Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update on the Trees

In May, 2007--the first official Gunflint Green Up transpired on the Gunflint Trail---volunteers came to private properties (including Tuscarora) and planted trees.

In May 2008, more people came, and planted like crazy in the Superior National Forest during the 2008 Gunflint Green Up Event
This week I went and checked on the little guys. The growing season this year was amazing, so that when I went in with a tree expert in July, it was really hard to find the pines among all of the ferns, poplars and wildflowers.
They were easy to find in October---and they looked pretty good!

In 2009, we'll have another event filled weekend on the Gunflint Trail. My friend the tree guy says that these little ones need tending.....their survival depends upon the sun----there is talk of "releasing the trees," or cutting away all the growth around them so that they have a chance to compete for sunlight.

Denali is sitting by one of the 2007 trees planted in the sun---same batch, but already-been-released. This is one happy tree! Consider a visit to the Gunflint Trail during the first weekend in May. You can help us release the trees, plant a few more---and you could also join us for the 2nd annual Ham Lake Half Marathon. May 2,3,4, 2009. Don't miss it!!!

Washington man indicted for starting the Ham Lake fire

From the news today--- 17 months after the Ham Lake Fire started so close to us.
You'll notice that Tuscarora Lodge appears in this report. This is what we know; and we are still very sad about that day...

Monday, October 21, 2008. A 64-year-old man from Washington D.C. has been indicted in federal court for allegedly starting the 2007 Ham Lake fire that burned for more than a week, destroyed more than 75,000 acres of forest land and cost approximately $11 million to extinguish.Stephen George Posniak was charged October 20 in Minneapolis with one count of setting timber afire, one count of leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished, and one count of giving false information to a United States Forest Service officer.Posniak’s indictment alleges that on May 5, 2007, he did willfully and without authority set on fire timber, underbrush, grass and other inflammable material upon lands owned by the U.S. within the Superior National Forest. Specifically, Posniak allegedly burned paper trash and other items that ignited a fire in the forest that burned approximately 75,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and resulted in fire suppression costs of approximately $11 million.The indictment also alleges that on May 5 Posniak started a fire within the forest that he left without totally extinguishing, and allowed the fire to burn and spread beyond his control and burn unattended.It also alleges that on May 5 Posniak knowingly gave false, fictitious and fraudulent information to U.S. Forest Service officers by stating that he camped overnight on Cross Bay Lake, not Ham Lake, on the evening of May 4, 2007. Posniak allegedly told officers that he encountered an out-of-control fire already burning at a Ham Lake campsite on the morning of May 5 while paddling back through Ham Lake to Tuscarora Lodge.If convicted, Posniak faces a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison on the setting timber afire count, and six months each on the other two counts. All sentences are determined by a federal district court judge.An indictment is a determination by a grand jury that there is probable cause to believe that offenses have been committed by a defendant. A defendant, of course, is presumed innocent until he or she pleads guilty or is proven guilty at trial.This case is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Otteson.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moose Hunt

It is moose hunting season on the Gunflint Trail. This fall the DNR has only issued permits for the bulls—in theory there are plenty of bulls around for mating… I’m always glad when the moose season is over, and I don’t have to risk the scene in the Buck’s parking lot where people bring their moose to get tagged---which reminds me of the horsehead scene in the Godfather movies.

This year we have some moose hunter guests—a couple of Charlies and their friend Dan—they’ve secured 3 permits. It’s a “once in a life time “ deal for these guys—a person is only eligible for MN Moose permit once, whether or not you shoot a moose.
Personally I don’t have a moral problem with hunting. If I were to decide to go vegetarian, I should be first taking a hard look at my chicken sandwich—I like to buy the happy chickens, but I don’t always do that. I’ll wager the moose that Dan and the Charlies shot in the BWCA was a lot happier than my chickens. (He also had apparently lived a very long time).
I’m all for the deer hunters thinning out the herd of “invasive species” deer rodents around here…
So why do my eyes get sad whenever I talk to the Charlies about the moose? (I know they sense it, not by my words---because their stories become much softer.)
Well first off, I just like the huge animals. A friend of mine might suggest that I find them appealing only because they are becoming rarer. Maybe, but I don’t think so. Once I hiked Isle Royale, and was pretty excited by the lucky moose sighting right off of the ferry---and then quit counting 2 hours later after spotting 28 more. Just because the population was booming at that time in that place didn’t seem to hinder their charm.

However, the underdog status always gets to me. They are like immense nearsighted dairy cattle, and it seems like an unfair fight. Charlie told me that all you do is walk up and shoot them, one bullet, and they don’t even run, they just drop in their tracks. The trick is finding them in the first place—and hauling them out.
These men also talked about the decline of the moose population, how the DNR seems to be a little stumped, how hunters take blood samples to help with the mystery….how they hope that the moose stick around. They convince me that hunting is secondary to their time in the woods---and how they had to portage and hike 20 miles with 400 pounds of moose meat (they happen to be butchers by trade, so they didn’t bring out any bones).
When I see the bulls on the Gunflint Trail these days, I give them the telekinetic message---“Run for the Hills---Run for your Life!”
I’ll always have a tender spot for their big heavy Bullwinkle goofy presence. I’m worried about them, our own little polar bear species down here-- and I don’t like to see them disappear, for any reason.
I like the Charlies, but I’ll still be glad when moose hunting season is over.

Check out participant number 309
National Moose Day Petition
Susan was my roommate in college, and she really really doesn't like the moose heads in the parking lot!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Peter Lake

Last week we took a little canoe trip. Only 2 nights, but we paddled a long long way, and that is my favorite way to keep warm on a fall trip. We left from our dock, which I also like because it reminds me that we have access to a really big backyard. Really big.
We camped on the south shore of Little Sag, and then took a day trip down to through Makwa, Pan, through the Kawishiwi River area (haven’t been there in 20 years…glad to see that it is still wonderful) and up through Adams, Boulder, and back through Makwa. It was a full scenery day The forecast called for 20% chance of rain 100% of the time which turned out to be an accurate prediction, because it seemed to rain about 12 minutes out of every hour. Perfect, because we couldn’t have been in the tent yard cleaning tents even if we had wanted to be.
We took the Bell Northshore canoe---the one my friend Kelly Dupre calls “the party barge”, which is sort of accurate and sort of misleading because really it is sleek and fast, 55 pounds only 19 feet long. We completed our marathon daytrip and arrived back at our campsite just at total nightfall—on the last portage we didn’t actually need a headlamp until the very end. Ideal timing, if you've ever taken a fall trip with Jim Wiinanen . However, some people I know think that we were pushing the daylight envelope just a little too far.
The next day we paddled home through my favorite Peter Lake area—the only recovering forest part of our trip-those (above-the-tree line) alpine lakes touched deepest by the Cavity Fire in 2007. I can't quite get over how cool it is up there. It isn’t just me, others throughout the summer have loved it in there too. Something magical about the tundra feel to that area.. We saw a moose on the hill, like a big horned ship on a mountainside, and if you look very closely you can see the cow down below him.
When I visited French, Peter, and Virgin in 2007 (a full year after the Cavity Fire) these rocky portages looked as if the vegetation may not recover. Apparently 2007 had an impressive growing season---especially the poplar trees took off. Even if the parent poplar trees burn, fires stimulate production of suckers from the massive shallow root systems of these trees. Poplar trees (along with birch) seed readily, even the fallen branches can sucker into new trees. Once Shelby got an ominous voice as she looked at the rapid regrowth and said: “Mom, we couldn’t stop those Ppoplars if we wanted to.” She’s probably right---Look at this hearty guy, and you can see just how determined they are.

I f you look closely at these photos, you can see that they are taken of the same hill---one in 2007 (1 year after the Cavity Fire) and one in 2008. It was just a lucky coincidence that I took them on the same spot!!! But they do illustrate what is happening in there---and it certainly won’t be a group of tundra lakes for long. I’m loving it while it lasts! There’s something about that Peter Lake.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Frosty Mornings

We had another frosty sunrise today. We get most beautiful glittery scenes on the way to the bus stop. These nights I wake up in the middle of the night to see Andy at the window, shining his flashlight on the thermometer outside. Then sometimes he leaves. He tends to pipes, turns on water---long enough to reassure himself that they won’t freeze. Most of our freezable building pipes have been drained, but we leave the cleaning sinks on as long as possible—always trying to spiffy up the last of the gear.

It’s hard to believe how efficient that 32 degrees mark can make us. We bustle even faster, just like the squirrels. Which is a little surprising to me, because I never think of squirrels as moving slow. But it is as if they’re on caffeine right now; dropping the pinecones out of the trees, tormenting Denali without even having time to pay attention to her.

We have no more staff, very few paddling guests, and mostly weekend cabin guests---pretty quiet compared to a month ago! So, while I’m cleaning the last of the canoes or tents, public radio podcasts keep me company. This dandy podcast invention has had a major impact on my life. Last week I learned about Pentecostalism affecting politics, about a remarkable guy in Harlem working to enrich the brains of 0-3 year olds, about women at war, along with insights from a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan dropping bombs on insurgents, about Einstein making his greatest discoveries as a daydreaming telegraph worker. When I get to town and talk to people I talk about my podcasts as if they are my experiences. It is sort of bizarre.

My incredible parents are here, helping us in our final dash. It's fun to have them around as they paint and clean with cheerfulness, my mother still plans dinner and makes blueberry peach crisp that makes Andy say “How do you do it Jane?.” Defrosting refrigerators, scrubbing carpets, laundering curtains. The frost reminds us that the darkest months are approaching, and then will come the time to rest.