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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!


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Wildersmith May 18

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Spring has really sprung in the upper Gunflint territory! Since we last met over the waves of space, many more wilderness characters have popped out.

There are so many shades of green throughout the land that they are countless. A panoramic scan over the rolling granite landscape portrays mosaic tints ranging from pale sage to lime, to moss, to deep-sea aquamarine. They are just spectacular!

Closer up at ground level, we are celebrating more vernal rites. While domestic daffodils have been on the scene for some time, they are now being joined by a number of their wild cousins. The buttery faces of marsh marigolds are lining streams and swampy ditch banks. They are matched by their higher ground golden “dandy” lions and, over the past day or so, the forget-me-nots have once again forgotten us not.

Meanwhile the coniferous partners of the wilderness flora are sprouting buds into candles to become the next generation limbs, and those wondrous tamarack have bloomed their 2012 silky replacement needles in just a few short days.

Things are just a buzzin’ too! The annual fishing opener has brought out the drone of watercraft up and down area lakes with anglers seeking those first walleye sensations.

Added to this human hubbub is the hum of a zillion flying insects. Last weekend saw the area engulfed once more with the beginning of the two-week terrorist training for bitin’ bugs. Yes, the black flies have emerged from whence they come and seem infuriated for no apparent reason. It would seem simple that they might just go on about their blueberry pollinating business and leave us alone, but such is not the case.

The other nippers are here too, also seeming not in the best mood. The sad part of this whole gnawing scenario is that the skeeters will be in our midst for many weeks to come.

There’s no beating them, so it’s cover-up time. Bring on the Deet and netting apparel as we re-examine our torture tolerance level. Yours truly is already in the mood for a good freeze, sorry gardeners!

The reference to blueberries a few sentences back brings to mind that several folks have already been out exploring their favorite picking patches. The early canvas tells of what looks to be another great crop, based on the bloom. All we need is rain at the right time and plenty of sunshine.

It would appear, however, that rain will once again be an issue. The past week has passed with little to no moisture in the upper Gunflint reaches. As would be expected, the area is again in high wildfire danger mode with warm temps, drying winds and no ban on wilderness campfires!

It would be well for all wildfire sprinkler systems to be put into the stand-by mode. Further, running the system to dampen things down every few days would make good sense.

Let’s hope that common sense usage will prevail in regard to visitors needing a campfire when coming into the wilderness, and that lightning is a minimal factor when accompanied by substantial rain.

A few reports of black bruin activity are trickling in, but with no apparent tales of confrontation or amazement. One bruno is said to have learned how to open the topper door on a neighbor’s pick-up truck, climb in for a little grub exploration and vacate with no harm. Now if it could only learn to shut the door behind itself.

There has also been an observation of the first moose calf of the season. This sighting was down in the Greenwood Lake vicinity. Let’s hope this is the first of many!

While the south side of Chicago has its White Sox, the south shore of Gunflint Lake is not to be outdone. We have our own rendition of what I’ll call the Minnesota White Sox.

Those snowshoe hares are now clad in full summer camouflage except for their pure paws. And they are daredevils of the woods, paying almost no attention when crossing vehicular paths, often hopping within inches of becoming rabbit burger.

On a final note, there’s a lot of squawking going on out this way, nothing political mind you. A pair of crows have set up nesting about 10 white pines to the west of Wildersmith.

Their housekeeping chores now seem to include rearing youngsters, as the uproarious clamor is pandemonium pretty much from daybreak to sundown. I’ve even reached a point where I often catch myself yakking back at them. Ohhh, the babbles of new forest arrivals!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sights and sounds of the season.

Airdate: May 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of Ian Britton via Flickr.

Campground scene at the Sawbill Campground, September 1937/ photograph courtesy of the Forest History Society, Durham, N.C

West End News May 17

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A few weeks ago, I talked about the change in management at the North Shore Market in Tofte. I can now report that the North Shore Market has been sold to Joe and Jill Sanders, who own the neighboring business, Big Joe’s Auto Salvage. They bought the store from Nancy and Cliff Iverson, who owned it for the last ten years.

As I reported before, Lisa Nelson, of Tofte, will be operating the store. The Sanders plan to let Lisa be fully in charge. They are backing a complete remodel of the store, which will be happening very soon. The inside of the store will be gutted and new flooring, shelving and refrigeration equipment will be installed. On the outside, new half log siding and decking are planned. The entrance will be brought up to modern accessibility standards. Also, the name has been changed to the “Tofte General Store.”

Lisa is eager to serve both the local people and the many visitors to the area. She has already lowered prices on many items to encourage more local people to shop. Many new items are already in stock and more will be added after the renovation is complete. Lisa encourages everyone to let her know what they want from the store and she will do her best to accommodate. For instance, the store is already carrying organic milk, which many parents demand for their children.

Smaller, full service grocery stores have nearly disappeared from the market place in the last thirty years or so with the rise of the big box store. This has left many communities in what is often called a “food desert.” These food deserts end up being low-income city neighborhoods and small rural towns. Typically, convenience stores then become the only local option, leading to higher prices, less variety and an increase in obesity and health problems.

We are very lucky to have a local grocery store in the West End and I strongly encourage everyone to do as much of their shopping there as possible. It creates local jobs, keeps money in the local economy and makes the whole community healthier. And, it’s a great place to visit with neighbors and get the latest local news.

Last Sunday was Roger Michaelson’s 81st birthday. Roger is a Tofte resident who manages the solid waste transfer station, which he calls “The Tofte Mall” on the Sawbill Trail. This birthday was significant for Roger because he completed his goal of riding his bicycle around the world before he turned 81. Back in 2004, Roger had heart surgery and as part of his re-hab his doctor advised him to start exercising regularly. Roger fished a discarded stationary bike out of the inventory at the Tofte Mall, fixed it up, and set out to ride the 24,000 miles around the equator - riding 30 minutes per day - without ever leaving his basement. When he started he could only make about 3 miles in 30 minutes. Now, he easily rides 10 miles or more at once. He isn’t resting after completing the journey, but has already started off on his second trip around the world. The next time you see Roger, wish him a happy birthday, welcome him home, and wish him a good trip around the world for the second time.

The Birch Grove Foundation in Tofte has scheduled a public brain storming session for Thursday, May 24 at 6:30 p.m. The goal is to think of ways to better use the Birch Grove facility once the construction projects are done this fall. For instance, might the local resorts like to use the tennis courts, skating rink or wood fired oven to provide another activity for their guests. Or, perhaps you are a parent with an idea for youth activities at Birch Grove. There are no bad ideas. Everyone is welcome and, as always, yummy treats will be provided. Call Patty Nordahl at 663-7977 for more information.

One hundred years ago, in May of 1922, congress passed a bill appropriating money to create and maintain campgrounds in National Forests, including the Superior National Forest. In the prosperous times after the World War One, the popularity of camping exploded in the United States. The national forests already had some campgrounds, but many were sort of ad hoc, without water supplies, sanitation, garbage collection or established fire places. The legislation emphasized the fire danger created by inexperienced campers building campfires wherever they pleased. Testimony at the congressional hearings made it clear that the Forest Service was essentially being forced into the recreation business by public demand. The appropriation approved by Congress for the 1923 fiscal year was a whopping $22,000 for all the campgrounds in the nation. The next year the appropriation doubled. In hindsight, it has to be considered money very well spent.

Back in those days, many people felt that national parks should be in the recreation business and the national forests should be in the timber production business. Arthur Carhart was an early Forest Service leader who strongly advocated for recreation in national forests. As part of the legislative testimony back in 1922, he wrote the following: “If we are to have broad-thinking men and women of high mentality, of good physique, and with a true perspective on life, we must allow our populace a communion with nature in areas of more or less wilderness conditions.”

A partial solar eclipse

Northern Sky: A Partial Eclipse of the Sun

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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, there's a lot going on in the month of May. Deane gives us the details on the full "supermoon" on the fifth, an update on Saturn and Mars, and explains the transit of Venus, which will be taking place soon.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Photo courtesy of Alan Harman via Flickr.

"Checking a couple examples along the Mile O Pine, I find that the new bud growth appears to be green and OK..."

Wildersmith May 11

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The north woods have been quite gloomy most days since May took over. With only a few peeks of sun for the first 11 upper Gunflint Trail conditions have been almost cold at times, though not too unusual. It would seem that we have finally returned to a more normal atmospheric setting.

It is still hard to imagine that for most years, the ice would have just gone out in these parts. We are now going on over six weeks since the hard water departure from the Gunflint Gal.

The overcast has helped provide a brief respite from fire danger. Although moisture droppings have not been overwhelming, the off and on showers have accumulated to about an inch at Wildersmith. A combination of gray skies, wet offerings and cool temps has kept the territory delightfully damp.

Unfortunately, the obscure sky caused our northland to miss out on the viewing of the “super” full flower moon last weekend. Since this was the closest the old lunar fellow has been, and will be for awhile, it is too bad, as the full rounds over our northern paradise are always extraordinary. This one was sure to be stupendous, but it was what it was!

That hot spell of month three has a lot of folks just sick in regard to what’s going on with a couple coniferous species on both private lands as well as many spots in the Superior National Forest along the Trail. A large number of spruce and fir trees took a real hit with the extreme warmth of March and then the sudden near zero temps during early April.

The sudden contrast has shocked huge numbers of needle bearers with an apparent kill of their needles. They range from a progressing yellowish tinge to completely brown. A forest service expert confirms that this is winter kill that can often happen. However, I’m sure that this area perhaps has not seen it to this extent before.

It will be of interest to see if this leads to a permanent killing of the entire tree, or just a setback from which recovery is possible. Checking a couple examples along the Mile O Pine, I find that the new bud growth appears to be green and OK, but I’m no tree expert. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. One thing for sure, a large number of these trees are going to look pretty naked for some time if survival is in fact in the offing.

On the subject of trees, the fifth annual Gunflint Green-up came off with a fine turnout of enthusiastic outdoor lovers. Seventy-five planters took to the forest around the Chik-Wauk Museum site and put another 3,000 trees into the ground. Clearing was also done in some areas of previous years’ planting efforts.

This years happening brings the total to just fewer than 115,000 trees since the first Green-up in 2008. A hats off is extended to the fine organization and leadership offered by Gunflint Lodge and experts from the U.S. Forest Service.

In concert with the effort, a crew also did some planting along the old Gneiss Lake Trail. This is another step in the partial re-opening of the trail that was de-listed after the 1999 blow down. Work is progressing to clear the Trail as far as the scenic Blueberry hill, about a mile into the forest.

The US Forest Service has entrusted the clean-up and subsequent Trail maintenance to the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. When the clearing project is completed, a formal announcement will be made when it is open for hiker use. In the meantime, visitors are asked to not attempt a hiking journey just yet.

The second day of last weekend’s area events saw a record number of participants in the annual Ham Lake half marathon and 5K runs. Two hundred fifteen folks of all ages, shapes and sizes hit the Trail from either Seagull Fishing Camp on the 5K or from Gunflint Pines Resort for the half marathon.

Winners in the 5K were Jerry Erickson of Duluth in the men’s race and Michelle Aysta from Hermantown in the women’s race. In the half marathon, Jay Arrowsmith-Decoux of Grand Marais was first in the men’s section while Ashley Lykins of Duluth led the women’s finishers. Congratulations to all the participants for making it a great day!

Typically very well organized, the event was another great Gunflint community effort! Thanks go out to all who pitched in to make it happen!

In closing, the Gunflint community is reminded that the first Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting of the season will be held this coming Monday, May 14. All GTHS members, as well as wannabes, are invited to gather at the Gunflint Lodge Conference Center at 1:30pm. Treats will be served!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor a happy fishing opener, and Mother’s Day weekend!

Airdate: May 11, 2012

Photo courtesy of Arthur Chapman via Flickr.

The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg, photo Stephan Hoglund

LSProject: The New Normal

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There’s no doubt the weather in the Great Lakes Region has been off. In fact, there seems to be a new trend we can rely on, and that’s that you never really know what to expect. There’s a growing consensus that extreme storms and generally unpredictable weather may be the new normal.

With an early ice-out this year, Bill believes the fishing will be better during the first part of the season.

West End News May 10

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Last week I talked about school trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and how the legislature ignored a carefully crafted agreement developed by a legislative working group that included all the stakeholders, and instead passed a bill that seemed to be written by the mining lobby.

Now, our congressperson, Representative Chip Cravaak has introduced a similar bill at the federal level, which would force the Forest Service to trade the state lands in the wilderness for national forest lands outside the wilderness. As is so often the case in modern politics, both bills are being represented as being for the benefit of Minnesota’s children, when the reality is that they actually benefit multi-national mining companies, that are unlikely to care much about Minnesota’s school children. I know it’s a lot to ask in an election year, but hopefully cooler heads will prevail and these bad bills will just fade away.

Dave and Amy Freeman are technically residents of Lutsen. I say technically because they live in the most remote northern corner of Lutsen Township, which is deep in the Superior National Forest. Their home is a tent, but it’s a really nice, large canvas tent on a permanent platform. Most people would consider living in a platform tent to be roughing it, but for Dave and Amy it represents permanent luxury.

The truth is, they are hardly ever at their home in Lutsen because this week they launched another leg of their 12,000 mile North American Odyssey. They plunked their kayaks in Lake Superior at Grand Portage and will end the trip next April in Key West, Florida. This leg of the trip will be relatively tame by their standards as they make their way through the Great Lakes, down the Erie Canal, and finally down the eastern inland waterway. The previous legs of the trip included paddling up the Pacific coast to Alaska, hiking across a big chunk of that state, paddling up the Yukon River, dog sledding through the Northwest Territories and finally canoeing from Great Slave Lake to Grand Portage last summer.

They half jokingly refer to this trip as their honeymoon, because they began shortly after their wedding two years ago. It isn’t all just for fun though. Dave and Amy run a non-profit education program call Wilderness Classroom. They stay in touch with tens of thousands of school children via a satellite connection to the internet. The kids are highly involved in their travel plans and participate in many different learning projects. Dave and Amy stop and visit schools along their route, where they present a wildly popular program that educates kids about wilderness and the natural world. You can follow their progress at

The North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte is continuing their ongoing “Stories of the Fishing Life” series with a presentation by members of the Spry family on Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m. The Sprys are an old and well respected fishing family, mostly associated with the Hovland and Grand Portage area, who continue their fishing connections right up to the current day. As always, the program is free, open to the public and yummy treats will be served. Check the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum website, or contact WTIP for more information.

While we’re on the subject of history, mark your calendar for the opening of the William F. Roleff Forest History Photography exhibit at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder opening on May 25 at 10 a.m. This fascinating display of photos from the early days of logging is on loan from the St. Louis County Historical Society. It ties in with the Heritage Center’s theme for the year: “Timberjack Logging on the North Shore.” Call Suzanne Frum at 663-7706 or check their website for more details.

I’ve had a lot of phone calls from people wondering how the early spring will affect the walleye’s appetite for minnows, leeches and night crawlers during the early days of the fishing season. My answer is that it is anyone’s guess. The ice left the lakes so early this year that there is literally no precedent to rely on to make predictions. Generally, an early ice-out means that fishing will be better during the first part of the season. In any case, the arrival of full summer in the deep south, by which I mean south of Two Harbors, seems to be piquing the interest anglers, hikers, bird watchers and canoeists. The busy season is upon us.

"Looking at other community centers" interview series

Looking At Other Community Centers: Part 3

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As planning for a new Cook County Community Center continues, we're taking a closer look at schools around the state that have attached community centers, to find out how that’s working and what they’ve learned. To finish the series, we spoke with Bluff Creek Elementary School Principal Joan MacDonald from the Chanhassen School District. They built their attached community center along with the school when it was built in 1995, and there are 535 students in the school.


"Looking at other community centers" interview series

Looking At Other Community Centers: Part 2

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As planning for a new Cook County Community Center continues, we're taking a closer look at schools around the state that have attached community centers, to find out how that’s working and what they’ve learned. On Day 2 of the series, we spoke with Waconia School District superintendent Dr. Nancy Rajanen. They built their attached community center 11 years ago, and there are 3,260 students in the district.


"As we enter the month for blooming flowers and such, feelers for rain are still being extended to Mother Nature..."

Wildersmith May 4

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It’s great to be back in the woods after a run southward to visit friends and family. The trip also included another stint as an official at America’s Athletic Classic, the Drake Relays.

Sure is amazing that as warm as the Midwest has been during the past few months, the three days of that track and field extravaganza in Des Moines found conditions to be quite up-north-like during late April. Cloudiness, cold temps and threatening skies were a cause for considerable whining, but for yours truly and my dear wife, we felt pretty much like we were right at home by the lake.

A check of the rain gauge upon my return found that nothing much has changed during our absence, still dry as a bone in border country (only four one-hundredths of moisture for the past seven at Wildersmith).

So as we enter the month for blooming flowers and such, feelers for rain are still being extended to Mother Nature. Further, I was surprised to find some splotches of white remaining in the ditches along the Trail, and a mini-glacier still tucked back in the woods on the Mile O Pine. So temps have remained on the cold side as well.

As April ended, following the warm temptations of March, leaf-out in the area continues to have stalled. Thus, phenology for this part of the universe remains logical, that all growing things will happen only when the DNA of these worldly beings says it’s OK.

Among those many creatures of the woods are black fly terrorists that have been held at bay (thanks goodness) with a cool month four. I suppose that if we are going to have May flowers and green leaves, those bitin’ buddies are sure to be just around the corner, so I’m bracing for the coming onslaught.

The trip homeward along the beautiful Gunflint Trail last Sunday evening was enhanced with another rite of spring. Our first black bruin of the season was observed. It was a big old Teddy that meandered across the black top near county road 92.

We were immediately welcomed home by a bunch of hungry neighborhood squirrels, an equally voracious pine marten and a hammering pileated woodpecker. Based on their habitual rapid appearance upon our returns, I’ve got to think that any number of wild neighborhood critters have become accustomed to the sound of our vehicle coming down the driveway or to the sounds of an opening garage door. It’s so nice to be wanted!

The fifth annual Ham Lake half marathon, 5K and runts run kicks off the first of many warm season events along the Trail on Sunday the sixth.

This is a growing event marking the five-year anniversary of that tragic wildfire event in 2007, which scarred 75,000 wilderness acres and affected the lives of numerous upper Trail residents. Several events are scheduled in concert with the running feature. Check for more details and get out in support of the runners.

Complementing the run, another Gunflint Green-up is also happening, Saturday, May 5. This event is under the leadership of the Gunflint Lodge folks and focuses on planting more trees in the burned out area near Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, plus the release of trees planted in previous Green-up endeavors. It’s not too late to get involved, but hurry, time’s a wasting! Check the Gunflint Green-up website,, or call Gunflint Lodge 218-388-2294 for last minute details, all hands are welcome!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor an adventure in the wilderness!

Airdate: May 4 2012

Photo by: Stephan Hoglund

Tommy Turkey

Magnetic North: Christmas in May for us Birdbrains

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Welcome back to Magnetic North, the destination for every migrating feathered beauty on earth - or so it seems to us birdbrains. By that I mean every bird lover, not just the watchers. 

Oh, like everyone, I watch the incoming warblers and Canada geese. I journal the date the first honker or Goldeneye duck puts down on our pond.

But watching isn’t enough for this kid. In addition, I feed, fawn over and dispose of vast amounts of income on birds that could never arrive in this climate on their own and, given the choice would probably live anywhere else - like Kauai or Key West.

I’m talking chickens, flightless egg-laying ducks, heritage turkeys and guinea hens. Ever since I retired the Christmas tree to the goat corral, I’ve pored over the poultry catalogs. It was a given that I’d replace dear old Tommy turkey, Paul’s pet gobbler. Some nasty beast feasted on the 5-year-old bird last fall.

The big problem with getting a duplicate turkey is that hatcheries have minimum numbers they will ship. My favorite nursery, Murray McMurray in Iowa, put the turkey order minimum at 15. That’s a lot of turkey.
So I resorted to our local Internet bulletin board and offered to raise 13 of the 15 for anyone willing to pay the price of bird, shipping and feed.

In less than two weeks, all 13 were taken by eager local folk eager to feast on “Heritage Bourbon Red” turkey next Thanksgiving.
Frankly, I imagine that a few will end up, like me and my tender-hearted husband, adding an irresistible bulky pet to their family and not to their freezer.

My other order included a few chickens, some extra laying ducks - having become totally addicted to their eggs for baking - and, fool that I am, two geese.

This is the first time I’ve admitted publicly that I have once again tried to house geese on our property. Our last pair, a pair of white Chinese, were universally hated by my friends, family and neighbors. This variety of goose is well-known for being aggressive, mean, loud and given to fastening on the nether regions of all. Even I, the Goddess of Food, was not spared in the end. But the end did come and I gave the pair away.

Buff geese, McMurray’s catalog avers, are different. Calm. Sweet, even. And so, I caved and ordered two Buffs. I’ll keep you posted as to the outcome. But just in case, I would be delighted to find a nearby Al-Agoose meeting. Just to help me set boundaries, detach and well, you know, survive.

All my flock is doing great, despite the recent appearance of a small timber wolf pack in Colvill. Three dogs have been taken, as well as my entire flock of eight guinea hens.

This wipeout was the first since old Tom got gotten. And it was total. All I found was one uneaten heart and eight mounds of feathers. But I would be fibbing if I said I mourned their loss. Guinea hens are not mean. They are not fun, either. They screech constantly. The males fight. Although they did, as advertised, eat so many ticks that for once in 20 summers here, neither Paul, nor I or our other pets lost a drop of blood to a tick last year.

But the guineas had a fatal attraction besides the tiny tick: freshly laid chicken and duck eggs. And that, as all egg-lovers will agree, is a capitol offense.

So I had three plans: build them a coop of their own, give them to unsuspecting folks and thus make lifelong enemies, or eat the little criminals.

I chose the last plan. In fact on the eve of their execution, I’d collected a number of tasty-looking recipes for guinea breast and gotten directions for butchering. My only qualm was the distress I imagined catching them would engender in my sweet ducks and always-hysterical hens.

So, thanks, you voracious wolves. Just know that should you return for any more grub around here, I am packing pepper spray, plus a Red Rider BB gun.

At this writing, I am also awaiting the birth of a few wild ducks and geese. If the pair of honkers haunting our meadow since March is nesting and the male mallards have gotten lucky, I’ll be on guard down by the pond 24/7 in a few weeks.  Just about the same time that the local deer start their new families.

With all of this to watch, the extra hours of daylight are barely enough to take it all in, let alone plot and plan for new arrivals in the mail.
But that day is coming, when the post office calls and announces: “Your birds are here - you ARE coming in soon, right?” Ha! I’d sooner skip Christmas morning!

Photo by Vicki Biggs-Anderson