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North Shore Digest

North Shore Digest airs on WTIP Monday-Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. (hankoss/Flickr)

  • Monday 5-6pm
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News & Information
North Shore Digest airs from 5-6 p.m. weekdays and is the place to get caught up with what’s happening in your backyard and beyond, with international and national news from the Associated Press and local news from WTIP's News Department. The program always incorporates local announcements and events, significant interviews with local people and newsmakers, a mix of music, and features like National Native News, School News, and the Minnesota News Connection. 

What's On:
Great Expectations

School News from Great Expectations: September 30

Liv and Grace report the latest School News.

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Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Naturalist Kurt Mead explains why fall is so colorful...and tells us about his favorite fall driving tour.

Kurt is a naturalist at Tettegouche State Park near Finland, Minnesota.

(Photo by Martha Marnocha)

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Magnetic North: Staying home

Welcome back to Magnetic North. Today I want to address the subject of staying put for the winter. Staying home instead of sprouting snowbird wings and flapping away at the first sign of frost. Fact is, most of us retired sorts could go somewhere else. Somewhere warmer. But we don’t. Too much money we say. Too much hassle we protest. And so we stay. Stoically, but seldom silently, enduring all that Mother Nature chucks at us for the next six months. We are indeed, the stuff of epic drama. And drama, my friends, is exactly what it is and why it is we stay.

Because the truth of the thing, the real reason why so many of us stay here all winter is this: This is where the good stuff is and we don’t want to miss any of it. Even for a month or two. Or, in my case, even for a week or two.

For instance, have you noticed that the pine and balsam and spruce are now taking center stage? Leaves are leaving deciduous trees naked and slightly embarrassed. To their rescue and our craving for color come the evergreens. The sight of these giants standing tall throughout a January blizzard warms me as no Florida sun could ever do. 

The apple tree in the yard is bare now, too; but one bushel of its fruit is already transformed into silky, tangy sweet apple butter. Twelve pints this year. I got the recipe from a book my husband, Paul, got me at a long gone bookshop in town, the Book Station. There, proprietors Ray and Virginia Quick, also sold angora mittens made by a local woman who spun her yarn right off her bunnies and dyed the wool with Kool-Aid! Virginia was a fount of grandmotherly advice for a newcomer like me. And Ray was a daily vision, breezing through town on his way to the little shop on his ten-speed bike. They, like their shop, are gone now, but with each new batch of apple butter, I remember them fondly. Remembering blooms in winter.

So do spectacular sunsets and sunrises. The former casting a rosy glow over the world - Sigurd Olson called it “Ros Light.” And the latter coming so late in the morning that even a slug-a-bed like me can catch it most days. And between sundown and sunup there is a delicious 14 hours in which to star-gaze, build fires in the hearth, read, write, imagine, and, most glorious of all, give in to the siren call of comfort food.

Ahh, comfort food. We must have it so we can bulk up in the event we end up in a ditch and are not found for days, don’t you know. At least that’s my excuse. On the first visit to our clinic after moving here, I found no comfort at all when I stepped on the scale in late January. Before I could protest the inaccuracy of the equipment, the nurse patted my hand and said, somewhat cruelly I thought, “Welcome to Cook County.” We transplants hear this phrase often in our first years, usually after a mind-boggling event of some kind renders us speechless.

Speech in winter tends to be as brisk as the air. Small talk is for summer. Pumping gas in a gale wind in subzero temperatures one tends to keep one’s mouth shut, conserving what little warm air there is inside. At the most, an exchange out of doors at the market might be along these lines.

“Had 21 below at my place to his morning.” To which a reply might be, “Anything freeze up on you?” The concern being, not fingers or toes but plumbing. Winter is our shared enemy and we are comrades bonded together in the fight to endure, if not to conquer it. We strategize hourly about how to get to work, then home, then to this or that meeting. We are ready for anything. And we are invariably snookered.

The power goes off. The private plowers all break down on the same day. The early winter rain turns to snow at midnight and garage doors freeze shut. 

No day is ever like one in living memory, according to the weather mavens at the Blue Water Cafe. It may be better. Or worse. But it is never, ever, the same.

And yet, in the midst all of this uncertainly we have community and the ever-present sweetness of wood smoke in the air. Add to these, the incessant meetings of committees and boards and hobby groups, like the knitters at Java Moose coffee shop or the cribbage crowd at the Senior Center. Community. It’s here to take or to leave. But it is here for us, solid and snug and comforting, 

This place, this stretch of woods and shore in winter is truly a world apart. There is a saying here that many come to our woods and shore to find themselves and when winter comes, often don’t care much for what they have found. I get that. The unbroken whiteness. The monochromatic palette and daily bouts with nature is not for everyone. But I just happen to be wired to love that kind of world and for that I am so very, very grateful. 

In the summer months, tourists often ask us, “what do you do up here in the winter?” Sometimes I say no one actually lives here in winter, that we all leave and the highway is closed at the county line. Or some such smarty pants answer. But I never tell them the truth. Because to yammer on about Northern Lights and apple butter, much less the thrill of bag day at the recycling shop on Fridays, would be exposing some of my favorite things to ridicule. And so usually, when asked that question, I just channel Jack Nicholson in the Shining and smile and say, “well now, that’s a secret.”

And that tends to end the conversation pretty quick.

(Photo courtesy of Ed Suominen on Flickr)

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: September 29

Sophia, Kalina, Tori and Arlo report the latest School News.

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Keep an eye out for this guy and his friends if you are driving the West End back roads in search of fall colors

West End News: September 29

Congratulations to Dave and Amy Freeman for completing their “Year in the Wilderness” project this week. In case you’ve been living in Siberia, I’ll tell you that Dave and Amy spent the last twelve months traveling the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness without coming out, even once. They accomplished this feat to call attention to the great value of the BWCA Wilderness in the face of a massive proposed mining project that is almost certain to damage the wilderness.
 
I used to refer to Dave and Amy as Lutsen residents – and it is true that they own a piece of land in Lutsen – but their reality is that they live in the wilderness. I say this not because of their literally living in a designated wilderness for the last year, but because they have chosen a unique lifestyle that takes them from one huge wilderness trip to the next. One or both of them have circumnavigated North America by kayak, canoe and dog team, paddled the length of the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Rio Roosevelt rivers. They’ve explored the jungles of Central America, circumnavigated Lake Superior and paddled from Ely to Washington, D.C., just for a partial list of their wildland journeys. 
 
In fact, they flew to Washington, D.C., the next day after emerging from their wilderness year, where they are lobbying congress and the Obama administration to find the wisdom to protect the BWCA Wilderness. Talk about culture shock. But, they are no strangers to re-entering civilization after long trips, so I’m sure they will cope just fine. Hopefully, they’ll find their way back to their estwhile home, the West End, soon to visit their many friends here.
 
Birch Grove Community School took the upper classman on a field trip to the Forest Service Tofte District compound, which is right next door to the school. The kids stopped first in the office where they got their Junior Ranger stickers and admired the stuffed animals and historic photos. Then, they walked over to the historic Ranger’s Dwelling where they learned about log cabin construction, more history of the Forest Service in the West End and historic preservation techniques.
 
According to Birch Grove School Board member, Skip Lamb, a good time was had by all. Skip also reported that Birch Grove is very close to hiring a new Director, the position that is now held on an interim basis by the founding director, Diane Blanchett. Skip expressed confidence in the future of the school, citing legislation in the works to make it clearly legal for the three West End townships to provide financial support. He said the school is running strong this fall and invites everyone to stop by any time to see what excellence in education looks like, right here in the West End.
 
The upcoming Presidential election is hard to avoid these days. With that in mind, I recently read an interesting book entitled “Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam.” It tells the story of John Brinkley, who was the most successful medical quack in American history. Brinkley was world famous in the early part of the 20th century. He made and lost several fortunes and ran a variety of very successful, but completely unethical scams. At the height of his popularity, he ran twice for Governor of Kansas and nearly won.
 
The most interesting part of the book was the description of Brinkley’s personality. Even though he was a complete fake and a dangerous criminal, he got by for many years by steadfastly proclaiming that he was the greatest at whatever he did and launching bitter personal attacks on any who dared question him. When the book, which was written in 2009, quoted Brinkley’s statements verbatim, they sounded eerily similar to statements made by the current Republican candidate for President. 
 
The good news is that Brinkley was eventually exposed and discredited by science and logic in the form of the then rather new American Medical Association. Once he was exposed by impartial investigation, from both journalists and prosecutors, Brinkley’s elaborate house of cards collapsed quickly and irretrievably. In my humble opinion, the same dramatic fall from grace awaits the great charlatan of our own time, as hard truth overwhelms the flim-flam.
 
The fall colors have been appearing very slowly this year. The reason is the wet weather and the startling fact that we will not have a single real frost event in the month of September. It is really pretty back in the woods, but we are still a week or two away from the peak. The high winds this week brought down mass quantities of white pine needles, but left the vast majority of leaves still on the trees.
 
If you head out for a color tour in the West End this week, I recommend the Honeymoon trail that runs east/west between the Caribou Trail and Sawbill Trail. It is a narrow winding road that follows the glacial eskers through a forest that is heavy with maples. I like it best when the maples are about half red and still half green, which will be the case this week. Watch out for rutting bull moose though.  I barely dodged a giant bull on the Sawbill Trail just last night. All’s well that ends well, but let’s just say it was a little close for comfort. It’s all part of the fun here in the wild, West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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A carefully built cairn shows the way to last week's Rainbow Gathering in Tofte

West End News: September 22

The Rainbow Gathering on the Sawbill Trail has come and gone. Most West End residents and visitors were probably not even aware that it happened. It was deep in the woods about two miles beyond the “Dog Tired” gravel pit, which is about ten miles up the Trail from Tofte.
 
Before the gathering started, some authorities were advising us that we would be inundated with Rainbow people, as Sawbill Outfitters had been designated as their “official” store for supplies and drinking water.
 
A few days before the start of the gathering, a couple of people did stop in to fill water jugs and buy firewood. After that, we seemed to have almost no traffic from the event, except for a few genial young people who had missed the turn and were lost.
 
One couple I talked to was looking for Forest Road #350, but of course, being a local, I don’t know the roads by their numbers. I know them by their local names, like Kawishiwi Lake Road, Rhino Road, Pancore Lake Road or Raspberry Road. When I asked them what their destination was, they were shy about revealing that they were looking for the Rainbow Gathering. They finally said they were looking for “a gathering of people” and I was able to give them directions with no problem.
 
When I drove into the gathering site to see what was going on, the most remarkable thing I saw was a giant bull moose about half a mile before seeing any Rainbows.
 
I doubt this will be the last that the West End will see of the Rainbow People. Like almost everyone else, they seem to like it here. I’m glad that they are able to have their peaceful gatherings without controversy or even much comment from locals.
 
There are a couple of cool events coming up that you should put on your calendar now. The first is a performance of the “Music and Magic of Patsy Cline” featuring Cassie and the Bobs at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. The show is scheduled for 7pm on Saturday, October 8. Northern Lake County Arts Board is the show’s sponsor, so you know it will be great. Who doesn’t like Patsy Cline… and if you don’t know who Patsy Cline is, then you are required to attend – no exceptions.
 
The second fun event is the annual Birch Grove Community School Halloween Carnival, scheduled for Sunday, October 30, from 2 until 4pm. The carnival is not only fun and a great tradition, it’s also an important fundraiser for the school. So be there, or be square.
 
Tofte garderner extrodinaire, Jessa Frost, was proud to announce that she has successfully raised black beans in her gardern in the heart of the infamous Zone 3. She posted a picture on Facebook holding seven ripe beans in her hand, with mightly Lake Superior in the background. Under questioning, she admitted that the seven beans are a third of the total harvest so far, but did say that there will be many more if we can hold off the first frost for another week or two. This is ironic, coming from a gardener named Frost.
 
The fall colors have really popped up in the high country in the last few days. You have to get at least 10 miles away from the big lake for the best viewing, but nature’s big show should be coming soon to a hillside near you. If you’re looking for good color this week, I recommend the Eagle Mountain Trail, which is not only colorful right now, but is also the highest point in Minnesota.. and just one of the high points in 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: September 22

Kalina, Sophia and Tucker report the latest School News.

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North Woods Naturalist: Autumn update

Autumn is slow in coming, but changes are being made in the natural world, just not as apparent as in some years. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about an autumn update.

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The Hovland plane crash

A Cessna 185 disappeared in the fall of 1971, and no trace of the plane or its three occupants was found until nearly 12 years later.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, we hear the story of the Hovland plane crash from Orvis Lunke - one of the four DNR forestry workers who discovered the remains of the plane in a remote section of forest, just inland from Lake Superior. 

(View slideshow for photos of the plaque and the crash site)

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West End News: September 15

Last week I mentioned that Heath Ekstrom, Superior National Golf Pro and longtime Lutsen resident, was attempting to play 100 holes of golf on a single day. He was doing it to raise money for the charity called “Folds of Honor” that provides scholarships for children and spouses of military personnel who have been killed or disabled while serving our nation.
 
Well, he did it. In fact, he ended up shooting 122 holes of golf before daylight faded. Although Heath’s accomplishment was amazing, he was quick to point out that it was just golf, while being a member of the armed services was truly public service. Heath did raise $3500 for the charity, which will go a long way in providing someone with a quality education.
 
Although I’ve been in the outfitting business my whole life, a week seldom goes by that I don’t learn or see something new. Last week, we had a situation that I have never seen before.
 
Last Sunday afternoon, a solo canoeist stopped into the store and reported that he had talked to a camper on Polly Lake, deep in the wilderness, who had been abandoned by his canoeing partner. The marooned camper, who was named Pete, wanted word passed to the authorities that he would like someone to paddle in and bring him out of the wilderness.
 
We contacted the Forest Service and they determined that two Wilderness Rangers were just two lakes away. The next morning, the Rangers paddled down to Polly and picked up Pete. Pete told them that he and his friend had argued about the route and had mutually agreed that the friend would go on, leaving Pete to find a way to get himself out of the wilderness by going back the way they had come.
 
I got the call from the Forest Service to meet the rangers and Pete at the Kawishiwi Lake entry point and transport him back to Sawbill where his friend was due to arrive the next day. I must say, that Pete was very contrite and apologetic. He wasn’t really blaming his friend, as the decision to split up had been mutual. He did admit that he didn’t really think it through and was genuinely sorry to have caused the rangers to spend a full day rescuing him.
 
With my strong encouragement, Pete patched things up with his friend when they were reunited at Sawbill, at least enough so the friend would drive him back to southern Indiana. The friend reluctantly agreed and I feel like it was a pretty long and quiet road trip for both men.
 
As I was driving Pete back to Sawbill from Kawishiwi, he asked me how long I had been at Sawbill Outfitters. “Sixty years, this year.” I told him. “Has anyone ever been abandoned in the Boundary Waters before?” he asked. “Nope…” was my reply.  And hopefully it will never happen again.
 
Many West End residents will remember the huge national Rainbow Gathering near Barker Lake in Lutsen in 1990. Rainbow gatherings are a loosely knit community of people who gather in remote forest locations to celebrate their shared values of peace, harmony, freedom and respect.
 
There is a small Rainbow gathering going on just off the Sawbill Trail this week. As in 1990, the Rainbow people cause little or no trouble, just quietly camping and communing before going back to their regular lives. You would hardly know they were there except for seeing more than the usual number of colorfully dressed people in the grocery store.
 
The leaves have begun to change color in earnest over the hill. The trees are still about 90% green, but the occasional flash of yellow or red really stands out. As usual, the underbrush is farther along. I estimate it to be about 30% turned.
 
If you decide to go for a drive or a bike ride to view the leaves in the next couple of weeks, be sure to check out the new pavement on the Sawbill Trail.  The project is completely done now, making for the smoothest ride in the beautiful West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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