The fire is over but its stories keep coming along. This weekend Nancy Seaton, who is the local Scenic Byways Chairman, organized a tree planting operation on the upper end of the Trail. Because the Forest Service biologists have not finished their assessment of the damage on federal lands, this operation was for private land owners.
Property owners in the Seagull/Signage area were contacted to ask if they would like white pines planted on their property. (As an aside, Nancy had 5 day's notice to organize this so if you weren’t contacted, it was just due to lack of time.) Yesterday morning 100 property owners and volunteers from all over assembled at the Blankenburg Landing. Bags with from 70-90 trees were available for each group. There were 60 bags so the count was more approximate than exact. The Grand Marais Girl Scouts appeared with water, sandwiches, and cookies. By about 10:30 we were scattered all over planting.
For those who have never experienced the joy of tree planting in our forest, let me tell you that it is not fun. If the rocks don’t stop your shovel, the tree roots will. Add to that the ever present soot and it is not pretty. Everyone stuck with the job at hand and several thousand trees were planted.
Today about 50 people appeared to plant more trees. Although we are really grateful to those who came yesterday, today was a rainy, miserable day. These volunteers got a little extra shine on their halos. We had heavy mist during much of the morning. Again everyone stuck with the project and another couple thousand trees were planted. This group, however, was a little dirtier with the potent combination of water added to the dirt and soot.
Perhaps one of the most uplifting parts of this job was to see what Mother Nature had already accomplished to renew the forest. Grass is coming up in every wet spot. It looks funny against the stark black soot background. Blue bead lilies, false lily of the valley and fiddleheads are also found everywhere. Then there are all the green-leaved plants that I have no idea what they are but there are lots of them in spots that were burning ten days ago.
And don’t forget the animals. As Nancy and I stood talking before yesterday’s gathering, we could hear partridge drumming. She had seen a moose cross the road into the landing while waiting for me. Sue McDonnell came in shortly and she had seen a cow moose with a newborn calf. Sue, one of our most knowledgeable bird watchers, also said that the birds had returned.
I got to tell you that the bugs have come back too. At times, black flies were fiercely attacking us. Luckily I had brought repellant which I call Eau du Jour no matter what the brand. Ticks also managed to find us. At one point I was on my hands and knees planting in a huge burned area. I couldn’t believe it when an ant crossed in front of me. How had that ant survived the inferno?
The return of the forest is definitely started. If Nancy has her way, we will be planting trees next year on Memorial Day weekend. If it is a project that interests you, watch the Gunflint Trail Association website for more information as time goes by. Since Nancy and her husband, Dave, also run Hungry Jack Outfitters, it may be fall before she has time to start planning the next tree planting.
On the home front at Gunflint, Bruce and I are still watching our fox. Either the male or the female finds their way to our back yard at mealtime. When they just sit and look in the window, it is hard to not feed them. We give in pretty quickly. Last night both parents were in the garden. Bruce and I have wondered what the relationship is between mother and dad. It looked pretty affectionate last night as they sat touching nose to nose.
Lee told me a story about our domestic animals. Last night he was at home. Diva, the female cat, was on Lee’s lap cleaning herself. Tucker, the male dog, had his head right on Lee’s lap to make sure he got his share of the attention. Tucker maneuvered to place his head just where he wanted it. Unfortunately, where he wanted it was not where Diva wanted it. She put one paw on each side of his face and moved his head to where she could wash his face too. Tucker tried to move but Diva’s paws kept him in place. Every man needs a good woman to keep him in his place.