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West End News December 20

Moose on Sawbill Trail (Photo by Tom Spence)
Moose on Sawbill Trail (Photo by Tom Spence)

WEN_20121220_Finalcut.mp35.91 MB

Lutsen native Molly Rider is planning to paddle the entire Mississippi River this summer, starting at Lake Itasca and ending in New Orleans. The life-changing trip is made possible through a grant from the outdoor club at Bowdoin College in Maine where Molly is a student.  Three other young canoeists will be joining Molly on the trip.  They are Molly’s classmate Elina Berglund, along with Leif Gilsvik and Eric “Hurikane” Svenson, both from Two Harbors.
The group plans to depart Lake Itasca at the end of May and arrive in New Orleans during the second week of August, allowing 70 days for the epic canoe trip.  Molly expects the trip to cost about $650 per person, mostly for food.  All four of these adventurous young people have a ton of canoeing experience.
They’ve been helped in their planning by Tofte resident, Eric Frost, who paddled the length of the Mississippi with Lutsen resident Dave Freeman a few years back. They’ve also been in touch with former Lutsen resident Andy Keith, who paddled the Mississippi many years ago and published a book about his adventure.  Andy lives in Mexico now, but he has been advising Molly and company over the Internet, via Skype.
In order to receive the blessing and support of the outdoor club, Molly and Elina had to present a detailed proposal, which included their detailed qualifications, gear lists, a safety plan, and a food list that accounts for every tortilla and granola bar.  They’ll be conducting a seminar on long distance canoe tripping when they get back to school next fall, and both young women plan to take leadership roles in the Bowdoin College outdoor club once they get back to school.
Molly’s parents, Tom and Ann Rider, and her grandmother, Jean Skinner, are West Enders.  Although he was born and raised in Two Harbors, Leif Gilsvik’s mother is Patty Tome, who grew up in Grand Marais, and Dave Gilsvik, a well-known artist who frequently works and teaches in Grand Marais.
As dramatic and epic as a canoe trip down the length of the Mississippi is, it seems like a short jaunt compared to the 12,000-mile canoe, kayak and dogsled journey that Lutsen residents Dave and Amy Freeman are currently undertaking.  After surviving Hurricane Sandy while they were in New Jersey, Dave and Amy have taken a few weeks off to conduct dozens of school presentations that are a key part of their mission to get children excited about wilderness and outdoor travel. 
Dave and Amy will soon be back in their kayaks heading for Key West, Florida, where their trip will end sometime in April.  Before they are done, they will have conducted school programs for tens of thousands of kids and interacted with hundreds of thousands over the Internet.  We should see them back in Cook County in June when the school year ends.
Knowing Dave and Amy though, I don’t think they will let the grass grow under their feet for long.  I’m sure they will host an event at North House this summer to show slides and tell stories about their truly epic adventure.
The late season wolf hunting and trapping season ended this week.  I have to say that I was a bit surprised by how low-key the season was, at least back here on the Sawbill Trail.  There were quite a few traps set along the Sawbill Trail, but to my knowledge there were no dogs injured or any other unfortunate incidents connected to the season.  Local Conservation Officer, Tom Wahlstrom, told me that he had a lot of calls from concerned citizens before the season, but had no complaints during the season.
I still feel like the wolves contribute more to the West End economy when they are alive than they do as a rug in someone’s den, but I guess I’m fighting a losing battle there.
Tom Spence, from Tofte, snapped a couple of good pictures of two moose on the Sawbill Trail this week.  It looks like a cow and a pretty grown up calf. It’s getting to the point where seeing a moose is pretty rare, so Tom drew a lot of positive comment when he posted the pictures on Facebook.
The Sugarbush Trail Association in Tofte has groomed the unplowed portion of the Onion River Road for both classic and skating style cross-country skiing.  Skiers are reporting excellent conditions and grooming.  Our 6K classic style trail that starts right at the bitter end of the Sawbill Trail is also groomed and in excellent condition.  There is plenty of ice for lake travel by ski or snowshoe, both in and out of the wilderness.  The rest of the West End trails, including both ski and snowmobile trails, are not quite ready for use yet.  Hopefully, nature will provide enough snow to get all the trails open for the big influx of visitors after Christmas.
Downhill skiing at Lutsen Mountains is in full swing and conditions are excellent.  Lutsen Mountains, Lutsen Resort and Grand Marais got a very complimentary write-up in an online magazine published for the Tampa Bay, Florida market.  It would be a fine irony if Tampa Bay residents traveled up here for winter fun, while half our population heads down there for sun and sand.
Here’s wishing for a peaceful, safe and happy holiday season for all.

Airdate: December 20, 2012