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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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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: September 29

Sophia, Kalina, Tori and Arlo report the latest School News.

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Keep an eye out for this guy and his friends if you are driving the West End back roads in search of fall colors

West End News: September 29

Congratulations to Dave and Amy Freeman for completing their “Year in the Wilderness” project this week. In case you’ve been living in Siberia, I’ll tell you that Dave and Amy spent the last twelve months traveling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness without coming out, even once. They accomplished this feat to call attention to the great value of the BWCA Wilderness in the face of a massive proposed mining project that is almost certain to damage the wilderness.
 
I used to refer to Dave and Amy as Lutsen residents – and it is true that they own a piece of land in Lutsen – but their reality is that they live in the wilderness. I say this not because of their literally living in a designated wilderness for the last year, but because they have chosen a unique lifestyle that takes them from one huge wilderness trip to the next. One or both of them have circumnavigated North America by kayak, canoe and dog team, paddled the length of the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Rio Roosevelt rivers. They’ve explored the jungles of Central America, circumnavigated Lake Superior and paddled from Ely to Washington, D.C., just for a partial list of their wildland journeys. 
 
In fact, they flew to Washington, D.C., the next day after emerging from their wilderness year, where they are lobbying congress and the Obama administration to find the wisdom to protect the BWCA Wilderness. Talk about culture shock. But, they are no strangers to re-entering civilization after long trips, so I’m sure they will cope just fine. Hopefully, they’ll find their way back to their estwhile home, the West End, soon to visit their many friends here.
 
Birch Grove Community School took the upper classman on a field trip to the Forest Service Tofte District compound, which is right next door to the school. The kids stopped first in the office where they got their Junior Ranger stickers and admired the stuffed animals and historic photos. Then, they walked over to the historic Ranger’s Dwelling where they learned about log cabin construction, more history of the Forest Service in the West End and historic preservation techniques.
 
According to Birch Grove School Board member, Skip Lamb, a good time was had by all. Skip also reported that Birch Grove is very close to hiring a new Director, the position that is now held on an interim basis by the founding director, Diane Blanchett. Skip expressed confidence in the future of the school, citing legislation in the works to make it clearly legal for the three West End townships to provide financial support. He said the school is running strong this fall and invites everyone to stop by any time to see what excellence in education looks like, right here in the West End.
 
The upcoming Presidential election is hard to avoid these days. With that in mind, I recently read an interesting book entitled “Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam.” It tells the story of John Brinkley, who was the most successful medical quack in American history. Brinkley was world famous in the early part of the 20th century. He made and lost several fortunes and ran a variety of very successful, but completely unethical scams. At the height of his popularity, he ran twice for Governor of Kansas and nearly won.
 
The most interesting part of the book was the description of Brinkley’s personality. Even though he was a complete fake and a dangerous criminal, he got by for many years by steadfastly proclaiming that he was the greatest at whatever he did and launching bitter personal attacks on any who dared question him. When the book, which was written in 2009, quoted Brinkley’s statements verbatim, they sounded eerily similar to statements made by the current Republican candidate for President. 
 
The good news is that Brinkley was eventually exposed and discredited by science and logic in the form of the then rather new American Medical Association. Once he was exposed by impartial investigation, from both journalists and prosecutors, Brinkley’s elaborate house of cards collapsed quickly and irretrievably. In my humble opinion, the same dramatic fall from grace awaits the great charlatan of our own time, as hard truth overwhelms the flim-flam.
 
The fall colors have been appearing very slowly this year. The reason is the wet weather and the startling fact that we will not have a single real frost event in the month of September. It is really pretty back in the woods, but we are still a week or two away from the peak. The high winds this week brought down mass quantities of white pine needles, but left the vast majority of leaves still on the trees.
 
If you head out for a color tour in the West End this week, I recommend the Honeymoon trail that runs east/west between the Caribou Trail and Sawbill Trail. It is a narrow winding road that follows the glacial eskers through a forest that is heavy with maples. I like it best when the maples are about half red and still half green, which will be the case this week. Watch out for rutting bull moose though.  I barely dodged a giant bull on the Sawbill Trail just last night. All’s well that ends well, but let’s just say it was a little close for comfort. It’s all part of the fun here in the wild, West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 23

The blush of fall is now fully engaged in the northwoods. The natural “east is east” and “west is west” equinox phenomenon has sent “old Sol” past the tipping point toward the southern hemisphere. 

Our border country “Technicolor” spectacle has shifted into high gear. While the intensity has been mounting rather deliberately up to this point, the official declaration, this past Thursday, seems to have set off an orange/red blitz in just a few days. This area will be a “leaf peepers” dream for the next couple weeks.  

Several cloudy days have been the order in this neighborhood during the last seven. Fortunately, the dismal time did not go to waste as the Wildermith rain gauge collected over an inch and three-quarters, with some upper Trail folks reporting even more.   

Speaking of wet happenings, a check of the Gunflint Lake water temp at the Smith dock, found the mercury in a state of decline to sixty-five degrees. This is down from our warmest summer reading of near seventy-five.  

Whereas several areas in the northland got nipped, this place in the woods missed the predicted frost of last week. It was close though, with two consecutive mornings at thirty-five on multiple thermometers. Yet I did detect what appeared to be frozen crystal in a few ditch locations during a trip to town on one of those days. 

I received an interesting report on some lake water testing conducted this summer here on Gunflint Lake. Some of our residents have long been concerned about the application of calcium chloride to roads adjoining the Gunflint Gal for dust control, as well as copious amounts of chemical treatment put on the Trail during the winter. Our interest of course, is whether this practice is having any adverse effect in regard to calcium (C++) run-off and a build-up of such in the lake water. 

Sample readings were taken in cooperation with County Soil and Water in mid-June. I’m told thirty-five lakes were tested in the County, and of all the lakes sampled, Gunflint was the third highest with analysis showing 8.2ppm. A rough calculation projects there could be nearly a thousand tons of excess calcium chloride in this lake. In comparison, Tucker Lake, just two lakes to the south, and not having close proximity road treatments, had a reading of 3.5ppm. 

The critical issue on excessive levels of C++ is a correlation between C++ and INVASIVE SPECIES, notably rusty crayfish and zebra mussels. According to our Gunflint Lake water monitor, Gunflint Lake, on the whole, does not have good habitat for “rusties,” but the invasive rascals could devastate the shallower Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes. What happens is that “rusties” destroy vegetation and hog available food, thus having a negative impact on fish habitat. This surely has potential implications for other upper Trail lakes as well. Apparently, research says that 5ppm (this could be found to be even lower) is a cutoff for sustaining rusty crayfish.    

Attempts are being made with MPCA to do some deep water testing this winter on the Gunflint to further assess the consequences of this C++ issue. In the meantime, Gunflint Lake property owners and other territory lake residents will no doubt be thinking about the value of keeping the dust down versus environmental costs to our pristine waters.   

A story of near tragedy and triumph took place on Hungry Jack Lake little more than a week ago. A loon was discovered near a resident’s dock in a seriously distressed state. The bird had a fish hook in its chest, and fish line tangled around its head, obviously making it difficult to eat, dive and/or swim. 

There are “good Samaritan” acts someplace every day. Fortunately for this Minnesota icon, Hungry Jack and Leo lake neighbors were in the right place at the right time and gathered quickly. A fish net was chosen as the implement for rescue, and a gal in a kayak with three folks in a canoe set out to corral the troubled animal. They soon netted the loon and brought it to the dock of Hungry Jack Outfitters.    

The terrified loon was wrapped in toweling, but nevertheless, inflicted numerous blows with its beak before rescuers were able to secure its head. The fish line was ultimately removed and the hook carefully cut off and pulled out.  With loving hands the handsome critter was released back into the lake where it gave a “hoot” (perhaps saying thanks), flapped its wings and swam away, for sure saved from an anguishing death. Congrats and thanks to the caring folks for helping a creature of the “wild neighborhood” to triumph over tragedy.  See pictures of the rescue effort attached to the Wildersmith column at WTIP.org.   

Most of the time it’s difficult to retrieve lost fishing tackle, but if at all possible, anglers could do these floating critters a big favor by not leaving to chance that line and hooks with bait will never cause a problem. 

On a final note, The Gunflint Trail Historical Society, in concert with the GT Scenic Byway Committee and WTIP, is looking for stories, pics, and artifacts of the Ham lake Fire. Such are needed for the 2017 Chik-Wauk Museum temporary exhibit, as next year commemorates the tenth anniversary of the tragedy. The exhibit will feature remembrances of this flaming disaster, along with educational presentation of wildfire ecology in the territory.  

If anyone has items from the historic event and is willing to share them with exhibit organizers, please let the Society know by calling the museum at (218)388-9915 to be directed to project planners. Donations are being solicited to assist in funding this extraordinary undertaking.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, at Wildersmith, where every border country day is great, and some are even better!

(photos courtesy of loon rescue team)


 

Superior National Forest Update: September 23

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 23rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Yesterday, September 22nd, was the fall equinox.  From here on out, until spring, our days are shorter than our nights.  The color change in leaves is actually triggered by day length, so our leaves are starting to turn in larger numbers.  If you’re out in the woods looking at fall color, be sure you are stopping in safe places where you can pull over with space for others to pass.  In addition to leaf watchers, there are also grouse hunters in the woods, along with people bow hunting for deer, so it is time to dig out some blaze orange to wear when you go for a hike.  Watch for vehicles parked along roads, but you may find other obstacles as well.  One of our vehicles was surprised to come over a hill and find the roadway completely blocked by a fallen tree.  They were driving at a sensible rate of speed, and were able to easily stop before the tree, but had they been going faster, it could have been a problem.  With no recent storms or winds, they weren’t expecting a deadfall.  When they got to look, it turned out that the culprit was a beaver who didn’t care where his tree fell.  You never know what might be on our roads.
Of course, added to the leaf watchers, hunters, and beaver felled trees, are logging trucks in some areas.  On the Tofte District, look for truck traffic on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Baker Lake, the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, and the Wanless Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.    
There is fall road work out there as well.  Culverts are being installed on the Blueberry Road, and on the north end of the Richey Lake Road.  The work also continues on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground.  There may be road closures between thirty minutes and an hour in all these locations.
One other sure sign of fall happens next weekend.  With the start of October, our district offices return to winter hours, so this is the last weekend Forest Service offices will be open.  Starting next weekend, our Ranger Stations will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:30, excluding holidays.  Boundary Waters permitting also changes.  While all users will continue to need a permit, starting October 1st, overnight users will not need a reservation and can use the same self-issued permit as day users.  These permits are available at ranger stations, but also can be found at the information kiosk at most entry points.  That means that this is an excellent time of year for quick wilderness trips - if it looks like good weather, grab a canoe and your tent and head out.
Due to wet conditions in the woods, it is unlikely that the prescription burns planned for some areas in the Boundary Waters will happen over the weekend, and things may need to dry out until the end of next week.  Conditions change rapidly though, and you should check with one of our district offices for up to the minute information on these planned burns.  With the burns delayed, fire crews have been busy clearing the Border Route Trail of downed trees.  They’ve made excellent progress, and most of the trail is now clear.  The last half mile of heavy blowdown near the intersection with the South Lake Trail is expected to be cleared by the end of next week.
So, whether you are out hunting for fall color, or hunting for wilderness solitude, or hunting for grouse, have a great time out there!  Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Fall begins on a wet note

Fall enters with a rainy weekend.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen speaks with National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Stewart.
 

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A carefully built cairn shows the way to last week's Rainbow Gathering in Tofte

West End News: September 22

The Rainbow Gathering on the Sawbill Trail has come and gone. Most West End residents and visitors were probably not even aware that it happened. It was deep in the woods about two miles beyond the “Dog Tired” gravel pit, which is about ten miles up the Trail from Tofte.
 
Before the gathering started, some authorities were advising us that we would be inundated with Rainbow people, as Sawbill Outfitters had been designated as their “official” store for supplies and drinking water.
 
A few days before the start of the gathering, a couple of people did stop in to fill water jugs and buy firewood. After that, we seemed to have almost no traffic from the event, except for a few genial young people who had missed the turn and were lost.
 
One couple I talked to was looking for Forest Road #350, but of course, being a local, I don’t know the roads by their numbers. I know them by their local names, like Kawishiwi Lake Road, Rhino Road, Pancore Lake Road or Raspberry Road. When I asked them what their destination was, they were shy about revealing that they were looking for the Rainbow Gathering. They finally said they were looking for “a gathering of people” and I was able to give them directions with no problem.
 
When I drove into the gathering site to see what was going on, the most remarkable thing I saw was a giant bull moose about half a mile before seeing any Rainbows.
 
I doubt this will be the last that the West End will see of the Rainbow People. Like almost everyone else, they seem to like it here. I’m glad that they are able to have their peaceful gatherings without controversy or even much comment from locals.
 
There are a couple of cool events coming up that you should put on your calendar now. The first is a performance of the “Music and Magic of Patsy Cline” featuring Cassie and the Bobs at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. The show is scheduled for 7pm on Saturday, October 8. Northern Lake County Arts Board is the show’s sponsor, so you know it will be great. Who doesn’t like Patsy Cline… and if you don’t know who Patsy Cline is, then you are required to attend – no exceptions.
 
The second fun event is the annual Birch Grove Community School Halloween Carnival, scheduled for Sunday, October 30, from 2 until 4pm. The carnival is not only fun and a great tradition, it’s also an important fundraiser for the school. So be there, or be square.
 
Tofte garderner extrodinaire, Jessa Frost, was proud to announce that she has successfully raised black beans in her gardern in the heart of the infamous Zone 3. She posted a picture on Facebook holding seven ripe beans in her hand, with mightly Lake Superior in the background. Under questioning, she admitted that the seven beans are a third of the total harvest so far, but did say that there will be many more if we can hold off the first frost for another week or two. This is ironic, coming from a gardener named Frost.
 
The fall colors have really popped up in the high country in the last few days. You have to get at least 10 miles away from the big lake for the best viewing, but nature’s big show should be coming soon to a hillside near you. If you’re looking for good color this week, I recommend the Eagle Mountain Trail, which is not only colorful right now, but is also the highest point in Minnesota.. and just one of the high points in the wonderful West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: September 22

Kalina, Sophia and Tucker report the latest School News.

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North Woods Naturalist: Autumn update

Autumn is slow in coming, but changes are being made in the natural world, just not as apparent as in some years. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about an autumn update.

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The Hovland plane crash

A Cessna 185 disappeared in the fall of 1971, and no trace of the plane or its three occupants was found until nearly 12 years later.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, we hear the story of the Hovland plane crash from Orvis Lunke - one of the four DNR forestry workers who discovered the remains of the plane in a remote section of forest, just inland from Lake Superior. 

(View slideshow for photos of the plaque and the crash site)

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Northern Sky: September 17 - 30

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.

In the evening sky, the Summer Triangle high in the south, binoculars needed for the Coathanger, and Venus low in the west; Mercury best seen in the morning sky on September 29; Jupiter moves from the evening to the morning sky; the Fall Equinox on September 22; and in news: a cryovolcano on the dwarf planet Ceres.

(photo of the Summer Triangle by NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

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