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Superior National Forest Update - February 16, 2018

National Forest Update – February 15, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  Even though it is midwinter, there’s a lot going on outside.

You may have been watching the Winter Olympics this past week, and while the Superior doesn’t have its own luge run, we can give you great skiing opportunities, thanks to the grooming efforts of our trail partners.  The Sugarbush Trail Association, which maintains the Sugarbush Ski Trails with trailheads at Britton Peak, Moose Fence, and Oberg Mountain, is hosting a candlelit event this Saturday, February 18th from 6 to 8.  You can ski, snowshoe, or hike on candlelit trails, then stop by the bonfire to warm up with cocoa and cookies.  That’s my idea of a Winter Olympic event:  bonfire with cocoa and cookies.  I could medal in that.  All this will take place at the Oberg Mountain parking lot, just up the Onion River Road north of Tofte.

Our other ski areas are looking good too, though the recent warm days may have caused some bare spots.  Skiers need to be aware of potential hazards with relatively low amounts of snow in some areas.

Fat tire biking isn’t an Olympic sport yet, but we’ve heard good reports from bikers using fat bike designated trails at Pincushion, Norpine, and Flathorn.  If biking, please be sure to stay on bike designated trails, and only bike when the snow is firm enough to support you. 

Travel in the Forest should be pretty good, though as Minnesotans we all know that depends on the weather.  But for now, the roads are in good shape, and on the Tofte District there are no active timber sales, so no truck traffic.  There are a few places on the Gunflint where you may find logging activity and trucks.  Watch for hauling in the same places as the last few weeks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and FR 152 C off the Lima Grade.  This week, and for the next couple of weeks, there will also be hauling on the Homestead Road off of the Caribou Trail, and on the Caribou Trail itself.  The Homestead Road has a ski, bike, and snowmobile trail parking lot, so people accessing that facility should be cautious.  Also, be cautious on the Firebox Road and FR152C since those routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

Another non-Olympic winter event takes place this weekend:  the 21st annual Great Backyard Bird Count.  You don’t even have to stir out of your house for this one.  Just grab your coffee, and watch your bird feeder for a little as 15 minutes, or as long as you want, and record your observations at  This takes place from this Friday, February 16th through Monday, February 19th.  This a great example of citizen science in action.  The data from thousands of observers across the world gives ornithologists a snapshot of birds all over.  Last year, more than 160,000 people participated!  Go to for details.

So, enjoy the Olympics, but take some time out to get away from the TV and do your own version of winter sport.  It can be skiing, or snowshoeing, or counting birds, or just taking in a bonfire with a cup of cocoa.  Enjoy the winter!  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update. 



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 16, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith        February 16, 2018  
It’s incredible that February has eclipsed the halfway mark. The day of hearts and chocolates has even passed us by. Guess we Smith’s might consider taking down the last of our holiday decorations, although the outdoor wreath remains green as it was when it was hung up right after Thanksgiving.   
The border country drought has extended into yet another week with no apparent relief on the weather service agenda. Here at this place, we’ve not had a significant snow since January 11, and the seasonal total to date is a pretty sad 45 and a fraction inches   
In the meantime, our bitter cold has mellowed a bit. The Wildersmith thermometer finally reached the zero mark last Sunday afternoon. It’s been a long haul getting to the big “0” in the Wildersmith neighborhood. Checking back through my daily log, I find the last day where we had a high on the plus side was January 30th, yes, thirteen consecutive days of frigidity as of this past Monday.  
In spite of minimal new snow over the past month, there is enough stacked up, along with plenty of deep ice to support this week -ends snow mobile drag races on Hungry Jack Lake. As I mentioned in my previous scoop, the racing will commence at 11:00am. Racers should be there by 10:00 to register an entry. Wishing everyone good luck and a safe race. It should be a howling good time!  
Our north woods winter calendar lists another event the following week, February 24th. Resort owners along Gunflint Lake are putting on a “Cabin Fever Festival.” This is a joint effort by Gunflint Pines Resort, Gunflint Lodge and Hestons’ Lodge.  
Everyone is invited to get out and enjoy a celebration of all things wintery. There’ll be outdoor games, feats of skill, sled racing, a fat trout fishing contest and a fat bike course across the border ice.  There will a bonfire to keep you warm and marshmallow goodies to savor. The day will end with an evening social mixer in Justine’s Dining room at Gunflint Lodge. Look for start times of specific activities in next week’s edition, or call Gunflint Lodge for more info. (388-2294).                                                                                                                                                           
Outside of weekend events, it’s a slow news time in the neighborhood. Our “wild” neighbor critters have not performed anything extraordinary beyond their daily race to the trough in bone chilling conditions, and it’s quiet as a thirty below, starlit night in the cosmos.   
Speaking of attraction to my deck side cafeteria, I have recently noted a peculiar happening with a pine marten/or martens during each mornings’ feeding chores. Prior to putting out my ration of vittles, I crank up my leaf blower to clean the deck of the previous days’ foraging. Boy, they leave a mess the likes of which easily would match a gathering of careless human litterers.   
It seems the noise from this clean-up process must be signaling the marten/s to assume grub is served. After shutting down the blower and vacating the area, I can count with some regularity that one of the furry critters will show up within five minutes or so to secure a poultry breakfast treat.    
Talk about causing un-intentional adaptive animal behavior, I’ve done it. Guess my predictable provisions practice could be considered objectionable by some. Nevertheless, it’s a “feel good thing” to offer some easy survival sustenance to the lush fur balls during these cold times.   
For WTIP, this Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as winter starts “slip sliding” away.



Birch Grove Elementary - School News - February 14, 2018

School News from Birch Grove Elementary
with Jack,  Signe and Nataliya.


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Magnetic North - February 14, 2018

Magnetic North 2/13/18

There Be Wolves in My World
Welcome back to Magnetic North, where today I dare to speak of one of the three things I have learned never to bring up in polite conversation lest I offend. Not politics. Not religion. But the thorniest of the big three, at least in these parts - wolves.  Fact is, there are as many opinions about wolves as there are people in the northland. So I come not to praise or convict the beasts, just to share my limited experiences with them with you.
That said, my farm critters and I share a world with wolves. Any and all of my critters, from the tiniest bantam chicken to the bulliest billy goat would make a lovely meal for the fabled predator. And some have. As for me, when I moved here from the city many years ago, all I knew of the wolf was that one ate Red Riding Hood’s gramma, and others hang out with vampires. I knew that they would as soon gobble up my pet dog as take a moose calf. And I was properly freaked out by that prospect, even as I left the city and headed 300 miles north into wolf wonderland, the North Shore and forests beyond.
And so, it was no surprise to me that when Paul and I settled here 27 years ago, we found ourselves and our wolf fears tested on the very first night in our new home. Our bedroom faces on our  long winding driveway, and we had the windows open to enjoy the August breeze, so the distant sound of what sounded like a whole lot of dogs yipping, woke us up around about midnight. “Hear that?” Paul whispered, obviously thrilled with the nearness of coyotes or brush wolves. But his thrills turned to chills as the yipping got close and closer to our house, then seems to be, and in fact was, heading straight for our open windows.  By the time the pack veered off into the forest, probably after some poor prey animal, Paul and I were sitting bolt upright in bed, bug-eyed and scared silly.
“Close the bleeping windows,” was all Paul said after the sounds died out.  Thankfully, that was a one-time experience. Maybe even a welcome to the hood, thing.
It was Paul alone who had the first up-close-and-personal encounter with a timber wolf on our acreage. He went for a walk in our woods to scope out a potential trail to the back forty and Little Brule River. Paul was notorious for disappearing for hours on end in the woods, but that day he reappeared in less than half an hour.
“Somebody on this road has a gigantic German Shepherd,” he said with a nervous laugh. “I mean, the thing was coming right at me on the trail, then stopped when it saw me and loped off into the brush...sort of like a wolf.  Ha, ha, ahem, I mean, it might even have BEEN a wolf,...” he dithered on, now rummaging around in our unpacked moving boxes.
When I ask him what he was looking for and what the heck did he mean by “it might have been a wolf, he just kept on mumbling about it probably was a dog, but no, it must have been a wolf, until he found his trusty rifle.
“Whatever it was, I’m not going out there without this,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t worry, wolves are more afraid of us than we are of them.
Well, he could have fooled me on that one. The color still hadn’t returned to his face by dinnertime.
In the years to follow, Paul and I repeated the experience of seeing a wolf, or wolves and having our brains instantly imagining that they were really dogs. It must be some kind of primitive denial thing, but it always gives way to, “By golly, that IS a wolf!”
And yes, I have lost critters to both brush and timber wolves. To date, two turkeys, ten guinea hens and three geese disappeared, leaving enough forensic evidence to indict wolves, rather than other uninvited dinner guests. We learned to identify who did the killing by the scene and sometimes, the state of a carcass left behind. Wolves don’t leave anything but feathers strewn out all over the place. Raptors and owls leave a neat pile and, if there’s snow on the ground, wing impressions on either side of the pile. And weasels, such as martens, leave a Steven King horror show which I refuse to describe and wish I could completely forget myself.
So far, no goats, even though my little flock of five free range over the meadow and sleep in a barn whose door is wide open. Oh, I’ve seen wolves on the meadow. A pack of nine sauntered from west to east one sunny morn in late fall, paying zero attention to the fat, juicy goats in the corral as they passed. For their part, the goats were just as disinterested in the wolves. But Paul and I were pretty revved up. We got a picture of the pack as it passed the lone white pine on the east meadow and Paul urged me to “howl or something so maybe they’ll turn around.” He wanted a better picture. I howled....howled my very best, but for all that the wolves merely stopped for a few seconds, seemed to look at each other - maybe exchanged a few snide remarks about “people” and vanished.
The only other wolf seen on the meadow was a lame one, limping from the woods to our pond. This time, I was in a combative mood and took after him with a broom. Perhaps the chickens and ducks were out. But he simply kept on going, stopping only to relieve himself, a clear sign of his opinion of me and my antics.
As cutesy as these stories are, I am acutely aware of the heartache suffered by a number of my neighbors and friends who have lost beloved dogs to wolves, often cruelly hearing the last cries of their pets and unable to save them. For this reason, I do take precautions. My dogs run loose on my meadow by day when they need to go out. But by night, they go out only on leash, even if it is in the wee small hours and double digit below zero weather. This practice does not eliminate the risk, but it does cut it down.
This winter, I’ve seen no wolves and heard them only on my computer, which I fire up almost every night for my bigger retriever, Jethro. He likes to howl, but produces mostly strangled squawks, so I play YouTube videos as tutorials for him at night at bedtime. Lately, Jethro seems to have found his voice, pursing his muzzle, angling his silky black neck upward, as he shuts his eyes and let’s a low, mournful note flow from his throat. I clap and tell him he’s ready for America’s Got Talent, then I let him jump up into bed next to me. And my “secret wolf” and I sleep in blissful ignorance of what goes on in the night forest that surrounds us.
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 9, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith               February 9, 2018 

Spell the Gunflint weather for week one of February in capitals, COLD! As I reflect on the past week, several days at Wildersmith have failed to get above the zero mark. Fortunately on most days, the winds have not exaggerated the frostiness, so minus twenty-five to thirty is what it is.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Now at broadcast time, the territory seems to be emerging from relentless arctic fervor. So the woodstove can be allowed to cool down, but the snow shovel remains idle.                                        

Such stretches of below nothing temps are not unusual at this mid-point of winter. However, the older I get, it seems harder to adjust to that first blast hitting you in the face when heading out for morning chores. Like the visiting neighborhood critters though, once I get going, the lowly mercury isn’t as bad as more southerly folks would think.                                                       

Winter character remains magical at most every turn of this Scenic Byway. Last week while traveling to Grand Marais and WTIP, for reporting this weekly news review, the breath of “old man winter” was huffing and puffing. With the wind kicking up its’ heels, a recent skiff of snow was being launched ahead of my path in eerie serpentine slithers.                                                               

I am forever charmed by these gauzy, snake-like tentacles as they scramble down the paving in search of a place to escape the icy bite of grizzly air. Bouncing from windrow to windrow, their fate is often terminated in a ghostly gathering, and a leap of fate into the calm of a roadside ditch. There, the phantom mass joins a “zillion” other crystal cousins in irregular contours to rest until “Mother Nature” calls them home come April or May.                                                                                   

The recently released Cinema, “THE SHAPE OF WATER” has set me to wondering what its’ really about. However, being one hundred fifty miles from the nearest theater, and not a television movie consumer, the likelihood I’ll get a chance to see the production is remote.                                          

The title has summoned thoughts about the” shape of water” up north, recognizing our “shape of water” is currently frozen in time. Shaping our north-country water started months ago with those first crinkles on quiet area lakes, since then evolving into hard water wonders the likes of which we can barely imagine.                                                                                                                                          

In warmer times of the year, the “shape of water” outside my back door is forever magnificent and always moving. Whereas ripples and rollers of summer have a distinct beauty of their own, they come and go in the blink of an eye, never again to be seen in duplication.                                            

Things are different now as there are uncountable shapes of H2O seized in solidarity. Whether hanging as a stalactite from a roof edge, a wind drifted snowy mound or a lake surface ice heave, n this dead of winter, the sculpture of crystalline on area lakes and landscapes is a curiosity of nature… One can scrutinize in celebration and reverence, with time to actually ponder the how’s and why’s of solid water in all dimensions of accumulation.                                                                                                                                 

During a recent trip along the Trail, while passing Swamper Lake, I became even more keenly aware of the “shape of water” in border country. Winds of the season had randomly amassed the prisms of frozen components into waves of winter. In essence, preserving the lake surface for moments in time while documenting, a white keepsake remembrance of a rough lake day from warmer times.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Energized as I am in regard to this frosty season, I have seldom given serious thought to the “shape of water”, much less, how frostiness casts the mold. But the charm is out there in icy flakes, jagged chards and mini-glacial masses. Take time to observe and enjoy our “shapes of water” and be forever mindful of these majestic “winter rituals” of the element which means “life” for all living things.   
One week from tomorrow (Saturday), February 17, another big power sledding event will be held in the territory. What has become an annual event on Hungry Jack Lake is sponsored once again by the Cook County Ridge Riders Snow Mobile Club.                                                                                      
Drag races will be held for all classes of sleds beginning at 11:00 am.  Entry fees and registration will commence at 10:00 am at Hungry Jack Lodge. For more race information, call HJL @ 218-388-2265. Refreshments and musical entertainment will occur through the day. Spectators are welcome!   
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, at forty-eight degrees north!


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West End News - February 8

West End News 2/8/18
There was a good turnout from west-enders at the 2018 caucuses held in Grand Marais this week. At the Democratic Farmer Labor caucus, there was a like-minded group from Tofte, and quite a few folks from Lutsen. I can’t speak to the GOP caucus but at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts it was a energetic gathering of neighbors who spoke passionately about a variety of issues. While the caucuses may seem quaint, boring, or just a waste of time to many, they are an important first step in the election process. Caucuses lead to conventions, where candidates are endorsed. This ends up affecting who you see on your ballot in November.

This year, our district Congressman Rick Nolan is facing another DFL challenger, Leah Phifer. Given the current political climate, both candidates deserve a serious look. If you aren’t familiar with Nolan or Phifer, take a peek at what they’ve been up to and what they stand for. Leah Phifer was recently in Lutsen meeting with potential supporters, and Rick Nolan sent an aid to Tofte to hear from constituents back in January. If the west end is on their radar, they should be on ours too!

Speaking of politicians, Presidents’ Day is coming up. The Sugarbush Trail Association is hosting a candle-light ski and snowshoe on Saturday, February 18 at from 6 to 8 pm on the Onion River Road. Just head on up to the Oberg Mountain Parking lot on the Onion River Road. The Onion River Road intersects with Highway 61 about halfway between Lutsen and Tofte.  Anyone can gather on Saturday evening whether you are there to ski, snowshoe or hike. This event is a wonderful way to enjoy the quiet beauty of the Northwoods after dark by the flickering lights of candles in the snow. There will be a bonfire going at the trail head, with cocoa, cookies and conversation in abundance.

The Monday and Wednesday singer/songwriter series continues at Papa Charlie’s. This Monday, the 12th, will feature the duo Dead Horses who have shared the stage with the likes of Trampled by Turtles, Mandolin Orange, and Elephant Revival. Wednesday night will showcase Reina del Cid, whose music has been featured by Paste Magazine and NPR. As a reminder these shows are free and start at 8pm. The shows are held in a listening room environment, which means concert goers should limit conversation during the performance. These shows are a great winter gathering spot in the West End.
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley, with the West End News.


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Magnetic North - February 7, 2018

Magnetic North 2/6/18
Combing Out
Welcome back to Magnetic North where the first real proof of winter’s coming demise showed itself this week on the tips of my big cashmere goat’s horns. Bosco, a striking cafe latte colored charmer, sported long wisps of cashmere fleece on both of his horns, proof that he and his three lady friends have begun to shed their winter coats. And, like any creature with excess hair, goats itch and scratch that itch with their horns. 
I feel bad for dehorned goats. Most dairy goats are, soon after birth, and so have to find a tree or fence post to scratch on.  So why do people dehorned them? Well, some say it is to protect them from each other, or protect us from them. The argument against is that, first off, it hurts to have a red hot iron held to the top of your head.  Duh! And if that isn’t enough for you, goats the blood vessels in goats horns help regulate body temperature in hot weather. And then there is the backscratching thing.
That said, one might assume that getting all that extra itching fuzz combed off would be something a goat would love. One would be wrong. None of my current flock, except for Bosco, enjoys being combed out, but I love to do it, and over time I’ve learned a thing or two about getting the job done with minimal stress to the goat and maximum fun for me.
First off, I have to catch them. Time was, I spent hours chasing the identified victim around the barn and corral, often sending a volley of invectives into the winter night as I careened around feed pans or trees. Once I got so fed up with a big male named Bubba, who continually escaped the barn into the frigid night, I yelled at him at the top of my lungs, ”Get in there you old “blanket-y-blank” or I’ll shoot you!” Only to have a neighbor call Paul on the phone to ask if he was “alright.” 
Since then I have learned that a bribe will get me whatever I desire. Turns out that goats dream of cracked corn, raisins and a bucket of warm water laced with molasses. The only trouble here is that appearing with such a treat bonanza puts me smack in the middle of a goat vortex. So I’ve learned to first rope one at a time, leading all who are not to be combed that day into the garage to wait their turn.
When at last only one goat is left outside, I tether him or her to the sturdy corner post of my woodshed and arrange myself on a chair, blocking the critter with the shed on one side and me on the other. Depending on the goat’s mood, the wiggling and bucking finally quits and I can pull my metal comb through her fleece without a fuss. First on the chest, where the softest fiber grows. Then around the neck and over the back and sides. This can take a while, sometimes hours, but time flies by as I see the buildup of  finely crimped cashmere on the comb and my shopping bag filling with clouds of fluff.
When each goat has had its spa day, combing and hoof trimming as well as a yearly tetanus shot, I’ll have at least six grocery bags full of cashmere, which I send off to a mill in Wisconsin to be washed and combed into balls about the size of a cantaloupe. If I liked to spin, which I have no patience for, I would feed strands of this ball into a wheel to make yarn. Or I could use it to do needle felting. But I am a knitter and love to use my fiber, from both the goats and my angora rabbits, to make ridiculously warm mittens. I learned a technique called thrumming a few years ago. It‘s a New England invention where you pull off a length of raw fiber, roll it between your palms, then knit the fat little roll into your mitten The result is that the inside of the mitten is packed with loose fiber, soft and warm and virtually water proof. For any of us who have to spend time behind a snow blower, that means a lot.
Admittedly, there have been a few comb outs that were, let’s say, less idyllic than they were near death experiences. Once, when I inadvertently cornered a very nervous goat named Nimbus in the barn after combing out another goat, I dropped something and bent over at the waist to pick up the fallen object. I was facing Nimbus, so I guess he thought I was about to make a move on him and he made a break for it, right through my legs! One second I was standing in straw and the next I was astride a terrified goat, riding him backwards through the barn and out into the snowy night of the corral. Neither of us was hurt, but the whole thing did nothing for our future relationship. Some years later though, Nimbus came right up to me as I was doling out feed for his stable mates. It was the first and only time he let me pet him. I figure it was his way of saying no hard feelings and goodbye, because the next morning I found him snuggled down in the hay, at peace at last.
For all the work, some heartache, and countless offenses such as debarking three apple trees, consuming rose bushes and any other edible plant they like, in the main, my experiences with goats has been worth every minute. And it is not just about the cashmere. My devotion to my goats is something that I often struggling to explain. When someone asks questions like, “how much fleece do you get?” or “exactly how long does it take you to comb them out?” or “does the fiber pay for their feed?” I am close to being struck dumb. It’s not about numbers, hours, pounds or dollars, so I usually just say, “I don’t really know, I just like goats.”
People either get this answer or they don’t. And if they don’t, I have only this to say to them.
Too darned Baaaaaaahed!
For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.




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Northern Sky: Feb 3 - 16, 2018

Northern Sky  by  Deane Morrison 
Feb. 3-16 2018
As we approach the middle of February, the moon spends more and more time in the morning sky, and that's good for everybody who would rather see stars in the evening.
This is the best time of year to enjoy all the bright winter constellations I've been talking about. If you go out an hour after sunset, you'll see them in the southeast to south. Sirius is the brightest star of all, and it's also the lowest of the bright winter stars. Sirius is called the Dog Star because it dominates Canis Major, the larger of Orion's hunting dogs. In ancient times, people thought that during the summer, when Sirius appears nearer the sun in the sky, its heat combined with the sun's heat to produce the hottest days of the year, which were dubbed the dog days. Of course, Sirius has nothing to do with it, but when looking at it against a dark winter sky, it's easy to see how people could think that.
Sirius is also part of two well-known geometric arrangements of stars. One is the Winter Triangle. Besides Sirius, the stars in the triangle are Procyon, which is above and a little east of Sirius, and reddish Betelgeuse, which is a little west of Procyon. Then there's the Winter Hexagon. Again starting with Sirius, move around clockwise to Procyon, which is in Canis Minor, the little dog; then Pollux, the brighter Gemini twin; Capella, in Bootes the herdsman--this is the highest star in the hexagon; then Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the bull; and finally Rigel, in Orion.
In the morning sky, the planet show continues. The planets and neighboring stars are moving out of the southeast and into the south now. All three morning planets are rather low, but the highest, brightest and most western one is Jupiter. Moving to the left, or east, the constellation Scorpius has Mars, and below Mars is the gigantic red star Antares, the heart of the scorpion. The bright light to the lower left of Mars and Antares is Saturn. At this point, Mars isn’t especially bright, because it’s about 143 million miles away. But when Earth catches up to it this summer, it’ll be almost four times closer—just 36 million miles away. And pretty darn bright.
The moon wanes away to the new phase on February 15th, and on its way it visits the morning planets. Between the 7th and 8th it sweeps by Jupiter. Between the 8th and 9th, it passes Mars. On the 9th, the moon, Mars and Antares will make a nice trio of objects. On the 11th, the moon will be right above Saturn, and Saturn will be right above the lid of the Teapot of Sagittarius. On the 12th, the crescent moon will be sitting in the curved line of stars known as the Teaspoon, which hangs above the handle of the Teapot. On the 13th, the moon will be a lovely thin crescent. On the 16th, a young moon of the next cycle appears in the west, in the sun's afterglow. You'll have to look about half an hour after sunset to see it, and you may catch Venus to the lower right of the moon. This month, Venus is just starting a climb into the evening sky.
Also in the evening, look for the pale and elusive zodiacal light in the west as soon as the sky gets dark. The zodiacal light appears as a broad finger, or cone, of light extending up along the sun's path. It's caused by sunlight reflecting off dust in the plane of the solar system. You need dark skies to see it, and if you do, count yourself among the fortunate few.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 2, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith                     February 2, 2018    

Gunflint territory advances to month two with little fanfare from the atmosphere. We continue on the dry side, logging another week of scant to almost no new snow.  

During the same segment more seasonal temperatures have returned including some below zero times, so the area hasn’t seen the remaining snow pack diminished much other than through evaporation.                                                                                                                                                                       

The colder conditions returned just in time to serve the canines pulling through the John Beargrease Marathon with more tolerable temps than were the order of a week ago (those dogs love below zero working conditions).                                                                                                                                                                                  

It was a busy time in the mid-Trail neighborhood as the mid-distance race saw its first finisher in the wee hours of last Monday morning.  While in the Marathon event, the leader swooshed through the Gunflint area and was at the Grand Portage layover by early afternoon on Monday.  

What a great re-enactment for the namesake musher and his duties serving pioneers of yester-year along the Northshore. Congrats and thanks to all whom made this 34th historic celebration come to life.                                                                                                                                                                                   

As I mentioned last week, another popular winter event hits the Trail this weekend. Saturday the Ridge Riders Club puts on their traditional power sledding “fun run.” Area folks should be on the look-out for a colossal number of snowmobiles howling through the woods. Registrations begin at 9:00 am, at either the Ridge Riders building on Devil Track or at Hungry Jack Lodge up the Trail, with the day ending at the Groomers Building around 7:00pm.  Wishing all a good ride, everyone be safe.                                                                                                                                                                   

Activity in the “wild neighborhood” along the Mile O Pine has been busy as usual. Recently a brief fracas occurred at the Wildersmith feed trough as two pine martens squared off over munching rights. The scuffle was short lived as both rolled around in a tangle of legs, tails and fur.  None the worse for wear, neither appeared to have inflicted any hurts on the other, and they scampered off. One apparently established rights for the afternoon as it returned later not to be bothered again.                                                                                                                                                                  

Another of the visiting martens appears to have not been so lucky in previous survival episodes. This one was observed to have only one eye. How this injury occurred is unknown, but the wound seemed to be healed and the critter had adjusted to the handicap by acting no different than any other of its’ kin.                                                                                                                                        

Our avian world is a blur of fluttering wings. In addition to the regular, chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays, we are being inundated with daily flocks of pine grosbeaks and red pols. An interesting thing about these two species is their apparent compatibility at the feed tray. Whereas the jays and the others come and go independently, the grosbeaks line the perimeter of the tray while the red pols feast simultaneously on the unit screen inside them.                                                                 

One more winged critter has found the morsels here to be inviting. I’m talking about a hairy woodpecker. We don’t often have one visit with regularity, but this one has found Wildersmith to be of its liking with menu offerings beyond just insects.                                                                                                                                           

Speaking of woodpeckers, some members of this Picidae family are in the process of adding a new real-estate development along the Mile O Pine. I’ve been watching construction all winter on a deceased Aspen.                                                                                                                                

The project started as a fast food eatery, specializing in gourmet bugs for a pileated wood pecking family. Now out of the food business, it’s being converted into multi-unit residential quarters that will no doubt provide housing opportunities for any number of treehouse dwellers. Nearly completed, a digital can be seen with my Wildersmith website posting at                                                                                                                                                               

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with fauna and flora marvels always just on the brink!         



Superior National Forest Update - February 2, 2018

Superior National Forest Update – February 2, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that might affect your visit to the Superior during the next two weeks. 

February 2nd is, of course, Groundhog Day.  Up here in the north woods, the chances of seeing a groundhog, let alone his shadow, on February 2nd, are pretty remote.  Groundhogs are ground dwelling relatives of squirrels, and have an extremely large range stretching from Alaska all the way down to northern Alabama.  They aren’t terribly common in northern Minnesota compared to other parts of the state.  This isn’t because of our weather, it is because in many places the soil here is too shallow to be able to dig a nice tunnel system.   A true hibernator, a groundhog’s burrow has get below the frost line so the animal won’t freeze during the winter months while asleep.  Their burrows are usually a single long tunnel, up to 45 feet long, with a main entrance on one end, and an emergency exit on the other.  There are short side galleries off the main tunnel for sleeping and food storage.  This time of year, you’ll find the groundhog curled up in a hibernation chamber with a slowed heart rate and a body temperature equal to that of the surrounding environment.  It’s been found that hibernators usually rouse a few times during the winter, but sometimes only to the point of normal sleep.  One current theory is that they actually need to do this in order to dream.  Occasionally, a groundhog will rouse enough to eat and possibly poke their nose out of the burrow in midwinter, but I don’t think they really care about their shadow at all.

If you poke your nose out of your warm house and head out into the woods, you’ll find that there are no active timber sales on the Tofte District right now.  On the Gunflint logging trucks are only expected on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road (dual-use snowmobile trail), Greenwood Lake Boat Access Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Forest Road 152C off the Lima Grade.  Be particularly cautious on the Firebox Road and 152C because these routes are also used as snowmobile trails.

If it is too cold to go out though, you might be spending some time planning for next summer.  You are now able to make reservations for summer time Boundary Waters entry permits online at  If the Boundary Waters isn’t for you, you can also currently make summer reservations for many of the National Forest campgrounds on the same website. 

Speaking of websites, we’ve added a link on our Special Places page to an interactive map of the North Shore Scenic Drive.  We may drive Highway 61 daily, but this map gives others a great look at our North Shore.  Check it out, and send it off to people living in other places so they will be jealous.  Just don’t mention the subzero weather we’re having right now. 

That cold weather does make for excellent star gazing at night.  Cold air is usually more stable than warm air, and visibility is great for celestial objects.  The recent lunar eclipse on the morning of January 31st was a beautiful event that hopefully a lot of people were able to see.  If you were up before dawn to see that, you might also have noticed that Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are all in the eastern sky before sun up.  It’s a great time to look for these planets if you walk the dog in the morning.

Whether walking the dog, driving Highway 61, or heading into the woods, enjoy the Forest.  Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.