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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:

Memorial Day weekend brings chance of showers and thunderstorms

Unsettled weather over the weekend with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. But looking ahead to next week, the temperatures should be above normal. WTIP volunteer LeAnn Zunker spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist, Mike Stewart, on North Shore Morning.

(Photo by Thomas Bresson via Flickr)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 27

Month five is almost into the books as spring surged during the past seven. Clear skies provided this territory with a perfect “budding flowers” moon, setting the stage for luminous blooming, while the day of official summer looms on the horizon. 

Flowering has finally reached the upper Trail. Marsh marigolds, squill, wild strawberry blossoms, forget- me-nots and of course, those “dandy” lions head the list of north-country returnees.  Adding to the resurgence of growth, fiddlehead ferns are uncoiling their fronds, and domestic rhubarb has popped up enough to provide the first “pie plant” desserts of the season.          

Green-up of the deciduous forest has intensified right on schedule. From those late bloomers about to explode their buds to hillsides alive with verdant haze, if green is one’s color there are many shades from which to choose. Total leaf out should be complete in a week or so.      

It’s amazing how resilient plant life can be, considering the area had passed another week devoid of moisture. We’ve been “bone” dry, choking in late summer dust along back country roads. A blessed rain finally quenched our thirsty forest since mid-week. A six-tenths dose, late Tuesday, has lessened wild fire danger, so folks out this way have dodged a flaming bullet for the time being.           

Considering forest fire danger, the recent decision for a prescribed burn that escaped control west of the Ely area, is simply mind boggling. I realize these procedures are a necessary forest practice, but it's apparent science-based conditions, supporting the right time for a intentional burn, can well be one in the same with warnings of wildfire potential. So why would you ignite one?    
            
In the meantime, common sense says, Trail residents had better be taking their own prevention measures, even though the area has been dampened down. Periodic running of wildfire sprinkler systems is recommended to keep a dome of humidity over properties during our increasingly frequent dry spells, and tending to “firewise” needs is vitally important right now and always.
  
There are good things and some not so good with each of our border country seasons. Everyone out this way is smiling with the warm sunshine. But sad to say, those “black fly terrorists” have a grin on their faces too, in anticipation of a little bloodletting. I’ve been into my netting for the past week, and thus far my batting average against the fierce nippers is far better than our Minnesota baseball Twins.     

Along with the no-nonsense biting flies, the season ahead looks to be gloomy from a “tick” standpoint. A hiker I heard of reported picking off fifty of the creepy things following a recent trek along the Border Trail. In the meantime, mosquitoes are amassing troops out there somewhere with only a few small battalions appearing around sunset thus far.    

So if one thinks winter is less than accommodating, think again, this time of year has its distressing elements too. All these biting critters are making me think freeze!

Speaking of the tourist times ahead, several businesses catering to such have seen operator changes over the past few months and years. New management has been on board at Clearwater Lodge for the past couple years, while Big Bear Lodge has also come under new proprietorship. In addition, those at the helm of Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters are beginning their second year. While just recently, a changing of the guard has taken the reins at both Rockwood Lodge and Loon Lake Lodge. Everyone in the Gunflint Community welcomes and wishes these new wilderness hosts well, in their Trail endeavors. 

Critter notes are scant as I air this week. No bear adventures have been reported, but I have observed a number of north woods bunnies scampering about, some still in dirty white socks. Grouse meanwhile, (“you know, those Minnesota chicken birds”) too numerous to count, have dared frequent pedestrian catastrophes in front of my vehicle.
  
In regard to grouse, another sighting found that although their hunting season is closed to humans, the times are always open to predators. I came upon a fox, trotting along the Trail not long ago, with a nice “chicken bird” in its jaws. The now faded red one was so intent it did not flinch or waver from its roadside course as I drove by. My hunch is a hungry batch of kits was waiting for lunch back in the den. 

In the past couple days, a solemn report came my way of the loon pair at the Chik-Wauk Museum nesting platform having abandoned the site. Reasons are unknown, but suspect would be an airborne predator pilfering the eggs, it’s happened before. The possibility remains that hormonal instincts might re-balance and they will return to try again. Stay tuned for any updates.    

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Savoring northern magic and swatting all at the same time! Have a safe Memorial Day!                                                                                        

(photo by Mike Quinn via Wikimedia Commons)


 

Superior National Forest Update: May 27

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, Forest interpretation and education specialist, with the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 27th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
On Saturday, we have the premier running of Le Grande du Nord gravel cycling event.  There are both 50 and 100 mile routes, starting from the Point in Grand Marais.  Beyond that, we can’t tell you where the cyclists will be.  Part of the race’s challenge is to be able to navigate using a cue card which lists turns and mileage, so the route is a secret.  If you are driving in the area, just be aware that there could be bikers on the roads.  Since it is a gravel cycling event, they will be using some one lane Forest roads.  Be extra cautious on blind corners and hills if you are driving these back roads.  Good luck to all the cyclists!  Enjoy the Forest!
Those cyclists might be fighting some muddy and wet conditions.  We’ve received between a quarter and an inch of rain over the last three days.  That has really sped along the green up of the woods.  With the rain and the return of foliage on the trees, we have been given a break from the fire danger of the last couple of weeks.  Since the rain was fairly spotty, areas could dry out again fairly rapidly, so the Forest is keeping firefighting resources staged locally. 
In the event of a fire, you should know that rumors spread like, well, wildfire.  Superior National Forest will put out regular updates during a fire through the national website InciWeb.  Links to that site can be found on our website, on our Facebook page, and through our Twitter feed.  This and other official information should help you dispel any rumors that take root during a fire.
There are still prescribed burns planned on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, but due to the rain, it will be at least five days before they occur.  The same information sources listed for wildfires will keep you in the loop for these planned burns as well.
Our wilderness crews are back in the Boundary Waters.  They report that there are still plenty of fallen branches and trees across portage trails, so be prepared for some extra work and time crossing portages.  There are also plenty of black flies, and people have been finding deer ticks, so make sure to pack your insect repellent.
In addition to the bikes on Saturday, there will be a fair amount of logging traffic.  Weight restrictions are off of most county roads now, so haulers are making up for the weeks when they couldn’t haul.  There are two sales off of the Wanless Road (FR 172), one near Elixir Lake, the other east of Section Eight Lake, so visitors should expect to see log truck traffic on the Wanless.  The Wanless is winding and narrow; be sure to drive defensively. There are also a couple of sales in the Sawbill Landing area.  Log trucks will be hauling on the Dumbbell River Road and the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369). 
On Gunflint District, timber harvests off of Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Firebox Road, and Trestle Pine Road will result in heavy log truck traffic on Greenwood Road and Shoe Lake Road during the next couple of weeks.  This will be happening during the Le Grand Du Nord cycling event this weekend, so cyclists and spectators need to be very aware and expect to encounter trucks.  A last note on roads – the frost heave that closed the 600 road near Tofte has been repaired, and that road is now fully open again.
Whether on the 600 road or up the Gunflint Trail, this is a lovely time to go for a drive, or a bike ride, in the Forest.  Our Juneberry trees are blooming, and in my mind rival the famous cherry trees in Washington.  Despite the predicted rain this weekend, take some time to get out and enjoy the flowers because they don’t last long.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: May 26

Wren and Amos report the latest news from Great Expectations Charter School in Grand Marais.

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Wild strawberry blooms

North Woods Naturalist: Spring marvels

Spring is definitely slipping toward summer.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the spring marvels of this time of year.

(Photo by Frank Mayfield on Flickr)
 

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Brule Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: May 26 - To Brule Lake

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Kevlarus Canoeum Exclusivei

West End News: May 26

When the Minnesota State Legislature adjourned this week, it became obvious to even the casual observer that Minnesota's governing body has gone the way of our national governing body, the U.S. Congress, by descending into ineffective chaos. For the last two sessions, most of the important work of the legislature was not finished and the people of Minnesota were not well served.

Not only did the most important bills of the year, bonding, transportation, RealID and the managing of the budget surplus, fail to pass, but much of the negotiation and horse trading went on behind closed doors in the final days of the session, without the scrutiny or participation of the voters, the news media, or even most of the sitting legislators. A 32 million dollar tax cut for the tobacco industry is this year's poster child of baffling legislation snuck into law without the knowledge or consent of the voters or most of the lawmakers themselves. This makes the legislature resemble a dictatorship more than a "small d" democratic institution.

In my opinion, the troubles besetting the Minnesota Legislature flow from the same source as those that afflict the Congress, the unbelievable amount and influence of money in politics. If we don't move swiftly and decisively to correct campaign finance and lobbying policy, we risk the permanent loss of our democratic traditions. There are two relatively bright spots in this mess. First, it seems like unlimited and unaccountable money mostly bring the political process to a halt, at least so far, rather than just selling laws to the highest bidders.  Second, our system still, mostly, allows for one vote for each of us, giving us the option of changing this crazy system at the ballot box.

This year the Governor almost has to call a special session to complete the huge pile of work left undone, but a part of me wants him to let the leadership of both parties suffer the natural consequences of their misbehavior.

The blackflies are out in the West End if you travel up over the hill. They aren't bad as compared to many years in the past, although this is my 60th blackfly season and in every one of them I've heard many people declare that this is the worst year ever. I discovered about 59 years ago that the most effective way to enjoy the woods during the black fly season lies in the judicious use of the DEET based repellents. If you apply a very small amount of the repellents to your exposed skin and the adjacent clothing you can walk blissfully through the woods for up to eight hours without a single bite.  

Thanks to the Zika virus, Consumer Reports just did a thorough study of spray-on insect repellents. Long story short, they found DEET and similar chemical repellents to be amazingly effective and the natural repellents, like citronella, eucalyptus, cedar, rosemary and lemongrass to be amazingly ineffective.

The kerfuffle surrounding the building of a Dollar General store in Grand Marais seems to have died down for the moment. In Silver Bay, however, plans have been moving ahead for Dollar General to open a store in the business park along Highway 61 near the AmericInn. According to the Lake County Chronicle, the agreement between Dollar General and the city, which owns the land, included a clause that would forbid the city from selling land to a Dollar General competitor. After much discussion, the Silver Bay City Council voted to strike the no-complete clause from the purchase agreement, which may well kill the sale. The Dollar General spokesperson said the decision was too new for them to react to, but I suppose they would have the option of looking for private land in the same area. 

One of the joys of living in the West End, of course, is the ever-changing entertainment provided by good old Mother Nature. Most of the glory goes to the large animals, but there are many critters that go almost unnoticed most of the time, even though they are quite common.  

About a month ago, here at Sawbill, we took delivery of 41 brand new Kevlar canoes. We stacked them on the ground in the canoe yard, tipped up on their sides, one leaning against the other. This week we found the time to bring each canoe to the shop, install the carrying yoke pads and put on the licenses and company stickers. After doing the first six, I noticed that each canoe had one resident spider. There was one, and only one, small, nondescript brown spider in each new canoe – with no exceptions. Once I noticed this, I started keeping track and it held true for every single one of the 41 canoes, except for two that had two spiders, but each in the far opposite end of the canoe.

I looked them up online and as best I can tell they are Cheiracanthium mildei (ky-ruh-KAN-thee-um MILL-dee-eye), also known as the long-legged sac spider. I could be totally wrong about that, of course. Apparently, the overturned canoes must mimic their ideal habitat, but also encompass exactly one Cheiracanthium mildei territory.  

Seeing as how I'm not sure about the identification and I struggle to remember the pronunciation, I've decided to rename them Kevlarus Canoeum Exclusivie and hereby proclaim them the official spider of Cook County's interesting and unique West End.
 

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Pileated woodpecker

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 20

Not too surprisingly, May is rapidly slipping away. The Ojibwe “budding flowers moon” (Zaagibagaa Giizis) will grace the north woods this weekend. Then we head off toward the commemorative “Memorial Day” weekend to kick-off summer.

As I begin this week's report, summer feels a long ways off. Our big day of the walleye fishing opener came and went under less than favorable conditions. “Old man winter” kind of gave us a kiss goodbye reminding all in these parts there is still a little click in his heels.

Strong northwest winds, dismal skies and occasional showers of snow flurries were the order as temps hovered around the freezing point. Saturday AM found a skiff of snow on the ground, and water in my deck-side avian drinking dish stayed frozen all day. It was so cold conditions even prompted a couple nights of firing up the old wood burning stove.

Spring will no doubt bounce back by the time this scoop airs. And, there’s a good chance the last of the snow along our Mile O Pine will have faded into history.

In retrospect, while winter seemed less than gruff during the past months, we’ve had snow on the ground in varying amounts from November into the third week of May. If I count right, it’s seven months of north-country heaven for yours truly.

Although the area experienced a dash of winter, we’ve still not received enough moisture to diminish the wildfire danger. Cooler conditions of late have been a help, but rain remains the key component. The rain recorded here has barely settled the dust in the last week.

Most locals I know deferred frosty angling for a nicer day. However, out-of-towners owever. out-of-towners were not deterred. After all, it's Minnesota and fishing opener is a rite of the season. A trip along the Trail this past weekend found vehicle after vehicle either toting or pulling some kind of watercraft.

Boats started cruising by on the Gunflint gal before Saturday morning twilight and continued right through the day in spite of frigid air and rough seas. I suppose a few “finnies” were caught, but with the waters so cold right now, I’m guessing most walleyes were holed up in favor of warmer waters someday soon.

Last week's story about the first bear sighting has advanced into chapter two. Several folks along the Gunflint Lake south shore report the meanderings of a really “big” one around their places. Of those sharing the “Bruno” visits, none indicate any property ravaging or confrontations - just that it’s snooping around. I guess residents must be doing a good job of removing temptations thus far.

The folks at Gunflint Lodge have observed it, too, and believe this guy/gal may be the same one that caused them considerable grief last summer by getting into a cabin or two without checking in first at the reservation desk.

The Chik-Wauk Museum’s loon nesting platform is reported to now be occupied. I have not been witness to the returning occupants, but the museum manager indicates she witnessed a parental changing of the guard one day last week, so the fragile ovals must be there for the warming. Happy days are here again! All hope is looting raptors can be kept at bay.

On a related note, I’m told the loon cam at the Chik-Wauk site will be up and operating soon. Check the website to follow the nesting/hatching activity over the next few weeks.

When the sun has peeked between the clouds over the past few days, there’s been ceremonious tweeting throughout the woods. Harmonizing is not necessarily the order of performance as crows, jaybirds and the like, are all singing a different tune. And, as I’ve been out around the yard picking up winter blow-down, percussive components have been added to the northern ensemble with drumming grouse and a hammering pileated woodpecker chipping in solo parts. Ah, the north woods refrains of spring, what a delight!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! On the watch for emerging green!

(Photo by Mick Thompson via Flickr)

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Superior National Forest Update: May 20

Hi. I’m Cathy Peterson, business management on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 20th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

 It’s spring, and there are a lot of things happening outside. Hummingbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks have made their way back to the north country. While the grosbeaks can find seeds fairly easily this time of year, flowers are a bit harder to find. If you have a hummingbird feeder, now’s the time to fill it. A simple solution of four parts water to one part sugar works as well or better than commercial nectar. You don’t need to boil the water, but if you do heat the water to dissolve the sugar, make sure it is back to room temperature before you put it out for the birds. Most feeders hold a lot of nectar, and it often goes bad before it runs out. Usually, you only need to fill feeders halfway. You should be replacing nectar every few days, or sooner if it gets cloudy.

Along with the birds returning, baby animals are starting to show up. Cute as they are, remember they are wild creatures. Don’t crowd even tame appearing animals, you don’t want them to get too used to humans. Watch out too for little ones on the road, they really don’t have any ‘car smarts’ yet.

There are some big ones on the road, too -- big in the sense of logging trucks. More weight restrictions have been lifted, and there is a fair amount of timber work going on right now. Log trucks are hauling on the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369), Dumbbell River Road (FR 174), the Wanless Road (FR 172), Lake County 705, Cook County 33 (the Perent Lake Road), and The Grade (FR 170) in the Tofte District. On Gunflint, there will be heavy log truck traffic on the Greenwood and Shoe Lake roads during the next couple of weeks. Harvest is currently taking place off of Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Firebox Road, with operations scheduled to begin off of the Trestle Pine Road (FR1365) soon. With the dry weather, clouds of dust coming down the road means either a log truck or a Tasmanian Devil is approaching. Either way, you’ll need to pull over and give them room.

Most, if not all, of our docks will be in the water this weekend, which is great news as it is supposed to be fantastic weather. If, instead of boating, you are planning a hike, or are planning on going into the wilderness, be aware that footpaths in many places are still very brushy from the winter storms. Portage trails and latrine trails in the wilderness, and hiking trails both inside and outside the wilderness, all may take a bit more effort to hike. There will be fallen branches and brush across the trail in some places. We are working on clearing these trails, but it may be a couple of months before they are totally cleared.

As weather conditions allow, fire crews will be working on prescription burning. These preemptive actions clear out the fuels at ground level which could cause hazardous conditions in the event of a wildfire. Details can be found on our website and at our offices. The area where the burn is occurring will be marked with signs on the roadway.

May 27, next Friday, is the deadline for registering for the June 11 “Take a Kid Fishing” event. It is possible that we may be filling open spots after that date, but it would help with our planning to have registration done by next Friday. There is only a limited number of spots, so register early to make sure your child can come fishing with us. “Take a Kid Fishing” is open to children 5 through 12. Call the Gunflint Office at 387-1750 to register or for more information.

Try taking a kid fishing this weekend, too, or just go out yourself. It looks like a great weekend to get out on the water!

Until next week, this has been Cathy Peterson with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Intentional fire along the Sawbill Trail makes an eerie sight at night

West End News: May 19

The news is good in the West End this week, thanks to 400 employees returning to work at North Shore Mining in Silver Bay. It is a wrenching blow to the entire West End when the plant shuts down. Basically, when North Shore Mining sneezes, the West End gets a cold and Silver Bay gets pneumonia. 580 workers were laid off last winter, so a callback of 400 people is good, but hopefully the remaining layoffs will end soon.
 
I was chatting with some of the temporary fire-fighters at one of the local watering holes this week. There are many out of state crews in town these days, including these fine fellows from Whitefish, Montana. I was surprised when they told me that their tour here had just been extended for another two weeks. When we were chatting, it was raining, right after it had been snowing, so the fire danger did not seem so high. They said the forecast was dry, so they’re hanging around to keep an eye on things. The Forest Service is doing a lot of intentional burning while the conditions are good for that. Having the extra crews on hand is probably part of that process as well.
 
Cook County Higher Education is celebrating 20 years of operation this week. Although located in Grand Marais, Higher Ed has provided college level education for dozens and dozens of West Enders over the years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Cook County Higher Education is the most efficient and cost effective social program in the county. They provide expertise, support, logistics and financial aid to students of all ages who want to pursue their educational dreams while living right here in Cook County. 
 
For instance, they are offering a Nursing Assistant/Home Health Aide course starting in June.  This certification can qualify you for good jobs that are in demand, but is also are a good first step toward more advanced health care training, leading to better and better paying jobs. Higher Ed says that if you are interested, regardless of your financial situation, you should apply and they will work diligently to find a way to make it work for you. To find them, just google “Cook County Higher Education” or call WTIP for full contact information.
 
The Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland is looking for some volunteers this summer. They need window washing, weed pulling, landscaping and help painting the dugouts. I must confess, when I read about painting the dugouts, I pictured Finland residents painting dugout canoes and wondered to myself why on earth they had dugout canoes. Half a day later, it dawned on me that they meant the dugouts at the ball field – at least I think that’s a more reasonable guess. Call Joyce Yamamoto at 218-353-0300 and leave a message if you can spare some time.
 
Birch Grove School’s “Gala For the Grove” is scheduled for Saturday, June 18. Get your tickets early to this popular event. The elegant, multi-course meal is just the beginning of the fun that includes a silent auction, prize drawings and the always-popular live auction. The auctioneer is frankly terrible, but the donated auction items are spectacular and steer every dollar to serving the students at the award winning Birch Grove Community School. Contact Caroline at 663-0170 to reserve your tickets.
 
I have an ethical dilemma on my hands and would like the West End community to help me solve it. About a week ago, an unfamiliar bicycle appeared in the bike rack here at Sawbill. That is not an uncommon event, so I thought nothing of it. But, a few days later, a note appeared on the bike that said “Dibs – Bilbo.” Bilbo is my nickname among the Sawbill crew – don’t ask me why. Apparently, the crew decided that if it wasn’t claimed, the bike should be mine, as my bike is living in Montana with my youngest son.
 
When I made inquiries, it came to light that a customer had found the bike in the woods alongside the Sawbill Trail. They spotted it back in the woods, fished it out and delivered it to Sawbill.
 
It’s not an expensive or particularly new bike, but it’s nice enough that it certainly doesn’t look abandoned. I guessed that it maybe fell off a car-rack, but it doesn’t seem to have the kind of dents and scratches that would result from that kind of accident. My best guess is that someone stashed it, for whatever reason, with the idea of picking it up later. Of course, when they returned, they would jump to the conclusion that it had been stolen.
 
Before I can feel good about calling the bike my own, I’m putting out word that the bike is here. If you own and can even come close to describing it, then it should return to its rightful owner. You can email me at: bill@sawbill.com or contact me through WTIP. Let’s see what word of mouth can turn up.
 
It’s episodes like this that make be so glad to live in Cook County’s West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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