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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:
The Pagami Creek fire uncovered old roads through the wilderness.

West End News Nov. 3

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I'd like to add my sincere condolences to the friends and family of long-time Minnesota Public Radio personality Tom Keith who passed away unexpectedly this week. Tom was famous for his mastery of the nearly forgotten art of radio sound effects. He provided inspired and hilarious sound effects for Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, which is heard on public radio stations nationwide. Garrison would often try to stump him by calling for nearly impossible sound effects, like a man falling into a pool filled with piranhas and the sound of tires spinning on ice. Tom was also the co-host of the MPR Morning Show for many, many years, with his radio partner, Dale Connelly. Tom was a frequent visitor to Cook County. He took several canoe trips out of Sawbill. Years ago, he stayed for a week at Bearskin Lodge and called in a live report each morning. When the local MPR transmitters in Grand Marais were built about 13 years ago, Tom and Dale brought the Morning Show to Grand Marais and broadcast live from North House Folk School. Tom's dry humor and classic laid-back Minnesota manner endeared him to millions of people. Losing him feels like losing an old friend.

This weekend is the Bluegrass Masters Weekend at Lutsen Resort. This amazing event has been running annually for 21 years. It brings some of the biggest names in bluegrass music to little old Lutsen for workshops, jam sessions and a Saturday night concert. This year, Tim Stafford and Steve Gulley, two of the best bluegrass guitar players in the world, will be the masters in residence. In recent years, the event has drawn participants from all over the midwestern U.S. and northwestern Ontario. The workshops and concert are great, especially if you are a bluegrass fan like me, but the real highlight of the weekend are the continuous jam sessions that fill every nook and cranny of Lutsen Resort. Everyone is welcome to stop by, especially on Saturday evening, and listen to spontaneous music being made very accomplished players. As an example, last year I ran into a friend who is a fabulous guitar player. He told me that he had just spent the three hours playing with a group of fiddlers. He said they had played approximately 60 fiddle tunes without a repeat. The Bluegrass Masters Weekend, which is sponsored by the North Shore Music Association, is not only a significant artistic and cultural event, but it brings hundreds of visitors to the county on a weekend that would otherwise be very quiet. Tim and Steve will give a preview of the weekend on The Roadhouse this Friday.

It is the time of year when everything in nature seems to be waiting for winter. Flocks of snow buntings are passing through and creating a minor driving hazard on the back roads. They are tundra dwelling birds during the summer and their reflex when threatened is to fly toward open space, which causes them to fly in front of cars instead of off into the woods. It is fun to be able to see into the woods now that the leaves are down. You can actually watch animals as they walk though the woods, and interesting artifacts re-emerge after being covered by foliage during the warm season. For instance, there is a Model-T pickup truck just off the Sawbill Trail that can still be spotted near one of the creek crossings. It dates back to the time when the Sawbill was upgraded from a cart track to an actual road. Some local firefighters have told me that the Pagami Creek Fire revealed several old cars and trucks in the BWCA Wilderness. It wasn't too long ago that logging roads crisscrossed what is now wilderness in the area of the fire. The old roads have been overgrown and almost impossible to trace for many years, but the fire has made them jump out of the landscape as plain as day. The firefighters actually made use of some of the old roads for access and fire lines. I'm old enough to remember the road that used to cross the portage between Phoebe and Hazel lakes. One time, I was carrying a canoe across the portage and paused at the canoe rest that was located right where the road crossed. As I caught my breath, a loaded logging truck pulled up, driven by my friend, Hans Hall from Lutsen. Hans stopped and we had a nice chat before he continued toward the sawmill and I trekked on up the portage. Another time, I was paddling down the Kawishiwi River just north of Square Lake when I came upon a Forest Service pickup truck parked next to the river. Of course, we chatted for a while before heading our separate ways. It is hard to imagine these encounters in today's wilderness setting.

Speaking of changes in the wilderness, there is bill working its way through Congress that would exempt the Border Patrol from virtually every environmental law within 100 miles of the border. This includes the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts, the Endangered Species Act and many more. On the House side it has the disingenuous name "National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act.” I'm surprised that they didn't call it the "Mom and Apple Pie Act.” In my opinion, it is silly piece of election year nonsense that uses the pretense of national security to justify circumventing laws that protect the public from rapacious special interests that would put their own wealth ahead of the health and well being of the American people. Worse than that, it is wasting time in election-year posturing when we should be working on the real problems facing our country and world. Tourism travel between the U.S. and Canada is sharply down in recent years, much of which is attributable to tougher border requirements. In this part of the world, where tourism is a huge part of our economy, we have to be careful not to protect ourselves into poverty. I'm afraid this bill is more about the ever-expanding silly season that seems to accompany the election process these days than it is about national security. 

A class full of school children at the Birchwood School in Mineral Center/photo courtesy of the Cook County Historical Society

Moments In Time: Growing up in Mineral Center

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Although not much is left of the town of Mineral Center these days, it was once a bustling settler village full of homesteaders, many of whom came from Wisconsin in search of a better life. The town was located on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation which was opened to white settlement though the passages of the Nelson Act in 1889. The town’s life was brief; settlers began coming to the area in the early 1900s and just over 30 years later nearly everyone was gone and the town died. Nona Smith was born and raised in Mineral Center. She now lives in Grand Marais. She was twelve when her family left the community in 1936 and she remembers life there well. Listen to her story of growing up in Mineral Center in this edition of Moments In Time.

A pink flower for breast cancer awareness, photo by Barbara Jean Johnson

Magnetic North: Vicki's experience with breast cancer

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In 2006 Vicki was diagnosed with breast cancer. This October she passed a major mile stone for any survivor—five years cancer free. October was breast cancer awareness month, and in honor of that Vicki is sharing the commentaries she wrote at the time of her diagnosis. Vicki would like to offer support to anyone out there dealing with breast cancer. You can contact her by email.

The moon, accompanied by Mars (the tiny dot to the right)

Northern Sky: Full Moons & Mars

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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, she explains how November will be a month with a lot of moonlight, with a great chance to see Jupiter and Mars passing by Regulus.

To read Deane's latest Minnesota Starwatch column, click here.

Photo courtesy of David Biesack via Flickr.

Hotel door

Lodging tax revenues continue upward trend over last year

Lodging tax revenues for September were up from the same month last year county-wide according to the latest report from the Cook County Auditor-Treasurer’s office.

Lutsen-Tofte revenues are up 10.6 percent over 2010 at this time – and Grand Marais revenues inched up seven tenths of a percent over last September. The Gunflint Trail revenues for September are up 7 percent over last year.  Overall, lodging tax revenues county-wide are up 7.7 percent for the year-to-date.

The Auditor’s office emphasizes that not all businesses report taxes at the same time each year and revenues are an “apples-to-apples comparison.” That means only businesses which reported lodging tax revenues both in September of this year and last year are included in the monthly accounting.


Dr. Seth Moore working with radio-collared moose.

Dr. Seth Moore: Moose & Wolf Studies at Grand Portage

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October 26, 2011

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 with spectacular northwoods Lake Superior shoreline.

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's A.M. Calendar program, talking about the band's current and ongoing projects.

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about two studies currently underway at Grand Portage Trust Lands; one tracking moose via satellite radio collars, and another analyzing wolf scat to determine prey species.   Produced by Carah Thomas.

Photo courtesy Grand Portage Trust Lands

Bob, with Kelly (Photo by Carah Thomas)

Behind the Work: Bob Brandt, Driving Instructor

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Bob Brandt has served as Cook County's Drivers Education instructor for 14 years. In this edition of Behind the Work, WTIP's Kelly Schoenfelder gets behind the wheel with Bob as he shares his philosophies on working with teenagers as they learn to drive.

Music in this feature:
"Lost in Detroit" -Rolfe Kent (Up in the Air-Music from the Motion Picture)
"Ceremony" -New Order (International)
"Little Honda" -Yo La Tengo (I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One)

Feeling under pressure to get all those projects buttoned up before the snow flies? Tis' the season! Photo by wwarby on flickr

Gunflint Notebook: Pressure

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This time of year is a season of preparation. It's a race against the clock, the clock of seasonal change. It happens quick. The list of things “To Do” adds pressure cooker-type pressure which Steve is feeling in this edition of Gunflint Notebook.

"How's that for warm and cuddly?"

Wildersmith October 28

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Who would believe that October has come and almost gone? There she goes on the flurry of wings things headed south. November is creeping in on wilderness folk, like a ghost sneaking across the border.

Better late than never, the late month rain has finally favored us with our annual autumn aroma. One day last week, I got a fragrant whiff of that delicious damp woods ground and decomposing leaves that almost escaped us in the long dry weeks of this transition season.

Now’s a time for waiting, waiting for that great northern express to roll over the Canadian hills on those winds of month 11. The quiet wrinkles often forming on the smaller lakes by now have not had their ticket punched, and the gray clouds of the past days are bulging with what might be a belly full of snow. They are just waiting for an uplift to pierce them for the first big delivery of winter. I for one can hardly wait!

In the meantime, trends of the season are happening in stride. Tamarack spires, which now light up the forest, are about to sift gentle needles down to their final resting place, thus extinguishing the final sign of flora life in 2011. Whitetails are growing into amorous moods, and the last of spring-born waterfowl are just a skim of ice away from moving on. An inquisitive weasel stuck its head out of a hole the other day and it’s almost an ermine.

Yours truly has also made another move in anticipation and hope for that first white blanketing, by hooking on the snow blade. I’ve noticed that happening at a couple other places along the Trail too. Those involved with the cross-country ski business have been busy mowing and cleaning up the miles of trails throughout the territory. I would guess that pretty much everything is in readiness for a visit from the Old Man of the North.

The colder trend of late has excited some of the avian critters in the neighborhood. My gray jay pal has been coming each morning about daybreak to see if I’m out serving breakfast. However, I’ve yet to get out there in time to greet it with a hand full of treats.

In recent days, my tramping around outdoors has found the chickadees swarming about my cap. A few red-breasted nuthatches have been busy chirping about their expectations too.

Thank goodness I have at least some sunflower seeds on hand, as I see that the price has gone through the roof. It makes me wonder if there is anything that ‘big oil’ doesn’t control in this country.

I’ve been told by one winged critter provider, who went to a lesser menu item, that the blue jays come in for a nibble and just spit it out. Guess we’ve created a gourmet attitude that may require some adjusting. Come to think of it, more than just the birds need an attitude adjustment these days!

In my last couple trips up and down the Trail, I’ve come across several foxes. They are rapidly accumulating that fine winter coat, and those feather-duster tails are magnificent. I can just imagine them curled up in winter quarters with that fabulous furry appendage drawn up and around in insulation against the northern elements. How’s that for warm and cuddly?

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a thought of the next wilderness adventure!

Airdate: October 28, 2011

Photo courtesy of Mike Baird via Flickr.

High-speed internet

Cook County OKs 1% money to Arrowhead broadband

The Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday signed an agreement to designate $4 million in 1% sales tax dollars to help finance Arrowhead Electric Coop’s broadband build-out.

The agreement recognized Arrowhead’s receipt of an aggregate amount of $16,137,484 under the federal Broadband Initiative Program. The money is designated for building broadband infrastructure in the areas of Cook County served by the Arrowhead and Grand Marais electric utilities.

The county board agreed with Arrowhead’s request that their project meets the requirements of the sales tax language passed by voters in 2009. The law and subsequent referendum specifically states part of the sales tax is to be used for “the construction and improvement of a county-wide high-speed communications infrastructure network.”

The $4 million in sales tax money will be used to fill in deficiencies in the federal funding in order to complete the project by the end of 2013 due date.

According to County Attorney Tim Scannell, who drafted the agreement, there are safeguards in the language. Among other things, the county will forward sales tax funds only after they receive documentation that the work billed has been completed satisfactorily. Progress is also reported on a regular basis to the Rural Utilities Service, administrator of the federal grant and loan to Arrowhead.