The temperatures have been in the fifties the past few days. That may not sound good to those of you who live further south but is heaven to us. There has been no freezing the last couple of nights. Yesterday the afternoon was filled with wind to cut through the ice and snow. Then we even had rain at night. The next two days will be warm. It is really feeling like spring.
As a result everyone is into spring projects. Here is a picture of Bruce working on one of his favorite spring projects – building a fireplace. This one is in #18 and it is converting a wood fireplace to a gas one. Building fireplaces is one of Bruce’s favorite projects. He just steadily works on it each afternoon.
I walked down to Tucker Lake yesterday. The path is almost all clear of ice and snow. The dock is clean but a little tilted in places. Once the ice goes out we will see how it settles in. There is a little melting along the edge of the lake with some water on the ice. Things are not quite ready for a boat ride but I can start to dream about it.
All the garden beds at my house are clear of snow. It will still be weeks before I can plant anything. The next step is to bring over some more horse manure to enrich the soil. Everything is going to come in nice and strong. We will have spinach and fresh lettuce by the third week in June.
Another project we hope to get finished this summer is the pond between the house and the workshop. Bruce has ideas in his head about how it will look. I understand that there may even be a troll on a little island.
Spring birds are starting to appear. Snow buntings and juncos are passing through to their summer habitats. There are lots of ducks on the open water by Cross River. Yesterday the first red-winged blackbirds appeared at my house. Front Desk Dave saw two robins on his way to work the other day.
The ice on Gunflint Lake is quite gray. At this point I would not recommend that anyone try to walk across it. Wind like we had yesterday really melts the ice. I have been watching as the wind is coming up today. It will be interesting to see how black the ice is when I go over for lunch today. Also the ice is very soft along the shore. Some guest sunk in to their ankles the other day. It must have been really cold. Hope they had extra shoes.
For those of you who remember Zach – Robert and Miranda’s cute little boy. As usual time has flown by. Last week he passed his driving permit. It is scary how quickly these kids grow up.
Grand Marais, Minnesota was recently named to the list of America’s 20 Coolest Outdoor Towns. The access to the Boundary Waters via the Gunflint Trail is one of the main reasons why Matador Network chose Grand Marais. Check out the information below and the other places that made the list.
THIS LIST COULD EASILY HAVE 100 PLACES. The US simply has so many canyons and rivers and slopes, so much coastline, all of it with rad little towns along the way.
So putting together this list, we narrowed it down with a few criteria:
- The place should be an actual town, not just a spot or destination. In other words, you can live/work there year round, and even in the “off-season” it’s still cool.
- The outdoor objectives that make the place so rad must be part of the immediate surroundings. If you can’t climb / ski / paddle / surf right in town, the access should be just beyond, not an hour away.
- The place should have a notable culture, tradition, or local economy around the activities (and natural resources) themselves. Of special mention are places such as Salida, where actual infrastructure has been developed (manmade whitewater features) that brings cool events and awareness to the town.
- For obvious reasons, we came back with a high concentration of places out West (and in Hawaii/Alaska). May not be fair, but if you visit you’ll understand.
All this said, finding big lines can happen anywhere. Where I grew up in the southern Piedmont (forested, gentle rolling hills kind of terrain), a trickling neighborhood ditch became a gnarly class V kayak run if you caught it right after a thunderstorm.
The ultimate limitation is never the place but your imagination. Let us know the what kinds of lines you’re finding right in your town.
–David Miller, Senior Editor
Asheville, North Carolina
13. Grand Marais, MN
All photos courtesy of Visit Cook CountyPerfect day
Summer outdoor recreation revolves around freshwater lakes — from massive Lake Superior to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness — so bring your paddle. Over 100 miles of cross-country ski trails are enough to fill many winter days, but downhill skiers can also hit up nearby Lutsen Mountain, one of the midwest’s most-legit ski hills.Honor roll
Special thanks: Eric Frost
The petition to stop the collaring of moose calves in Minnesota has over 1500 signatures but the DNR still plans to collar more calves this spring. This will lead to the unnecessary death of the majority of the calves in the study and it is senseless because we know wolves are killing calves. There is no need to collar and kill any more moose calves.
Please read a couple of articles about the collaring project that can be found online. One article is about a vet on the project who was forced out of the project because she spoke out about the senseless killing of moose calves. The other article is about the mystery of the disappearing moose calves and how it really isn’t a mystery that wolves are killing the calves.
I encourage you to sign the petition if you haven’t already. If you have signed it then please go back to the petition and share it with your friends and family. We don’t need any more moose calves collared, enough is enough.
4/11/15 - Spring arrived abruptly today with the temperatures shooting up into the high 50s. My old friend and former Sawbill crew member, Joyce Klees, came up for t-shirt weather ski trip around the Kelso Loop.
Roy and Phoebe accompanied us. Phoebe fell into the water once and Roy twice. They didn't really break through the ice, but more just jumped into the open water. They climbed out themselves and continued on the journey.
Today may be the last day of skiing for the season. - Bill
Does this qualify as water-skiing?
Open water at the mouth of Kelso Creek on Sawbill Lake.
Roy and Phoebe soaking up the sun after their chilly dip.
Are drones capable of starting a wildfire? Not that I’m aware of but they obviously can get in the way of people who are fighting wildfires. It would seem like common sense to not fly one over a wildfire when aircraft are monitoring or trying to put out a fire but I guess common isn’t as common as I thought.
According to a Minnesota DNR Press Release someone was operating a drone during a wildfire near Ostego, MN last week.
DNR firefighters need cooperation from drone operators
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources requests that operators of unmanned aircraft (drones) stay at least 5 miles away from wildfires to create a safe environment for firefighting aircraft and crew.
The DNR uses helicopters and airplanes to detect wildfires and to deliver water, retardant, firefighters and cargo. These aircraft face a demanding environment with hazards such as power lines, trees, towers, smoke and wind.
“Conditions for our pilots are tough enough,” said Bill Schuster, DNR wildfire aviation supervisor. “We don’t want to worry about when and where a drone could pop up into their flight path.”
Aircraft and crew are strategically located around Minnesota to quickly respond to wildfires. One or more aircraft may be dispatched to any wildfire in the state within minutes of its start, depending on what is threatened by the fire.
Over 99 percent of wildfires that occur in Minnesota are small, quick-moving and wind-driven, and these do most of their damage within the first few hours after igniting. With the increasing overlap between wild lands and urban areas in Minnesota, firefighters need to be aggressive and safe when putting out wildfires.
“While crews were fighting a wildfire near Ostego last week, a drone was flying nearby at the same time firefighting aircraft were conducting operations,” said Shuster. “Voluntary cooperation to not operate drones within 5 miles of wildfires would allow firefighters to do their job safely, efficiently and effectively.”
Visit www.mndnr.gov/forestry/fire/wildfire_update.html for wildfire updates in Minnesota.
The Federal Aviation Administration has partnered with several industry associations to promote “Know Before You Fly,” a campaign to educate the public about using unmanned aircraft safely and responsibly. Visit www.knowbeforeyoufly.org to learn more about this program.
It won’t be long and we’ll be listening to the loons sing their songs. The Seagull River in front of Voyageur Canoe Outfitters is one of the first places we see open water in the spring. While it’s still frozen solid now it will soon be liquid once again. As soon as there’s water the loons will land and sing their welcome song.
Here’s some information about loons courtesy of Jim Gilbert and the Star Tribune outdoors online.Nature Notes: Loon is true symbol of Minnesota’s lake wilderness
- Updated: April 2, 2015 – 3:14 PM
Common loons appear in spring at the same time ice leaves lakes, often returning to a lake when it’s still half-covered.
This year, migrating loons were observed on southern Minnesota lakes in mid-March. They are beautiful black and white birds of about 2-feet long and 8 to 9 pounds.
Now is when people in central and northern Minnesota will begin hearing the wild laughing call, “ha-ha-ha-ha.” It’s the only call that loons give in flight, no doubt heading for a favorite lake after wintering along the Gulf Coast.
Designated as the state bird in 1961, the loon is a true symbol of our lake wilderness. I think that their echoing calls do more to create the indescribable feeling of being apart from civilization and close to nature than any other phenomenon in the north country.
Loons prefer clear lakes because they hunt for fish, leeches and other aquatic creatures by eyesight. They ride low in the water, and when they dive they can reach depths of 100 feet or more.
Swift flights of up to 100 mph take these birds through the air with ease. Not many birds fly faster than loons. But it’s the takeoffs that are arduous. Loons sometimes need up to a quarter-mile of runway. They can often break water contact after a run of about 80 yards, so on small lakes they must fly in a curve around part of the lake before ascending high enough to clear the trees.
Jim Gilbert’s Nature Notes are heard on WCCO Radio at 7:15 a.m. Sundays. His observations have been part of the Minnesota Weatherguide Environment Calendars since 1977, and he is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota. He taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.
Voyageur Brewing Company is pleased to announce that it is pairing with Rohlfing of Duluth to distribute its brand-new, Lake Superior-made beer. Rohlfing is a fourth-generation family business that began in 1951 promoting Schlitz products and has grown to offer numerous beers to bars and restaurants in the entire Arrowhead region. Their team has been critical to the rollout of many breweries and is vital to the craft beverage industry on the North Shore. Owner Cara Sporn says, “With Rohlfing’s experience and local credibility, we could not imagine a better fit for our homegrown, Grand Marais beer.”
Voyageur Brewing Company commands a stunning view of Lake Superior in downtown Grand Marais, a special place just voted Coolest Small Town in Budget Magazine. The opening of a production brewery is one thing that is certain to add to its allure.
Voyageur Beer is currently available at almost a dozen locations in Grand Marais with plans to expand this summer. Owner Mike Proms says, “We know that Rohlfing will work hard to give people the opportunity to taste our beer at restaurants in Duluth and along the north shore, and we’re truly excited to make our beer available for people to enjoy.”
Central Gunflint Ski Trail Conditions on 3-21-15
New Snow Last 24 hours: 0”
New Snow Last 7 days: 0”
Trail Base, Staked: 3”-10” varying by area.
Snow in Woods, Staked: Average 12”
Groomed with classic tracks: 70 K
Groomed for skating: 53.4 K
Surface Conditions: Tilled snow
Last grooming day: 3-21-15
Snowshoe trails: Open
Total snowfall since Nov. 1: 75.00”
Comments: Don’t put away those skis yet; we’re still grooming and skiing on the Central Gunflint Ski system! Definitely expect spring skiing conditions though the freshly groomed skate and classic lanes are still holding up very well and are, condition wise, great after a recent grooming! Continuing with our plans from last week, we are still grooming select trails at this time, depending on each individual trail’s condition. Currently, 42.5 kilometers of trails have been/will be groomed between today and yesterday.
Twin Citians are reveling in the record-setting March temperatures in the metro area. Up here in the far north we are also experiencing some warmer days, but unlike other parts of Minnesota, we have a serious base of deep snow. We’ve seen a little snow melt, especially off our roofs and roads, but as of 5 PM on Tuesday we still have a solid 12 inches of compacted base on the ski trails, with far more than that in the woods.
If you’re coming up to ski in the next few days, you should prepare for spring skiing conditions. Spring skiing is the best, but the sun is powerful at this time of year so even on a chilly day there will be freezing and thawing. Plan ahead for the varying conditions.
Early morning: The skate lanes and classic tracks will be frozen hard; perhaps the tracks will be icy if they have thawed the day before and refrozen overnight. These conditions are great for fast skating with minimal edge control on hills. Grip tape or waxless skis are your best choice for early morning skiing in these hard tracks.
Mid morning: The sun is softening up the tracks and the skate lanes are still firm. This is the best skiing of the day. When skiing through shade and sun your skis will glide differently; be careful on the hills! If it’s chilly but sunny, these conditions can last most of the day.
Late afternoon: As things warm up the snow will start to lose its structure, and you’ll sink in. Because of the released moisture, your kick will be compromised, and skating will get harder due to “suction”. Waxless skis are the best choice for these conditions.
Then, if it drops below freezing at night, the cycle repeats.
The trails are being groomed differently for these conditions. We plan to continue grooming for as long as possible. Later in the month we usually open some ski trails to snowshoeing, but we’re not ready for that yet. Our actual snowshoe trails, though, seem fairly unaffected by the temperatures and offer a great additional option if there are any afternoons that seem too warm to ski.
Our musher, Erik Simula, is still taking trips out and should be able to continue for quite a while longer. Like skiing, however, on very sunny days the dog sled trips go better in the morning; the dogs have to work very hard to pull groups through wetter snow. If you’re planning a dog sled trip in March, earlier appointments are the best choice.
For those of you in the rest of Minnesota, your spring has probably truly started. Up here, however, we know that the next blizzard could still come at any moment. We will be extremely surprised if our winter is actually winding down now.