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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:

Wildersmith June 15

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“June is bustin’ out all over” as the old tune goes. It was never more evident than the past weekend as temperatures soared into the miserable category up the Trail.

In an area that lives more by a thermometer and barometer than a calendar, our mercury spike chased me and the moose into the shade of the balsam forest and cool lake waters. Even those cooler escape places offered little mitigation to the suffering. It’s lemonade, iced tea and cold watermelon time for sure!

It was corn growing weather and this just isn’t acceptable at 48 degrees north. To put it bluntly, that’s how we feel about things here in border country. It’s not cool, unless it’s cool!

Lake water temps are warming rapidly with the mercury at our Wildersmith dock climbing into mid-60s this past weekend. In addition to water warm-up, the Gunflint Lake Gal has experienced a notable two- to three-inch drop from its recent high water point. That’s a lot of outflow and evaporation.

The territory has once again settled into one of those “no rain for days” stretches. I can’t say that we have been totally blanked, but since first of the month, that which has dampened the rain gauge along Gunflint Lake’s south shore is just barely over a quarter inch, pretty skimpy!

A fellow down the road tells of his concern for some nesting loon pairs that he usually observes in his lakeshore neighborhood. He fears that they were apparently flooded out with the recent high water times. Their nesting sites were occupied in the middle part of May, but since our late month deluge, he has seen no activity where previously observed.

I still hear loons calling in both daily twilight times down the lake, so it’s my guess that they will return to nesting territories as the water drops. Knowing that their body chemistry will realign, there will most likely be another attempt at setting up residence for raising a family.

I remember last year when the Chik-Wauk nesting pair lost their first eggs to an eagle. They came back in a short time with hormones in order and experienced a successful hatching during mid-July.

Another avian happening has occurred with the annual disappearance of our hummingbirds. The usual minute-by-minute arrivals and take-offs from our sweet juice port has dwindled to almost none. I suspect that they might be in the nesting mode with little ones to tend.

Travel up the Trail these days will provide a ground level rainbow experience to be sure. Our narrow ribbon of blacktop is lined with wild blooms too many to count. Especially noted are huge patches of lupine with complements from gold and orange hawkweed, buttercups and a myriad other varieties. In a matter of days these will be joined by drifts of daisies.

A special treat would be a trip down Lupine Lane (a/k/a South Gunflint Lake Road/County road #20). The roadside is a maze of purple, blue, lavender, pink and white spires for nearly two miles.

Trail residents and Gunflint Trail Historical Society members are reminded of the third annual fish fry fundraiser this coming Monday, June 18. The Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center grounds will be the site beginning at noon. Free will donations will be accepted to get a taste of the fine shore lunch that will be provided by Gunflint Lodge and hosted by GTHS volunteers. Please plan to bring a lawn chair if possible. Don’t miss it!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some north woods cuisine!

June 15, 2012

Photo courtesy of AnnCam via Flickr.

Dr. Seth Moore studying moose habitat data.

Dr. Seth Moore: Planning Ahead for the Effects of Climate Change

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Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses a historic fur trade site on beautiful Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues of concern.

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about planning ahead for the effects of climate change.  Produced by Carah Thomas.

Bus (Metro Transportation Library and Archive/Flickr)

Moments in Time: Gladys & Anna

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Anna Speck and Gladys Dockan are sisters; Everson sisters. They grew up on a farm on Maple Hill just outside of Grand Marais, where music was a part of everyday life. In this edition of Moments in Time, they share their memories of a special bus trip during World War II.  Produced by Carah Thomas.


Western painted turtle

West End News: June 14

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This is the time of year when turtles appear all over the back roads in the West End. Pretty much anywhere that a road goes near a lake, stream or swamp, you will see numerous turtles crossing the road or perched along the shoulders. These are females who are taking advantage of the soft, sun-warmed gravel on the roadside to lay their eggs in holes they dig with their back feet. Most of the turtles you see are western painted turtles, but every once in awhile you can see a huge snapping turtle.

Every year I see a few turtles that have been hit by cars, which always makes me wonder why? Did the turtle dart out in front of the car? I can just hear the driver now, "It came out of nowhere. Really, the turtle hit me." It's frightening to think that someone could be so inattentive in their driving as to not see a turtle on the road. I simple can't believe that anyone would be so mean as to hit a turtle on purpose.

Back in the early 1960's a crew member at the old Sawbill Lodge, during a slow day at work, took a can of white paint that was kept in the boathouse for lettering numbers on boats, and painted the name of each person working at the lodge that year in small, neat letters along the edge of the shells of half a dozen turtles. For years, we would see turtles named Betty, Linda, Buck or Dusty sunning themselves on logs during the summer. Eventually, we didn't see them anymore and I had pretty much forgotten about it, until 1990 when the legendary Rainbow Gathering was held near Barker Lake here in the West End. The Rainbow folks had put a large sign on the beginning of the Sawbill Trail that read: "You cannot reach the Rainbow gathering by traveling on this road." In spite of the sign, we had several groups that wandered into Sawbill, lost and looking for the gathering. One cheerful group, driving a VW van, arrived at our store wondering where the Rainbow Gathering was. After giving them directions, I asked them if they hadn't seen the warning sign when they turned up the Sawbill Trail. The driver responded by saying that he had seen the sign and read it to his passengers, who happily told him to ignore it and keep driving. Then he mentioned that they were all glad about being lost because they had seen a turtle crossing the road near Sawbill Creek and had decided to stop and help it to safety. "And," he said, "the turtle's name was Dusty! It was painted right on his shell!" This was roughly 30 years after the turtle had been labeled by the bored lodge worker. The Rainbow People were delighted that the cosmos had directed them to become acquainted with Dusty the turtle. I shouldn't have been too surprised, as Wikipedia informs me that western painted turtles can reach sexual maturity by the age of 6 and can live up to 55 years in the wild.

Congratulations to Silver Bay entrepreneurs Lyn Singleton and Lisa Larsen who have opened a new bakery in Beaver Bay. It's called the Honey Bee Bakery and is located in the Beaver Bay community building. The products include a variety of pastries and breads, along with sandwiches, soups and coffee. I've heard very positive feedback on the pasties. Lyn gets up in the middle of the night and does the baking, while Lisa, her daughter-in-law, handles the books. Local businesses are the life blood of our economy, so be sure to show your support to this wonderful new enterprise. Even if you don't want a fresh, warm, sticky, sweet caramel roll, force yourself to stop at the Honey Bee Bakery and have one.

It's not too early to reserve your spot for the eighth annual Lundie Home tour sponsored by the Schroeder Historical Society. This year the tour is Saturday, July 14th. It will feature several homes and cabins in the West End that were designed by the famous architect Edwin Lundie. This year, some additional homes will be toured that were designed by author, architect and "Cabinologist" Dale Mulfinger. Mulfinger will be present on the tour and will be giving a presentation that day at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. As always, the tour will be followed by the popular "dinner on the ledge rock" with live music and beverages. There is a suggested donation for the tour and reservations are required, so contact Suzanne at the Cross River Heritage Center, 663-7706, for more details. Dale Mulfinger's presentation, however, is free and open to the public.

Returning to the subject of turtles for a moment: did you know that if you are a Minnesota resident under the age of 18, that you can take, possess, rent or sell up to 25 turtles for use in a non-profit turtle race?  But, the western painted turtles that you take, possess, rent or sell for use in a non-profit turtle race must have a longitudinal shell length of more than four inches. It's the law.

Photo by Jolene4ever/Flickr (Logo by Lauryl Loberg)

LSProject: "A Huge Sink for Heat"

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Things are heating up in the Lake Superior basin. Temps are rising, ice cover is shrinking and life is changing. In this edition of the Lake Superior Project, we look at a time when Lake Superior was much, much colder.


"...the yard at Wildersmith is alive with the bluest blanket of forget-me-nots that have ever presented themselves..."

Wildersmith June 8

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The faucet has been turned off by Mother Nature for several days. We are drying out along the Trail.

Remnants of the big rains, however, are still being felt as lake levels continue to rise. With inland waterways still gushing lake-ward, beaches have all but disappeared on most bodies, and docks are floating higher than they have in several years.

Docks that are not floaters are either at surface level or have been raised to avoid being repositioned with the action of waves and currents. At Wildersmith, the dock has been escalated twice in little more than a week as the Gunflint Gal continued to climb. I’m in hope that the rising water will stabilize soon.

With Gunflint Lake higher than its been in several years, a neighboring dock that was thought to be secure on shore last fall suddenly was discovered as a moving craft one evening last week. Luckily, yours truly was in the right place at the right time, and with the help of a passing fisherman rescued the Tom Sawyer-like platform before it ended up in the woods several miles down the lake. Perhaps there have been more of these episodes in other locales throughout the territory.

Area weather this first week in June has been extremely pleasant in spite of a few nights that saw patchy frost as May ended. Guess this was just another natural reminder to folks around here that early gardening can be touch and go. I would guess that as we head into week two, gardens will be getting serious about growth.

Speaking of growing things, this is becoming a bloomin’ place. Wild roses have been seen showing their pink faces along area roadsides, and in the shadows of the forest canopy, moccasin flowers are out. On a not-the-most-exciting side of the flowering forest, those beautiful, but somewhat unwelcome non-native lupines are beginning to open their rainbow spires.

Meanwhile, the yard at Wildersmith is alive with the bluest blanket of forget-me-nots that have ever presented themselves. By alive, I mean it is much more than just countless thousands of diminutive azure petals. The blooms are alive with the throngs of buzzing critters. I haven’t waded in there, but I have to assume that they are bees or maybe black flies. Whatever insect, that drone of life is another unique setting of nature singing its song.

Phenologically speaking, the leaf-out is now complete with the first week of June. Our sugar maples along the Mile O Pine are finally unfurled.

An interesting thought comes to mind that in two short months, that foliage will have noticed that daylight minutes are diminishing. Thus their short life will begin to wane as chlorophyll production slows and those magnificent yellow, red and orange pigments take center stage. I wonder, with every summer breeze, if they’re already whispering an autumn tune.

News has come from the gang that gathered to complete final clearing of the Gneiss Lake Trail on the Chik-Wauk site. Their work is done and the Trail is ready for serious hikers. Signage is yet to be installed but I’m told that the path is marked with flagging, and some tree blazing from pre-blowdown days can be found to help guide one’s journey to blueberry hill.

My 9 to 5 day of volunteering at Chik-Wauk Museum last week gave me a chance to observe the ultimate in parental commitment. I watched as momma loon spent the entire eight hours sitting on her eggs with not a moment of relief from her mate. He was not to be seen, apparently off on an extended day of fishing.

One has to be mindful that this probably happens day after day, but one would have thought that the guy might have at least checked in once in a while. She even hooted a couple “eagle overhead” alerts that failed to register a concern.

I felt kind of sorry for the gal, yet admired her dedication to those encased cherubs. Some of us humans could do well to take a lesson in parenthood from the wild neighborhood once in a while.

Lastly, a reminder is extended to Gunflint Trail Historical Society members that the next monthly meeting is coming up this Monday, June 11. The meeting will once again be held at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center, beginning at 1:30 pm. In addition to being the annual meeting, the agenda will feature a time of remembrance honoring Gunflint Trail friends and neighbors that have passed from our midst in the last year. All are welcome.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the land of sky blue waters!

Airdate: June 8, 2012

Photo courtesy of Michael Grogan via Flickr.

Photo: U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region - courtesy of the Forest History Society, Durham, N.C.

West End News: June 7

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Recently, Steve Robertson, a naturalist with the Forest Service in Tofte, sent me a web link to the Forest History Society. I had never heard of this non-profit before, but have since learned that it was founded in 1946 and has been diligently collecting and disseminating historical data from our nation's forests. Steve directed me to their searchable database of historic photos and I was delighted to find quite a few very old photos of the Sawbill Campground, the Sawbill CCC camp and several wilderness lakes near Sawbill.

All of the old photos are fascinating, but two of them particularly caught my eye. The first was a camping scene in the Sawbill Lake campground from 1937. It is a pretty typical camping scene except that it includes all women and two are wearing dresses. We used to have a customer who canoe tripped in a skirt for many years, but otherwise, we don't see too many dresses around here. The second photo, also from the '30s, is of a road sign on Highway 61 in Tofte that lists what can be found up the Sawbill Trail and at what distances. Most of the places would be somewhat familiar to modern eyes, but it lists a "Plouff Resort" 17 miles up the Sawbill. I had never heard of Plouff Resort, but Brian Henry, retired forester from Little Marais, told me that he put some research into it when he ran across references to it in the records at the Tofte District Office of the Forest Service when he worked there. He actually found an ariel photo of the resort, which was located on the Old Grade Road, just off the Sawbill Trail and just south of the CCC camp. Brian found the site on the ground, but reported that there is really nothing left except a few scraps of metal.

Bill Plouff and his wife, whose name I can't remember, were well known pioneers along the Sawbill Trail. I presume they ran the resort that bore their name. Our family first came to Sawbill in 1957 and the Plouffs were already long gone, with only the creek, now mispronounced as "Pluff Creek", to remember them by. The late Dick Anderson, from Grand Marais, used to tell stories about working for the Plouffs when he was a kid. At that time, Dick said that they lived in a cabin on Kelly Lake. It makes me wonder if the Plouff Resort was somehow connected to prohibition. There were several resorts during that era, located in obscure spots in the woods, where it was possible to get a drink, along with maybe a card game and other illegal diversions. It's interesting that this colorful history is so little celebrated in this part of the world. I suppose it must be the influence of Scandinavian culture.

Knowing that a resort can disappear so quickly and completely makes me think about the permanence of all the human activity here in the back woods of the West End. The time may come when today's establishments are just a dim memories - hopefully, not anytime soon.

Now is the time to start thinking seriously about Marion McKeever's award winning fishcakes at Satellite's Country Inn Restaurant in Schroeder to benefit the Birch Grove Foundation. The fishcakes, along with baked potato, coleslaw, green peas, bread, rhubarb pudding and kringler, coffee, tea and milk, will be served in two shifts on Tuesday, June 12th. The first shift is over the lunch hour from 11 am to 1 pm. The second shift is during the dinner hour from 4 pm to 8 pm. Seatings are every half hour. There is a free bus departing from Birch Grove at 11:15 am for the 11:30 seating, courtesy of the Grand Marais State Bank. The bus is for all ages, but call Birch Grove if you plan to ride, so they know how many to expect. I can say from wonderful personal experience that Marion's fishcakes rank right up among the best on the shore. Not only is this a chance to help Marion make a generous contribution to Birch Grove, it's a chance to taste a genuine North Shore delicacy. Tickets are available at Satellite's, Grand Marais State Bank - Tofte Branch, Birch Grove Center, or by calling Patty Nordahl at Birch Grove, 663-7977.

Tofte 4th of July celebration is coming up fast. Don't forget to peak up your training for the infamous Tofte Trek 10 K run, founded by Jan Horak 33 years ago. You can pre-register online at Also, a reminder that the parade starts at 2 pm this year, so plan accordingly. Volunteers are still needed to run the bingo and help with children's activities, so contact the ever busy Patty Nordahl at 663-7977 if you can help.

I would like to add my condolences to all the many friends and family of Muriel Michaelson, of Tofte, who passed away last week. Muriel was an institution in Tofte and will be missed by all.

Phoebes are small birds that are common in our woods, but are most often heard and not seen. I've been noticing a pair of phoebes all spring that have been hanging around the windows of my office. Last week, I finally found their nest. They built it out of moss right on top of the outside light fixture above the front entrance to the Sawbill Store. As customers come and go, their heads pass less than two feet from the nest. The phoebes seem unfazed by the passing people. So far, most people haven't noticed the nest, but that may change when the eggs hatch and the chicks start calling for food. If need be, we will certainly block off that entrance and direct people to the side door until the chicks leave the nest.

Plans for a new Cook County Community Center continue to evolve.

Community Center public input meeting Tuesday

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A Public Input Meeting on the new Cook County Community Center is scheduled for 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 5 at the ISD #166 campus in Grand Marais. The community gymnasium will be the venue if there is a large crowd. If the group attending is smaller, the meeting will be held in the Jane Mianowski Conference Center. The meeting is designed to gather input on the new conceptual design for the center. There also may be a tour of the west end of the school bcomplex to see how the space could be reused.

In this interview, WTIP volunteer Mary Manning talks with Community Center Steering Committee chair Paul Sporn about the meeting.


A transit of Venus

Northern Sky: An Eclipse & A Rare Transit

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains what's going on in the first weeks of June. There's a partial eclipse of the moon on the fourth and a rare transit of Venus on the fifth. Learn more in this edition of Northern Sky.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Learn more about the transit of Venus:
University of Minnesota's Venus Transit page
More on safe solar viewing during the transit of Venus from NASA

Photo courtesy of Mark Mathosian via Flickr.

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.