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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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:
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.


Anishinaabe Way: Jim Denomie

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This segment of Anishinaabe Way features Lac Courte Oreilles Anishinaabe artist Jim Denomie. He discusses his approach to painting and the use of historical themes in his work, as well as what inspires him. Jim was recently awarded a McKnight Artist Fellowship for 2012/13.

You can learn more about his work on his website or on the Bockley Gallery website.


"The second half of June has gotten off to a glorious wet start..."

Wildersmith June 22

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The second half of June has gotten off to a glorious wet start. The upper Trail saw choking dust turn to mud with a fine drop from the heavens last Saturday night. The rain gauge at Wildersmith filled to 1 1/3 inches.

This certainly takes the edge off what was becoming a touch-and-go potential for wildfire. Both residents and businesses are thankful that we hit the jackpot on one of those so often missed 20-percent prognostications.

We are also grateful for the moisture knowing that so many of our firefighting servants are far away doing battle with savage fires in other states. We Gunflint residents know firsthand the peril that those residents and firefighters are experiencing right now. They have our sympathy!

The spirit of Chik-Wauk is happy to announce that there is a new arrival. Yes, a hatching announcement proclaims some cracking good news.

Our Sag Bay resident loons have become parents! The big days were June 15 and 16, and those proud parents took little time in getting out and about to show off the new twins.

Snippets have come in on a couple atypical wilderness critter happenings. It seems that we have some real gourmets in our wild neighborhood.

A gal down the road tells about an eagle visit to her yard where it picked up barbequed rib bones that I suppose were intended for the neighborhood fox. This unusual fare would seem quite subdued compared to most carrion we see them feasting upon. I wonder if the sauce caused any indigestion.

In another incident, a report is shared in regard to a pine marten that found epicurean delight in ham bones and scraps left over from a pot of savory bean soup. Meanwhile, in a less surprising episode, a bruno cub showed up at Wildersmith one afternoon with an apparent growling tummy. It promptly interrupted a squirrel picnic at their seed tray (squirrels have to eat too), causing a rowdy ruckus throughout the yard.

With little fanfare, I casually dispatched the cuddly cub with a couple of shots from my blank pistol, sending it scrambling off into the forest. The tiny red rodents returned to their nibbling in no time at all. Thankfully, neither the mini-bear, nor any of his larger kin, have shown since.

Speaking of nibbling and gnawing, the insect onslaught continues. Although black flies have calmed somewhat, the mosquitoes seem enraged, and on some occasions, distant biting cousins, those no-see-ums, are making life miserable for the unprotected. I know official summer is but hours old, but oh for some frost!

On a more comforting note, this time from inside the window screens, I recently experienced a cool, wonderfully peaceful moment in the morning twilight, just before Sol’s initial piercing rays.

Picture this: A mirror-smooth Gunflint Lake surface, with neither a whisper of air, nor a stir amongst the flora, from treetop to forest floor. Then sunrise’s first warming light broke through the greenery.

The glowing beam of warmth first generated one rippling moose maple leaf and then a blade of grass wiggled near by. Next came a shimmering reflection of movement in the fiber optic of a spider’s doing and with that, there was a waggle from a white cedar frond.

Not to be outdone, a second, third and suddenly a zillion streams of sunshine burst through the woods. All things started warming, including the air, which subtlety began to waft over border country.

Growing each moment, with upward movement of the mercury, currents started rippling the once placid waters. Whispers increased into a breeze and glistening ripples ebbed into more raucous surges, setting the stage for all things in our land of sky blue waters.

The Gunflint territory was awake for another day. In an ever so brief space of time, everything on this green earth was alive, suddenly dancing to the tune of a new day. Being at that tender moment in time, when this grand saga of the ages ticked off on another day in history, was a spectacle to behold.

Getting back to another great Trail happening, our annual canoe race festival is nearing. July 18 is the big day and planning is in full gear. Upwards of 90 volunteers are needed ,so be prepared to get involved once again.

Raising funds for the continued growth of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire and EMT crews is vitally important, so don’t be bashful about lending a hand. If you haven’t been contacted about a job for this year, contact Jim or Margit Jamieson at 388-4434.

Mark your calendar and plan to be there for all the food and fun! Tickets for the canoe drawing and raffle prizes are on sale now at several Trail locations.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the Gunflint experience!

Airdate: June 22, 2012

Photo courtesy of sOlitude via Flickr.

Bee and Sunflowers: photo by Carah Thomas

It's National Pollinator Week

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June 18-24 is National Pollinator Week. Not sure what that means? Well, one out of every third bite of food we consume comes from plants that depend on bees and other pollinators.  But pollinators in trouble, and populations are declining. Five years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of the final week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. Pollinator Week has now grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.  Laurie Davies Adams is the executive director of Pollinator Partnership. She spoke with WTIP volunteer Veronica Weadock.

To learn more about the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign visit or visit the Pollinator Partnership website at


Duluth flooding - AP Photo - Andrew Krueger

West End News: June 21

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It was the talk of the town this week when the communications out of the county were cut due to the extraordinary flooding in Duluth. It is almost breathtaking when the landlines, cell service and internet all go down at once. A couple of years ago, when the same thing happened, a plan was hatched to bring in a separate connection from the Iron Range, so we would have a backup. I know that the alternate connection is under construction, but apparently not finished yet.

It is probably healthy for us in the long run to realize how dependent we’ve become on the worldwide communications network. The economy comes screeching to a halt when cable gets cut. Our dependency grows by the day, including this humble report, which is usually recorded in my car (cars make surprisingly good little recording studios) and then emailed to the station.

We will probably continue to deepen our dependency on communication networks as broadband connections are rolled out in the relatively near future. Construction on the broadband network in Cook County is underway again. Miles of red tape are being cut and there is reason to believe that we may see at least part of the system lit up by the end of the year.

There is a lot of news out of the Birch Grove Center in Tofte this week. The Neighborhood Revitalization program is moving ahead for the West End. It provides grants in the form of deferrable loans for energy improvements like insulation, new doors and windows, furnaces, water heaters and so on. Owner occupied and rental housing can qualify if family income is between 40 thousand and 80 thousand dollars per year. The grants are first come, first served. You can contact Patty Nordahl at Birch Grove, 663-7977 for details and contact info.

Last call for vendors interested in working the Tofte 4th of July. Again, call Patty at 663-7977 if you are interested.

There are still a few spots available for the Hobbits project, which is class to learn how to build a wood fired outdoor oven running at Birch Grove Center from September 9th – 13th. There is a tuition cost for the class, but the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation is offering generous scholarships, so don’t let cost stop you if you are interested.

The West End was saddened by the passing of two longtime community members this week. Marion McKeever from Schroeder passed away at the age of 92 and Bud Nelson formerly from Tofte and more recently from the Gunflint Trail passed away at the age of 79. Both were active, long time business owners who contributed in many ways to their community. My thoughts and condolences go out to their many friends and family.

New Car

Gunflint Notebook: New Car

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In this edition of Gunflint Notebook,  Steve looks at getting a new-to-me new car and being recognized by your vehicle in a small town.