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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:
Little Marais Lodge, Little Marais Minnesota, 1940

Moments In Time: Early Tourism

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Art Fenstad is a third generation North Shore resident. His kind eyes and gentle manner add warmth to his stories. He has a lot of knowledge of the North Shore—his family began fishing Lake Superior after emigrating from Scandinavia. They settled in Little Marais. But Art’s family didn’t rely solely on commercial fishing to survive. Like many fishing families on the shore they helped establish the lodging and tourism industry. 

 "The rain gauge at Wildersmith has collected nearly five inches of precip since the skies started opening up some 10 days ago."

Wildersmith June 1

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A soaking of the Gunflint Trail continues as we have wrapped up May. I heard mention of starting to build an ark. Boat building would surely be an appropriate activity when put up against the potential for fighting wildfire that, by the way, seemed to have been going on for an eternity in border country.

The rain gauge at Wildersmith has collected nearly five inches of precip’ since the skies started opening up some 10 days ago. This is just wonderful, as similar amounts have fallen throughout the upper Gunflint watershed.

Lake levels in the territory are coming back up to snuff as rivers and streams are roaring with gushing liquid. On a recent windless morning, I heard the roar of Bridal Falls, which is several miles down the lake, echoing off the Canadian hillside in its cascade toward Gunflint Lake.

A trip toward the end of the Trail finds that waterfalls, usually trickling over the granite above Larch Creek southwest the Seagull Guard Station, are pouring water at a rate not seen in years. The crashing water there and many other places just makes one gush with relief from the long wilderness thirst.

Temperatures, meanwhile, have been seasonally pleasant, cool and just right for the moose and me. With the continuing rain, clouds have allowed only limited glimpses of sunshine over the past seven days.

When Sol has peeked out, however, it’s warmed enough to get those hungry black flies out in swarms. Netting up as I do, they’ve still found a way to get at me a number of times. Thus, I’m inflicted with several unnerving, itchy, swollen wounds.

If this isn’t enough misery, bring on the antihistamines as those stinging skeeters will be getting in line to have the next crack at us. With plenty of pooled breeding grounds being filled to overflowing, the biting forecast looks pretty bleak from now until August. Everyone had better have those window and door screens patched up!

So be it for all those nasties of the woods. It’s time to celebrate the final stanza of spring. Babies of wild neighborhood critters are beginning to feel their way in this new world. And the soon to be “strawberry moon” of June (Ode’imini Giizis) is pointing us toward the summer Solstice.

Time is jetting by as we see the longest segment of daylight on the horizon, and the ensuing trend in another direction. How can that be? Seems like we just flew past the shortest day a few weeks back?

With the passing of Memorial Day weekend most, if not all, seasonal folks have returned to paradise found. Lakeshore docks are jutting out, winter resident rodents are being evicted from cabin walls and all those inadvertent frozen water system leaks are being fixed.

Meanwhile, the green tunnel through the woods is often seen crawling with caravans of vehicles stuffed with gear and topped off with a canoe or pulling some type of boat. Summer is officially declared in spite of what the calendar says. It’s America’s vacation time and the Gunflint is the target for many.

News from the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is that the loon pair has settled in and is sitting on eggs. With a little good fortune, perhaps we’ll have some more little Petes and “Repeats” like last year.

Viewing through binocs or a high powered camera lens from the museum front porch will afford some extraordinary up-close wildlife opportunities. So come on up, but hush is the word, chicks in the making!

On a final note, many up this way are anxiously waiting for the inaugural run of the Towering Pines Canopy Tour that is under construction on the grounds of Gunflint Lodge. Set to open sometime in early July, the zip line naturalist journey from platform to platform through the trees tops overlooking Gunflint Lake should have the flying critters in the area doing a double take.

Several of we locals are wagering on who will be the first to try it out. I have some ideas but will not divulge my thoughts. However, one thing for sure, it will not be yours truly. I’m as high off the ground as I wish to be, just sitting here at the keyboard.

Keep on hangin’ on (no pun intended), and savor a trip through the forest by any means!

Airdate: June 1, 2012

Photo courtesy of John Lillis via Flickr.

Frank Moe

Sled Dogs to Saint Paul movie in the works

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Back in March, local musher Frank Moe travelled to St. Paul by dogsled, a distance of 362 miles.  When he got there, Moe handed Governor Mark Dayton 13,000 petitions in opposition to copper/nickel/sulfide mining in Minnesota.

Moe spoke with WTIP volunteer Tracy Benson on the Wednesday, May 30 A.M. Community Calendar show about what's been happening since the journey, and efforts to create a documentary about it - "Sled Dogs to Saint Paul: The Race for Clean Water."


The Gordon family on Amicus II.

West End News: May 31

The Schroeder Historical Society sponsoring a lumberjack dinner at their annual meeting on Saturday, June 9th, starting at 5 p.m. at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. The menu will include lumberjack stew and biscuits. I'm surprised that beans aren't on the menu as they were a famous addition to the cuisine in the old logging camps. The lumberjacks used to call them "blanket lifters." Another famous feature of logging camp meals was a long standing tradition that no talking was allowed once the food was served. Lumberjacks that were cutting, skidding and hauling big timber in the deepest part of the winter season were very serious about their food - so serious that they couldn't be slowed down for conversation. You could actually be fined for speaking during a meal. I’m confident that chatting with your neighbors will be perfectly alright at the upcoming lumberjack dinner re-enactment.

Joyce Krueger will provide old time piano music and Forest Service Naturalist Steve Robertson is presenting an entertaining program. He has promised that it won't be a lecture and it won't be boring, so you'll have to attend to see what he does. The lumberjack dinner is open to all and the cost is just a small free will offering. Contact Suzanne at the Cross River Heritage Center for details.

For a number of years, a group of local quilters have been meeting at the Schroeder Town Hall to work on quilts, share knowledge and socialize. Through the quilting, the West End group made contact with a group of quilters in Ostersund, Sweden which led to the group traveling to Sweden for a visit a couple of years back. Now, our local quilters will be hosting a delegation of the Swedish quilters in Schroeder very soon. Fifteen Swedish quilters are coming and they have activities planned in Duluth and Thunder Bay too. Local quilters Beth Blank, Nancy Hansen, Orlean Fischer and Linda Lamb have quilts on display at the Cross River Heritage Center, so you can look for them when you are there for the lumberjack dinner.

I want to acknowledge the recent passing of musician Doc Watson, a truly original American treasure. Doc was best known as a guitar player and singer, but could play a mean old time banjo too. He is often called a folk musician - and he was well versed in the Appalachian traditions that he grew up with - but he was really just a great musician, able to play comfortably in nearly every style of American music. He came to national attention in 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival and remained popular and active right up until his death this week. Doc had a quality to his guitar playing and singing that only comes along once in a great while. Although his technique was nearly perfect, it was the genuine humanity and a sense of genuine connection with his art that made him special. Local musician Bump Blomberg saw Doc at what must have been his last public performance just a few weeks ago in North Carolina. My condolences to the Watson family and the vast family of musicians that Doc mentored and influenced over the years. Although he will be sorely missed, his art will live on in future generations. He was 89 years old.

I'm pleased to see that my friend, Katya Gordon, from Two Harbors, has written and published a book about her experiences sailing with her husband Mark and two young daughters, Lamar and Cedar. I met the Gordons in 2008 when they had just returned from a cruise from Knife River to the Bahamas and back. Before I knew about the sailing trip, I noticed how capable and self-possessed their two little girls were, even though they were only 3 and 5 years old at the time. When I found out that they had lived a large portion of their young lives on a traveling sailboat, I realized that living in a large house in Two Harbors was a piece of cake for them. I see that Katya has been doing author signings in Two Harbors and Silver Bay, so I assume she'll be coming up to do one in Cook County soon. The Gordon's boat, the steel hulled cutter Amicus II, is a sister vessel to the Hjordis, which is based at North House Folk School in Grand Marais.

Fishing dropped off considerably during the storms over the Memorial Day weekend, but seems to be bouncing back nicely now. Lake trout are still being caught easily and the walleyes and bass have been generally cooperative as well. We haven't seen any mayfly hatch yet here at Sawbill, but expect that we will soon. The backflies and mosquitoes have been out for a couple of weeks, but the wild weather has kept the population small and mostly non-biting. With the water so high now, it's my guess that they will get quite a bit worse in the next week as the weather warms up a bit. It's all part of the fun here in the West End.

Wanted. Cute critter. Soon to be seen in the back of some unsuspecting tourists RV? Nahhhhhh!

Magnetic North: Groundhogs’ Day

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, where the neon yellow marsh marigolds embellish every pond and puddle, of which there are many after a week of incessant showers. Ah, May! These naturally formed nosegays simply shout to be picked. And yet, doing so reminds me to leave well enough alone. Because the blossoms wilt no matter how fast I plunge them into a watery vase. Some things simply won’t thrive in captivity.

A cautionary tale- totally wasted on this gatherer, I might add. Even though I learned about sustainable gathering as a Girl Scout. The one lesson on that score I absorbed, the hard way is that if I greedily snap off EVERY asparagus spear in the bed, there is nothing left to go to seed. Ergo, no tasty stalks next year. And still, that urge to best Mother Nature at her own game burns within. I’d settle for a draw. Just once.

Big Mama, it seems, cares not a whit about my pathetic human urges. For example, just when I put up a pricey electric fence between my voracious goats and my new rose bush, herbs and perennials, the Old Girl throws me a curve. Oh, it’s a darling, pudgy curve. My newest garden nemeses are wildly photographable, even more so than a goat. They have roly-poly bodies, itty-bitty legs, precious paws, beady black eyes, sweet little half-moon ears and begging-to-be patted reddish tummies. And the tails. Well, they are just too cute.

have here your basic groundhogs. Or woodchucks. Same thing. These are, to most civilized humans, nuisance creatures. True, there’s that coven of latter-day witches in Pennsylvania. The ones who believe that winter is truly over when a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil sticks his nose out of the ground. Baloney!

Groundhogs don’t give a toenail about temperature. All they need to bolt into action is to wake up and smell the first finger of day lily or strawberry blossom pushing through the freshly thawed earth. I know this, because lucky, lucky me, I am landlord to two of these critters. One under my chicken coop and one under my tool shed. And, frankly, I loved seeing the little fatsos puddling around their burrows until just last month. Only then did I realize that the day lilies next to the coop are still disappearing despite the goats being fenced up. Even worse, the toolshed floor is about to cave in on the root cellar below. Cute suddenly doesn’t cut it.

Searching for answers online, I found out how to catch the little criminals in my largest Hav-a-heart trap. Strange as it sounds, if the instructions I copied are correct, groundhogs are dumb as a box of rocks. Supposedly, all that’s needed is to block all exits except the one where the trap is placed. Even without a morsel of food inside, the groundhogs should crawl obligingly inside. We’ll just see about that.

Only one thing is keeping me from carrying out the plan. I can’t shoot them. After all these years, it would be like shooting my kitty, And, after all, they haven’t gnawed the head off a duck. Or sprayed me or my dog with stinky stuff. Plant burglary is bad, but hardly a capitol offense. No, relocation is the only sentence befitting the crime, But where to take them? Or, more to the point, to what poor sap’s property? I realize that announcing that I am about to dump a groundhog - or two - on some unsuspecting soul could land me in a world of hurt. Except for one thing.

In small towns like ours, trying to keep anything a secret is the best way to spread whatever one wants hidden broadcast all over town within an hour. It simply can’t be done. No, if you really want to keep something hush-hush, I suggest you blab about it all over town. The Blue Water Cafe, or standing in the checkout line at Johnson’s grocery store are good places to start. Something like this: “Hey, I just did something wild. You know those groundhogs that were wrecking my garden and outbuildings? Well, I caught them and dumped them in the back of a big white and black RV parked in the rec park. Hope nobody saw me!”

Believe it or not, no one will pay a bit of attention. Especially if you talk loud, like you are on a cell phone. It’s like being a mother of teenagers. You find that not only have you achieved invisibility, but your voice cannot be heard by the human ear.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the constant carping by Mother Nature has gone over my head all these years. Despite Her threats, punishments and outright bribes, I keep on doing exactly what She doesn’t want. I am sorry, truly I am, dear Mama, And, as usual, I count on your forgiveness. It is, after all, so much easier to get than permission. Am I right?

Oh, and by the by, groundhogs won’t give it up unless bribed with strawberries. Lots of strawberries.

This is Vicki Biggs-Anderson for WTIP with Magnetic North.

Airdate: May 30, 2012

Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold documentary showing Thursday

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The movie "Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time" is set to show at 7 p.m.  Thursday, May 31st, at North House Folk School in Grand Marais - part of the Boreal Birding and Northern Landscapes Festival.   In this interview, WTIP volunteer Veronica Weadock talks with Curt Meine of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, about the movie and Leopold's enduring legacy.


The Green Fire Film Project

Green Fire was produced in partnership between the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Center for Humans and Nature, and the U.S. Forest Service.  The film provocatively examines Leopold’s thinking, renewing his idea of a land ethic for a population facing 21st century ecological challenges.  Leopold's biographer, conservation biologist Dr. Curt Meine, serves as the film's on-screen guide.

Green Fire describes the formation of Leopold’s idea, exploring how it changed one man and later permeated through all arenas of conservation. The film draws on Leopold’s life and experiences to provide context and validity, then explores the deep impact of his thinking on conservation projects around the world today. Through these examples, the film challenges viewers to contemplate their own relationship with the land community.

The high-definition film will utilize photographs, correspondence, manuscripts and other archival documents from the voluminous Aldo Leopold Archives as well as historical film and contemporary full-color footage on location, including landscapes that influenced Leopold and that he in turn influenced.

The film also features commentary and insight from some of today’s most recognized and credible scholars and conservation leaders, including: three of Aldo Leopold’s children—Nina, Carl, and Estella, Leopold scholars, noted environmental writers, scientists, humanities experts, public policy leaders, business leaders,; and leaders of non-profit groups inspired by Leopold.


“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.  I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain.  I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise.  But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”   - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949


Al Hunter (Photo by Stephan Hoglund)

Anishinaabe Way: Al Hunter

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Al Hunter is a citizen of the Anishinaabe Nation within Treaty 3 and a proud member of the Caribou Clan. His poetry has been widely published in journals and anthologies. This edition of Anishinaabe Way features his poem "The Diet,"  from his third book, "Beautiful Razor: Love Poems & Other Lies," released this year by Kegadonce Press.

Image Bryan Hansel / photo Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: A Major Drop

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Water levels in Lake Superior have been going down. There is less ice on the lake then there used to be and water temperatures are increasing at twice the rate of air temperatures. We still don't fully understand what climate change means for the Lake Superior basin, but we're starting to find out.

Common Merganser

West End News: May 24

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Congratulations to Birch Grove Community School graduates Ashley Ross, Michael Sjogren and Bradley Van Doren.  The congratulations might seem a little late, as the three finished their studies at Birch Grove seven years ago.  But now they are graduating from Cook County High School.  As is often the case with Birch Grove graduates, they are all excellent students and are collecting numerous scholarships to continue their studies after high school.  The three scholars came full circle this week, returning to Birch Grove to meet with the current kindergarten class. This is a wonderful thing to do, providing positive role models to children that have their entire educational careers ahead of them.

Many Birch Grove alumni who are in college or beyond are returning to Cook County for the summer and stopping by Birch Grove to visit. Marie Nordahl recently spent part of a day at the school, joining the students for lunch and helping out with an art class.  Alumni are always encouraged to stop in and visit.  Again, wonderful examples to encourage the younger students.

Birch Grove graduates Beau Larson of Lutsen and Carl Hansen of Tofte have been in the area lately in their professional capacity as film makers.  Beau and Carl are both graduates of the University of Montana where they studied film.  They are the official videographers for the Lutsen 99er, the marathon mountain bike race that is held in the West End every June. T hey have been doing advance work this week, planning out their race day strategy and getting some advance footage shot.

In more Birch Grove news, the upcoming North House class that will build a wood fired bread oven at Birch Grove has been awarded a $1750 grant from the Cook County Community Foundation to provide scholarships for the course.  Participants will build the oven from September 9th through September 13th, with the grand opening celebration on Saturday, September 29th.  The class is filling up fast, so if you want to participate, get ahold of Patty Nordahl soon at 663-7977. I f you can’t take the class, there are several other ways to contribute, so contact Patty if you have an interest.

Spencer Motschenbacher, of Lutsen, told me that he found the nest of a common merganser duck last week.  Spencer kept his distance, but even then, he could count an amazing twenty-two eggs in the nest.  He said there may have been more, because he wasn’t sure that he could see them all.  It seems incredible that one mother duck could carry that many eggs.  And if she did, what kept her from sinking straight to the bottom of the lake?  It’s not uncommon to see mergansers with a long string of chicks behind them, but I’ve never seen anywhere near twenty-two with one mother.

The North Shore Stewardship Association at Sugarloaf Cove near Schroeder is holding a Recreational Trail Design workshop on Saturday, June 2, 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  You will learn what you need to know to design, construct, and maintain sustainable trails for hiking, horseback riding, bicycling, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, off-highway motorcycling, and all terrain vehicles.  Sustainable trails require minimal maintenance because their design and materials hold up to intensive recreational use and severe weather conditions. Mel Baughman, U of MN Extension Specialist, will teach the workshop.  There is a small charge, payable the day of the class.  Google Sugarloaf Cove for more information.

The Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder is having its opening party on Friday June 1st, at 6:30 p.m., kicking off another busy season of events highlighting the rich history of the West End.

Not to state the obvious, but thank goodness for the recent heavy rains to relieve the extreme fire danger that we had last week.  For two days, we watched the sky and sniffed the air anxiously as the temperature soared into the eighties, the winds ramped up to 35 miles per hour and the relative humidity plunged to near single digits.  One spark and we would have had a repeat of last fall’s fire season.  After our experience here at Sawbill last September, I know exactly how the people of Ely felt as a fire storm bore down on their homes and businesses. Thank goodness it ended as well for them as it did for us.

Now that is is raining regularly, I have to listen to the complaints of visitors about the wet weather. Sometimes, I have to take a deep breath before I commiserate with them. Those of us who live in the woods are never sorry to see a good, soaking rain.

30- to 49-year-olds are increasingly moving to rural communities like ours

U of M study finds increase in 30- to 49-year-olds moving to rural communities

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There’s a lot of talk about how more and more young people are leaving rural communities like ours. However, there has been little talk of what a different demographic---those between 30 and 49 years old---have been doing. A new study from the University of Minnesota finds that these folks have increasingly been moving to rural places. In this interview, WTIP's Mark Abrahamson speaks with Ben Winchester, a research fellow at the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality, about the study.

Learn more about the study here.

Photo courtesy of Ben Adamson via Flickr.