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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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!

 


What's On:

Northern Sky: November 26 - December 9

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

The story of the Pleiades; a young crescent moon in the evening sky; the triangle of Venus, Mars and Fomalhaut.

(photo by NASA/Hubble via Wikimedia Commons)


 

North Woods Naturalist: The language of bark, part 1

WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the Language of Bark. This is part one of a two-part North Woods Naturalist feature. 

(Photo by Evelyn Berg on Flickr)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 25

The yearly spending madness in America is officially underway with the “black Friday” weekend. In the midst of this coming mayhem, I hope your Thanksgiving Holiday has been stuffed with a joyous time of family, friends and goodies from the bounty of all who made it possible. Further, if you were able to share our abundance with someone less fortunate, kudos for your decency and generosity, you can’t be thanked enough!

“There’s no business like snow business.” Finally, after much wringing of hands about when and if it would ever come to these parts, production and distribution got under way. Last weekend's snow and return to more normal temps has the landscape in dazzling white, with the forest flocked to the hilt.

We’re even into ice-making on some of the smaller lakes with the mercury hitting the nothing mark in places up at this end of the Trail (it was zero at Wildersmith and slightly below at Seagull Lake).

This neighborhood did not receive what prognosticators envisioned, but neither was it a bust. Our first measurable dose piled up at seven inches, and with the accompaniment of howling winds during the storm, it looked like much more in many locales. Guess some might consider ourselves lucky compared to the upwards of two feet that fell in several North Country counties to the west. However, for a few of us “zanies,” there can never be too much.

I find interesting the excitement created when forecasters begin to sensationalize the coming of a first winter storm. It would seem everyone’s trigger is tripped, whether” the coming” is with scorn or elation. Beginning with the first reveal of a cold season storm advisory, suspense begins to build. Questions, of when will the furies of such arrive; how much will it pile up; and how bad will it get, resound throughout the kingdom.

Evolvement of the situation intensifies if the “watch” turns into a “warning.” Folks edge up on their seats and ears perk to the media, many in disgust, with others in hope of a doozy. The storm is getting close, it seems to be real; will I be able to get home, or get out; is my vehicle ready; do I have enough food; will the power and communications be interrupted; will the snow blower start; where’s my shovel; will school be dismissed early or called off? Oh so many concerns echo through our minds.

Arrival is confirmed as trifle flurries at first, energy then escalates to a full blown visit from the “Polar Express.” Curiosity whets our senses, noses to the glass watching a calm vertical descent of the heavenly flakes, while ears detect howling air suggesting a horizontal delivery. Whatever the means of conveyance, the magical sensation of snow whitening the world around us is capturing.

Seldom lasting for more than a few hours or a day or two, the work of “old man winter” idles down to an end. The body of this “old guy's” toiling lies in varying states of crystal serenity. With our mini-universe blanketed in white, the results, are sometimes not as bad as predicted and others far worse than anticipated. Regardless of one’s opinion on the end product, it’s difficult to argue the peaceful splendor of new fallen snow.

In immediate days following the cold atmospheric drama, our wilderness territory comes alive with intriguing, mysterious signs of life we have not seen for months. Tracks of “wild kingdom” critters indent the bleached carpet in infinite shapes, sizes and directions. For yours truly and other outdoors people, the wonder and curiosity associated with critters leaving a trace is beyond the ordinary “what,” “why” and “when” of human understanding. Tracks, tracks everywhere make living in the wilderness setting a deeply profound encounter into the “wild”unknown.

Oddly enough, enthusiasm for the first winter season happening does not wane. For many folks, it seems subsequent wintry episodes conjure up the same anticipatory energies as the initial act. So for us winter enthusiasts, bring it on, the joy of the times are at hand. Happy snow activities to all!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and having them with snow cover is even more delightful!

(Photo by Tony Hisgett on Flickr)

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Henry Wehseler, 1921-2016

West End News: November 24

I was saddened to hear, somewhat belatedly, that Henry Wehseler, long-time Tofte resident and the former owner of the North Shore Market in Tofte, had passed away more than a month ago.

Henry was born in St. Martin, Minnesota, in 1921, the son of German immigrant parents. He spoke German at home as a child and retained a soft German accent his whole life.

Henry served in the Civilian Conservation Corps and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He and Florence, his wife of nearly 72 years, moved to Sawbill Landing after the war. Sawbill Landing was a temporary town that existed to house the loggers who worked the giant Tomahawk timber sale in the country east of Isabella.

Henry told me that he brought one of the very first chainsaws with him when he came to start logging. In those days, loggers were paid by piece-work and he figured the chainsaw would give him an advantage over the other loggers who were still using 40" bow saws to cut pulp. The early chainsaws were huge, heavy and unreliable. Henry, who was always firm in his opinions, stuck with the chainsaw for a few weeks before reluctantly setting it aside in favor of the bow saw, which was still the fastest tool for the job.

The timber company would set up a skid road through the sale, just passable enough for a tractor to drag a dray of logs, and then would assign each logger a 40 acre plot on one side of the trail. Each logger was responsible for felling the trees, cutting them to 100 inch lengths and piling them on the side of the skid road for loading. When I asked Henry how he moved the logs from the woods to the skid road, I was astonished to hear him say that he did it by hand. He would fell the tree, always in the direction of the road to save distance, buck it to length and then end-for-end each log to the landing. It would be no exaggeration to say that this was among the most physically demanding jobs in the history of the world. Also, being that it was piece-work, Henry worked incredibly long days. I'll never forget that when I incredulously asked Henry how he withstood this unimaginable hard labor, he shrugged and said with simple understatement, "oh, you toughen up after a few weeks."

When the Tomahawk timber sale wound down in the mid-1960s, Henry, Florence and their three boys moved to Tofte. While Henry continued to log and work construction, Florence went to work for Albin and Edith Nelson at the Long Lake Lumber Company store in Tofte. The store mostly provided groceries for the many transient lumber camps that were deep in the woods during that era. The foreman would drop off a grocery list from each lumberjack and then swing by to pick them up the next day. Florence would pack the groceries in a cardboard box for each lumberjack, so the groceries would stay safe during the rough ride back to camp in the foreman's pickup.

Around the time it became more of grocery store for the general public, Henry and Florence bought the store and operated it for more than 30 years. They continued to supply the camps and also served as a informal social service agency for the lumberjacks. For the whole time that he owned the store, Henry continued to pack groceries in cardboard boxes, much to the puzzlement of his tourist customers. At Sawbill, for many years, we saved all our cardboard boxes and brought them to Henry. We always called them "Henry boxes."

Henry didn't believe in borrowing money, so he expanded the store a few times over the years as he was able to save the money. After the store was fully built out, Henry and Florence saved up and built a beautiful home for themselves on a large piece of property across the Sawbill Trail from the store.

The North Shore Market, which is now the Tofte General Store, was the social hub of the West End while the Wehselers owned it. They worked there all day, every day, except for Sunday afternoons. Henry knew everyone in the community, as long as they shopped at the store. It was his work life, social life and personal life, all rolled into one. I can only remember Henry taking one vacation in all the years that he ran the store. It was to attend a reunion of his navel outfit and he was gone for two days. He did love to pick blueberries and could always be found in the berry patch during the few Sunday afternoons that came around during berry season.

Henry and Florence allowed people to charge groceries at the store and pay one bill at the end of the month. I know for a fact that if a family was having a particularly hard time, especially if they had children, their grocery charge would be forgiven. Henry and Florence treated everyone the same and assumed you were a good person until you proved them wrong.

Henry had a particular friendship with Cook County's famous Sheriff, John Lyght. John liked to tease Henry about breaking the law because he knew that Henry would rather die than break a law.

Henry also had a warm friendship with Senator Paul Wellstone, who frequently vacationed in Tofte. When he was in town, Senator Wellstone would walk to the store each morning to buy the daily newspapers. He and Henry would discuss the issues of the day while the Senator drank a few cups of coffee and skimmed the news. Henry was honest and forthright in his opinions with everyone, including the Senator, and was not shy if he disagreed. Senator Wellstone told me numerous times that he held Henry in very high regard and valued his friendship, precisely because he was so honest and unfazed with the Senator's high office.

Henry and Florence eventually sold the store and started splitting their time between Tofte and Florida. A few years ago, they sold their house and moved to Little Falls to be near Florence's relatives. Henry died on October 16th at the age of 95. He is survived by his wife, Florence, sons Richard, Gary and Bill, along with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He played a big role in the lives of so many people in the West End and was instrumental in making it the lovely community that is is today. Rest in peace, my friend.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

 

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School students share why they are thankful

The Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School students have an annual Thanksgiving tradition of sharing why they are thankful. In this feature, third graders in Amanda Hand, Lorelei Livingston and Julie Viren's classrooms recite their special holiday poems.

 
The final holiday greeting is from the combined second and third grade classes.

(Photo by J. Neal Goggins on Flickr)

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove Community School: November 23

Arlo, Kalina, and Sophia report the latest school news.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain Elementary: November 22

General, Sofi, and Ruby report the latest school news.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 18

Gunflint territory has chalked up week three of November, and little has changed with regard to winter being a non-factor. Conditions along the Trail have been splendid, if one favors warm weather. We did have a couple mornings where the mercury slipped below the freezing mark at Wildersmith, but sunshine later on those days refreshed memory of a September song.

The damp gray days of last month have succumbed to a mini-drought with no consequential rain in this neighborhood for going on three weeks. This has given way to tinder dry forest under growth and dusty back country roads.

Our mid-month, “freezing over” “Super moon” had us under its luminous spell earlier in the week. The moonrise was awesome and the ensuing spotlight hanging over the forest was nothing short of spectacular. Sadly, it should have shone on the “breast of new fallen snow," but such was not the case. It did, however, “give a luster of mid-day” to the warm forest floor below.
 
As our Thanksgiving celebration is but days away, folks out this way will not only be thankful for many bountiful blessings, but would also be grateful to get this winter thing going. Purveyors of cross country ski operations would surely welcome a good dose of “old Man Winter” ASAP.   

In the meantime, I’ve noticed our “vernal like” atmosphere has one neighborhood species in a spunky, romantic mood. I don’t know if the autumn months are a normal time for amorous attractions in the red squirrel genus, but something spurned a couple of the red rodent critters into an apparent courtship right out on our deck rail.  

If one lives in the woods long enough, it is likely you’ll see most anything happen in the “wild neighborhood.” So observing this mating ritual might have been expected, although it was certainly a surprise.  

Those avian in gray tuxedos have been marvelous entertainment over the past few days. Talk about being habituated, this “whisky Jack” couple has turned the tables. Whereas we humans are often guilty of perpetuating such with certain members of the animal kingdom, this dapper duo is doing a marvelous job of training us in the Smith house.    

An example is shared as yours truly, sat near a deck side window last Sunday. Without warning, one of these Canadian Jays flew right up to the glass, perched on the sill and pecked anxiously to get my attention. Startled at first, it didn’t take me long to jump up, grab my bag of bread cubes and hurry out the door to serve the winged wonder. Talk about being conditioned, yes we are.   

While out serving the handsome critters a day earlier, I watched some winged activity that featured jaybirds of both gray and blue varieties. On this occasion, I’d been serving the grays while one of the blue varieties sat nearby in a tree watching enviously. 
Afraid of my presence (they are only brave when they can bully smaller birds), it would not join the dining experience. 

During this scenario, the grays’land, take a beak full of nutritional fare and fly off to nearby trees where their treasures are stuffed in bark crevasses, thus stored for consumption at a later date. I could see the blue was eyeing this process, apparently planning a felonious raid on the gray cousins’ cache.  
                                                    
It wasn’t long before one of the grays flew off with a mouth full, and the blue took a following flight pattern. A short stroll around the deck, found the gray nearby, stashing its morsel while the blue landed on a nearby branch. Without concern, the gray took off in search of a second helping, leaving its rewards unattended. 
                                                                
Moments after this gray departure, the blue made its move. The blue bird invaded the “staff of life” treasure chest, helping itself to the hidden loot. Soon to fly away, Mr. Blue undoubtedly went off to plan its next larcenous escapade.  

Summing up observation of such daily happenings in the wild, securing a regular meal is not only highly competitive, but involves cunning and patience. Survival goes not only to the fittest, but also to the shrewdest.

In other animal snippets, the bears are still on the prowl, and the eight member Gunflint/Loon Lake wolf pack was observed up on the ridge, above this Canadian border lake by a deer hunter in recent days.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and forest adventures are fabled!  Have a safe and glorious Thanksgiving!

(photo by Dick Daniels via Wikimedia Commons)

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Superior National Forest Update: November 18

Hi.  This is Chris Beal, Gunflint wildlife biologist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest.  For the week of November 18th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
This is the last weekend of the rifle deer season, so wear your orange and be on the lookout for parked vehicles along roads.  While Sunday will be the end of the rifle season, bow hunting will continue, and the muzzleloader season will begin on the 26th.  Seasons for small game and grouse are also still open, so even after Sunday, orange is a good color while you’re out and about. 
Heavy snow is coming, and it is time to think about winter driving.  Plowing in the National Forest is done by state and county plows on state and county roads, and by private contractors on forest roads.  Many forest roads are unplowed in the winter.  If you are wondering if a road you are planning to travel is plowed, check with a Forest Service office.  While driving, if you run into a small Forest road which is plowed, be aware that this is usually an indicator that there may be logging activity up the road.  Watch for trucks!
In fact, watch for trucks particularly in these areas.  On the Tofte District, log hauling is taking place on Sawbill Landing Road near Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, Rice Lake Road, and Clara Lake Road. On Gunflint, expect trucks on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Blueberry Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. 
With snow comes snowmobiling and skiing!  Snowmobiles are allowed to travel cross-country on the Forest and use unplowed roads if the snow depth is over four inches.  Travel on designated snowmobile trails also requires adequate snow cover, and that depth may vary between trails.  The DNR website is the best source of information on which state trails are officially open. 
For cross-country skiing, our website provides links to the websites of our trail partners who groom the trails.  This is your best source of information on trail conditions.  There are also maps of trail systems on our website.  These maps should not be considered to be totally accurate as trail locations may have shifted since the data was collected.  They will, however, give you a good indication of the extent and location of the trail system. 
If you are interested in getting outside and helping on a worthwhile project this weekend, the Northwoods Volunteer Connection is hosting a clean-up on The 600 Road (Forest Service Road 166) this Saturday, November 19th from 10 am to 1 pm. Volunteers will work to pick up litter along the roadside near the junction with the Sawbill Trail. The group will meet at the Tofte Ranger Station at 10 am and carpool to The 600 Road at 10:15 am. Gloves, safety equipment and lunch will be provided to volunteers.
Whether by car, truck, ski, or snowmobile, take it easy through this first round of winter until we are all used to it again.  We are switching to doing these updates every other week, so on behalf of the Superior National Forest, safe travels and have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.

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The town hall, fire department, and rescue squad buildings, reflecting the 17 years of outstanding leadership from Paul James

West End News: November 17

Leadership is on everyone's mind these days, as it usually is after a presidential election. If you're looking for an example of dedicated leadership, look no further than former Tofte Township Supervisor, Paul James.

Paul was a Supervisor for 17 years and for many of those years served as the Chair. Year after year, he was selected from among all the township residents at the annual community meeting to lead the discussion about the upcoming priorities for Tofte.

Paul's contributions are too numerous to list in full, but just a short list would be his important role in upgrading and professionalizing the fire department and rescue squad. He led the charge for the town to acquire ownership of the Birch Grove School building that now houses the Birch Grove Community School and the Birch Grove Community Center. He negotiated with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to design a highway reconstruction plan that best met the needs of the town. He guided the town through a comprehensive planning process and led the charge for affordable housing.

In addition to all of this, Paul has been active in Zoar Lutheran Church, served as a volunteer fireman and led the Timberwolves snowmobile club forever.

Paul also led by example and could often be found doing some of the many unglamorous chores that keep a community looking good and functioning smoothly.

In my mind, Paul represents the second generation of leadership since Tofte re-incorporated as a township in the late 1970s. When the older generation started to age out, there was some question about who would step up. Paul stepped into the gap and never missed a beat.

I know that Paul will be an inspiration for a new generation of township leaders and the entire West End joins me in offering our sincere thanks for the thousands of selfless hours that he has put in on our behalf.

Congratulations to Deb and Nan at Lockport Store in Lutsen for their glowing review on the national website, onlyinyourstate.com. The popular online magazine said, "…this little cafe is a can't-miss-it stop on any trip up north." It's nice to see the rest of the world discover the good food and cordial atmosphere that every West Ender has known about for years.

If you're looking for a place to celebrate Thanksgiving, remember the community Thanksgiving at the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland on Thursday, November 24, from 2-5 pm. This dinner is open to everyone and is very much in the cooperative Finnish spirit that abounds in this neck of the woods. If you are located closer to Grand Marais, the Congregational Church up there offers the same deal - good food, good company, no sermon and absolutely everyone is welcome.

No matter where you are on Thanksgiving, remember to take a moment to be thankful that you live in the wonderful West End.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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