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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!

 


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Superior National Forest Update: April 22

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For mid-April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Spring continues to arrive.  The ‘green line’ of opening tree buds is a little north of the Twin Cities, and is moving northward at about 15 miles a day.  That means that up here, it will still be a while before we see leaves on the trees.  But, the grass by the roadsides is starting to show some green, and all the deer are busy eating it.  And, by ‘all the deer’, I mean a lot of deer along the road!  The good news is that they are moving a little less often across the road since there is now green grass to be found on both sides.  Still, it remains the season to really watch for deer.  When you do see deer, you’ll notice that they are looking fairly shaggy as they are losing their heavy winter coats.  Some snowshoe hares are showing signs of springtime molting as well, but most are still in the white of winter.  Snow depth varies greatly with no snow along the shore, but there is still three feet in some locations inland. 
All that melting snow means that the gravel and dirt roads in the Forest are very soft and require some attention while you are driving.  You also have to beware of some really deep, suspension-eating, potholes on the paved roads.  That means that regardless of what road you are on, pay extra attention this time of year.  On the plus side, you shouldn’t have to watch out for logging trucks in the woods.  Spring road weight restrictions are still in force, and large trucks are not out on the forest roads.
In addition to potholes in the road, melting snow creates small spring ponds, known as vernal pools.  Frogs are beginning to call from these pools on warmer nights.  Both chorus frogs and spring peepers are beginning to sing.  Many birds have returned as well over the last two weeks, and a dawn chorus of bird song is ringing out in the woods.  Song sparrows, white throated sparrows, fox sparrows, purple finches, robins, and redwing blackbirds are all singing right now, with warblers yet to arrive.
Lakes are well on the way to melting.  Most lake ice at this point is not safe to travel on.  Even thick ice is now full of air pockets and is not as strong as it may look.  The southern part of the state has recorded some of the earliest ice out dates in history this spring, so don’t go by the calendar and assume the ice is safe because it always has been at this time of year.
Despite all this melting and wetness, we are in the spring fire season.  The dead remains of last year’s grasses and annual plants dry quickly into tinder in the warm sun, and green water-rich leaves have yet to appear.  Spring fires, like the 2007 Ham Lake Fire, can become huge, so be aware that you need a burning permit now, and you should pay attention to how dry the area around your fire is.  We are taking advantage of the spring fire season by conducting some prescribed burns when the weather permits.  This means that you may see signs warning of smoke and fire equipment ahead when you are out. 
You may also see a sign telling you about a visitor use survey ahead.  This is part of a national use survey to help us better serve visitors.  If you have time, please talk to the surveyor.  Usually they will conduct a short interview after you return to your car from your hike or bike ride about your experience in the Forest.  These interviews help to shape our management of recreation areas.
Get out and enjoy some of those recreation areas this spring, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: April 21

Sophia, Kalina and Gus report the latest news from Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.

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West End News: April 21

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune issued their annual “Best of Minnesota” article last week and the West End made the list twice. The Lutsen 99er was named as Minnesota’s best mountain bike race.  Minnesota’s best resort spa was awarded to the Waves of Lake Superior Spa at Surfside Resort in Tofte. Neither of these are a surprise to West Enders. Of course, almost everything we have is the best in Minnesota, but we’re too cool to be conceited about it.
 
For instance, we have Minnesota’s best community school, in my humble opinion, at Birch Grove School in Tofte. At the moment, Birch Grove Community School is looking for three new school board members. Current board members Sarah Somnis and Rae Piepho were recently elected township supervisors in Tofte and Lutsen, so they are required to resign from the school board to avoid a conflict of interest. The third opening is to replace Jessica Cameron who moved away when her husband was transferred by the Forest Service.
 
The Birch Grove School Board has nine members and meets monthly on the fourth Tuesday. The board expects that members attend at least 80% of the meetings. There is a simple application form that is available from school director Caroline Wood. Stop by the school or give Caroline a call if you would like more information.
 
There is a fun, informal social gathering of dog owners in the Lutsen township park every Sunday at 3 pm. There is nothing organized about this, but it is a chance for some of the outstanding community dogs to spend some time playing and getting to know one another. I suppose there might be some socializing among the owners, too.
 
Matt and Mary Beth Farley, of Lutsen, will be traveling soon to visit their son Andy, who is now stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Andy has completed his basic training and is now training as a combat engineer for the 82nd Airborne Division. Matt said that Andy recently broke his collarbone, which put a short glitch in his training, but will soon be back to full speed. Andy is, of course, a proud graduate of Cook County High School.
 
I was sorry to hear about the dust-up that occurred when the Cook County Board of Commissioners proposed a resolution recommending that the BWCA Wilderness watershed be protected from the pollution that inevitably follows the mining of sulfide-bearing ores.
 
Like the silly banning of Bent Paddle Beer from the Silver Bay Municipal Liquor Store, it strikes me as a misguided attempt to intimidate people who want to express their honestly held political opinions.
 
The threat to remove Cook County from the Taconite Assistance Area strikes me as a particularly empty and unnecessary threat. The rail line between Taconite Harbor and Hoyt Lakes is still owned by a mining company. That railroad and the Taconite Harbor power plant may well end up being key parts of Minnesota’s mining efforts in the future.
 
Details aside, I believe that open and honest political discussion is always a good thing and coercion and threats are always a bad thing. Talking important issues through will ultimately result in a more vibrant and prosperous West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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Northern Sky: April 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 on the Monday North Shore Morning program through "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

In the second half of April, we get a visit from Mercury and also a full moon; look for Saturn and Mars rising before midnight; and the ancient Celtic holiday beginning at sundown April 30, also known as the Witches' Sabbath.

(Photo by Kabsik Park on Flickr)

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A Year in the Wilderness: April 15 - Saganaga at last

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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 15

There’s hope for serious spring-like temperatures as this week’s Gunflint scoop comes your way. However, while my scribing hits the keyboard, it’s snowing once more in the Wildersmith neighborhood.

For winter worshippers, things have been glorious over the past month with snow, snow and more snow. I suppose some in these parts are beginning to wonder if this recent siege will ever end.

Up to the moment, around this place we’ve now totaled slightly over 102 inches, and we’re still counting. It’s been exactly 30 days since the snow-maker slipped into high gear, giving us one-third of our seasonal total. Guess one should never count the season down and out until the “gal” (Mother Nature) in charge of things says it’s so! In the immortal words of NY Yankee great, Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over.”

With spring out there somewhere, energies are at a high pitch for the leadership of the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. The focus of course is another Chik-Wauk Museum season and the anticipated opening of their new Nature Center building.

Finishing touches are being made on the facility as the GTHS awaits delivery of exhibits from the design “pros” at Split Rock Studios. Arrival and installation of the displays is hoped for some time next week assuming road bans allow such.

After several years of visioning, planning, jumping through hoops and fundraising, the thought of this project being opened for family friendly viewing and learning is exciting beyond the organizations wildest dreams. The Nature Center will be open daily along with the museum beginning on the Memorial Day weekend.

In addition to completion of the Nature Center building, work is being wrapped up on a small administrative/archival storage unit. Both of these Chik-Wauk additions are being fit onto the footprints of where buildings were located during the days of resort operations. In each case these structures are simple rehabilitations, not actual restorations.

Telling more of the Chik-Wauk story does not end here. Planning is already underway for the construction of an open-air structure which will display, and further tell the stories about life on the lakes along the Gunflint. It too will be located on the footprint of the original shoreline dock (across the driveway from the Nature Center, on the northeast bay) where the first resort operators had theirs.

The timber-frame constructed “marine equipment” display unit is set to be built by GTHS volunteers under the guidance of professionals at the North House Folk School, on the Folk School Campus in Grand Marais, this coming August. Installation of this facility is scheduled for the summer of 2017.

And last but not least, on the drawing board now is a rehab of one Chik-Wauk Resort guest cabin. Target for this addition is uncertain, but hopefully, as soon as design approval is procured and additional funding is raised. This too will be located on a historic cabin site.

It’s hoped all will mark their calendars for another visit this summer to share in some new Chik-Wauk magic!

Speaking of those just mentioned GTHS volunteers, as we near the end of National Volunteer Week, I would like to express my thanks to all the good folks both around the Cook County area, in Grand Marais and up the Trail for all they do to make this place on the northern Riviera the special attraction it is!

Since I reside out this way, I am especially conscious of the people of the Gunflint Community who always answer the call for whatever and whenever, without fail. Not only are you wonderful friends and neighbors, your commitment is uniquely remarkable, in making sure this byway through paradise remains an unequaled natural, cultural and historical resource.

As a volunteer myself on many community tasks, I’m rewarded by gaining far more satisfaction from serving than I actually provide in services. I would guess this attitude is shared by all along the Gunflint who continually pitch in…thank you so much!

On a closing note, as I was finalizing the first draft of this Gunflint report, we had a deck-side visit from a “real” big bird. Following a dinner of roasted chicken, I set carcass remains out on the feeding tray for the pine martens. In no time at all, a “piney” was here, feasting to its content. In a short time, it disappeared with a mouthful to be stockpiled somewhere in the woods.

Soon after, out of the heavens, a bald eagle swooped down to an unprecedented landing at our gourmet trough. Having never had this happen before, it remains a mystery whether the “great American symbol” had its eye on the poultry remains or the pine marten.

The “awesome avian” didn’t hang around long, departing without a chicken dinner. Guess it might have preferred our offering in the uncooked state, as opposed to our tasty processed gourmet version.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, enjoying what may be the last moments of winter!

(Photo courtesy of Marie Hale on Flickr)

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Great Expectations

School News from Great Expectations: April 14

Doran and Trevor report the latest School News.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: April 13

Kalina, Sophia and Isabel report the latest School News.

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West End News: April 14

I’m reporting the West End News this week from the far west end, all the way out in Bozeman, Montana. I’m here on tour with the Plucked Up String Band.

Everyone knows that touring bands live a life filled with wild parties fueled by crazy substance abuse and excesses of every kind. Well, I’m happy to report that is not the case for our current tour.

We chose Montana for our tour because my son, Carl Hansen, a proud West Ender, lives in Bozeman, where he is a freelance filmmaker. Carl’s boyhood friend, Beau Larson, originally from Lutsen, also lives in Bozeman, making his living as a wildlife photographer. So, this is really more of a combination band tour and family visit.

The band has been warmly received in Montana, with appreciative crowds at every show and many invitations to return. In our down time, our activities have tended more toward hiking, disc golf and many hours of playing music while soaking up the unseasonable 70-degree sunshine that Montana has been experiencing. Other than a pleasant overall tiredness and some sore fingers, the tour has been fulfilling and fun.

We’re ending the tour in Ashland, Wisconsin, where we’ll be headlining the Ashland Folk Festival, the oldest folk festival in Wisconsin.

I’ve been reading, with interest, all the recent news about economic diversification on the Iron Range. Although the West End is not generally considered part of the Iron Range, we are directly affected by what happens in our greater region.

I’m no expert on the mining industry, but it seems that the experts are thinking that mining may be in a more serious decline that just the normal ups and downs of a commodity-based industry. Long story short, the situation is a symptom of the global market place.

Just in the last few weeks, the conversation around economic development in northeastern Minnesota has changed. Governor Dayton came out with a strong message about protecting our wilderness. The IRRRB held a conference on how the region can attract young residents by being “cool and creative.” The IRRRB also announced plans to reform their governance and move their grant and loan programs more toward quality of life projects and away from trying to attract smoke-stack industries. Minnesota Public Radio has hosted an event focused exclusively on diversifying the Iron Range economy and the Minneapolis Star Tribune is running a series of articles on the same subject. Aaron Brown has continued his well-written efforts to inspire economic diversification on his popular blog, “Minnesota Brown.”

All this news is very encouraging, with the obvious caveat that it must lead to some substantial progress and not just exist as a flash in the pan. It is also encouraging because it is driven by community members who are rolling up their sleeves and asking themselves what kind of community they would like to live in and leave to their children.

Unfortunately, it’s a case of the people getting out ahead of at least some of their leaders, who seem to be stuck in the old thinking that economic development will come from giant industrial development. I’m also afraid the influence of money in our politics is moving our leadership away from the wishes of the actual voters. I hope our political leaders are paying close attention to this new regional spirit and will get on board before the train leaves the station without them.

I am proud to say that Cook County is providing leadership in this new regional mood. In my opinion, the West End is in a particularly good position to take advantage.

As we toured around Montana this week and told people we were from the North Shore of Minnesota, the most common response was along the lines of “Oh, I love the North Shore” or, “I’ve been to the Boundary Waters” or, “Grand Marais is a great town.” I believe this is because Montana and the North Shore share a quality of life based on outstanding natural beauty and a largely unspoiled environment. But, for whatever reason, the wonderful West End seems to be well thought of, right across this great United States.

 

 

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School News from Oshki Ogimaag: April 13

Nicholas reports the latest School News.

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