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North Shore Weekend


  • Saturday 7-10am
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



What's On:

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 28

The weather outside hasn’t been frightful just yet, but Gunflint skies have been looking the part for several days during the past week. Last Sunday had one of those looks with rain in the AM that was on the verge of snow and temps in the thirties. By days end, ghostly clouds seemed like they had a belly full of the white stuff.                                                                                   
So in spite of official autumn being just beyond a month old, there’s a feeling winter is beginning to squeeze in at any time. As for yours truly, bring it on, all is ready in the Wildersmith neighborhood!  Meanwhile, about all “Mother Nature” has to do is put the bears to bed.                                                                                                                                                                             
With trick or treat time in the offing, old timer’s out this way will remember the winter blast of Halloween in 1991. Yes, it’s been a quarter century since the big ghost and goblin snow storm dropped over forty inches of the stuff in places along the Trail. One might wonder if this could happen again after twenty-five years, or was it one of those so called “one hundred year” Weather Service occurrences. Only the “MOM” in charge of all things natural knows.                                                
A thing I know though is our “winter welcome wagon” is on and along the Trail. Flocks of snow buntings are ready and willing to lead your vehicle either up or down this Scenic Byway. Their annual return is kind of spiritually up lifting to those of us looking forward to the season of white landscapes and frosty breath.                                           
This season of transition has unique moments often catching the eye of keenly focused observers. Happenings I often report may seem trivial, possibly leading another to believe I should get a life. However, for yours truly, it can be the simple things that make living in Gunflint country so special.                                                                                                                                                  
Such is the case with a skinny but tall, red barked tree standing just off the deck outside my lake side window. This wispy woodland member has always been the last to leaf out in the spring while being a holdout in giving up its foliage this time of year.  
I’ve been watching from my favorite chair in the just after dawn, time slot, every day since the falling commenced. Every other deciduous tree in the yard has called it quits, but this one has some “last hangers-on” growing season tokens. It has given up some but is clinging to perhaps a dozen or so, each leaflet withstanding days of gusty October winds and a number of rainy occasions.    
It occurs to me it enjoys a charmed life each year, adding a few inches of height while exhibiting character of being the toughest guy in this forest neighborhood. As death is imminent to most all growing flora during fall, I’m betting these last leaves will refuse to be taken until a good dose of wet snow bids them farewell. Spirit is reflected in mays ways of the wilderness!                                   
Since my report of a wolf sighting over in the Hungry Jack Lake area, sightings have been noted by several folks from around the territory. One family with which I visited was hiking on a cold morning and happened on four specimens of scat, some of which was still exuding steamy body warmth. Obviously this pack was on the move somewhere just ahead, but never seen.                     
All these Canid observations makes me wonder if the coming firearms deer hunting season, has them rallying pack members for when blaze orange clad, two legged predators start stalking what few deer remain in these parts.                                                                                                                                             
If one is an eagle fancier, they are sure to be interested in an article in the fall AUDUBON magazine. I found it particularly engaging as the writing (Eagles & Chickens) included a supplementary snippet of chronological history on the big bird from 1782 to the present. It was entitled “THE BALD EAGLES’S RETURN”, authored by Jonathan Carey. Good reading on a cool fall evening!                                                                                                                                                              
A reminder if you haven’t already heard, your community radio station is in the midst of the fall membership campaign. It’s Halloween so why not “Treat Yourself to a little of that WTIP sweetness.” Don’t procrastinate, or ghosts and goblins will surely be haunting you.  Join now at 218-387-1070; or 1-800-473-9847; or click and join at and thank you in advance.                     
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day in the north woods is great and some are even better!

(photo by grfx Playground via Flickr)


The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Too many deer in the deer yard?

Deer weren't always common along the North Shore of Lake Superior. With the increase in their population, the plants that make our landscape so appealing are disappearing in areas where deer gather during the winter. 

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, WTIP's Martha Marnocha joined State Park naturalist Kurt Mead and Silver Bay High School students to learn about a project being conducted at Tettegouche State Park. The project hopes to develop strategies for protecting young trees from heavy deer brouse.



Buttered Lutefisk (Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons)

West End News: October 27

Text of this week's commentary is on the way!



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 21

Our prelude to winter along the Gunflint Trail has mellowed some, settling back to more typical autumn conditions. Light winds and slightly warmer conditions are the order as the Wildersmith scoop begins flowing from my keyboard.  

In spite of a few days with dismal skies, nothing dramatic has disturbed the peace and quiet as Trail folks get more ready for winter. Scant episodes of moisture deposits have done little more than keep the dust down on backcountry roads since our last radio visit.  

Nocturnal illumination created excitement in this part of the universe with Aurora Borealis dancing across the heavens on at least one night, while clear skies favored a magnificent full, “falling leaves” “super moon” just after midnight last Saturday. The brilliance of the “old man in the moon” gave a “luster of mid-day to objects below”, especially those skeletal trees lurking over the wilderness. 

While the deciduous portion of the forest has been almost totally undressed of all leaves, tamaracks are at their peak. A trip up to end of the Trail last Sunday found the gold-needled spires a buttery blur under the rays of “old Sol.” Although they don’t last long, if one hasn’t experienced the tamarack radiance, there’s still a chance it would be worth a trip out this way to get a glimpse of this golden attraction.     

Also, not lasting too much longer will be a chance to visit the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The facility will be closing its doors for the season after Sunday.  

Gunflint community energy sparked again last Sunday as fifteen Historical Society volunteers showed up at the Chik-Wauk Museum site. The group spent the morning cleaning up brush, branches and downed trees left from the wind storms of June and July. Two huge trailer loads of debris was gathered and hauled away, really spiffing up the grounds. Thanks to all for sharing a splendid northwoods day, all in the name of a good cause.           

I’ve noticed many of the mountain ash trees along the Trail are still loaded with bright red-orange fruit. It makes me wonder what’s going on with the cedar waxwings. I don’t know if they might be late migrating from whereever, or perhaps have already passed through, before the berries were properly ripened to their liking. It seems as though the ravenous birds have cleaned them off by now in most years. Meanwhile, the bears seem to have taken their share of the lower hanging fruit based on calling cards left here, there and everywhere.     

Speaking of the north country “Brunos,”almost anyone I talk to has observed one of the critters in past weeks. However, there have been few serious reports of bear vandalism, except for the theft of a bag of sun flower seeds from one couple’s garage, and the destruction of a half-dead apple tree here at Wildersmith. Settling in for a long winter's nap will soon be on their minds. 

I spotted a snowshoe hare in my headlights one night last week. Winter must not have been on its mind yet, as there was no sign of exchanging its summer apparel. It makes me wonder if this could this be a result of our extended warm fall, or perhaps a late arriving cold season, or possibly a warmer than normal winter, or maybe none of these at all, just a silly “wabbit.”   

Then again, I observed a red fox a night or so earlier. This furry creature appeared to be in full winter regalia, with a tail fluffier than one of those household dust-catching utensils.  

Another sign of potential significant weather change might have subtly come to me earlier this week. Whereas chickadees are always around, they seldom come close begging for a hand-out during the warm season. An up-close visit from some chickadees last Sunday surprised me when a couple of the pert little black caps came swooping in at me and landed but a foot away in a lilac bush, chirping excitedly. So I guess it's time to start carrying a handful of seeds in my pocket.                                          

Thinking of all these wild pre-winter notions, it would probably be better to just wait and not contemplate too much. Only “Mother Nature” knows what she has in store for all the beings of our Gunflint neighborhoods.    

On a final note, as Trick or Treat night approaches, don’t forget a treat for our community radio station. The WTIP fall (and final 2016) membership campaign gets underway this next week. Join in the fun of "giving" during this Halloween season at WTIP, beginning Wednesday ebvening, the 26th!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where northwoods days are great and some are even better! 

(photo by Linda Baird-White via Wikimedia Commons)


Bob Dylan, in his early days out on Highway 61

West End News: October 20

Although he’s only an honorary West Ender, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Bob Dylan, on his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Our enigmatic and talented native son is the first musician to win the Noble for literature, but it should came as no surprise to anyone who has been moved by the profound poetry of his song lyrics. 
I’m sure Mr. Dylan is a regular visitor to the West End, but just keeps his usual low profile.  If not, we still have a strong connection to him, if only through his iconic album and song, “Highway 61 Revisited.”
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to look up the aerial drone footage of the Manitou River Falls on the Internet.  There are two large sets of falls that are rarely seen by the public.  They are out of view from the highway and are surrounded by private land, so the only way to see them all is from the air.  The last drop is a 50-foot falls directly into Lake Superior, making it a fairly rare phenomenon on the big lake. 
The footage is the work of a company called Liftoff Aerials.  Thanks to them for sharing this spectacular footage with their North Shore neighbors.  You can find it by Googling Manitou Falls drone footage.
Sugarloaf Nature Center, in Schroeder, is hosting a program next month on historic bark-peeled pine. Apparantly, during the era of birch bark canoe, in what is now the BWCA Wilderness, the canoe builders peeled red pine bark to collect the sap that was used to seal the seams.  Some of the trees, in use during the fur trade circa 1700 to 1900, still exist.  By studying their location, archeologists can shed new light on the economy and travel patterns of people in that distant time.
Lee Johnson, the Superior National Forest Archeologist, will be presenting on this discovery at Sugarloaf on Saturday, November 12th from 10 to 11 am.  He will be describing how to identify the bark-peeled pine and is asking wilderness travelers to report any that they find back to him.
Given the deep, deep history of canoe travel in the West End, and all of northeastern Minnesota, this is a significant archeological find and really interesting for canoe nerds like me.  I think I’ve read every word ever written about birch bark canoes and I’ve always been told that the sealing pitch was a mixture of black spruce sap and animal fat.  History is always fascinating and surprising.
I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of local voices supporting the two referendum questions that Cook County School District #166 has placed on this year’s election ballot.  One question asks for approval of a new Capital Bond to make repairs and improvements to school facilities.  The other question asks for an Operating Levy that virtually all Minnesota Public Schools need to fund themselves.
I’ve carefully studied both proposals and listened closely to the arguments – both for and against.  In my opinion, both are excellent investments for the future of Cook County and will pay us back many times over in the future.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Go to and read the material there for yourself.  I was also influenced by the carefully thought out support from the Cook County Chamber of Commerce.  I plan to vote “yes” and “yes” on the questions and urge you to do so too.
Just a quick reminder of two important events coming up in support of Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.  The Barbeque Rib Feast is at the Schroeder Town Hall on Thursday, October 27th from 4:30 to 7 pm. Also, the umteenth annual PTO Halloween Carnival at Birch Grove on Sunday, October 30th from 2 until 4 pm.  Be there, or be you-know-what.
The leaves are mostly down back over the hill and even the Shore is past its prime.  That is no reason to avoid the back roads.  The tamaracks are still beautiful and some of the underbrush, especially the willows, is still vivid. Plus, it’s fun to be able to see a reasonable distance into the woods. You might spot a moose, a partridge or a bark-peeled pine that have been hiding for the last five months.  Every season is a good season here in the ol’ West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



Northern Sky: October 15-28

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

In the evening sky: Saturn, Antares and Venus; Mars and the teapot of Sagitarius; in the morning sky: Jupiter low in the east.  Fomalhaut, the lonliest star, and its candidate planet Fomalhaut B (pictured, NASA via Wikimedia Commons).  A full Hunters Moon on the 15th.



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       

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!



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 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.



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)


Juvenile ruffed grouse

North Woods Naturalist: Ruffed grouse

Traditionally fall is when we’re most apt to see ruffed grouse, especially if we’re hunters. But grouse sign is visible all year. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about these birds well adapted to our northern environment.

(Photo courtesy of Jean-Guy Dallaire)