Listen Now
Pledge Now


North Shore Morning

  • Monday 8-10am
  • Tuesday 8-10am
  • Wednesday 8-10am
  • Thursday 8-10am
  • Friday 8-10am
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:
Winter View Photo by Des SikowskiNelson_SM.jpg

Trail Time - Life on the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time
Feb.11, 2022​
By Marcia Roepke

February on the Gunflint Trail started out above zero, then plummeted down to the twenties below. It climbed up well above zero just in time for the Beargrease Sled Dog Race. The warmer weather certainly affected the trail conditions for the race last week. Warm temperature and snow “like mashed potatoes” caused 11 out of 23 mushers to scratch. It might sound counterintuitive, but it is better for the sled dogs when it is colder outside – they are less likely to overheat and the colder snow lets the sled runners glide more easily. Still, it was so much fun to watch the race. Lars was in the thick of it and got some great photographs of mushers and dogs from the Lima Grade to Grand Portage. As usual, there were crossings along the Gunflint Trail that are guarded by volunteers, where there are bonfires and company and lots of cheering for the teams. Just like for the Gunflint Mail Run race, I walked out after dark to witness the night running of a few teams. I treasure that silent time waiting for the musher’s headlamp to flicker over the trees until first the dog team, then the dogsled glide into view and then slide on by, quietly disappearing around a curve into darkness. The next sled dog race will be during the Dog Days of Winter event held at Trail Center March 13.
I recently heard some local news from friends up and down the Trail (news being a broad term that covers otter tracks, wolf scat and who’s zooming who at the birdfeeder). Tucker Lake Annie said she has been enjoying a flock of tree sparrows that showed up as January turned to February. She also has been interested in how seemingly small variations in temperature and humidity can make the snow behave in different ways – this was made apparent by the difficulties the Beargrease mushers had with the course this year, and by slush packing onto her skis as Annie skied down Tucker Lake. As she said, “it seems so impossible that it can be 20 below and I’m wrangling ice-up on my skis!” She shared a link to the Tuscarora Lodge web site. It’s a good source to check for information on ice conditions:

René from Seagull reports that their bird feeders have many Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks and Hairy Woodpeckers.  And there’s always a battle with the naughty Red Squirrel. The birds land and feed, Mr. Squirrel shoos them away; they fly to the trees, he goes away; they return and the pattern repeats.

Gunflint Kate saw the Needham otter crossing her road just before Gem, the otter chaser, trotted by. She wondered what the otter was doing so far from water when there is an open creek a short distance away.  No answers but this when she looked up her question: ‘River otters can travel long distances away from water.’  She said she can’t imagine otters hunting mice in the subnivean but maybe they do.
If you are wondering what “subnivean” means, you are not alone. That was a new word for me, too (thanks Kate!). She kindly sent me a web link where I read an essay about the subnivean zone, which refers to that area between the ground and the bottom of the snowpack. That’s where small animals live out their winter lives in relative comfort at a steady temperature of about 32 degrees, as long as there is about 8” of snow cover. The snow hardens at the bottom of the snowpack as it sublimates; that is, the snow goes from a solid to a gas without melting. Moist vapor rises from the earth and cools, hardening into densely packed ice crystals. That creates a fairly stable ceiling until spring weather comes and the whole thing collapses. Owls, coyotes and foxes also collapse the snow by landing on it as they hunt by hearing and by scent for the small mammals wintering in the subnivean. The snow above acts as insulation, protecting the mice and voles that live in that zone from sub-freezing temperatures. Insulation is one of three strategies to surviving winter, the other two being migration or hibernation. It’s migrate, hibernate or insulate for us northern creatures. This particular creature mostly utilizes the latter two strategies, with a brief migration at the end of winter to hit the reset button. To be honest, my hibernation state more closely resembles the torpor of frogs, turtles and toads that lie buried in mud all winter. My stay in the torpid state is shorter than theirs, though sometimes it can last an entire afternoon.
Every day I notice evidence of the changing light of late winter that reminds me that the world is still turning and tilting on its axis. Longer daylight hours and the changing angle of the sun make me think about Spring, and I start wondering about what kind of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, leeks and onions we will grow this year. But today it is gray and windy outside. A light snow has been falling for hours and hours. The wind is whipping the small flakes around, creating big drifts like dunes right next to areas that have little snow accumulation. We really enjoyed those days of sun and warmer temperatures last week, but today Winter is saying, “I am not done yet.” And so we are humbled. I know that the day is not far off when male chickadees will start singing their two-note spring song. I bet you know the song I’m talking about: the first note high, the second note lower. Sometimes this is referred to the “fe-bee” song, but to my ears it sounds more like “sweet-heart.” A little south of us, that day has come. Sweet Kelly heard the chickadees singing their spring song yesterday in Duluth.
Want to learn more about the subnivean zone?:




After School Theater Design & Technology classes at the GM Playhouse

Grand Marais Playhouse Director, Sue Hennessey talks with North Shore Morning host CJ Heithoff about the upcoming After School Theater Design and Technology classes starting February 15th at the ACA.


GDNS Board n Sign.jpg

Go Dog North Shore update

Go Dog North Shore board member and founder, Cathy Quinn talks with WTIP's CJ Heithoff about the status of the new Grand Marais Dog Park and the upcoming "Dog Days of Winter" event...


Scott Oeth - Photo via Facebook

Money Matters - Scott Oeth discusses the recent market volatility

In this edition of the monthly "Money Matters" feature, Scott Oeth talks about the recent stock market volatility, possible causes and his take on what it means for investors.


Ice Takes Over by Bryan Hansel

North Woods Naturalist: Ice colors

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.

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


Winter_photo by Marcia Roepke.jpg

Trail Time - Life on the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time
January 28, 2022
By Marcia Roepke 
It has been very cold lately with wind chills of -40 and below up here on the Gunflint Trail. We had a sweet run of sunny days during the most recent cold spell, though, and when I’m on a south-sloping path and sheltered from the north wind, I enjoy our winter world on foot and snowshoe. We mostly keep our walks short and our wood stove going this time of year, especially after dark. And the life of the forest goes on even in the coldest and darkest winter nights. We can see the evidence of longer daylight hours now that the winter solstice has passed. More sun in the mornings and later sunsets keep us attuned to the promise of spring.
  The bears are still in their winter hibernation. Now is the time of year when the bear cubs are born, while mother bear slumbers. I was sure one winter that I knew where a bear was denning. There was a big hole on the side of a hill that I had seen in the summer. That next winter, every time I visited, there was a small opening in the snow above that hole in the ground. It stayed open for months, though the snow drifted all around it. When I returned in the spring I inspected the area but I couldn’t see anything that, to my amateur’s eye, would indicate a bear had been hibernating there. Neither did I smell anything in particular, and that is one thing I’ve heard from people who know: a bear smells like a dog that needs a bath really bad. I’ve seen lots of bears, but I’ve never smelled one. 
Bears are not the only northern creatures who have babies in winter. Some owls nest in January and late winter. The largest owl common to Minnesota, the Great Horned Owl, will begin nesting this month. The female develops a brood patch on her chest — an area free of feathers that helps transfer her body heat to the incubating eggs. She stays on the nest while the male hunts and brings her food. I imagine her sitting there, brooding, fluffing up her feathers to stay warm, eating small rodents whole and quietly regurgitating the hair and bones as owl pellets.
The owl I’ve seen most often is the Barred Owl. They lack the big ear tufts of the Great Horned Owl, and they have an amazing variety of vocalizations. It’s the Barred Owl that asks continually, “Who cooks for you?” Or, more often, “Who cooks for you all?” In a couple weeks I hope to hear the spring courtship calls of the Barred Owls. Their nesting time is usually late in February or March. Neither of these big owl species build their own nests, but rather they move into old squirrel or raven nests, a hollow tree or sometimes even on the ground at an abandoned den. 
One spring night, while Lars and I were sitting around a campfire, an owl flew silently right over our heads and floated over the cabin roof. In a second it returned and, as silently as before, roosted in a tree right above Lars. I froze, and stared up at the tree, my eyes riveted on the bird. Lars sat as still as I was and mouthed the words “What the H--- is that?” And then the owl stared straight at me, stretched out its wings to either side, bowed toward me and hissed! It then kinda fell out of the tree and flew away. I was so flummoxed, I couldn’t say what kind of owl it was, except that it was big. A few times I’ve seen owls launch from trees and it always looks like they fall a bit before they fly, a little like Buzz Lightyear. One day I saw crows mobbing and screaming at something in a tree and then it looked like a paper bag fell out of the tree, grew wings, and transformed into an owl as the crows chased it away. They just kind of … drop. 
One of the best parts of this cold winter weather is the clear skies — especially at night. A few years ago, the Boundary Waters earned a title as one of 15 Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world. On the Gunflint Trail, we get one of the best views anywhere of the night sky. Grand Marais has hosted a Dark Sky Festival for the last three years. Next one is the second weekend in December for 2022, so add that to your calendars for next winter.
A few nights ago I walked with the dog out beyond the glow of our domestic lights and the night sky was clear and glorious. There was Orion, like an old friend doing a drive-by hello, wheeling through the heavens as the night passed. Then there was Ursa Major and Minor – the Big and Little Dippers. As for identifying any other stars, I need help. So every winter I download a night sky app on my cell phone and then promise myself that this is the year I’m going to memorize more constellations. Those star apps are pretty neat. You point your phone up to the sky and they'll give you all the details you’d need to become a star expert. And I pretend, briefly, that I am an expert while the app is on. Alas, I just can’t seem to retain that kind of information in my brain. But I don’t need to name a star to recognize its beauty or to stare in wonder in the cold winter night, absolutely in awe of this unique view of our beautiful universe. On these clear starry nights the sky seems less like outer space — an emptiness — and more like a vast fullness, so filled with the stars and the Milky Way and the satellites steady in their orbits. And occasionally, the spectacular aurora borealis, our northern lights. 
This is Marcia Roepke on the Gunflint Trail



MnDOT's Name a Snowplow Contest

Only a few days remain to join the fun of naming 8 more of MnDOT's snowplows - one for each district in the state. After receiving over 11,000 submissions, they have narrowed the list down to 50 finalists. You have until midnight on Wednesday, January 26 to vote for your favorite.

Last year's winners were: Plowy McPlowFace (Metro District), Ope, Just Gonna Plow Right Past Ya (District 4), Duck Duck Orange Truck (District 1), Plow Bunyan (Dist. 2), Snowbi Wan Kenobi (Dist.6), F. Salt Fitzgerald (Dist. 7), Darth Blader  (Dist.3), and The Truck Formerly Know As Plow (Dist. 8).

You can vote for up to eight of your favorite names here:

MnDOT's Communications and Public Relations Engagement Director, Jacob Loesch spoke with North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson about the Name a Snow Plow contest in this interview.


Book_Photo by Daniel Wehner via Flickr.jpg

Talking Books - Gwen Danfelt

Each month, WTIP checks in with Gwen Danfelt, manager of Drury Lane Books to see what she's reading, and what's hot in the literary world. North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson and Gwen are "Talking Books" in this interview.



NOAA recruiting snow reporters

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is hoping to recruit members of the community to become snowfall reporters.
Steve Gohde is a hydrologist and NOAA’s Observing Program Team Leader. He coordinates the volunteer network called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) in NE Minnesota.

North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson spoke with Steve about the ways volunteers can report local precipitation to NOAA and the National Weather Service. 

To learn more, join CoCoRaHS, or make your reports:



Winter on the Temperance by Travis Novitsky

North Woods Naturalist: Wintering

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.

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