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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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Squirrel raids a bird feeder (Dave Lundy/Flickr)

Wildersmith December 28

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The Gunflint is closing in on its last days of 2012. This is happening under the watchful gaze of our “little spirit moon” (Manidoo Giizisoons).
Our final hurrah for the past year finds the Wildersmith neighborhood celebrating the freeze-up of Gunflint Lake. Official closing date was last Saturday, the 22nd. For a second consecutive year the “old gal” put on her winter coat later than we would normally expect.
With the latest recorded Gunflint Lake freeze up for which I have data (since 1982) being Dec. 29 in 2001, this year’s tardy date ranks fourth, after last year, which was Dec. 28, and the 27th in 1997. Our average before the past two years had been holding around Dec. 12. Just for the record, the earliest Zamboni exercise on the Gunflint over the past 30 years was Nov. 26 in 1996.
After last week’s wolf serenade, the winter song in our neighborhood has been tuned in to howls of a different tone. As the lake finally succumbed to its new landscape, she let out a screeching thunderous announcement, adding yet another voice to the wilderness choir.  
This first stanza reverberated from end to end, shaking some folks right out of their slumber. One has to wonder if the spirit of our Gunflint Gal was either uncomfortable with her new attire or thrilled that she finally delivered.
As fitting adjustments are being made, she is now murmuring subtle notes of acceptance. With a number of sub-zero to single-digit mornings since, and no insulating snow cover as yet, the thickening process is increasing rapidly.
Although I would not recommend heavy foot travel just yet, I did get word that the folks at Gunflint Lodge observed a wolf examining the shiny new surface on the morning of official solidarity.
While folks to our south were squawking about the blizzard of the decade, the upper Trail got barely a sniff in the past seven. These parts are still beautifully decked out in holiday flocking and ski trails are groomable (just barely), but we are still in dire need of substantial applications. Makes me worry about what next summer will be like if Mother Nature doesn’t do something about refilling our streams, rivers and lakes.
Speaking of being decked out for the holidays, our trip to church in Grand Marais this past Sunday was stunning. Jack Frost had been about and gave a crystal dousing to everything in creation. Sparkling jewels of the forest were so dazzling that one was almost blinded while old Sol tweaked even the smallest of these diamonds with beams of brilliance. It goes without saying that this area is rich beyond one’s wildest imagination in these simple, but precious, natural treasures.
For all the significant technological and engineering developments of mankind over the past couple centuries, it remains a mystery that man often cannot match the brain power and ingenuity of a hungry wilderness critter. A fellow down the road confides that he has been doing battle with a squirrel for months over sunflower seed accessibility at his bird feeder stations,
He has tried everything under the sun to deter the rodent. To date he finds that in spite of his reasonable intellectual and inventive exploits, all avenues have been met with an equalizing counter move by his gnawing little red friend.
Frustrated but not giving up, he shared his latest tactic and believes that he’s got the answer. We’ll see! I’ll be anxious to hear how the critter adapts to this new scheme. It would be my suggestion to let the tiny gal/guy have at it. You can’t seem to outsmart ‘em!
Every day out here in the woods is a wonder. The Smiths continue experiencing great moments in nature. Sharing them, as well as being able to report happenings of other Gunflinters, during this weekly Trail news scoop on WTIP has been most enjoyable in the past 365. Hopefully you enjoyed too!
As we wind down 2012, it is my wish for you that 2013 will be fruitful, rewarding, memorable and full of goodwill toward your fellow man!
Keep on hangin’ on, and come out to savor this wonderful creation we call the Gunflint. See you on the radio next year!

Airdate: December 28, 2012

Greg Nichols and Will Surbaugh (Photo by Kate Surbaugh)

West End News: December 27

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Sometimes the steady diet of bad news that streams in via radio, TV and Internet can be really discouraging.  The news cycle has been especially grim recently, causing me to worry about the state of the world. 
Then, I attended an event at North House Folk School that restored my faith in the human race and gave me good hope for the future.  The event was watching 11-year-old Will Surbaugh attempt to do 500 pushups in an hour.  He did it, and then some, but you need to hear the whole story to understand why it was such an inspiring event.
Will is the son of Kate and Steve Surbaugh, who live outside of Grand Marais and own Cascade Vacation Rentals in Tofte.  Last spring, Will informed his parents that he would like to ski on the downhill ski team at Lutsen Mountains this winter.  Good parents that they are, Kate and Steve told Will that he could be on the team, but he had to earn enough money over the summer to defray at least half of the cost, including the expensive equipment that’s required for competitive downhill skiing. 
Will started a firewood business, worked hard and earned an impressive amount of money over the summer. His parents then explained to him that philanthropy is a core value of the Surbaugh family, and Will was expected to donate 10% of his earnings to a charity of his own choosing.
Will decided to support a non-profit called “The Mission Continues.”  They award six-month community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans who then use their skills and discipline to serve a community project that addresses educational, environmental or social issues. This takes advantage of the veterans’ training to build community, while giving them a good path to reconnecting with civilian life.  At the conclusion of the fellowship, each veteran is expected to do one of three things: be employed full time, pursue higher education, or commit themselves to a permanent role of community service.
Will cheerfully sent off his donation and was surprised to be contacted by the organization and invited to their annual meeting and celebration in Washington, D.C.  The Mission Continues leaders were moved by receiving a generous donation from such a young philanthropist and wanted Will to be a part of celebrating the success of the program.  Will and Steve traveled to D.C. and Will was asked to introduce the organization’s executive director - on stage - in front of 600 people.
Inspired by his experience in D.C., Will committed to organizing a Mission Continues fundraising event in Cook County, with an ambitious goal of raising $10,000.  Will and his dad were discussing what kind of event he could organize, and Steve suggested that Will think about some kind of physical activity that would raise money through pledges. Will thought for a minute and then said he reckoned he could do 500 pushups in an hour.  Will had never done that many pushups, but he calculated that it was feasible and his plans fell into place.
That’s how I found myself at North House recently watching Will Surbaugh doing pushups.  Will did 10 pushups every minute, which only takes him about 10 seconds.  He would rest for the rest of the minute, then click off 10 more.  Fitness expert Greg Nichols was the official timer and counter. 
More than a just a fundraising event, it turned into a community effort, with a silent auction, bake sale, live music, wood fired pizza and lots of excitement.  As Will burned through his pushups, a number of people, of all ages, joined him in doing a few, or a few hundred, pushups.  Although he did slow down a bit by the end, Will easily did the 500 pushups. In fact, he completed 638 pushups in the allotted hour.  But more importantly, he easily exceeded his fundraising goal of $10,000.  You can see him do it on YouTube.
Will is a modest kid and takes his accomplishment very much in stride.  But I couldn’t help but be inspired by his commitment.  He was modeling leadership, physical fitness, health, community service, philanthropy, family and fun for everyone.  These are all values that contribute to what is good in life all the time, but it’s particularly nice to think about them at this time of year and at this point in history.  Will and his friends give me great hope for the future.

Airdate: December 27, 2012

Hiking in the Arrowhead

Master Naturalist trainings at Sugarloaf Cove

Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association is pleased to offer Master Naturalist volunteer training at Sugarloaf Cove.

Minnesota Master Naturalist is a program developed through the University of Minnesota Extension Service that educates adults about Minnesota's natural resources, empowers them to teach others and provides opportunities to participate in conservation projects.

Participants will learn about the fascinating geology, plant and animal communities, inland lakes and bogs, ecology and human interactions of the Northwoods, as well as Lake Superior in this course.  The course will run from 9 am to 5 pm every other Saturday for 6 sessions beginning February 23 and ending May 4, 2013.  Field trips will be incorporated into the scheduled class days.

(Click on audio mp3 above to hear an interview with course instructor Margie Menzies.)

Become a Master Naturalist Classes start February 23, 2013.

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Saturday, April 6, 2013 Saturday
April 20, 2013 Saturday,
May 4, 2013

Registration is through the MN Master Naturalist web page.

(Photo courtesy the Superior Hiking Trail Association)


Dr. Seth Moore - radio collaring a moose at Grand Portage.

Dr. Seth Moore: Grand Portage moose habitat/mortality study

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Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses an historic fur trade site on beautiful Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues of concern to the Grand Portage Band.

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the plight of  Minnesota's moose, and ongoing efforts to understand why the species is dying off in northeastern Minnesota.  Click on audio mp3 above to hear the interview.  Produced by Carah Thomas.

Moose collaring photos courtesy Grand Portage Trust Lands.

Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Elementary, December 24

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If you could ask Santa Claus any question, what would it be? Sawtooth Mountain 1st graders spent time this week writing these very questions. In this edition of Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School News, first grade teacher Betsy Jorgensen tells us more about the assignment.

A photo of Susan

Anishinaabe Way: Susan Zimmerman

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Susan Zimmerman is a Grand Portage band member who spent her early childhood on Hungry Jack Lake.  She is an avid hunter, fisherwoman, and wild ricer who also makes baskets and decorative gourds that are rooted in traditional crafts. Anishinaabe Way series producer Staci Drouillard met with her last fall in Grand Portage, where she was in the final days of her annual moose hunt.

Cook County High School

School News from Cook County Middle School, December 21

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Last week, Cook County Middle School students participated in a New Frontiers Courage retreat. The purpose of this fun and exciting event was to help middle school students learn to face their fears. In this edition of CCMS School News, school counselor Bryan Hackbarth tells us more about it.

Gunflint Trail (Ben Edwards/Flickr)

Wildersmith December 21

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Keying this week’s Gunflint scoop, I find the heavens are aligned, finally signaling the first day of winter. Yep, this magical season is now official, “Biboon” (winter moniker in Ojibwe) is here, at just past 5 CST this Friday morning.
Long dark nights have been the norm as pre-winter shadows have been gradually squeezing down on both ends of old Sol’s daily spin. For many fretting the shortness of our daylight hours, fear not, for the big day is here, and in no time at all minutes will be stacking up in the other direction.
While we turn the page into this season of crystal collections, here’s hoping the “great northern express” finds this locale with more regularity than we’ve seen thus far. One thing for sure is Old Man Winter has been sputtering in several attempts to get things going consistently for our wintertime activities.
The past week has been no exception, with a little bit of cold then a little bit of warm. Out around the upper Trail area, we went seven days with minuscule snowfall. Then another warm-up sent the previous white a-shrinking before we got a minor dose of white replenishment early last Sunday morning.
The lake water on Gunflint is trying its best to get down to ice-making business. One morning, for a few hours, it even had a brief coating about halfway across from the Wildersmith shore. Growing winds sent it packing by midday, and since then it’s been too warm and rough for cranking up the old Zamboni. There is ice, however, on about the western one-third (just beyond the Gunflint Pines Resort), but my guess is it’s not safe yet.
I have been unable to confirm the ice status on Sag, but all other bodies in the territory appear to be sealed up. In fact, a friend who is into ice fishing is already doing his thing on a favorite lake in the mid-trail area. He tells me six or seven inches have already thickened. By the way, he’s having fish for supper too!
Also aligned in the heavens is the week-old “little spirit moon.” It will be beaming down with full December splendor in a week. Folks in these parts are keeping their fingers crossed that early beams will be shining down on “the breast of new fallen snow” for the holiday festivities.
I don’t know whether the old fable about wolves howling at the moon has any basis for being true. I can confirm that Brother and Sister Wolf have been quite active along our Mile O Pine since we last met on the airwaves. On several occasions, regardless of little new snow, tracking has been prolific during my daily trips to the mailbox.
To cap off my continuing canid lupus saga, I stepped outside to bring in a load of firewood one evening and discovered the local pack eerily harmonizing not far away. Compared to previous wild renditions, I must say that they were hauntingly out of tune. Guess they need more practice, practice, practice!
A gal down the road shares that she heard a recent late day choral experience too.  This audition was coming from Canadian land. It makes me wonder if they were calling to the great northern spirits requesting some ice formation in order they might traverse the Gunflint for some U.S. deer hunting.
Soon after hearing this northern sound of music, she observed a sextet of beings bobbing up and down in the water out from her shoreline. First thought was that it couldn’t be wolves in the water, not at this time of year.
Turns out she was right; it wasn’t wolves. It was a bevy of otters, and to observe six at one sighting seems unusual. When last seen, they were headed east down the lake, frolicking on a probable fishing expedition.
After the tragedy that befell Newtown, Connecticut, and our entire nation, last week, this holiday time finds millions yearning for new and abundant peace amongst all men. May the grace of this season comfort those who are hurting so much.
Have a safe, sane and happy Christmas with your loved ones!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor thoughts of peace and healing!

Airdate: December 21, 2012

Moose on Sawbill Trail (Photo by Tom Spence)

West End News December 20

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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

Capella, brightest star in the constellation Auriga, is the bright object in the upper left corner (Cano Vaoaori/Flickr)

Northern Sky: Winter Solstice & Constellations

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains what to expect in the sky over the holidays, including the winter solstice and the cluster of winter constellations that are coming into their own.

Read this month's Starwatch column.