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North Shore Morning

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:
Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: January 27

Kalina, Sophia and Silas report the latest School News.

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The John Beargrease Sled Dog Race

The 2016 John Beargrease Sled Dog Race will start on January 31. Born in 1858, John Beargrease, was the son of an Anishinaabe chief. He delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, following a challenging route that paralleled Lake Superior. In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, Curtis Gagnon and Doug Seim talk about the beginnings of the sled dog race that commemorates John Beargrease.

Photos courtesy of Curtis Gagnon.
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 20 - Enjoy winter

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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West End News: January 21

Skip Lamb, from Schroeder, called last week to gleefully report that he has counted 20 babies born, or about to be born, in the West End.  And, although Skip keeps careful track, there may be a few he doesn’t know about.
 
Skip keeps a running baby count not just because he is interested in everything that goes on in the West End, but also because he is a long time member of the Birch Grove Community School Board.  Like all small rural school systems, Birch Grove has struggled with declining enrollment over the last couple of decades.  It is starting to look like that trend is finally reversing, at least here in the West End.
 
Both the Birch Grove Community School and the Birch Grove Community Center have been thriving in recent years.  Programming and facilities for people of all ages are up to date and running like a well-oiled machine.  For instance, the skating rink is in prime shape right now, so dig out those skates and check it out.
 
Skip is also involved in the ongoing community conversation about the fate of the Taconite Harbor Energy Center, which is due to be moth-balled in October.  The power plant’s owner, Minnesota Power, has indicated that they will keep the plant in operable condition for at least several years after they shut it down. 
 
It seems like the world is moving on from polluting and inefficient coal-fired power plants, so it’s wise to start thinking about what to do with that prime piece of Lake Superior property over the long haul.  The fact that it includes a large protected harbor and a connection to the railroad, makes many people think that it should be repurposed for an industrial use. Wood pellet production, some type of clean energy production and food production have all been mentioned.
 
It is also one of the most beautiful sections of the North Shore, so it’s possible that the industrial buildings could be removed, the land restored and a tourism destination constructed.  The railroad line up to the Iron Range, which is one of the most beautiful stretches in the country, could be used as a scenic and historic attraction.
 
I’m sure there are many other ideas out there.  But at the end of the day, it is really up to Minnesota Power. They are a good corporate citizen and are involved with the local community, but like all corporations, they are obligated to maximize their profits for shareholders.
 
Filings have closed for the upcoming township elections in Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen.  It looks like the only contested election will be in Tofte, where incumbent Supervisor Jim King will face off with new candidate Sarah Somnis.  Jim moved to Tofte when he retired many years ago and has been very active in the community.  Sarah is a Tofte native with four generations of her family currently living in the West End.  She has also been an active community volunteer.  The beauty of democracy is that you can’t go wrong with two great candidates.
 
In Lutsen, according to reliable sources, Supervisor Tim Goettl did not file for re-election.  Long time Lutsen resident Rae Piepho is running for the vacant seat.
 
In Schroeder, the incumbent supervisor and clerk, Tina McKeever and Doug Schwecke, filed to continue in their positions without opposition.
 
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 8, which is not only the date of the township elections, but also the date of the annual township meetings.  Many people do not realize that citizens can fully participate and make real decisions at the annual meetings.  It’s the most direct form of democracy and has real consequences on all our lives, so I highly recommend attending.  Even if you don’t have an issue to advance, it gives you a good insight into the workings of your township’s public activity.
 
We had the first winter campers of the season at Sawbill this week.  Normally, by this time we’ve seen dozens of cars in the parking lot.  Two factors are at play this year.  The first is that the weather made for unsafe ice conditions followed by terrible slush.  The recent cold temperatures seem to have set up good ice conditions.  The second is that Charles Lamb of Schroeder is too busy being a dad to two teenagers and coaching the downhill ski team to go ice fishing even once.
 
Charles’ predicament is just one example of having too many choices for fun here in the wonderful West End.

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)
 
 

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Borealis Chorale and Orchestra to perform "Crazy Cold Beautiful" - February 5&6

The Borealis Chorale and Orchestra will be performing a musical work inspired by the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. WTIP volunteer Sherrie Lindskog spoke with director, Bill Beckstrand, in this interview.
 
There will be two performances of Crazy Cold Beautiful: Friday, February 5, from 7 to 8 pm at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais, and February 6 from 4 to 6 pm at the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth.

(Photo courtesy of Markus Jobstl on Flickr)

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Moments in Time: The Grand Portage Passage sled dog race

The Grand Portage Passage was a long-distance sled dog race that was held from 1999 through 2003. In this edition of Moments in Time, WTIP’s ongoing series, Doug Seim, Curtis Gagnon and Matthew Brown reflect on the meaning of the name and why the race was special…..

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Pink snow at dawn (Tracy Rosen via Wikimedia Commons)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 15

The upper Trail winter has taken positive steps forward since our last meeting. A bleak seasonal character, by usual north-country norms, has shaped up lately with freshening of the snow cover and serious ice making.                                                                                                                                          
Snow accumulations have not been extreme, but nevertheless cleaned things up so that new critter tracks are more easily distinguished. Meanwhile, enough January subzero settled over the area to really get the old “Zamboni” cranked up.                                                                                       
With frigid temps in the forecast, enhancing ice development for the coming trout season opener couldn’t have come at a better time. It would appear safe ice for pedestrian traffic could be secure here on the Gunflint and most all area lakes by Saturday’s opener. Further it seems a reliable surface for snowmobiles and ATV’s might be questionable on a few lakes where icy acquisition occurred only recently.                                                                                                                   
To preface this next story, I share with you the final freezing of Gunflint Lake favored the smoothest ice I’ve seen in my seventeen winters here. The glass like surface could allow uninterrupted skating for miles, and the lake remained free of insulating snow cover for three days of clear ice observation.                                                                                      
The charm of a Gunflint winter was never more evident than it was for yours truly on one pre-dawn day last week. Out early, as “old Sol” was making its daily debut, I was up on the Mile O Pine looking over the two day old lake ice.                                                                                                                 
The sunrise was on fire once again as it begun to lite up our lives in this northern paradise. To compliment the celestial infinity, wispy clouds were floating aloft drawing on the awesome fiery rays. This heavenly interaction rendered a spectacle of pink cotton candy vapor. In turn, the vaporous veil was picked up in reflection by the mirror perfect hard water surface.                                       
There are not adequate descriptors to pictorially celebrate the magic of this rosy dawn in concert with “pink” Gunflint ice. Such radiance probably has happened before on countless water bodies in this great land, but for me, winter elegance of this magnitude has never been so visually consuming. This wilderness panorama was a breath-taking work of un-matched art.                                                                                                                
Additions of snow over the miracle glaze, minus something temps and north-northwest winds have since, put the Gunflint Gal in a grumpy state. As I key this weeks’ report, she is murmuring tones of un-easiness. I’m not sure if her new coat isn’t a good fit, or she is shivering in the frigid air. Regardless, of the curmudgeonly attitude, her solemn dialogue is entertaining.                                                                                                  
More north woods enchantment took place at Wildersmith recently when a moose tromped through the yard. Although such occurred during darkness hours, tracks in the fresh fallen snow, and broken branches along its path, confirm it was, what it was.                                                                        
With so few moose remaining throughout the territory, coupled with the fact it’s been years since one has been seen around our place, this nocturnal visit re-energizes hope for this iconic herd to re-gain a healthy population status. The thought of a visit from one of the herd more often than once every few years would be welcomed at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                                          
The sudden turn to real winter character was equally appropriate this past weekend for the Gunflint Mail Run sled dog races. Racing conditions last Saturday morning were excellent. Enthusiasm was at a high pitch. Ten entries started the twelve dog (long race) while thirteen teams made up the eight dog (shorter race) field, all finishing up on a sunny, but bitter cold, Sunday afternoon.                                                                                     
 To stage such an awesome event has to be a ton of work! Organization of the happening was top drawer. It seemed all phases went off without a hitch. Hats off to planners, sponsors, volunteers, mushing teams and Trail Center Restaurant personnel on a job well done! The Gunflint community looks forward to seeing the GMR become a premier post-holiday occasion in years to come.                                                                                                     
Winners of the two races were Ward Wallin of Two Harbors in the 110 mile section, and Dusty Klaven of Togo, MN in the 70 mile chase. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all the teams for making this a great weekend. A tabulation of all race finishers can be found on our WTIP website.                                                                                                                                                             
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith!  Trout season is open, happy angling!
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with the National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the second half of January, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
There has been a lot of headway made in clearing roads and trail systems of the trees that fell during our ‘snow down’ event.  A three day effort cleared the Eagle Mountain trail, and the Banadad Trail is about half cleared, up to the yurt on the northern road.  But, trees continue to fall under the weight of snow which just doesn’t seem to be falling off the branches.  Even on routes which have already been cleared, you may find these “delayed” trees blocking your way.  In addition, roads and trails not open in the winter have not been cleared, so there will be more to do in the spring when they become accessible.    Travel safely.
If your reason for travel is to reach a lake for ice fishing, be sure to check the ice thickness.  The Boreal website has a good updated list of ice depth on many lakes, and it is widely variable.  There are only 3 in. of ice on some lakes, which is not safe for even foot travel.  The DNR recommends at least 4 in. of ice for foot travel, and 5 inches for a snowmobile.  If you do venture onto the ice, be prepared with ice picks to haul yourself out and a change of clothing you can leave on shore.  Better still, bring a friend with you.
You may be waiting for summer before you venture on to the lake.  This is the time of year to start planning Boundary Waters expeditions.  Reservations for entry points start on January 27th, so be sure to put that on your calendar.
Another date to put on the calendar is this next Monday.  It is Martin Luther King Day, and in his honor, government offices, including ours, will be closed.  It is a good day to reflect on how far our country has come in equal rights, and how much farther we still need to go.
One of the ongoing jobs of our biologists has been to monitor lynx populations.  We are learning more about this wild cat every year through radio collaring, scat collecting, and citizen observations.  If you see a lynx, or verifiable tracks, call or stop in at a Forest Service office and report the location to the biologist team.  We’d like to know.  If you have your camera or cell phone with, snap a picture too.  If you’re photographing tracks, put a coin or a ruler or your foot in the picture so the size can be estimated.
As for tracks being left by trucks, there is a little less log hauling on the Tofte District this week.  Forest users may see log trucks on The Grade (FR 170), the Sawbill Trail (CC2), the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369), and the west end of the Wanless Road (FR 172).    On the Gunflint side of things, log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Pine Mountain Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade.  Log trucks of course use Highway 61 as well, and I was reminded yesterday by a passing truck that I really need to check my washer fluid more often.
Whether you are skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, or just going for a drive in the woods, we hope you get out and enjoy your national forest during the next week.  Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Lutsen’s Hazel Oberholtzer feeds a sled dog while visiting Amy and Dave Freeman on Wood Lake in the BWCAW

West End News: January 14

 When Hazel Oberholtzer from Lutsen, who is in 7th grade, woke up in a tent in the BWCA Wilderness last weekend, when it was more than 20 degrees below zero, the last thing she expected was to be too warm. Hazel found herself in this unlikely position while visiting Dave and Amy Freeman on Wood Lake near Ely. Hazel traveled into Wood Lake with her brother, Cy, who is 10, her dad, John Oberholtzer, and a friend, Andy Keith, from Grand Marais.
 
Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a full year in the BWCA Wilderness without coming out even once, to call attention to proposed sulfide mining that threatens to pollute the water in the wilderness.  They’ve been in the wilderness since late September, traveling first by canoe and now with the help of three sled dogs, Tank, Tina and Acorn.
 
The Oberholtzer party pulled four toboggans into Wood Lake via the 180-rod portage along the Fernberg Road northeast of Ely.  The portage is mostly downhill so Hazel and Cy took the opportunity to ride their toboggans down the slopes.  They not only had their own tent, woodstove and camping gear, but also brought in some people food, dog food and equipment for Dave and Amy.
 
The dog team, accompanied by Dave and Amy, met them at the wilderness boundary.  Dave suggested that all four toboggans be hooked into a train to be pulled by the dogs.  It was an open question whether the dogs could pull such a large load, but they took off so fast that Dave and Amy had to sprint and dive to catch the train before it left the station unaccompanied.
 
As the group traveled to the campsite it was 28 degrees.  By the second night of the trip it had dropped to -24 degrees.  With the help of the dogs, a good supply of down and dead ash firewood had been gathered, bucked and split, for feeding the wood stoves in the tents.  Everyone had a winter weight sleeping bag, but John, being a careful father, made sure the stove was stoked every two hours. That, along with a hot water bottle in her sleeping bag, was the cause of Hazel’s overheating.
 
Aside from the risk of heat stroke, the group had great fun skijoring, exploring, visiting and playing with the dogs. They particularly enjoyed absorbing the Freemans’ manner and mindset after they’ve spent more than one hundred straight days in the wilderness.
 
The Oberholtzers’ adventure is the perfect example of why the BWCA Wilderness is a national treasure and deserves to be fully protected.  The adventure, fun, peace and comradeship experienced by the Hazel and Cy will enrich the rest of their lives.  In fact, it was the wilderness that first brought their parents to northeastern Minnesota to establish their careers and raise their family. It creates an economy and community that are sustainable and enriching.
 
If you want to know more about the immediate and very real threats to the wilderness, the organization that is sponsoring the Freemans, “Save The Boundary Waters,” is hosting a community conversation in Grand Marais on Thursday, January 28 from 5:30 until 7 pm at the Community Center Social Room. You can find more details online at: savetheboundarywaters.org.
 
Speaking of the wilderness, it is slowly dawning on everyone with a connection to the wilderness that a quiet disaster has occurred.  The phenomenon is being called the “snow-down” or the “bend-down” as opposed to the “blow-down” that occurred in 1999.  A couple of heavy, wet snows, followed by cold weather, have bent or broken untold numbers of trees into portages and campsites in large swaths of the wilderness.  As trail maintenance workers have slaved to clear the snowmobile and ski trails outside the wilderness, it has become apparent that the clearing effort required to open the wilderness for the 2016 canoeing season is going to be massive.
 
The Forest Service has scheduled one of their Beaver aircraft to fly over the wilderness soon in an attempt to map the scope of the problem.  It is already clear that the work required exceeds the ability of the existing wilderness crews to do the job in a timely manner.  Either outside crews will need to be brought in or a huge volunteer effort will have to be organized – or both.
 
There is never a dull moment, here in the wild and wooly West End.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy Freeman)
 
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 14 - Guests

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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