Friday, November 30, 2007

Re-storing the Upper Gunflint’s Jack Pine- “Show me the Money”

The Gunflint Scenic Byway’s Forestry Committee following last spring’s Ham Lake Fire drew-up the following Reforestation Principles they would like to see implemented:

  • Restore the upland jack pine – black spruce ecosystem to something approaching the pre - 1999 windstorm conditions in terms of acreage within the viewshed of the scenic byway corridor in all fire affected areas. Strategies would include aerial seeding on a large scale and planting where necessary. This should include previously logged areas; salvage logged areas and prescribed fire areas that were to young to contain an adequate seed source for natural regeneration.

  • Increase the long-lived red and white pine component along the byway corridor throughout the burned areas. Main strategies should include large scale planting coupled with direct seeding. Suggest possibility of including a portion of red and white pine seed in any large scale seeding of upland jack pine-black spruce.

These goals were presented to Gunflint District Ranger Dennis Nietzke and his staff at a meeting in September. Nietzke stated he basically agreed with these principles.

The Byway’s Forestry Committee next met with Nieitzke in October. At that meeting he proposed planting some 1000 acres of red and white pine in the burned over areas. It was agreed by the Byway Committee that if this proposal was actually implemented it would go a long ways to fulfilling the Committee’s second goal.

However, at first, Nietzke did not give any indication that the District was going to do anything about the burned-over jack pine. When Nietzke was pressed on restoring the jack pine he responded that, “it will all come back naturally.” However when pressed further and confront with the fact that much of the jack pine burned during the fire had already been burned over by the District’s own prescribed burns and because of this there was no seed source left Nietzke agreed to revisit the issue.

Thursday (November 29), the Byway’s Forest Committee again met with Nietzke. Attending the meeting for the Committee were Nancy Seaton, Jim Johnson, Jim Raml, Barbara Bottger and myself.

At this meeting Nietzke stated that due to funding limitations his original proposal to plant 1000 acres of red and white pine would have to be reduced to 400 acres. However, he now felt that 1600 acres of jack pine should be seeded.

In terms of the planting of the red and white pine, Nietzke explained that by planting less pine per acre and adding in the 150 acres the Gunflint resident’s “Green-Up” program is proposing to plant that about 800 acres could actually be covered. The Byway’s Committee present at the meeting informally agreed that this reduction in acres would still be inline with their original goal of increasing the red and white pine on the Gunflint.

Neitzke stated that planting of the 400 acres of red and white pines is his first priority and the 1600 acres of jack pine would be his second priority. He went on to state that while it appears the Forest Service’s current budget could cover the cost of planting the red and white pine, priority two, the jack pine seeding, would have to be funded in the agency’s next year’s budget. However, Nietzke had no idea when that budget might be approve or even if the jack pine seeding would be covered in that budget. He then suggested that maybe the Byway’s Committee could help by coming-up with some, if not all the seeding cost. This cost is estimated in excess of $100,000.

The Forest Service expect to have their Ham Lake Fire Reforestation plan ready for thirty days of public comment by December and their final decision by January.

In the meantime if jack pine is going to be planted someone has to come up with the money and the Forest Service has to find enough jack pine seeds. And all this must be done right away in order for the agency to get their seed order in by February. Further complicating the jack pine seeding is that the optimum time to seed would be this spring before the aspen and brush, which is rapidly spreading into the burned over jack pine forest, takes-over.

Both the Byway Committee and the Forest Service are agreement that if much of the upper Gunflint’s jack pine forest is going to be restored it must be seeded soon. The question is where is the money going to come from?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Snow on the Gunflint- Total Accumulation

Update- Morning, November 29 at Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B . There is eight and one half inches of snow on the ground and it is still coming down.

While the Banadad Ski Trail is not tracked there is enough snow to ski. The Trail has been cleared from the east end to the Old Logging camp or 10 kilometers and from the west end in about six and one half kilometers. We are now starting to pack the trail and should have it ready to track, at least the east end, sometime within a week.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Finally Some Colder Weather on the Gunflint

Two nights at about zero; the mid size lakes such Poplar are finally "making ice."

It was not that many years ago, when we lived on an island across from Windigo Lodge on Poplar that by Thanksgiving we were crossing the lake by snowmobile. One of our measures to determine if the ice was safe for our snowmobile was to let Windigo's Ekroot boys get out on the ice with their snowmobiles then we would give the ice another week before we ran it with our machines. In those day is was not uncommon to have several -20 days prior to Thanksgiving to help set-up the ice.

Now we are lucky if it gets down to zero. At least the last few days of zero and with only about an inch of snow cover has enabled the swamps and beaver ponds along the ski trail to freeze-up. Now all we need is more snow to get the trails open. And guess what? I just looked out the window for the first time this morning and it is starting to snow. And guess what? I just looked out the window for the first time this morning and it is starting to snow.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Small Lakes Mid Trail Freeze- over

With temperatures the last few nights hovering in the mid teens and daytime not quite reaching the freezing point, the smaller lakes are now covered with ice- not much, less then an inch. Swamper, Aspen, Little Ollie, Road Lakes all have ice while the mid-size lakes i.e., Poplar, Hungry Jack, West Bearskin are still open. Normal after Swamper freezes it takes another three or four days before the mid-size lake freeze.

As for the area's winter trails, this falls heavy rains but lots of water on the trails and while this water is now frozen, the larger swamps and beaver ponds on the trails have yet to freeze hard enough to put any heavy equipment or even to walk on them safely.

Right now there is about one-half inch or less of snow on the ground.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Christmas Coffee-Table Book Features the Gunflint Trail

Christmas in America- A Photographic Celebration of the Holiday Season is a delightful book featuring stunning winter scenes from across the country by noted photographer Peter Guttman. Included in the book are photographs of Boundary Country Trekking's Little Ollie Lake Cabin and the Croft yurt, Arleigh Jorgensen's dog teams and Trail Center. The New York Times' says of Guttman's work, "Using light to its fullest, Mr Guttman creates stunning images no matter how far he travels."

The book is published by Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who is he and what was he smoking?

Reprinted from True North- a Cook County Blog - The tragic death of Ken Petersen, whose only crime was being a good Samaritan and cutting up a downed tree on the Gunflint Trail, raises a lot of scary questions about the good old boy network in Cook County.

Ken was killed by a Border Patrol agent who claims he didn't see either the man or the tree blocking the road. What was he smoking? More to the point, why is his name not released? In any other road accident there is no secrecy. But the Homeland Honchos have their perks, I guess.

Routinely, the state patrol issues tickets whenever there is a road accident, no matter whether anyone is hurt or any property is damaged. When a ticket is issued, the driver gets listed on the Court Report. County Judge Kenneth Sandvik declares that this is totally okay. So, why does a Border Patrol agent get special treatment? Who is this guy?

It's all part of the special privileges granted to "Homeland Security" as I see it. They get to do all sorts of bad stuff because... well, just because they can.

Ken Petersen was an exceptional person, brilliant and good and kind. Yes, accidents do happen, BUT. I know I would never hit a person and/or a tree in the road; if my vision got that bad I would quit driving. People, ask questions.

Footnote From the editor of the Edge - Another question- a speeding Home Land Security officer ran-down and killed two baby moose along the Gunflint on July 21, 2006 in the "reduced speed zone" near trail center" and then fled leaving neighbors to deal with the dead baby moose on the Trail. Could this agent be the same person that ran down Ken and he or she just does not know how to drive?


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Gunflint Skiing in the News

Boundary Country Trekking’s Gunflint Lodge to Lodge Skiing program, this month, appeared in two Magazines- the November/December issue of AAA Living and the December issue of Midwest Living. In the Midwest Living article the author, Lisa Meyers McCuntick, skied from Bearskin Lodge to the Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B and then travel on to Gunflint Lodge dinning at the Tall Pines Yurt's were she had the Mongolian Firepot Dinner, Trail Center Restaurant and Gunflint's Justines in route. Also appearing in the Midwest Living Magazine was recipes from Barbara’s Kitchen at Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B and Gunflint Lodge’s Justine’s Restaurant.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Banadad Ski Trail is Going “Greener”

Boundary Country Trekking, which maintains and grooms northern Minnesota’s Banadad and Adjoining Ski Trail System announce that the Banadad is going carbon neutral beginning with the 2007-08 ski season.

According to Boundary Country Trekking’s Ted Young, “we intend to purchase carbon credits to off-set the carbon contributed to the atmosphere by our snowmobile grooming, our use of mechanized tools outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA) and for the carbon added by the vehicles driven by our trail maintenance volunteers to travel to the Banadad.”

The Banadad, is a thirty-five kilometer trail network centrally located along the Gunflint Nordic Trail System. Most of the Banadad is located in the BWCA Wilderness. Within the BWCA non-motorized hand tools are used for maintenance. Some mechanized tools are used for maintenance outside the wilderness. Each fall volunteers most of who travel from the Twin Cities assist in the maintenance. Snowmobiles are used for grooming.

“Operating a carbon neutral ski trail system,” Young continued. “ is consistent with our company’s sustainable business policy and commitment to the environment.”

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

You Know Falls is Over When?

On the Gunflint Trail fall is over when the leaves have turned and fallen, when the tamarack have turned gold, the geese have gone south and Halloween is over. All correct of course but you really know it is the end of fall when Trail Center Restaurant closes for the season. Last night with snow falling outside, inside Trail Center locals celebrated Halloween. When the last celebrant left, Trail Center closed.

According to Sarah, Trail Center will reopens, for the winter, after Christmas- the restaurant will only be open on weekends but the store will remain open seven days a week.