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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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Marbled murrelet chick

Gus' Wild Side: He is the walrus

In this edition of Gus' Wild Side, we learn about the marbled murrelet....and also hear about Gus and his wife's encounter with a biologist who seems to believe he is a walrus.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Peter Halasz on Wikimedia Commons)

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Carol Christenson

Warm fall continues, sun on the way

Some rain on the Halloween costumes; but the warm fall continues and sun is on the way.  North Shore Morning host Mark Abrahamson talks with National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Christenson.

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Northern Sky: October 29 - November 11

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.

A new moon on October 30; in the evening sky, Venus and Saturn on the southwest horizon; on November 5-6, a crescent moon gliding past Mars; in the morning sky, Jupiter low in the east with Arcturus; save the date: a full moon on Monday November 14, the biggest and brightest of the year.  Plus the origin of Halloween in Samhain, a cross-quarter day.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 28

The weather outside hasn’t been frightful just yet, but Gunflint skies have been looking the part for several days during the past week. Last Sunday had one of those looks with rain in the AM that was on the verge of snow and temps in the thirties. By day's end, ghostly clouds seemed like they had a belly full of the white stuff.  

So in spite of official autumn being just beyond a month old, there’s a feeling winter is beginning to squeeze in at any time. As for yours truly, bring it on, all is ready in the Wildersmith neighborhood!  Meanwhile, about all “Mother Nature” has to do is put the bears to bed.    

With trick or treat time in the offing, old timers out this way will remember the winter blast of Halloween in 1991. Yes, it’s been a quarter century since the big ghost and goblin snow storm dropped over forty inches of the stuff in places along the Trail. One might wonder if this could happen again after twenty-five years, or was it one of those so called “one hundred year Weather Service" occurrences. Only the “MOM” in charge of all things natural knows.

A thing I know, though, is our “winter welcome wagon” is on and along the Trail. Flocks of snow buntings are ready and willing to lead your vehicle either up or down this Scenic Byway. Their annual return is kind of spiritually uplifting to those of us looking forward to the season of white landscapes and frosty breath.

This season of transition has unique moments often catching the eye of keenly focused observers. Happenings I often report may seem trivial, possibly leading another to believe I should get a life. However, for yours truly, it can be the simple things that make living in Gunflint country so special. 

Such is the case with a skinny but tall, red barked tree standing just off the deck outside my lake side window. This wispy woodland member has always been the last to leaf out in the spring, while being a holdout in giving up its foliage this time of year.  I’ve been watching from my favorite chair in the just-after-dawn, time slot, every day, since the falling commenced. Every other deciduous tree in the yard has called it quits, but this one has some “last hangers-on” growing season tokens. It has given up some ,but is clinging to perhaps a dozen or so, each leaflet withstanding days of gusty October winds and a number of rainy occasions.    

It occurs to me it enjoys a charmed life each year, adding a few inches of height while exhibiting character of being the toughest guy in this forest neighborhood. As death is imminent to most all growing flora during fall, I’m betting these last leaves will refuse to be taken until a good dose of wet snow bids them farewell. Spirit is reflected in many ways of the wilderness!

Since my report of a wolf sighting over in the Hungry Jack Lake area, sightings have been noted by several folks from around the territory. One family with which I visited, was hiking on a cold morning and happened on four specimens of scat, some of which was still exuding steamy body warmth. Obviously this pack was on the move somewhere just ahead, but never seen.

All these canid observations makes me wonder if the coming firearms deer hunting season, has them rallying pack members for when blaze orange clad, two legged predators start stalking what few deer remain in these parts.  

If one is an eagle fancier, they are sure to be interested in an article in the fall Audubon Magazine. I found it particularly engaging as the writing (Eagles & Chickens) included a supplementary snippet of chronological history on the big bird from 1782 to the present. It was entitled “THE BALD EAGLE’S RETURN,” authored by Jonathan Carey. Good reading on a cool fall evening!   

A reminder, if you haven’t already heard, your community radio station is in the midst of the fall membership campaign. It’s Halloween, so why not “Treat Yourself to a little of that WTIP sweetness.” Don’t procrastinate, or ghosts and goblins will surely be haunting you.  Join now at 218-387-1070; or 1-800-473-9847; or click and join at WTIP.org and thank you in advance.    
                
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day in the north woods is great and some are even better!

(photo by grfx Playground via Flickr)
 

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Superior National Forest Update: October 28

Hi.  This is Brandee Wenzel, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest.  For the week of October 28th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

The Forest is really entering ‘winter hibernation’ mode now.  All campgrounds are in their winter status and the docks are gone from the boat landings.  Except for two pit piles, our fire crew is finished with all the pile burning that they have been doing, and their engines have been winterized and won’t be staffed again until spring.  We are also starting to see people out harvesting balsam boughs for holiday wreaths.  Remember, you need a permit for this. Personal use permits are free, but commercial use permits are based on the amount harvested.  If you’re out for firewood instead of balsam boughs, a permit is needed for that as well.  For both firewood and boughs, information covering what specifically you can harvest, where you can legally harvest, how you do the harvesting, and how much you’ll pay for the permit, is available online, or at the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger Stations.

We’ve had a lot of moose sightings by our crews in the woods this past week.  That’s a good sign, and everyone loves seeing the big animals.  Be careful though, it is easy to approach a moose too closely while trying to get a good photo.  Get your pictures from far enough away so as not to disturb the animal.

Trapping seasons for beaver, otter, mink, and muskrat open on October 29, and the deer firearm season opens on November 5.  Remember, for all firearms, whether you are hunting grouse or deer, you may not shoot unless you are at least 150 feet from a developed recreation site or road. 

Speaking of roads, if you are out driving, here’s where you can expect some logging traffic.  On the Tofte District, trucks will be using the Sawbill Landing Road near Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, the Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and the Honeymoon Trail west of White Pine Lake.  On the Gunflint, trucks are on the same roads as last week.  Harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road.

This week was National Bat Week!  You may have seen the bat boxes on posts at our district offices and at some campgrounds.  If not, you may want to check out this “government subsidized housing” for bats.  In honor of Bat Week, we’ve put up signs under the boxes explaining more about what you can do to help our native flying bug zappers.    

Last, but not least, watch out for zombies, ghosts, vampires, and the occasional Disney princess on Monday.  Enjoy your weekend, and have a scary but safe Halloween!  Until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the National Forest Update.
 

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Too many deer in the deer yard?

Deer weren't always common along the North Shore of Lake Superior. With the increase in their population, the plants that make our landscape so appealing are disappearing in areas where deer gather during the winter. 

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, WTIP's Martha Marnocha joined State Park naturalist Kurt Mead and Silver Bay High School students to learn about a project being conducted at Tettegouche State Park. The project hopes to develop strategies for protecting young trees from heavy deer browse.

 

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Buttered Lutefisk (Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons)

West End News: October 27

The 2016 summer tourism season in the West End is in the records books and it may well be a record breaking year.  It was an unusually busy season for all, and especially busy through the fall, right up to and including the recently concluded MEA weekend. The traditional Minnesota school holiday was the latest possible this year, which extended the season beyond its usual boundaries. 
 
Back in the old days, many resorts in the West End would close on Labor Day.  The decision to promote the fall color season, back in the 1960s, quickly made September and half of October one of the busiest parts of the year.  Now, even the slow seasons see a fair number of visitors to the Shore.  Linda Jurek, Director of Visit Cook County, told me the other day that her highly effective marketing efforts are now shifting to spring and fall, because the capacity of Cook County to host visitors in the summer is approaching the saturation point.
 
If you need more evidence that the West End has become a "world class" destination, look no further than the venerable "Grey Lady,' the New York Times, that published a glowing travel piece on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness last week.  They tagged the beautifully written and photographed article as "relief from the election season" and for a couple of days it was the most read article in the Times. To be fair, the article described a canoe trip hosted by Sue and Paul Schurke in the Ely area, but of course, everyone knows that the best part of the BWCA Wilderness is in Cook County. 
 
Minnesota Public Radio's popular Newscut blog suggested that next year the wilderness will be overrun with people with accents that are not Minnesotan.  In my opinion, the article was designed to build national support for preserving the wilderness on the cusp of a political fight to prevent huge sulfide mining projects from opening on the very edge of the popular wilderness area.  My hunch is that political maneuvering will reach a peak in the time between the election and the end of the Obama Administration. 
 
Speaking of elections, I strongly urge you to exercise your rights and vote in this year's election.  Most West End residents have already received their ballots.  If you are a new resident, you can register at the polls on election day.
 
I've been frightened by the Brexit vote in Britain and the referendum on the peace settlement in Columbia.  Like the presidential election here in the U.S., polling showed strong support for one side and the election ended up narrowly going the other way, due to voter apathy.  It can't be said enough, every vote counts and elections have huge consequences. Please, please, please cast your ballot before or on November 8th.
 
By the way, the recent claims that the presidential election is somehow "rigged" is complete bunk.  Minnesota has a nearly flawless record and reputation for fair elections.  Our system has been rigorously tested by two extremely close statewide elections during the last decade.  The intensely detailed scrutiny that those elections brought to bear clearly showed that voter fraud in a complete non-issue.
 
If you really want relief from this year's campaigns for presidents, I recommend the venerable Lutifisk dinner at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte.  The annual dinner featuring the Scandinavian delicacy of cod fish soaking in lye has anchored the fall season in Tofte for generations.  This years feast is on Saturday, November 5th from 5 to 7 pm.  Of course, the delicious lutefisk is what draws in the crowds, but rest assured, if you follow a lutefisk free diet, there will be plenty of ham, potatoes and bread to fill you up.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: October 26

Jack, Deja, and Sophia report the latest school news.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 21

Our prelude to winter along the Gunflint Trail has mellowed some, settling back to more typical autumn conditions. Light winds and slightly warmer conditions are the order as the Wildersmith scoop begins flowing from my keyboard.  

In spite of a few days with dismal skies, nothing dramatic has disturbed the peace and quiet as Trail folks get more ready for winter. Scant episodes of moisture deposits have done little more than keep the dust down on backcountry roads since our last radio visit.  

Nocturnal illumination created excitement in this part of the universe with Aurora Borealis dancing across the heavens on at least one night, while clear skies favored a magnificent full, “falling leaves” “super moon” just after midnight last Saturday. The brilliance of the “old man in the moon” gave a “luster of mid-day to objects below”, especially those skeletal trees lurking over the wilderness. 

While the deciduous portion of the forest has been almost totally undressed of all leaves, tamaracks are at their peak. A trip up to end of the Trail last Sunday found the gold-needled spires a buttery blur under the rays of “old Sol.” Although they don’t last long, if one hasn’t experienced the tamarack radiance, there’s still a chance it would be worth a trip out this way to get a glimpse of this golden attraction.     

Also, not lasting too much longer will be a chance to visit the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The facility will be closing its doors for the season after Sunday.  

Gunflint community energy sparked again last Sunday as fifteen Historical Society volunteers showed up at the Chik-Wauk Museum site. The group spent the morning cleaning up brush, branches and downed trees left from the wind storms of June and July. Two huge trailer loads of debris was gathered and hauled away, really spiffing up the grounds. Thanks to all for sharing a splendid northwoods day, all in the name of a good cause.           

I’ve noticed many of the mountain ash trees along the Trail are still loaded with bright red-orange fruit. It makes me wonder what’s going on with the cedar waxwings. I don’t know if they might be late migrating from whereever, or perhaps have already passed through, before the berries were properly ripened to their liking. It seems as though the ravenous birds have cleaned them off by now in most years. Meanwhile, the bears seem to have taken their share of the lower hanging fruit based on calling cards left here, there and everywhere.     

Speaking of the north country “Brunos,”almost anyone I talk to has observed one of the critters in past weeks. However, there have been few serious reports of bear vandalism, except for the theft of a bag of sun flower seeds from one couple’s garage, and the destruction of a half-dead apple tree here at Wildersmith. Settling in for a long winter's nap will soon be on their minds. 

I spotted a snowshoe hare in my headlights one night last week. Winter must not have been on its mind yet, as there was no sign of exchanging its summer apparel. It makes me wonder if this could this be a result of our extended warm fall, or perhaps a late arriving cold season, or possibly a warmer than normal winter, or maybe none of these at all, just a silly “wabbit.”   

Then again, I observed a red fox a night or so earlier. This furry creature appeared to be in full winter regalia, with a tail fluffier than one of those household dust-catching utensils.  

Another sign of potential significant weather change might have subtly come to me earlier this week. Whereas chickadees are always around, they seldom come close begging for a hand-out during the warm season. An up-close visit from some chickadees last Sunday surprised me when a couple of the pert little black caps came swooping in at me and landed but a foot away in a lilac bush, chirping excitedly. So I guess it's time to start carrying a handful of seeds in my pocket.                                          

Thinking of all these wild pre-winter notions, it would probably be better to just wait and not contemplate too much. Only “Mother Nature” knows what she has in store for all the beings of our Gunflint neighborhoods.    

On a final note, as Trick or Treat night approaches, don’t forget a treat for our community radio station. The WTIP fall (and final 2016) membership campaign gets underway this next week. Join in the fun of "giving" during this Halloween season at WTIP, beginning Wednesday ebvening, the 26th!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where northwoods days are great and some are even better! 

(photo by Linda Baird-White via Wikimedia Commons)
 

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Superior National Forest Update: October 21

Hi,
This is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education 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 the week of October 21st, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

While some fall colors still cling to the branches right along Highway 61, most of the leaves in the interior have fallen to the ground.  Despite this, there are still some slow moving vehicles out looking for leaves.  It is also grouse season, so you’ll find slow and parked vehicles belonging to hunters out there as well.  That means that you still have to take it easy rounding corners or cresting hills as you never know what might be blocking the road ahead.

There are some beautiful warm fall days still ahead of us, but this time of year can also have rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.  When you head out, make sure to prepare for all kinds of weather.  A t-shirt that was comfortable in the sunny morning will not be enough when the temperature drops and sleet starts to fall in the afternoon.  In addition to personal preparedness, part of being prepared means leaving word with someone at home about where you are planning to go, and when you plan to be back.  A walk out from a broken down car may be just an inconvenience in summer, but can lead to hypothermia in the fall.

All our campgrounds are now in their winter status.  Fees are no longer being collected, and water and garbage service is no longer available.  You are still welcome to use the campgrounds, but be aware that campground regulations, including the “nine people per campsite” and “no more than 14 days at a site” regulations, still apply.  As the season progresses, you should also know that we don’t plow out campgrounds or outhouses in the winter, and, most importantly, we don’t restock toilet paper either. 
Docks have mostly been removed from boat launches, and all should be gone by the end of the week.  If you are still planning on some fall fishing, be ready to get a little wetter than you might have earlier in the season, but you can still use the boat launch, and there are still fish out there just waiting to be caught.

Speaking of campgrounds, our fee campgrounds are operated by concessionaires.  We are taking bids for the operating concession on three campgrounds in the Tofte District.  If this sounds like a good opportunity to you, check out our website, or call the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger District for more information.  Bids close on Friday, December 2nd.

On the wildlife front, fall bird migration is still going on, with the swarms of white throated and white crowned sparrows giving way to juncos and snow buntings.  Hawks and saw-whet owls are also still moving through.  The hawks are great to watch overhead as thousands of them end up following the shore of the big lake.  Saw-whets, one of the smallest owls, also follow the lake shore, but since they are doing it at night in the forest, you never see them.  You can listen for them though.  They don’t hoot like an owl should, they make a repetitious slow beeping noise.  Count yourself lucky if you do manage to spot one, the hand sized owl is probably one of the cutest birds around.

If you are out driving, there are some logging operations which will have trucks on the road.  Harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road on the Gunflint District.  There are also operations off the Honeymoon Trail near White Pine Lake and off the Rice Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is taking place on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on the Dumbell River Road.

No matter which road you choose to take, and whether you are hawk watching, grouse hunting, leaf peeping, fishing, or all of the above, enjoy your Forest and the late fall season.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.

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