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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:

Superior National Forest Update: June 3

Hi.  I’m Andrew Gale, seasonal naturalist, with the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 3rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
There are several events happening on the Forest this weekend.  The first is on Friday night at North House Folk School as part of the Northern Landscapes Festival.  Forest Service biologist Chris Beal will be talking about his previous position working with penguins at a penguin colony in South America.  This should be a really fun presentation, though it is about as far from a northern landscape as you can get!
Also, as part of that same festival, we will be having a bat house build at North House on Saturday morning.  There will be two sessions, one starting at 9 am and one at 10:30.  There are a limited number of kits, so you’ll need to sign up ahead of time.  Families and young builders accompanied by an adult are welcome, but one house per family, please. 
A new event will be taking place in the area between Lutsen Mountain, Barker Lake, and the Onion River Road.  23 to Zero is a 23 hour trail and road run/walk that will be raising money to help reduce suicide in currently serving military and veteran.  There will be lots of people on the some of the trails and roadways in the Lutsen Mountain to Onion River Road area throughout the day and night starting on Saturday.
There, of course, will be logging trucks in the Forest as well.  Visitors to the Tofte District should expect log truck traffic on the Wanless Road (172), Dumbbell River Road (174), Trappers Lake Road (369), Lake County 705, and The Grade (170).  There is also an active state sale near Green Wing Lake.  On the Gunflint, hauling will be going on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Firebox Road, Trestle Pine Road, as well as on Ball Club Road.
Rain has really made the leaves pop out over the last week, and has also helped reduce fire danger.  While we are thankful for that, we want to remind people that this doesn’t mean you should quit paying attention to your campfires!  Smoldering fires in duff layers can persist through wet times, and then spring to life when the forest dries out.  Make sure all your fires are dead out when you leave a campsite or picnic area.
All of our campgrounds are now open and into the fee season.  This means water is turned on, and garbage is being collected.  When you are using campground dumpsters, be sure to replace the bar to lock the dumpster against bears.  It only takes one experience of getting into a dumpster to train a bear to regard a campground as a restaurant, and the best way to stop a bear problem is to not let it start. 
Those dumpsters, by the way, do cost money to have emptied.  They are not free dumping areas for household waste.  It is a federal crime to dispose of household or construction waste in a campground dumpster, punishable by fines of up to $500 or even six months imprisonment.  The campground dumpster is only for the use of campers at the campground.  Also, if you are on a Boundary Waters trip or at one of the rustic campgrounds without garbage pick-up, please don’t use garbage cans and dumpsters at area businesses for your camping trash either.
The wilderness ranger crew would like to remind visitors to the wilderness that the latrine trail at many campsites may be obscured by fallen branches from our winter snows.  It is a good idea to find the latrine during the day, before there is an emergency in the middle of the night.  If you are up in the middle of the night, make sure to look up in the sky.  The Boundary Waters is listed as ‘black sky’ area, and one of the few spots in the lower 48 where you can truly see the night sky.  There are several planets visible right now, including a spectacularly bright Mars.  It’s well worth staying up a bit longer to see the show. 
Enjoy the stars and the rest of the Forest, and until next week, this has been Andrew Gale with the Superior National Forest Update.


Common Nighthawk

West End News: June 2

The best piece of news I’ve heard in awhile is the announcement by Cook County Attorney, Molly Hicken, that drug court is coming to Cook County. 
Drug court has been around in Minnesota since the mid-1990s and has been slowly expanding around the state since then.  Drug courts are problem solving courts that bring together judges, prosecuters, defense attorneys, probation and law enforcement officers, social workers and addiction counselors to help non-violent offenders find restoration through recovery. 
Not only do the drug courts help people turn around their lives, but numerous studies have carefully documented tremendous savings, both direct and indirect, for taxpayers. I am not the first to say it: drug court is not being soft on crime – it’s being smart on crime. 
Kudos to County Attorney Hicken and the Cook County Board of Commissioners for establishing and supporting this important program here in Cook County.  There are numerous ways that individuals and businesses can get involved in this program, so give Molly Hicken a call at her office in the courthouse if you would like to help out. 
We can only hope that our national policy on addictive drugs can continue to move away from the clearly failed war on drugs toward the public health model that has enjoyed relative success in other countries. 
There is still time to get your tickets for this year’s “Gala For The Grove,” Birch Grove Community School’s biggest annual fundraiser.  The gala is a fun social event, even if it wasn’t held in support of the ultimate good cause: our children.  This sixth annual “Gala For The Grove” is on Saturday, June 18th.  You can reserve your tickets online this year at the Birch Grove School website or give Caroline a call at 663-0170.  
Also coming up soon is the now famous Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.  From humble beginnings in 2011, when just a handful of riders raced, the 99er has grown to one of the midwest’s premiere mountain bike races, with nearly 2,000 racers. 
This year’s event ramps up on Friday, June 24th with check-in and a barbeque at Rosie’s Chalet at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area. Saturday is the big day with breakfast starting at the brisk hour of 5 am, followed by more check-ins and the race start at 7:30. 
The term 99er refers, of course, to the distance – in miles – of the main race.  A single day of racing at the famous Tour De France averages around 100 miles, but that is on paved roads.  The 99er is a little bit on paved roads, but mostly on gravel roads, logging roads, single track bike trails and, frankly, muddy sloughs that have little in common with anything resembling a road. 
There are races of 69, 39 and 19 miles for the mere mortals among us.  There are also kids races, activities and fun for families, friends and fans.  
The Lutsen 99er, co-sponsored by Visit Cook County and Lifetime Fitness, has grown into one of the biggest and best annual events in the little old West End.  As I’ve been know to say, be there, or be square. 
This week’s nature note is the arrival of the common nighthawks. Their graceful, acrobatic flights at twilight are strongly evocative of the beginning of summer. The common nighthawk is a medium sized bird that is a crepuscular, or nocturnal, member of the nightjar family. They are usually first noticed by their distinctive “peenting” call, before they are observed swooping and dodging over lakes and fields in pursuit of insects.  They also seem fairly unafraid of humans, sometimes letting you approach within a couple feet before taking flight.  This may also be a defense mechanism, because they are wonderfully camoflauged when they aren’t flying. 
Back in the day, some of the old timers called them “goatsuckers” due to a myth that they drank milk from sleeping nanny goat, which led to their milk drying up or even going blind. 
The Nighthawks’ cousin, the European Nightjar, has long inspired poets, including this line from George Meredith: “Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-notes unvaried/Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar.” 
In any case, they are a creature that makes it more interesting to live in the mysterious and fascinating West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



A Year in the Wilderness: June 1 - Brule Lake

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)



North Woods Naturalist: Bumblebees

The queens are busy this time of year, contributing to their important role as pollinators. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about bumblebees.

(Photo by Bill Bumgarner on Flickr)


Woodland caribou

Dr. Seth Moore: Cook County's vanished woodland caribou

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 an historic fur trade site on scenic Grand Portage Bay.

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, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues. 

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the woodland caribou - an animal that once roamed parts of Cook County.

(Photo by Just a Prairie Boy on Flickr)


Saturn (Voyager 1/NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern Sky: May 28 - June 10

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

Saturn takes the stage: a huge lightweight in opposition on June 3 - only 378 million miles away; Saturn's winds, rings and many moons.



Memorial Day weekend brings chance of showers and thunderstorms

Unsettled weather over the weekend with a chance of showers and thunderstorms. But looking ahead to next week, the temperatures should be above normal. WTIP volunteer LeAnn Zunker spoke with National Weather Service meteorologist, Mike Stewart, on North Shore Morning.

(Photo by Thomas Bresson via Flickr)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 27

Month five is almost into the books as spring surged during the past seven. Clear skies provided this territory with a perfect “budding flowers” moon, setting the stage for luminous blooming, while the day of official summer looms on the horizon. 

Flowering has finally reached the upper Trail. Marsh marigolds, squill, wild strawberry blossoms, forget- me-nots and of course, those “dandy” lions head the list of north-country returnees.  Adding to the resurgence of growth, fiddlehead ferns are uncoiling their fronds, and domestic rhubarb has popped up enough to provide the first “pie plant” desserts of the season.          

Green-up of the deciduous forest has intensified right on schedule. From those late bloomers about to explode their buds to hillsides alive with verdant haze, if green is one’s color there are many shades from which to choose. Total leaf out should be complete in a week or so.      

It’s amazing how resilient plant life can be, considering the area had passed another week devoid of moisture. We’ve been “bone” dry, choking in late summer dust along back country roads. A blessed rain finally quenched our thirsty forest since mid-week. A six-tenths dose, late Tuesday, has lessened wild fire danger, so folks out this way have dodged a flaming bullet for the time being.           

Considering forest fire danger, the recent decision for a prescribed burn that escaped control west of the Ely area, is simply mind boggling. I realize these procedures are a necessary forest practice, but it's apparent science-based conditions, supporting the right time for a intentional burn, can well be one in the same with warnings of wildfire potential. So why would you ignite one?    
In the meantime, common sense says, Trail residents had better be taking their own prevention measures, even though the area has been dampened down. Periodic running of wildfire sprinkler systems is recommended to keep a dome of humidity over properties during our increasingly frequent dry spells, and tending to “firewise” needs is vitally important right now and always.
There are good things and some not so good with each of our border country seasons. Everyone out this way is smiling with the warm sunshine. But sad to say, those “black fly terrorists” have a grin on their faces too, in anticipation of a little bloodletting. I’ve been into my netting for the past week, and thus far my batting average against the fierce nippers is far better than our Minnesota baseball Twins.     

Along with the no-nonsense biting flies, the season ahead looks to be gloomy from a “tick” standpoint. A hiker I heard of reported picking off fifty of the creepy things following a recent trek along the Border Trail. In the meantime, mosquitoes are amassing troops out there somewhere with only a few small battalions appearing around sunset thus far.    

So if one thinks winter is less than accommodating, think again, this time of year has its distressing elements too. All these biting critters are making me think freeze!

Speaking of the tourist times ahead, several businesses catering to such have seen operator changes over the past few months and years. New management has been on board at Clearwater Lodge for the past couple years, while Big Bear Lodge has also come under new proprietorship. In addition, those at the helm of Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters are beginning their second year. While just recently, a changing of the guard has taken the reins at both Rockwood Lodge and Loon Lake Lodge. Everyone in the Gunflint Community welcomes and wishes these new wilderness hosts well, in their Trail endeavors. 

Critter notes are scant as I air this week. No bear adventures have been reported, but I have observed a number of north woods bunnies scampering about, some still in dirty white socks. Grouse meanwhile, (“you know, those Minnesota chicken birds”) too numerous to count, have dared frequent pedestrian catastrophes in front of my vehicle.
In regard to grouse, another sighting found that although their hunting season is closed to humans, the times are always open to predators. I came upon a fox, trotting along the Trail not long ago, with a nice “chicken bird” in its jaws. The now faded red one was so intent it did not flinch or waver from its roadside course as I drove by. My hunch is a hungry batch of kits was waiting for lunch back in the den. 

In the past couple days, a solemn report came my way of the loon pair at the Chik-Wauk Museum nesting platform having abandoned the site. Reasons are unknown, but suspect would be an airborne predator pilfering the eggs, it’s happened before. The possibility remains that hormonal instincts might re-balance and they will return to try again. Stay tuned for any updates.    

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Savoring northern magic and swatting all at the same time! Have a safe Memorial Day!                                                                                        

(photo by Mike Quinn via Wikimedia Commons)


Superior National Forest Update: May 27

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, Forest interpretation and education specialist, with the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 27th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
On Saturday, we have the premier running of Le Grande du Nord gravel cycling event.  There are both 50 and 100 mile routes, starting from the Point in Grand Marais.  Beyond that, we can’t tell you where the cyclists will be.  Part of the race’s challenge is to be able to navigate using a cue card which lists turns and mileage, so the route is a secret.  If you are driving in the area, just be aware that there could be bikers on the roads.  Since it is a gravel cycling event, they will be using some one lane Forest roads.  Be extra cautious on blind corners and hills if you are driving these back roads.  Good luck to all the cyclists!  Enjoy the Forest!
Those cyclists might be fighting some muddy and wet conditions.  We’ve received between a quarter and an inch of rain over the last three days.  That has really sped along the green up of the woods.  With the rain and the return of foliage on the trees, we have been given a break from the fire danger of the last couple of weeks.  Since the rain was fairly spotty, areas could dry out again fairly rapidly, so the Forest is keeping firefighting resources staged locally. 
In the event of a fire, you should know that rumors spread like, well, wildfire.  Superior National Forest will put out regular updates during a fire through the national website InciWeb.  Links to that site can be found on our website, on our Facebook page, and through our Twitter feed.  This and other official information should help you dispel any rumors that take root during a fire.
There are still prescribed burns planned on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts, but due to the rain, it will be at least five days before they occur.  The same information sources listed for wildfires will keep you in the loop for these planned burns as well.
Our wilderness crews are back in the Boundary Waters.  They report that there are still plenty of fallen branches and trees across portage trails, so be prepared for some extra work and time crossing portages.  There are also plenty of black flies, and people have been finding deer ticks, so make sure to pack your insect repellent.
In addition to the bikes on Saturday, there will be a fair amount of logging traffic.  Weight restrictions are off of most county roads now, so haulers are making up for the weeks when they couldn’t haul.  There are two sales off of the Wanless Road (FR 172), one near Elixir Lake, the other east of Section Eight Lake, so visitors should expect to see log truck traffic on the Wanless.  The Wanless is winding and narrow; be sure to drive defensively. There are also a couple of sales in the Sawbill Landing area.  Log trucks will be hauling on the Dumbbell River Road and the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369). 
On Gunflint District, timber harvests off of Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Firebox Road, and Trestle Pine Road will result in heavy log truck traffic on Greenwood Road and Shoe Lake Road during the next couple of weeks.  This will be happening during the Le Grand Du Nord cycling event this weekend, so cyclists and spectators need to be very aware and expect to encounter trucks.  A last note on roads – the frost heave that closed the 600 road near Tofte has been repaired, and that road is now fully open again.
Whether on the 600 road or up the Gunflint Trail, this is a lovely time to go for a drive, or a bike ride, in the Forest.  Our Juneberry trees are blooming, and in my mind rival the famous cherry trees in Washington.  Despite the predicted rain this weekend, take some time to get out and enjoy the flowers because they don’t last long.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.


Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: May 26

Wren and Amos report the latest news from Great Expectations Charter School in Grand Marais.