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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


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School News from Oshki Ogimaag: January 12

Biidash reports the latest School News.

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Winter Hexagon {peter jones /Flickr}

Northern Sky: January 9

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly on the Monday North Shore Morning program through "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

Jupiter below Leo; the winter hexagon and winter triangle; a new moon on January 9; and Venus, Saturn and Mars in the morning sky.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 8

The Gunflint winter in this New Year continues in a “funky” mood. The area has a decent accumulation of snow although none has been added since our last radio gathering, and not much is foreseen in the immediate future.                                                                                                                             
Meanwhile, temperatures throughout our northland are way out of whack. With only a few nights in the Wildersmith neighborhood seeing the mercury dip below zero, making ice on the “Gunflint Gal” from our mid-lake location has been difficult. Whereas the western third of the lake took up solidarity sometime before Christmas, we had seen only a momentary skim one morning in the past week, and that scant crinkling was soon whisked away by daytime winds.                                                                   
Since that time, persistent north westerlies kept things in turmoil. The rolling icy surf ate away at edges of the eastern iciest advancement (the Gunflint always freezes from west to east) sending huge chunks crashing and grinding into the shore down our way.                                                                                                
These floating mini ice bergs not only create intriguing sound bites against the granite shoreline, but also whip up unusual lake surface textures as rollers and ice cubes unite. This” liquidscape” often takes on the look of dancing waters, and in a case or two one would think there might be school of hungry “bass” attacking at Mayfly hatch.                                                                             
 Then in an un-expected happening, winds calmed last Sunday evening and by the morning of January fourth, Gunflint Lake had totally put on her winter coat.  Lifetime residents around here cannot remember such a tardy arrival of hard water. The new, late date “ice on” will be recorded in my winter facts data as the old mark of December 29, 2001 was obliterated to a distant second place.                                                                                                                                           
On a related note, I heard of some gutsy ice skaters who tried the Gunflint ice a little over a mile west of here out from Heston’s Lodge, January 2nd. Guess there were no issues but they’re surely bigger risk takers that yours truly, particularly when chunks of the surface were breaking off not far from where their blades scarred the frozen surface.                                               
In another ice related story, a friend tells of meeting, and playing peek-a-boo, with an otter along a narrow ice shelf at his shore line. The aquatic, carnivorous mammal was doing a little fishing at the edge of the ice formation and came up a time or two to show off its catching skills. It makes one wonder if the fun loving critter might have been teasing this on-looker in regard to already being able to ice fish, or was just playing a little “now you see me, now you don’t, game. “                                                          
Although wolves aren’t at the door, the Gunflint/Loon Lake Pack has been seen at any number of places along the south shore of Gunflint lake in the past week. From reports it’s a “five some” making the rounds.                                                                                                                                
There have been no known confrontations between people and/or pets as these great hunters just want venison. With few white tails left in the upper Trail reaches, wolves are ranging in all directions to find even a whiff of their favorite meal. As confirmation of the low deer population, I know of only one buck being taken in these parts during the November 2015 rifle season. Since the Gunflint’s completely frozen now, I’m wondering if deer might matriculate from Canada, or will the wolves make their way in that direction for better hunting grounds.                                                                                                                                                                 
The first spectacle of north woods dog sledding competition gets under way this weekend with the Gunflint Mail Run.  The 110 mile (long race) and a 70 mile (short run) commence at Trail Center Saturday morning, 8 AM. Race observations can be viewed at any number of back country road intersections along the snowmobile trail network, and at turn around points (for the long race at Blankenberg Pit) and (at King’s Road above Gunflint Lake for the short race).                                                                      
Born to run and pull, these canine athletes display boundless energy as they get harnessed up. Their enthusiasm goes un-matched from start to finish. If you have not seen such an event, the Gunflint Mail Run is a good opportunity to cross such an event off one’s bucket list.                                                                                                                                                                  
While on the dogsledding subject, riding in a sled behind the dogs is an adventure everyone with wilderness spirit should get to experience. Bearskin and Gunflint Lodges both offer dogsledding rides in the snowy woods. Give them a call to make a reservation. Take it from yours truly it’ll be a timeless memory!                                                                                            
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. The Trails’ going to the dogs, see you at the GMR, it’ll be a “woofing” good time! 

{photo courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run on Facebook}
 

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: January 7

Kaleb and Sienna share the latest news from Great Expectations Charter School in Grand Marais.

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West End News: January 7

Congratulations to local photographer Paul Sundberg, who was featured in the Duluth News Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press last week.  Paul lives in Grand Marais, but is a frequent visitor to the West End when he’s out and about with his camera.  Paul has been a professional nature photographer for many years, but has really concentrated on his passion since retiring as the long-time manager at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
 
Paul’s website, <paulsundbergphotography.com> has a popular “Photo of the Week” that was viewed more than 3 million times last year.  He also teaches nature photography at North House Folk School and to 4th graders at William Kelley Elementary School in Silver Bay.
 
Paul is often joined in his photography outings by David Brislance of Lutsen, another talented wildlife photographer and teacher.  Tom Spence, of Tofte, yet another prolific local nature photographer, is also frequently seen on the back roads in the West End.  I’m sure Dave and Tom will get their own turns at being featured by the statewide press, as all three men are talented and dedicated to their craft. 
 
It’s a pleasure to have them – and many other home-grown photographers – documenting the beautiful West End.
 
The West End that attracts wildlife photographers is changing fast due to the accumulating effects of climate change.  It was encouraging to hear that most of the world’s leaders acknowledged the need for action at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Of course, meaningful action on climate change should have started 25 years ago when the science became clear that human activity was changing the world’s climate in ways that had the potential to be very damaging to society.
 
As if it isn’t bad enough that action is coming too late to prevent really serious consequences, it’s even more disturbing that the majority of the current crop of presidential candidates are still denying that climate change is real and are condemning efforts to address the problem. 
 
In my opinion, we should all be outraged by this display of reckless and willful indifference to our children and grandchildren’s future.  Not only should the outrage be directed at the candidates, but also at the root of the problem, which is the uncontrolled and non-transparent flow of special interest money into campaign coffers.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the fossil fuel industry directly and indirectly spent half a billion dollars on candidates in the last election cycle.  It is widely estimated that more than double that will be spent in the upcoming election, focused narrowly on preventing meaningful action on climate change in the United States.
 
Bad as that is, it isn’t just climate change policy that is being blatantly bought off.  In virtually every critical issue facing the country today, special interest money is being is being fire-hosed into nearly every federal and state election, creating a situation where very small number of our most wealthy citizens has a virtual lock on public policy.  I’d like to blame all this on one party, but the reality is that both major parties are complicit, because that’s the way the game is now played, like it or not.
 
As the presidential primary season hits its stride next week in Iowa, the openly transactional nature of elections and politics will be obvious.  Most people agree that the founders of our democracy were very concerned that national political power should never be concentrated in the hands of just a few people.  It’s safe to say that if they were around today, they would be worried. 
 
Fortunately, they gave us the principal of one person, one vote, so I urge you to find out where every candidate stands on meaningful campaign finance reform before you cast your ballot this year.  The future of our children and grandchildren may depend on it.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 6 - Dogs

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Varied thrush

North Woods Naturalist: A look back

The New Year is a good time to reflect back on the previous 12 months. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson birds and trees at the end of the year.

(Photo courtesy of Skip Russell on Flickr)

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 1 - Freeze-up, finally

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences travelling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 1

Happy New Year everyone! We’re off in to the sixteenth year of this twenty-first century. And, the Smiths are back in the woods following a Christmas Holiday with kids, grandkids and friends in Iowa. Hope your time together with family and friends was as special as ours.                                                                                                                                                                           
Our return to the Gunflint found “Santa” had left us a surprising gift of white during our absence. I’m told by neighbors his delivery couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, Christmas Eve, and then more on the next day.                                                 
As we departed for Iowa, the forest around this neighborhood was already somewhat flocked. The additional fluff has left the area with thousands of immature trees on the brink of snapping under the weight of monstrous marshmallow puffs. Meanwhile many brittle elder forest kin succumbed to the stress and are laying a cross roads, driveways, cross country ski trails and utility lines.                                        
Along the snow covered Trail, I’m amazed at the number of downed trees hanging on telephone lines. It’s unexplainable how these overhead lines have flexed but not given way. A big secret is why telephone service has not been interrupted under this stress. Guess those installations are stronger than what they appear.                                                                                                                             
There’s a lot of clean-up work to be done and to this point, our service provider seems in no hurry to get after this sizeable task. Guess they might be on hold until a break in the communication link occurs. Then workers may start their chain saws.                                                                                                                        
With over twenty inches of snow on the ground in many areas out this way, the scenery is stunning and winter sports enthusiasts are delighted. Trails for cross country skiers look to be groomed into fine shape. However, with the draping of snow laden brush and branches, clear sailing might be spotty until groomers can get things trimmed back. Users might consider putting a nipper in their pocket to help clear their way.                                                                                                                                         
Trails for snowmobilers face the same issue with added concern for safe ice on lakes connecting any number of points on the sledding network. While several smaller lakes show ice, it may not be safe what with the newest application of snowy insulation. And the larger water bodies, like Gunflint, remain very much in a rolling liquid state for yet another week.                                             
Whereas a lack of early snow had organizers nervous, that issue was taken care of as December ended. Excitement is mounting for the upcoming Gunflint Mail Run dogsledding adventure. Plans are being finalized for the event which gets under way one week from tomorrow (Saturday, January ninth).                                                                                                                                                         
The run which was started in the 1970’s waned until recently, but has been revived over the past few years and is growing with enthusiasm for dogs, mushers and handlers. For several of the entries GMR will be a tune up for the John Beargrease 400 mile dog sledding trek coming out of Duluth at the end of the month.                                                                                                                         
This two race event commences in the mid-trail area at Trail Center at 8:00 am. A twelve dog (long) race of 110 miles runs from Trail Center to Blankenberg Pit up the Trail, loops back and then repeats after a mandatory lay-over. While the eight dog (short) race runs to King’s Road above Gunflint Lake looping back to Trail Center for its’ finish at about 70 miles. Award ceremonies will be held at Trail Center on Sunday afternoon where a purse of six thousand dollars will be presented to the two race winners.           
Both races use snowmobile trails so work is going on at a feverish pace to have the race course cleared of snow storm related obstructions.  Many fun activities are planned in conjunction with the race. Go to the Gunflint Mail Run website for special event details.                                   
Visitors and residents are encouraged to make a point of getting out to enjoy our now winter wonderland and show your support of this historical mail delivery enactment of yester year. Volunteers are still needed, if you can help find more info on the same GMR website.                                                          
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Come on out the Trail for a true winter adventure.

(photo courtesy of Bob Pranis)
 

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Superior National Forest Update: January 1

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with the National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For mid-December, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
We have finally gotten what most of us have been wishing for:  a good helping of snow!  But, it was wet and heavy, and brought down a lot of trees across trails and roadways, which wasn’t something any of us were wishing for.  Since the last edition of this update, there has been a lot of work done clearing Forest Service roads and by our trail partners clearing ski and snowmobile trails.  For the most part, plowed Forest Service roads are now cleared, but there are still a few spots being worked on.  Unplowed roads are not cleared yet, and it may be a while before all of them are.  Great headway has been made on trails, with an estimate of 75% of our ski trails now open.  Pincushion is mostly groomed, George Washington Pines is groomed, and trails at upper and central Gunflint are mostly there as well.  The trails at Flathorn/Gegoka near Isabella are partly groomed, but most of the trails are cleared and packed and good to ski on.
Winter conditions change more often than our radio updates, so for up to the minute information, go to our website, www.fs.usda.gov/superior and check the links from our recreation section to the people who are doing the grooming. 
On the roads going to your trail, you might encounter some logging traffic.  Log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade.   Portions of Old Greenwood Road, Greenwood Road, and Firebox Road are also snowmobile trails, so be aware that there will be log trucks on segments of these trails when snowmobiling in this area.   There will also be log hauling on the Trapper’s Lake Road and Forest Road 170. 
The other traffic you might encounter on January 2 is from the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  This is an international volunteer effort to count winter birds and track their numbers.  It is one of the largest and longest running citizen science projects, and the results are used in many scientific papers.  One ‘count circle’ is centered on Isabella, and there will be people with binoculars walking, skiing, snowshoeing, and driving in that area on the second, counting all the birds they can find.  It is a great project to be a part of, though it seems as though it always falls on the absolute coldest day of the year.
If you are already planning for the Boundary Waters next summer, be aware that the BWCAW limited entry points lottery opened December 16 and closes on January 12.  Reservations for BWCAW entry opens January 27.  If you can’t wait until summer, you can do some winter wilderness exploration with a self-issued permit available at most entry points, or at our offices, but make sure you do have a permit with you.  Our offices will be closed on January 1st, and then again on January 18, so plan accordingly
Take advantage of our snow while we have it, and get out on the trails.  Happy New Year to all, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.   
 
 

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