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Archive for the ‘The Hike’ Category

Some of my family and friends are visiting for the holiday weekend.  Saturday, between bear burgers on the grill and bocce ball this afternoon and cheddar and wild rice brats, pizza, and peach pies over the bonfire this evening, we headed down to Itasca State Park for a hike to see the sights.  We made all of the usual stops in the park during an afternoon visit and I snapped a few views from the Aiton Heights Fire Tower as well.

North from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

East from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

South from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

West from Aiton Heights Fire Tower

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Spring Watch

I took a little hike out in to the woods this afternoon to check the signs of spring and see if there were any shed antlers uncovered by the final snow melt.  No sheds were found this trip, but it was late in the season.  The deeper I traveled, the surer the signs became.

Spring in the Swamp

Spring in the Swamp

The Beaver Pond

Woodies on the Pond

Woodies on the Pond

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Josiah A. King and his three-man crewRecently I was finally able to visit a place that I had only heard about since moving here to Bemidji.  A place where towering giants live.  A place where majestic white and red pines have been spared the lumberjack’s ax and saw to become an old growth sanctuary.  This place is the Lost Forty.

It takes a little doing to get there as the name of this place would suggest.  Not exactly on the main route today, one can only imagine what the territory looked like 125 years ago.  A survey crew’s error in 1882 mapped the Lost Forty, which is actually 144 acres, as being underwater in nearby Coddington Lake.  Surveyor Josiah A. King and his three-Lost 40man crew had traveled over 40 miles from the nearest white settlement of Grand Rapids for the project of finishing one of the first land surveys of Northern Minnesota.  For a month, in the unsettling winds of November the survey team lived in canvas tents and on rations of flour, pork, beans, and dried apples.  An error at the time has created a testament to our North Woods heritage.

Today, with only two percent of Minnesota’s forested land considered to be old growth, this stand of virgin pine has Monster white and red pinesbecome a monument within the Chippewa National Forest.  These magnificent trees are between 300 and 400 years old.  That’s well over 100 years older than this great country itself, dating back to the 17th century and the first colonial settlements.  Many of the behemoths are up to 350 years old and are just now reaching retirement age as compared to our life span.  White and red pines can live to about 500 years old.  Between 22 and 48 inches in diameter, this old growth stand, and others like it, are valuable habitat for bald eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, weasels, red squirrels, and other wildlife.

A View to the NorthMy visit was not long, but I will make the trek back to this special place again, as walking the trails felt like I was entering the corridors of some great hall or temple that has stood the test of time.

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Vigilant Crossing

Vigilant CrossingOn this beautiful winter day, I decided to take a hike into the deer woods.  I hadn’t been there to check things out since I hunted last, over a month ago.  This fall, loggers had been marking up the place getting prepared to harvest another section of acreage.  It was time to check on their progress.  The fresh dusting of snow would provide the opportunity to investigate any fresh tracks as well.  Plus, I still have a scouting camera and deer stands in place that needed to be checked.

I have about a mile hike until the last ridge above the swamp where my camera stands post at the beaver dam crossing.  With limited time to get in and get out, this would be my main objective today.  However, upon arrival at the trailhead, it was obvious that the loggers had begun their work.  The popples that once walled off the parking area from the county road, now lay stacked in piles ready for shipment to the paper mill.  I believe the rest of their work will be down the west trail, but I would be travelling the east trail today.  I will have to check the rest of their progress on another date.

Fresh deer tracks greeted me as I stepped foot out of my truck.  Two sets.  I followed their on and off trail meandering as I headed down the east trail.  Before long, they turned south along the major trail that runs along the north-south ridge.  As always, the north-south ridge deer trail entrance is being heavily used.  Another hundred yards east and my trail turns south as it heads for the swamp.  Another hundred yards and I encountered coyote tracks working against me along the trail.  A sign that the wolf trapping had probably seen some success this fall.  Wolves and coyotes do not exist well together.  A wolf will go out of its way to kill a coyote, and even break off from a hunt to do so.  The tracks entered the trail corridor from the west and broke off to the east; headed for the cedar swamp to the north, perhaps.  Further down the trail, there were rabbit tracks, grouse tracks, small rodent tracks of some sort, and more deer tracks, but I had to keep moving if I was going to make it to the scouting camera and back to town in time for class.

The boughs of the white pines in the depression below barbwire knob still held snow.  The sun hadn’t reached them yet.  There had been a lot of activity on the east-west deer trail on the ridge above the swamp, but very little at the beaver dam.  The scouting camera’s batteries were dead, but it didn’t look like it had missed much recently.  I replaced the batteries, changed the memory card, and reset the camera.  I had no idea, at the time, how many images the camera captured before the batteries succumb to the cold, but from the looks of things I may need to relocate it up the ridge.  But that would have to wait for another day because I needed to turn around and beat it on down the line to make it back for class in time.

Tonight I checked what the scouting camera had seen before the batteries gave out.  There were only four pictures: a spiker, a fork, a larger buck, and a doe all from December.  The doe gave the best pose early one evening in late December on a vigilant crossing.

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