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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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:

Northern Sky: August 6 - 19

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

The Perseid meteor shower peaking on August 12, with a chance of an ‘earth grazer’; the Persied’s parent comet – Swift-Tuttle; August’s full moon on the 18th; Mars gliding through the crown of Scorpius August 6-11; and in the West, Bootes, the Herdsman.

Dark skies for starwatching around the new moon on August 2; Scorpius low in the south with Mars and Saturn; an asterism - the teapot of Sagittarius; this episodes challenge constellation: Ophiuchus, the snake handler; and the summer triangle, high in the east and moving westward.

(photo by Nick Ares via Wikimedia Commons)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 5

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods once again. It’s great to be home to the “cool” north woods after a trek along the Mississippi to “steamy” Iowa for a visit with our daughter. 

With nearly a week of August under our belts, tell-tale signs of autumn are perking up in places along the Trail and back country roads. The first indication of such is noted in ground level cover called dogbane. Apparently, this is the first flora to discover the diminishing daylight minutes and has begun to cut back on chlorophyll production, thus illuminating roadsides with our first sampling of fall gold. 

In the company of this happening: fireweed, Joe-Pye weed, black-eyed Susans, and goldenrod have picked up the blooming slack from June and July's floral decline. Further signals are noted in grasses of many varieties beside our pathways turning golden brown with seed tops ready to drop, sowing next year's generation, and last but not least, rose hips are gaining on their crimson color.   

Since our return to paradise, upper Trail weather has been spectacular with cool nights and moderate daytimes. Here at Wildersmith, we even experienced a temp in the thirties one night late last week. Whoa, we have tomatoes yet to ripen!  
The pleasantness has been well received but somewhat with tongue in cheek. There has been almost no significant rain in this neighborhood over the last two weeks, until a four-tenths dropping a couple days ago. Therefore, the forest had become quite dry. If one was caught traveling backwoods roads following another vehicle, it’s been like one of those wicked Arizona dust storms. In spite of the recent shower, area folks might want to be cranking up those wildfire sprinkler systems just to add a dampening to their properties.   
Lots of August happenings occur during the next week or so. First up is The Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting, this coming Monday, the 8th, beginning at 1:30 pm. The gathering will be at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Following a short membership meeting, an interesting program will feature Patricia Emerson, from the Minnesota Historical Society talking on the underwater exploration of the Granite River, which the Society conducted from 1963 to 1970.

Then on Wednesday, the 10th, the big mid-Trail flea market/gift boutique, auction and quilt raffle takes center stage at
Fire Hall number one. The always fun event commences at 1 pm and runs until about 4 o'clock. Proceeds from the flea market will go to the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, while the balance from other activities will be donated, once again, to our volunteer fire department. Chances for the quilt raffle drawing continue on sale at Trail Center Restaurant. Come one, come all!    

If these two wilderness community affairs aren’t enough, another happens on Sunday, the 14th. The fourth annual Woods, Winds and Strings concert takes place at Fire Hall number one and the Schaap Mid-Trail Community Center at 4 pm. Ticket reservations remain on sale through the GTHS at Chik-Wauk Museum. Call 388-9915 if you haven’t already reserved yours. The concert of classical and jazz music highlights a blend of many local musicians heard in the past, as well as new performers from Cook County and beyond. New this year will be Mike DeBevec’s Sky Blue Jazz Ensemble. The woods will be alive with “the sound of music”, don’t miss it.      
If Cook County residents and visitors haven’t made the trip out to the new Nature Center at Chik-Wauk yet, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Every day finds some neat natural occurrence being explored with naturalists Jacqueline Mallinson and Kathy Lande.     
As an example of what one might experience, yours truly was in attendance last Sunday when Ms. Mallinson presented a female “striped fishing spider” captured with an egg sack attached to an intricate web encompassed branch. During the hours soon after being incarcerated in a big glass container, the arachnid’s egg sack hatched. Bearing countless (perhaps hundreds) of baby spiders, each one was smaller than the head of a straight pin. The new mom and her family were to be carefully released back into the end of the trail wild later that day.     
Although I’m not into these creepy crawlers, having never been this up close and personal with the critters, the marvel of observing this miracle was one more for the books of Gunflint Trail magic.  
Fascinating programming continues on Sunday afternoons at the Nature Center providing special insights into many aspects of our natural Gunflint world. This coming Sunday will feature Wildfire Ecology, presented at 2 pm by Gunflint Lodge Naturalist John Silliman. While there, it would be a good idea to stop in the museum for a look at the Trail of yesteryear, and to observe the current temporary exhibit, “Heard but not seen” on birds in the Gunflint Territory.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, watching the wonders of summer begin to fade away!

(photo by grassrootsgroundswell via Wikimedia Commons)


Dr. Seth Moore

Dr. Seth Moore: Should moose be listed as a federal Endangered Species?

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 impacts of listing moose under the Endangered Species Act.



Superior National Forest Update: August 5

Hi there my name is Cathy Jasperson, Customer Service Representative for the Tofte Ranger District. On behalf of your Superior National Forest here is the current Update for information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of August 5th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
August is really the height of summer in Minnesota.  Hot muggy days and the sound of locusts jumping up as you walk in the forest may bring thoughts of swimming in a lake or stream or relaxing in a hammock in the shade with a good book just enjoying the forest.  As you travel into the forest in search of those trees, just the right distance apart for your hammock, or for the perfect swimming hole, here is some information to keep in mind.
If you travel plan to travel on the Sawbill Trail please be aware that Paving of the road is still in process but it is coming closer to being finished.  Expect some flaggers and one lane road in spots as they add layers of asphalt to the roadway.  The culvert replacement project on the 170 Grade will be shifting locations from west of the Sawbill to east of the Sawbill, between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground.  There may be times where this road is closed entirely for periods up to an entire day.  If you are headed for Crescent Lake, you may want to take an alternate route using the Caribou Trail County road #4 to save time.
Logging traffic On the Superior National Forest is much the same as it has been.  You may encounter trucks using the 170 Grade, near the Sawbill Landing area off the Wanless Road.  On the Gunflint District, haulers are using the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road, so watch for trucks in those areas also.
In addition to relaxing in a hammock and some swimming, many people are headed out to pick blueberries.  If you are planning to berry pick berries in a location using minimum maintenance roads, only drive in as far as you are capable of walking out.  Many of these old roads increase the potential for getting stuck or having vehicle problems and there is usually little to no room to turn a vehicle around on these roads and you may have to back out the way you came.  If you are parking off a main roadway such as the Gunflint Trail, be sure you are parked in a safe location, completely off the road and where there is good visibility.
 Blueberries are often found in past fire areas, full of new growth, but with little in the way of landmarks, and it is easy to suddenly look up and have no clue where you left your car.
Remember that Cell phone reception in these areas can be very poor so you should always have an emergency plan.
Remember too that it is easy to get turned around when picking those blueberries.   Your focus is usually on the ground where the berries are and not on your surroundings, you may lose track of where you have been.
 The following are some helpful tips when picking berries:

  • Try to stay in a group and in sight of your vehicle
  • Have plenty of water on hand
  • You may want to wear a colorful hat to be noticed and to shade your head
  • Make sure someone back home or at camp knows the location you plan to pick in, and an approximate return time.
  • Bring a whistle for emergency signaling and a compass to track your location

If you head to the south side of the road, the compass will help you head back north and hit the road at some point along its length, even if it isn’t exactly at your car.
A GPS is a good tool as well, but make sure you have enough charge or spare batteries, and don’t rely on it.  Just like most computers, they’ve been known to suddenly refuse to work.  Look up frequently, and look back the way you came to learn what landmarks you can.  
So, take some time in these dog days of summer to relax in the warmth with a nice piece of blueberry pie and a scoop of ice cream. 
Last but not least be sure to stop by the Superior National forest booth in Grand Marais the weekend of August 6th to chat with forest personnel during the Fishermans Picnic and be sure to shake Smokey Bear's hand if you see him in town.  Until next week, this has been Cathy Jasperson with the Superior National Forest Update.  Be safe and LEAVE NO TRACE!



West End News: August 4

I am very sorry to hear that Caroline Wood has resigned as Director of the Birch Grove Community School and is leaving the area. Caroline was a strong asset for the community as the school director and in her previous role running the Birch Grove Foundation. She will be missed and hers will be large shoes to fill.
It seems crazy to me that no one can give us a straight answer about whether or not the townships are legally allowed to contribute to a community school. This is exactly the kind of situation where our legislators should be able to get a definitive answer fast. If it is deemed that current statute does not allow the townships to contribute, our representatives should be able to quickly pass legislation that will allow the townships to follow the will of the community. The whole point of government is to organize the community the way the voters want it organized.
The ongoing uncertainty is very damaging to the school. It discourages young families from committing to living in the West End and has a chilling effect on foundations who don’t want to spend their money on a program with and uncertain future. It also makes it difficult to attract and retain staff, who very correctly wonder if they will have secure employment at Birch Grove.
I encourage all West End residents to contact Senator Tom Bakk and Representative Rob Ecklund and urge them to apply their energy and influence to a speedy resolution of this frustrating issue. There really is no more important issue on the front burner in the West End.
The Plucked Up String Band, of which I am a member, had the honor of playing on the statewide public television show, Almanac, last week.  Almanac is the sassy political show that has been on the air for more than 30 years, hosted by Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola.
It was really fun to watch the live hour long show being put together. Almanac is famous for its casual attitude and we sure found that to be the case. The whole crew was very professional, but very relaxed. Live television could easily cause anxiety, but after 30 years they seem to take it in stride.
The highlight for me was meeting, and being interviewed by, Jearlyn Steele, the legendary gospel and pop singer. She is a force of nature, both in her phenomenal singing talent and her intelligence, wit and good nature. I invited her to be a member of the Plucked Up String Band, but she graciously declined, citing her busy schedule. She was genuinely complimentary about our music, which I took as a huge compliment, considering the source.
You can see the clip of our performance on FaceBook, both at the Plucked Up String Band page and the Twin Cities Public Television Almanac page.
Now, if we could only get a guest spot on the Red Green Show…
The Sawbill Trail is now sporting a little over ten miles of asphalt pavement on its southern half. Northland Contractors laid down the first layer of paving in just two days. Now, they are working on the finishing layer and will soon be painting lines. 
Northland and the Cook County Highway Department have done a very good job on this project. Not only has the Trail been extensively repaired, but also the pavement is as smooth as a baby’s cheek. County Engineer Dave Betts designed nice wide shoulders for biking, roller blading and roller skiing, which will be a great community asset for residents and visitors alike.
It’s just another reason to love the wonderful West End.



North Woods Naturalist: Flowers that open and close

Some flowers close at night, others stay open. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about how they do it and a bit about what we know why they do it.

(Photo courtesy of Forest Farming on Flickr)



A Year in the Wilderness: August 1 - Storms

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 antti_nannimus on Flickr)



Superior National Forest Update: July 29

Hi. This is, Paulette Anholm, information assistant on the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of July 29, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

It is the end of July and the beginning of August, and the fireweed has begun its countdown to the end of summer. Fireweed is the tall lavender flower with narrow leaves found in open areas after fires, but also in openings along roads and trails. The flowers are in a single spike, and begin blooming from the bottom at the end of July. They slowly creep up the stalk, and when the flowers reach the top, summer has ended. We still have a few weeks though to enjoy some summer activities out in the woods, so here’s some information to help you on your journey.

The paving project continues on the Sawbill Trail, usually not too bad, but allow time for the occasional long wait. There is also construction on The Grade near Toohey and Fourmile Lakes. That stretch was closed completely earlier this week for culvert replacement, but is now open. You may encounter logging trucks in some places on the Forest. On the Gunflint District, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road and Firebox Road. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks in the area around Sawbill Landing near Isabella.

Back roads may still have signs of the recent storms in the form of branches and other debris on the road. There may be some deadfalls blocking the road, but most have been cleared. Be aware that the storm activity has bent or loosened some trees, and some trees are still falling and may block previously cleared roadways. These same conditions are true for trails and portages. Give yourself extra time, and if carrying a canoe on your shoulders, you may want to scout the route before you start out.

Campers in the Boundary Waters or at backcountry sites should always look for possible hazard trees when making camp, but especially after storms which may have left broken branches dangling in trees, or caused other trees to be weakened.

This is a great time of year to get out and look for late summer wildflowers. Spring may be famous for flowers, but right now isn’t bad either. Along with the fireweed, we’ve spotted many other flowers not seen in the spring, such as a ragged fringed orchid. The advantage of looking for flowers now is that you can also be looking for blueberries and raspberries. If you are in search of berries, make sure to park well off the roadway. We also don’t recommend picking berries right on the road right of way due to road chemicals that may be in the area, and possible invasive species control spraying that takes place on some roads.

Enjoy our warm summer days, and see if you can get enough berries to make a pie! Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.



Stage Door: Practice Rooms

'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)


Taconite Harbor "back in the day"

West End News: July 28

The project to pave eight miles of the Sawbill Trail, which has been undergoing prep-work all summer, is finally underway. Mechanical breakdowns and storm damage elsewhere in the region had caused some delays, but as of this week, there is actual pavement on the Sawbill Trail where there has never been pavement before. Cook County Engineer, Dave Betts, says that the remainder of the project should take about three weeks if the weather cooperates.

The project makes me think often of Jean Raiken, who lived on the Sawbill Trail from the early 1930s until the 1980s. Jean was a county commissioner and an influential community activist  during those years. She would have been delighted to see the Sawbill Trail being paved. She often talked longingly about that possibility, as far back as the 1960s. Jean was also a prime force in getting the original hospital and care center built in Grand Marais, so she would be pleased to see that project as well. I guess the lesson is to be patient and persistent when advocating for community improvements and they will come eventually, even if you don't live to see them.

We are coming up on the fifth year since my dad and former author of this commentary, Frank Hansen, passed away. Among his many community contributions was working to get a hospice established in Cook County. It was quite a struggle, but Frank, along with many others, finally succeeded in establishing a hospice in Grand Marais. As it turned out, Frank was the very first person to use the new hospice. As he was wheeled through the door, he was smiling and celebrating being the first hospice patient in Grand Marais. I told him that he may also be the last person to be cheerfully celebrating their entrance into hospice.

In a slightly more cheerful historical vein, the Schroeder Area Historical Society is hosting a reunion of the former residents and friends of Taconite Harbor residential area. The housing development was built in the 1950s primarily to house workers at the Taconite Harbor power plant.  It was beautiful little 22-home suburban style housing development just south of the existing power plant. Erie Mining Company evicted the residents and sold the houses for removal in 1986. To this day, no one really knows why they removed such a valuable housing resource when affordable housing for working people was - and is - so difficult to come by. The site is now a ghost town feel to it, with overgrown curbs and gutters punctuated by surviving lawn shrubs and ornamental trees among the thick native brush that is slowly talking over.

The tight-knit community of Taconite Harbor still survives in the memories of the people who lived there, especially among those who were children in a time and place where kids experienced real outdoor adventure almost every day of the year. The reunion starts at 1 pm on August 6 at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. There will be plenty of time for conversation about living and growing up in Taconite Harbor, along with the usual North Shore refreshments of cookies, bars and coffee. This year's featured exhibit at the Heritage Center is the Tac Harbor community, so there will be plenty pictures and artifacts to trigger old memories. The festivities will also include a tour of Birch Grove School in Tofte where the community's children all attended elementary school.

My most vivid memories of Taconite Harbor are of visiting the house that had been converted to a doctor's office and staffed by Dr. MacDonald one or two days a week. Roger MacDonald saved my life several times by treating routine - but potentially deadly - childhood illnesses. I can still vividly recall the smell, which was a not-unpleasant combination of disinfectant, the receptionist's perfume and the developing chemicals from the truly antique x-ray machine. These are good memories of a bygone era in rural medicine.

As predicted, the blueberry season is in full swing and it's a good one. The Duluth couple who camp at Sawbill and pick more than 30 gallons of blueberries per year, are telling me that this may be the best year in a couple of decades. They've been doing their early picking in places that everyone knows about and getting a couple of gallons every time out. They'll be back next week for the heart of the season and will move to their secret spots (cough, cough Pagami Creek Fire) for the main harvest. So even if you're in the three quart and not the 30 gallon league, get out there an pick while the picking is good.