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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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: July 21

Another superior weather week along the Gunflint is into the books. Heading into the final stanza of month seven, the territory has escaped the miserable heat and humidity to date that has had areas to the south in a strangle hold for weeks. If we can get by another few weeks, the area will have had a marvelous “up north” summer.  

Rain accumulations have slackened over the past days, but still dropping just enough in this neighborhood to keep the dust down and wildfire danger low. Nevertheless, residents and visitors can never take fire potential for granted. It’s always plausible where there are people.  

The rising lake level of the past six weeks on the Gunflint Gal has stabilized, and dropped ever so slightly since peaking with my DNR measurement mid-month. It seems as though this body needs in excess of at least an inch a week in the watershed to hold steady against the outflow toward its final destination in Hudson’s Bay. Here at Wildersmith, we’ve had slightly over one-half inch since we last met.

While talking of water, the temperature of the lake at my dock has been registering in the high 60s to 70 at a depth of four feet. It will get one’s attention at first dipping, but becomes more comfortable after the old body adjusts.  

A few mornings ago, following a brief early-hour thundershower, I was sitting at my window to the forest world. Clouds were parting, and the flora was dripping as spears of sunbeams danced about wherever openings in the foliage would allow. The magic of the moment was captured as growing air movement had rain droplets wiggling loose from a trillion needles and leaflets. Catching the glistening rays, the rainy residuals were falling like sparkling diamonds.

Whereas the masses of droppings were crystal clear, a couple hangers-on found a spontaneous moment in the sun, refracting light into eye popping sapphires. Lasting for only an instance, the liquid blue gems were suddenly gone, lost on the forest floor to nourish the beings of “mother earth.” What a sparkling way to kick off another day as the beat of wilderness enchantment goes on and on with adventure after adventure!

Quiet as a windless north woods night, a momma bear and her three cubs came through a couple's yard one night recently. Although windows were open there was no “bear talk” to be heard by those inside. However, the “Bruno” family wasn’t aware of their cameo appearance on the trail cam, so like us humans in this day and age, you never know who might be watching.

While thinking of bears in the woods, it dawned on me the hungry blueberry consumers are soon to be in the patches scarfing up the purple gems. A gal up at Chik-Wauk came by on my volunteer day last week to show off a handful she had picked on the site. So the purplish treasures are on the way, and pickers might expect to share the patch with not only friends, but maybe a bear. We should all remember bears were here first, so it is prudent to yield without question! 

Canoe races hit the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge this last Wednesday evening for the 40th time. Another big turn-out enjoyed the aqueous events, especially the canoe tug-o-war and of course, the gunnel pumping.  

Congrats and thanks to Canoe Races chair, Arden Byers, and his great crew of volunteers for putting together another super-organized Community event. A report on proceeds from the fundraiser will be available next week. 

Finally, after a splendid program last Sunday on” Wolves at Our Door,” the Chik-Wauk Nature Center has another interesting program on the docket this weekend. Plan to be there Sunday, July 23, at 2:00 p.m. for the story of a Wisconsin logging company located in Port Arthur, Ontario, which built and traveled the “Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad.” Historian David Battistel will take attendees back in time for another look at events shaping the Gunflint Territory.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with countless places to see and things to do!                               
    
 

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Grand Canyon sunset

West End News: July 20

I often talk about the myriad outdoor opportunities to be had here in the West End. One of my favorite aspects of the landscape here is that it is so accessible. While out in the woods and on the lakes I’ve seen people from all stages of life, whether it be babies on their first excursion, or 90-year-old grandparents revisiting their favorite lake from a lifetime ago.

If you are closer to that second category than the first, you should be aware that the Senior Pass for National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands is increasing in price from $10 to $80 on August 28. So for the next week, if you are over the age of 62, $10 will get you access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies, including the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. The pass covers the entrance and standard day-use amenity fees. Your traveling companions can also enter for free on your pass. You can get your pass at any federal recreation site that charges an entrance fee.

Speaking of our national treasures, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are holding the last official public listening session on the issue of mining near the Boundary Waters this Tuesday, July 25, in Virginia, Minnesota. These listening sessions give the federal agency the opportunity to hear from the public about their concerns, on the record. Those who want to speak will be chosen that day through a lottery system. Each person selected has three minutes to speak. You can also defer your three minutes to someone else if you are chosen.

The listening session will be held at the Virginia High School auditorium from 5 to 7:30 p.m., doors open at 4:30. The session is focused on the fact that on January 13, federal agencies initiated an environmental revew of the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Lake Superior region to determine the impacts of potential sulfide-ore copper mining. So, if you have something you’d like the officials to hear about this topic, please consider taking the trip over to Virginia and make your voice heard.

While the world sometimes feels small in our little corner of Cook County, these are good reminders that we are part of a larger community both here in Minnesota and in our nation. It is up to us to be good stewards of our land, nobody else is going to do it for us. We have a long and proud legacy that is closely tied to our landscape. I hope we can speak loudly for this quiet place and keep it out of the hands of large foreign corporations. We owe it to ourselves and our community.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.


 
The Voyageur II docked at Rock Harbor, Isle Royale

LSProject: Isle Royale's Rock Harbor Lodge and Dockside Fish Market connection

This edition of the Lake Superior Project takes a look at how commercial fishing on Isle Royale, Michigan, has changed. The remote island about 15 miles off shore from Grand Portage no longer has a commercial fishery. Rhonda Silence finds out more. 

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North Shore Health - Integrated community

WTIP Volunteer Tina Krauz covers the progress on the renovations at the North Shore Hospital and Care Center. In this installment Tina talks with Amy James about the concept of an "integrated community."

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 14

Time is flying as we hit the halfway mark in July. Although twilight remains ‘til nearly the ten o’clock hour each evening, daylight minutes that are slipping away are barely noticeable.  

Vacation adventurers are packed into the territory taking advantage of outdoor living at its best. Parking facilities at area outfitters and resorts are filled to overflowing as are pull-offs for hiking trails and watercraft access points. 

Upper Trail weather has been fairly accommodating, too. It would seem a couple mildly sticky days and sporadic rains probably have not dampened spirits. Even the moose and I cannot grouse too much since we last met on the radio. 

Speaking of rain, we had plenty in June and the spell seems to be spilling over into July. We in the Wildersmith neighborhood have picked up well over another inch since the 4th of July. So area lakes continue their upward climb, putting some residents’ docks at surface level. 

Having spent the lion's share of my life in "urbania," I had little regard for the perils of travel on rural roads. Since 1999, I have learned a lot about living in back country, especially our arteries of mobility, as “Mother Nature” has her way with most everything as we all know. 

One such natural happening captures my attention whenever we are blessed with copious amounts of rain. Out here in the woods, evidence of what falling and running water does to porous gravel roads is plain dreadful. Gaining access to the Wildersmith place requires four and one-half miles of traveling on crushed rock. Over the years, I’ve come to know the road pretty well with regard to avoiding those teeth-jarring potholes. It’s my observation that no matter how many times the County Roads crew grades them smooth, those bumps in the road always re-appear, and in the same location.

Wondering why, it’s my idea maybe roadways were not intended to be as currently located. Secondly, in concert with early engineering design and the difficult lay of the land, droppings from the heavens just cannot be controlled by the “gal” in charge. Water goes where it wants to go. And, lastly, vehicle users complicate washed-out spots by pounding our way through such indentations over and over again with little concern. All this seemingly meaningless bumpy commentary has been stimulated by six weeks of inordinate rain around here, good for the forest but not for the roads. My attention to wash-board pathways is renewed with every instance of precipitation and each trip down the road.  

To an extent, on a somewhat positive note, these nature-made speed bumps are worthy as a means of slowing the pace of visiting suburban folk, while also improving regular user driving skills at avoiding the difficult road to wheel terrain. All being said, back road bumps are what they are, a way of life in unorganized territory. 

Back to news of greater importance, Sunday programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this weekend features a visit from the folks at the International Wolf Center in Ely. The presentation “Wolves at Our Door” will be held from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. All are welcome!

Then on Tuesday, the 18th, a “Fishing Basics” class for children will be held at the Nature Center as well from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. Space is limited and registration is free, but must be done in advance. There is still time, so give Chik-Wauk a call by Monday at 218-388-9915. 

If these two events aren’t enough busyness, the 40th annual Gunflint Trail Canoe Races hit the water on Wednesday, the 19th. As usual they will be held on the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge. Events run from 4:00 until 8:00-ish when the gunwale pumping and the grand prize drawing for the kayak will conclude the excitement. Food tent (open at 4:30), races (beginning at 6:00), a silent auction, and continuous raffle prize drawings highlight what is always a great night in the Gunflint Community. All proceeds again go to support the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.

A note from the “wild neighborhood” tells of a sighting not happening much out this way anymore. With the whitetail population about totally decimated in the upper Trail, it is pretty exciting when there is an observation. The Smiths were fortunate during a recent trip home from the village to come upon a doe and her two fawns along the Trail. While all animal babies are cute, in my opinion there are none more precious than recently born deer, and these were no exception. There was some indecision about crossing the road in front of the vehicle, both by mom and her youngsters, so we stopped to allow their terror to calm. Then watched with interest as the mom guided them bounding off into the forest. It was amazing the grace with which the little ones navigated such difficult terrain being probably only a couple weeks old. 

Finally, a huge Wildersmith thanks to all who stepped up in support of WTIP for the “Summer of Love” membership drive. It goes without saying the family of listeners are simply the greatest. This is your radio station, and everyone should be proud of what is made possible through your resources. Eternally grateful, the staff and volunteers look forward to bringing you more high-quality radio entertainment and information in the days, months and years to come!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with anticipation of learning something new daily!
 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 14

Hi. I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator on the Gunflint with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. Here’s what’s happening in the woods for the week of July 14.

Rain! Rain is what seems to be happening in the woods recently. Duluth is at 4 inches above normal for yearly rainfall, and an inch above last year. Lake Superior is 20 inches above the level shown on navigation charts, and is about nine inches above an average July level. The lake gained four inches during the past month, but now is expected to be stable. All that data means that there’s been a lot of water coming down this summer.

It is supposed to dry off in the next week or so, so it will be time to get out and enjoy our nice full lakes. Make sure to bring your PFD’s when loading your boat, and even better, wear them. Even if you are a strong swimmer, wearing a PFD can make it a lot easier to try to right a swamped canoe, and to gather floating packs of gear. If you’re planning a Boundary Waters trip and have never tipped a canoe over, we recommend that you try it in safe conditions before you go. It may be a lot harder than you think to right the boat and get back into it. When canoeing, it is good to bring some sort of bailing equipment and tie it to the boat. While it is possible to flip a canoe upright in a way which leaves little water in the boat, it takes practice. It is also a lot easier on a calm lake, and face it, if you tip your canoe, it isn’t going to be on a calm lake. It is tempting to tie your packs into the canoe so they would stay with the boat if you tip it, but don’t. Packs tied to the canoe can make it very difficult to right the boat. If you pack using plastic bag liners, packs will usually float and the contents remain dry for some time.  Concentrate on getting your boat upright first, and getting yourself in the boat, then start worrying about your stuff. You could get hypothermic or drown, but the pack with your fishing gear and extra sweatshirt is going to be just fine swimming in the water for a while. But…the best way to right a boat is to not tip it in the first place. Pay attention to the weather, and don’t travel on days with high winds and rough water which are beyond your ability. When planning your trip, include the possibility of being weathered in for a day. It is better to spend an extra day in camp than to end up going for an unintentional swim.

On your way to the lake, there is some logging traffic to consider. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks on Trapper’s Lake Road, Lake County 705, Cook County 33, the Sawbill Trail, and The Grade. On the Gunflint end, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, the Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and the Trestle Pine Road.

As the weather clears, head out to a lake and have fun, but keep boating safety in mind. Until next week, this has been Joe Mundell with the National Forest Update. 
 

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West End News: July 13

Beer lovers rejoice! Caribou Highlands in Lutsen is once again hosting the annual beer tasting weekend-long event, Hopped Up Caribou. This weekend, July 14- 16, will be full of beer tasting, live music, and adventure. You can purchase tickets to any of the events individually, or the whole weekend package. Check out their website, hoppedupcaribou.com for more info on what all is happening and when.
 
Also happening on Saturday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. is Sugarloaf Cove’s Stop the Invasives program. Join the folks at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder for a hands-on experience identifying problematic invasive plants present in our region, but not yet widespread. Learn to identify these invaders and distinguish them from native look-alikes. Want to report invasives to the experts when you spot them? Well, there’s an app for that. At the program on Saturday, you will learn how to report infestations using the GLEDN smartphone app. Invasive plant species are a real growing concern, no pun intended. In many cases, invasive plants can choke out native growers, potentially eliminating food sources for local animals and changing our very landscape. Learning to spot and eradicate the non-native plants is a valuable skill for anyone who spends much time in our west end woods.
 
Also happening at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder is the ever-popular songbird banding. Every Thursday from now until August 31 from 7 a.m. to noon, folks at Sugarloaf will be banding and monitoring the populations of songbirds that nest and travel through the area. Stop in to learn about the process and the importance of the research in understanding the lifespan, movement, and productivity of songbirds. This is a free event, but donations are appreciated. For more information on the variety of things happening at Sugarloaf this summer, you can always give them a call at 218-525-0001.
 
The bloodmobile will be at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte this Tuesday, July 18. If you’ve never donated blood, or it’s been a while, now is a good time to get back to it. The supply is dangerously low and many of the regular donators are unable to donate this time around. Donating blood is easy, and sometimes even enjoyable if you end up sitting next to a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a good chance to catch up! There are openings between 2:15 and 4:15 on Tuesday the 18th. You can give Jane a call to schedule your spot. You can reach her at 663-7254.
 
Water levels remain high in the Wilderness. I planted flowers right after Memorial Day and I haven’t yet had to water them. Suffice it to say, we are soggy. That’s the price we pay, though, for low fire dangers.  More rainy days means more saunas and that’s a pretty good trade-off in my opinion.
 
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Frog

North Woods Naturalist: Frog tongues

Frogs hunt with their tongues, and their tongues are a most unusual and specialized organ. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about frog’s fast, sticky and soft tongues.

(Photo courtesy of Andre Chivinski on Flickr)

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Sunny's Back Yard: Early summer in the Superior highlands

Sunny has lived off-grid in rural Lake County for the past 18 years and is a regular commentator on WTIP. Here she talks about what's been happening in Sunny's Back Yard, and shares her love of early summer bird calls.

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Gus' Wild Side: Thoughts on nature and modern life

In this edition of Gus' Wild Side, we'll hear Gus' thoughts on the natural world....and the possible costs of modern life.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

Photo courtesy of Robert Breckenridge on Flickr

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