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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:
Photo by Martha Marnocha

North Woods Naturalist: Fall Colors & Fungi

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel describes the confetti of leaf colors that are beginning to appear as well as her latest observations as we head into fall.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.


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Celebrating Night Skies Week

Celebrate the Night Week is September 19 - 25, 2021.

Andrew Papke-Larson with Starry Skies North IDA talks with North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson about this celebration.

The Schedule of Events includes:

20th Monday                   
Heart of the Continent Partnership 
- Bob DeGross, Superintendent, Voyageurs National Park
- Ann Schwaller, USFS Forest Wilderness Program Manager
- Trevor Gibb, Quetico Provincial Park Superintendent City of Duluth
- Diane Desotelle, City of Duluth Natural Resources Coordinator
21st Tuesday                  
- James Rock, Director of Indigenous Programming at University Minnesota, Duluth and Research in Ethno-astronomy and Archeoastronomy
22nd Wednesday
- Mary Stewart Adams, Star Lore Historian, Storyteller, and host of the weekly public radio program and podcast “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.”
23rd Thursday    
- Travis Novitsky, Nature/Wildlife photographer and citizen of Grand Portage Reservation, Minnesota
24th Friday                       
- Bob P. King (AstroBob), Astronomer, photographer, writer for Sky & Telescope magazine and author of several best selling astronomy books for amateur astronomers

25th Saturday                  
- Workshop Home Light Improvements by Cindy Hakala, President of Starry Skies North IDA
- Cafe Scientifque Twin Ports - Trivia Night!
- Tour of Wildlife Lighting at Capstone Apartments & Village at Matterhorn - Measure and learn about light spectrums 


Scott Oeth-photo by Mike Patterson

Pack & Paddle

"Pack & Paddle" with Scott Oeth
September 20, 2021

In this edition Scott talks about the many uses of cattails - from nutritional and medical, to kindling and insulation.


Fish photo by Donald O'Brien

News and notes from the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time 9-17-2021
I feel Fall in the air! Reminders are everywhere that summer is fading into autumn: The purple asters contrast beautifully with the goldenrod; The pin cherry leaves are red, orange and yellow – all on the same tree; the moose maple foliage gives us shades from yellow to red and those lovely winged seed pods called samaras; bronze and maroon grace the bush honeysuckle leaves. The mountain ash berries are turning red once more. Usually it’s the time of year for the hazelnut harvest, but I haven’t seen any hazelnuts since spring.
The bird population is changing too. I’m fairly certain that the hummingbirds have gone south. I do not see them at the feeder anymore. The loons were calling in their mournful way last week, but I haven’t heard them for quite a few days. This morning a vee of geese flew overhead, gabbling and honking in their busy way.
And for the usual lineup of large animals: I haven’t seen any bears all summer. Our Fedex driver reported seeing one about a mile from us. Hmm…maybe it’s time to put the game camera up again. A bull moose we saw recently had a nice healthy set of antlers. The cow following also looked in good shape. There was a lot of beaver activity evident on the shore of a nearby lake; they’re probably stocking up their underwater larder with cut aspen and cedar.
It’s still warm enough for moths and butterflies to fly around, and I found a really odd-looking caterpillar last week. It was greyish beige and about as big as a fat finger, heading fast for the woods (well, fast in a creepy crawly sort of way). I tried to take pictures of its underside but an anonymous bystander accused me of torturing the poor creature so I let it go in the grass near a stand of young aspens. I am curious but not heartless. The oddities continued. Last week we could hardly walk around outside at night without stepping on toads. I shone a flashlight on them and they glowed golden in the light. It felt so eerie – like an omen, if you believe in such things.
When the mornings are cool, I start thinking about what we need to do before winter. Then it warms up in the afternoon and I start thinking about all the fun things I can still do before the cold weather really hits. I love this time of year. It’s energizing. It’s great weather for canoeing and fishing! I am not much of an angler, but I do like a pretty cast. In truth, I could happily cast all day. I love the arc the line makes against the sky before it plops into the water (hopefully not on a snag, or hung up on weeds). I love to draw and it seems to me that casting – especially fly-fishing – looks like drawing in the air. Lars had some luck this week fishing for walleye and he has been re-bit by the fishing bug. I remain immune to that particular malady, but I love to eat fish, so I am an enthusiastic supporter of his fishing. I don’t like fishing in the rain, so you could call me a fair weather fishing friend.
We’ve had about an inch of rain on the Trail the past few weeks. Things have greened up nicely, but this area remains in drought conditions. The immediate fire danger has passed from the John Ek and Whelp fires; though they are still burning, they are not growing. The Forest Service has ceased publishing daily updates for those two fires. After laying contingency lines through portages, the firefighters are well-prepared should those two fires flare up again. The teams from other states have demobilized and left. As of this writing, the Boundary Waters (except for the area around the Ek and Whelp fires) and most parts of the Upper Gunflint Trail have opened again. The immediate sense of worry has eased and it’s a joy to have these sunny days, crisp in the morning, warm in the sun, and cool in the shade.
If I don’t like the weather where I am on any particular day, I don’t have to go far for something else. The weather is quite variable over the 60 miles of the Gunflint Trail. In the summer, the upper part of the Trail is usually hotter by ten degrees or more than it is by Lake Superior, and in the winter, it’s colder. Fall comes earlier to the Trail than it does in town. The mix of vegetation varies a lot as well. Closer to town, the hillsides are thick with maple trees. As the road climbs up (and it is a climb – the elevation changes by more than 800 feet from town to the end of the Trail), the forest changes to a mix of aspen, birch, balsam, spruce, white and jack pine. I love driving the back roads closer to the big lake and visiting the maple syrup producers in the fall. It’s a great way to support local growers, stock up on maple syrup and and to see the autumn glory of the maple trees.
This is Marcia Roepke from the Gunflint Trail


Autumn has arrived...! (Photo by Bryan Hansel)

North Woods Naturalist: Advancing Autumn

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel describes her recent observations that tell us autumn is on the way.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



Trail Time

Trail Time
By Marcia Roepke
As I write this, it’s Wednesday, August 25, 2021 and the upper part of the Gunflint Trail has been in pre-evacuation mode for almost two days. It was just past 8 pm on Sunday when I read an email marked “urgent” from the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GTVFD) requesting that residents from End of the Trail to the south side of Loon Lake prepare to evacuate. The email  linked to a video where Mike Valentini explained how to get ready. Stressing that this was NOT an evacuation, and NOT a time to panic, he calmly and clearly said that “ready mode” means homeowners should turn on sprinklers, pack medications, gather pets and pack up valuables. 

Well, that certainly got my attention. I forwarded the message to neighbors and then my husband Lars and I got busy: He to print out wildfire evacuation checklists, and I to start packing my “Go Bag.” These lists helped us prioritize our actions, and while I wouldn’t say I felt totally calm on the inside, I didn’t feel panicky, just very focused and alert. We’ve been very fire-aware this summer. The air has been smoky for months around here due to the Quetico and Ontario fires. There was the Delta Fire earlier then the fire at Greenwood Lake and now the John Ek was the one heading our way. Minnesota has had one of the driest summers in recorded history. In truth, we had been preparing for this wildfire scenario for years. With the John Ek fire moving closer, Monday night felt like the pointy end of a graph showing a spread of tasks over time leading to this one last job: packing to get ready to go. So that night, after clothing, valuables, medications, and dog food were stowed in backpacks and totes, cell phones were plugged in and charging, we headed outside to complete some of the other chores on our list.

With the sprinklers spraying water pumped from the lake, we moved the two cedar canoes and our tractor into the garage, which is within our spriklers’ perimeter. We moved the gasoline can to a safe area, moved wooden deck furniture and doormats off the deck and made sure both garden hoses were hooked up and had nozzles attached. We checked that the standby generator was gassed up and we filled potable water containers in case we lost electricity. There were many more items on the checklist, but you get the picture. We worked hard and went to bed late that night, keeping company with a beautiful blue moon. I didn’t sleep very well. 

We have been cutting brush and dead trees for years, following a program of wildfire fuel reduction called Firewise. We had created a thirty-foot zone around our cabin with no conifers and, among other things, we had protected the area underneath our wood deck with metal, guarding against blowing embers. But each year there is always more brush to cut and more dead balsam firs to cut down. Firs are the best fuel for wildfire and so they’re the worst thing to have near your home. They grow like weeds.  

The morning after the pre-evacuation notice, Lars set off with Duffer Don to help cut and haul brush to the local brush pile. After they left, I didn’t know what to do with myself. We had done a good job the night before — we were packed and ready to go, but I just couldn’t sit around being ready. I checked our refrigerator and saw the chicken and ribs I had thawed for this week’s meals. I wondered if I should re-freeze it, but instead I decided to start cooking everything I could. So I baked cookies, then roasted chicken wings and after that put the ribs in the oven for a long slow bake. I’m so glad the cooler weather had arrived! Since the campfire ban, I didn’t want to cook outside, not even with a grill. I kept myself busy all day with various chores inside and out, and I had to force myself to not check constantly for email updates and status reports from the Superior National Forest. We knew that we would be informed by someone coming to our house should we need to evacuate.  

We had attended a jam-packed town hall meeting Sunday night to get an update on the John Ek fire and I had been impressed with the professionalism and clarity of each speaker. They stressed many times that fire is unpredictable and they could not tell us with any certainty what would develop in the immediate future. I sat there feeling very grateful for the forest rangers, our emergency preparedness system in Cook County and for our own Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. We really felt – and still do – that we have excellent people doing their jobs very well to help protect us, our homes and care for the forest. I also thought to myself that nearly two years of Covid has taught me a lot about living with unpredictability and quickly-changing situations. Both fire and pandemic have certainly improved my prayer life.

We live in a boreal forest that requires fire to sustain it. We knew this when we moved here. We accepted the risk and have done our best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. You can’t live up here and be in denial about fire.

Our minds are strange places when we’re anxious, though. The day after that meeting at Schaap Community Center, we headed to town for groceries. We were feeling much more at ease about the wildfire situation. When we had woken up that morning, we did not see or smell smoke. The wind had shifted during the night and the morning sky was clear. The fire felt much farther away than it had the day before. After shopping, we headed back up the Trail. We were on our way to Voyageurs Outfitters to fill some propane tanks when we saw a strangely-colored plume of smoke in the sky. There it was, right in front of us, the smoke from the John Ek fire rising in the distance, stretching south across the western horizon. Suddenly the fire felt closer. Then, as the Trail curved to the northeast, the plume of smoke disappeared from our view, as did that momentary rising of fear I had felt when I first saw it. Like a light switch turning on and off, as the curve of the road changed so did my mental and emotional state. It was a very strange experience. It made me feel more like an animal, but not in a beastly way. I mean like in the way an animal fears fire when it is present, but gives it no thought in its absence.

The wind can change my outlook just as quickly as a changing view. I’ve always loved paddling into the wind, sitting in the bow of a canoe, leaning into the push of air before me. I find it exhilarating. But tonight, as I write this, the wind is picking up and as its velocity increases so does my disquiet about the fire that might be moving closer to the Trail today. I think my attitude  about wind will be changed by the John Ek fire.
This is Marcia Roepke from the Gunflint Trail


Michelle Schroeder_Photo submitted by MS

Backpacking 101- September

"Backpacking 101" with Michelle Schroeder is a monthly feature on WTIP's North Shore Morning.
In this edition, Michelle talks about planning for hikes during this transitional season. She shares tips on staying warm, adapting to shorter daylight - how that might impact your itinerary, and more.



Fall Migration at Hawk Ridge

The Fall bird migration is underway on the North Shore.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff checks in with Hawk Ridge's Margie Menzies to see which birds have been spotted in Duluth and if this year's numbers are similar to years past.


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GM Parks Update - It's been a good year

It's been a good year for the Grand Marais Parks.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks with Grand Marais Parks Manager, Dave Tersteeg for an update.


Sitting on the dock in the bay. Photo by Laurel Lindahl

Trail Time - events and phenology on the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time
By Marcia Roepke
What a difference a week makes! We’ve had some gorgeously beautiful days on the Gunflint Trail. Last Saturday’s rain, the cooler temps, sunny skies and good news from the Forest service have all combined to make this a stellar week.
Monday night we attended another community meeting at Fire hall #2, where the Forest Service, the county sheriff and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department spoke about the fire conditions, gave advice and answered questions.  The Forest Service folks announced that the risk remains at 1.5% chance of the John Ek fire reaching the Trail at this time, or, as Lars puts it, there’s a 98.5% chance it won’t get here! Of course they can make no promises – fire is unpredictable. But it feels like a blessedly welcome reprieve from last week’s danger and our anxiety level. 
To gauge my stress level after our pre-evacuation notice last week, I invented a new scale called the RAL: my Resting Anxiety Level, with a scale of one to ten. With level ten being high anxiety, I have been at level one for the past five glorious days.
I know when my RAL is low because I start noticing things like the wooly bear caterpillars that have made their home in my lettuce garden. I had been picking off two or three Wooly Bears a day, but then I decided to let them eat all the lettuce they want. Unlike them, I can shop for more. I don’t know what special job in our ecosystem these moths-in the-making fill but it must be important or they wouldn’t be here. When I pick them up, they curl into a ball and stay still in the palm of my hand. On the ground – or under the lettuce leaves – they move surprisingly fast. I read that they survive in their caterpillar form through the freezing winters. Despite my reading, it is still a mystery to me how this caterpillar transforms into an Isabella Tiger Moth.
I’ve noticed mushrooms growing again in some spots. I assume the combination of rain and sprinkler systems has improved growing conditions so they can emerge from the ground. I spotted some LBMs= little brown mushrooms. (I promise you, that’s a real thing! It’s in one of my mushroom ID books). There are small white orbs poking out of the grass that I think might be puffballs. Some emerging mushrooms (boletes maybe?) look like little yellow eggs coming out of the soil. We noticed white fingery fungus that might be coral mushrooms growing under cedars close to the lake. There is a lobster mushroom that grows almost every year in the same spot. A few years ago it was big enough to harvest, but I’m leaving it this year to populate that part of the woods with its spores. A lobster mushroom is actually one of two species of mushrooms that have been parasitized. They are very strange-looking but edible. (NOTE: Please, do not eat any mushrooms until you make absolutely certain what they are). I’m not going to tell you where the chanterelles might be or whether I even found any, in accordance with the unofficial code of conduct for all mushroom foragers. Unless you want to share your secret blueberry patch with me next year. Maybe we can do a trade.
There is such a great community on the Trail. Neighbors help neighbors take care of their havens in the woods: cutting and hauling brush; running sprinkler systems for those who can’t be here; donating water, food and supplies to the firefighting teams. One lodge owner has been donating propane for fire sprinkler system tanks in return for a small suggested donation to the Gunflint Trail Fire department. Neighbor and friend Mushroom House Grrl made a special run up to her place this week, watering the woods with what she calls Love Showers, showering her sanctuary literally with water and figuratively with prayers.
There’s still lots to enjoy on the Trail despite the closures. Chik Wauk Museum is still welcoming visitors. Resorts and most lakes that are not in the Boundary waters are open. The fish have not evacuated. The lupines are gone but they are fickle friends and leave by this time every year. The loons are still resident. The eagles and ospreys have not fled. The hummingbirds are still humming. As my friend, naturalist and superb nature photographer Teresa Marrone said,
“...there is still a lot of joy to be found up on the Gunflint Trail!” 
The Beaver seaplanes flew overhead again today, scooping up water from Gunflint Lake. Firefighters are still being flown in by helicopters. On the John Ek fire, crews are improving portages, creating safe access in and out, laying hose and working on sites for sprinkler systems. The present weather and the miles between us and the fire don’t change our need for preparedness. My bags are still packed. Many people have gone and others have cancelled reservations. I do not blame them. As for me, I still would rather be here than anywhere else.

This is Marcia Roepke from the Gunflint Trail