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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:
Deer (Greg Gjerdingen/Flickr)

Magnetic North: Shore lunch observed

Welcome back to Magnetic North, a veritable smorgasbord for the birds and beasts of the field. At least the ones who hang out along the ribbon of highway hugging Lake Superior. 
Highway 61 is definitely the critter equivalent of those ubiquitous Mid-western all-you-can eat restaurants, only without the chocolate pudding plunked in the middle of the salad bar.
And oddly enough to my thinking, this particular road gets really bountiful right now, close to our human Thanksgiving. 
Fact is, that even though white-tailed deer get hit by cars and blown to smithereens by semis the year ‘round, rutting season seems to bring out the death wish in the herd. 
Even so, in 22 years of driving up here, I have hit only one deer, and then she simply kicked a dent in my bumper and ran off. Other than that I have killed only one partridge on the highway. This may well be my year for deer, though. For I find myself on 61 for hours at a time, several days and nights a week, visiting my husband, Paul, at the Veterans Home in Silver Bay. And believe me when I tell you that on the way to and from, I encounter many, MANY deer.
Some bound into my headlights. Some betray their presence in the ditch by the reflection of my headlights in their eyes. And others just stand in the road, deciding whether or not to die. This last bunch is the worst. Often, the animal looks at my approaching car and appears to run off the road. I say “appears” because usually, the dummy changes her mind - thinking perhaps, “Nah, winter is SO not fun!” -  and runs back into my path.
Having had this happen once too often, the second that I spot a deer, whether in the ditch or the blacktop, I start honking like a New York cabbie. It’s worked…so far, at least. 
Never content to spare only myself, if I do have a near miss, I then flick my headlights at oncoming vehicles. Someone once told me that flicking headlights on and off repeatedly is a well-known sign to others that deer are ahead. Sadly, a number of oncoming drivers misinterpret my flashing lights. These often give me yet another well-known sign, the hand and finger kind. Ah well, no good deed goes unpunished....
However, when all fails and deer does meet vehicle on 61, the end result is not only death and increased auto insurance rates.  For scavengers, it is answered prayer.
Last week, I passed such a roadkill/banquet in progress just as I pulled onto 61 from my road. A majestic bald eagle presided over the banquet of ribs, innards and all the trimmings. He appeared to be the reluctant host to a flock of shiny black ravens.
These were gyrating about, tearing off tidbits, flapping their wings with joy and generally having one whale of a time. The food fight in Animal House comes to mind.
The eagle, on the other hand, held himself erect, as if offended, if not slightly sickened, by the very presence of the ravens, let alone their boorish antics.
And why should he not be? Sharing the deer with a bunch of pipqsueaks was enough to spoil the great bird’s day. But all the unnecessary folderal? Really? 
It looked me like the human equivalent of being invited to a friend’s home for Thanksgiving and finding oneself at the children’s table. The very young and tired and cranky children’s table!
A more congenial scene greeted me on the narrow band of 61 in Tofte. Most of this stretch is nearly without any shoulder at all. So the smashed-up deer carcass resting on the lakeside edge of pavement could only be enjoyed by revelers if they sat partially in the ditch, facing the passing vehicles. This afforded a view of their heads. Which lined up like this: raven, raven, raven, fox, raven, raven, raven.
The birds were nearly as jumpy as the ones I saw earlier, but the fox had the happy look of one who’d just made it into the popular clique. It was one of those scenes that made me desperate to take a picture. But I will always remember exactly how it looked in my mind’s eye.
I must say that as much as I love seeing the nature turning death into life again, the reality of it all dampens my envy of the beasts; a state of mind that afflicts me always. Imagine how wonderful it would be to fly off the ground and hover weightless on updrafts of air. Or to run and jump like a deer. Or just curl up like a fox, warm as toast in my gorgeous coat, my bushy tail curled around my nose.
But then, I see the bunch of them eating. Eating cold, stringy meat. Studded with hair and gravel. My behind in a ditch, cars whizzing by. And the whole romantic image dies, another victim of reality.
And so, I’ll have to content myself with the human equivalent of the critters’ shore lunch. The unexpected gesture of having my meal tab picked up by a friend. The holiday invite. Or the wild raspberries hanging warm and juicy on bushes in my woods, just for me and me alone. Not a bad life. Not really, even without wings... or a fabulous bushy tail.

Airdate: November 8, 2012

The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Climate Change and the Future

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There are a lot of ways climate change stands to affect Lake Superior. There's the reduction in ice cover, rising lake temperatures, the increase in storminess and declining water levels. But it’s not just the lake itself that stands to be impacted by the changing climate. The rising temperatures and increase in severe weather events are altering the ecology in the Lake Superior watershed, and  changing the way of life for all living things in the region.


Moon, Venus & Jupiter (Frankzed/Flickr)

Northern Sky: Opposites in November

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. We're getting into mid-November now, and this year, the biggest thing is how the two brightest planets are playing opposites. Learn more in this edition of Northern Sky.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Cook County Schools

School News from Cook County Middle School, November 2

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Through the cooperation of Cook County Schools and Grand Portage Education, Cook County Middle School is now offering Ojibwe language classes to all 8th grade students.  In this edition of Cook County Middle School News, Ojibwe instructor Tom Jack tells us about the new classes.

Pine Marten (travelling.steve/Flickr)

Wildersmith November 2

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“Biboon” (winter) is official in these parts, as defined by my Wildersmith criteria. Last weekend spelled the beginning as the daytime temp actually stayed below the freezing mark here on our shores of Gunflint Lake.
The Ojibwe have rightly named this month as that of the “Freezing over moon” (Gash Kadino-Giizis). This is exactly what was going on around here as ice was being made on small ponds, swamps and anything else that would hold quiet water.
Taking things farther, the Mile O Pine was covered in thin layer of white on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. Although the coating was not thick enough to endure until next spring, it was nevertheless energizing for those of us who have been waiting for the first real coming.
The adventure of first accumulating snow always captures me. On this occasion, I was the first to make tracks on our scarcely used roadway last Saturday morning, even beating the four-legged critters as best I could determine.
The initial trek on a pure smooth covering harkens me back to pioneer times when life was simpler and there were far fewer beings around. Each step taken by mankind back then meant something about survival. I can’t escape the charm of making a primal mark on a path that has not been tread following a fresh dose of winter wonder. It’s not exactly like taking the first step on the moon, but still intriguing for yours truly in an un-explainable way.
As fall gives way to winter, it has been pleasing to see the return of our wilderness “welcome wagon.” Snow buntings are gathering all along the Trail. With the approach of one’s vehicle they are erupting in clouds of fluttering white underbodies to lead us through this paradise arbor. It sure is delightful to watch their swooping aerial acrobatics.
Another return engagement happened last week on our deck rail cafeteria. Out of nowhere that wily old pine marten stopped by after having been MIA for several months. It too confirmed that the season of cold is official. The coat it was sporting was rich and lush as if it was January, not late October.
Speaking of lush apparel, I spotted a snowshoe hare a day or two ago that has also completed transition to winter wear. So my early winter declaration comes with credible validation from several in the wild neighborhood.
The firearms venison stalking gets under way throughout the area this weekend.  Here’s hoping that those orange clad beings sitting out in the woods pretending to be a tree or a bush have a safe hunt. Further, this time of year means that the non-hunting public out in the forest should be all about sporting their glowing outer gear too. For all hunters, give a hoot; don’t shoot, unless you’re sure!
Not only is the excitement of the deer season upon us, this is the big week of the final 2012 membership drive in support of community radio throughout the northland. Once again, I’m encouraging everyone to step up and get “Tuned In” with those who want this WTIP magic of the airwaves to continue.
Pledging is so easy, and oh so important! Your membership contribution will ensure that top-drawer WTIP programming extends on and on into the future! Call us now at 218-387-1070, 800-473-9847 or click and pledge at
Keep on hangin, on and savor the crystal coming.

Airdate: November 2, 2012

Canoeing in the BWCA Wilderness in November

West End News: November 1

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The late Senator Paul Wellstone was in the news last week as his family, friends, the state and the nation marked the 10th anniversary of the tragic plane crash that took the lives of eight people. I was a friend of the Wellstones, albeit one of several thousand other people. Although they were very, very busy people, they had an amazing capacity for caring and friendship and I treasured the time I was able to spend with them.
What many people don’t know is that Paul and Sheila Wellstone were honorary West Enders.  During the 12 years that he served in the Senate, they vacationed regularly in Tofte at the home of a family friend.  Sheila’s idea for their time in Tofte was to have it be a real disconnect from their otherwise hectic schedules – a time for reading, reflection, deep relaxation and taking time to be a couple. Paul was on board with the plan, but his natural tendency to seek out contact with people couldn’t be completely denied. 
His routine was to grab a borrowed overcoat that was several sizes too big for him and hike the half mile to the North Shore Market. There he read the daily newspapers, visited with store patrons and enjoyed the company of Henry and Florence Wehseler, who owned the store at the time. Paul led discussions with the customers on the issues of the day, often failing to mention that he was a U. S. Senator. He told me that he particularly enjoyed debating with Henry.  Although they were both life-long Democrats, they didn’t agree on every issue, but Paul told me more than once that he respected Henry’s insight and principles.
The Wellstones were scheduled to be in Tofte for a week beginning the day after the 2002 election. They invited Cindy and me to dinner on the second day after the election and when he made the invitation, Paul said that we would spend the entire evening at Bluefin, enjoy hours of conversation and would not mention politics even once. I agreed, but thought to myself, “Fat chance of that!”
West End residents Dave and Amy Freeman are on the home stretch of their epic multi-year journey by kayak, dog sled and canoe around most of North America.  Last year, they had a huge forest fire burn right past them in northern Canada. This week they were paddling down the east coast in New Jersey, just in time for Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, they had plenty of warning and were able to take themselves to safety in the home of a friend about five miles inland. The day after the storm, they reported that they were kayaking over to the friend’s place of business to assess storm damage. They are scheduled to end their trip at Key West in a couple of months although, knowing them, I don’t expect they’ll let the grass grow under their feet for long.
The Memorial Blood Center bloodmobile is scheduled to be a Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte Monday, Nov. 12 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. The recent accident at the Taconite Harbor Energy Center and the disaster on the East Coast are just the most recent reminders that having an adequate supply of blood on hand is important.  If you are in good health, give Polly Erickson a call at 663-7398 for an appointment.  You can find more information and fill out the health questionnaire online at
Here is the rundown of upcoming activities at Birch Grove:
As always, Senior Lunch is on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. On Nov. 7, Ginny Danfelt will be there to give a brief presentation about the Residential Energy Efficiency Project.  If you are not a regular, please call ahead so they know how many to expect. You can just leave a message at 663-7977 or drop an email to
There is a lot of interest in a senior exercise class this winter, but a teacher is needed, so contact Patty at Birch Grove if you are interested. The seniors are also planning a lunch at Bluefin in December and possibly a trip to Gunflint Lodge in the spring to try out their new zip line nature tour.
Did you know that you can swim in the AmericInn – Tofte swimming pool for a small fee and the money is donated back to Birch Grove School?  Well, it’s true.
The weekly open gym for pre-schoolers, their parents and/or caregivers starts next week on Friday, Nov. 9 from 9:30 until 10:30 a.m.  This is a little later than advertised in the Birchbarker newsletter, so be advised.
Two dates have been chosen for the ever-popular boot hockey tournaments at the new Birch Grove skating rink and warming house facility this winter: Jan. 25 and Feb. 9. Get your team together and sign up by calling Patty at 66-37977 or email at
Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at Birch Grove will be open Nov. 5 and Nov. 28.  Contact the clinic in Grand Marais for appointments.
My friend and customer from Hayward, Wisconsin, Tom Heinrich, is a frequent visitor to the West End.  Tom is a teacher and a fanatic wilderness canoeist, spending several weeks each year in canoe country.  He was on Brule Lake in the BWCA Wilderness last week and sent me some interesting observations when he got home:
“.....noticed these things happening along the North Shore in the last two months....
more businesses seem more friendly to canoers...not only the owners, but the help...lots more questions about we're I/we've been, what's it like, and please stop attendant at a Holiday Gas Station explained the dynamics of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and how warm air will get pulled into the area next weekend, in time to canoe...genuine discussion and this happens at a lot of places that I stop in. It wasn't always that way. I have gained some much needed winter weight snapping down those good sandwiches now created at the Tofte General Store....

Second, WTIP is probably the best station right now in the world...lots of things that focus on being in northern Minnesota without the glitz...WOJB in Reserve, Wisconsin rates a close second...

Third, despite all the traffic that the BWCA gets, the campsites are amazingly clean. Granted I don't paddle here in the summer, but hanging out surfing the waves on Brule, which gets some good fall use, I find little if any debris in the camps...opposite of camps in the busier spots in the Woodland Caribou which usually have a fire ring with lots of tin foil and instant soup 
packages half burnt....

....and there is an advantage to global warming, which is being able to canoe longer. Never dreamed of paddling in November in the BWCA like I have the last few years and hopefully will this year also with the mild warm up...”
While it may be true that climate change is extending the canoeing season, I worry that phenomena like the July 4th blow down, the Ham Lake and Pagami Creek fires, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, and other extreme weather will cause larger problems that will affect the economy in the West End.  Time will tell, I guess.

(Photo by Bill Hansen)

Kindergarten Aide Adrianna

School News from Sawtooth Elementary, October 29

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Sawtooth Elementary kindergarten teacher Dena Schliep has a busy job.  Luckily, Cook County senior Adrianna Berglund is there to help.  In this edition of Sawtooth Elementary School News, Adrianna shares her thoughts about being a kindergarten aide.

Moose (Josh More/Flickr)

Wildersmith October 26

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As the 10th segment of 2012 is fading fast, the Gunflint wilderness is becoming a place of ‘almost’ happenings. Snowshoe hares are almost white, the white tails are almost into the rut, the tamaracks are almost undressed of their needles, the “falling leaves” moon is almost full and it’s almost November.
Atmospheric conditions through the territory were rather uneventful since we last met on the radio. However, we were finally blessed with a decent episode of rain. Although it was far from enough, the inch or so recorded in various places along the byway did at least ease the wildfire danger temporarily. Temperatures in the meantime have remained a bit on the mild side, which again reinvigorated the biting bugs.
Yours truly made what is hoped to be a final venture into the lake a few days ago. It was not for a refreshing dip, but to bring in wildfire sprinkler system lines. Clad in my waders, the cold was not too intense until my unprotected hands entered into the removal process. Believe me, the water is already icy cold, probably not real close to the freezing point just yet, but dangerously cold if one were to go in accidentally. Late season canoe and boating folks should be extra cautious!
During this past weekend, as the area celebrated “moose madness,” the Smiths took pleasure in actually spotting a big ungulate while returning from our weekly supply run to Grand Marais. This hefty cow was spotted munching in the swamp waters just above the Laurentian Divide. So at least one real moose was observed during the days that have been promoted to honor their presence among us, hurrah!
With the autumnal defoliation of leaf bearers, it is heartening to be able to look deep into the forest and get a good look at what this past growing season did toward re-generation of the coniferous forest. It is simply amazing to see how quickly uncountable patches of young conifers have taken hold in the wasteland created by the Ham Lake fire of five years ago. Many of the aspiring jack pines are already three to four feet high.
Even more astonishing is how anything could grow up here with so much granite and so little soil. These two components, coupled with the fact that the area has been starved for abundant moisture over the past decade or so, surely authenticate that miracles of nature cannot be stifled. Guess we could equate the toughness of these baby trees with the good folks who call this area home year round. It’s a hardy combination to say the least: tough trees, tough people.
Wondrous natural things unfold daily in these parts, many of which go unseen by the human eye. I was fortunate to witness one such happening last week during my final stint of the season as a volunteer at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center.
The day was cloudy, cool and gloomy as I looked out over the Saganaga Lake Bay just east of the parking area. Relatively calm waters prevailed as I noticed the usual mother mallard and her now-grown family had been joined by a “sort” of ducks.
A sprinkle of showers suddenly rang down on the feathered bunch and for some reason unbeknownst to me, the rain set off a frenzy of aquatic activity that was quite raucous. It appeared there might have been something of nutritional interest below the surface that stimulated an almost synchronized diving event.
In unison, it was comically, a bottoms up, as their little white rumps flashed skyward like an ice fisherman’s tip-up. The event went on and on for several minutes as the once calm surface was ravished!
The amusing episode could not have been better choreographed if it were an Olympic presentation. Then again, maybe that’s what it was, Nature’s Olympics, north woods style!
The waters eventually became still and reflective once more as the quackers took refuge for a little R & R on a mini island of rocks. Surprising how easily one can be entertained out here in border country!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the next wilderness entertainment package!

Airdate: October 26, 2012

7th Grade Science

School News from Cook County Middle School, October 26

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In 7th grade science, students are learning the scientific model through the study of plants.  This week on Cook County Middle School News, science teacher April Walstrom and students explain more about the experiment.

Photo by Luke Opel

West End News: October 25

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The West End community was shocked and saddened by the explosion at Minnesota Power’s Taconite Harbor power plant this week.  Just a week ago, plant manager Dave Rannetsberger had reported nearly three years of operation without a lost-time accident.  Safety has long been the number one priority for Minnesota Power in all their operations, so it’s particularly disheartening for that great record to be broken with such a serious accident.  In our small community, a disaster in any family touches almost everyone.  We all send the sincerest best wishes to the entire Fredrickson family.
There are several interesting things happening at Birch Grove School and Community Center, as usual.  The annual PTO Halloween Carnival is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 28, from 2 until 4 p.m. The carnival is fun for all ages and is a significant source of funds for Birch Grove School. If you’d like to donate a cake for the cakewalk, drop it off on Friday before 6 p.m., or just bring it to the event. 
I have many happy memories from the carnival, but one of my favorites is from the cakewalk many, many years ago. Greg Tofte was running it that year and Kathy Horak had donated one of her famous apple pies that was still warm from the oven.  I won the pie, which was great, but I always suspected that Greg might have rigged the result so I couldn’t lose. He denied it at the time, but my suspicion lingers. 
The Birch Grove Foundation is thinking about offering Early Childhood Family Education in the West End again after a long absence. I attended ECFE with each of my children and I can’t say enough about what a wonderful and productive program it is.  The benefits are many, but I know my kids enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot from the other parents.  Raising children, like many other things in life, is harder than it looks. Being able share tips and techniques sure made my life easier at home, and my kids have turned into wonderful adults.  Birch Grove Director Patty Nordahl would like to hear from you if you are interested.  You can email her at, leave a message at the Birch Grove Foundation Facebook page, or talk to her when you see her at the carnival.
A presentation titled: “The Cook County Economy: It’s not in great shape and why that matters,” is scheduled for Wed., Oct. 31 starting at 11:30 am at Cook County Higher Education’s North Shore Campus in Grand Marais.  Randy Lasky, from the Northspan Group, and Josh Bergstad from the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, will share the research they’ve conducted on Cook County’s economy. They’ve been working at the request of the Cook County GO Team, which is an ad hoc committee of 22 community leaders that are exploring ways to strengthen Cook County’s economy.  Their stated goal is “creating sustainable development for all.”
The event is part of a monthly series of business networking luncheons sponsored by Cook County Higher Education.  Lunch will be catered by Cascade Lodge Restaurant and there is a reasonable charge. It would be a good idea to RSVP to Higher Ed at 387-3411 or email
All the signs of impending winter are here. The tamaracks are a deep gold and are painting the ground beneath them the same color.  The deer have become suicidal along every road in the West End, flinging themselves in front of cars with reckless abandon.  The weather has thankfully provided the late fall moisture that we count on, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of the smaller lakes freeze up in the first week of November.  Here at Sawbill, our last canoeing party has returned from their trip and I suspect there will be no others this season.
Everyone in Cook County should have received their election ballot in the mail by now. If you haven’t, contact the Cook County Auditor.  You can also vote in person on election day at the courthouse in Grand Marais.  Exercising our right to vote is our most important act of citizenship and is the bedrock of what makes civil society function.  In my opinion, there is way too much secret money and special interest influence in American politics these days.  But, at the end of the day, it’s your vote that determines the future.  As the late Paul Wellstone used to say, “We’re all better off, when we’re all better off.”