Friday, September 28, 2018

Introduce Someone to the Adventure You Love

One of the keys and success than any activity is “paying it forward.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s work, family, or recreation, if others aren’t interested in it then your interest is likely to wither and die as well. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you will know that I have actively encouraged my grandchildren, particularly my two granddaughters that live here in Minnesota, to experience the outdoors since they were about four years old. (They’re both teenagers now.) Both Sophie and Natasha love camping, bicycling and fishing. And they love spending time with Ellen and myself. These are precious times because in a couple of years, Natasha will be headed off to college and Sophie won’t be that far behind. They serve one other very valuable purpose, and that both girls have and use cell phones as a means of communication. So Saturday of our excursions is always a “Disconnect Day,” often aided by the fact that we tend to camp in the "backcountry," areas with little to no cell service.

Earlier this summer, after enduring a difficult spring of medical issues for both of us, I signed my wife, Ellen, up for an “Introduction to Fly Fishing” class at the National Trout Center in Preston, Minnesota. She loved it! Ellen’s father, Harry, was a big-time sportsman, hunter and angler, who consistently pulled the largest bass each season out of the lake he lived on in east Texas. But that didn’t translate into making his third daughter into a fisherperson. Flyfishing gave her a release from the stress of work and cancer recovery that she has found to be relaxing and enjoyable. By the end of the season, we had taken several trips to both the Driftless Region of southeastern Minnesota and the Arrowhead Region in the northeastern part of the state. We didn’t catch much of anything, but it was relaxing, enjoyable, and fun.

Clay Croft of Expedition Overland did an excellent vlog entry a few years ago about passing on positive outdoor experiences, including flyfishing, to your children. He finishes it with this comment, which I have quoted on numerous occasions: “It’s a good thing when you pass on classic things, and if you do that well, someday you might become…legendary. What you can do, is choose to be inspired, and adventure will find you.” I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Trout Camp 2018!

The first night was rough, but from that point forward it was a great couple of days and I learned a lot, even if I didn't catch any fish.

It was a hot and steamy day on Sunday, when I arrived at Whitewater State Park in Elba, Minnesota for the second annual Twin Cities Trout Unlimited Trout Camp. The predicted break in the heat and humidity had not arrived as early as previously forecast, but we set up in the newly re-opened walk-in group camp. Due to severe flooding a couple of years ago, the entire area on the east side of Highway 42 has been rebuilt with beautiful new shower and restroom facilities, improved roadways, and thoughtfully laid out campsites and group camps. Each group site has its own large pavilion, which would be the center of our activities for the next couple of days. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t break until after two o’clock Monday morning, so sleep was pretty hard to come by. The first fishing excursion was scheduled for 5:30 a.m., and I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t do that.

The first evening we enjoyed a presentation on casting techniques taught by fishing guide, Brennen Churchill from The Driftless Fly Fishing Company in Preston, MN. Those who didn’t know how to correctly fly cast learned how, and those of us who did know how learned to do it better. It’s always interesting to see the look on anglers faces when the instruction and the actions come together to form a perfect cast. If you’re ever in Preston, make sure you stop by their shop on St. Paul Street. Brennen is a great instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and tips to help even the most experienced fisherman or woman.
Monday dawned early, and despite only a few hours of sleep, I was up and ready to go (sort of) by 6:30. All of the meals we ate were prepared by TU volunteers, who also happened to be volunteers with the Salvation Army, staffing the canteens that go out to fire and disaster scenes to provide food and refreshment to emergency workers. Those two guys know how to cook! After a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage, it was time to start the day, although I still felt like taking a nap.

Fishing times were interspersed with learning opportunities, the first being a naturalist-led tour of the Whitewater River Valley and its history. I stayed in camp to keep an eye on things, although I have to admit for much of the time the eyes were closed as I did get that nap. After lunch, there was a period of free time where you could go fishing, swimming, geocaching, or take a nap. Having already done that, I went out and checked out some other fishing locations along the river. The afternoon educational program was a fascinating stream entomology class taught on the river by Janine and Benji Kohn and Linda Radimecky. Janine is the current president of the Twin Cities Trout Unlimited chapter.

After dinner, you could, of course, go fishing again, or you could practice fly tying with Vaughn Snook in the Visitors Center. Although I am not a fly tie-er, I do find the process fascinating, so I did a little bit of both. I took my Badger Tenkara rod down to the South Meadow fishing and picnic area and tried several different presentations, but still no luck. So, it was back to the campsite and discussion around the campfire about fishing, politics, the politics of fishing, and organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers working together with Trout Unlimited in programs like this.

The next morning, after a huge, excellent breakfast of (real) scrambled eggs and maple sausage, it was time to wrap up and go home. I may not have caught any fish, but I have hopefully learned a number of new ways to try. I will definitely be at Trout Camp next year, and hopefully, BHA will be one of the organizations supporting the event.

Then, there was the event that I missed because I was at Whitewater. Up on the North Shore of Lake Superior, SpokenGear bike shop was holding a bikefishing workshop called “Gears And Reels.” From their posts on Facebook, it looks like it was a successful event with about fifteen people in attendance. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I found out about it after I had already registered for the TU event, but I, and hopefully BHA, will definitely take part in future Gears and Reels events.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this summer and this fishing season have been seriously hampered by two broken legs and abdominal surgery, but I am thankfully past that now and my granddaughter and I have been able to get out and fish a few times. There is more to these stories, but that is for future posts.

Proceeding on…

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Return is Nigh!

It's been a while. I've been sidelined by two broken legs (one on each side) and abdominal surgery ever since the season opened, and we got 19 inches of snow on opening day. Now that I am out of the leg splints. my orthopedist has prescribed going fishing as excellent therapy...and then the past two days we have had 8-14 inches of rain overall my favorite fishing spots. Can you say, "wash-out?" This won't be my most stellar year, but as soon as the monsoon subsides, I will be hitting the streams in NW WI and NE MN.

I have several rods; a Badger Tenkara UNC pack rod for bike-fishing and a Cabela's RLX 5 wt. are my two primaries. An old Eagle Claw, my first fly rod, from back in the late '70s when EC was still a top quality brand not an Amazon discount item. I also use Daiwa Silvercast ultra-light spinning rod, and a telescoping Shakespeare with a small Daiwa reel on it for packing into the interior. My favorite flies are olive caddis flies, black fly flies, hoppers and red worm flies. Lighter colored streamers seem to work best on the Tenkara in the winter, but I have a box that is specifically flies for the UNC, and I hope to try more of them out when my recovery is over. (One more week!)

My go-to vehicle for the frontcountry is still my '05 Dodge Dakota, which has been giving me fits, but it runs. I access the backcountry on my Cogburn CB4 fat-bike. Can't wait to get back on it.

How many of you saw the article in "Fly Fishing Magazine" about the Driftless Area Flyathon? How do you think something like that would go over for Bikefishing? Just wondering.

Stay safe!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Backcountry: For The Forest

I’ve become very wary of posting my opinions, particularly those relating to politics, and the environment, on THE social media outlet (you know the one I mean), not because I can’t deal with constructive criticism, but because for some of my supposed friends, particularly long-time friends who have known my political views since we were in high school, have spewed some pretty virulent attacks on me in recent days, and upped their game to “destructive criticism”.

The new president of this country is going to change things up quite a bit. Nobody is denying that on either side of the fence. While I am a social and fiscal conservative, when it comes to the backcountry, I am probably best described by the line from the song “Smokey the Bear”; “But don’t you harm the trees, for he’s a Ranger in his heart.” I have also heard it said, “You can take the Ranger out of the forest, but you can’t take the forest out of the Ranger.” It was for this reason that I continue to staunchly oppose the Minnesota DNR’s Division of Ecological Services plans to turn Sand Dunes State Forest, where I used to work, into an Oak Savanna Prairie by removing thousands of red and white pine trees.

As I have written here, and other places, one of my conservation heroes is the first Chief of the US Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot. In addition to being the first Chief of the Forest Service, Pinchot also served as two-term governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and president of Penn State University, where my father went to college. He was, along with Carl Schenk, the first to bring the science of forestry to the United States in the late 1800s, and his oft-quoted philosophy of “The Greatest Good” (“Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the question shall always be answered from the standpoint of the greatest good for the greatest number, in the long run.”) has guided me not just in my conservation efforts, but in many of the other things I do as well.

Forestry is a very adaptive process. No one procedure, technique, or application is going to work for every piece of forest land. This applies, among other things, to the differentiation between, “wilderness” and “backcountry”. Last year in this space, I wrote a piece on how I believe that mountain bikes could or should be allowed in certain wilderness areas, with certain reservations. It was the single most read post I have published in the 11 years that I have been doing this blog, with over 1000 hits. What I said in that post reflects my “greatest good” philosophy. It doesn’t fit in every place, or apply to every wilderness area.

I came to a couple of realizations last week while visiting the Chequamegon National Forest in Northwest Wisconsin. I braved some very icy road conditions off of the major highways, to try my hand at a little stream fishing just north of the Porcupine Lake Wilderness Area, northeast of Cable. In fact, I parked in the parking area for people visiting the Wilderness, crossed the road and fished and took pictures of 18 Mile Creek in what, back in New York, we would have simply called “Wild Forest”. The US Forest Service, like most government agencies, loves to put big titles on things, so the area is known as the “18 Mile Creek Semi- Primitive, Non-Motorized Management Area”, which is a step down from true wilderness. The biggest difference between a “semi-primitive, non-motorized, management area” and a “wilderness” area is that you can use mechanize transport, i.e. mountain bikes in the semi-primitive area. I mean it is just on the other side of the road from the wilderness, the terrain is the same, the forest is the same, and the river runs through it.
The realizations I came to are these; First of all, I am totally sick of all the politics and the mean-spirited, no, scratch that, downright nasty things that people are saying to each other in the aftermath of the presidential election. The other thing that I realize is that at my age, other than casting my vote and on occasion writing my representatives in Congress, who probably won’t listen to me anyhow, because I don’t have the dollars to back me up, there’s not a lot that I can really do. What I can do is continue to be a good steward of, and advocate for the Backcountry.

Whether you call it backcountry, wild forest, semi-primitive non-motorized management area, or wilderness, America as a nation is blessed with an abundance of wild places, and there are those, unfortunately primarily on the Republican side of the aisle, who would sell those off to the highest bidder. I am a member, in fact a Minnesota board member and Habitat Watch Volunteer with an organization called Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and we’re the ones along with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited (of which I’m also a member), and a new organization made up of many of the major manufacturers and distributors of outdoor recreational equipment called the Outdoor Industry Association are pressing back. The threats to our public lands are very real, and those in Congress who are inclined to believe that the new administration will back them up when they tried to sell our public lands may be surprised when they realize that President Trump has pledged publicly, to “Uphold the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.” That legacy is our public lands.

Public lands are our American heritage. The only thing that politicians recognize more than $$ is the power of the ballot. Not only do we need to vote, but we need to let our representatives at both the state and federal level, know that we vote, and how we vote. That we vote in support of keeping public lands in public hands.

The other thing that came to me while standing along that creekside in northern Wisconsin was this; I am going to learn that creek, and 20 Mile Creek which is adjacent to it, and I am going to learn them so well that by the end of the season I will be able to serve as a backcountry guide again.

And we’ll do it on fat bikes!

Proceeding on…

Sunday, January 22, 2017

An Adventure by Train

During December I spent five nights sleeping in railroad cars. Three of those nights are spent at the Northern Railcar Inn, in Two Harbors, Minnesota, great place to stay, but that’s another story. Two of them were actually spent on real moving trains, as in railroads, riding Amtrak from St. Paul to Washington DC to visit family and friends, and back.

I’m not exactly new to travel by train. In 1996 and ‘97 while serving as a missionary in Northwestern Russia, the only way to get to and from St. Petersburg to Petrozavodsk was by rail, and seemingly all the trains from one city to the other seemed to run at night. While that may not be relevant in July, it certainly puts a damper on any plans to sightsee from the train in October. Petrozavodsk lies a mere 200 miles from the Arctic Circle, basically the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Generally, there were four people assigned to each room on the train, which may or may not be anyone you are traveling with or even know. More on that later.

Previous to that, while I was in high school I attended a year of private school in New Jersey, while my father’s office was in New York City, directly above Pennsylvania Station. So any time there was a break in the school schedule I would take the train from Trenton to New York and then fly home on Mohawk Airlines with my dad. Then there were two trips in my childhood, where I traveled from Syracuse to summer camp in the Adirondacks on the old New York Central railroad. That was cool.

I have to say that none of these previous excursions measured up to my experience on Amtrak. Although I used to love to fly, and even was well toward my private pilot’s license when a tragic accident dissuaded me from flying myself, and the development of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) in our nation’s airports, together with the abysmal and expensive parking, crowds, uncomfortable seating conditions, and lack of services on the airlines today soured my taste for air travel. Amtrak answered all that for me.

Typical Roomette
Coach seating on Amtrak is equivalent to first-class seating on any airliner. Not only that but you are free, in fact encouraged, to get up, walk around, visit the cafĂ© car, the observation car and generally relax. Sleeper Class, Roomette service, which is what I chose from Chicago to Washington and back, is way beyond first-class or business class on any airline. Not only do you get a comfy room with two facing seats, again as wide as any first-class airplane seating, but unlike Russia, unless you are traveling with someone you get the room to yourself. In the evening a passenger car attendant will turn down your bed (basically making the two seats into a comfortable 6 ½ foot long bed) and if there are two of you in the roomette, lower the upper bunk and set it up as well. Another nice thing about roomette, room and state room service is that all of your meals are included in the price. So if you are making the 17 hour trip from Chicago to Washington DC, you are going to get an excellent dinner, a hot breakfast and lunch included with your accommodation. The seating is very comfortable, each roomette has a large picture window, electrical plug for chargers or laptop, individual temperature controls, privacy curtains and a door. Basically you can stay in your room the entire trip and never be bothered by anyone except the car attendant and the conductor, except when you go for meals or to use the restroom.

Another perk of traveling in Sleeper Class is that you get to utilize the very posh Metro Lounge at Chicago’s Union Station. If you have to wait three or four hours for your connection, this is a great place to do it! They have free snacks, beverages and if you’re there at the right time, you can participate in wine tasting, sample various domestic cheeses, or enjoy chocolate truffles. The airlines could really learn something from the railroad, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. The Metro Lounge is brand-new, having opened shortly before Christmas of 2016. Speaking of Christmas, since I was traveling two weeks before the holiday it was fun to see, in both St. Paul and Chicago, the Polar Express excursion rides set up for families to celebrate the season. Chicago’s was particularly noteworthy in that there was a three-quarter sized Polar Express engine set up in the Great Hall of the railroad station, and children and in some cases entire families, would wander by dressed in pajamas and have their pictures taken with the replica before boarding the excursion train for a half hour ride up the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Chicago's Polar Express
There are some drawbacks to traveling by train on the Amtrak system. First of all, Amtrak does not own the tracks they roll on. Those are owned by the respective Class 1 railroad freight carriers, such as CSX, Canadian Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern, so their trains have priority over the Amtrak passenger trains. This often causes the Amtrak trains to be delayed and that is something you need to factor into your travel plans. Other issues such as weather, which might ground airline flights are not as much an issue on the train, although snow can cause delays. We experienced that going from St. Paul to Chicago, and to a lesser extent from Chicago to Washington, primarily from Chicago to Cleveland, Ohio. If you look at the Facebook groups about Amtrak travel, usually grouped under the name of a particular train, such as the Empire Builder or Capital Limited, most of the complaints have to do with timeliness.

Another drawback is that surprisingly few Amtrak trains have Wi-Fi on them. From what I could figure out looking at the literature, is primarily those trains serving Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston that have Internet, while the rest of the country waits for trains that are equipped with the appropriate equipment. I made up for this myself, by bringing a portable hotspot, but there were some spots notably in the Appalachian Mountains that there was no cell service and hence the hotspot didn’t do anything either. According to the National, Amtrak’s in-house magazine, they are working to correct this but there is no timeline as to when it will be universally available.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I had no reason to be in a hurry, and decided to try Amtrak. I was hooked. I’m a fan. If the train is going where I am going, from now on I’m taking the train. Taking the above comments in consideration, I would suggest looking at Amtrak as a way to get wherever you’re going as long as time is not of the essence.

One other note: I love author Clive Cussler's Isaac Bell series of adventure novels, most of which involve trains to some extent, and some are railroad themed. They make great reading (or listening to the audiobook) while having a railroad adventure of your own!

(Some photos courtesy of Amtrak.)

Next week it’s back to topics about the Backcountry.

Proceeding on…

Friday, January 06, 2017

A Visit to Mercy Street

As anyone who has followed my blog or Facebook page for any period of time can attest, I have a multitude of interests, some minor and some passionate. One of my more passionate interests is the history of prehospital medical care, or more correctly extra-hospital medical care since in the very early days there were not hospitals as we know them today. Having been directly or indirectly involved with prehospital care all of my adult life, I have seen huge changes in the field since I took my first EMT class in 1973. But having grown up in the Northeast, with the early history of this country surrounding me, from the days of the French and Indian War through the Revolutionary War to the Civil War I’ve become very conscious of the fact that medical care as we practice it today in the prehospital setting has very strong roots in the history of this nation.

I have said a number of times that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were the first paramedics in the United States, long before Johnny and Roy graced our TV sets on “Emergency!”. In preparation for the Corps of Discovery, President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis to Philadelphia to study under the esteemed physician, Dr. Benjamin Rush, who Jefferson considered to be one of the most enlightened men of the 18th century. That time, combined with Lewis’s knowledge of holistic methods, which he learned from his mother Lucy Marks, and the medical training given every officer in the Army at that time, put him in good stead to take care of his men during the expedition. Similarly, William Clark learned to take care of other family members, (the Clark family was very large) from his mother, Mary Rogers Clark, and also had the training given to Army officers of the time. I have three books about the medical history of the Corps of Discovery on my “Lewis and Clark” bookshelves, and the title of the first book published really synopsizes the contents of all three; “Only One Man Died”.

Looking up "Mercy Street"
Last month, (December, 2016) I had the opportunity to travel by rail (which will be the topic of next week’s blog) from Minnesota to Washington DC, to visit my mother, sisters and their families, and an old friend. My mom currently lives in the Alexandria, VA, area, having moved from upstate New York a number of years ago. Alexandria happens to be the setting for the wonderful PBS TV series, “Mercy Street”, and is one of the program’s sponsors. When my wife and I were in the city in 2015, Carlyle House, the museum most directly associated with Mercy Street and the Manor House Hospital, was undergoing remodeling from the filming of the series first season, so we did not get to tour it. This trip, I was able to tour Carlyle House, the first floor of which is devoted to the Carlyle family, who built the original mansion. The second floor Is devoted to the Green family, who owned the property and the Manor House Hotel, which was taken over by the Union army as a hospital, during the Civil War. In fact, the title of Mercy Street is derived from the street that runs from where Manor House Hotel/Hospital once stood to the Potomac River, and was called “Mercy Street” because it was the quickest route to get the injured from hospital boats to the hospital.

Image courtesy of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
In talking with the docent who led our tour, and the museum’s curator, they suggested that I would enjoy a visit to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland. Since I was going to Maryland the following day to visit one of my best friends from high school, I figured I could add a few miles to the unlimited mileage on my rental car and take in the museum. Unfortunately, our lunch and reminiscing took somewhat longer than I expected, which combined with a system failure in my phone’s navigation app, cause me to arrive only 35 minutes before the museum closed for the day. I decided to go ahead and take in what I could and limited time frame, and I’m glad I did.

Although I only got to go through the first floor of the two floor Museum, I was impressed with the exhibits I was able to take in, particularly the very first diorama, which showed a doctor administering care to a wounded soldier in the field. Next to the doctor manikin was his medical bag, containing numerous bottles and vials of primarily morphine as well as other drugs. I was struck by the similarity between the medical kit carried by Meriwether Lewis, the “jump kits” we carry on the ambulance today, and the field kit used by this doctor in the 1860s. Also of note was the fact that some of the medications that were used back in the 1860s, most notably morphine, are still in common use today on paramedic ambulances today. Morphine and laudanum were also staples of Meriwether Lewis’ medical kit, 60 years earlier. Fortunately, by 1863 the infamous Rush’s Rockets, a mercury-based purgative of great effect, were no longer to be found in medical usage.

Lewis' 1803 medical kit 
It is also interesting to note that field medical care in the 1860s, as well as on the Corps of Discovery, is still very closely tied to what we now call “wilderness medicine”. All of the elements of modern wilderness care could be found on the battlefield during the Civil War, and certainly along the journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back in the early 1800s. Extended patient contact, environmental extremes (after all it was a battlefield), limited and/or improvised equipment and medication, and lack of effective communication, the things that define wilderness medical care as opposed to urban/suburban emergency treatment, were all part of taking care of any injury or illness back in those days.

As usual, during the winter I have my road/touring bike, Discovery, set up on a track-stand in the family room downstairs in front of the television. Prompted by my visit to the museum, and the upcoming second season of “Mercy Street”, I am currently peddling my way through the first season of the show with a fresh insight into the actual conditions that doctors and nurses and others dealt with during the War Between the States. Frederick, where the museum is located, was described in one report from after the battle of Antietam as, “one massive hospital”. I am looking forward to going back sometime this coming spring or fall, hopefully with my bike, and visiting the locations that were highlighted in the museum, as well as on “Mercy Street”. In the meantime, if you have the opportunity and happen to be in or near Frederick, Maryland, the museum is located at 48 East Patrick St. and is certainly worth the time to visit and tour. Just remember to get there more than 35 minutes before they close at 5 PM!

Proceeding on…


Friday, December 09, 2016

BHA Habitat Watch Report-2016: Year of the Storms

If you are going to go anywhere, on foot, on mountain bike, or canoe, expect to do a lot of bushwhacking. Regardless of which side of Lake Superior you are on, this was the year the winds took down the trees.

I am the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Habitat Watch volunteer for the Superior National Forest and the Lake Superior watershed. Since the Lake Superior watershed also includes parts of Wisconsin, Michigan and the province of Ontario, and since I spend a fairly substantial amount of time on the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin every year, realistically I consider myself the Habitat Watch person for the entire western end of the lake. Unfortunately, this year it doesn’t matter. The Kokapelli winds wreaked havoc with the entire region at one point or another, this past spring and summer.

As I explained to the MN- BHA board when I accepted this assignment, I am more of an angler than I am a hunter. (Although it could be argued that I am not much of an angler either.) Be that as it may, access affects all of us who use the backcountry, whether it’s for hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, any activity.

Although an earlier storm caused significant damage in the Isabella area of Superior National Forest, it paled in comparison to the devastation left in the wake of the storms of July 11th and 21st. From the eastern and of the Chippewa National Forest through Duluth and Minnesota’s Arrowhead region, and on the south shore, battering the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest’s western reaches so badly that the forest shutdown most of its northern areas. The damage on the Minnesota side resulted in numerous roads and trails being blocked by blowdown, as well as raised water levels in lakes, streams, rivers and even bogs.

I’m going to concentrate more on the damage done on the Chequamegon side, because it had a tremendous impact not only on the habitat, but also on the people of Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Counties. Although a dozen or so campers were evacuated from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area following the July 21st storm, in Bayfield County three people died and 11 or injured during the passage of the two storms. It is estimated that 12 to 15 inches of rain fell on July 11th in about four hours time. This created tremendous pressure on the rivers and streams of the region, producing considerable erosion and in some cases re-creation of existing waterways. One trout fishing guide whom I am friends with, said that the Marengo River in Bayfield County, WI, (one of my most favorite trout streams) is now a totally different stream that it was on July 10th. Twenty Mile Creek, a class one trout stream, cut through over 30 feet of asphalt, gravel, and dirt on US Highway 63 north of Grand View, leaving only the bare concrete culvert structure, and taking the life of an elderly motorist and nearly killing the deputy sheriff who attempted to rescue her.

In addition to the major roadways near Grand View, Marengo and High Point, forest roads took the brunt of the storm’s fury. Even as I write this on December 5th, several Forest Roads on the Chequamegon remain closed, and will likely stay that way until early summer of 2017. The access road to the Beaver Lake Campground, a popular destination with bear and deer hunters was totally washed away, closing the campground for the season. Much of the forest remained closed and inaccessible until mid-November, and was actively patrolled by Forest Law Enforcement Officers, state Conservation Wardens and sheriff’s deputies who issued citations to those who entered the area without authorization. 

On the Superior National Forest, attempting to access a number of trout lakes and streams in the Isabella and Sawbill Trail areas also proved challenging, and at times prohibitive. At one lake I observed moose tracks that tried to enter the blowdown to get to the water a several different points before the animal broke through. Trying to access (politically incorrect) Redskin Lake on my Cogburn bike, a USFS fire lane was impossible. Pancore Lake was a in similar state.

The massive rainfall has produced another issue on standing water. Lakes, ponds and bogs are overflowing, making passage difficult for man and beast. Add to the high water levels, a very thriving beaver population and many roads, trails and game paths are under water.

The Forest Service has advised me that they are, and have been working on these issues since the storms (both Superior NF and Chequamegon NF) and hope to have things in better shape. Until the fire season required crews to go out west and then to the southeastern US, fire crews were dealing with the blowdown issue on roads and popular hiking trails, along with qualified volunteers.

I do receive SOPA (Schedule of Proposed Actions) and permit/variance reports for the Superior, Chequamegon-Nicolet and Chippewa National Forests, and similar information from the MN and WI Departments of Natural Resources. Other than the mining issue that we have all been dealing with, and the MN trout stream classification changes that I posted and sent out, there has not been much that would have a direct, or even indirect effect on fish and wildlife habitat. It should be noted that MN Trout Unlimited (of which I am also a member) is actively working with the DNR to preserve some of the streams scheduled to be delisted, citing the great success they have had with the Vermillion River in the Farmington area, at bringing back “dead” streams.

Going forward, we are going to have to remain vigilant. The new administration is going to bring about changes, both good and bad. It is too early and unfair to say that just because the Republicans are in control that the environment is going to go to hell in a hand-basket. There will be challenges, but the President-Elect has pledged to “Honor the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt”, and if he holds to that, it can’t be a bad thing. (TR is one of my heroes.)

Respectfully submitted,
MN-BHA Habitat Watch Volunteer

Isanti, MN