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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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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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Bob Dylan, in his early days out on Highway 61

West End News: October 20

Although he’s only an honorary West Ender, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Bob Dylan, on his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Our enigmatic and talented native son is the first musician to win the Noble for literature, but it should came as no surprise to anyone who has been moved by the profound poetry of his song lyrics. 
 
I’m sure Mr. Dylan is a regular visitor to the West End, but just keeps his usual low profile.  If not, we still have a strong connection to him, if only through his iconic album and song, “Highway 61 Revisited.”
 
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to look up the aerial drone footage of the Manitou River Falls on the Internet.  There are two large sets of falls that are rarely seen by the public.  They are out of view from the highway and are surrounded by private land, so the only way to see them all is from the air.  The last drop is a 50-foot falls directly into Lake Superior, making it a fairly rare phenomenon on the big lake. 
 
The footage is the work of a company called Liftoff Aerials.  Thanks to them for sharing this spectacular footage with their North Shore neighbors.  You can find it by Googling Manitou Falls drone footage.
 
Sugarloaf Nature Center, in Schroeder, is hosting a program next month on historic bark-peeled pine. Apparantly, during the era of birch bark canoe, in what is now the BWCA Wilderness, the canoe builders peeled red pine bark to collect the sap that was used to seal the seams.  Some of the trees, in use during the fur trade circa 1700 to 1900, still exist.  By studying their location, archeologists can shed new light on the economy and travel patterns of people in that distant time.
 
Lee Johnson, the Superior National Forest Archeologist, will be presenting on this discovery at Sugarloaf on Saturday, November 12th from 10 to 11 am.  He will be describing how to identify the bark-peeled pine and is asking wilderness travelers to report any that they find back to him.
 
Given the deep, deep history of canoe travel in the West End, and all of northeastern Minnesota, this is a significant archeological find and really interesting for canoe nerds like me.  I think I’ve read every word ever written about birch bark canoes and I’ve always been told that the sealing pitch was a mixture of black spruce sap and animal fat.  History is always fascinating and surprising.
 
I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of local voices supporting the two referendum questions that Cook County School District #166 has placed on this year’s election ballot.  One question asks for approval of a new Capital Bond to make repairs and improvements to school facilities.  The other question asks for an Operating Levy that virtually all Minnesota Public Schools need to fund themselves.
 
I’ve carefully studied both proposals and listened closely to the arguments – both for and against.  In my opinion, both are excellent investments for the future of Cook County and will pay us back many times over in the future.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Go to CookCountySchools.org and read the material there for yourself.  I was also influenced by the carefully thought out support from the Cook County Chamber of Commerce.  I plan to vote “yes” and “yes” on the questions and urge you to do so too.
 
Just a quick reminder of two important events coming up in support of Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.  The Barbeque Rib Feast is at the Schroeder Town Hall on Thursday, October 27th from 4:30 to 7 pm. Also, the umteenth annual PTO Halloween Carnival at Birch Grove on Sunday, October 30th from 2 until 4 pm.  Be there, or be you-know-what.
 
The leaves are mostly down back over the hill and even the Shore is past its prime.  That is no reason to avoid the back roads.  The tamaracks are still beautiful and some of the underbrush, especially the willows, is still vivid. Plus, it’s fun to be able to see a reasonable distance into the woods. You might spot a moose, a partridge or a bark-peeled pine that have been hiding for the last five months.  Every season is a good season here in the ol’ West End.
 
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 19

Kalina, Carson, and Niranjan report the latest school news.

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Northern Sky: October 15-28

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

In the evening sky: Saturn, Antares and Venus; Mars and the teapot of Sagitarius; in the morning sky: Jupiter low in the east.  Fomalhaut, the lonliest star, and its candidate planet Fomalhaut B (pictured, NASA via Wikimedia Commons).  A full Hunters Moon on the 15th.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 14

The upper Gunflint Territory has experienced a gamut of atmospheric conditions since our last radio meeting. Over the past seven days, we’ve seen the splendor of a few marvelous warm and sunny fall days succumb to a brief winter preview during the weekend.    

Wouldn’t you know, this cold season prelim happened just as some great friends arrived at Wildersmith to bring the dock ashore. So here we were, in the fifty-five degree Gunflint Lake white capped water, heaving and hoeing amongst drizzle and a snow squall, toting dock sections to their winter storage quarters. Alas, we prevailed over the elements, and thankfully, the job is finished! As might be expected, after all was done, the sun, then made an appearance.      

There was no snow accumulation here in comparison to a few other places in northern Minnesota. However, the growing season can be declared over in this neighborhood, as a hard freeze terminated things last Saturday and Sunday mornings. Thermometers in some places found the mercury at about twenty degrees, with nineteen being the low at Wildersmith Sunday AM.  

It was frosty enough to make ice in the bird waterer, freeze a couple small Mile O Pine puddles, see summer garden plants wilt with a good bye, and bring on ignition of a cozy fire in the wood burning stove, ‘tis the season.  

Autumn's color spectacular got hit as weather took a turn. For a couple days, both rain and blustery winds sent a good deal of the seasonal aura packing.  

There are still a few patches of gold quaking, but we will see most of them on the ground by the time this scribing airs. One neat aspect of this deciduous leafy drop is the ability to see deep into the forest for the first time in months.   

The final blush of our pigmentation spectacle, is picking up the slack from the leaflet letdown. Tamarack needles can be observed taking on their flaxen tones in select places along the Trail. There are few fall affairs to top the romantic awe of a feathery tamarack in blooming 24-carat.   

While things of fall are settling into their winter resting place, tourist business is winding down along the Scenic Byway. It appears to have been a bustling summer and has even extended well into early fall.  Proprietors, from whom I’ve heard, indicate the season has been great, with one wondering from where all the people keep coming.    

I’m told it was a record breaking season for the fabulous pie maker over at Clear water Lodge. Guess she normally produces about one hundred seventy pies a summer. 2016 has been overwhelming as in excess of three hundred fifty of her tasty pastries came out of the oven. Wow, that’s a lot of pie crusts and fruits of the forest!   

With grouse hunting season underway, I hear success has been moderate to good, depending upon the day's weather and, of course, the shooter's aim. Recently, one of the seemingly unintelligent Minnesota “chicken birds” made a landing on our avian feeding trough. It was, maybe, seeking refuge from the sound of gunshots down the lake. Due to possibly attracting a marauding bear, the seed cafeteria was not open, so it just sat for a while then winged off into parts unknown.

Hunting isn’t just for the two-legged beings this time of year. A sleek wolf was observed doing a little food service reconnaissance recently along the Hungry Jack road in the mid-Trail area. The northwoods warrior was digitally captured by a Hungry Jack Lake couple. A photographic recording can be seen alongside my Wildersmith column on the www at WTIP.org.       

Those same HJ residents have also been enjoying regular visits from some kind of hawk over the past several weeks. Since appetite satisfiers have not been offered, reasons for the stop-overs are unexplained, but it must involve an easily accessible, natural, nourishment supply somewhere nearby.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where cool Gunflint days are energizing, and oh so special!
 

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Superior National Forest Update: October 14

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information 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 14th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Wet, windy, and somewhat warm temperatures for fall have all played into a slightly below average fall color season.  Right now though is the peak of the yellow aspen and birch along the shore.  It’s almost worth getting up at dawn just to drive Highway 61 along the lake at sunrise.  You’ll notice too that there is a lot of animal activity along the road.  Migrating juncos, sparrows, and flocks of snow buntings are flying at low altitudes across the roads right now, so keep your speed down and give them a chance.  It’s a good idea anyway as there are also plenty of larger animals like deer moving around in the fall, and while a collision with a sparrow is mostly bad for the sparrow, a collision with a deer is bad for everyone.
Those same weather conditions have made it impossible for us to conduct planned fall burns in the Boundary Waters.  For safety, and so we get the results we want from a burn, weather conditions have to be within a certain narrow window, and nature just hasn’t cooperated this fall.  Fire crews instead have been working on pile burning.  Slash piles from other activities are being burned in many places around the Forest.  They are watched carefully while active, and then monitored when no longer burning actively.  They may continue to smolder for several days, so there may be lingering smoke in the air where this is taking place.
For most of our fee campgrounds, this will be the last weekend with water
and garbage service.  To prepare for winter, water systems are being drained and shut off, and dumpsters are being emptied for the last time.  Campgrounds will go into a non-fee status during the off season.  They remain open for use, but snow will not be cleared and water and garbage service will not be available.  You will have to pack in water, and pack out your garbage.  Please do not leave garbage bags beside closed dumpsters, it will only attract the last bears of the fall, and bring in the first bears of the spring.
Speaking of bears, the end of October and the first part of November is the usual time for them to enter hibernation.  They are flexible though depending on weather.  It’s a good idea to keep bringing your bird feeders at night through the month of November.  Bats will also be settling down for the winter as the bug supply is running short.  Many of our bats locally will winter in the Soudan Mine.  White nose syndrome, the fungal disease which has been wiping out large numbers of bats, strikes during hibernation, so we are all hoping our bat population does well this winter and will return to the skies in time for the spring mosquito hatch.
If you’re out to see the last of the fall leaves, or in search of a grouse or two, the logging activity is the same as it has been for the last few weeks.  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.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. 
Enjoy your Forest, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove Community School: October 13

Sophia, Nataliya, and Gus report the latest School News.

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Rainy Saturday, Sunny Sunday

Time to rake the leaves before a rainy Saturday. Then we’re expecting a sunny Sunday.  North Shore Morning host LeAnn Zunker spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Carol Christenson. 
 

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