June 25, 2008  
  

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TOPIC: June 25th
http://groups.google.com/group/entstrees/browse_thread/thread/55a600577dc044e8?hl=en
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== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Sun, Aug 17 2008 10:57 am
From: dbhguru@comcast.net

June 25th

On the morning of the 25th , Monica and I awoke with sore backs. The soft bed we had slept on had not worked for either of us, but after a walk near the shore of Lake Superior, I worked out most of the kinks. We had breakfast in our cabin and packed the car. Our plans for the day were still unsettled. We talked about making a couple of stops in the Porcupine Mountains, but I was not feeling well, so we were to hold ourselves to a single stop, a visit to Lake of The Clouds, a famous scenic spot in the Porcupine Mountains. The Porkies were named by the Ojibwa Indians who supposedly visualized the shape of the mountains as that of a porcupine. I am dubious, but no matter.
Lake of the Clouds is a small, shallow, glacial relict that lies at 1,076 feet above sea level. It is nestled in the interior of the Porkies. This little blue jewel averages only about 15 feet in depth, but lying below a region of cliffs, it appears much deeper. The surrounding ridges abruptly rise another 500 feet above the lake to give sharp contrast between ridges and the lake. The forests surrounding Lake of the Clouds are prime old growth. For the latitude, forests do not get any better in the East.
The view of Lake of the Clouds from an observation platform is striking. The ridgeline flows smoothly around the lake, making it appear like the setting in a ring. Ive been to the spot several times now, and on each succeeding visit, I become more fond of the Porkies. So perhaps at this point, some facts on the Porcupine Mountains and the associated state park are in order.
The Porcupine Mountains are located in the northeastern part of Michigans U.P. I think most of the mountains are in the state park, which covers a respectable 59,020 acres. A total of 35,000 acres of the Porkies are considered to be primary forest, and impressive forest at that, which is especially significant considering the latitude.
As mountains go, the Porkies are relatively small. The highest elevation is 1,958 feet. Since Lake Superiors elevation is 600 feet, the relief of the Porkies is typically 400 to 800 feet, i.e. from the surrounding land to the rounded tops of the summits. However, waterfalls and rock outcroppings make the mountains more rugged than the elevation numbers might otherwise suggest. The Porkies are the source of early copper mining.
I need not mention that the Porkies are particularly significant to ENTS. The Porkies served as one of Dr. Lee Frelichs forest training grounds. Lee has often shared his experiences with us while in the Porkies, especially his knowledge of the ecology of the old growth and natural disturbance regimes. A walk in the virgin forests of the Porkies with Lee is a first class educational experience.
From my own perspective, old growth forests in the Porkies are visually impressive. Eastern hemlocks can reach 12 feet in circumference and 110 to 115 feet in height. A few may make it to 120. In places, basal areas in hemlock forest exceed 300 square feet per acre. I measured 360 in one stand Lee took us to in June, 1999.
Species like American basswood and northern white cedar reach surprising proportions. Individual white pines approach 150 feet in height and 13 feet in girth. All typical old growth characteristics are present. All this makes the Porkies synonymous with old growth.
From the Porkies, we headed across a small section of northwestern Wisconsin, paralleling Lake Superior. The short section of Wisconsin we crossed is moderately populated and not particularly scenic. We turned south about 20 miles east of Duluth and then eventually west across a section of Wisconsin that specializes in canoe trails. The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers offer over 250 miles of waters that are good for canoes.
As a general observation, I noticed spots here and there on our route in Wisconsin with attractive white pines, but in general, in our crossing of the narrow swath, I didnt see much potential for really big trees. I hope to see more of the region on our next visit. I know that Paul Jost has documented some pretty significant pines in northern Wisconsin.
We crossed into Minnesota on State Route #48. The St. Croix River forms the border. Once in Minnesota, I felt like our trip westward had really just begun. Although Minnesota is not a western state, it has tall grass prairie, gigantic peat bogs, and a growing openness to give it a distinctive flavor as one travels westward.
Minnesota is a huge state. Its combined land and water area is 87,014 square miles. Take as a whole, it has fairly varied terrain with mountains comparable to the Berkshires of Massachusetts. To be more specific, Minnesotas highest point is 2,301 feet and is located in the Northeastern corner. Its lowest point is Lake Superior.
A distinguishing forest feature of Minnesota is its acreage of primary forest, largest of all states comprising the eastern forest biome. I think the total acreage is around 900,000 acres. Much of the primary forest is black spruce, tamarack, and red maple and is located in the northeastern sector of the state.
Another distinguishing feature of Minnesota is its quixotic weather extremes that redefine extreme. Embarrass, MN recorded the states all time low temperature of -60 degrees Fahrenheit in February, 1996. Montana, Wyoming, and Utah have recorded lower temperatures within the lower 48 states, but I suspect means are slightly lower for Northeastern Minnesota. For example, the average January temperature of Embarrass is a bone-chilling one degree above zero Fahrenheit. For example, West Yellowstone, Montana is a notoriously cold spot in the lower 48. It has recorded temperatures as low as -66 degrees Fahrenheit. However, a comparison of average monthly temperatures between West Yellowstone and Embarrass reveals just how cold the Northeastern corner of Minnesota gets.

West Yelowstone

 

 

 

 

 

Month

Avg.

Avg.

Mean

Avg.

Record

Record

High

Low

Precip

High

Low

Jan

24F

1F

13F

1.96 in.

47F (1986)

-60F (1963)

Feb

30F

4F

17F

1.77 in.

56F (1958)

-66F (1933)

Mar

38F

12F

25F

1.82 in.

61F (1966)

-43F (1955)

Apr

47F

21F

34F

1.51 in.

76F (1939)

-26F (1936)

May

58F

29F

44F

2.19 in.

88F (1936)

0F (1954)

Jun

69F

36F

53F

2.21 in.

93F (1936)

18F (1924)

Jul

78F

41F

59F

1.84 in.

97F (1936)

20F (1948)

Aug

77F

38F

58F

1.36 in.

96F (1961)

15F (1928)

Sep

66F

30F

48F

1.47 in.

91F (1950)

-9F (1926)

Oct

52F

22F

37F

1.30 in.

83F (1934)

-20F (1971)

Nov

33F

11F

22F

2.01 in.

64F (1962)

-38F (1929)

Dec

24F

1F

12F

2.30 in.

54F (1946)

-59F (1924

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embarrass, MN

 

 

 

 

 

Month

Avg.

Avg.

Mean

Avg.

Record

Record

High

Low

Precip

High

Low

Jan

16F

-14F

1F

0.76 in.

52F (1973)

-57F (1996)

Feb

24F

-8F

8F

0.70 in.

58F (1976)

-60F (1996)

Mar

35F

6F

21F

0.99 in.

69F (1987)

-42F (1989)

Apr

51F

22F

36F

1.57 in.

87F (1977)

-22F (1982)

May

65F

33F

49F

3.05 in.

95F (1986)

10F (1997)

Jun

73F

43F

58F

4.49 in.

97F (1995)

21F (1985)

Jul

77F

48F

62F

4.42 in.

98F (1988)

24F (1997)

Aug

75F

45F

60F

4.29 in.

97F (1976)

21F (1986)

Sep

65F

36F

50F

4.00 in.

95F (1976)

14F (1976)

Oct

52F

26F

39F

2.90 in.

84F (1963)

-7F (1976)

Nov

34F

12F

23F

1.33 in.

75F (1999)

-33F (1976)

Dec

20F

-5F

8F

0.61 in.

57F (1962)

-52F (1983)

 

As the averages show, December through February are brutal in both places, but Embarrass is the colder of the two at least on average. I imagine our good friend Lee would cite these climate statistics as positives, as reasons to move to Embarrass, but for wimps like me, Id rather avoid such extremes. I can handle a few days of zero in the winter, but prefer a cool, not frigidly cold climate. All things in moderation except tree measuring, of course.
As Monica and I continued west across what is predominately farming country, we set our goal as reaching Saint Cloud on the Mississippi River. We achieved our goal, finding an inexpensive, but very adequate motel. I was impressed.
When we arrived, I didnt know much about St. Cloud, beyond its location in Minnesota. I wondered about the origin of its name, assuming it was named for a person. However, the town is, in fact, named after Saint-Cloud, a suburb of Paris, France. This fact struck me as odd when I first read the fact until I learned that the town was named by John Wilson who was an admirer of Napoleon, and Napoleon favored a palace at Saint-Cloud in Paris. I wonder how many St. Cloud residents know the origin of their citys name? The town served as a way-station after the area was opened up to white settlement in 1851. St. Cloud was incorporated in 1856. Granite is quarried around St. Cloud, which has spawned the nickname of the Granite City.
After white settlement began, the Winnebago Indians were evidently the direct losers. They had been moved into Minnesota in 1848 from their tribal home in Wisconsin. Like virtually all Native Americans, the story of the Winnebagos is a sad one. From Minnesota, they were moved by the federal government to a reservation in South Dakota with Yanktoni Sioux. Talk about insensitivity. The Winnebagos eventually were given land in Nebraska and most resettled there. Today the Winnebagos are split between eastern and western bands, much like the Cherokee, who have populations in North Carolina and Oklahoma.
St. Clouds present population exceeds 66,000 people. It is one of the fastest growing areas in Minnesota. The climate of St. Cloud is typically Minnesotan. The average January temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit. The average July temperature is 70. It has been as cold as -43 degrees Fahrenheit.
As Monica and I settled in for the night, I looked especially forward to the following day. I had a special treat planned for Monica. That treat will be covered in the June 26th episode.