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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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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Icy Bay, Alaska

Gus' Wild Side: Memorable camping

Gus recalls memorable camping trips in both Alaska and the midwest.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Margaret Olson on Flickr)

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: April 28

Flynn and Danny report the latest news from Great Expectations Charter School in Grand Marais.

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Townsend's Solitaire

West End News: April 28

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then North House Folk School in Grand Marais should feel very flattered. North House was cited in the first sentence of a Duluth News Tribune article announcing the formation of a new folk school starting up in Duluth.

A few years ago, Ely started a folk school, also based on the success of North House. The Ely Folk School has succeeded beyond all expectations and I fully expect the same for the new folk school in Duluth.

Although the folk school movement seems like a new phenomenon to us, it has actually been well established in Scandinavia since the early 1800s. They were a reaction to the idea that education was primarily for the elite members of society. The folk schools were a "small d" democratic idea to connect all members of society to a lifetime of learning, with an emphasis on practical and useful skills that helped connect communities into a more cohesive society.

In the Nordic countries today, almost every town has a folk school, where they are a routine and accepted part of life. While North House wasn't the first folk school in America, it was a bit unique when it started 20 years ago. Hopefully, folk schools will be established in every town in the United States, too.

I've been thinking for awhile that it would be nice to have a folk school here in the West End, perhaps affiliated with the Commercial Fishing Museum and/or Birch Grove Community Center. Obviously, it would make sense to organize it as an add-on to North House programming, as they are such a strong part of the Cook County community.

Speaking of the Commercial Fishing Museum, the most recent newsletter has a very nice article about my mom, Mary Alice Hansen, and the key role she played in founding and developing the museum and the Tofte Historical Society. Mom is pleased by the recognition, but being the true historian, she was very concerned that the article get the details correct and accurate.

Congratulations to Split Rock Lighthouse on receiving a $68,000 grant to put toward developing a long term plan to preserve and interpret this important and iconic historic site. I would argue that Split Rock is the most unique and recognizable image from the North Shore.

The grant actually came from the National Park Service, in partnership with the Maritime Administration, according to Senators Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken and Congressman Rick Nolan. The money passes through the Minnesota Historical Society, who operate Spit Rock and is part of a $138,000 cultural landscape report.

Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center in Schroeder has a deal for you if you plan to plant trees on your North Shore property. They are making available low cost fencing to protect your saplings from the deer. This is actually offered by the North Shore Forest Collaborative, based at Sugarloaf, which is actually a group of many partners, working on a very long term plan to restore the forest along the North Shore. Visit the Sugarloaf Nature Center website for details and contact information.

I'm pleased to report that the elusive bird known as Townsend's Solitaire has been a regular visitor at the Sawbill bird feeders this week. It is a common bird in the mountain west, but quite rare in Minnesota. Although this is exciting news for bird watchers, I must admit that the Solitaire is one of the most nondescript birds that I've ever seen. We also have a black-backed woodpecker hanging around. That, along with all the migrants coming through, makes us a birder's paradise at the moment.

At this writing, Sawbill Lake has 8 inches of ice that is too degraded to stand on. Many of the smaller lakes and ponds are already open and Sawbill will be clear in a few days. The birds, the lake ice, the fabulous rushing rivers and waterfalls, and people already using the golf courses - along with downhill skiing still happening this weekend at Lutsen Mountains - all contribute to the magic that is Cook County's West End.

 

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Lake County trail

Sunny's Back Yard: End of a roller coaster winter

Sunny tells us about the final end of what's been a roller coaster winter in her Back Yard.

Sunny has lived off-grid in rural Lake County for the past 17 years and is a regular commentator on WTIP. Here she shares what's been happening in Sunny's Back Yard.

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School News from Oshki Ogimaag: April 26

Carissa reports the latest School News.

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A Year in the Wilderness: April 22 - The Wilderness is coming alive

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 22

Spring has finally won out here in the North Country. It has taken over intensely since our last visit over the air waves.

Going from jackets, furry hats and gloves to shirt-sleeves in a matter of a few days has many of us in shock. How warm has it been, it was so warm that my first outdoor activities subsequent to snow shoveling drew perspiration not seen since last October.

Taking the warm weather wrinkles a step farther, the copious snows piling up from mid-March to mid-April have shrunk to no more than plowed roadside windrows and shoveled heaps. “Old Sol” gulped this northern snow cone like a thirsty kid at the state fair.

Border country streams and rivers are gushing wildly on their way to frozen lakes. But at the time of this recording, lake ice remains intact out this way.

Ice on the Gunflint Gal has barely broken away from our Wildersmith shoreline. With nothing scientific to base my prediction on, it is my best guess the ice here will last another week to ten days. If this prediction plays out, it will put us into the first few days of May which is near average for our ice-out.

Spring is popping out all along the Trail. Pussy willows are purring their fuzzy arrival, while trees of the forest are trying to straighten themselves up following winter's trunk bending-stress of several unusual wet heavy snows.

On back woods roads, we “mudders” are slogging through a second siege of meltdown ooze. The tepid winter gave us hope of an early “mud season” in late February and early March. However, the recent thirty day surge of snow and cold stopped all that and now we are experiencing “mud season” number two. Any desire of maintaining a clean vehicle should be put to rest at least for another couple weeks.

The forest is alive with “tweeters” and I don’t mean of the cyber variety. Robins are rampant and flickers are flocking from whence they spent the past cold season. Both seem to hang out in goodly numbers along area byways at this time of year for some reason. I get a kick out of flickers zipping up from the roadsides with their white feathered bottoms making for easy identification.

Bears have yet to make their grand entry in this neighborhood, but yours truly is taking no chances at tempting a visit. I have removed deck-side feeding stations that could be an attraction.

This of course causes issue for the area pine martens. There is no longer a facility where morsels can be placed for securing their goodies from the birds and squirrels. That in mind, marten visitors have been grudgingly scrounging through an open tray of oiled sunflower seeds.

Sharing the cafeteria line amongst martens, squirrels, jaybirds and other winged folk obviously causes many uncomfortable dining experiences. In fact, a few mornings ago, two martens wisely arrived in the twilight hour to apparently avoid the after-sunrise breakfast rush.

Sadly, this dining opportunity is soon to end as I’ll have to stop the seed distribution as bears like them, too. However, with snow cover waning, bare ground will once again provide nourishment fortunes although not accessed as easy. To all my dependent critters, see you again when the snow flies.

Martens aren’t the only meat eating critters to turn omnivorous at times. Protein can be scarce in these parts with members of the Canid family often caught hanging out under bird feeders to scarf up seed scatterings of the feathered folk.

With venison fortunes hard to come by up this way, a gal in the mid-Trail area recently shared a great video capturing a hungry wolf lapping up seeds off the avian tray near her deck.

Without question, every species on the planet, including billions of malnourished human beings, is in an on-going quest for nutritional elements at one time or another. We all need to help whenever prudent and practical!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, watching the rebirth of our natural world!

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Superior National Forest Update: April 22

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, on the Gunflint and Tofte Ranger Districts, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For mid-April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Spring continues to arrive.  The ‘green line’ of opening tree buds is a little north of the Twin Cities, and is moving northward at about 15 miles a day.  That means that up here, it will still be a while before we see leaves on the trees.  But, the grass by the roadsides is starting to show some green, and all the deer are busy eating it.  And, by ‘all the deer’, I mean a lot of deer along the road!  The good news is that they are moving a little less often across the road since there is now green grass to be found on both sides.  Still, it remains the season to really watch for deer.  When you do see deer, you’ll notice that they are looking fairly shaggy as they are losing their heavy winter coats.  Some snowshoe hares are showing signs of springtime molting as well, but most are still in the white of winter.  Snow depth varies greatly with no snow along the shore, but there is still three feet in some locations inland. 
All that melting snow means that the gravel and dirt roads in the Forest are very soft and require some attention while you are driving.  You also have to beware of some really deep, suspension-eating, potholes on the paved roads.  That means that regardless of what road you are on, pay extra attention this time of year.  On the plus side, you shouldn’t have to watch out for logging trucks in the woods.  Spring road weight restrictions are still in force, and large trucks are not out on the forest roads.
In addition to potholes in the road, melting snow creates small spring ponds, known as vernal pools.  Frogs are beginning to call from these pools on warmer nights.  Both chorus frogs and spring peepers are beginning to sing.  Many birds have returned as well over the last two weeks, and a dawn chorus of bird song is ringing out in the woods.  Song sparrows, white throated sparrows, fox sparrows, purple finches, robins, and redwing blackbirds are all singing right now, with warblers yet to arrive.
Lakes are well on the way to melting.  Most lake ice at this point is not safe to travel on.  Even thick ice is now full of air pockets and is not as strong as it may look.  The southern part of the state has recorded some of the earliest ice out dates in history this spring, so don’t go by the calendar and assume the ice is safe because it always has been at this time of year.
Despite all this melting and wetness, we are in the spring fire season.  The dead remains of last year’s grasses and annual plants dry quickly into tinder in the warm sun, and green water-rich leaves have yet to appear.  Spring fires, like the 2007 Ham Lake Fire, can become huge, so be aware that you need a burning permit now, and you should pay attention to how dry the area around your fire is.  We are taking advantage of the spring fire season by conducting some prescribed burns when the weather permits.  This means that you may see signs warning of smoke and fire equipment ahead when you are out. 
You may also see a sign telling you about a visitor use survey ahead.  This is part of a national use survey to help us better serve visitors.  If you have time, please talk to the surveyor.  Usually they will conduct a short interview after you return to your car from your hike or bike ride about your experience in the Forest.  These interviews help to shape our management of recreation areas.
Get out and enjoy some of those recreation areas this spring, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: April 21

Sophia, Kalina and Gus report the latest news from Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.

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West End News: April 21

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune issued their annual “Best of Minnesota” article last week and the West End made the list twice. The Lutsen 99er was named as Minnesota’s best mountain bike race.  Minnesota’s best resort spa was awarded to the Waves of Lake Superior Spa at Surfside Resort in Tofte. Neither of these are a surprise to West Enders. Of course, almost everything we have is the best in Minnesota, but we’re too cool to be conceited about it.
 
For instance, we have Minnesota’s best community school, in my humble opinion, at Birch Grove School in Tofte. At the moment, Birch Grove Community School is looking for three new school board members. Current board members Sarah Somnis and Rae Piepho were recently elected township supervisors in Tofte and Lutsen, so they are required to resign from the school board to avoid a conflict of interest. The third opening is to replace Jessica Cameron who moved away when her husband was transferred by the Forest Service.
 
The Birch Grove School Board has nine members and meets monthly on the fourth Tuesday. The board expects that members attend at least 80% of the meetings. There is a simple application form that is available from school director Caroline Wood. Stop by the school or give Caroline a call if you would like more information.
 
There is a fun, informal social gathering of dog owners in the Lutsen township park every Sunday at 3 pm. There is nothing organized about this, but it is a chance for some of the outstanding community dogs to spend some time playing and getting to know one another. I suppose there might be some socializing among the owners, too.
 
Matt and Mary Beth Farley, of Lutsen, will be traveling soon to visit their son Andy, who is now stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Andy has completed his basic training and is now training as a combat engineer for the 82nd Airborne Division. Matt said that Andy recently broke his collarbone, which put a short glitch in his training, but will soon be back to full speed. Andy is, of course, a proud graduate of Cook County High School.
 
I was sorry to hear about the dust-up that occurred when the Cook County Board of Commissioners proposed a resolution recommending that the BWCA Wilderness watershed be protected from the pollution that inevitably follows the mining of sulfide-bearing ores.
 
Like the silly banning of Bent Paddle Beer from the Silver Bay Municipal Liquor Store, it strikes me as a misguided attempt to intimidate people who want to express their honestly held political opinions.
 
The threat to remove Cook County from the Taconite Assistance Area strikes me as a particularly empty and unnecessary threat. The rail line between Taconite Harbor and Hoyt Lakes is still owned by a mining company. That railroad and the Taconite Harbor power plant may well end up being key parts of Minnesota’s mining efforts in the future.
 
Details aside, I believe that open and honest political discussion is always a good thing and coercion and threats are always a bad thing. Talking important issues through will ultimately result in a more vibrant and prosperous West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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