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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:
It's approaching caucus time in Cook County

West End News Feb. 2

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After ducking the various cold viruses that are rampaging through the county, I finally got caught a couple of days ago, which explains why I’m singing bass in the choir today.

It is time once again for the political parties in Minnesota to hold their precinct caucuses. Your election precinct is basically your general neighborhood and is the smallest part of governmental geography. Caucus is just a fancy word for get-together. I imagine that all of Minnesota’s political parties hold caucuses, but here in Cook County, as far as I know, only the Republican and Democratic parties caucus. You can attend whichever caucus you like with no requirement that you have previously voted for, or been a registered member of, the party.

There are two main purposes for caucuses. The first is to introduce resolutions that propose additions or deletions in the party’s platform. The platform is a published document that lists the official position of the party on a wide variety of issues. Frankly, the platform documents are rarely read, but they do serve to stake out the basic philosophy of the party. The platform is used to guide the actions of elected officials, although they are not bound by the positions. Think of it as providing advice from the people to the government at all levels.

The second purpose is to select delegates that will go forward in the process in which candidates run for office under the flag of the party. At the local and county levels, candidates rarely seek party endorsement, but at the state and national level most candidates are endorsed by a party and will cooperate with others elected from their party if they get into office. If you support a certain candidate for a particular office, you can work to get yourself elected as a delegate to a series of meetings known as party conventions, that progress from the local level, through a couple of regional levels, finally to the state convention – and if you’re really ambitious – on to the national convention. Candidates for office organize their supporters to become delegates, because the delegates eventually vote to endorse, or give the party’s official blessing, to a single candidate. The party then provides the endorsed candidate with resources – money, advertising, volunteers and voter databases that help get them elected.

This year, as you know, unless you live under a rock, the Republicans are working to nominate a candidate to stand for the presidency of the United States. At the precinct caucuses, a straw poll will be conducted to see which candidates are most popular with local Republicans. The straw poll is non-binding, but is kind of fun, nonetheless.

On the Democratic side, there is a lively race for a congressional candidate to run against our current congressperson, Republican Representative Chip Cravaack. Three strong candidates are in the running so far and all three will be trying to line up delegates to support their efforts to eventually run against Mr. Cravaack in the general election in November.

When all is said and done, the caucuses are really an important part of our democracy. If you choose to spend the time, you can play an important role in how government works and who represents your interests in the process.

In Cook County, all the precinct caucuses are held in Grand Marais starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7. The Democrats meet at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts, which is located next to Cook County High School. The Republicans meet at the log 4-H building next to the Community Center.

Local blogger, Stanley Tull, reports having a bobcat living under his deck at his house near Murmur Creek. It was just a year ago that we had a bobcat under our deck. After a few days of constant barking by our highly agitated terriers, we live-trapped the beautiful cat and relocated it to an even more remote location just for the sake of some peace and quiet. The YouTube video that we posted of the cat’s release went viral in a modest way, mostly because people apparently enjoyed hearing – and making fun of - our strong Minnesota accents. It continues to rack up views although not at the same rate as last winter. Just search “Sawbill bobcat” on YouTube if you want to see it.

Bill and his daughter Clare found this freshly shed moose antler while out grooming the ski trail at Sawbill

West End News

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It is certainly good news that the wolf population in Minnesota has recovered to the point where it no longer requires special federal protection. I’m distressed, however, to see some legislators already whipping up the old prejudices and fears about wolves for their own political gain. Wolf management is a very complex and intricate issue, with many, many stakeholders and dozens of competing interests. I would urge the legislature to listen carefully to the professional wildlife biologists both within and outside the Department of Natural Resources. Everyone will be better served in the long run by a carefully considered, scientifically-based plan that balances all the interests.

A few weeks ago, my daughter Clare and I found a freshly shed moose antler while grooming the ski trail here at Sawbill. It is always fun to find an antler, but especially now when the moose population is at low ebb. A found antler, especially one that is recently shed, always tells an interesting story. This antler was large, but not huge – suggesting a mature bull moose, but not a giant. The base, where it attached to the head, was still bloody, so it hadn’t been long since the owner lost it. One paddle on the antler had been broken off, but the broken edge had healed over. I can picture this moose crashing headlong into a larger rival and regretting it later. My favorite thing about newly shed antlers is their smell. As the moose wanders through the forest, it drags its antlers through the brush and low tree branches, packing the little crenulations along its leading edge with rich mixture of sap, bark and leaf material. If you scratch and sniff, you get a heady whiff of the entire forest in aggregate. Balsam, mixed with birch, mixed with hazel, mixed with spruce and so on. There is just the faintest undertone of bull moose smell present too, leading Clare and I to hatch a scheme to bottle the smell and market it as men’s cologne. We thought up some names, but they mostly too tasteless to repeat on the radio, so I leave that to your imagination.

Speaking of the ski trail, I don’t want to be seen as gloating, but there is really a pretty decent snow covering up here at the end of the Sawbill Trail. As I speak, there is 17 inches of snow on the ground. Our little 7K cross-country ski trail is in perfect shape. I only mention this because people on the North Shore are amazed to hear that there is so much snow so close by. The Sawbill ski trail isn’t marked in any way, so if you come up, or send someone up to ski, just go to the bitter end of the Sawbill Trail, step over the snow bank and you will see the trail. It’s a loop, so you can go either way and it will bring you back to the same spot 7 kilometers later. It is a narrow trail, groomed for classic style skiing and is suitable for beginners.

There is a fun thing going on every Monday night at Papa Charlie’s nightclub at Lutsen Mountains. Every Monday, at least through the middle of March, they are presenting some of Minnesota’s best songwriters in an intimate, mostly acoustic session between 8 and 10 p.m. The shows so far have been excellent and the acts that are coming are top notch. The crowd is much smaller than the typical weekend crowd and much more local. For the local folks who work in tourism, Monday night is much more of a weekend night than Friday or Saturday and it gets you home early enough to get a good night’s sleep if you do have to work on Tuesday morning.
I’m thrilled to see the announcement of a new cell phone tower at Taconite Harbor in Schroeder. I know some people don’t like them, but cell phones have become an important and useful tool worldwide – and it’s high time we had decent coverage in the West End. I hope the new Tofte tower won’t be far behind.

Hoary Redpoll

Wildersmith January 20

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Winter in the north woods, mellow as it has been, is already a month old and whizzing by fast. The minutes between sunup and sundown are gradually increasing to the point where we are having about nine hours of daylight.

If that isn’t giving us enough notice about things to come, folks are already getting those spring seed and plant catalogs. And, the Farmer’s Almanac says it’s time to start planning spring veggie and flower gardens.

The season we had all hoped for along the Gunflint seems as though it will be a non-entity. Spring is not far from peeking around the corner and we are running out of wintertime opportunities. I know one of those green thumb gals in the area who I can almost bet is getting those seedling pots and grow lights lined up.

The scourge, of a border country winter that hasn’t been, reflects a territory so moisture starved it’s scary. As we went into the cold time, the area was already choking in drought. We always bank on some hefty amounts of frozen moisture to fill things back up come spring but, unless there is a huge turnaround, that’s not going to happen.

I for one am deeply concerned about the danger of more wildfire tragedy when what little snow we do have dries up come April and May. I’ve already heard of some unattended campfires flaring up down in the burn area of Pagami Creek where there is little to no snow. The rest of the Arrowhead wilderness is about to become just as vulnerable.

When the coming season of brown and dry replaces white, one would hope that timely burning bans will not be left to chance by governing agencies. With our ever changing, unpredictable climate, history over the past half dozen years has shown that just when agencies assumed conditions were tolerable for campfires and burning, they really weren’t; the proof is in the forest.

Temps did fall enough to do a little ice enhancement on Gunflint Lake. Hard water improvements came in the nick of time for our trout opener. My friend down the road indicates that the thickness ranges from near a foot right near his shore to about five or six inches 100 yards out to where he set up his trout camp. This says nothing to other areas further out and where there is rushing water beneath.

Come last Saturday morning, a few brave souls screamed by Wildersmith on their snow machines headed for their usual trout hangouts. I must say that they used common sense and stayed quite close to the shoreline. To my knowledge there have been no plops through the ice around here. By the way, what few catching reports I’ve heard indicate the action is slow to moderate depending upon the locale and possibly skill.

Molly Hoffman, our well-known Cook County avian expert and WTIP volunteer, came to my rescue after last week’s scribing on unusual birds coming into the mid-trail area. She shared with me that the whitish redpoll I mentioned was most likely a hoary redpoll. Guess the ghostly looking birds are often seen dining with their true red cousins.

The other bird of mention, which I thought was a lady pine grosbeak, was in fact an immature male pine grosbeak. Guess the adolescent males can have the bright yellow-red plumage that gives them a bright feathering appearance, somewhat parrot-like. As they mature, their orangeish quills eventually give way to the brilliant rosy pink to which we are accustomed.

The pack is still in our neighborhood as they practiced their winter song for the trout fishing neighbors last Saturday night. Then come morning the Smiths did some tracking of a threesome that came out onto Mile O Pine. The trio was side by side and went further than we eventually cared to follow--what an adventure. One of the three had imprints in the snow larger that the palm of my hand.

On MLK day I got word from my ice fishing friend that a huge wolf was observed coming out of the woods along our Wildersmith shore. Trudging icebound to the northeast, I suppose it was on survey detail for another venison dinner.

It seems tragic that these marvelous warriors of our wilderness are going to be put in peril once again at the hands of the trap ‘em/shoot ‘em up human race as they come off endangered species listing.

We supposedly civilized folk just can’t leave the many aspects of our natural world well enough alone. One would think that the people of Minnesota would know better than to let a hunting season happen for this revered historical component of our natural resources.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a peaceful forest moment.

Airdate: January 20, 2012

Photo courtesy of Omar Runolfsson via Flickr.

The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The Blue Desert

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Invasive species are one of the biggest issues facing Lake Superior. The most important invasive species to the lake to date is the sea lamprey. It changed everything. It wiped out the lake trout population in the other Great Lakes, and came close to doing the same in Lake Superior. In this edition of the Lake Superior Project, we take a closer look at this invader, and the impact that it had on the lake and the people who live around it.

This project is funded in part by the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program.

Sounds by Peter Elvin.


Alaska Eagle - photo by Travis Novitsky

Anishinaabe Photographer Travis Novitsky

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In this edition of Anishinaabe Way, photographer Travis Novitsky discusses his love of photography,  his influences, his favorite subjects, the process he uses to achieve his amazing results, and the role photography plays in his life on the Grand Portage reservation in far northern Minnesota.

Dessa at Papa Charlie's January 2012.  Photo by Stephan Hoglund.

Chris Hoglund Interviews Minneapolis Hip-Hop Artist Dessa

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Minneapolis based hip-hop artist Dessa wrapped up a nation-wide tour at Papa Charlie's in Lutsen on Jan. 14. Chris Hoglund had a chance to visit with Dessa backstage before her show. Chris is a Grand Marais native who is currently a senior at the Perpich Center for the Arts Education in Golden Valley.

Check out this sweet slideshow shot by Stephan Hoglund set to Dessa's "Mineshaft". 

"By performing “fridge triage” on a regular basis, I was able to save plenty of food and associated dollars"

Of Woods and Words: Serving Up Resolutions

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Last year, I really only made one New Year’s resolution. I resolved to throw out less food. Sure, plenty of petrified limes and lettuce slime escaped my best intentions, but by performing “fridge triage” on a regular basis, I was able to save plenty of food and associated food dollars from going the way of the compost bucket.

It seemed like a resolution worthy of carrying into this New Year too. In fact, one of the easiest ways to lead a greener life is to keep things from turning green in the fridge. But like most New Year’s resolutions, my resolve faced stiff adversity as I rounded the corner into 2012.

The holiday season gives us an excuse to buy all sorts of food items we would never buy any other time of the year. By early January, some unusual items had set up residence in my fridge…namely, a package of lefse and a paper-wrapped portion of smoked fish.

You won’t find lefse or smoked fish in my fridge on a regular basis because I don’t like them. While I’m sure both items were enjoyed by others during the holidays, now I was left with the leftovers. I didn’t want to throw them away, but I knew for a fact I wasn’t going to nosh on either item as a snack anytime soon. What could I do with them to make them appetizing enough to get them eaten?

Meanwhile, we’d also reached the point in the winter where I start to wonder what exactly I’m going to do with those canned goods I put up back when the days were long and the sun was warm. Sure, the pickled jalapenos sounded like a good idea in August when we were up to our ears with the spicy peppers, but I don’t have any recipes that actually call for pickled jalapenos. My mind rambled as I turned over the half pint can of jalapenos in my palm. You know what lefse looks a lot like, I thought: tortillas.

Bam. Smoked fish lefse enchiladas were born.

It was sacrilege, I knew. Most persons of Scandinavian descent who I know think ketchup is spicy. And here I was, about to take two profoundly Scandinavian items south of the border. I’d figured I’d take the fish, shred it and sauté it up with some onions, jalapenos, cumin, and chili powder, then roll the mixture up in the lefse. A white sauce, what I suppose people who aren’t Midwestern might call a Béchamel, would hold it all together. After it came out of the oven, I’d smother it with chopped tomatoes and avocados and a liberal dose of salsa verde.

As I chopped, sauteed, and whisked, things smelled promising. Still, I fretted after I popped the entrée in the oven. I wondered what I could whip up quickly for dinner if the dish turned out to be absolutely awful. On the first bite, we found a smoky, creamy concoction. The lefse “tortillas” made for a fluffy, subtle binder. It was actually really good. I relaxed as Andy went back for seconds. The enchiladas received the true mark of culinary success at our house the next morning when the leftovers were all eaten for breakfast.

Whatever your own New Year’s resolutions are this year, may you find them inspiring and rewarding. More importantly, may they make you thankful for the things you already have and allow you to see things in a new light.

Airdate: January 18, 2012

Photo courtesy of Kelly Bailey via Flickr.

Antares in the bright yellow object in the center to left bottom corner

Northern Sky: Capella, Antares & the Latest from NASA

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and in this segment, color is the theme. Venus and Jupiter draw closer to eachother this month, allowing us to better compare theirs, and the star Capella is prominent as well, which has a very special hue to check out. Antaries is another object to search for as January comes to a close, and Deane shares the latest news from NASA.

Read this month's Starwatch column by Deane.

Photo courtesy of Mouser Williams via Flickr.

A pack of wolves stopped by Sawbill in the wee hours

West End News Jan. 12

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Election filings for township officers are currently open. The township system of government in Minnesota is the closest form of government to actual people. It is truly where the rubber meets the road. As a former township officer, I won’t lie to you - it’s quite a bit of work and responsibility. On the other hand, it is crucial to our civil society that thoughtful, committed people fill these positions. The townships have a real impact on our lives. Service on a township board can be very fulfilling.

In contrast to hotly contested national, state and county elections, the township elections are really more of a confirmation of those willing to serve, especially the clerk position, which arguably requires the most work and brainpower. In township government, if the supervisors are the head, then the clerks are the heart of the town. I would like to take this opportunity to directly thank all the township officials for their service to the community.

One of the unique aspects of township government is the annual meeting. Everyone in town is invited to the annual meeting and many of the big decisions, including the annual budget, are made by a direct vote of the people present. This is a wonderful example of grassroots democracy in action. The meeting isn’t even chaired by the township board members. Anyone in the room can be selected to run the meeting.

Years ago, I was selected to run the annual meeting in Tofte, which is normally a pretty straightforward task of inviting motions, facilitating discussion and calling for votes. In this particular year, a township supervisor seat actually had two candidates. Steve Krueger, who had helped establish the township and served as supervisor for many years, was being challenged by a young whippersnapper, Tim Norman. The votes are cast throughout the day, just like any other election, but they are counted and the results announced in the evening during the annual meeting. This time, the election judges headed off to count the ballots and were gone for an unusually long time. When they returned, they announced that the election was a tie. Suddenly, my responsibilities as the meeting chair became more serious and complicated. After consulting with the candidates, it was agreed that the election would be decided by the flip of a coin. Steve Krueger won the flip, which seemed to please everyone, including Tim, who saw the close vote as an affirmation of Steve’s long service. In the next election, Steve chose not to run and Tim was easily elected. I was later told that flipping a coin was not the legal way to solve the problem, but nobody complained, so all was well.

Last week, my wife Cindy and daughter Clare talked me into walking out on Sawbill Lake late in the evening to howl for wolves. Sometimes, if wolves are close by, they will start howling in response to human howling. If nothing else, it’s good for a few laughs to see three adults standing in the dark howling like banshees. Cindy has an acknowledged knack for getting the wolves to answer, so we let her go first. But on this particular night, in spite of a full moon, we got nothing but silence in return. That night, just before dawn, a light dusting of snow fell. When we ventured outside early the next morning, we were surprised to see wolf tracks all over our property, including right up to both doors of the house, the doors to the store and all over the driveways. It appeared as though a large pack had come through and checked us out just before dawn. She may not have provoked them into howling the night before, but we’re giving Cindy full credit for calling them in.

We’ll be hearing a lot more about wolves this year as the state takes over responsibility for their management from the feds. Personally, I like having wolves around, even though they do present some danger to our pets. I hope the DNR’s determination to have a wolf hunting and trapping season won’t run them back to near extinction. Like all of the predators, I feel like they are more valuable to our economy loose in the woods than as a rug in someone’s den.

Gentlemen Hall - (West End native Jacob Michael - center)

Lutsen native Jacob Schmidt and his band, Gentleman Hall

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Lutsen native Jacob Schmidt and his band “Gentleman Hall” performed in December at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen. We’ll hear in interview with Jacob taped backstage just before the performance.