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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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 14

The upper Gunflint Territory has experienced a gamut of atmospheric conditions since our last radio meeting. Over the past seven days, we’ve seen the splendor of a few marvelous warm and sunny fall days succumb to a brief winter preview during the weekend.    

Wouldn’t you know, this cold season prelim happened just as some great friends arrived at Wildersmith to bring the dock ashore. So here we were, in the fifty-five degree Gunflint Lake white capped water, heaving and hoeing amongst drizzle and a snow squall, toting dock sections to their winter storage quarters. Alas, we prevailed over the elements, and thankfully, the job is finished! As might be expected, after all was done, the sun, then made an appearance.      

There was no snow accumulation here in comparison to a few other places in northern Minnesota. However, the growing season can be declared over in this neighborhood, as a hard freeze terminated things last Saturday and Sunday mornings. Thermometers in some places found the mercury at about twenty degrees, with nineteen being the low at Wildersmith Sunday AM.  

It was frosty enough to make ice in the bird waterer, freeze a couple small Mile O Pine puddles, see summer garden plants wilt with a good bye, and bring on ignition of a cozy fire in the wood burning stove, ‘tis the season.  

Autumn's color spectacular got hit as weather took a turn. For a couple days, both rain and blustery winds sent a good deal of the seasonal aura packing.  

There are still a few patches of gold quaking, but we will see most of them on the ground by the time this scribing airs. One neat aspect of this deciduous leafy drop is the ability to see deep into the forest for the first time in months.   

The final blush of our pigmentation spectacle, is picking up the slack from the leaflet letdown. Tamarack needles can be observed taking on their flaxen tones in select places along the Trail. There are few fall affairs to top the romantic awe of a feathery tamarack in blooming 24-carat.   

While things of fall are settling into their winter resting place, tourist business is winding down along the Scenic Byway. It appears to have been a bustling summer and has even extended well into early fall.  Proprietors, from whom I’ve heard, indicate the season has been great, with one wondering from where all the people keep coming.    

I’m told it was a record breaking season for the fabulous pie maker over at Clear water Lodge. Guess she normally produces about one hundred seventy pies a summer. 2016 has been overwhelming as in excess of three hundred fifty of her tasty pastries came out of the oven. Wow, that’s a lot of pie crusts and fruits of the forest!   

With grouse hunting season underway, I hear success has been moderate to good, depending upon the day's weather and, of course, the shooter's aim. Recently, one of the seemingly unintelligent Minnesota “chicken birds” made a landing on our avian feeding trough. It was, maybe, seeking refuge from the sound of gunshots down the lake. Due to possibly attracting a marauding bear, the seed cafeteria was not open, so it just sat for a while then winged off into parts unknown.

Hunting isn’t just for the two-legged beings this time of year. A sleek wolf was observed doing a little food service reconnaissance recently along the Hungry Jack road in the mid-Trail area. The northwoods warrior was digitally captured by a Hungry Jack Lake couple. A photographic recording can be seen alongside my Wildersmith column on the www at WTIP.org.       

Those same HJ residents have also been enjoying regular visits from some kind of hawk over the past several weeks. Since appetite satisfiers have not been offered, reasons for the stop-overs are unexplained, but it must involve an easily accessible, natural, nourishment supply somewhere nearby.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where cool Gunflint days are energizing, and oh so special!
 

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Superior National Forest Update: October 14

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of October 14th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Wet, windy, and somewhat warm temperatures for fall have all played into a slightly below average fall color season.  Right now though is the peak of the yellow aspen and birch along the shore.  It’s almost worth getting up at dawn just to drive Highway 61 along the lake at sunrise.  You’ll notice too that there is a lot of animal activity along the road.  Migrating juncos, sparrows, and flocks of snow buntings are flying at low altitudes across the roads right now, so keep your speed down and give them a chance.  It’s a good idea anyway as there are also plenty of larger animals like deer moving around in the fall, and while a collision with a sparrow is mostly bad for the sparrow, a collision with a deer is bad for everyone.
Those same weather conditions have made it impossible for us to conduct planned fall burns in the Boundary Waters.  For safety, and so we get the results we want from a burn, weather conditions have to be within a certain narrow window, and nature just hasn’t cooperated this fall.  Fire crews instead have been working on pile burning.  Slash piles from other activities are being burned in many places around the Forest.  They are watched carefully while active, and then monitored when no longer burning actively.  They may continue to smolder for several days, so there may be lingering smoke in the air where this is taking place.
For most of our fee campgrounds, this will be the last weekend with water
and garbage service.  To prepare for winter, water systems are being drained and shut off, and dumpsters are being emptied for the last time.  Campgrounds will go into a non-fee status during the off season.  They remain open for use, but snow will not be cleared and water and garbage service will not be available.  You will have to pack in water, and pack out your garbage.  Please do not leave garbage bags beside closed dumpsters, it will only attract the last bears of the fall, and bring in the first bears of the spring.
Speaking of bears, the end of October and the first part of November is the usual time for them to enter hibernation.  They are flexible though depending on weather.  It’s a good idea to keep bringing your bird feeders at night through the month of November.  Bats will also be settling down for the winter as the bug supply is running short.  Many of our bats locally will winter in the Soudan Mine.  White nose syndrome, the fungal disease which has been wiping out large numbers of bats, strikes during hibernation, so we are all hoping our bat population does well this winter and will return to the skies in time for the spring mosquito hatch.
If you’re out to see the last of the fall leaves, or in search of a grouse or two, the logging activity is the same as it has been for the last few weeks.  On the Tofte District, hauling is taking place on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing and on the Dumbell River Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. 
Enjoy your Forest, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove Community School: October 13

Sophia, Nataliya, and Gus report the latest School News.

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Rainy Saturday, Sunny Sunday

Time to rake the leaves before a rainy Saturday. Then we’re expecting a sunny Sunday.  North Shore Morning host LeAnn Zunker spoke with National Weather Service Meteorologist Carol Christenson. 
 

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West End News: October 13

Congratulations to Gunnar Fraham, a senior at William Kelly High School in Silver Bay, on acheiving the rank of Eagle Scout.  For his Eagle Scout project, Gunnar constructed a pollinator garden at his high school, using native Minnesota pollinator plants. He did extensive research even before the hard work of constructing the garden.
 
Gunnar’s Eagle Scout ranking is all the more remarkable because there is no Boy Scout Troop in Silver Bay, so he completed all the requirements on his own.  He’s what the Boy Scouts call a “lone scout.”  Gunnar is also a top student, accomplished athlete and all around nice guy.
 
Gunnar’s mother is the well-loved West End girl, Renee Fraham, originally from Schroeder, who has kept the Tofte District Office of the U.S. Forest Service running smoothly for the last few decades. 
 
Lake Superior water levels, which were at record lows just a few years ago, are now at higher than normal levels.  Typically, the big lake drops about an inch during the month of September, but that didn’t happen this year. The lake actually rose slightly and is now seven inches above the long-term average for this time of year.
 
The 7th annual North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum Storytelling Dinner is scheduled for Friday, October 21st at Lutsen Resort.  This year’s story-tellers are Georgie Dunn, who was a photojournalist in the early 1980s and spent four years documenting the fishing way of life on the North Shore.
 
One of Georgie’s favorite subjects back in the ‘80s was Clint Maxwell, from Beaver Bay.  Clint will be joining Georgie at the dinner to tell stories from his lifetime of experience as a Lake Superior fisherman.
 
Call Lutsen Resort for reservations, 663-7212, by October 19. For more information, go to www.commercialfishingmuseum.org or call the museum at 218-663-7050.  Be there, or be square.
 
Also at Lutsen Resort, over the first weekend in November, the 26th Annual Bluegrass Masters event will return for three days of non-stop bluegrass music.  This year’s “master” is Nashville guitarist, Jim Hurst.  I could give you the long list of Jim’s performance and recording credits, but I’ll just say that if you make your living as a Nashville guitar player, then you better be damned good.
 
As always, Jim will teach workshops all day on Saturday, November 5th and then will present a concert at the Lutsen Resort Ballroom starting at 7 pm.  Tickets for the workshops and concert are sold at the Resort, starting Friday morning, November 4th.
 
Jim Hurst’s concert is certainly reason enough to plan on attending, but the real draw, in my opinion, is the continuous series of jam sessions that take over Lutsen Resort that whole weekend.  Bluegrass musicians converge from several states and provinces to play impromptu music with each other in every nook and cranny in the main lodge building.  Although there are beginners among the musicians, many are long established and respected musicans with an incredible level of skill.  Everyone is welcome to come to the Lutsen Resort and listen to these sessions.  There is no entry fee and you can literally stand right next to the musicians as they play.  Evenings are the busiest time for jamming, but literally anytime you stop by over the weekend, you will find musicians jamming.
 
After 27 years, the Masters Bluegrass Weekend is a significant regional cultural event that happens right under our noses here in the West End.  You owe it to yourself to stop by for a listen.
 
The fall colors are distinctly past their peak up here in the woods, but the tamaracks are starting to turn, which is a good consolation for the loss of some leaf color.  I look forward to the dropping of the tamarack needles that turn backwoods roads and trails into paths of gold.
 
My recommendation for good leaf looking this week is the 600 Road between Tofte and Schroeder. Not only a beautiful drive but you can check out the new wooden bridge over the Temperance River and new pavement on the Sawbill Trail, if you haven’t seen them yet.  Both are great additions to the wonderful West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 7

The Smiths are back in the woods following a migration south to visit kids and grandkids. Our trip home to these northern latitudes was, as usual, dwindling traffic with each passing mile from metropolis. What a joy it is to see the urban hub bub in the rear view mirror.  

What began as a trek in sunshine and clouds from along the Mississippi in northeast Iowa, found the horizon growing thick as we passed into the land of aspen and conifers. The heavenly ceiling grew leaden, and while steering northward I had a sudden thought that the skies looked very winter-like, maybe even filled with snow. But with October only banging at the gate, it was surely not to be as we rolled into the village.

Our trip out the Trail brought me back to reality. Autumn was in glorious bloom as we putzed along the by-way. To say this time of year is magnificent is an understatement.    

While the Trail is not blessed with all the maple tree flavor of the lake shore drive along Superior, we are rewarded in gold. As I’ve said before, there’s gold in “them thar Gunflint hills,” and plenty of it. Whereas this is the land of “Vikings” pride, currently, the landscape looks more like “Packer Land” with the glory of golden birch and aspen tokens nestled amongst a mixed green bag of a trillion pines.                                                                                                                                                     
During a drive along the upper Trail last Sunday, I was pondering just why we call it “fall” this time of year. I don’t know, but would guess there is possibly a sophisticated reason out there in space somewhere. Maybe it has to do with the fall of summer's rule, or perhaps it could be that falling leaves play a role in the autumnal nickname. Regardless, “fall” is what it is, a brilliant “fashion show” along our international border.  

With a week of October under our belt, the month of the Ojibwe, “falling leaves moon” is hitting on all cylinders. Shadows are noticeably lengthening; our Sawtooth Mountains seem to be rising later with each fleeting morning; “old Sol” is turning out the lights sooner; flurries of leaves are showering down with even the slightest whisper of breeze; and mellow aromas of the season are caught wafting through the forest. And catch this, on a cool night or two. I’ve even scented a whiff of smoke from a wood burning stove. Oh how sweet it is!   

The mention of falling leaves finds me drawn to how they seem to get so neatly windrowed along our back country roads. Although there is little traffic on the Mile O Pine, any passing vehicle contributes to whisking the whimsical leaflets into tidy rows, like winter plowed snow.   

Beyond these roadside gatherings, and further back into the forest, the rhythmical process of layering “Mother Earth” with remnants from a withering growing season is well under way. Not only is the terrain gathering deciduous items from on high, but our coniferous forest has shed a good share of its “senior” needles , recarpeting the landscape in a tawny hue. The soft, delicate arrangement of this eternal earthen blanketing is always something to behold, kind of likened to the magic of first fallen snow. 

The beat goes on with getting ready for winter just south of Canada. Completed is my annual five building staining project with several winterizing jobs on tap. The dock will come ashore this weekend, I’ll be draining wildfire sprinkler lines, putting deck furniture into storage, and emptying summer flower pots, to cite but a few.

Those already checked off include: the wood shed which is filled, the snow blower has been checked out, and the boat has been stowed, however, mounting of the snow plow can wait ‘til Halloween is near.  

Unless, we should get an unexpected surprise, I feel pretty safe my “getting ready” plans are right on schedule.   

Regardless of the tasks to be done, it’s an inspirational thrill to be out in this breath-taking wilderness. Color all of us year-‘round Gunflint folks, happy!   

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where Gunflint days in the fall are splendid, and some are even better!
 
(photo by Anne Dirkse via Wikimedia Commons)

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Superior National Forest Update

Hi.  This is Brandee Wenzel, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of October 7th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Just like you, we are taking care of some tasks before winter comes.  When undergrowth is cleared for fuel reduction in some areas, brush piles are made.  This is the time of year when our fire crews burn those piles.  Pile burning will be attended by fire personnel while they are actively burning, then they will be checked on a daily basis until they are out completely.  They may be smoldering for a few days while all the material is consumed, and you may notice smoke in the air in these areas.
We’ve started with the last round of road grading for the year, so watch for loose gravel and slow moving graders along gravel roads.  The culvert work which has been happening on The Grade is done for the year.  That means that there are no further road closures on that road, though some ditch and gravel work will still be happening until freeze up. 
Major work has been taking place on the Border Route Trail.  The Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, the Border Route Trail Association, personnel from the Flathead National Forest, and our own crews have been working steadily to clear and maintain this wilderness trail.  It should start out 2017 in great shape.
Campgrounds will be going into their winter hibernation on October 15th.  This means that the water will be shut off and garbage service will end at our fee campgrounds.  Fee collection will end when those services end.  The exact date will vary between campgrounds, so be prepared to pay the camping fee if the campground hasn’t been winterized, but also be prepared to supply your own water if it has.  Bears are also looking at hibernation soon, and as summer food sources dry up, they may be more actively looking for alternatives - like your cooler or garbage bag.  Be sure to store your food and garbage safely while camping, particularly since dumpsters may be closed.
Our leaf color is at its peak right now.  If you haven’t gotten a chance to drive the Forest, now’s the time to do it.  Be careful of other leaf watchers out there, and be sure to respect other drivers by parking responsibly and not blocking roadways. 
In a few places, you may also be sharing the road with logging traffic.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road.  On Tofte, watch for logging trucks on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on the Dumbell River Road.
Of course, another fall color is blaze orange.  There are a lot of grouse hunters out looking for birds.  Be sure to check the hunting opportunities on our Hunter Walking Trails, developed in cooperation with the DNR and the Ruffed Grouse Society.  The trails do loop around, so watch your field of fire.  Recreational Opportunity Guides with trail maps are available on line and at our offices in Tofte and Grand Marais.
Whether you are camping, hunting, hiking, or just driving around, this should be a great weekend to get out and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: October 6

Addie and Gracie report the latest School News.

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West End News: October 6

Just as summer inevitably turns to fall, everything in life comes to its natural conclusion. Earlier this year, Cindy and I sold Sawbill Canoe Outfitters to Clare and Dan Shirley, our daughter and son-in-law. This week, we packed up our home at Sawbill, the accumulation of 27 years of a happy and busy residence, and moved to our new homestead in Grand Marais.

It is, of course, bittersweet to leave the home containing so many good memories, but also wrenching to leave the West End to become Townies. Although we now officially live in Grand Marais, we plan to work at Sawbill for a long time, keeping a strong connection with the West End that we love.

The process of actually moving, filling the boxes, dismantling the beds, renting the U-haul and the hard work of lugging each thing from one place to another, is one of the most universal of human experiences. Family and friends are called on to help, usually with the memory of helping them at an earlier time, and the big job finally gets done.

As with all big transitions, there is a touch of sadness and a portion of joy. Clothing that hasn’t been worn for ten years is culled from the closet and donated. That weird knick-knack, received as a gift from a long dead great aunt, can be thrown away guilt-free. I found a pocketknife that I lost in the late ‘90s and a couple of nice shirts that I didn’t even know that I owned. As the family photos and mementos get picked up for packing a memory is triggered and laughter ensues.

In the beginning, each item is carefully fitted into the truck, like a real life Tetris game, strategizing to conserve space and minimize damage. By the end, things are being tossed in willy-nilly, as the forgotten closet shelf or the lingering lamp finally gets stowed and the urgency for completion sets in.

On the other end, the elaborate plan for unpacking quickly devolves into, “let’s just get everything inside and sort it out later.” Still, the excitement and possibilities of a new home, new memories and the fast-paced urban life of Grand Marais have us smiling and hopeful.

After a long day of moving and a few hours of playing music with my good West End friends, Eric Frost and Jim Elverhoy, at Bluefin Grille, I headed for a late night drive up the Sawbill Trail, anticipating an early shift the next morning. Halfway there I noticed two pairs of glowing eyes ahead. As I approached the eyes, they resolved into a small bear and a fox. The bear was chasing the fox in and out of the ditches and across the road. When I got near enough, they both stopped and looked at me.

My first thought was that the bear was trying to catch the fox and eat it. I didn’t even reach for my camera, because I assumed both animals would run off into the woods. Instead, they resumed their chase, which gradually brought them closer and closer to the car. After watching them for a while, it dawned on me that they were playing with each other. At least, that’s how it looked to me. Both were a little smaller than normal adults of their species and they had the playfulness of large puppies. That’s when I grabbed the iPhone, fumbling to get the video camera rolling, but also not wanting to miss a second of a remarkable wildlife moment. Predictably, as soon as the video started rolling, they took their game into the woods and out of sight. I continued my journey up the trail and saw another, identical bear about a quarter of a mile further on.

This odd little experience reminds me that the West End is a rich web of complex life, churning along, day and night, through the ages and mostly out of our perception. It’s all part of what makes it great to work – and be a former resident – of the wonderful West End.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

 

 

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: October 4

Kalina, Sophia, and Goshi report the latest School News.

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