Watch Spike the Lake Superior Zoo porcupine dance

Spike is an orphaned, hand-reared porcupine who, due to his close relationship to humans, was deemed unreleasable. Lake Superior Zoo gave him a forever home. Jessica Shold, Spike’s keeper at the zoo, says he has exhibited this “dancing” behavior his entire life — the result of being raised by humans instead of porcupines.

“We have a daily enrichment and natural feeding program in place as well as positive reinforcement training to ensure he has the best possible welfare and is content for his entire life,” Shold says.

Music: ZZ Top vs. Pink.

Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Preparations

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayAt some point in the 1990s, I started hearing about the Superior Hiking Trail, a new footpath designed for hikers to see the sexiest peaks and rivers in the wilderness along the North Shore of Lake Superior. It didn’t come up very often in conversation until the year 2000, which is when it began to annoy me that I had never hiked a speck of it — other than maybe wandering away from the waterfalls at Gooseberry and noticing markings that told me I was on the not-yet famous trail I’d been hearing about.

It was April 2000 when an upstart Duluth newspaper called the Ripsaw began publishing weekly and I stepped up to be its managing editor. The paper had a weekly “Adventure” article and I suddenly found myself around people who had taken on parts of the SHT and heard stories about a handful of souls who had through-hiked the whole thing, which at the time meant trekking from Two Harbors to the Canadian border.

There was a rumor going around that Dusty Olson ran the whole trail in two days, which I found almost but not quite believable. The notion that such a feat could be close to true at least led me to think I could do it in fewer than two weeks. Then I heard the first documented person to conquer the trail had a fused spine and partially paralyzed legs, and hiked with forearm crutches. That made it hard for me to make any excuse that I wasn’t physically up to the task.

Selective Focus: Hemlocks Leatherworks


This week, a little bit of fashion in Selective Focus. We hear from Candace Lacosse who operates Hemlocks Leatherworks.

C.L.: I am primarily a shoemaker (which is a cordwainer, not a cobbler), but I love designing and making just about anything out of leather and waxed canvas: bags, purses, wallets, leather-bound journals, really just about anything.

Minnesota North Shore Fall Colors Report 2016

2016 MN Fall Colors Report

Chlorophyll production in tree leaves is slowing down and the fall colors are almost upon us. Here is the Department of Natural Resources’ fall color activity map, showing the progression across Minnesota.

Duluth’s Apollo Connection

bob-gilruthAs a teenager in Duluth, Robert Rowe Gilruth built model airplanes. Three decades later he would be a key player in NASA’s plans to put a man on the moon.

An article in the February issue of Air & Space magazine details how “without Bob Gilruth, there would not have been a Mercury, a Gemini, or an Apollo program.”

Bob Gilruth, the Quiet Force Behind Apollo

Diving the Condos, Early September

Duluth has a stretch of Lakewalk with condos plopped down on it. I am used to diving farther up the shore a ways, but took the day to dive in front of the condos to see what was down there. This was early September, a weekend morning, the last truly great dive day of the summer: warm air, warm water, excellent visibility, and blue skies. I spent several hours in the water in a state of bliss. For a while there was the gentlest of currents and I just let it sweep me up the shore. As soon as I got out the weather turned — I had caught the last of these perfect conditions. This is my favorite form of recreation in this northernmost beach town. Here is what I saw. I wasn’t setting any depth records, average depth 10 feet or so but so fulfilling. Thanks for watching.

Job opening: Save the PDD Calendar editor from going batty

pddAre you ready to make slightly above minimum wage with no benefits while working in your pajamas at home? Then Perfect Duluth Day needs you. Running the PDD Calendar is sucking the life out of the editor and his previous assistant has too much collegiate stuff to deal with at the moment. So here’s a rare opportunity to get inside the PDD media empire. Read the full job description on the PDD employment page.

Wolvin Building in Duluth, Minn.


The Wolvin Building was constructed as the general offices of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company in 1902. It is shown here as a six-story building, but in 1909 an additional three stories were added. It still stands today as a nine-story building at 227 W. First St., known since the 1970s as the Missabe Building.

Video Archive: Nesbitt Island on Pokegama Lake, 1978

Jay Freborg’s YouTube description:

In the mid-1970s the drinking age was 18 and friends built elaborate houseboats from whatever material they could find. Going out to “The Island” is what the typical high schooler tried to to do every weekend in the summer. It wasn’t uncommon to have 300-500 people under the age of 21 along the shores of Nesbitt. Over the years, Nesbitt Island’s sandbars and beaches have eroded but the memories have not. Thanks to Bernie Orhn for his forsight to shoot this 8MM film that I edited and put to music.

Fairyland Park near Marble, Minnesota


This undated postcard depicts “Alice in Wonderland,” one of more than 30 scenes from favorite fairytales at Fairyland, a roadside attraction that operated from 1948 to 1972 just west of the village of Marble, about 80 miles northwest of Duluth. Pretty much anything one might want to know about Fairyland can be found on a PDF compiled by Tim Wick, son of Melvin and Faith Wick, who bought the park in 1960.

Price Check: Ames 26-inch Poly Leaf Rake

AmesRakeIt’s that time of year again when T-shirts become long sleeves, cups of coffee become pumpkin spice lattes, and the emerald and sage colored leaves become sandstone orange and rosewood red.

Breathe in the crisp morning air, take pictures of the vibrant Midwestern colors, and maybe toss a puppy or a child into that pile of dead leaves. After you have finished having your fall fun, those leaves will not rake themselves.

An Ames 26-inch Poly Leaf Rake could be the tool that helps you through the dreaded yearly task. The handle has a cushion grip to deter blisters and all the tines touch the ground simultaneously.

Whether you are a first-rake, first-home buyer or a second mortgage home remodeler, this product could liven up your yard again.

Here lies the tenth feature for the Price Check series where we compare prices of products and services in Duluth. The prices below reflect the rate the establishment charges with tax included. The combined tax in Duluth is 8.375 percent. This is the summation of Minnesota sales tax (6.875 percent), St. Louis County transit sales/use tax (0.5 percent) and Duluth general sales tax (1.0 percent). Hermantown’s general sales tax is the same as Duluth, and the same state and county taxes apply.

Reporting Burnt Out Streetlights in Duluth


Is there a website or phone number for Duluth where one can report burnt out street lights? There are three burnt out in a row on the eastern end of Pittsburg Avenue, making it very dark at night and I know of many more, too. Would it be through Minnesota Power or the city of Duluth itself?

Thank you.

Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Introduction

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayThe yearning for adventure is a pretty common human trait, along with the practical good sense to not get into a situation you can’t handle. The old Scout Motto is “be prepared,” a creed intended to make one think practically and plan ahead for potential disaster. There’s a colorful expression for those who are not ready for life’s misfortunes; they find themselves “up Shit Creek without a paddle.”

Not wanting to drift helplessly in liquid feces, people often put off serious adventure and plan to check their dreams off a “Bucket List” at some point between the impractical now and the day before it becomes physically impossible. When a Bucket List goes as planned, it’s a beautiful thing. More often than not, of course, it ends up being a list of unfulfilled wishes. That’s generally preferable to premature death in pursuit of pretty scenery, so lament accordingly.

There are also those perfect people in the primes of their lives, dressing up in expensive wingsuits and gliding majestically down from the world’s most spectacular cliffs. Are they the sons and daughters of the obscenely wealthy or did they persuade a gear manufacturer to sponsor them? Maybe both. Don’t be jealous. You probably wouldn’t take that leap if you could. I know I wouldn’t.

Why can’t 21st Avenue East, Woodland and Arrowhead be a highway like Piedmont?

There was a study I cannot find now where some bigwigs came to Duluth back in about 2006 and decided that access to the mall area from the east side of town is one of the largest problems we have here. Every single road has many traffic lights and the speed limits are all 30 mph. Even Howard Gnesen rolls along at 30 mph in the middle of nowhere. The stretch from Kenwood Avenue on Arrowhead Road to Rice Lake Road is just a basic speed trap before it finally opens up to a whole 45 mph.

Why not make from the freeway exit at 21st Avenue East, Woodland Avenue and Arrowhead Road more like what was done on the west side of town near 21st Avenue West?

I know many people live on the stretch, but we have two major colleges and the city keeps “calming traffic” everywhere it can. That was the actual term that I heard at meeting when they decided — against the wishes of everyone in attendance — to make London Road go from four lanes of traffic to two. Then they said the city would plant all kinds of trees and beautify the area. Still waiting on that one.

Vikre distillery wins national award


Vikre Distillery took first place in a USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice award for best craft specialty spirits, beating out major players like St. George Spirits and Koval Distillery.

Joel and Emily Vikre founded the craft distillery in 2012 and started selling gin and aquavit to the public in 2014. With traditional distilling methods, Lake Superior water and the inventive use of local botanicals foraged in the Northwoods, Vikre is creating unparalleled products.