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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


What's On:
Fireweed is already in bloom this summer...

Wildersmith July 20

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Mother Nature turned on those of us residing up the Gunflint this past week. After affording us some swell weather in the week prior, she slipped in some of that hot and sultry stuff, and had most of us whining with a wish for December-like relief.

The humid conditions have since sent a good number of folks to the water, which by the way is also warming more than we would like. Here at Wildersmith the dockside lake temperature stands in the mid-70s, and that is what it should be a month from now. If the warm water spiking continues, we’ll be having some natural “fish boils” in August.

It’s a definite fact that the summer season is advancing much faster than normal (whatever that means). Late summer flowers are already in bloom and we’ve not even reached the mid-point of “Neebing” dog days. Fireweed, goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and a few asters are heading the list of early roadside floral arranging. Could it be that we might just evolve into an early fall? Sure hope so, maybe even a long winter!

Our neighborhood was leaning toward that dry-as-a-wilderness-bone scenario over the better part of a week until late last Saturday afternoon, when a sudden thunder boomer drenched the Wildersmith neighborhood with slightly over two inches.

The moisture appeared to be very spotty though, as I’m told that the end and middle of the corridor got little to nothing. So while this little bit of paradise is sticky as an equatorial jungle, other parts of the territory remain parched and are getting worse with the blistering sun’s continued assault.

Folks are advised once more to be running those wildfire sprinkler systems to keep things damp around their places, and to be assured that all systems are in working order. Further, caution cannot be emphasized enough with regard to any kind of burning, even though things appear lush green.

On a lighter note, I decided long ago that it is simpler to join in support of the squirrel brigade rather than fight them. I have thus installed some feeding structures called “squirrel lunch boxes.”

The units are mini-sheds that have a hinged roof. It doesn’t take long for most of the red rodents to process lifting the roof lid and then crawling inside for their ration of seeds.

Since the berries have come on in the past week or two I don’t feel so much at risk in having them out there as a potential draw for bears. I do, however, take them in at night.

Oftentimes I have opened the lid to refill and found one of the little ones staring me in the face. Usually we are both startled and while I jump back, the squirrel scampers away.

The other day though, I popped that lid and there was one of my little friends. Guess I should have knocked first. This time it just looked at me, gave me a good scolding and went right back to rummaging through the shells for another bite.

Slightly taken back by this rude welcome, I closed the lid and went on to filling the next unit. A moment later the hungry animal was out and highly interested in the newly-cached feeder, not one bit embarrassed or apologetic for the way it had treated me. Guess I’m lucky that it didn’t choose to bite the hand that feeds. Life goes on for me and my wilderness pals!

It seems that the mosquito assault has subsided to sporadic rather than continued fits of rage. This too might be telling in regard to some unusual climatic shifting, in parallel with the other phrenology occurrences that we’ve been observing. We can only hope that this is not a respite to allow for the birth of the umpteenth generation of the bitin’ buzzers.

Folks who could not make the July Trail Historical Society meeting this past week missed a great program. Jim Wiinanen, who has long ties with the Wilderness Canoe Base near the end of the Trail, presented an energetic talk about his experiences on the Gneiss Lake Hiking Trail, before it succumbed to the 1999 blowdown and the subsequent Ham Lake Fire.

Jim, in concert with several other key people, was instrumental in helping to get the Gneiss Lake Trail spur cleared and re-opened to Blueberry Hill this past spring. The new addition to the trail system around the Chik-Wauk grounds is receiving rave reviews.

In a final note, referencing Blueberry Hill, the heavenly blue morsels are on all over the territory. Get out and get them!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor this land of lily pads and loons!

Airdate: July 20, 2012

Photo courtesy of Bruce McKay via Flickr.


 
Photo byPeter Juhl - courtesy of the Cross River Heritage Center

West End News: July 19

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Linda Lamb, from Schroeder, called the other day to remind me that there are some fascinating art exhibits currently on display at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder.  Kathy Gray-Anderson is displaying her beautiful wildlife photography.  Bruce Palmer is exhibiting his masterful acrylic paintings.  And, last but not least, Peter Juhl is exhibiting photos of his astounding temporary sculptures that he creates by balancing rocks on top of each other along the shore of Lake Superior.  You can see pictures on his website at http://temporaryscupture.com.  In addition to the pictures, Peter’s website has a tutorial, so you too can learn to balance rocks on each other in amazing ways.

It turns out that rock balancing as art is something of a world-wide phenomenon.  It even has its own Wikipedia entry.  In fact, Linda told me that Peter had attended an international rock balancing conference in Italy earlier this year.  She also mentioned that Peter’s family has a long connection with the North Shore, not the least of which is staying as guests at Lamb’s Resort in Schroeder for three generations.

The Cross River Heritage Center is located right on Highway 61 in downtown Schroeder and is open from 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Tofte and Schroeder both received surface treatments to Highway 61 this week.  A contractor to the Minnesota Department of Transporation was spreading pea gravel embedded in thick oil.  It was kind of a noisy mess while it was being applied, but will give the road surface a new lease on life for the next few years at least.

The Cook County Highway Department was also busy this week applying calcium chloride to many of the secondary gravel roads. Calcium chloride is a salt compound that looks like oil.  It’s main purpose is dust abatement, but it also helps the road tolerate the sharp seasonal increase in traffic, prevents, or at least slows down, the formation of the dreaded washboard and reduces the amount of grading needed to keep the road surface reasonably smooth.  All West End residents who travel the back roads applaud the Highway Department for their good work.

A customer came in yesterday with a good wildlife story from Alton Lake within the BWCA Wilderness.  The person, who will remain anonymous to protect her dignity, was sitting on the privy yesterday morning when she heard the bushes moving nearby.  Right away she could see that a large animal was moving through the brush, but she couldn’t see it well enough to indentify it.  As she watched, the animal picked up speed and then burst into clear view just a short distance from where she was sitting.  To her complete surprise, is was a full grown timber wolf, headed nearly straight for her.  She involuntarily exclaimed “Holy Bleep!” in a loud voice.  At that moment, the wolf noticed her for the first time, gave her a look that could easily be traslated as “Holy Bleep!” and sprinted off in the opposite direction. In all my years here on the edge of the wilderness, I’ve never before heard of a wolf sighting from that particular vantage point.


 
The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Changing Climate, Changing Forest - Part I

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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 and forests in the Lake Superior watershed. The forest as we know it—full of birch, spruce, pine and firs—might not be that way for much longer.


 
A thermometer that measures the heat index (Karen Montgomery/Flickr)

Wildersmith July 6

A week of month seven has slipped by along the Trail. As June passed on, our area had some sparkling cool days as the rest of the nation was sweltering with the National Weather Service sensationalism called heat index (kind of like that wind chill thing in the winter). When I was a kid, we knew when it was hot, now the masses can’t figure those things out for themselves and have to be told when heated conditions warrant caution.

In the meantime, July 1 came and the heat began to build up this way too. Not as bad as it might have been (it wasn’t exactly firecracker hot), but nevertheless too warm for those who that think it’s only cool if it’s cool!

Our lake water temperatures have taken a sudden spike too. Here on the Gunflint, water at our Wildersmith dock is right at the 70-degree mark, which is rather warm for this early in “Neebing” (Ojibwe for summer). I don’t know what this might be doing to the fishing fortunes, but it’s a good bet that those lake trout are headin’ for the deep cold depths.

Speaking of fishing luck, yours truly caught a nice “smallie” off the dock the other day while dangling an unbaited hook in the water. I was digging in the worm box trying to pick out the best specimen when the strike occurred. The rest of that angling segment went for naught with bait on the hook.

Another smallmouth story comes from a fellow down the lake who has this “big mamma” hanging out under his dock. The fish is apparently quite protective of its domain and was seen recently in one of those great “gotcha” episodes.

Guess a duck swam over the fish’s realm and in a flash the “finny” darted up and took a swipe at the bird’s paddling tail end. Surprise, surprise, with a big quacking commotion, the duck sputtered and splashed into taxi mode and lit off down the lake. I wonder what was going on in its mind after regaining composure.

Excitement reigned at Gunflint Lodge last Sunday as the much awaited Towering Pines Canopy Tour commenced with its inaugural “zip” for the public. I’m told that those first day customers were raving about the thrilling trip above and through the forest. I’m still thinking I’d rather be watching, but we’ll see!

Those long eared critters that are so into multiplication are just everywhere along the south shore of Gunflint Lake. In my 13 years here, I have never seen one around the yard, exception being occasional tracks in the winter. Now they are coming through the place on a daily basis and have been seen in many other spots up and down the road. Guess their reproductive qualities are working well. I’ve got to believe that their presence will eventually bring some fox and lynx adventures to the neighborhood.

While the Minnesota DNR indicates that the grouse drumming count is down considerably in this part of the state, I’m still seeing plenty of the “chicken birds” in select locales. Guess I must be happening in the right place at the right time.

It’s also the right time for WTIP listeners and website users to reinforce your commitment to this great community treasure. We are only a day or two into this summer fundraising endeavor, “North Shore Sights and Sounds.” Please step to the plate and dish up whatever support you can muster. Let’s hit a big home run for our Community Radio family! Donate now at 387-1070, 800-473-9847 or click and pledge at wtip.org.

On a final note, the July meeting of Gunflint Trail’s Historical Society will be held this coming Monday, the ninth. The gathering will commence once again at 1:30 pm in the Conference Center at Gunflint Lodge. Parking is requested behind the facility and treats will be served. Be there or be square!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor our wilderness blessing!

Airdate: July 6, 2012


 
Tofte Citizen of the Year Mary Alice Hansen - photo by Lee Stewart

West End News: July 5

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Last call for the Schroeder Historical Society’s annual Lundie Vacation Home Tour. Saturday, July 14th is the date of the eighth annual tour of homes and cabins designed by renowned architect Edwin Lundie. This year, the tour will also include some vacation homes designed by architect Dale Mulfinger, who will be on the tour in person. There is a charge for the tour, but the proceeds benefit the Schoeder Historical Society. Call Suzanne at 663-7706 for more details and registration.

The big Tofte 4th of July celebration is in the record book for another year. I call it the biggest small town celebration in the northland. I’m not sure if I coined that phrase, or if I heard it somewhere. The highlight for me this year was my mother, Mary Alice Hansen, being named Tofte Citizen of the Year. It is a great honor for her and she got to ride in a convertible in the big parade. Mary Alice was instrumental in the founding of the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum and served for many years at the Tofte Town Clerk. It was nice of the town officials to honor her, especially because she now lives in Grand Marais.

The Memorial Blood Center Bloodmobile will be in Tofte, at Zoar Lutheran Church on Tuesday, July 17 from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Contact Polly at 663-7398 for an appointment.

As I write this, the Forest Service is working a wildfire near Parent Lake north of Schroeder. After one day, the lightning caused fire is 3 to 5 acres in size. It’s only a quarter of a mile from last year’s big Pagami Creek fire. The Forest Service is working it with a big water bomber and it will likely just be another routine fire for them. The amazing thing is just two weeks ago we were recovering from one of the biggest rain events in the history of the forest. It is an excellent example of how fast things change with the weather and fire danger. The lakes are still very high, but two weeks of hot dry weather have driven the fire danger right back up.

We lost a good friend here at Sawbill this week. Ed Erickson, from Chetek, Wisconsin, was a favorite visitor here at Sawbill for at least 40 years. Ed retired as a school counselor about ten years ago. It is hard to describe how attentive and empathetic he was with other people. For starters, he remembered the name of every person that he ever shook hands with. He would question them closely about the spelling and pronunciation of their name, at which point you could almost see him consciously commit it to memory. It was remarkable how just this small courtesy endeared him to people. He was a relentlessly positive and upbeat, but he was very serious when it came to fishing. His wife caught a 13 pound walleye on Alton many years ago and they had it mounted in what can only be described as a shrine in their rec room.

About ten years ago, Ed got seriously lost while grouse hunting. A search was organized and John Oberholtzer of Lutsen found Ed, who was tired and hungry after nearly eight hours of wandering through swamp and thicket. Ed and OB have had a special bond ever since. As I told Ed’s family, he will be missed by all who knew him, but we can take consolation in knowing that he is in a place where the fish are always biting. That is Ed’s heaven, for sure.


 
Graphic Lauryl Loberg / photo Travis Novitsky

LSProject: On Thin Ice

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Things are heating up in the Lake Superior basin. Temps are rising, ice cover is shrinking and life is changing. There are 60 days less ice now then 100 years ago on the big lake. That’s about two months. This drastic shift is affecting communities, businesses, economies, and the way people live all around the lake.


 
Canoe on Gunflint Lake (Maury Landsman/Flickr)

Wildersmith June 29

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As the chapter on June is closing, we saw Mother Nature do a little muscle flexing during the past week. However, her wrath was not as powerful up here on the Gunflint as it was in places not far to our south.

Nevertheless, the upper Trail received another good soaking from the mid-week torrents. At Wildersmith, the rain gauge gathered another 2 1/2 inches while other localized amounts were up to 4 inches. This is just what the doctor ordered for an area that has been deprived of any substantial precipitation for the better part of several years.

The abundant moisture has come at a cost to some, as stationary lakeshore docks are either under water or are already being elevated for a second or third repetition. Having a floater is quite advantageous for times like this.

The lake level on the Gunflint Gal has nearly crept back to its high water mark of the season thus far, and is still rising at this keyboarding. Our highest mark was recorded the latter week of May during that 5-inch slammer.

While taking my stint as a volunteer at the Chik-Wauk Museum last week, I found that the water level on Big Saganaga was continuing its rise as well. In fact, with water edging into the bay parking area, it’s the highest since our Museum/Nature Center project started back in 2005.

As the rainfall subsided by weeks end, the weather conditions have been a north woods spectacular! Crystal blue lake waters are matching the heavens above, temperatures have been just right and light breezes at different times from all points on the compass have made for extraordinary comfort levels. Let’s hope that we are in for more of the same, a balance of sunshine along with an occasional accent of moisture would be fine heading us toward fall.

With the solstice of summer passing so quietly, it seems difficult realizing that by our next meeting on the radio waves, we will have celebrated another National Birthday. Half of 2012 is into the books and the full “buck/ half-way” moon (Aabito-Niibino Giizis) will have reached its fullness.

Also hard to imagine is that our lupines are going to seed in many places, wild roses are processing blooms into hips, windrows of daisies are beginning to line our roadsides and mountain ash tree berries have taken on that scarlet hue.

So as the sun begins its slow ebb back to the south, even here in the woods, where time often seems to stand silently by, days are now a rush, blending into a blur. The time to cherish forest life at the pinnacle cannot be wasted. The year 2012 is passing through a mid-life microcosm and we’d better pay attention, for it soon will be gone!

Time’s not being wasted here on the Trail, as our energetic Gunflint community continues preparation for the canoe races. We are one week closer to the decades-old fundraising event on behalf of our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. The July 18 date is looming just 2 1/2 weeks away.

The event’s namesake grand prize, a Wenonah Canoe, is on display at Trail Center. Volunteers will be selling raffle and canoe ticket chances for anyone and everyone this weekend and each succeeding weekend until the big day.

Two other summer events have come and gone along the Trail. The third annual Gunflint Trail Historical Society Fish Fry at Chik-Wauk, and the 14th annual North Shore Health Care Foundation Barbeque at Gunflint Lodge were wonderful endeavors on spectacular bright days. Both fundraisers served up some scrumptious cuisine. Thanks to all who made the gatherings special for some happy attendees!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor nature’s rainbow of color along the Gunflint!

Airdate: June 29, 2012


 
Tofte fireworks display

West End News: June 28

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A young woman was in the West End this week doing research on the history of Sawbill Lodge. Her name is Jennifer Case and she is the granddaughter of Chuck and Helen Case, who operated Sawbill Lodge in the mid-1970s. Helen ran the lodge while Chuck continued his work as an executive for the telephone company. I believe it was Bell Telephone in those days, in the Twin Cities. Their dream was for Chuck to take early retirement so he and Helen could concentrate on the lodge full time. After a few years, Chuck was offered a promotion that took the family to London and the Cases decided to let the lodge go. Jennifer reports that Sawbill Lodge still is a big part of her family's history and has caught her interest, even though she was born long after the Lodge was torn down and returned to nature. It just shows how the resort life style gets into your blood - in spite of the fact that the reality of resort ownership is mostly hard, dirty and repetitive work over long, long hours.

The torrential rain and flooding that occurred a couple of weeks ago is very likely another of the many changes that are occurring here in the West End due to climate change. We can add it to an ever growing list that includes hotter summers, warmer winters, decline of the moose population, the disappearance of many frog species, die-off of birch trees, and frequent spikes in extreme fire danger, and so on. Patty Johnson, who is a fire behavior expert with the US Forest Service, stopped in the other day on her way out on a personal canoe trip. She mentioned, somewhat ironically given the recent wet weather, that climatologists are saying that periods of extremely dry weather are likely the new normal. The fierce wildfires that are burning in Colorado right now are a good example of what we need to worry about. In my opinion, if you live in the woods, you are crazy if you don't have a sprinkler system to protect your home or business. Jim Winnanen, director of Cook County Emergency Services, has been working hard to line up another FEMA grant to help home and business owners install what are known as Firewise sprinkler systems. The grant hasn't come through yet, but Jim is confident that is will be announced soon. This is government at its best because it is much, much cheaper to pay up front for prevention than to pay for reconstruction after a disaster.

The North Shore Stewardship Association, located at the Sugarloaf Landing just west of Schroeder, is offering movie night every Friday. They show good movies that you probably wouldn't normally see and the setting at the Sugarloaf Interpretive Center is, of course, beautiful. On Friday, July 6th, they are showing "Mad City Chickens", an entertaining and funny documentary about the urban chicken movement in Madison, Wisconsin. The following Friday, July 13th the movie is "Play Again", a look at "nature deficit disorder" which is what afflicts America's children who now spend between five and fifteen hours a day looking at screens instead of playing outside and learning to enjoy the natural world.

The North Shore Stewardship Association is also sponsoring an outdoor photography workshop on Saturday, July 14 starting at 10 a.m. at the interpretive center just off Highway 61 west of Schroeder. Photographer Chris Sandberg will present the two hour class which will focus on finding and capturing outdoor scenes and presenting them in the best possible way. You can call Molly at 218-525-0001 for more information and starting times.

Don't forget about the fabulous Tofte 4th of July Celebration, one of America's great small-town Independence Day events. It all starts with the 33rd Annual Tofte Trek 10K Wilderness Run and Walk. Registration opens at 7:45 am with the 10K walk starting at 9 a.m., Kid's Race at 9:05, the 1 Mile Race at 9:20 and the 10K Run at 9:30.

The Festival at the lovely Tofte Town Park starts at 11 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m. with kids games, local crafts, food booths, beer garden and live music featuring Tofte's own Eric Frost, The Sensational Hot Rods, a '50s tribute band, San Francisco jazz musician Johnny Smith, the drum group Yabobo and the Cook County High School Band. The High School Band will also be featured in this year's parade which starts at 2 pm along the old highway in downtown Tofte. There is a spaghetti dinner at the Lutheran Church from 5 - 7 p.m. and last but not least, the spectacular fireworks display over the lake starting at full dark around 10 p.m.

I remember one year, many years ago, when there was a spectacular lightning display over the lake and vivid northern lights directly overhead while the fireworks were being shot off. We can only hope for a repeat of that memorable performance. As always, be there or be square.


 
The large delta created by taconite tailings at Silver Bay (seen here in 1963) led to the closing of the Reserve Mining Company

Moments in Time: The mining boom in Silver Bay

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Art Fenstad is a descendent of one of Cook County’s early fishing families, but Art didn’t grow up fishing—at least not in the way his ancestors did. Commercial fishing on Lake Superior dropped off rapidly after the invasion of invasive species, particularly the sea lamprey. The economy along the shore changed forever. But as fishing was dying out, a new industry was emerging and a new economy was taking shape.


 
Students from Oshki-Ogimaag Charter School at the Grand Portage Native Fish Hatchery

Dr. Seth Moore: Environmental education at Oshki-Ogimaag

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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 the results of a recent fisheries experiment with students of Oshki-Ogimaag Charter School and the involvement of Grand Portage Trust Lands staff in ongoing environmental education at the school.  Produced by Carah Thomas.