The Skeeters of Lost Forty

In 1882, a survey mistakenly designated this particular plot of the far north Minnesota forest as under water... part of a lake... too wet to log off. As a result, the little area was never included in logging tracts that were sold off to timber companies. Loggers worked through the forest, on all sides of the little tract, never touching it with axes or saws. Years later that tract became known as the "Lost Forty"... a reference to the number of acres thought to be included. In actuality, the size of the plot is more than 100 acres.

Today, contained within the Chippewa National Forest and managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Lost Forty is one of the last stands or virgin white and red pine in the Northland. It really is something to see. There's a walking trail loop that winds through the tall 300 and 400 year old trees. I'm told that a slow walk through the plot provides perspective, a good place for quiet contemplation, and a glimpse into what these native northern forests were like before they were all cut down. It can be a very spiritual experience.

The Lost Forty is about 50 miles north of our camp on Leech Lake. Through lake country, low land, and forest, it was a pleasant drive on a warm sunny day. The last few miles were on gravel and dirt roads -- no problem for our low-clearance off-road Ford Focus. We found a small parking area and prepared for the hike when we found ourselves swatting at a few bugs... mosquitoes.

We missed a clue or two, as we headed into the stand of virgin pine, of the problems that lie ahead. There was the running and wimpering young couple who ran by us on their way back to the parking lot, followed closely by a cloud of skeeters. As they flashed by, one of them said something like "Turn back... go back... before it's too late!" I assumed they were probably city people... not as familiar with the outdoors as we are. Dar thought perhaps we should maybe apply some Deepwoods Off as a precaution, but unfortunately we didn't have any with us. Hmmm.

But we pressed on, as all intrepid explorers do, figuring we could handle any problem encountered. I mean, how bad could it really be?

The Lost Forty is an amazing area full of towering giants. Imagine mile after mile -- the entire north country of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan -- covered by these ancient old guys... hundreds of years old, able to withstand storms, fires, and diseases. Here, time isn't measured in days or weeks, but in decades and centuries. They held steady and strong in the face of all adversity... except the saw and axe.

The skeeters? They were a hungry lot, manageable by swatting and flapping as long as we were moving fast. But if we stopped to take a picture, or read a poster, or scratch a bite, the swarm descended and almost carried us away. So we kept moving... jogging actually... and tried to soak in the experience while the skeeters were soaking in our blood. It wasn't a long jog and before long we were the young couple running back to the car, admonishing newly arrived explorers to "Turn back... go back... before it's too late!"

For a little more information on the Lost Forty, click on this link.

Laughin' and scratchin'...


Very interesting post. Have to put it on our "Bucket List". Any better time of the year to go when there are less skeeters (and no snow)?

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