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North Shore Weekend


  • Saturday 7-10am
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



What's On:
StarMap Jan2019.jpg

Northern Sky: January 19 - February 1, 2019


Deane Morrison         

 As January heads into the home stretch, the morning show, starring Venus and Jupiter, is still going strong. Brilliant Venus has begun a descent into the sunrise, as it does whenever it’s getting ready for another trip behind the sun. Meanwhile, Earth is gaining on Jupiter in the orbital race, and this makes Jupiter climb through the morning sky. On Tuesday, January 22nd, Jupiter slides past Venus on its way up. At the end of the month, Jupiter and Venus will be about nine degrees apart.

 Also on January 31st, you’ll see a waning crescent moon close to Venus. And, if skies are dark, the red star Antares, in Scorpius, off to the right of Jupiter, at about the same distance as Venus. On February 1st, a thinner crescent moon appears below Venus. If you imagine a line from Venus to the moon and extend it down toward the horizon, you may spot Saturn. Earth is catching up to Saturn, too, so the ringed planet is also on its way up in the morning.

But the real show happens in the evening sky on the night of Sunday, January 20, when we get a total eclipse of a supermoon. This full moon deserves that name because it’ll be less than 24 hours from perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a lunar cycle. When the moon rises over Grand Marais—at 4:17 p.m.—you may notice that it’s bigger and brighter than your average full moon. Now, here is a play by play of the eclipse. 

 At 9:34 p.m. the moon’s leading edge makes contact with the Earth’s umbra, or dark inner shadow,  and the shadow starts to spread.

 At 10:41 p.m. totality begins. The moon is now completely engulfed in the umbra. An observer on the moon would see a total solar eclipse, due to Earth blotting out the sun.  The observer may also see a ring of fire around the Earth. The red ring comes from Earth’s atmosphere bending red light from sunsets and sunrises into the umbra, and some of it hits the moon. From our point of view, this light often turns the moon’s face reddish—what we call a blood moon—during a total lunar eclipse.

 At 11:12 p.m. the moon passes closest to the center of the umbra, and it’ll be in deepest shadow.

At 11:43 p.m. totality ends. At this point, the leading edge of the moon breaks out of the umbra.

At 12:51 a.m. on January 21, the moon frees itself from the last vestiges of umbra and the show is over.

 During the height of a lunar eclipse, if you can see the darkened moon or at least remember where it was with respect to the stars when it disappeared, you can use it to find astronomical objects that otherwise would have been washed out by moonlight. This time, you may find the dim but lovely Beehive star cluster. Look to the lower left of the moon, about 12 moon widths away.

 The Beehive is a feature of Cancer, the crab. It’s between Gemini, one of the winter constellations, and Leo, the quintessential spring constellation. To the naked eye it’s just a fuzzy spot, but with binoculars, you can make out the stars. In 1609 Galileo was the first to observe the Beehive telescopically. He counted 36 stars, but there are actually more like a thousand. The Beehive’s Latin name is Praesepe, or manger. The cluster is framed by two stars called Aselli, which are donkeys feeding at the manger. The Beehive’s stars were all born in the same stellar nursery and have stayed together for the approximately 600 million years of their lifetime.

Rolf Skrien - photo by ChikWauk

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 18, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      January 18, 2019    
As the old-time western hero, Gene Autry, once sang, “I’m back in the saddle again.” Though it’s a feeble analogy, I’m really back at the keyboard again.                                                                    
Another trip to Iowa completes the Christmas season with our daughter, along with a visit to some longtime Hawkeye friends, and the Smiths’ have returned to this pure white paradise. Our wintertime traveling was uneventful, and one doesn’t have to go too far south before a little yucky urban snow and mostly browns of autumn extends as far as the eye can see.                                                                                                                                                              
Guess we are pretty lucky to have what we have here in border country. Mistakes of “Mother Nature” and the “excesses of mankind” can leave the landscape pretty ugly when its’ not covered with snow or hidden by foliage.                                                                                                                                                      
It’s for sure the word is out amongst power sledding fans regarding the areas’ snow cover. During our drive north up highway 61 last Sunday, if I met one, I may have met ten thousand snowmobile units being toted back toward Metropolis.                                                              

The woods must have been howling with sledding traffic last weekend. Suppose there will be more activity around here until other areas of the state get some attention from “old man winter.” In the meantime, one has to be happy for area businesses catering to our snowmobiling visitors as conditions have been a bit late taking shape.                                                                                                                                                                                
In contrast to those speeding along the Trails, our great snow cover is also accommodating those who prefer the peace and quiet of swooshing through the woods. The now deep snowpack has allowed groomers to have the ski trail system in what looks to be terrific condition.                                                                                                                                                       

Perhaps not too happy with all the borderland white were the anglers who hit the ice for the trout opener last weekend. After early ice on, and near perfect ice thickening situations, big snows of late have cast a deep cover of insulation and weight on lake surfaces. Such has hidden annoying slush and water above a foot and more of ice.                                                                                 
Anglers’ angst, in addition to spotty catching, was exacerbated by having to dig equipment and sleds out of the gooey slop. Of all equipment needed for the fishing excursion, high boots appear to have been the most important!                                                                                                                                                       
Not much snow was added in the upper Gunflint territory during my absence (maybe an inch or two in the Wildersmith neighborhood).  In spite of recent accumulations being on the lean side, depths along the Trail range from knee to waist depending upon where one steps. In fact, the buildup on my roof is getting me to think of pulling it off in case another big dose comes our way, thus making the job more difficult than it is presently.                                                                                        
At this scribing, temps are relatively warm for these parts. We’ve yet to be on the receiving end of one of those bitter cold, below zero January streaks. It would seem if the area gets by the next two weeks and into February, we may be home free from a bone-chilling “Polar Vortex” for the season. To miss one of these breath freezing happenings likely wouldn’t make too many folks unhappy, although bragging rights for who was the coldest will be left hanging!       
With the Ojibwe, “Great Spirit” moon of January lighting up the northern skies in the wee hours of Monday AM, it’s hard to imagine month two is in the conversation already. Although winter is barely a month old according to the calendar, we head into week four with seed catalogs in the mail, packets of garden renewals on display racks and “green thumbers”visioning seed pods and grow lights.                                                                                                           T

The cold of winter can often bring sadness, and such is the case in the Gunflint Community once again. Some reader/ listeners may already be aware of the passing of perhaps the last Gunflint pioneer icon.  It’s with remorse I report the loss of Rolf Skrien at age 97.   Rolf departed from our midst on January 2nd.                                                                                                                              
He first came to the Gunflint Trail in 1929 on a camping trip with his father, and so fell in love with the territory, he returned in 1946 after serving his country in World War Two. He called the end of the Trail home for most of his life until settling in Apache Junction, Arizona during his later years.                                                                                                                                                                                         

A celebration of Rolf’s life will be held this Sunday, January 20, visitation at 1:00 pm, service at 2:00 in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. The Gunflint Trail Community offers condolences to his surviving family and many friends. More of Rolf’s story can be found in his obit on                                                                                                                                                                     

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of cold, warm or season of the year!


Photo by João Neves via Flickr

North Woods Naturalist: Snow and snow fog

The North Shore has received significant snowfall over the past few weeks.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff checks in with naturalist Chel Anderson to learn how this snow affects our wildlife. Chel also explains the rare wonder of snow fog in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.



Magnetic North - January 10, 2019

Magnetic North  -  by Vicki Biggs-Anderson 
January 10, 2019

"Too Much of a Goat Thing"

Welcome back to Magnetic North, where all creatures, great and small, have been dutifully preparing for deep winter snow and below zero cold for months. Oh, not by stocking up on flashlights, or making sure there’s a shovel by every door, but by physically preparing to meet and beat the elements  - I speak not of exercise, but of the age-old custom of carb loading, handed down to us from our elders, who looked upon being slender as a sign of either poverty or illness.

Thank goodness times have changed. From hot dishes to pasties, to pasta and breads in all shapes and sizes and textures, we consume what we must to survive the elements.

And for those of us who tend critters, thought must also be given to their diet, along with deeper hay to sleep in and heated water buckets for all. 

As luck would have it, carb loading for critters doesn’t mean that I have to prepare hot dishes or bake focaccia for them daily. No, it just means adding something called “scratch” to the chicken, duck and goose feeders. And....until this winter, offering a handful of the stuff to each of my five goats as they push and shove each other around their daily ration of hay.

Scratch, for those of you who are not conversant in farm-speak, is a toothsome combination of cracked, rolled, or whole grains such as corn, barley, oats. Sounds rather dull to us, I know, but to a chicken or goat, scratch is akin to what we humans call “crack.” One beak full of the stuff and you have created a glassy-eyed addict. As for the goats, more than once I’ve been caught in a  goat vortex while doling scratch from a bucket. 

So, why not just pour it into a feeder? Simple, unlike birds, for goats, too grain doesn’t make them fat. It makes them dead.
Sadly, grain is inherently foreign to a goats’ fiber loving digestive system, which consists of four stomachs, the first of which is the rumen. Hence, goats, sheep and cows are......ruminants! 

As anyone with tummy trouble can imagine, having four stomachs puts goats at major risk of eating the wrong thing, like grain. They can have a bit of it to add calories to their fibrous hay diets in winter, but  too much and they develop a fatal condition called bloat. Sadly, my milk goat, Hart, died of it some years back, after she sneaked into the garage and nosed open the feed can filled to the brim with scratch. 

Nevertheless, this year, I decided that instead of handfuls of scratch each day, the goats would get Goat Chow, an all purpose grain and fiber in pellet form. My motive; to avoid dealing with 60 bales of hay in the garage.

And so it was. I set out three big feeding tubs on the other side of the backyard yard fence and poured enough goat chow int each to feed five goats. And doing so,  nearly killed my big boy goat, Bosco.

You see, Bosco is Boss, King, Almighty Goat God to his four does. And, as such, he eats first. That meant that he gobbled most of the grain in all three feeders, the equivalent of four coffee cans full of food. I knew his piggish streak, but for whatever reason, I didn’t’ monitor the new feeding system thinking that  I’d placed the tubs far enough apart to allow the does to feed uninterrupted by Bosco. I couldn’t have been more wrong...

The next morning, when I looked out on the meadow I saw something amiss immediately. Four goats, not five, were nibbling on the dried grasses sticking up through the snow. Bunny, Bitsy, Biscuit, and Poppy, but no Bosco.

After calling and calling him, I hoofed it out to the barn only to find the big link sitting down. The old adage, “when a goat goes down, they stay down,” went through my mind as I petted his head and put my head next to his belly.  The usual gurgling of a healthy rumen was barely perceptible. Bloat.

So I did what 28  years of having to vet goats myself have taught me to do. I grabbed a Sven saw and headed for the willow swamp off the driveway, where I sawed down a smallish tree -and hauled it out to Bosco. The other goats followed behind me into the barn, and I expected to have to beat them off the tree en route, but not one of them tried to steal the medicine tree away from their guy. 

When Bosco took that first sweet twig into his mouth and began to eat it, I held out the slimmest of hope that he would pull through.

And pull through he did. As if to allay my worst fears, Bosco was standing at the fence at sunrise the next morning, a bit early for him to be up but I figure he was after more of that grain. Fortunately, I was able to get a special delivery of sweet, green hay that afternoon and Bosco and his girls have had their fill of it each day ever since. There is no way a goat can OD on hay.

The other critters are tucked in for winter properly, with some comfort additions to the coop and the shed attached to the garage. The bantam chickens have a heated water bowl this winter and an anteroom all to themselves - no ducks to muddy the water. The ducks and geese have a ten-gallon heated water bucket, too massive for even Thema and Louise, the big Buffs Geese to knock over. These two heated additions may drive up my electric bill, but doing a cost/benefit analysis, so crucial for women of a certain age like myself, I decided that avoiding lower back strain from carrying frozen water buckets is worth every penny spent.

At least, it WAS until my big lab/golden mix tore his left back ACLl AND tested positive for Lymes. Apparently, ticks live and bite all year long now. So one visit to the vet and two to go, plus meds to clear up the Lymes, is making me reassess the cost of heated water buckets. My core could definitely use some work and as for those upper arms, well, three months of bucket workouts should whittle down those flab flaps just a bit.

My world is complicated by such ups and downs because I chose to share the place I love most of all with so many domestic critters, who, like us, get sick or gimped up on occasion.

But for my trouble, I get fresh eggs, cashmere fleece from the goats, angora fiber from the rabbits and love approaching worship from the two dogs and two cats. From my perspective, that’s one heck of a deal and far more interesting and joy-filled life than I ever dreamed would one day be mine.

For WTIP, this is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North.


Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

North Woods Naturalist: Eagles kettling

Despite the cold, some eagles do stay along the North Shore during the winter months.  WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks with Chel Anderson about what those eagles are up this time of year in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.



Northern Sky: January 5-18, 2019

Deane Morrison's "Northern Sky"  -  January 5 - 18, 2019

Early and mid-January are great times for star watching because skies are dark, and the winter constellations are bright. It may get a little nippy, but you don’t have to be outside very early, very late, or very long to see the main features.
The morning sky is especially good right now because the sun is rising about as late as it ever does. In the southeast, Venus and Jupiter are drawing closer every day, getting ready to pass each other on the 22nd. Venus is the brighter and, for now, the higher of the two. And to complete the predawn picture, the bright red star Antares, the heart of Scorpius, is just to the west of Jupiter.
In the evening, the winter constellations are up in the southeast after nightfall. They’re grouped pretty close together, so if you’re not familiar with them, you really should have a star chart to sort them out. But the most recognizable constellation, Orion, is easy to find because of the three stars that form his belt. 
Hanging from Orion’s belt is a line of stars that represent his sword. About halfway down the sword, binoculars will give you a glimpse of the sprawling and colorful Orion Nebula. The Orion Nebula is an immense cloud of gas and dust where new stars are forming. It’s about 1300 light-years away, and an estimated 24 light-years wide. Orion is also home to the famous Horsehead Nebula, which you need a telescope to see. But you can find lots of images of the Horsehead Nebula, and the Orion Nebula, online.
Orion’s left foot is Rigel, a blue-white star. Rigel and Betelgeuse, the red star at Orion’s right shoulder, are the brightest stars in Orion and among the top 10 in the whole sky. Rigel is a multiple star system, and overall, it’s estimated to be 40,000 times brighter than the sun. Betelgeuse is a gigantic star, estimated at 1,000 times the width of the sun. It’s less than 10 million years old—a mere child—but it’s aged rapidly and is now close to the end of its life. It’s expected to die in a spectacular supernova explosion. That may not happen for a million years, or it could blow up tomorrow.
In astronomy news, on New Year’s Day NASA announced that its New Horizons spacecraft, which gained fame by sending back stunning images from Pluto, has just completed what its principal investigator calls “the farthest exploration in the history of humankind.” It performed a flyby of an object in the Kuiper Belt, a doughnut-shaped ring of icy worlds beyond the orbit of Neptune. The object is called Ultima Thule, and it’s 4 billion miles away. The first pictures have just been released, and Ultima Thule looks, in the words of mission scientists, like a reddish snowman, something they’re now sure is the result of two spherical bodies that came together and stuck. Mission headquarters at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory says, “the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender bender.”
Ultima Thule is 19 miles long, and its two spheres are 12 and 9 miles wide. Scientists hope this object will clear up some mysteries about how our solar system formed. They want to know, for example, how small objects came together to form larger ones, and how they’ve been bombarded by meteor-like objects, although no impact craters are obvious on Ultima Thule.
Mark your calendars for Sunday, January 20th, when we’ll have a total eclipse of the moon. The show starts at 9:34 p.m., and I’ll have more on that in the next broadcast. 

Deane is a science writer at the University of Minnesota.
She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column which can be found on the University of Minnesota website at



Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 4, 2019

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith       January 4, 2019    
The planet has made the turn into another year, and we at Wildersmith wish everyone a happier and less turbulent year than the one just past.                                                                                                           
This being said, the Smiths’ are back in the woods after a quick jaunt to Iowa for a Merry Christmas with our son and his family. The stay was short as weather forecasts’ for this part of the world shortened our time together. Nevertheless, it’s always a sweet time with those grandsons regardless of their no longer being little guys.                                                                                                                         
Staying just ahead of the pending storm, we hit the Mile O Pine only hours before the first flakes. In spite of the countless times we’ve returned to this border country Riviera from our southerly journeys, the phenom of this special place invariably radiates a fresh and untamed sensory response.                                                                                                                                                      
This unexplainable experience is real and so immensely enchanting, especially in the deep of winter. When reaching the top of the hill above Grand Marais, one is easily overcome with the serene majesty of a snow-covered world, knowing this is one of the few places on earth where mankind has minimized the plunder of creation into seemingly irreparable misery.                                          
With winter in a passive state for the better part of month twelve, many of us with a passion for the white and brittle cold of the forest has been in a mild state of despair. Not to be kept down too long though, finally the “great spirit of the north” regained a grip with a whiz-bang close to 2018.                                                                                                                                                              
The Gunflint Trail was not spared this time as the forecasters’ hit the mark. I’m not hearing of snow totals from the mid-Trail snow zones, but this neighborhood and along the south shore of the Gunflint recorded up to twelve inches.                                                                      
Everybody that deals in winter business opportunities have to be smiling, especially, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snow removers. Our world is blanketed with the solitude of white, and yours truly enjoyed every moment of the four-plus hours it took to heap the stuff around Wildersmith out of the way.                                                                                                                                                     
Taking this first ten days of the actual winter season a step further, the day of clearing roads and driveways saw temps dip to more seasonable expectations. The mercury slipped by the hour and by next morning, temperatures fell into the twenties to near thirty below the nothing mark. Thankfully, winds in this neighborhood were not too unbearable. Since last weekend, and except for New Years’ eve and daytime, things have yo-yo’d up to less bitter readings.                                                                                                                                                           

Organizers of the Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog races have breathed a sigh of relief with the cool snowy additions. Thinking there might not be enough snow-base on the race course, it was feared the races might have to be canceled. The issue is mute now as they are set to get underway as scheduled, Saturday morning.                                                                                                            

As always, the excitement of barking dogs, colorful handlers and steam-breathing mushers will take-over the mid-Trail area around Trail Center Restaurant & Lodge from late Friday night through late morning Sunday. Races will start at 8:00 am featuring an eight dog, 65-mile race and a twelve dog, 100-mile event.                                                                                                                              

Winners and awards will be presented around 10:00 am Sunday at the Trail Center race headquarters, all are welcome. The best spectator viewing locations will be at the Trail Center start line, Big Bear Lodge, Rockwood Lodge and Blankenberg Pit where the 100-mile race loops back down the Trails toward the mandatory layover.                                                                                                                                 

All residents and visitors are urged to get out and give a cheer to these athletes in action!                                                                                                                                                                                  

For WTIP, this Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, all decked out in the crystal of the season!


The Liberty in the Grand Marais Harbor, with lighthouse in the background

Shipwrecks in the Grand Marais Harbor?

Lake Superior is well known as a graveyard for many shipwrecks, but some people might be surprised to learn that at least two ships have the Grand Marais Harbor as their final resting place. Producer Martha Marnocha finds out more from diver and local shipwreck historian, Stephen Daniel.

This feature was produced by the Cook County Historical Society in collaboration with WTIP and the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.
(Photo of the schooner Elgin courtesy of Great Lakes Marine Collection, Milwaukee Public Library/Wisconsin Marine Historical Society; photo of the steamer Liberty courtesy of the C. Patrick Labadie Collection, Superior, Wisconsin)



Superior National Forest Update - December 14, 2018

Superior National Forest Update - December 14, 2018

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update.

At the moment, we’ve had a week of temperatures around the freezing mark and some lovely freezing drizzle and clouds.  That kind of weather has really cut into our snow cover and changed our thinking from checking that we have gas for the snowblower to crossing our fingers that there will be a white Christmas.  This is northern Minnesota, where we brag to our friends that we survive and enjoy being outdoors when it is twenty below – we shouldn’t have to be worrying about whether there should be snow for Christmas.  We should be worrying about whether we can shovel the driveway out in order to get to work – so we should all be thinking snow!

With snow cover dwindling, we need to remind snowmobilers that there need to be at least 4 inches of snow on the ground for cross country travel.  It also can be difficult to tell which roads are plowed and which are not.  As a general rule, snowmobiles are not allowed on plowed roads but are welcome to use roads which are not plowed in the winter.  Be careful because the low snow cover may result in cars and trucks using what is normally an unplowed road.  If you are driving a car or truck, beware.  What appears to be a clear road at the beginning may be full of snow at the other end – you may be better off sticking to the plowed roads.  Low snow cover is tempting people to extend the ATV season.  If you are going out on an ATV, be sure to have one of our motor vehicle use maps, available online and free at our offices.  The map will tell you where it is legal to operate your ATV, including seasonal designations for some routes.  The map is also available as a georeferenced PDF file you can use with the Avenza app on your phone.  You don’t need to be online once you’ve downloaded the map, and the app will give you your exact location on the map as you travel.  Or when you’ve stopped – don’t stare at your phone while driving!

Our ATV trail partners have helped make some routes clearer by putting up small reddish brown signs on designated ATV routes.  Unfortunately, some of these signs were removed by vandals, a senseless act which only adds to the confusion over vehicle use.  Remember when you are planning your trip that these and other signs on the ground are only guidance – the motor vehicle use map is the final word on what use is allowed where.

Watch for logging trucks on the Dumbbell River Road, the Wanless Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, Ball Club Road, North Devil Track Road, Carlton Pit Road, and the Schroeder-Tote Road.  On the Gunflint District, log trucks will be hauling on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Otter Trail, and the Caribou Trail.  The Schroeder-Tote, Firebox, South Brule, and Lima Grade roads are all shared with snowmobile trails, so be cautious in those areas.  Watch for posted signs showing when the dual designation stops and snowmobiles aren’t allowed further. 

As we hopefully get more snow, winter recreation will become more fun.  If you are looking for conditions of ski trails or snowmobile trails, our website provides links to our trail partners who groom the trails or, in the case of snowmobiles, the Minnesota DNR website which keeps a table of trail conditions. 

We’re getting to the last minute for holiday greenery!  If you still don’t have a tree, you can purchase a permit at one of our offices to harvest your own.  Make sure you follow the rules on where and what you can harvest.  If you have a fourth grader in the family, they can join the Every Kid In A Park program and qualify for a free tree permit.  That program will also give you free admittance to national parks and forests across the country.  One of our neighbors with a fourth grader completed a family tour of all the famous western national parks this summer.  The fourth grader was proud that she was able to get her family into all those parks for free or reduced admission.

The Superior National Forest wants to wish all of you a happy holiday season, and here’s hoping for more of that white stuff! 

Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with this week’s National Forest Update.


Pine Marten

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - December 14, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith    December 14, 2018    
Since our last WTIP gathering, Gunflint country has experience days of calm and peace. These Halcyon segments have found this territory in partial winter mode, absent one half of our winter character.                                                                                                                                                           
The upper Trail endured a good dose of cold for several days, but we’ve been devoid of snow. Don’t take me wrong, we have snow however barely a few flurries have been added.                   
To expand upon the cold feature of our atmospheric goings-on, some nights of well below zero in this neighborhood prompted real ice making on the Gunflint. After a sputtering try at freezing a week ago, she got right after it on the night/morning of December 6 & 7.                       
There was no messing around this time. By morning on the 7th, I could see from the house water was still by the shore, but had no idea hard water would consume the entire surface in just a few hours.                                                                                                                                                                                 

This “ice on” date is somewhat early as the average over the time we’ve lived here is nearer mid-month. My records go as far back as 1982 and the earliest freeze of Gunflint Lake since then was on November 26, 1996. So 2018 is some two weeks off any contemporary record.                                                                                                                                                                                          

By the way, a Gunflint Lake cousin, Seagull Lake froze on November 20th according to folks along those shores. It is funny how conditions and locale can vary so much in just ten or twelve miles.                                                                                                                                                                                      

The next night was about equally as cold around here, and the “old gal” uttered her first commentary of the season. It was a screech like always, but one has no way of knowing whether her outcry was in delight of a new coat or pain from an ill fit. Whatever the case, we can now start building depth for those ice anglers come January.                                                                                 

A day in the winter woods seems never to be without an animal adventure of some sort. A few days ago the Smith’s spotted one of our many “Pineys” (martens that is) bounding over the snow toward our place. We watched it making its way up on to our deck, and heading for the snack shack.                                                                                                                                                                      

As it was about to stick its head in the little box for a treasure, something up in the trees was spotted, spooking the furry critter. Checking skyward carefully for a few moments, one could see the martens’ “wheels a turning” when a decision was made to grab a bite and make a run for it. While grabbing the poultry part, another alarm from above startled the furry one. This caused a Nano-second memory lapse where it let go of its treat.                                                                                                                                                                                       

The first of two oddities popped right before our eyes. The morsel of fowl dropped barely centimeters from the jaws, and quick as lightning, the critter caught it, mid-air, mind you. Oh, it was so nimble and quick.                                                                                                                                                                              

In awe, wonder number two captured us. In a flash, Mr. Marten shot across the deck, took a leap to a nearby tree and literally flew down to the ground at what looked to be supersonic speed. On the ground, it screamed over the crusty snow into a brushy thicket and out of view.                                                                                                                                                                                         

This riveting scene then took on another twist. During this ground level sprint, we observed a flight of blue jays zooming not far above the martens’ pathway to cover, and they too were soon lost from view.                                                                                                                                                 
One can only surmise these jaybirds were the one’s kindling the marten’s first treetop alert. After all, how did it know this was not a hungry eagle or a craving owl overhead.                                                      

Thereon, thinking about all this commotion, I assumed the blues’ were following “Piney” in case this ration of fast food was dropped, whereby they might get a crack at it. They are pretty cagey about laying claim to possessions of others, the big bullies.                                                                                   

With exception of disappearing into the woods, this chapter of our natural world novel knows no end. The beat goes on, predator/prey, survival of the fittest, fastest and craftiest!                                                                          

For WTIP, this Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with a shout out for let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!