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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News & Information

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:
(Barbara Monroe/Flickr)

North Woods Naturalist: Yellowjackets

Throughout the northern part of the state, and here in Cook County, we’re receiving numerous accounts of aggressive yellowjackets. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with North Woods Naturalist Chel Anderson about what’s up with the wasps.


Pickle Ball

West End News September 28

West End News 9/28/2017
Let me start with a hearty thank you to Bill Hansen, aka Dad, for filling in last week while I had a rare September vacation to Denver, Colorado. While being away this time of year can be difficult for a number of reasons, I was especially worried that we would miss out on the best of the fall colors as this is shaping up to be a stellar year. The maples lead the charge a couple of weeks ago, with some brilliant reds just hinting at the show to come. Luckily, we don’t appear to have missed the lovely golds and oranges of the birch and aspen. It seems the farther inland you go from Lake Superior, the more the trees have changed, so up here at the end of the Sawbill trail it is quite lovely right now. As we begin to say goodbye to our summer visitors, the wildlife has started moving back in. A large whitetail buck has been frequenting our back yard and the wolves have been heard howling out in the Wilderness. Grouse hunting has been a little slow, but it is challenging while the leaves are still on the trees, at least that’s what the unlucky hunters tell me.
The Schroeder Area Historical Society will be hosting Marcia Anderson at the Cross River Heritage Center on Saturday, September 30 at 11am. Marcia will be discussing her book, A Bag Worth a Pony, a history of bandolier bags. These heavily beaded shoulder bags are made and worn by several North American Indian tribes around the Great Lakes. From the 1870s to the present day, Ojibwe bead artists in Minnesota have been especially well known for there lively, creative designs. Often, the Ojibwe would trade a beaded bandolier bag for a pony from neighboring Dakota people, hence the name of Marcia’s book.
The West End Pickle Ball players would like to share that they will be playing every Thursday and Saturday from 9am to 11am at Birch Grove Community Center. All levels are welcome, even those who have never heard of pickle ball before! If you are interested, call Carroll Peterson at 612-377-8748 for more information. Pickle Ball is basically a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. You play on a badminton sized court with a paddle and plastic ball with holes. It’s a great sport with simple rules and a fun way to stay active through the winter.
Birch Grove Community School was recently awarded a grant of $21,600 dollars from the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation for new math and reading curriculum. The curriculum arrived this week and the teachers and students are eager to begin exploring the new materials. Birch Grove is also gearing up for the annual Halloween Carnival, which is not to be missed! This year it will be on Sunday October 29, from 2 to 4 in the afternoon. The carnival features games, cookie decorating, bingo, prizes, food, and, my personal favorite, the cake walk. Costumes are welcome and there’s fun to be had for the whole family.
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.


School by Katherine W via Flickr

School News - GES - September 22

A new school year is underway.  Charlotte and Grace let us know what is happening at Great Expectations School.


Fall Colors by Bill via Flickr

West End News September 21

Clare Shirley is traveling this week, so she called in the second string to present the West End News. Clare is a tough act to follow, but I will do my best.
The U. S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on Lutsen Mountains Ski Area's proposal to expand onto 550 acres of public land adjacent to the existing ski hill.
You can see Lutsen Mountains' proposed master development plan online at Basically, the ski area owners are saying, that given the state of the ski industry nation-wide, they need to grow dramatically in order to survive. Based on the statistics and Lutsen Mountains' long and deep involvement in the ski industry, it's hard to argue with their analysis.
Lutsen Mountains is the largest private employer in Cook County now.  Many other businesses rely on their existence, so it is very important to all of us that they survive and thrive.
The Forest Service is involved because terrain that is suitable for ski area expansion is on public land administered by the Forest Service.  It is actually very common for the Forest Service to make land available for ski areas.  Many, if not most, of the big western ski areas are located on federal land, which is leased by the businesses under an agreement called a special use permit. The process of applying for a special use permit is still in the early stages, so comments should address issues that you think the Forest Service should investigate.  The issues can be about social and community impacts, not just the obvious land-use and environmental impacts.
The deadline for these preliminary public comments is September 29th. You can find the physical and cyber addresses at the Superior National Forest website.
I saw long time Lutsen resident, Steve Dobbelmann a couple of weeks ago and immediately noticed that he is even thinner than usual.  It turns out that he was diagnosed with stage three dance in the tonsil and lymph node on the right side of his neck back in May.
He spent the summer receiving intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As with all cancer treatments, he was burned and sickened as a side effect to stopping the disease.  The good news is that Steve has now completed his treatments and the side effects are starting to recede.  The success rate for his type of cancer, treated in this way, is 85 to 90 per cent, so Steve and his family are feeling pretty upbeat.
This is good news, because we'd like to keep Steve around Lutsen for another 40 years if we can.
The county budget and property tax levy are much on people's minds now days.  The county is proposing a pretty substantial property tax increase this year. In past years, the county board, under pressure from tax payers, has elected to spend reserves and delay capital improvements to keep the levy low, which has now caught up with them, requiring a higher levy to get the budget back in balance.
While it is very easy to have the opinion that the county should spend less, the reality is much more complicated and nuanced than that.  My philosophy is that taxes should be raised and spent, efficiently for three reasons. The first is to provide services that are best handled by public entities.  Roads, law enforcement, education, public health are a few examples.  Second, are things that pay a handsome return on investment.  The YMCA, Cook County Higher Education, Child Protection Services, and community centers are good examples.  All prevent huge spending later by building community and preventing problems now.  This is the definition of wisdom, in my opinion.  The third category includes things that are simply the right thing to do.  A community is measured and respected according to how it takes care of its members who can't take care of themselves.  I, for one, don't want to abandon people with legitimate needs to their fate, like was done in the dark ages.  We are better than that.
The good news for taxpayers is that Minnesota has a number of ways to reduce your property tax bill if you are having trouble paying it.  The Cook County website has a helpful section that will allow you to easily determine if you are eligible.  I urge everyone to investigate, because it's surprising what is available.
Finally, I urge you to be polite and encouraging to our county commissioners, even if you disagree with them.  They have a very tough job and I know that don't want to do anything that hurts people.  However, they are elected to make decisions on our behalf and we should honor and respect that responsibility.  If you feel very strongly that they aren't representing you, than by all means stand for election the next time around.  Like everything in life, it isn't as easy as it looks from the outside.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with theWest End News.



Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  I’m Renee Frahm, administration assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 21st.

This week marks the official start to fall – the autumnal equinox.  From here on in, days will be shorter than nights.  These days around the equinox are also when day length changes the fastest, so if it seems like today was a lot shorter than yesterday, you are right.  We are losing about three minutes of daylight every day right now.  By the end of the month, our days will be shorter by about half an hour than they are now.

On the plus side, that gives us some really wonderful chances to see the night sky.  People are becoming more interested in dark skies and controlling light pollution.  We are lucky to have some of the darkest skies around up here and some of the clearest air as well.  Those two factors combined allow us to see the Milky Way plainly every clear night, and enjoy the aurora when it happens.  Dark skies and clear air are two things that you can help control.  Minimize yard lighting, and use “on/off” or motion control switches instead of having lights that stay on from sunset to sundown.  Use shades on outdoor lights, and point them down instead of into the air.  If you use lighting on outdoor advertising, point the lamps down at the sign instead of up at the sign.  Clear air of course corresponds to clean air, so any action you can take to reduce pollution will help with our starry skies.  This is a good time of year to check furnaces to make sure they are operating efficiently and not polluting.  If you heat with wood, tend your fire so that it is burning well and with minimal smoke.

While astronomy tells us that it is just the start of fall, the forest tells us that it has been fall for a couple of weeks now.  Fall colors are progressing rapidly across the forest, but may not last long as there is a lot of rain and wind in the forecast.  There are a lot of drivers out right now, so watch out for vehicles and make sure you are driving and parking in a safe and respectful manner.  Grouse season has begun, so whether or not you are hunting, you need to be sporting your orange.  I’ve heard it’s the new black.  If you are hunting, be extra aware of firearm safety and what is down range as there are plenty of other people out in the woods.  Remember, it is against the law to discharge a firearm from a vehicle, across a road, or within 150 yards of a recreation site, building, campsite, or residence.  There are several sets of hunter walking trails on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts where we maintain grouse habitat.  For locations and trail maps, see our website under Hunting, or visit a district office. 

Fall logging continues as well.  On the Gunflint District, look out for trucks on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and Bally Creek Road.  On the Tofte District there will be hauling on Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Clara Lake Rd, and the Caribou Trail.

Whether you are hunting for grouse, fall colors, or the Milky Way, fall is a great season to get outside.  Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this is Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.


Canada geese - Shaun Whiteman via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 22

The Smiths are back from a run to Iowa for a visit with family. Quick as the trip was, I barely missed a beat during our flight from northland autumn. The mosaic of color has stepped up, and looks to be at a mixed bag stage as the Gunflint news hits the air waves, plenty of color and diminishing green.

I was happy with a return to an over flowing Wildersmith rain gauge. The Mile O Pine neighborhood was getting a little crunchy when I departed. Apparently some wind accompanied the moisture delivery as lawn chairs on the deck were blown about, but luckily no major trees were downed, at least around this place. So, with nearly an inch and one-half recorded, folks in these parts can be a little less worried about wildfire danger, for the time being.   
This time of year is so intriguing. Clouds hanging heavy and cool fall dampness give off an eerie feeling of winter. Summer is gone! Little more than twenty-four hours ago, our universe passed true east is east, and west is west with the Equinox. I am so captured by watching the sun set at due west on this special day. To me, the Equinox just seems to set the planet right every six months. Hopefully this astronomical happening might cause a calming in the raging atmosphere of our hemisphere, over the past few weeks.        
Rituals of our season continue to unfold. Fall is a time of un-dress in the forest. The 2017 generation of deciduous foliage is falling like winter flakes, accumulating to form the next decaying layer in a thousand year pilgrimage to build an inch of “mother earth.”  On a related note, during my brief time away from the home place, the white and red pine congregation initiated their annual needle shedding. Although this undertaking is not yet complete, the forest landscape is being re-carpeted with trillions of delicate terra-cotta toned stylus. Meanwhile, waiting in the tree tops, white cedar fronds are hanging out to add more texture as a finishing touch to this yearly, earthen floor covering event.  

I don’t know if the next subject is symbolic of early things to come, but those Canadian honkers have been flying for several weeks now. Until just last week, in our years living along Gunflint Lake, a flying wedge has not been seen setting down for R & R here in the mid-lake area. That being said, a large gaggle sto-over was not only unusual, but noisy as well. The stay was short lived however, as the flight director was disturbed by a passing watercraft and the airborne tour was quickly resumed.   

Watching the red rodents (squirrels) around the yard, I’ve observed they are expanding their winter menu cache. Not so exuberant about toting off sunflower seeds right now, they are harvesting coniferous cones. At almost every turn, I find a pile of white and/or red pine cone, remains. From the remains piled here and there, it would seem the portion they are storing away would be a bitter, sticky mess. Obviously these gnawing critters know something I don’t by including pine seeds as part of their diet fare, along with my ration of sunflower seeds from the winter seed trough.  

A reminder once more is given for the special program at Chik-Wauk Nature Center Saturday (the 23rd). Professor Evan Larson, from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville will be on the CW campus to talk of his research concerning the historic log exhibit at the museum which he discovered in an island forest on Lake Saganaga. The presentation will begin at 2:00pm.  

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, among the wonders of “Mother Nature.”



Northern Sky: September 16 - 29

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

Photo courtesy of NASA



Superior National Forest Update: September 15

Hi. I’m Cathy Jasperson, customer service representative at the Tofte office with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 14.

As you head out into the Forest this coming week, you may encounter a lot of traffic. A “lot of traffic” here isn’t exactly a “Chicago rush hour,” but it will be enough that you’ll have to keep your eyes open and be ready for other vehicles on the road. One source of traffic will be the fall color season. Colors are really ramping up right now, and the Forest Service is getting a lot of inquiries on when the peak of fall color will be. This coming weekend should be a pretty good one for fall color in some areas, although there are plenty of other areas which still are hanging on to summer. Differences are due to variations in microclimate where even the south side of a hill can have a different climate than the north side. The differences are also due to the individual tree: Stressed trees usually change color sooner than completely healthy trees. Does that mean you should worry about the birch in your yard if it turns early? Not necessarily, but you may want to investigate what could be stressing it and see if there is something you could do. Overall, this should be a good year for fall colors. Fall colors could be the silver lining of our somewhat cloudy and rainy summer. If you are driving looking at colors, please respect other drivers and let them pass if they want, and park where it is safe to do so. 

The other source of traffic will be some logging trucks. There are several active sales right now, and there are many roads which will be hosting truck traffic. On the Gunflint District, look out for trucks on Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and Bally Creek Road. On the Tofte District there will be hauling on Dumbbell River Road, Wanless Road, Pancore Road, the Sawbill Trail, Clara Lake Road, and the Caribou Trail.

Added to that, there also may be vehicles from hunters parked along the roads. The bear season is active right now, and small game and grouse seasons both start on September 16. If you plan on hiking in the woods, this is the time to start wearing orange. 

All that makes it sound like a very busy season, which it is in some regards. This is the time of year though that we see use drop in the Boundary Waters and on other lakes. Boaters and canoeists need to be aware that you are less likely see other people, and you need to be prepared to be self-sufficient in an emergency. Carry a spare prop and paddles in your boat, and bring supplies enough to last a night, just in case. Make sure your trailer has a spare tire and that it is functional, and that you have the right size wrench along to put it on. Let people know where you are going and when you will return. If you’re canoe camping, make sure you are equipped for spending a day sitting out storms or wind. We may not get hurricanes up here, but fall winds can certainly bring conditions not suitable for canoeing.

Despite all those warnings and traffic, this is one of the best times to get out and enjoy the Forest. Bugs are low, temperatures are nice, and the scenery can be spectacular. 

Have a great week in the woods, and until next week, this has been Cathy Jasperson with the Superior National Forest Update.


Fall color

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 15

Gunflint territory has been living “Indian Summer” at its best as I begin this week's news. The facts were never more evident than this past weekend when temps warmed under crystal blue following an early September cool spell.                                                                                             

Heading into week three, golden flurries of fall have started trickling down along back country roads. Along our Mile O' Pine, the passage of a few neighborhood vehicles is beginning to windrow an accumulation of flighty birch tokens.                                                                                            

With the start of leaf drop being our first chapter in autumn's fade-away, the second is seen in the sudden decline of hummingbird arrivals and take-offs from our deck side feeding terminal. It would seem most of the mini-drones must have departed the territory as the sweet juice container has remained half full for several consecutive days.                                                                               

The beat goes on for this autumnal passage. During a recent trip up toward Trail's end, I found a micro sampling of fall in full dress. It may be history by this airing, but the scene was glorious around the little waterfalls on Larch Creek just south of the U.S. Forest Service Seagull Guard station. Brilliant reds, orange and golds framed the liquid as it tumbled over the granite barrier. Ahhh, the beauty of border country, that’s why we live here!                                                                                                                                            

The Smiths at long last got an up close peek at the local momma bear and her four youngsters. Having heard uncountable reports of the family, we encountered them twice in less than 24 hours. Those little ones are so cuddly. Too bad they grow-up to be an occasional nuisance. Or do they become annoyances because we humans create the opportunity? I think we know!                                                                                                                                 
Another note from our natural world finds the staff at Chik-Wauk still awaiting the hatching of the snapping turtle eggs. If you will recall from a June Wildersmith column, the eggs were buried in a protected area of the parking lot near the museum entrance. It’s going on 90 days since momma laid them, so if it’s going to happen the little snappers should be cracking out any day. The average incubation is about 70 days, but can extend to up over 90, so internal nurturing is at the long end of this “shell game” process.                                                                                                                                          

A new historical display at the Chik-Wauk Museum this summer probably has not drawn the attention it should. Being located on the front porch, the exhibit is one commanding interest from both a natural and cultural point of view.                                                                                  

The subject of the display is a log which was salvaged from a dead red pine tree growing on Voyagers Island in Lake Saganaga. Through “cross-dating” the natural story can now be told about growth rings being matched to now living trees in the BWCAW. The inner most growth ring was formed in the year 1589 while the outermost solid ring was formed in the early 1900s thus making this tree over 350 years old when it died. Scars within the growth rings indicate the effects of fire that burned around the tree in 1659, 1743 and 1847.                                                                            

Culturally, speaking a large scar on the face of the trunk was created when bark was stripped off by mankind. This was likely done to induce the flow of resin which ultimately was used in the development of gum sealants for the building and repair of birch bark canoes. Tool marks remain visible to this day. Interestingly, now dead for somewhere over a century, small spots of resin can still be found oozing from the log. The peel on the tree seems to have been initiated in the 1770s giving credence to the influence of people in this area during the fur trade era and likely indigenous people before them.                                                                                                                                                   

Discussion of this thought-provoking exhibit leads me to announce a special program coming up at Chik-Wauk on Saturday, September 23. Evan Larson, an associate professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will be on hand to enlarge upon this fascinating history of mankind in nature. Professor Larson discovered the log while conducting research connecting fire relationships and border country inhabitants in Sag Lake territory.                                                                                                                                                                                
The program will be held in the Nature Center facility beginning at 2:00 pm, and looks to be another in the great series of summer programs at Chik-Wauk. Residents and visiting “leaf peepers” are reminded to stop in, see the exhibit and listen to Mr. Larson.                                                                                                    
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as autumn lights up our lives!



Superior National Forest Update: September 8

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, Superior National Forest interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 8.

It’s hard to believe that summer is gone and autumn is here. Two sure signs are that the kids are back in school, and our fall color reports and photos have reappeared on our webpage. Our reports are not just the percentage of color and predictions on when the peak of color will be, but also include some musings on autumn and fall illustrated with photos from around the Forest. Check it out if you haven’t. 

Fall migrations are in full swing. There is a lot of bird activity, and it is good time to keep the feeders full as birds need the food to fuel their travels. Hummingbirds are still around, so keep those feeders full and clean as well. If you go out on a nice still, clear night you’ll be able to hear migrating flocks of birds chirping to each other as they navigate using the stars. 

There’s a bit of human migration happening this weekend as well. The annual Superior Fall Trail Race will be taking place on the Superior Hiking Trail this Friday and Saturday. If you’re looking to go for a hike, you may want to visit their website to find out where racers may be on the trail. Watch for people, spectators and racers at trail crossings, and take note of temporary ‘no parking’ areas in some locations. Running 100 miles, or even 50 or 26, on a hiking trail is a pretty incredible feat so best of luck to all the participants.

Bear season has begun, so there will be bear hunters out in the woods as well as the runners. Look out for both hunters and bait stations, and try not to disturb either. With small game season opening soon as well, it is a good time to start wearing your orange hat or vest when out and about. Our black dog always sports an orange vest of his own this time of year.

Speaking of bears, they are in their final fattening up stage before hibernation. They love fat-rich acorns right now, but are also happy to eat any human food they discover. Take your bird feeders in at night, close your garage doors, and safely store all your food and garbage when camping. Our fee campgrounds have dumpsters, but they don’t work unless the bars or chains are secure. In at least one campground, the bears have figured out the bar system, so there are additional pins through the bar to secure it in place. Make sure you secure the dumpster as much as possible when you are done using it.

There’s a fair amount of truck traffic happening out in the woods. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks using the Clara Lake Road, the Caribou Trail, the Dumbbell River Road and the Wanless Road. On the Gunflint District, look for trucks on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, the South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, the Trestle Pine Road, and, finally, the Ball Club Road.

Those trucks will be competing with the first of the leaf watchers. Expect to see slow moving and parked vehicles over the next couple of months when people come to look at and take pictures of the fall foliage. And, if you are one of those people, make sure to park in safe places and close the doors of your car when you get out. Pull over in safe areas to let faster moving cars pass you.

Enjoy the beginning of fall, and until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.