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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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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The Pie Social at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is Sunday

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 1

The spectaculars of September in border country has yours truly heading off into year 16 of reporting Gunflint Trail news. To be specific, September 2, 2002 was my first ever scribing attempt. It was first as a columnist for the News Herald until 2008 and ever since with WTIP.                                                                                                                                                                      

I’m indeed thankful for the enduring support over the years. It is truly gratifying to have met so many folks who seem to enjoy the weekly scoop. Furthermore, thanks to everyone who has offered a news tip or two from wherever they reside in Trail territory.        

So here we go into a little review of what’s been going on. It may be my imagination, but autumn seems to be advancing rapidly. Some of the late August atmospheric and natural happenings might not amount to one iota with regard to my pre-fall observations, possibly prognosticating an early cold season. However, unusual things keep catching my attention.                                                                                                                                        
Whereas the lush green of the forest is still pretty much in command, a tamarak hidden back in the wetlands along the upper Trail caught my eye recently with its sparkling gold needles. While these dazzling forest sentinels are ordinarily the last color of the season in October, the flashy yellow tree makes me wonder if this isn’t some kind of signal from the “old man of the north.”                                                                                                                                                                      
To compliment this gilded needle appearance, the territory experienced a couple early mornings of cold temperatures as month eight headed into the last lap. The mercury slipped into the low 30s at a few locations with one report of frost having to be cleared from a windshield. A couple gardeners I know even threw a cover over their tomatoes. Wildersmith had three or four nights in the high 30s before capping the cold snap off with a 30 degree morning for the lowest so far, and our tomatoes will be best served as the fried green variety,                                                                                                                                                    

Needless to say, it probably remains a long ways from first frost to first snow. However, with mosquitos having been in the attack mode lately, a counter-attack of early freezing would not make some of us too unhappy.                                                                                                                
One more early autumn transition I’ve noticed is that boats are starting to come ashore. Several are trailered up with wintering protection battened down. Although this has no predictability of atmospheric things to come, it indicates summer folks have mellowed into the harvest season planning mode.                                                                                                              

Those cold conditions have eased some as I key this first report of month nine, and rain dampened this neighborhood in a Sunday soaker last weekend. The cool soggy setting made me briefly think, October. It was a nice rain with no wind, thunder or lightning, totally contrary to the tragedy suffered by millions in Texas. Remembering the derechos of 1999 and the wildfires in ‘05, ’06, and ’07, our hearts go out to them as we Gunflint folk know a lot about terrible tragedies too.                                                                                                                            
Reports of more bear visits continue to trickle in. Recently, a friend down the road experienced an all-day stop-over of the Gunflint Lake momma bear and her quadruplet cubs. She would not go away and the five-some ravaged bird feeders not having been stowed away. One of the black “Teddys” by chance tramped through the Wildersmith yard last Saturday morning, but found no temptations necessitating a stop, which was just fine with me.                                                                                                      

One of my squirrelly rodent buddies might be sending a weather signal too. Getting ready for winter could be on its mind as it had been working at a “B & E” (breaking and entering) project on a door to the outhouse for our guest cabin next door. It had already been evicted once as I found cold season nesting quarters in place just a few weeks ago.                                      

After squirrel proofing the gnawed point of entry, the little devil is back at its scheming to re-enter once again. This in mind, I am determined to win this battle of rights to privy occupation. I’m about to post no vacancies, there are plenty of vacant tree cavities to accommodate the rascal.                                                                                                                                              

I’ve been hyping the Gunflint Trail Historical Societies, Pie & Ice Cream Social for the past couple weeks. Such clamor ends now with the event at hand on Sunday. Don’t miss this sweetest of all holiday weekends up at Chik-Wauk, from noon to 4 p.m. There’ll be a lot of things going on as we usher in the Ojibwe “Tagwaagin”/fall season.                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, during the month of the “wild rice” moon, September calls!
 

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Northwoods Volunteer Connection

West End News: August 31

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

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North Shore Health - Amy Lacina talks about hospital construction

WTIP Volunteer Tina Krauz covers the progress on the renovations at the North Shore Hospital and Care Center. In this installment Tina talks with Amy Lacina about construction at the hospital.

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The baby loon at Chik-Wauk Nature Center is now as large as its mother

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 25

The hullabaloo in the heavens is in the rearview mirror and September is bearing down on the Trail as in other places of the universe. Next time these radio waves come out, we’ll be humming the September Song, and September is spectacular!                                                                                            

A lot of month nine happenings come to mind, including more celestial things like the full “wild rice moon” and the Autumnal Equinox kissing summer good bye.                                                                                                                                                       

Upper Trail residents experienced another week of mundane weather in lake country and along the Trail. A couple rainy segments paired with sunshine and pleasant temps, have been pretty much seasonal for our waning summer.                                                                                                            

Changes are in the making though. Lake water temps on Gunflint and Loon Lake have slipped back into the mid to upper 60s depending on where one dips the thermometer.                   

While on land, I’ve observed a few off-the-road spots of sugar maple orange/scarlet and adolescent birch tree gold. In concert, blooms of purple asters, tansy, toadflax (butter & eggs) and Joe pye weed have taken the spotlight, with fireweed and ox-eyed daisies fading into oblivion. However, not to give up yet are uncountable patches of black-eyed Susans and goldenrod. So the “technicolor” floral illumination remains vivid with a little bit old and a little bit new. Elsewhere, in the moist shade of our Wildersmith yard, milk cap mushrooms are popping into prominence.                                                                                                                                                                           
The onset of fall brings on not only movement back to school for our Cook County  Viking kids and southerly thoughts by snowbird neighbors, but any number of north woods winged folk also are feeling the southward allure. Waves of many warblers, flickers, monarch and red admiral butterflies are some of the first gathering to catch the “Indian Summer” currents toward winter quarters.                                                                                                                

While speaking of furry critters, I don’t believe I’ve spoken with one person who hasn’t observed a bear somewhere along the Trail in the last week. It is bears, bears, bears!                                           

As the season is open to hunting them, one might suppose they could be seeking refuge from a hunter's slug in our neighborhoods. While this seems hard to imagine with all the baiting goodies put out by “Bruno” stalkers, a better guess is the population has been booming over the past couple years around the territory. I’m still getting reports of momma bears escorting up to as many as three or four cubs throughout the forest.                                                                                            

Gathering is not limited to critters of airborne character. Dozens of rodent beings around the yard have commenced with stocking up their winter stashes as well. Red squirrels and chipmunks are so under foot, it often commands some fancy footwork to avoid squishing the little folk.                                                                                                                                                                                       
One such red squirrel has adopted yours truly, and is at the workshop door as regular as the sun up each day. It gets so excited when it finds me approaching that the little guy or gal doesn’t pay much attention to where my big clod-hoppers land. On a morning recently, my furry friend took a foolish turn and by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, got caught under one of my steps. Somehow with my aging agility and its being wiry resilient, death by crushing was averted. It managed to scramble away in a flash, only to be back waiting the next morning, still having not learned a good lesson.                                                                                                                                       
Wonders never cease in the natural world. After well over a year of not seeing a whitetail in the Mile O' Pine neighborhood, a doe made a cameo sprint in front of the vehicle just days ago. So in the least, there is one out this way the wolves have not found, as yet!                      

A constant in our animal world is babies have to growup so fast. Such is the case with the loons from the nesting platform at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Mother loon and her 2017 chick have been staying close to home recently. Baby loon should no longer be called such as it’s bigger than mom. A digital is attached to this website column at WTIP.org showing the youngster on the left, a big baby indeed!                                                                                                                                 

A programming note from Chik-Wauk Nature Center reminds rock/stone enthusiasts of Sundays’ presentation by Don Wendel. Don’s talk on geology of the area will focus on Saganaga Batholith, the same formation on which the museum and nature were built. The program begins at 2:00 p.m.                                                                                                                                                                    
Lastly, on behalf of organizer, Judy Edlund, I’m giving another shout out for pie donations to the “social” at Chik-Wauk a week from Sunday (Sept. 3rd). Please don’t make Judy call you. Bakers, you do the calling, 388-4400. Just like “old Uncle Sam” used to tout, “we need you” and your talent for sweetness!  
                                                                                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, while watching the dawning of a new season!
 

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(Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region on Flickr)

North Woods Naturalist: Freshwater mussels - Part 2

In Cook County we have three species of non-invasive freshwater mussels. In this second part of a two-part interview, WTIP’s Jay Andersen continues talking with naturalist Chel Anderson about some of the unusual traits of these often overlooked species.
 

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Northern Sky: August 19 - September 1

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

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Superior National Forest Update: August 18

Hi.  I’m Amy Wilfahrt, fisheries biologist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of August 18.

We are coming into the end of summer where some days feel hot enough for a swim, and some require looking in the closet for that jacket that was put away in the spring.  One of the markers of the season is the fireweed plant.  Most of us are familiar with the spikes of purple blossoms along roadsides and other disturbed areas.  The blossoms start at the bottom and work their way up the spike as time goes on, and the story is that when the flowers reach the top and end, summer is over.  I hate to say it, but they are nearing the top.

Rain has still been keeping fire danger to a minimum, though it is actually high in other parts of the state.  Remember that whatever the conditions are, you need to be careful with fires and make sure every fire you light is totally out when you leave.

One prominent fire which will be out this week is the sun during the eclipse.  It would be amazing if you haven’t heard that there is going to be an eclipse on the 21st, but since this is a once in a lifetime event for some people, we just want to be sure you don’t miss it.  From the point of view of the Superior, the moon won’t completely block the sun, but it will block enough to be noticeable.   Be sure to not look directly at the sun, use proper eye protection, or look at a projected image.  It is predicted to start at 11:46, reach a maximum at 1:07, and end at 2:27.  Don’t miss it!

If you are out driving in the Forest this week looking for that perfect eclipse viewing spot, there’s a number of roads which will see logging traffic.  On the Tofte District, watch for trucks on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, The Grade, and the Sawbill Trail.  On the Gunflint District hauling is taking place on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Forest Road 1385.  There will also be trucks on the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and the Bally Creek Road.

You may also get to see the start of some of the fall migrations.  You’ll notice that geese are gathering in larger groups, and if you happen to be near an abandoned chimney at dusk, you may see small insect eating chimney swifts diving into the chimney to roost through the night.  By the end of the month, these little mosquito eaters will have headed south to South America.  Other birds, such as warblers, who were here for the insects and to raise families, are also starting to move through.  It is not uncommon at night to hear the call notes of high flying groups of small birds headed south.

Moose and deer don’t migrate, but this is a great time to spot them along the roadsides with the bucks and bulls antlers in full velvet.  I think they are at their most photogenic this time of year, but be careful if you stop to take a picture.

Don’t miss the eclipse, but also don’t miss the last of the warm sun of summer.  Until next week, this has been Amy Wilfahrt with the National Forest Update.
 

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Hummingbird

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 18

As August passed the halfway mark on the calendar, our north woods splendor has extended into yet another week. Temperatures have been in the cool comfortable range, and the territory got some much needed rain. At Wildersmith, the rain gauge caught an inch, whereas the Mid-Trail area received considerably more during a mid-week deluge.                                                 
This same Mid-Trail storm occurred in the midst of their property owners’ big fundraising event. It didn’t dampen enthusiasm though. Showing true north country grit, folks outlasted the downpour, and in the end raised a whopping $13,000 in support of our dedicated Gunflint fire and rescue crews. Congrats and a big thanks to the organizational leadership and their crew of able volunteers. What a fun event, thankfully under the “big top.”                                                                                 
Speaking of fun and enthusiasm, the last activity of the day found Poplar Lake resident, Keitha Herron the most excited person in attendance. Her name was drawn as winner of the beautiful 2017 Mid-Trail quilters’ project.  Congrats to Keitha, and a big thank you to all those talented stitchers.                                                                                                                                                                    
More news from the Mid-Trail comes in the report of a big cat sighting. Recently, a fellow Gunflinter living on Tucker Lake advised me of observing the cougar in a driveway while passing through the Rockwood Lodge neighborhood. The feline described was big and had a long tail, so no doubt it was what it was. The sighting was reported to the DNR, with a confirmation from that agency of another such cat being seen a couple days earlier down along the “Big Lake” shore near Tofte.                                                                                                                                                                               

Although I’m still observing berry pickers parked in various spots along the Byway, I wonder if the purple treasures might be dwindling. My reason for this curiosity comes from an apparent increase of bears appearing  back into areas of residential habitation                                          

Maybe it’s just by chance I came across a pair of the critters, but with sweet berries on the wane, perhaps they might be starting to gather in search of human littering remains as they begin amassing winter pounds. Then again, maybe the burly animals might have been taking a short cut to just another berry patch.                                                                                                                             
Interest in hummingbird traffic around here whetted my appetite for knowing just how fast they fly. With constant activity onto and away from our nectar station, the tiny avian zoom around at what seems to be jet-like speed. Brief research from one “Google” source found they aren’t about to break the sound barrier, but do average between 25 and 35 MPH, and can reach up to 60 in some of their diving antics.                                                                                                 

To match their tightly wound propelling abilities (at up to 70 wing beats per second), they obviously have highly developed navigation systems to avoid mid-air collisions. On two separate occasions recently, one of the winged speed demons was in direct line with my head only to abort a collision and break off at top speed. With fierce competition for a gulp of sweet nectar, their in-flight air to air combat is nothing short of spectacular. What marvelous beings of creation!                                                                                                                                                                                                      
It may seem early to be thinking of winter, but some of us north woods beings are taking stock of their things to do list. I’ve already taken inventory of the wood shed status, and piled brush for snow season burning. Meanwhile, over on Loon Lake, friends are laying up their birch cuttings and splitting for colder times. It won’t be long folks until we’ll be getting real serious about buttoning up for the winter season.                                                                                                                        

If you haven’t noticed, September is less than two weeks from reality. A lot of activities are coming down the pike as month nine hits the Trail. The biggest of which is a new school year, but first up out this way, Labor Day weekend breaks right out of the blocks.                                                          

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society kick starts the autumn run with its annual pie & ice cream social on Sunday, September 3rd. The event is held on the grounds of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center from noon until 4:00 p.m.                                                                                                            

In addition to the luscious sweet treats being served, there’ll be a local author book signing, needle basket crafting, gift shop sidewalk sales and great music from the Northshore Community Swing Band. Should be a great day for an up the Trail outing, who knows there might even be some fall tinting in the hills!                                                                                                                                                        
On a related note, the “P & IC Social” coordinator, Judy Edlund is already on the look out for area pastry specialists to sign up with a donation or two. Give her a call at 388-4400 to confirm a sweet contribution. Pie & Ice cream trivia from a year ago tells of between 35 and 40 pies being served along with buckets of ice cream!                                                                                            
The yearly concert in the forest charmed attendees once again, last Sunday. “Woods, Winds and Strings” No. 5 played to a near full house in the Mid-Trail fire department storage building, turned concert hall. Kudos goes out to the gifted performers, and to the organizing folks bringing them together, along with many community volunteers. On this afternoon, the wild land hills came alive with the “sound of music.”                                                                                                        

In closing for this week, don’t forget all the activities up at Chik-Wauk this Saturday on National Honey Bee day. Things will be buzzing from 11:00 a.m until 3:00 pm around the campus.                                                                                                                                                                
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, among uncounted treasures of creation!
 

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Slug on a tomato!

Garden slug stories....and an original song from Gus and Sunny

For anyone who gardens, slugs can be a frustrating summer pest. In this feature, WTIP commentators Gus and Sunny tell stories about their own battles with slugs, in addition to singing an original song! 

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Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom with Aren and Freja

West End News: August 17

Congratulations are due to the Tofte family this week. Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom, along with their extended clans, have welcomed the newest addition to their family. Aren Andrew Tofte Hedstrom joins big sister Freja, and we couldn’t be happier for them. While Abby and Sam have not yet had the good sense to move back to Tofte and instead reside a bit further east in the county, they are both lifelong residents of the North Shore and it is wonderful to see another
generation coming along to carry on the great legacy of two such wonderful families.

Volunteers Ginny Cooley and Nancy Koloski are joining forces with RSVP to offer bone builders exercise classes at Birch Grove. This is a very popular national program aimed at helping prevent and treat osteoperosis. The weight bearing
exercises focus on increasing bone density, gaining strength and improving balance. If you are interested in learning more, they will be having an information session on Wednesday, August 23, at 10:30 a.m. at Birch Grove. The class times are
not set yet so if you have any interest at all, come to the meeting and let them know what times work for you. Classes will begin the first week of September. Thanks Ginny and Nancy!

A soggy summer, with a hint of sun every now and again, has made for a lush and bountiful woods. The blueberries back in the west end woods are at their peak, right now. It sounds like they might be past their prime elsewhere, but our patches
are still full of plump blue delights. We’ve also been harvesting an abundance of lobster mushrooms this week. Lobster mushrooms are large, often fan shaped, bright orange mushrooms that grow in the duff on the forest floor. The color is
similar to cooked lobster meat, and they even have a faint seafood-like aroma. Interestingly, the odd shape and color are actually a result of a mold attacking a mushroom. The underlying mushroom is overtaken by the lobster mold and a
beautiful, weird, delicious fungus is created. You prepare them by cutting off any brown spots then sautéing them in a pan of butter. We stirred ours into a risotto. As always with mushroom hunting, it is best done the first time with someone
who knows what they are looking for. Eating the wrong fungus could have really nasty consequences.

Also found in the woods with great abundance this season are woodchucks. We have had a number of the cute little visitors waddling around our place for the last week. They are adorable, and they haven’t discovered my tomato plants yet, so for
now we are coexisting quite happily. I’ll take that arrangement anytime.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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