Last week I asked some questions about search and rescue not knowing that we would have another busy week. Again there were parties that were overdue and relatives contacted the Sheriff. Calls were placed to us, we gathered forces and provided assistance. A thought I’d like to share is that our working relations with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department are excellent. We can talk about all the factors of the “late” parties and together determine the strategy we’ll use to conduct the search. Generally the level of search is scaled to the level of concern that something has gone wrong. For instance, our history has shown that strong winds can cause canoeists to stay in camp for an extra day. Therefore being a day late under those circumstances doesn’t raise the concern level to a high degree.
Both cases this past week turned out well and the people were generally no worse for the wear. One party had their canoe blown off their campsite and was unable to locate it. Two days later with the help from other canoeists, their canoe was located and retrieved. Another party simply made a wrong turn and it took them a few days to figure out their location. All of that is part of the wilderness experience and there is probably some lessons for all of us regarding canoeing in windy conditions and practicing navigational skills. Again, both parties were safe and neither had to be “rescued”.
This week we hosted our Regional Forester, Kent Connaughton from Milwaukee. To give you some perspective, my supervisor is Jim Sanders from Duluth and Jim’s Supervisor is Kent. The next level up from Kent is our agency director in Washington DC.
Kent is fairly new to our region and his purpose in visiting us was to meet our employees. However since he was flying in on one of our beaver aircraft, I took the opportunity have the plane land on Seagull Lake where I could show of the impacts of our recent fires. We also stopped at Chik Wauk and met with several of the groups with which we have ongoing partnerships. That included the Historical Society from the Chik Wauk museum project, the Scenic Byway Committee for Gunflint Greenup, the Gunflint Trail Outfitters with Becoming a Boundary Waters Family venture, Cook County Community Wildfire Protection Plan working on the Midtrail fuels reduction project and the Gunflint Trail Fire Department where we have worked together on several projects.
Now we have several groups that we work with here in Cook County and all deserve recognition. However, this visit with Kent only provided one hour for me to “stop along the way” and I had to make some choices. This time my decisions as to who we could visit were somewhat opportunistic in that we were starting at Seagull Lake and driving down the Gunflint Trail. But there are a few more thoughts I wanted to share with Kent.
Over the past 40 years there have been no less than 15 incidents that directly affected the residents of the upper Gunflint Trail, from blowdown to fire. Many of those from the Hungry Jack Fire in 1967 to the Ham Lake fire in 2007 potentially threatened the lives, homes and businesses of Cook County from Midtrail to the end of the trail. I guess we could discuss whether the blowdown of 1999 or Ham Lake Fire of 2007 was the most destructive. Either way, the outcome is a community of people coming together, being creative and partnering with those of us in government service to provide some stability during times of tribulation. I think that was worth an hour of Kent’s time and the people he met represented the residents of Cook County very well. My thanks to them.