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Superior National Forest Update: July 21

Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, information receptionist at both the Tofte and Gunflint offices with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 22.

We are hitting what is normally the hottest part of the summer. While the north may be the coolest part of the state, it is still hot enough to think about staying hydrated when you’re outside. Usually we think the best thing to do is to drink plenty of water, but a recent study which looked at how long liquid stays in your body showed some interesting alternative beverages. Milk actually had one of the best hydration indices, possibly because it is absorbed over a longer period of time. Commercial hydration solution used medically also, not surprisingly, had a high hydration index. The surprise, and good news for fans of iced lattes, is that coffee turns out to have just as good a hydration index as water. While studies like this are interesting to think about and make for good conversation, the main thing is that any liquid is better than none, and you need plenty of liquid if you are sweating on a hot day. 

It may be getting hot in the future, but our recent cool wet weather seems to have spurred more campers in and out of the Boundary Waters to want a nice warm campfire. We’ve seen an increase of people cutting live vegetation, possibly in hopes of fueling those fires. Cutting live trees is not allowed, and could result in a pretty good-sized fine, but the real reason not to cut live vegetation is just that it is a bad idea. In the first place, part of our wilderness ethic is to leave no trace of ourselves behind when we depart, and a noticeable stump or cut branch is certainly a big visible trace that you were there. Second, branches harvested off live trees make lousy fires anyway. Green wood does not burn well. You might think the solution would be cutting branches off dead trees, but that still is leaving a trace. Here’s what you should do instead. In the wilderness, gather dead and down wood from somewhere away from your campsite. Don’t remove branches from beaver dams or lodges. Pick wood that is wrist size or smaller as burning large logs are hard to extinguish and may continue to smolder after you leave.

At campgrounds, buy local certified firewood, and bring an axe or other tool to cut some of that firewood into kindling size. Never use waste paper to start a fire. Disposal of trash in fires is illegal, plus burning food saturated paper plates will make your fire pit smell like lunch to passing bears, and they will come and dig it up. Finally, when you are done with the fire, make sure it is totally out and cold to the touch. Smokey Bear has been saying this for years, but it is still true that many of our wildfires are caused accidentally by humans, and “only you can prevent wildfires.”

Speaking of fires, our fire danger is still pretty low due to the rain. Our fire crews are mostly out west helping with wildfires in other parts of the country.  In addition to keeping the fire danger low, the rain has kept our roads soggy. Keep an eye on road conditions when you drive. We’ve had a few of our rigs get stuck recently due to muddy soft roadways. 
There will be some logging trucks out on those roads as well. On the Tofte side, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On the Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6.

Logging trucks on roads are big and easily seen, but it may be harder to see small stuff, like butterflies. The northern blue butterfly is a little blue butterfly and is a species we are watching on the Forest. They like to ‘puddle,’ gathering in groups on roads where there is animal scat or some other concentration of certain nutrients. If you see northern blues, or any other kinds of butterflies on the road in an area where you can slow down safely, give them a break and let them fly off instead of becoming ornaments on your radiator.

Enjoy the butterfly watching, and think about escaping the heat with a trip to woods this week. Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the Superior National Forest Update.