Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Fall campers are a hardy lot. They are more experienced than the summer folk and have chosen this time of year because the bugs are gone and the kids are back in school. Starting on the 16th we have had a total burning ban on camp fires and charcoal. Gas stoves are still allowed. The ban is due to the spread of the Pagami Creek Fire which is about 100,000 acres. When the low is 34 degrees, a campfire is pretty nice. No one has cancelled since the burning ban. As I said, they are a hardy lot.

Since the fire blew up, my unscientific term for the day it went from 11,000 acres to 60,000 acres, I have fielded some strange phone calls.

One woman called wondering if her husband had stayed at my campground. If people make reservations, I know their names. If not I have a pay envelope and maybe they have put down their license number, maybe not. Her husband was in the Boundary Waters canoeing. She did not have an itinerary for him and given the fact that she was in Milwaukee and smelling the smoke from our fire, she was a bit panicked. She started to describe him, “He’s about 5’10” and has a beard.” Since she was so worried I didn’t have the heart to tell her that her description matched half the men in these parts. I was able to tell her that I didn’t have any cars with Wisconsin plates around the days she thought he might have been here. I gave her a web address for the fire updates and the phone number for the Ranger station. I told her that the Forest Service was evacuating people from the areas that were in danger and I thought she should get a good night’s sleep and not worry. She laughed a bit at that. (By the way: if someone you love is traveling get more information, just in case.)

One man called and asked, “So how are the birds?” It was a new question for me and I was clueless.

“Well, they are still here and they are singing, why do you ask?”

“We were coming up to go birding and wondered if the fire had caused them all to fly away.”

Practical me answers, “Well, I’m sure the birds left the area that’s burning, but you wouldn’t want to go birding there just now, right?” A chuckle comes through the phone. I add, “There are still birds in the campground but to tell you the truth I can only identify six or seven of them.”

He asks, “Are there any ruffed grouse in camp?”

The picture is getting clearer. Hunting season for ruffed grouse opened on Saturday. “Oh yes, I know that bird and we have some strutting along the side of the loop road here in the campground. You are, however, not allowed to hunt them in the campground. You knew that didn’t you?”

Turns out he belongs to the ruffed grouse society and they have a dual mission. One is to count grouse and protect their habitat and the other is to have enough grouse to go hunting. He finally admitted that he was a hunter and not really a birder.

Maybe I should have stronger opinions. I am willing to let all sorts of people come and enjoy the wilderness. I love the fall campers, especially this year. All the open entry points for the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) are on the Echo Trail at points just north of me. I’m getting the hard core campers now. Fall is a beautiful time up here and I am so glad that the hardy souls are still coming up to enjoy the largest wilderness area in the country.

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