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North Shore Weekend

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  • Saturday 7-10am
Genre: 
Variety
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: September 23

The blush of fall is now fully engaged in the northwoods. The natural “east is east” and “west is west” equinox phenomenon has sent “old Sol” past the tipping point toward the southern hemisphere. 

Our border country “Technicolor” spectacle has shifted into high gear. While the intensity has been mounting rather deliberately up to this point, the official declaration, this past Thursday, seems to have set off an orange/red blitz in just a few days. This area will be a “leaf peepers” dream for the next couple weeks.  

Several cloudy days have been the order in this neighborhood during the last seven. Fortunately, the dismal time did not go to waste as the Wildermith rain gauge collected over an inch and three-quarters, with some upper Trail folks reporting even more.   

Speaking of wet happenings, a check of the Gunflint Lake water temp at the Smith dock, found the mercury in a state of decline to sixty-five degrees. This is down from our warmest summer reading of near seventy-five.  

Whereas several areas in the northland got nipped, this place in the woods missed the predicted frost of last week. It was close though, with two consecutive mornings at thirty-five on multiple thermometers. Yet I did detect what appeared to be frozen crystal in a few ditch locations during a trip to town on one of those days. 

I received an interesting report on some lake water testing conducted this summer here on Gunflint Lake. Some of our residents have long been concerned about the application of calcium chloride to roads adjoining the Gunflint Gal for dust control, as well as copious amounts of chemical treatment put on the Trail during the winter. Our interest of course, is whether this practice is having any adverse effect in regard to calcium (C++) run-off and a build-up of such in the lake water. 

Sample readings were taken in cooperation with County Soil and Water in mid-June. I’m told thirty-five lakes were tested in the County, and of all the lakes sampled, Gunflint was the third highest with analysis showing 8.2ppm. A rough calculation projects there could be nearly a thousand tons of excess calcium chloride in this lake. In comparison, Tucker Lake, just two lakes to the south, and not having close proximity road treatments, had a reading of 3.5ppm. 

The critical issue on excessive levels of C++ is a correlation between C++ and INVASIVE SPECIES, notably rusty crayfish and zebra mussels. According to our Gunflint Lake water monitor, Gunflint Lake, on the whole, does not have good habitat for “rusties,” but the invasive rascals could devastate the shallower Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes. What happens is that “rusties” destroy vegetation and hog available food, thus having a negative impact on fish habitat. This surely has potential implications for other upper Trail lakes as well. Apparently, research says that 5ppm (this could be found to be even lower) is a cutoff for sustaining rusty crayfish.    

Attempts are being made with MPCA to do some deep water testing this winter on the Gunflint to further assess the consequences of this C++ issue. In the meantime, Gunflint Lake property owners and other territory lake residents will no doubt be thinking about the value of keeping the dust down versus environmental costs to our pristine waters.   

A story of near tragedy and triumph took place on Hungry Jack Lake little more than a week ago. A loon was discovered near a resident’s dock in a seriously distressed state. The bird had a fish hook in its chest, and fish line tangled around its head, obviously making it difficult to eat, dive and/or swim. 

There are “good Samaritan” acts someplace every day. Fortunately for this Minnesota icon, Hungry Jack and Leo lake neighbors were in the right place at the right time and gathered quickly. A fish net was chosen as the implement for rescue, and a gal in a kayak with three folks in a canoe set out to corral the troubled animal. They soon netted the loon and brought it to the dock of Hungry Jack Outfitters.    

The terrified loon was wrapped in toweling, but nevertheless, inflicted numerous blows with its beak before rescuers were able to secure its head. The fish line was ultimately removed and the hook carefully cut off and pulled out.  With loving hands the handsome critter was released back into the lake where it gave a “hoot” (perhaps saying thanks), flapped its wings and swam away, for sure saved from an anguishing death. Congrats and thanks to the caring folks for helping a creature of the “wild neighborhood” to triumph over tragedy.  See pictures of the rescue effort attached to the Wildersmith column at WTIP.org.   

Most of the time it’s difficult to retrieve lost fishing tackle, but if at all possible, anglers could do these floating critters a big favor by not leaving to chance that line and hooks with bait will never cause a problem. 

On a final note, The Gunflint Trail Historical Society, in concert with the GT Scenic Byway Committee and WTIP, is looking for stories, pics, and artifacts of the Ham lake Fire. Such are needed for the 2017 Chik-Wauk Museum temporary exhibit, as next year commemorates the tenth anniversary of the tragedy. The exhibit will feature remembrances of this flaming disaster, along with educational presentation of wildfire ecology in the territory.  

If anyone has items from the historic event and is willing to share them with exhibit organizers, please let the Society know by calling the museum at (218)388-9915 to be directed to project planners. Donations are being solicited to assist in funding this extraordinary undertaking.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, at Wildersmith, where every border country day is great, and some are even better!

(photos courtesy of loon rescue team)


 
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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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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Northern Sky: September 17 - 30

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

In the evening sky, the Summer Triangle high in the south, binoculars needed for the Coathanger, and Venus low in the west; Mercury best seen in the morning sky on September 29; Jupiter moves from the evening to the morning sky; the Fall Equinox on September 22; and in news: a cryovolcano on the dwarf planet Ceres.

(photo of the Summer Triangle by NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 16

It hardly seems possible we are at the half-way point of September. The northland universe will be celebrating the full “wild rice” moon with our Ojibwe neighbors this weekend, and by this time next week the seasonal equinox makes autumn official, heading us off toward many beautiful days until the white stuff arrives.  Time sure flies by when you’re having fun.  

Our fall prelude continues as the first leaves are parting ways with their summer connections. The original “golden arches” are convening over many back country roads with an aura of birch leaflets intensifying in a big way since we last met. Over the past few days, what sugar maples we have along the Mile O Pine have begun surrendering chlorophyll for their scarlet blush and some of the coniferous crowd is displaying ebbing tawny needles of years past. Last but not least, on a couple damp dreary days, I actually got a whiff of the magical harvest time forest aroma. How sweet all of this is!  

Atmospheric conditions have had their good moments over the past segment with both sun and clouds. While a heavenly blessing for this neighborhood came in a couple nice showers yielding three-fourths of an inch, thus keeping wildfire danger at bay.

Another sign of the times was a forecast of cooling temps, highlighted by a potential for our first frost.  By the time this scoop hits the air streams, we out this way will confirm if the prognostication was just one of those “ten percent” chances with which we are so often encumbered.       

Further evidence of our daily cadence changing has been seen overhead. Several flocks of those Canadian honkers have winged aloft in recent days. At least one flock has been observed setting down on the Gunflint Gal for an overnight. One of our Gunflint lakeside neighbors captured a spectacular digital rendering of them lifting off southward bound, after their brief stay. For a look, check this out on the Wildersmith column at WTIP.org.  

Bear traffic throughout the territory seems almost more prolific than the tourists now. I see them with regularity, and if not the “Brunos” in person, their “scatty” calling cards.

In one amusing observation, I saw one standing upright along county road #20 (South Gunflint Lake road) near a mail box. The black bruin looked as if it might be checking for a sweet delivery as it sniffed at the unit and grabbed at the door. The entire happening had a distinct (time to get the mail) human look. Finally as my vehicle neared, the big “Teddy” spooked and scrambled off into the roadside brush.      

In another wild encounter, a huge bull moose was caught crossing Loon Lake Road by a couple residents. The big fellow lumbered across in front of their vehicle, then turned around and marched right at them before stopping a short distance away. Guess it might have been as curious about this humming machine, as were the occupants inside about him. Or maybe, since they are known to have poor eyesight, it might have been swooning over this large rumbling monster (with headlights for eyes) as a potential romantic encounter. In any event, he didn’t realize he was posing for a photo op. Several pics were snapped and one has been shared with me, and I in turn share one with you.  Yes everyone, there are moose in the woods! Take another look at WTIP.org and click on the Wildersmith commentary, this guy’s a beauty! 

Dock time along Gunflint Lake at Smiths’, as on other area lakes around sundown, mirrors unimagined beauty rippling across crystal border country waters. The gamut of colors can be mind boggling, sometimes changing from moment to moment and always based on happenings high in the stratosphere. From breathtaking cotton candy pink to dark charcoal and most every tint in-between, this glorious natural liquid pigmentation through heavenly reflection has been going on since the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, this aqueous daily occurrence is most likely taken for granted by the bulk of the human race, often putting such beauty in jeopardy through their decisions and actions. However, those of us living around the glacier filled basins of the Superior National forest cherish the creation of this blessing and the joy it can bring to everyone’s lives. One would hope an ever-expanding America might come to its senses soon and stop trying to tamper with what “Mother Nature” has provided here in the Northland. Clean, clear, “water is life.” 

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every northwoods day is great and some are even better!
 
 (geese photo by Betty Hemsted; moose photo by Joanne and Paul Johnson)
 

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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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A Year in the Wilderness: September 13 - Winding down

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 Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Belted kingfisher

North Woods Naturalist: Belted kingfishers

They’re blue and somewhat stocky and you’ll always see them around water. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about belted kingfishers and their strange nesting habit.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Seng on Flickr)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 9

One full September week is into the books for Gunflint Country, and all is well. The color of autumn is increasing with each passing day. Juvenile birch trees are beginning to light up the forest and the last flowering blossoms of our warm season add an accent to any trip along a back country path.

By the way, most tail-end blooms are asters, and they are the most vibrant lavender/purple tint I’ve seen in recent years. Makes me wonder if there is any atmospheric significance to this deep purplish hue; like it's been a great summer growing season, or could it mean a swell fall ahead, or could it be forecasting a mean winter. Regardless, the mini daisy-like flowers have month nine, “busting out all over.”

Shades of scarlet can be found twinkling in the September sun, too. Highbush cranberries, wild rose hips and mountain ash fruit are at their pigment pinnacle, shining like holly berries in December. Truly, Gunflint territory is on the verge of stained glass splendor. My advice, don’t miss it!

Caravans of vehicles paraded to Chik-Wauk last Sunday for not only a splendid time in the north woods but also the big pie/ice cream eat-a-thon. What a day for enjoying the sweetness of this special place, in addition to consuming several hundred pieces of home-made pie and dips of creamy frozen goodness. Thanks to GTHS organizer, Judy Edlund, and her great crew of pastry artisans and servers for dishing up a flavorful afternoon in border country.

Last week's commentary about minimal Ursus observations this summer had “bearly” passed over the radio/website waves when I was deluged with recent sighting reports. So bears are on the move. A number of folks along the Mile O Pine have reported “Brunos” in the past week, yours truly included. The one I observed was a medium sized critter while others have seen momma, poppa and/or cub examples.

Vandalism announcements are pretty quiet to date, although there has been one incident of a bruin breaking into and entering a guest cabin down at Gunflint Lodge. In this case guests found a bear sitting in the kitchen area munching on a plate of cookies. Guess the resident had left a batch near a window sill and this guy/gal just couldn’t resist, breaking the glass to get at the sweet morsels. One would suppose there were a few moments of commotion and the bear made a rapid exit by way of its entry. Other than broken glass and a lost batch of goodies, it was a no-harm, no-foul, ending, but surely a vacation to remember for those guests.

Speaking of pests, while sitting on the dock watching those magnificent “Canadian Sunsets” over the past week, it seems we’ve had a late hatching of mosquitoes. They are a bit smaller than cousins of the previous months, but are nonetheless just as pesky in terms of nipping, as the sun makes its daily descent.

As we have sailed past the Labor Day holiday, seasonal neighbors are starting to pack it up. A few have already headed to cold season digs southward. But then again, living at 48 degrees north, there are not many other ways to go.

I see boats being brought in for winterizing while summer docking units are coming ashore. Meanwhile, those of us year-around folks are tending to firewood stacks for 2017 as this coming winter's fuel is already in the shed.

Yours truly has been putting off staining efforts on Wildersmith buildings until bug season lessened. So, for the most part, there are no more excuses for putting it off, one down and four to go with even more “getting ready for winter” chores looming.

A reminder is extended to area residents and visitors about the last Gunflint Trail Historical Society membership meeting of the season. The group will gather at the Schaap (mid-Trail) Community center this coming Monday, September 12, at 1:30 pm.

In addition to treats being served, a sweet program is in the offing with Nancy Waver from Trout Lake Lodge speaking of their facility's 70 years of operations. And frosting on the day's program cake will come in a video/slide presentation of the recent GTHS volunteers shaping timbers for our boat shelter project. As we wood chippers learned during our sawing adventure, be there or be square!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where Gunflint days are always great, and some, are even better!

(Photo courtesy of srf1957 on Flickr)

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