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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News & Information

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!

 


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update: December 16

Hi. This is Renee Frahm, visitor information and administrative support specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For December 16, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

 Only about a week to get out and get a Christmas tree for this year! Tags are five dollars, but if you have a fourth grader in the ‘Every Kid In A Park’ program, they can get a free tree tag! When you are looking for a tree, keep an eye out also for the dense clusters of branches often called witch’s brooms. While witch’s brooms might seem to relate more to Halloween than the current season, they are caused by Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe. Mistletoe has long been considered a mystical plant, and the tradition of kissing under it was once considered a promise of marriage. Peace treaties were also signed under mistletoe, and warring couples could kiss and make up beneath a ball of mistletoe. So, depending on who you are tree hunting with, you may choose to steer them under, or take them far away from any mistletoe you find!

There’s a lot of winter though before summer travels begin. We’ve lost over six hours of daylight since June 21st, so if you think it has been dark, you are absolutely right. We are close to the longest night of the year, the winter solstice on December 21st, but after that low point, our days will start to lengthen again. The average temperature lags behind day length though, so it won’t be until much later that we start seeing increases in average temperatures. Since you can’t do much about our long cold nights, you may as well get out and enjoy them. Winter is one the best times to go stargazing. The cold air is still and dry and gives a better view of stars than the warm wet summer air. Long nights mean you don’t have to stay up late to see the stars, there are no mosquitoes, and there’s better chances of seeing the aurora as well.

We finally have some snow on the ground, and our trail partners have been working on grooming cross country ski and snowmobile trails. Most ski trails are in the process of being groomed. Pincushion and Sugarloaf ski areas are compacted, but not groomed, although that information could already be out of date. Similarly, bogs in the Flathorn-Gegoka ski area were insufficiently frozen for grooming, but with our recent cold spell, that may have changed. Check our website for links to the grooming organizations, which will give you more up to the minute information on trail conditions. Snowmobiles need a bit more snow that skis, so most of the snowmobile trails are still not groomed, and many are closed.

While you’re out checking out trails, you may find some log hauling going on. On Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Trestle Pine Road, Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and Honeymoon Trail.  Portions of Firebox Road and Trestle Pine Road are also designated snowmobile trails, so snowmobilers need to be extra cautious and aware that hauling may be taking place on these roads. In Tofte, you’ll have logging traffic on the Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road. Please use caution when driving or recreating in these areas. 

There will be no update next week, so happy holidays to everyone from the Superior National Forest! Enjoy the woods, watch out for mistletoe, and until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.

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An interview with Nocka, the elf

This is a busy time of year for Santa’s elves – and WTIP's Sherrie Lindskog was lucky enough to be able to talk with an elf.

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North Woods Naturalist: Varied weather and otters

Cold weather swings and not-the-usual suspects at the bird feeder.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the winter so far.

(Photo by Amit Patel on Flickr)

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: December 16

Tucker and Sophia report the latest school news.

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The new West End News commentator, Clare Shirley

West End News: December 15

I was very happy to hear the news that the effort to build rental housing in Lutsen that is targeted toward people who live and work in the West End took a big step forward this week. A $325,000 grant was awarded by the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development to the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority. This is a key piece of financing for a 2.7 million dollar plan to build 16 market-rate rental apartments in Lutsen.

The housing shortage in all of Cook County is severe, so this project, along with one planned for Grand Marais and one for Tofte, will be a big step toward easing the shortage. One Roof Community Housing, based in Duluth, is bringing their vast experience as a key partner, hopefully to all three projects. This is not the complete solution to the problem, but is a giant step in the right direction. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many people who have been working on this for so long.

Speaking of good news, I recently saw a report from Visit Cook County, the group that markets Cook County as a tourist destination, that tourism dollars county-wide are up 25% in the last five years. This is significant because it was a little over five years ago that the four parts of Cook County -- Grand Portage, Grand Marais, the Gunflint Trail and the West End -- decided to pool their marketing budgets and promote the county as a whole. Elaborate financial safeguards were put in place to make sure that each area was treated fairly, but even so, it was hard to build trust among the parts of the county that had been in competition with each other for so many years.

In the ten years before Visit Cook County was created, tourism was declining each year, leading up to the recession, which really took a toll. It is now crystal clear that the decision to work together has paid off handsomely for all. In fact, in the last year, Grand Marais has shown the most growth, which is obvious if you spend any time at all in town.

Our local marketing expertise is getting better all the time and the tools available for targeted marketing are also improving fast, so barring any unforeseen disaster, we should see robust growth for at least a few more years, especially in the slow seasons. Congratulations to the hard working staff of Visit Cook County for their success.

Word is out that ice skating has begun on inland lakes. It's not ideal, as there is some snow on the ice, but if you're willing to skate through the snow or do a little shoveling, there is good lake skating to be had.

Be careful - and I speak from personal experience - to always check the ice depth before you skate. Never skate alone and always carry ice picks to pull yourself out if you do fall through. You should also have dry clothing in a waterproof backpack or at least have access to dry clothing and a warm car nearby.

With some wistfulness, I would like to announce that this will be the last time you will hear me as the regular voice of the West End News. I am delighted to report that my very capable daughter, Clare Shirley, will be taking over this commentary, just as I took it over from my dad many years ago. I may be substituting occasionally for Clare when she is busy or out of town, so I may get a chance again to talk about the bloodmobile or the Birch Grove Carnival in the future, which makes me happy.

Even though I'm now officially a "townie," my heart will always be in the warm and wonderful West End.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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Jay Walljasper

Workshops offered to improve "walkability" of Grand Marais

The Cook County Chamber and Moving Matters are hosting two “Walkabout” workshops to explore the things that might be done to improve the “walkability” of Grand Marais. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Jay Walljasper, who’ll be leading the workshops.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School: December 13

Tighe, Mataya, and Katie report the latest school news.

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: December 9

Danny and Sol report the latest School News. For more school news, click here.

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Nosey Rosey

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: December 9

Full blown winter remains on hold along the Gunflint Trail. At the moment I begin this week's scoop, conditions have slipped back into semi-cold season character. The unseasonably warm temps and rain that ended November are, hopefully, in the rear view mirror.

It would seem our notorious frosty atmospheric bragging rights might not appear until the winter solstice rings in on the calendar. In the meantime, winter recreation activities are having a difficult time getting into full gear. I am told there has been enough snow left on the mid-Trail area, following the big meltdown, to enable Trail grooming and some CC skiing opportunities. Further up this way, and on to Trail's end, scarcely a couple inches of white covers the ground, save for protected spots.

Ice making has re-upped over the rain soaked lakes and most of the smaller bodies along the byway are covered over once again. I heard of one anxious ice fisherman who ventured out onto a couple inches of hard water, on an unidentified lake, to try his luck. Sounds a bit dangerous to me, but it’s told he tied rope around his waist and then to a tree on shore as a safety precaution before trekking out. Guess luck was on his side in regard to not cracking through, but don’t know if catching found the same fortunes.

Moose are on the loose as indicated by scattered reports. One observation came from a couple who spotted a quartet hanging out for a road-side salt lick near the mid-Trail fire hall; while another report came in from a fellow traveling the Trail between Swamper Lake and the Bearskin Road intersection.

In this case, the driver was headed up the Trail and became enveloped in a white-out snow squall, when suddenly, there they were. A couple of the big animals were right in his path. Fortunately speed was not a factor, due to the blinding snow. Nevertheless, the vehicle was unable to come to a complete stop and slid into moose number one, while moose number two lumbered off the road into the forest.

Number one was struck in the hind quarters and knocked off its hooves. It scrambled to its feet, apparently not seriously injured, and headed on up the Trail. Neither the driver nor his vehicle sustained injury or damage. It was a lucky day for both the “hitter and the hittee.”

To conclude the short-lived confrontation, the fray must have irritated the beast. It defiantly chose to keep the vehicle at bay by taking its half of the byway out of the middle, until reaching the turn-off onto Bearskin Road. Once again, confirming the critters of “Mother Nature's wild neighborhood” have more control of things than we would like to admit.

In the Wildersmith neck of the woods, “brother wolf” has made yet another obscure visit during darkness hours. Would sure like to know more about this mysterious wildland icon, but assume it prefers to not be seen while making reconnaissance rounds.

Paraphrasing iconic northwoods naturalist, Sigurd Olson, “it's the simple things” that enrich life with meaning. With this in mind, residents living throughout Gunflint Territory are embellished by the mere presence of unadulterated life about us. Most outsiders probably wonder why we would choose to live in unorganized territory so far away from “so called,” civilized hub-bub. Furthermore, what do we do with ourselves deep in this natural paradise?

More often than we might realize, our satisfaction and enjoyment are derived from the unadorned activities seen, heard or smelled during a walk down a back country road or watching just outside our windows.

Such is the case for yours truly during twilight time, at either end of the day. One cannot help but be energized this time of year. Wild critters gather in feeding frenzy, either for a new day's readiness or bulking up on energy morsels in order to survive the long cold night ahead. The enthusiasm of these furry and feathered gals and guys is delightfully uplifting. Every daily segment provides chattering delirium, akin to kids on Christmas morning.

News in these northwoods can be exchanged by any means, often via the moccasin telegraph or by any number of “cub reporters” who volunteer with a nose and ear to the ground reporting tip of the Arrowhead happenings.

As one of those, sadly I report the loss of a member of the WTIP family, with the passing of Rosie, our “pup reporter.” Rosie covered me with on-air commentary for many years when I was away from the keyboard. In ill-health for several months, she recently passed on to those heavenly kennels in the sky.

With her dad, she could snoop and scoop with dogged energy, giving a unique perspective of back country snippets from a canine's down to earth level. Fans of Gunflint territory news will never forget her “woof, woof” observations after sniffing out and digging up borderland headline accounts. Memories of WTIP’s wagging tail pooch from Hungry Jack Lake are etched in yet another chapter of Gunflint Trail history.

The Trail community is grieving the loss of two longtime residents. Condolences are extended to the family and friends of John Baumann, and Andrew “Drew” Schmid. John is remembered as a onetime owner of Golden Eagle Lodge along with his family, while “Drew” lived and loved the woods from his beloved spot along Seagull Lake. In their own ways, both had a special place in history of the Gunflint Trail. They will be missed, and forever remembered!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and can provide a wild country adventure at any moment!

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove School: December 8

Daniel, Deja, and Sophia report the latest school news. For more school news, click here.

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