Always in Season: Few redpolls show up so far this winter

This is imprecise, of course, because the birds flock together and sorting out redpolls is a difficult under the best of conditions.Identifying these two species can be intimidating. Submitted illustration.GRAND FORKS — This week’s bird of the week looks quite a lot like last week’s bird of the week, and the house finch and the common redpoll do have some things in common. So far this winter, I’ve never counted more than five at the feeders. “Hoary” is an old-fashioned word most familiar to us in the phrase “hoarfrost,” which describes an accumulation of frozen water vapor on tree limbs, power lines and other exposed surfaces.The name is apt when applied to redpolls; the hoary redpoll is lighter in color than the common redpoll. The biggest flock I’ve ever seen was in an unharvested field of sunflowers within the Icelandic State Park Christmas Bird Count Circle. They are both finches.To say a bird is a finch is about the same as saying a person’s name is Johnson. Though redpolls are quite capable of handling sunflower seeds, they’re rather more comfortable with something smaller, such as thistle.So much for the similarities. Caged house finches were released in New York City 80 years ago, and they’ve spread northwestward.Today, house finches are residents here, present throughout the year. Redpolls appear to be more — not delicate, exactly, but more finely built, sleek rather than stocky.Redpoll bills contribute to this impression, being shorter and thinner than those of house finches. They are native to the American Southwest. House finches only recently have adapted to climates such as ours. This intensifies as winter wanes, as a response to the light — and as a signal to female birds interested in securing mates.Yet there are noticeable differences between these two species.First, the general impression of size and shape, g.i.s.s,, as birders often say.House finches are rather clunky birds, somewhat heavily built and with large bills adapted to seed cracking. I reported 500 birds. Figuring how many are in a large flock is, put plainly, purely guesswork. It appears — well — frostier.In Eurasia, the hoary redpoll is usually called “Arctic redpoll,” which conveys a different notion but is still an evocative name.Scientists aren’t fully satisfied that there are only two species of redpolls. When these fail to produce seeds in abundance, the redpolls move south.This has not been a good redpoll year.At the feeder set up in my backyard west of Gilby, N.D., the first redpoll of the year showed up about 10 days ago. This is in sharp contrast to “irruption years,” when the number of redpolls in a migrating flock might number several hundred, or perhaps more.Redpolls are active and energetic birds. In our area, hoary redpolls are much less frequent than common redpolls, by a ratio of — I’m guessing — as much as 50 to one. The best clue is in the name, hoary redpoll. Redpolls bred across the northern latitudes. The house finch is an urbanite.The redpoll is a northern bird, circumpolar, in fact. This is about 100 miles northwest of Grand Forks. How about differences?There are many in both habitat and lifeways.The redpoll is a country bird. Redpolls, on the other hand, are visitors that never remain to breed.Redpolls are what birders call “irruptive.” This means they show up in some years and not in others.The critical variable is thought to be the seed crop in the taiga, the scrub woodland belt that circles the globe at high latitudes. The rule on bird counts is to underestimate, rather than exaggerate.Redpolls present another challenge: There are two kinds.The hoary redpoll is lighter than the common redpoll, and it appears rather flat-faced. It betrays where the person came from, but it doesn’t say much else, other than menu choices.Possibly.Like all finches, these two species are seed eaters.Beyond these general similarities, these birds don’t have much in common, and discernment will tell them apart under most conditions.As to appearance, both have red caps, and males of both species have a red blush on their chests. The common trees in this area are birch and spruce. Some specialists suggest there are as many as six.Of houses finches, however, there is one species only. There might have been twice that many, perhaps even more.

Pequot boys 2nd, 3rd

28. The Pequot Lakes third-grade boys basketball team took second place in the Blackduck tournament Saturday, Jan. Players are: Nic Foster (front row, left), Ryder Schultz, Gus Bolz-Andolshek, Ben Westerman and Dayton Wills; coach Sara Crabb-Erickson (back row, left), Toby Hoffard, Blake Spiczka, Dylan Pederson, Carter Erickson and coach Rich Spiczka.Submitted photoThe Pequot Lakes third-grade boys basketball team took second place in the Blackduck tournament Saturday, Jan. 21, and third place in the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes on Saturday, Jan. 21, and third place in the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes on Saturday, Jan. Players are: Nic Foster (front row, left), Ryder Schultz, Gus Bolz-Andolshek, Ben Westerman and Dayton Wills; coach Sara Crabb-Erickson (back row, left), Toby Hoffard, Blake Spiczka, Dylan Pederson, Carter Erickson and coach Rich Spiczka. 28.
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PR-B sixth-graders win tourney

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The team includes Carson Travis (front row, left), Blake Ihle, Deven Wheeler and Kayden Witt; Rian Struss (back row, left), Malachi Burns, Burke Netland, Irvin Tulenchik, Jared Hamilton, Jakobi Barnett and Barron Milham.Submitted PhotoThe Pine River-Backus sixth-grade boys basketball team won the Bobber Town Classic tournament Saturday, Jan. 28, in Pequot Lakes. The Pine River-Backus sixth-grade boys basketball team won the Bobber Town Classic tournament Saturday, Jan. The team includes Carson Travis (front row, left), Blake Ihle, Deven Wheeler and Kayden Witt; Rian Struss (back row, left), Malachi Burns, Burke Netland, Irvin Tulenchik, Jared Hamilton, Jakobi Barnett and Barron Milham. 28, in Pequot Lakes.

Just For Kix jazz captures first

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29, in Sauk Rapids. Dancers include: Lily Gilbertson (front row, left), Isabel Larson, Isabelle Ziesemer and Sophia Resch; Gabrielle Ziesemer (back row, left), Bailey Clausen, Kelbee Lampi and Quinn Trottier. The Pequot Lakes Just For Kix 4th-6th grade jazz dancers placed first at the Together We Dance competition on Sunday, Jan. Dancers include: Lily Gilbertson (front row, left), Isabel Larson, Isabelle Ziesemer and Sophia Resch; Gabrielle Ziesemer (back row, left), Bailey Clausen, Kelbee Lampi and Quinn Trottier. Class instructor is Amber Peterson and director is Anna Larson.Submitted PhotoThe Pequot Lakes Just For Kix 4th-6th grade jazz dancers placed first at the Together We Dance competition on Sunday, Jan. 29, in Sauk Rapids. Class instructor is Amber Peterson and director is Anna Larson.

Senior Menus: Feb. 6-10, 2017

The suggested voluntary donation is $4 per meal for those over 60 and $7.15 for those under 60. in Pine River and Crosslake. 6-10MondayHamburger, baked beans, tart coleslaw, pudding.TuesdayPork loin, whole parslied potatoes, creamed peas, cake.WednesdayChicken chow mein, rice and chow mein noodles, Japanese vegetables, mandarin orange gelatin, brownie.ThursdaySalmon, baked potato with sour cream, mixed vegetables, slice of pie.FridaySpaghetti noodles and Italian meat sauce, lettuce with dressing and cauliflower, garlic bread, apricots. To make a reservation or for Meals on Wheels information, call 218-587-2921.In Crosslake, meals are served at the Crosslake Community Center, 14126 Daggett Pine Road. The Senior Nutrition Program offers a nutritionally balanced meal for all people to enjoy.Meals are served Monday-Friday at 11:30 a.m. Menus are subject to change.Meals are served with bread, margarine and low-fat milk.Feb. To make a reservation by noon a day in advance or for Meals on Wheels information, call 218-692-4271. Meals on Wheels are available for homebound seniors in area communities.In Pine River, meals are served at the Heartland Apartments, 445 Snell Ave.

Cook: Making tracks up a North Shore stream

You’d be surprised how quickly you can extract a snowshoe-clad foot from a piece of moving water. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com. 020517.C.DNT.SamC2 — Dogs cross a portion of a North Shore stream where water flows over the ice. Hmmm. We were mostly right.We forged up the stream in its winter canyon, our dogs leading the way. Lake surfaces had softened and puddled.It was ugly.But my buddy and I figured this stream, down in its shaded valley, would still be mostly intact, and that we could skirt around any open-water pockets we encountered. The ice was solid beneath the overflow, but snowshoeing through moving water was something we hadn’t anticipated.”Looks like March,” my friend said.And sounded like it, too. Snowmobile trails were in rough shape and short of snow. It gurgled unseen beneath the ice in other places. Even in the embrace of the coldest winters, most North Shore streams still show themselves where the current quickens through shallow riffles. All of the trails in town were mushy and slushy. Find his Facebook page at facebook.com/SamCookOutdors or his blog at samcook.areavoices.com. Moving water, headed for Hudson Bay.In spite of the patch of overflow and our occasional snowshoe wettings, the river remained mostly sealed and white. I was wearing my wife’s aluminum ‘shoes, which didn’t disperse my weight as widely as they should have.In one place, water overflowed the ice, running stream-wide the color of weak tea, soaking into the snow. Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.com2 / 2It wasn’t long into our little push up a frozen North Shore stream that one of my snowshoes broke through to open water. Fresh snow has fallen. That would be the ultimate way to ride a river. New ice has formed over our snowshoe punch-throughs. And in those deep winters, you can almost always hear the stream’s baritone burblings beneath the ice in spots.Those are good sounds. Even in the canoe country up north, dogsledders often avoid narrow passages between islands where currents tend to weaken ice. We have options again.Presumably, with a string of cold nights, North Shore streams have tightened up again. The snow was old and crusted. The motivation factor is high.The two of us were making our little exploration of this stream as a kind of last resort. Sam Cook / scook@duluthnews.com1 / 2020517.C.DNT.SamC1 — A snowshoer heads downriver through a small canyon on a North Shore stream on a winter afternoon. We prefer our adventure in smaller doses.Now, over these past few days, winter has regathered itself. But most of us are not that skilled or daring. They remind us that, despite the white and frozen veneer, these mostly invisible waters are still bubbling along, still moving from one place to another. The stream rushed through open spots. Fat-bike riders were staying home to preserve the integrity of their trails. Cold has returned. Persistent cedars seem to grow right out of the rock walls.In spring, some North Shore streams are large enough to kayak in high flows, and kayakers regularly ply them. The ice often remains safe under the overflow, which will freeze once temperatures drop sufficiently. We want to ride and glide and slide again. We’re a long way from spring. Bulbous extrusions of frozen groundwater clung to the canyon walls at intervals. Steep bluffs or rock walls rise on either side, squeezing the river through mini-canyons. And it feels right. We want winter to be winter.The trail groomers, winter’s unsung heroes, have been out reshaping our trails. Deer tracks pocked the old snow.I poked through a couple more times on my snowshoes, one foot at a time. We needed that. Winter looks better this way. Several North Shore streams offer good snowshoeing, although caution must be taken to avoid open water or unreliable ice. The fresh snow has become new canvas for the tracks of deer and fox and for raven wing-prints.Might be time to go forge up another stream soon.Sam Cook is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Dark, wet, but not deep. Snowshoeing up a river and back down affords a visual experience unattainable almost any other time of year. Only in winter, on snowshoes or skis, can you venture right down the river, clambering down frozen drops, scooting over the intermittent flats. This was a couple of weekends ago, near the tail end of an extended January thaw. Cross-country ski trails were alternately soft or glazed.

Just For Kix jazz takes second

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The Pequot Lakes Just For Kix 2nd-3rd grade jazz dancers placed second at the Together We Dance Competition on Sunday, Jan. 29, in Sauk Rapids. 29, in Sauk Rapids. Dancers include: Anika Weik (front row, left), Kyleigh Wright, Charlee Child and Avery Peterson; instructor Toni Hidalgo (back row), Samantha Sesin, Madelyn Moorhouse, Myah Reuper and Josie Taylor. Dancers include: Anika Weik (front row, left), Kyleigh Wright, Charlee Child and Avery Peterson; instructor Toni Hidalgo (back row, left), Samantha Sesin, Madelyn Moorhouse, Myah Reuper and Josie Taylor.Submitted PhotoThe Pequot Lakes Just For Kix 2nd-3rd grade jazz dancers placed second at the Together We Dance Competition on Sunday, Jan.

Pequot Lakes girls take first

Players are: Lauren Schultz (back row, left), Aubrey Larsen, Kessa Eggert and Kayla Joyce; Allyson Yahn (middle row, left), Kelsi Martini and Ruby Seidl; Brook Hennies (front row, left) and Maggie Wolter. 22, by defeating Barnesville, West Fargo and Norman County East. 22, by defeating Barnesville, West Fargo and Norman County East. Coaches are Carrie Joyce and Lisa Martini.Submitted PhotoThe Pequot Lakes fifth-grade girls basketball team placed first at the Perham Lady Jacket Jam on Sunday, Jan. The Pequot Lakes fifth-grade girls basketball team placed first at the Perham Lady Jacket Jam on Sunday, Jan. Coaches are Carrie Joyce and Lisa Martini. Players are: Lauren Schultz (back row, left), Aubrey Larsen, Kessa Eggert and Kayla Joyce; Allyson Yahn (middle row, left), Kelsi Martini and Ruby Seidl; Brook Hennies (front row, left) and Maggie Wolter.
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PR United Methodist to host Valentine’s dinner

Pine River United Methodist Church will host a Valentine’s ham dinner from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.Cost is $9 for adults and free for kids ages 6 and under. Pine River United Methodist Church is located at 348 Barclay Ave., Pine River.

PR-B team takes first

The team includes Caylei Johnson (back row, left), Sawyer Tulenchik and Ariana Burns; Ella Dahl (front row, left), Kelsi Bergem, Heidi Kline and Paige Holm.2 / 2Submitted PhotoThe Pine River-Backus Tigers third- and fourth-grade girls basketball team placed first in the Pequot Lakes tournament Saturday, Jan. 28, by winning all three games it played. 28, by winning all three games it played. The Pine River-Backus Tigers third- and fourth-grade girls basketball team placed first in the Pequot Lakes tournament Saturday, Jan. The team includes Caylei Johnson (back row, left), Sawyer Tulenchik and Ariana Burns; Ella Dahl (front row, left), Kelsi Bergem, Heidi Kline and Paige Holm.
The Pine River-Backus Tigers third- and fourth-grade girls basketball team placed first in the Pequot Lakes tournament Saturday, Jan. The team includes Caylei Johnson (back row, left), Sawyer Tulenchik and Ariana Burns; Ella Dahl (front row, left), Kelsi Bergem, Heidi Kline and Paige Holm.1 / 2Submitted Photo 28, by winning all three games it played.
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Faith in Action launches accessible transportation pilot project

Faith in Action for Cass County tries to meet that need by connecting neighborly volunteers with people who need rides to appointments, grocery shopping and other local errands.Up to now, Faith in Action volunteers were limited in their ability to provide rides to people with mobility issues because volunteers are not allowed to lift or transfer people in or out of a car.”This will open up a new world of opportunity for people who have had difficulty getting out and about in our communities,” said Theresa Eclov, Faith in Action executive director. Services are provided based on need and other resource availability.Because Faith in Action is not a state-licensed service provider, volunteers cannot provide van services to people on Medical Assistance or Medicaid. This pilot project, funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services CSSD Grant Program, allows Faith in Action to offer rides to individuals who are using a wheelchair, powerchair or scooter and are not able to transfer themselves in or out of a regular car or SUV.The new van can accommodate one or two wheelchairs and up to five other passengers.For a decade, medical and nonmedical transportation has been listed as a needed service in Cass County that “is available, but falls short of demand,” according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services Gaps Analysis Study, 2013-14. Those using the new van services will be asked to pay a cost-share fee based on income and transportation distance.More volunteer drivers are needed to provide van transportation services. Faith in Action volunteers learn how to safely operate the lift and tie-down systems on the organization's new wheelchair-accessible van.2 / 2Faith in Action for Cass County announces the launch of a new volunteer service with a wheelchair-accessible van that can provide another transportation option to people living in central Cass County. “I expect we will see a great demand for the van services.”Faith in Action for Cass County is a local nonprofit organization that connects volunteers with those who seek help with transportation, light housekeeping and chores, caregiver respite and friendly visiting, basic home repairs and building wheelchair ramps. Volunteers can choose how often and how far they are willing to drive. A regular driver’s license and good driving record are required, as well as passing a criminal background check. During the pilot project, Faith in Action will seek feedback on how to maximize use of the van and cover the costs of the services, as well as get the word out to those who could use this type of transportation service.For more information on Faith in Action services, volunteer opportunities and the new wheelchair-accessible van, call the Faith in Action office at 218-675-5435 or go to www.faithinactioncass.com. There are no income guidelines or age restrictions. Faith in Action is also looking at partnerships with local churches and organizations who may be interested in using the van.
Faith in Action Executive Director Theresa Eclov shows of the organization's new wheelchair-accessible van.1 / 2Submitted photo
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Lightning place first

22. 22. The Northern Lakes Lightning Squirt C hockey team took first place in the Altoona, Wisconsin, tournament Sunday, Jan. Players are: Gavin Lacy (front row); Amari Haffner (second row), Jonathan Maroney, Sam Coughlin, Sutton Sullivan and Deacon French; Aiden Haff (third row), Weston Hiles, Quinn Bray, Aidan Bendson and Connor Windorski; and coaches Cooper Hiles (back row), Brendan Hiles, Tim Coughlin and Jesse Sullivan.Submitted PhotoThe Northern Lakes Lightning Squirt C hockey team took first place in the Altoona, Wisconsin, tournament Sunday, Jan. Players are: Gavin Lacy (front row); Amari Haffner (second row), Jonathan Maroney, Sam Coughlin, Sutton Sullivan and Deacon French; Aiden Haff (third row), Weston Hiles, Quinn Bray, Aidan Bendson and Connor Windorski; and coaches Cooper Hiles (back row), Brendan Hiles, Tim Coughlin and Jesse Sullivan.
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Pequot girls win two tourneys

Pictured are: Quinn Trottier (front row, left), Kaitlyn Geschwill, Avery Bergstrom and Ruby Brinkman; Maci Martini (back row, left), Macy Jackson, Brea Eckes, Gabby Ziesemer, Andrea James and Abi Martin.Submitted PhotoThe Pequot Lakes sixth-grade girls basketball team won back-to-back tournaments Jan. 28 at the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes. Pictured are: Quinn Trottier (front row, left), Kaitlyn Geschwill, Avery Bergstrom and Ruby Brinkman; Maci Martini (back row, left), Macy Jackson, Brea Eckes, Gabby Ziesemer, Andrea James and Abi Martin. 21 in New York Mills and Jan. The Pequot Lakes sixth-grade girls basketball team won back-to-back tournaments Jan. 21 in New York Mills and Jan. 28 at the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes.
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Benefit slated Feb. 11 for Bartella

11, at the Nisswa American Legion. Prizes include a 20g Mossberg semi-auto shotgun, Springfield XDS 9mm pistol, a Jiffy Pro 4 propane ice auger, guided fishing trips, Wild tickets and more.A donation account for Bartella is set up at US Bank.For more information, email nicholeheinen@hotmail.com. Saturday, Feb. A spaghetti dinner will be served from 5-7:30 p.m. for $10 (cash only).There will be silent auctions and raffles. A benefit for Shelley Bartella, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, will take place from 4-9 p.m.

Pequot fifth-graders place

The Pequot Lakes 5th-grade boys took 5rd place at the St. Players are: Eli Hall (front row, left), Clay Erickson, Jameson Dale, Dalton Anderson and Conner Quale; coach Charlie Hoffman (back row, left), Griffin Hoffman, River Sommerness, Brayden Spiczka, Will Taylor, Shane Crowley and coach Jon Dale.Submitted photoThe Pequot Lakes fifth-grade boys basketball team took third place at the St. Cloud Winter Shootout on Saturday, Jan. Cloud Winter Shootout on Sat., Jan. 7; first place at the Menahga tournament; third place at the Foley tournament; and second place Saturday, Jan. 7; first place at the Menahga tournament; third place at the Foley tournament; and second place Saturday, Jan. Players are: Eli Hall (front row, left), Clay Erickson, Jameson Dale, Dalton Anderson and Conner Quale; coach Charlie Hoffman (back row, left), Griffin Hoffman, River Sommerness, Brayden Spiczka, Will Taylor, Shane Crowley and coach Jon Dale. 28, in the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes. 28, in the Bobber Town Classic in Pequot Lakes.

The 4,700-mile summer: Wisconsin man’s long walk across North Country trail

It’s lightly used, and, after blowdowns last summer, was nearly impassable, Peltonen said.”When I got in there, it was unrecognizable,” he said. The Kek, as it’s called, runs about 43 miles from near Ely to the Gunflint Trail. He burned through six pairs of trail-running shoes. A couple of days on the Kek, I went for 15 hours and only made four miles. 30. They fed me. He averaged about 23 miles a day with a pack that weighed from 15 to 30 pounds, depending on how much food he was carrying.Peltonen is a master of minimalist hiking. Peltonen, 43, a former professional bicycle racer, hiked from Killington, Vt., to Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota from April 10 to Oct. I’ll remember them for the rest of my life.”Peltonen has not attempted the Appalachian Trail, or America’s other two best known long-distance trails, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.After completing the North Country Trail, he was ready to rest.”When I was done, I said I’m just going to sit down for a long, long, long time,” Peltonen said.But he’s already planning to do another of America’s national scenic trails, Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail.”It’s only 1,200 miles long,” he said. “They let me take a shower. He did most of the hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail. — Clearly, the man can cover ground.Ashland’s Shane Peltonen hiked and ran 4,700 miles across eight northern states last summer, most of it on the North Country National Scenic Trail. “But I was up for a challenge.”The North Country Trail Association’s website lists just five people who have previously hiked the North Country National Scenic Trail end-to-end in one season — so-called “thru-hikers.” Peltonen’s name hasn’t been added yet. He lived on cold cereal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and, for variety, peanut butter and honey sandwiches. He cooked no meals. Peltonen hiked about 100 miles in Vermont and New York on other trails before joining the North Country Trail itself.After previously hiking the North Country Trail across the breadth of Wisconsin and all of Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail in one trip — about 550 miles — Peltonen saw that only a handful of hikers had completed the entire North Country Trail.”I thought it must be really hard or really stupid, or both,” he said. Those were the best interactions in the world. When ultimately completed, the North Country Trail will be 4,600 miles long, according to the North Country Trail Association in Lowell, Mich. I was just climbing over blowdowns. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”One difficult aspect of hiking the complete North Country Trail in one season is that it runs east to west across the northern tier of states. “I didn’t think I was going to get out of there. The trail, still in the process of being finished in some sections, is more than twice as long as the Appalachian Trail, which runs about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. Peltonen hiked 4,700 miles across eight northern states, finishing Oct. 30 — about 200 days. 020517.O.DNT.HikeC1 — Shane Peltonen of Ashland hikes a portion of the North Country National Scenic Trail in summer 2016. A hiker must start and finish the trail when overnight temperatures are near or below freezing.At different times along his route, people he met opened their homes to Peltonen.”Four or five people took me into their houses,” he said. Shane Peltonen photoASHLAND, Wis. Sixteen hikers have hiked the trail end-to-end in a single year or by doing a section at a time over several years, said Amelia Rhodes, marketing and communications director for the association.”There have been more people on the moon than have thru-hiked this trail,” Peltonen said.(Twelve, if you’re counting, have walked on the moon.)A seasoned endurance athlete, Peltonen packed light so he could run or walk the trail. He never took a day off, and sometimes hiked and ran 15 hours a day.In Minnesota, the North Country Trail uses the Superior Hiking Trail, the Border Route Trail and the Kekekabic Trail.