are interested in when and where these are taking place, check our website for alerts about prescribed fire.

In spite of the recent rainy and snowy days, the lack of mosquitoes, the abundance of birds and wildflowers, and things like the songs of spring peepers in your ponds make this a favorite time to get outside.  It is time to find the paddles and life jackets, and, we hope, put the snowblower and snow shovel back in the shed.  Take the time to enjoy this long drawn out spring.  Here’s to hoping summer will get here sooner than later!  I hope you have some extra time with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend and that you can get out doors and do something fun!  There will be lots of people around, so be safe when you are out and about driving the back roads.

Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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