Sunday, June 10, 2007

Viewing the Fire

Yesterday Bruce and I took a walk part way in on the Magnetic Rock Trail. Our purpose was to see if any morel mushrooms were out in the burn area. Unfortunately, we were not successful.

The trail, however, offers an amazing view of the Ham Lake fire. You can certainly see lots of the fire by driving up and down the Trail. To really get a feel for what a fire does and how things regenerate, it is necessary to get out of your car and walk into the woods. Magnetic Rock offers a great trail that gives you lots of exposure to various parts of a fire.

First, here’s a little background. The Magnetic Rock Trail is about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4’s long one way. Generally speaking it is a gentle uphill all the way in. It terminates at a large rectangular rock set on end. The rock is about 30-40 feet tall. It you have a light magnet with you, it will stick to the rock in some places. Hence, the name of the rock. It is possible to walk from the rock to the Gunflint Narrows Road but I suggest you only do that with someone who knows the trail. Your best bet is to come out the same way you came in.

Once you go over the creek, you enter a bedrock ledge. This area was burned back in 1976. Then after the Blowdown of 1999, it was burned again as part of the cleanup. Now it has been burned one more time. We did not walk in far enough to know how close the burn gets to Magnetic Rock.

Almost immediately upon leaving the parking lot, you come into burned over areas. It is spotty with some patches of green remaining. I am amazed at where green patches are found. Before you get to the pond, there is a little strip of trail that is lined with flowering bunchberries about a foot wide on each side. Once you get past fringe, the area on both sides of the trail is black. How did that little strip escape the fire?

The green coming up is already unbelieveable. There are ferns in the burned area that are 18-24 inches tall. Labrador Tea, Bunchberries, Clintonia (Blue-bead Lily), and Star Flowers are well represented. I saw two tiny reddish leaves coming up in lots of places. They may be Wintergreen. There was also one green plant that I believe was Wild Ginger but don’t quote me on it. This plant was everywhere.

Perhaps the most striking flower I saw was a Wood Lily. We found it in a little 10 x 10 foot area that had been surrounded by fire but not burned black itself. The flower was on a rocky area with little soil. All of a sudden this orange flower hits your eye. I saw one other in bloom and two more with unopened buds on them. Probably there were lots more but I didn’t go wandering around much off the trail.

Another surprising find were blueberry bushes with green berries on them already. This is really early to see the green berries. With all the rain we have had, a couple weeks of sunshine will give us a wonderful blueberry crop. Last year the blueberries were terrible so I am ready for a bumper year of berries.

So try to plan a hike up the Magnetic Rock Trail for a closer view of the fire and re-growth. For those who just drive up for the hike, my commercial sense forces me to tell you that the Red Paddle Bistro at Gunflint is a great place to stop for lunch. By June 17th, we will not only have regular dining inside, but the new outside patio will be available for meals overlooking the lake.

Meanwhile, on another note I finally got to reading a little about our red fox and their marriage habits. Apparently a male and female will join together for the mating and early raising of their brood. The young fox stay with their parents until early September. At that point the entire family separates. So we will watch to see what happens to our family. The kits have already been moved from right by the lodge to some spot across the road. We have also learned that there is another fox family down on the Mile O’Pines Road.

Finally, we had some readers stop at the lodge who wanted to see the garden and Tucker. The front desk gave them directions and shortly after we had a car drive in and out. The garden doesn’t look like much because we are still weeks behind in our work. But the point is, stop in and say hello. Bruce and I are always happy to spend some time with visitors. In spite of his barking at strangers, even Tucker loves visitors.


bencounter said...

I walked the Magnetic trail about a week ago, and it was stunning. If you do make it all the way to Magnetic Rock, you'll find yourself standing in the most devastated area by far, everything around it charred black and all of the trees on the ground. It sits up on a bluff, too, so it provides a striking view of the fire to the north. It's a hike worth taking.

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