With March rolling in, it’s out with the old and in with the new emergency department. The floors have been dug up and there’s a wide-open space ready for more progress. Eight patient rooms are almost ready to go, but they will not be used until all the patient rooms and the emergency department is complete.
from the mn DNR We’ve come a long way, baby’
Compared to the excitement when our eagles produced their first egg on Jan. 28, the past four weeks have been a bit on the mundane side as the pair take turns sitting on their three eggs to keep them warm. Fifty or 60 years ago, that routine act of incubation played a significant role in bald eagles’ decline to where, by 1963, fewer than 500 nesting pairs of America’s national bird remained. It’s a tale that illustrates the unintended consequences of technology, and the importance of proactive environmental policy.
In the hopeful years following WWII, when science seemed to hold forth solutions for all sorts of perennial problems, the pesticide DDT emerged as a potential savior in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases and insect pests in crop and livestock production. But as use grew, it became evident that this “solution” also created its own set of serious environmental problems.
DDT and its residues washed into waterways, where they accumulated in aquatic plants and fish. Bald eagles ate the fish contaminated with DDT, and the chemical interfered with the ability of the birds to produce strong eggshells. As a result, their eggs had shells so thin that they often broke under the eagles’ own weight as they sat on them during incubation. DDT also caused other environmental problems, and was later found to cause cancer in humans.
After the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” drew national attention to the toxic effects of DDT and other pesticides, it took another 10 years before the use of DDT was banned by the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency in 1972. Following enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, bald eagles were added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 1978. DDT wasn’t the only problem facing eagles; their numbers also suffered from habitat destruction and illegal shooting. But the ban against DDT’s use was an important first step on the road to recovery for bald eagles, which now number over 10,000 breeding pairs in the lower 48 states, with Minnesota home to the most.
The bald eagle’s comeback, to where it now has been removed from the endangered species list, was the product of concerted federal and state policies rooted in sound science and citizen action. Those things are just as important now, as eagles and other wildlife face challenges arising from lead poisoning, new types of pesticides like neonicotinoids that cause problems for pollinators, global warming and other threats.
Countdown to the hatch
Fortunately, our eagles don’t have to worry about crushing thin-shelled eggs. They’ve been diligently incubating their eggs for nearly a month now. It shouldn’t be long before we have chicks! Allowing 35 days, the first-laid egg could hatch as soon as March 4 – just a week from this Saturday. Will you be watching when it happens?
Small investments, big results
Minnesota’s Nongame Wildlife Program has been instrumental in the national recovery of bald eagles and other species. When the program began 40 years ago, the U.S. had few bald eagles left. Because Minnesota’s population was healthy and growing, the Nongame Wildlife Program arranged to donate 55 chicks to New York, Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri and Kentucky to assist bald eagle recovery in those states. The chicks to be donated were removed only from Minnesota nests that had two or more healthy chicks in them. It’s a great example of how a small investment played a big role, helping our national bird recover from near extinction.
Won’t you consider a small investment in your Nongame Wildlife Program to help us help wildlife? Consider it a 40th birthday gift to all the wild critters that benefit from our efforts! Without your ongoing interest and investment, we would be unable to help bald eagles or any other species.
There’s still skiing in northern Minnesota. Like most of Minnesota, we had warm temps and rain at the beginning of this week, but luckily we had so much snow that it didn’t matter much. We still have more snow than we know what to do with, as you will see by the high snowbanks and narrow roads around Bearskin. No sign of winter letting up here.
The consistency of the snow changed — it’s icier, for sure. But continuous grooming all week by both Bearskin and Golden Eagle has created some pretty good conditions. We’re guessing this may be the last good skiing left in Minnesota at this point, as most of the north shore lost their snow base in the warm weather.
Parking in the Bearskin Lodge parking lot has been an issue in the afternoons Friday and Saturday. You can go up to the next road and park at Golden Eagle, which lets you start on the north side of the ski system. Ski to Bearskin to enjoy your chili or soup lunch!
We have soup and chili every day, hot chocolate with cookies, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, and a nice array of wine and beer. Spend some quality time in our lodge, sipping a glass of wine and watching the birds and squirrels at the feeder.
Here are the latest snow measurements, as taken by Golden Eagle on 2/24.
Central Gunflint Ski Trail Conditions on 2-24-17
New Snow Last 24 hours: 0.0”
New Snow Last 7 days: Trace
Trail Base, Staked: Average 7 – 10”
Snow in Woods, Staked: Average 10 – 14”
Groomed with classic track: 70 km
Groomed with skate lane: 58 km
Surface Conditions: Tilled snow
Last grooming day: 2-24-17
Total snowfall since Nov. 1: 64.23”
Comments: We still have snow and we are still grooming and skiing! Expect fast conditions, abrasive snow, and a solid base. Skate skiing is particularly fast now; double up on the kick wax for classic skiing. All trails are continuing to be groomed with the tiller. According to the 7-day forecast, it looks like we are done with the fluctuating freezing/thawing temperatures for a while. Possible snow is predicted after the weekend, which will only improve things. Conditions aren’t perfect, but skiing is still very good and very much alive yet. Trail base is now averaging between 7 and 10 inches; areas that receive a lot of sun have less. Snow in woods is still between 10 and 14 inches, on average.
Pine Martens are so very cute except for when they aren’t. Like the year they decided our outfitting building made a beautiful winter home. We had to trap them and they kept coming back. This one in the cage was not very happy with us.
The one David Johnson captured on film was much happier.
The good news is even after all of the warm temperatures and rain we received we still have plenty of snow in Cook County. Here’s a report from the Sugarbush Ski System followed by a report from Lutsen Mountain.Sugarbush Report February 24, 2017
We finally have cooler temperatures, so grooming has resumed today. We have snow, unlike many other areas of the state.
Onion River Road, Britton Peak small loops, Hogback, and Homestead have been groomed today. Some areas have the track re-set and some not. This is due to the condition of the trail and the groomer’s best judgement for the situation.The Tofte Ski-Down trail has been closed, due to icy and un-safe conditions.
If you want more cross country skiing this winter, we have the snow and trail for you! Details for specific sections of the trail are updated by the groomers when they finish. See http://sugarbushtrail.org/ski_trails.php
We hope to see you on the trailsLutsen Mountain Report WINTER IS WAITING FOR YOU
Winter is alive and well Up North. With a deep midwinter snowpack, the February thaw had minimal effect on slope conditions. In fact, the glorious days brought out some record skier visits for the holiday weekend. Average base around the mountain is still 4+ feet. Even off-piste there is a couple feet of snow in the woods. Temps have returned to normal and the long range forecast for March shows temperatures skewing slightly below normal, giving every indication that we are good for skiing daily through April 9th and weekends until May. Time to plan your spring ski vacation!
Thanks again David Johnson, I’m so glad you captured this.
No season poses more challenges in the Boundary Waters than winter. How to dress for winter play in the Boundary Waters is particularly puzzling, especially since it’s not unheard of for winter temperatures to fluctuate as much as 70 degrees in the span of 24 hours. (Just think how differently you would dress for 30ºF temps vs. 90ºF, yet we hardly bat an eyelash when temps go from -35ºF below to 35ºF above in the winter months.) While hypothermia should be a consideration nearly all year in the BWCAW, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, a clothing misjudgment in the winter can lead to the loss of toes or even, life. (We’ve all read To Build a Fire, amirite?) If you get only thing right during your winter camping or ice fishing adventure, you want it to be your clothing.
The amount of winter clothing you need directly correlates to your level of physical exertion, so you really need two clothing plans for any given day: one for when you’re in motion and the other for when you’re in camp or hanging out by an ice fishing hole.
After 30+ winters in northeastern Minnesota, we’ve honed our winter clothing pretty well, so we’ve put together a “winter wear primer” to help others avoid common stumbling blocks when dressing for winter weather.
On any typical winter day, we’re wearing some sort of mix and match outfit from what’s laid out below.
How all that clothing shakes out each day depends on the day’s activity, temperature, and wind.
1) All about that base
Rule #1 for winter wear in Minnesota is to dress like an onion – an onion made of wool, that is. Keep the layer next to your skin comfortably snug and opt for wool material to avoid a cold, clammy base layer. The wool wicks moisture away from your body so you stay dry when you’re in motion and warm when you’re taking a breather. (If you’re allergic to wool, consider silk.)
I’ve had good luck with stuff from Minus33, a company specializing in merino wool garments of varying weights. I wear their mid-weight long sleeve shirt when temps are above 0º and opt for ” expedition weight” when it’s colder. For bottoms, I throw on the nearest pair of leggings (yep, those much hyped Lularoe leggings work pretty well as long underwear) if it’s a warmer winter day, but it’s below 0º, I opt for mid-weight wool long underwear.
Wool pants are the #1 item we recommend if you’re serious about winter recreation in the Boundary Waters. In our opinion, wool pants are the perfect winter pants solution for northeastern Minnesota’s climate, since they seem to maintain a comfortable temperature regardless of if it’s 30º above or -20º. They might not win fashion points, but they wick moisture, dry quickly, and as long as you have a base layer on, aren’t itchy. Beside, you can wear them right next to a fire and never worry about them melting. If you’re planning to hike several miles in a day, you’ll appreciate their breathability.
Note: Unfortunately, wool pants are very difficult to find in a women’s cut. (L.L. Bean used to be a safe bet, but they don’t have any listed on their website currently.) It’s worth hunting around for a pair, because trying to squeeze into a pair of men’s cut is not a comfortable solution.
Wool pants are your best option for if you’re planning to spend most of your day in motion, but the wind will whistle straight through them. For more sedentary winter activities (i.e. snowmobiling, ice fishing), don’t knock bib snow pants. While bibs can be a pain, it is nice to duck under a snow-laden branch and not have a mini avalanche down your backside. They’re clumsier to move in than wool pants, but if you’re hanging out in windy conditions, insulated water and windproof pants are what you want. Alternatively, you could just pull a windproof nylon shell over your wool pants.
3) Middle layer
This is the part of dressing for winter where the wheel starts to come off the wagon for people. Functional winter clothing is definitely an investment and many people try to fudge it with lots (and lots) of layers of cotton sweatshirts, sweatpants, pajama pants, and rain gear. But more clothes does not equal more warmth. In fact, by the time you’ve pulled on four sweatshirts and shoehorned yourself into your rain jacket, your clothing will be so tight, you’ll be compromising your blood’s circulation. Your body’s internal furnace can’t keep you warm if it can’t fully circulate blood.
Also, no one wants to end up like Randy in The Christmas Story:
But good news! This is a classic case of “less is more.” All you really need for your mid layer is a loose fitting wool sweater or Polarfleece pullover or zip-up. The idea here is to create pockets of warm air around your body, just like how a quilt functions. If it’s below 0º, I throw a down or Primaloft vest over my sweater. Always have a vest in your backpack to use as an outer layer on a long rigorous hike or as an extra layer if the wind picks up.
Oooo, is there anything worse than cold toes? This is another area of winter wear where people compulsively keep throwing on layer after layer . . . to their own detriment. The last thing you want is your feet sheathed in an impenetrable layer of socks; you want the warm air inside your boots to actually reach your little piggies.
You should just need one or two layers of socks, regardless of the temperature. When it’s above 0º, I wear a merino wool hiking sock. If it’s colder, I’ll pair a thicker wool sock with a lightweight liner sock.
Not all wool socks are created alike and if you’ve been wearing wool socks for a while, you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of having a pair of popular and expensive wool socks blow out in the heels and balls of your feet after just a few wears. We’ve gone through a lot of different wool socks and find Point 6 and Darn Tough brands to have the best bang for your buck(s).
There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to winter footwear. Many Minnesotans swear by Steger Mukluks. Mukluks are your warmest and lightest winter boot option if you’re walking through dry powdery snow. However, they’re not waterproof, so don’t wear them if there’s a chance of slush.
I wear Schnee’s Extreme Pac boots for most Boundary Waters winter adventures because they’re waterproof, the removable thinsulate/wool liners keep feet warm and dry, and the textured soles are helpful slippery portage hills. They’re on the heavy side, although not nearly as clunky as the Baffins I clomped around in for years. I spent my childhood in Sorel boots which sport a very similar design to these Schnees. One point in the (more expensive) Schnee boots’ favor is that they can be sent into the factory in Montana for resoling, although you to get years and years of use out of a single pair.
Honestly, for a couple hour excursion in above 0º temps, I’d just pull on my Bogs since I won’t be standing still long enough for the completely unbreathable neoprene to turn the inside of boots into a swamp. Regardless of the fact that they’re rated to -40ºF, the neoprene in Bogs makes them a really bad option for an all day or overnight expedition.
One place not to skimp on layers is with outer accessories. To get away with less layers on your core and legs, you need to prevent body heat from escaping through your hands and head. A warm hat (you don’t have to wear a hand knit alpaca Tuscarora hat, but I would), a scarf or polar fleece neck gaiter, and mittens are essential winter accessories. When it dips below 0º, or if you’re going to be standing outside, add a thin polar fleece balaclava underneath your hat and gaiter. You’ll also want a pair of sunglasses (and some sunscreen) packed to combat the glare from the snow on sunny days.
I’ve always preferred mittens over gloves because they utilize “the buddy system” with your fingers to keep your hands warmer than when your hand is in gloves. I utilize a mitten system of a pair of buckskin chopper mittens to block with wind and moisture with a set of hand knit wool liner mittens inside for warmth and to wick away moisture. Mittens and gloves have a sneaky habit of getting damp, so make sure to always have a dry pair of mittens and/or gloves packed. If you prefer gloves, OR makes great waterproof gloves, just keep in mind that in frigid conditions gloves will never keep your hands as warm as mittens will.
Although too warm and bulky to be useful when hiking, I pull out my Wiggy’s mittens when I’m going to be sedentary in cold weather because they’re basically sleeping bags for your hands and are impervious to extreme cold. They’re your “I never ever want to have cold hands again” solution and are nice to have in your pack to hand to the person who just stuck their hand down the ice fishing hole.
7) Outer layer
To top it off your winter outfit, you need a big puffy parka or anorak. If you’re not allergic, down is your warmest option, but synthetic fibers also work well and are definitely easier to care for. A hood with a fur ruff (real or faux) is an important feature to keep the wind off your cheeks. You also want plentiful pockets to hold extra mittens, balaclavas, Kleenex, snacks, and more.
Regardless of the weather forecast, you should always have a heavy winter coat packed. Never underestimate how chilly you can grow standing in the middle of a windy frozen lake. Even on the warmest winter day, you may find you want the protection from the wind that only a thick hooded coat can offer.
What lessons have you learned about dressing for winter in the Boundary Waters? What winter clothing item would you never be without?
Maybe not quite water skipping because there was a layer of ice beneath the 4-6 inches of water on top of the ice but it was close. Cabin owners came down the lake from the Canadian side of Saganaga yesterday and those were the conditions. Let’s hope for cold temps to freeze it back up and then some snow to make travel enjoyable once again.
Studs are being placed in preparation for wall installation. The old maintenance room and kitchen is nearly empty so the crew can start transforming it into the new ER and patient rooms.
Rain in February is something I do not like to see. It rained off and on throughout the day on Monday and that combined with the warm temperature made travel conditions quite wet on Saganaga. Matt said there was a good 4-6 inches of standing water on top of the ice!
While the rain did knock down the standing piles of snow there’s still plenty of snow on the ground. Until the temperature cools down again cross-country skiing may have to wait along with snowmobiling on trails. It’s a bummer to have such unseasonably warm weather when we all know it’s going to get cold again and snow some more. The perfect winter conditions are no longer perfect but will hopefully be once again and soon.
2/20/17 - With temps in the 40s these past few days it's been feeling more and more like spring. With about three feet of snow on the ground before the thaw, we still have quite a bit of the white stuff even with the warm days. Here's hoping that we get a few more days of good cross country skiing before the summer season. Dan measured lake ice yesterday and there was about 25 inches, with a big layer of slush on top of the ice. Sawbill Creek and Alton pond both have open water, so if you're out recreating on the lakes, be mindful of any moving water.
This backyard snowshoe hare is pretty happy there is still snow covering the ground. He blends in pretty well, I'd say! You can see a video of his quick getaway on our Facebook page.
Does this temperature map look like it’s from February? Ughhh, not any kind of February day I want to see, it’s way too warm! And what about the ice coverage? That doesn’t look good to me either. Bring back a normal Minnesota winter please.
Enjoying some paddling this winter at Voyageur Canoe Outfitters.
These photos are from a few years ago when Mike went out winter camping. Tom Thulen captured some nice photos and makes it look like so much fun.
The forecast calls for warmer than normal temperatures again. Highs in the upper 40’s and lows above freezing certainly doesn’t feel like February. I prefer it to get cold and stay cold once winter begins, I dislike the big swings in temperatures. The good news is we have a ton of snow and it will stay around unlike other places in the state. I feel really bad for folks who live where the snow is probably going to disappear this weekend with a forecast of temperatures in the 60’s. We shall see what the weekend brings!
I don’t think it will be a year for visiting the ice caves in Wisconsin. There isn’t enough ice yet and it’s doubtful we’ll have enough consistently cold temperatures to freeze it solid enough for travel. I guess I’ll have to cross my fingers for a visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore next year!
We don’t have ice around Grand Marais and the harbor has barely been frozen this year. We’ve had stretches of cold weather but it’s been followed by unseasonably warm weather. It’s been a strange winter when it comes to weather.
According to Paul Huttner’s article the mild winter is producing below average ice cover… As of Sunday, 13.5 percent of the Great Lakes is covered with ice… well below the historical median of about 30 percent for this week of the year.
The lack of ice is making for a different kind of situation around Madeline Island this year, here’s an interesting article about it.
The layout is getting more and more apparent each week, especially with more structures appearing this week. The Nurses Station and the old kitchen is cleared out to be remodeled.
Demo began in the old Nurses Station to be reduced and remodeled.
Nurses Station starting to take shape.
Scaffolding has been put up in the OR.
Grab bars and nurse call stations have been installed into the patient bathrooms.
Walls have been put into the hallway entering the hospital.