By now most people have heard something about the thousands of trees that bent over into snow-covered rainbow shapes after the heavy, wet snow of December 16-18. All winter activities in Cook County have been affected by the massive number of trees bending over every roadway or trail, and a huge amount of effort has gone into clearing trails over the past few weeks.
Bearskin and Golden Eagle staff members were out clearing almost nonstop for days, and we did get most of our trails back in good shape pretty fast. Dan at Golden Eagle says he lost about 6 pounds on the Bend-down diet — apparently the grueling task of cutting down trees every day is actually a healthy thing to do! Bob would not agree since clearing trees has left him with tendinitis in both elbows, an issue that has not successfully excused him from the daily clearing activities.
Many guests have ventured into the bent-down areas, describing crawling through the snow-laden trees as a surreal experience, or like trying to enter Narnia.
Here’s a picture taken when Jim Pohle and Joe Zuaro tried to ski into Old Logging Camp the morning of December 30. They came across workers from Golden Eagle making headway on the trail, but it was far from passable. This trail is in good shape now, but it took some time.
Here’s Roger Kolarich wending his way down a trail before it was cleared. In the good spots it looked like this:
But in most places, this was the trail — entertaining to snake through for awhile but it was an adventure, not a ski trip:
At this point there are a few short, non-essential connecting trails that are still covered with trees and, of course, Poplar Creek, a 6.3 mile trail into the middle of the deep wilderness that is covered in trees and even still has swampy, unfrozen wet segments. (That’s another peculiar thing about this winter!) In many places it’s been hard to even find the Poplar Creek Trail. On Friday a big crew of volunteers and employees of Bearskin and Golden Eagle went out on Poplar Creek trail with a vengeance, determined to speedily get the job done.
Bob and local fire chief Jim Morrison encountered an interesting phenomena: 40 foot tall trees, just bent over at the very top. Bob said it was incredibly beautiful, except they kept breaking and crashing down onto the trail in a wall of falling snow and branches. They theorized that vibration from the chain saws might have been just enough to set the fragile trees off — so, wisely, they quit standing anywhere near one of those trees.
By the end of Friday afternoon Poplar Creek wasn’t done, but the workers made significant progress. At least they can see the trail now. Kate and Quinn are out clearing again this afternoon, and those two can energetically make progress fast. Achy Bob is out there too with our employee Matthew, and for an old, sore guy Bob is surprisingly vigorous at ripping out trees. It won’t be long before we can officially add Poplar Creek back on the Central Gunflint Trail Ski map.
Meanwhile, it keeps snowing up here, and new trees keep bending over from the increasing weight. The snow that causes this is thickly frozen onto the trees, so windy days don’t seem to clear the snow piles off the branches. It makes the pine trees almost fakey beautiful, like the snow-blobbed pines on plaster Christmas houses. Photographers have come from all over the country to take photos of the pine trees on our trails right now. We’re always going to remember the hard work it took to get these trails clear again, but for most people who came up here, the beauty of this winter will be what they recollect.