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North Shore Morning

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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!

 


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update: July 22

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen 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 July 23rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Storms continue to roll through the area, resulting in new debris blocking trails and roadways every time.  Our crews are clearing routes as fast as possible, but less frequently used roads, trails, and portages are likely to have some degree of blockage.  On those roads, slow down.  Expect that there could be something in the roadway around every corner.  When you do encounter a fallen tree, get out of your vehicle and check where you hope to drive.  Skirting a deadfall only to end up on a soft shoulder and then in a ditch isn’t something anyone wants to happen on their trip to the lake.
I got a chance to assist Forest wildlife biologists the other night.  They are working on a bat project, hoping to learn more about bats to help them in the fight against white nose syndrome.  The project involves netting bats, and fixing radio tags to females to find out where they are raising their pups.  Unlike many small mammals, bats only have one or two pups per litter, so it is important to find out the habitat used for raising young, and the radio tag can track the bat back to its home.  Another high tech tool being used is a device called an Anabat.  This phone sized computer can hear the ultrasonic chirps made by a flying bat, and then use that information to help identify the species of the bat.  Field identification of bats has never really been possible before, so it is hoped that this will bring better understanding of these important insect eaters.
We all wish they’d be eating more insects right now.  It’s pretty buggy out there.  The rain has kept many little pools of water available for mosquitoes to breed in, and it seems they have been taking advantage of that.  Ticks are out as well, so make sure to use repellent to avoid tick borne diseases.
There is some construction to plan around when you head out.  Culverts are being replaced on Forest Road 170, The Grade.  It is closed between Toohey and Fourmile Lakes for a few more days, but additional construction in that general area will reduce the road to one lane, and may cause intermittent additional closures.  The Sawbill Trail paving project is continuing as well, so be prepared for flaggers and additional time as you head up the Sawbill between Britton Peak and the Honeymoon Trail.
Logging trucks can be expected on the Sawbill Landing road, Wanless road, Lake County 7 and 705, Cook County 33, and The Grade on the Tofte District.
There is a volunteer effort to pull spotted knapweed this Saturday, at the site of the old Environmental Learning Center in Isabella.  Please contact Laurel Wilson with the Minnesota Northwoods Volunteer Connection to register.  She is at 663-8608, or available through the MN NVC website at MNNVC.org. 
After pulling knapweed, you may want some natural “air conditioning” and jump in a lake to cool off.  Whichever lake you end up in, enjoy your time outdoors!  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen for the National Forest Update.
 
 

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West End News: July 21

The Forest Service wants people know that the Fourmile Grade Road will be closed off and on this week while a contractor replaces culverts. The Fourmile Grade is Forest Road 170 that follows the old railroad grade from the Sawbill Trail west to the Wanless Road over by the Trestle Inn.
 
The Grade Road running east from the Sawbill Trail to the Ball Club Road is also slated for a major upgrade soon. I see markers for a gravel overlay and perhaps culvert work, too.  I’m told that this work is being done by the Forest Service, who owns the road, as part of an agreement to fix up the road and then give it to Cook County. The county already plows the Grade Road and, somewhat ironically, is eligible for federal funds that the Forest Service is not. I don’t know if the Fourmile Grade is included in the gift to the county or not, but perhaps the culvert replacement project hints that it is.
 
The back roads of the West End are getting major attention this summer. In addition to the projects I’ve mentioned, 8.4 miles of the Sawbill Trail is being paved as I speak. And, incredibly, power lines and fiberoptic cable will soon be laid in the ditch of the Grade Road from a few miles east of Gust Lake to the new ARMER tower near Lichen Lake.
 
Civilization is slowly growing along the back roads here in the West End, but it still isn’t very civilized back here - thank goodness.
 
I was charmed to see a recent call for volunteers from Finland resident Amy Gardner to help trap crayfish for an ongoing academic study. The call was particularly directed toward kids, who are, I happen to know, excellent crayfish wranglers. If you want to help out, get a hold of Amy directly or call the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland and they will put you in touch.
 
The venerable West End Garden Show is Saturday, July 23, from 1 until 5 pm at the Schroeder Town Hall. This year’s theme is “Everything Under the Sun… and Shade.” This is a truly beautiful event that also includes cookies, bars and lemonade.
 
This is the time of year when many West Enders put their heads down and work like demons. That is certainly true for those of us that work in the tourism industry as well as the construction trades.  Given the train wrecks that are passing for national political conventions, the low expectations for the summer Olympics and a dismal win/loss record for Twins, perhaps this a good year to focus on the local and stay busy. 
 
If you do find a spare hour or two, by all means, head for the blueberry patch. It is going to be an epic year and even though the vast majority of berries are still green, people are getting quarts of the early season berries with very little effort. The early season berries are the sweetest, so the next couple of weeks are prime time for stocking your freezer with a little taste of West End summer.

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Twinflowers

North Woods Naturalist: Twinflower

This flower has three ways to reproduce – pollen, seeds and cloning. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about twinflower.

(Photo courtesy of Charles Wohlers on Flickr)

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A Year in the Wilderness: July 20 - Day 290

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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Stage Door: Interview with Sue Hennessy

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
 
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

(Photo courtesy of Grand Marais Playhouse Facebook page)

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Stage Door: Sam Kern

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
 
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

(Photo courtesy of Grand Marais Playhouse Facebook page)

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Marcia Hyatt

Stage Door: Marcia Hyatt

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
 
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

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Program: 

 
Gunflint Lake July 2007 (Dale Sundstrom/ Flickr)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 15

The Northland is turning the corner in July with weekend number three going into the books. Border country has experienced some swell atmospheric conditions as I hit the keyboard with this Gunflint scoop. With temperate air, cooling breezes and mostly sunny skies, it has made for some great dock time, including last weekend.  

Dock time for yours truly affords a terrific opportunity for contemplation. Following another week of American tragedy, there has been much to think about. Solving our ever growing societal dilemmas seems overwhelming to nearly impossible. As greed and self-gratification continue not yielding an inch toward compromise and/or respect for our fellow man, it’s just pretty discouraging for a country that once prided itself in being a land of opportunity for all.                                               

It sure makes me thankful for living in our “unorganized territory” where peace and civility are still the order of life.

On a happier note, while down on the dock last Sunday, when not pondering American ills, I was nudged back to the reality of how great this place is by rolling lake waters with gentle whitecaps and shadows being cast on the Canadian hillside by puffy clouds. The world seemed at peace, as one roller meshed into another and the heavenly wisps of gauze slowly eased over the green mountain tops to be gone forever. We in this neck of the woods are so fortunate to reside far away from the hubbub of an urban America gone wild, in spite of the constant media bombardment. 

Ongoing news from the upper Trail has me reporting about berries, bitin’ bugs and bunnies. First up is the progress of blueberry ripening. A few pickers are hitting the patches and gathering early purple pearls. However, most reports indicate the best is yet to come, probably in another week or two.      

As to the bug situation, black flies have simmered down a bit, but still can be stirred up. “No see umms” remain a nightly nuisance if lighted windows are left open, and mosquitoes are lurking in mass as the sun sets. Knowing how these winged terrorists get after we humans, one has to feel for the critters of the woods that must be in 24/7 agony from these carnivorous nippers.  

Meanwhile, snowshoe hares are practicing multiplication exercises with diligence. The hopping crowd can be noted at almost any turn of the road. I can’t remember observing so many during any one season as I’m seeing this summer, and other folks are echoing similar information. This speaks well for critters seeking a rabbit dinner, especially Canadian lynx. We might look for increased lynx appearances as fall and winter grow closer.  

Elsewhere out this way, the ghostly reminders of the Ham Lake fire are diminishing in many areas bit by bit. A recent trip to end of the Trail, finds far fewer of the charred skeletal remains lurking over the landscape. One might guess the wind storms of a few weekends ago took down great numbers and buried them in the surging green rebirth.    

While driving any number of our back country roads, I’m often compelled to visit with myself about the traveled surface. I have taken to doing an assessment of quality verses appalling on those I traverse. 

I find many county maintained pathways to be in a difficult to deplorable state. At the same time, I realize this is a huge county with many arteries to be serviced, and understand the difficulty in keeping each road up to snuff and everyone happy. 

Nevertheless, my mid-summer rating finds the Sag Lake Trail to be far and away “the clubhouse leader” in regard to rattle your teeth roughness. I feel for those folks having to make daily trips on this rolling corduroy course. Number two on my list, and gaining on the Sag Lake Trail, is county number twenty (the South Gunflint lake Road). In both cases, I hope I’m not offending residents residing along these back woods byways, but rough is rough, and pot holes, wash-boards and ruts, are what they are!   

Our big Gunflint canoe race event is now at hand. Finally, after months of planning, canoeists will hit the water this coming Wednesday evening. Kids' activities begin at 4:00 pm, food service at 4:30, and the first race at 6:00, all on the Gunflint Lodge waterfront. Expect to have another great evening in canoe country as we celebrate summer and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer fire Department.   

Last but not least, from this weekly commentary volunteer, thanks once again for stepping up with a pledge of support in last week's WTIP summer membership drive. All station followers proudly confirmed their friendship, showing that “with a little help from our friends,” anything is possible.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, hoping sanity and peace can get a grip on our violent world!
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 15

Hello.  I’m Mike Krussow, 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 July 15th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
 

We’re halfway through July already and summer is in full swing here on the North Shore! In the forest we notice many wildflowers emerging, waters warming up, and our trails are nothing short of beautiful. We encourage you to get out and enjoy the season, but be aware that the forest can be a very busy place. When preparing for a day in the forest plan ahead and account for possible traffic on the way. Additionally, we ask that you respect others while driving, and also on trails or portages where foot traffic can be heavy this time of year.

 
Additional info you may need to be aware of is ongoing logging traffic in a few areas. On the Gunflint District, harvest is occurring off of Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Fire Box Road.  Log hauling will be taking place on these Roads, so please use caution when driving and recreating in these areas. Tofte will continue having traffic on Wanless Road, Lake County 7, Cook County 3, 4 Mile Grade, The Grade, and Sawbill Landing Road.
 
This past week, we led a short wildflower hike where we identified more than 50 types of wildflowers in less than half a mile! Every week we are finding new flowers and berries on our hikes, which keeps things interesting. This time of year is great for wildflowers and with so many different habitats on the forest, it’s easy to continue finding new flowers or berries daily. Burn Scars and forest trails further to the West often have different flowers from trails closer to Lake Superior, so get out and explore!
 
Naturalist Programs will continue being offered in coming weeks Tuesday through Saturday and we would love to see everyone out at the campfire! With something for everyone, program topics range from wolves, moose and other wildlife, astronomy, or tours of Hedstrom Lumber Mill. Further information on these programs can be found in our brochures at any of our sign boards throughout the week, or at visitcookcounty.com.
 
We’d like to remind people to check out our Facebook page and Twitter feed.  Both have great pictures and information about the forest, and has interesting links and facts all the time, whether you are a visitor to the area or a permanent resident.   Have a great weekend in the woods, and until next week, this has been Mike Krussow with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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Trout fishing, same time, next year...

West End News: July 14

The theme for this year’s exhibit at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder is “Boom Town to Ghost Town: Taconite Harbor.” In keeping with the theme, the Schroeder Area Historical Society is convening a panel of former Taconite Harbor residents and workers that includes Bud Buckman, Gary Hansen, Charlie Nelson, Charlie Tice and Steve Quaife.  It is a great pleasure to have all of these experienced and respected men together to discuss the fascinating history of Tac Harbor. The panel discussion is at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder on Saturday, July 16, at 11 a.m.  All are welcome and I’ll be surprised if cookies and coffee are not served.
 
On the same Saturday, July 16, the new North Shore Winery and Sawtooth Mountain Cider House are celebrating their grand opening with wine and cider tasting, tours, neighborly visiting and live music. The winery is just a little way up the Ski Hill Road in Lutsen on the right hand side. The celebration runs from 2 until 5 p.m., so it’s the perfect destination after catching the Taconite Harbor panel in Schroeder. Be there, or be square.
 
The U.S. Forest Service has scheduled a listening session to collect public opinion about the renewal of public mineral leases for the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine near Ely. The session is scheduled from 5 until 7:30 p.m. at the Ely Memorial High School in Ely.
 
The issue at stake is a little arcane, as it revolves around the renewal of expired public mineral leases that were purchased by Twin Metals’ predecessor in the 1960s. The leases have been renewed more-or-less automatically in the past. The original leases were purchased before the passage of federal laws that protect water, air and land against industrial pollution.
 
The Twin Metals mining project abuts immediately up to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and water flows downhill from the proposed mine into Voyageurs National Park and Quetico Park in Canada. If built, it would be the largest mine in the history of North America.
 
The long and short of it is that the mining company has captured the hearts of most local political leadership up to and including the Congressional level. However, the vast majority of Minnesotans, including a solid majority of the people in northeastern Minnesota, strongly oppose the mine.
 
The pros and cons of large scale sulfide mining aside, Twin Metals presents a very interesting political situation where many of our elected leaders whole-heartedly support the mining, while the majority of their constituents do not. This says a lot about modern American politics and begs the question of just whom our elected officials feel beholden to.
 
It is fair to say that a significant minority of Minnesotans do support the mine, usually citing the jobs that it will create. On the other hand, much evidence points to the job creation being counter productive and unsustainable over the long term.
 
In any case, I urge everyone to educate themselves on this crucial issue and make your opinion known to the Forest Service and your elected officials at all levels of government. The very nature of our region hinges on it.
 
There is a famous play and movie called “Same Time, Next Year.”  It tells the story of a couple who carry on an intimate relationship for a few days each year for 26 years. I have had this same kind of relationship for going on for nearly 40 years. The big difference is that my annual liaison is not an affair, but a trout fishing date.
 
My friend, Dale Kauffman, has been staying at the Baker Lake campground since 1955. He remembers the first year because his family traveled from Iowa in their brand new 1955 Chevy station wagon.
 
At some point in dim history, Dale and I began trout fishing the same stretch of a local river for a single day each year. Other than an occasional phone call around the holidays, our relationship has been based on this singular annual event. 
 
After Dale married, his wife, Priscilla, joined us on our visit to the stream. Priscilla liked to fish, but she didn’t like to trout fish for some reason, so she would sit on the riverbank and write poetry while Dale and I enticed brook trout with our size “OO” Mepps spinners.
 
Sadly, Priscilla suddenly and unexpectedly passed away a few years ago, but Dale and I have fished on. The bond between the three of us had become so strong that I was invited to participate in the spreading of Priscilla’s ashes near her favorite campsite. After the ashes were spread, Dale and I went trout fishing, with Priscilla never far from our minds.
 
Although our friendship goes back more than 40 years, we’ve only spent a few dozen days together. But, I treasure Dale’s friendship and the memory of Priscilla as much as anything in my life – well, except maybe for his corny jokes. This week, Dale and I will be back on the river, and with the good Lord willing, we’ll be back there --- same time, next year.
 

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