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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:

A Year in the Wilderness: September 13 - Winding down

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)


Belted kingfisher

North Woods Naturalist: Belted kingfishers

They’re blue and somewhat stocky and you’ll always see them around water. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about belted kingfishers and their strange nesting habit.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Seng on Flickr)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 9

One full September week is into the books for Gunflint Country, and all is well. The color of autumn is increasing with each passing day. Juvenile birch trees are beginning to light up the forest and the last flowering blossoms of our warm season add an accent to any trip along a back country path.

By the way, most tail-end blooms are asters, and they are the most vibrant lavender/purple tint I’ve seen in recent years. Makes me wonder if there is any atmospheric significance to this deep purplish hue; like it's been a great summer growing season, or could it mean a swell fall ahead, or could it be forecasting a mean winter. Regardless, the mini daisy-like flowers have month nine, “busting out all over.”

Shades of scarlet can be found twinkling in the September sun, too. Highbush cranberries, wild rose hips and mountain ash fruit are at their pigment pinnacle, shining like holly berries in December. Truly, Gunflint territory is on the verge of stained glass splendor. My advice, don’t miss it!

Caravans of vehicles paraded to Chik-Wauk last Sunday for not only a splendid time in the north woods but also the big pie/ice cream eat-a-thon. What a day for enjoying the sweetness of this special place, in addition to consuming several hundred pieces of home-made pie and dips of creamy frozen goodness. Thanks to GTHS organizer, Judy Edlund, and her great crew of pastry artisans and servers for dishing up a flavorful afternoon in border country.

Last week's commentary about minimal Ursus observations this summer had “bearly” passed over the radio/website waves when I was deluged with recent sighting reports. So bears are on the move. A number of folks along the Mile O Pine have reported “Brunos” in the past week, yours truly included. The one I observed was a medium sized critter while others have seen momma, poppa and/or cub examples.

Vandalism announcements are pretty quiet to date, although there has been one incident of a bruin breaking into and entering a guest cabin down at Gunflint Lodge. In this case guests found a bear sitting in the kitchen area munching on a plate of cookies. Guess the resident had left a batch near a window sill and this guy/gal just couldn’t resist, breaking the glass to get at the sweet morsels. One would suppose there were a few moments of commotion and the bear made a rapid exit by way of its entry. Other than broken glass and a lost batch of goodies, it was a no-harm, no-foul, ending, but surely a vacation to remember for those guests.

Speaking of pests, while sitting on the dock watching those magnificent “Canadian Sunsets” over the past week, it seems we’ve had a late hatching of mosquitoes. They are a bit smaller than cousins of the previous months, but are nonetheless just as pesky in terms of nipping, as the sun makes its daily descent.

As we have sailed past the Labor Day holiday, seasonal neighbors are starting to pack it up. A few have already headed to cold season digs southward. But then again, living at 48 degrees north, there are not many other ways to go.

I see boats being brought in for winterizing while summer docking units are coming ashore. Meanwhile, those of us year-around folks are tending to firewood stacks for 2017 as this coming winter's fuel is already in the shed.

Yours truly has been putting off staining efforts on Wildersmith buildings until bug season lessened. So, for the most part, there are no more excuses for putting it off, one down and four to go with even more “getting ready for winter” chores looming.

A reminder is extended to area residents and visitors about the last Gunflint Trail Historical Society membership meeting of the season. The group will gather at the Schaap (mid-Trail) Community center this coming Monday, September 12, at 1:30 pm.

In addition to treats being served, a sweet program is in the offing with Nancy Waver from Trout Lake Lodge speaking of their facility's 70 years of operations. And frosting on the day's program cake will come in a video/slide presentation of the recent GTHS volunteers shaping timbers for our boat shelter project. As we wood chippers learned during our sawing adventure, be there or be square!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where Gunflint days are always great, and some, are even better!

(Photo courtesy of srf1957 on Flickr)



Superior National Forest Update: September 9

Hi. This is Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of a certain television show which promoted the idea of ‘boldly going where no one has gone before’. While we can’t all go trekking off into space, we can follow the spirit behind these words by exploring new parts of our Forest in canoes or by car, and discovering new adventures. Take your time, look under rocks for salamanders, scope out the birds, or take a magnifying glass to that weird looking lichen. Who knows? Maybe you will discover new life and new civilizations.

As you explore, you may find yourself traveling down some new routes this week to avoid construction. There is culvert work being done that has closed the Richey Lake Road at a point about a half mile south of The Grade. This work should be completed in a week, but meanwhile, you’ll have to find alternative routes. Culverts are also being replaced on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground. The road may be closed for periods of between half an hour to a full day for the next two weeks.

Logging traffic can be found on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Baker Lake, on the Sawbill Landing road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on County Rd 7 near Harriett Lake. On the Gunflint Distict, harvest is taking place off the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road, so expect truck traffic in those areas.

We have a lot of people helping us this week, and we’d like to thank them all. A crew has been doing restoration work on the CCC-built log buildings at the Tofte Ranger Station. Rotten logs have been replaced, windows re-glazed, and chinking between logs restored. In another area, eight members of the Blackwell Job Corps will be carrying on the tradition of the CCC’s themselves by clearing the Border Route Trail in the wilderness for ten days.

We’re inviting people to join us for an open house at the Gunflint Ranger Station on Thursday, September 15 from 4 to 6 pm to learn more about the prescription burns planned for this fall. There will be maps and people on hand to answer questions.

 So, as the reality of fall hits, and the kids go back to school, and you recall that the snowblower wasn’t actually working right last spring, and that you really still need three days of hot weather to put the sealant you bought in March on the driveway, and that the two bushels of apples from the tree won’t turn into applesauce just by sitting on the table…take the time to escape into the Forest and boldly go where no one has gone before. After all, it is your five year mission.

Until next week, this has been Tom McCann with the Superior National Forest Update.


A young person and a very young person embarking on a BWCA Wilderness canoe trip.

West End News: September 8

A picture in the Cook County News Herald really caught my eye last week. It was a shot of Superior National golf pro and Lutsen resident Heath Ekstrom in his graceful back swing. I read the photo caption before the headline and was startled to read that he was playing 100 rounds of golf on September 11 to raise money for the Folds of Honor Foundation. One hundred rounds of golf in a day would be quite a feat, so my eye jumped to the headline, where I was reassured to find that Heath was attempting one hundred holes of golf in a single day.
A hundred holes is no mean feat in itself and there is still time to call Heath to pledge your support for this worthy cause. The Folds of Honor Foundation provides education scholarships to the spouses and children of military members who have died or been disabled in the line of duty.
Heath reckons that he can play 9 holes of golf in about 45 minutes as long as he doesn’t have to wait for other golfers. The other golfers on the course will be informed of Heath’s attempt, so I’m sure they’ll be happy to let him play through. Heath has the advantage of being an excellent golfer, so he won’t have to spend as much time in the woods searching for his ball as the rest of us do. He’s confident that he can complete 100 holes and may actually play a few more if he has time.
You can make a pledge to support Heath’s effort right up until his tee time at 6:30 am on September 11. You can call 218-663-7195 or email
There are also some spots still available for the 2016 Rally For The Cure Women's Golf Scramble. The golf event is Sunday, September 18. The Women's 18 hole golf scramble will start at 10:00 am with registration and cart decoration starting at 8:00 am. Although you need to register for the event, your contribution-slash-event fee can be made at the start of the event.
All funds raised will benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer research and can be directed to Minnesota and local chapters. Call 218-663-7195 for more details and to register your team.
Also in Lutsen, eight homes belonging to people of low or moderate income will receive substantial repairs compliments of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. To qualify, you must live in your single family home or live in one side of a duplex that you own. The grant can be used for roofing, siding, doors, windows, weatherproofing or other repairs that make the home more energy efficient. It cannot be used to increase the square footage of your home.
Local, licensed contractors will be sought out to complete the work. If you live in the home for another ten years, the total cost of the project will be forgiven. If you sell your home anytime in the next ten years, you have to pay back a portion of the loan that decreases by ten percent each year.
To get more information and to check if you qualify, call 1-800-662-5711. If you missed that number, you can call WTIP and they will cheerfully provide it. This is a great deal and many, if not most, local families would meet the income guidelines, so if you have any interest at all – make the call.
There have been several stories in the news lately about the aging of BWCA Wilderness users. The statistics make it look like only old people are using the wilderness and when they become too infirm for wilderness canoe trips the use of the wilderness will plunge.
I think the statistics might be a little misleading in this case. A significant part of the aging statistic for the wilderness is just sheer demographics. Almost every general public activity in the United States is showing an aging population because the baby boom bubble is now moving into their senior years.
Also, back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s backpacking and wilderness camping was a tremendous fad. Like all fads it died out after a few years, but many of the young people who were hooked by the fad stayed hooked for life. That fad could and probably will repeat itself at some point, hooking a whole new generation of wilderness campers.
After accounting for those two factors, the statistics don’t look nearly so grim, although there is some truth in the fact that young people have many more demands on their time than the youngsters of 40 or 50 years ago. This is a legitimate concern, but I see many very enthusiastic young wilderness campers every day here at Sawbill. As the size of the general population grows and the pressures of urban life increase, I predict that the BWCA Wilderness will remain very popular, providing a significant boost to the West End Economy over the long, long term.
After all, the wilderness is just another one of the things that makes the West End great!
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



Northern Sky: September 3-16

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.

A waxing moon with lots of company; Venus and Jupiter; Spica; Saturn and Antares useful for finding Mars; the teaspoon near the teapot of Sagitarius; and the Harvest Moon near perigee on the 16th.

(photo of Mars by NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team via Wikimedia Commons)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 2

As the northland celebrates the coming of September, yours truly heads off into year fifteen of my weekly commentary on life along the Gunflint Trail. I would never have thought my retirement years would find me at the keyboard every Sunday evening scribing happenings   about this enchanting territory.

It’s been an experience for the ages as I‘ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and learn of their journeys along this scenic byway. I often feel it a daunting task following the footsteps of the iconic pioneer gal, Justine Kerfoot, who carried on Gunflint news reporting for decades. Although I’ll never have the firsthand experience she had in this adventure filled area, it's been an indescribable privilege to be able to carry-on sharing our wilderness goings-on over the past fourteen years.

The month of the “wild rice/harvest moon” has stepped off in marvelous fashion with near perfect weather. Since our last radio meeting, this neighborhood had seen only sprinkles from what few clouds have passed us by until our call was answered in the wee hours of Monday morning when a mini thunder boomer dropped little over one-half inch. 

The deciduous portion of the upper Gunflint forest will soon be dwindling like that of our daylight minutes. I can’t help but reflect on the lush flora growth which has been nothing short of unbelievable this past summer. “Mother Nature” has done a number in terms of obscuring views too far into the forest. After months of looking at nothing but leaves, I can hardly wait to gain a look into the woods and maybe see who or what might be looking back. 

Unless one has been in the territory watching for a number of years, you just can’t imagine how vegetation can consume us in such a short period of time. A long time path between the Wildersmith place and our neighbors to the west has grown to be an invisible mire of greenery during the summer months.  I elected to pass on keeping it clear, and if I didn’t know it had been there, no one would ever understand it had existed, except maybe the deer of yesteryear.       

Speaking of white tails, the sights of blaze orange out this way will probably be few and far between once again, as this hunting season nears. Few, if any, reports are being heard in regard to deer sightings from middle to Trail's end. One fellow did report a momma and her twin fawns in his yard recently, while we wood shapers saw singles on only three different days during our recent trips to Grand Marais, but those are about it.  

This scenario of a venison deficiency makes one wonder what is going on with the wolf population. Guess they must be finding some edibles as the Gunflint /Loon Lake pack is still heard making their “call of the wild” on an occasional summer evening. 

Another comment heard recently, concerns there being seemingly less bear activity than usual. I have caught sight of a couple here and there, but thankfully, none around Wildersmith, to date. I suppose I shouldn’t be boasting too much yet as berry picking season is about done and they’ll likely be scrounging for anything and everything, anywhere, in prep for their long winter's nap. With the “Bruno” hunt now in its opening days, it will be of interest to see how the bear harvest goes this year.  

Meanwhile, harvesting for winter has really intensified with the squirrels.  White cedar seed clusters are being cut and husked, while pine cone collection can mean an early wake-up call as they plummet onto roof tops around daybreak.  

The sweet treat weekend is finally at hand. The GTHS pie and ice cream social will sweeten everyone’s pallet, Sunday (the 4th) on the grounds at Chik-Wauk. Serving will be from noon to 4 pm, rain or shine. A $5 donation per person is suggested, with proceeds going to continuing Chik-Wauk facility operations.   

The Museum gift shop will also be holding their annual sidewalk sale in conjunction with the pastry delights from our local bakers. Plan to join in with friends and neighbors, as we bid summer farewell during the Labor Day weekend.                                                                                                                               
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and some are even better! 

(photo by Managementboy via Wikimedia Commons)



A Year in the Wilderness: September 2 - Rice and swans

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)



Superior National Forest Update: September 2

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, Superior National Forest interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 3rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
With Labor Day this weekend, we can say that fall has begun, one of my top four seasons.  With the change of season comes cooler temperatures, clear starry nights, and the first touches of frost and even snow by the end of October.  One sign of fall is that our website will begin hosting its annual fall color reports starting next week.  No color yet, but if you can believe it, in about four short weeks, we will be at the peak of the fall color season.  If you can’t get out this fall, check out the website.  You can enjoy a virtual fall on the Superior through our photos and writing, as well as see links to fall in national forests across the country.
Another sign of the season’s changing can be seen in our wildlife.  Bucks are in velvet still, but some buck rubs are showing up as they begin to polish their antlers for the fall rut.  Animal activity in general is high this time of year as all the wildlife begins to prepare for winter.  It is also the opening of bear season this weekend, so be aware of bait stations and bear hunters in the woods.  Make sure to respect the hunters’ space by giving any barrels or piles of bait found in the woods a wide berth.  This time of year, it is a good idea to start wearing blaze orange and keeping your dog on a leash or close to you while hiking.
While you are out, you may find yourself in the middle of some road improvements.  A new round of grading is happening on roads throughout the Forest, so loose gravel, gravel piles, and graders may slow travel in some areas.  Be patient, and think of how nice it will be once the washboards and potholes are smoothed out.  More major work is happening on Forest Road 170, the Grade.  Culvert replacement will close portions of this road between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake beginning sometime during the next two weeks.  Some closures could be quite long, so you may want to look for alternate routes.
Logging traffic can be expected in the same areas as last week.  On the Tofte District, watch for trucks hauling on Sawbill Landing Road, Lake County 7 and 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade.  On the Gunflint District, trucks will be on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.  There will also be large gravel trucks on the Grade and other roads as part of the grading and culvert replacement.
With few bugs, cool weather, and fall fishing, this is one of the best times of year to get out into the Boundary Waters.  Permit season continues through September, so you will still need to get an overnight entry permit to enter the Boundary Waters.  Some prescribed burns are planned in the Boundary Waters for this fall, so contact a ranger station for details when planning your trip.  If you are interested in more details concerning these burns, there will be an open house on the subject at the Gunflint Ranger Station on September 15 from 4 to 6 pm.
If car camping is more your style, water and garbage service at our fee campgrounds continues past Labor Day to mid-October.   Camper numbers usually drop off after school starts, so this can be a great time for a spur of the moment overnight trip as there are often spaces available.
Whether camping, hiking, hunting, or just driving around looking for that first yellow leaf, have a great time out in the Forest this Labor Day weekend.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.


Former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght

West End News: September 1

I was surprised to hear that Tom Spence, from Schroeder, has resigned as the West End representative to the board of directors of North Shore Health, also known until recently, as North Shore Hospital and Care Center.
I encourage any West End resident that has an interest, to apply to fill out Tom’s term of service. We are blessed with excellent health care facilities here in Cook County, with North Shore Health covering inpatient services and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic providing a wide array of outpatient services. The governance of both of these organizations has a long history of excellence and is critically important to the well being of the whole county. Contact hospital adminstrator Kimber Wraalstad if you are interested in serving.
Over 100 former residents of the Taconite Harbor housing development gathered last week in a reunion organized by the Schroeder Area Historical Society. I wish the reunion hadn’t fallen on such a busy weekend, so I could have attended. Nevertheless, it was fun to hear all the familiar names from my youth. Sadly, two of my best friends from Tac Harbor, Floyd and Roger Maxfield, have already passed on. 
The decision to close and dismantle Taconite Harbor was made right after my dad, Frank Hansen, became the county commissioner for the West End. He fought hard to convince the company, LTV Mining, to reconsider removing the houses from Taconite Harbor. He even arranged a meeting with the President of LTV, but his efforts, and the best efforts of many other politicians and community members, came to nothing. He always felt the company had a hidden agenda when it came to closing down the housing site. Indeed, their stated goal of using the area to store bulk materials never came to pass. I guess we’ll never know now, but the good memories of the good people who lived there are still very much alive.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a nice historical piece last week about former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght. It was, of course, a complimentary piece about a remarkable man. As with most of John’s press over the years, the article emphasized John’s niche in history as the first African American sheriff in Minnesota. John, and indeed most county residents, never really paid much attention to that particular accomplishment. Instead, most of us who knew John well, remember him for his honesty, good humor and no nonsense air of authority. He was truly a peace officer, using his judgment and common sense to keep Cook County a peaceful community. Some of his methods were unconventional, but the proof of his success was in his popularity with the voters.
Everyone who had more than a passing acquaintance with John, has a story of some remarkable deed, usually involving John’s ability to quietly command respect in any situation. He was truly a West End original and will be remembered after most of us have been long forgotten.
Speaking of West End originals, a memorial service to celebrate the life of Rob McCampbell will be held at Pancore Lake on Saturday, September 17, at 11 am. Rob was a well known man-about-town in the West End. He had a keen wit and was a good friend to many, many people. To find his celebration, drive 12 miles up the Sawbill Trail, turn right on the Pancore Lake Road, go 3.5 miles and turn right on Erickson Trail. Knowing Rob as well as I did, I’m sure his memorial will include a lot of laughter along with the tears.
The interesting characters of the West End, both past and present, are a big part of what makes it such an interesting place to live.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.