What Are These Strange Balls in the Minnesota Woods?
If you plan on spending any time in the Ely area this summer, don't be surprised by the strange balls of branches and sticks that decorate the landscape at some of the local national forest campgrounds. It was really hard to miss them as there are several dozen of them at the honor campground that I recently stayed at.
At first I thought they were some sort of ceremonial offering to Santa as the sweet smell of pine trees filled the air around them and reminded me of Christmas. My son, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, told me that several crews of workers were recently in the area, removing all the smaller balsam fir trees and then bunching each tree up into a ball. He said it took a couple of weeks for them to accomplish this task before they moved on to their next location. They must've been doing this for a long time because each ball was pretty much identical to the next. The reason this was being done was to reduce the risk of a fire racing through the area and taking all the trees with it by using the smaller trees as fuel. Another crew will come back in the winter after there's snow on the ground and burn all the piles of branches.
I thought these pine tree balls were a strange sight and so I took a few pictures to share with you.