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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:
April 2nd Sky

Northern Sky: March 31 - April 13, 2018

Northern Sky - by Deane Morrison for March 31 - April 13, 2018.

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota.
She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.  It can be found on the University of Minnesota website at 
astro.umn.edu.

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Spring Ice

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 30, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      March 30, 2018 
   

Commencing with this weeks’ scoop last Sunday evening, winter and spring are pretty much at a stand-off. Spring tries to take over during daytime and winter digs in again after dark. Who knows what Gunflint conditions will be like as this report airs’.   
                                                                
Whatever the case, it will be what it will be, as March goes into the books... Remembering thirty days ago when we celebrated the “crust on the snow” full moon, it’s de ja vu “in blue” with “a big cheese #2” in our night sky                                                                                                                     
Un-organized territory ushers in April on the shirttail of a month that has been extremely dry at forty-eight degree north. Checking my daily weather journal, March had recorded only a skiff of snow going into its final days before a light couple inches closed down month three.  We forest folks are in hope there will be some catching up with showers of any nature in the next thirty.    
                                                                                                                                     
The landscape in most places up the Trail finds moving about on foot a dangerous endeavor. Several folks are reporting ice build-up in places they’ve never seen before. With our daytime winter oozing, and nightly refreezing, getting around while staying in the upright position has been challenging indeed on uncountable slippery slopes, and it looks to not be improving anytime soon. There are no easy answers to this unaccustomed hard water build-up.

To this point, yours truly has only counted one spin-out onto the ice. Luckily there’s no damage to report, other than my pride.    
                                                                                                                                
Taking our slip-sliding a step further, driveways and roads off the main county arteries offer little relief from this greasy character. So no matter whether one is on foot or behind the wheel, advancing from one place to another right now can be a “white knuckler” experience. Sand and ice grippers are words of the day, every day!                                                                                        
Having not seen a wolf in person for months, the scene changed during the past week when one was observed along the Trail. Although the local pack has been making candid appearances now and then for other Trail observers, I have only come across occasional tracks, scat, and territory marking along the Mile O Pine.     
                                                                                              
Not to shock anyone listening to or reading this Gunflint news, I report being privy to a murder in this neighborhood. My first account of the situation came in early twilight hours one morning recently.    
                                                                                                                                                         
To ease your concerns, I’m talking about a murder of crows, of course! Last week, I mentioned their rackety, yack conversation from afar, and now the ebony critters are gathering in mass most every morning just below our lakeside deck.                                                                                                                 
There has easily been a dozen or two scratching around in what must be at least a trillion sunflower seed remains for breakfast. While it’s a treat when one will actually land up on the deck side feeder, the unique part of their visit is when one is spooked all erupt like a black storm cloud swooping across the sky. Although some may find them less than pleasant among birds, they are spectacular up close in their glistening carbon plumage.  
                                                                                   
Speaking of other things shadowy, I just now read an informative article about night skies. Entitled, DARK MATTERS…IN SEARCH OF A STARRY NIGHT it’s authored by Heather Smith (no relation) in the March/April, SIERRA MAGAZINE. The feature is an illuminating (no pun intended) scribing about our dark night skies and/or the lack thereof.  
                                                                                                                           
 I’m in awe of “seriously dark” northern night skies, free of the polluted glow from “Urbania.” I mean, it’s really dark out here, and often driving the Trail at night finds me thinking I could be driving off into a black hole. 
                                                                                                                          
Another view finds me astonished at visitors coming into border country saying “from where do all these stars come, we don’t have this many back home in suburbia.”  

This reflection of how Euro-American invaders lit up America, thus suppressing the grandeur of the galaxy, reveals many taken for granted facts of light and life. Hope you can get a chance to review this great commentary.     
                                                                                                                                                                
By the way, our “full moon” will be doing a little celestial subduing of its own this weekend. Happening every twenty-eight days, blame for this override of dark night starry brilliance can only be pinned on the “Big Bang Theory.” Once a month, mankind is not in command of flipping the switch.   
                                                                                                                                                   
As a closing, note, the Gunflint Trail Community bids farewell to Don and Marilyn Kufal as they retire from Gunflint Lodge and head off to Florida for new opportunities. For many years, Don has been a pillar of service to the Community through his efforts with the GTVFD. He has touched many lives during this time and the Community is in-debited to him for his dedication to making this volunteer fire and rescue department the very best it could be. Thanks to the Kufals’, and we wish them the best of luck on their next journey!    
                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day and night is great, featuring boundless, heaven to earth adventure!
 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 30, 2018

National Forest Update – March 29, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  This is a season of change, so there are a lot of things going on in the Forest that you should be aware of.

The biggest change that happens every spring is the change of frozen water to liquid.  For us, that means that unpaved roads in the Forest are changing from hard concrete to mushy sponges.  In response to this change, the state, county, and Forest impose load restrictions in the spring.  Weight restrictions went into effect March 22 for many state, county, and Forest roads.  In most cases, the restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of eight weeks.  For details on what this means, visit ‘Current Conditions’ page of the Superior National Forest’s website for links to all the state and county road restriction pages.

Even if you are driving a lightweight vehicle well within the guidelines, these restrictions should be a signal to drive with extra caution.  This time of year, there are always portions of roads that wash out, and the state of the roadway will change significantly between north facing and south facing slopes, and between shady and sunlit areas.  When driving, if you are in a place where you have concerns, don’t hesitate to stop in a safe place, get out of your vehicle and inspect the road before you attempt to drive on.  Before you go, check our website for any alerts about washouts along your route.  Getting stuck in the mud is no fun at all, so be patient and realize that you may have to take a few detours.

You may be sharing the road with some timber hauling.  Hauling is taking place on the Firebox and Greenwood Road, and on the Stoney Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.  This will take place as conditions permit, which is to say when the roads are solid.  Some of this hauling will take place at night when the temperature is lower, so be cautious if you are driving in these areas after dark.

As spring moves on, we are losing ice slowly from our lakes.  There is still a fairly thick layer of ice on most inland lakes, but if you are ice fishing, you should always be checking for yourself.  One suggestion is to bring along a cordless drill and a 5/8 inch wood auger bit – the kind with a spiral flute on it.  With that equipment, it is easy to drill a quick hole in the ice and check the depth with a tape measure.  If you are fishing, the trout season ends the weekend of April 1, and walleye season has already closed.  Check the DNR fishing regulations before you go, and bring your license.

Ski and snowmobile trails are deteriorating as well.  Our website has links to all our partners who groom the ski trails so you can get current trail conditions.  There are also links to the DNR snowmobile trail conditions site, but things change faster in the spring than websites can track.  Use your discretion and if it looks like you’ll damage the trail with your machine, don’t use it.

However, spring isn’t all mud and trail deterioration.  There’s a lot of animal activity.  Bears have been spotted in the area, and they will be headed for their favorite bird feeders because there isn’t a lot of other food out there right now.  If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of deer on the road right now.  They are drawn to roadsides where melting snow has exposed the grass.  Slow down, and keep your eyes peeled for when the herd decides the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  We’ve also had a lot of reports of howling coyotes recently.  Coyotes are known in some parts of the country as song dogs or yodel dogs, and it can be a wonderful experience to hear them singing to the moon on a still night. Coyotes are not going to bother people, but they don’t particularly care for dogs in their territory, so keep an eye on your pup when they head out to relieve themselves. 

All these animals are stirring with the warmth.  Even with the mud, and the soggy roads, you can probably feel it yourself.  It’s spring, and time to get outside and enjoy the sun. 

Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Castle Danger Brewery's White Pine Project

CJ Heithoff talks with Castle Danger Brewery's Marketing and Events Coordinator, Maddy Stewart about their White Pine Project.

The brewery will be giving away 2000 white pine seedlings this spring in hopes of reestablishing the white pine population along the North Shore.

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Lady and the Scamp # 2 - Cilla Walford

Travels with Sarah - Part 2
 
Sarah-the-dog loved me long before I learned to love her. I had not realized the depth of her love for me until the spring morning I left her outside the May Day Café under the supervision of the outdoors coffee drinkers while I went inside to buy a cup of tea and a pastry to share on our walk. When I came out, Sarah squirmed with relief on seeing me again. She was still learning that when I left her, I would always come back. 
A woman sitting at one of the outside tables said: “She adores you” as I gathered up Sarah’s leash. “Yes,” I said, “she does” not feeling totally appreciative yet of that burden. As I walked Sarah to Powderhorn Park, I reflected on the commitment I taken on, because clearly my son’s dog had become my dog. The love of a dog. And how long for? Ten years? Sarah ran ahead sniffing the park’s aromas. As I waited for her to nose at the pee stains streaking the exterior of the nearest garbage can,  and lift her leg to pee up as far as she could, trying to emulate the big boys, I thought: Ten years of this is going to be a very long time.
 
Of course, it wasn’t only ten years of just sniffing other dogs’ pee, although there was a lot of that. In fact there had been fifteen years of walks, and morning tea and Digestive biscuits in bed together, and sitting together on the couch reading, or her sitting at my feet while I wrote, and both of us frolicking in the snow and the autumn leaves and flopping in the shade on hot summer days or swimming together in a lake or the St Croix River, when l decided that now Sarah was getting so old and infirm, I would take an unpaid sabbatical leave from teaching, and spend as much time with her as I possibly could during her last months. I would find that camper van I’d always wanted. We would take a road trip.
 
Ever since I was a child and my friends and I were allowed to sleep in a caravan kept at the bottom of the garden for visitors, I have always wanted to live in one. One of my life’s ambitions was to travel in a small camper van and wake up to a different view every morning. Sarah was already a good travel companion; she loved the car and would sleep on her bed on the front seat while I ran errands. In between errands, we’d stop at one of her walk spots; the Witch’s Tower at Prospect Park, or down by the Mississippi River, or any of the green spaces that abound in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. By this time I was single again, my son was grown up and off on his own, and Sarah and I drove around in an ancient red Mazda Miata. We enjoyed puttering around with the top down. Every early summer I would load up with plants from the garden center and drive home with Sarah surrounded by flowering annuals. Later, she would nibble compost and chase squirrels while I planted.
 
When I bought a 13’ Scamp fiber glass trailer in the spring of 2013, I was fulfilling an old dream.
 
The Scamp became part of the garden for a couple of months while I looked for a car to tow it. My friends would visit and drink tea in her. Sarah and I took afternoon naps in her. Gradually I learned the Scamp’s systems which became less arcane one by one: how to fill the water tanks. How to switch from the 250 volt system to the 12 volt one. How to turn on the propane tank. By the time we were ready to leave on an exploratory road trip, we were both seeing the Scamp as a home from home.
I booked a camping spot for July and August at Grand Marais in northern Minnesota and kitted out the Scamp with new cushion covers and blinds.
Journals, books, laptop, art materials, tea and tea kettle, Digestive biscuits, Marmite and other essential provisions, dog food and clothing were all packed away. After a lesson in hitching up the trailer and towing (I never did get the hang of reversing it) Sarah and I set off to spend the dog days of summer on the cool shores of Lake Superior.
 
The Scamp, Sarah and I are installed in Grand Marais Recreation Park and campground. My neighbours are from Texas and have a 25 foot long top-of-the-line Safari Airstream trailer. The Scamp looks absurd parked alongside; a small, grubby, off-white fibre-glass nobody next to the gleaming aluminum superstar. They are all married couples around me with monosyllabic names; Bob and Shirl, Don and Pat.  One of the husbands has promised me fresh fish the next time he takes his boat out. They are all being very nice to me, the single English lady with the elderly black dog. The woman across the way (new Airstream also) greeted me when I arrived with, “The regulars are glad that you have a small rig; you won’t block our view.” My view is blocked by her humungous Toyota pickup truck, but that’s OK; I’m the newcomer here and grateful for the little patch of scenery I can see between the trucks and the pine trees of the vast lake.
 
Lake Superior stretches away and around and across over to Canada in a great swath of ever changing color; sometimes pewter like the North Sea off the East coast of England where I spent my adolescence, sometimes emerald, sometimes various shades of white or blue. On the shore line, tethered boats rock in front of a sea of pick up trucks, SUVs, and Rvs; trailers with canopies and porches and front gardens and outdoor carpeting and barbecue grills and gadgets: all the paraphernalia of grownups’ playthings. For this campground is a giant playground full of thousands of dollars worth of toys. It is Shangri La.  Everybody is on vacation and there is the unhurried atmosphere of people with not much to do. People stop and chat, admire the dog, comment on the smallness of the Scamp. She is a minnow among Leviathans here; a tiny fish. A Scampi.
 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 23, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      March 23, 2018  
 
Spring has sprung across Gunflint territory, and March remains like a lamb. Question is will winter have a last gasp or has the “old man of the north” called it a season?                                            
Signs of the past week show this neighborhood could be in for extended mud times if the lamb-like conditions continue. I remember though, a few short years ago, up to two feet of winter filled up the Mile O Pine in the last few days of April, while snow has fallen on the walleye fishing opener in May, so we “Gunflinters” should not get too hyped about spring just yet.                                                                                    
Currently, this neck of the woods has been void of measureable moisture in any form for over three weeks. Something has to give soon or we’ll be facing a dangerous situation with receding snow cover. As we know too well, the woods can get explosively dry in one day with high temps and gusty winds.                                                                                                                                                       
In spite of beaming sunny days during the past week, we are still making ice at night, but perhaps we are beyond the sub-zero stuff. To this point, it has been a slow melt up at this end of the Trail. Ice locked lakes have a good deal of snow cover with as much as one to two feet on top of frozen water.                                                                                                                                    
As the close of trout season is but a week away, several ice fishing people tell of needing extensions on their auger units to access water. Guess there can be anywhere from two to four feet of hard water depending on the drilling site. This being said, we are likely a ways from ice out.                                                                                                                                                                          
Foretelling what’s in store during this budding vernal transition is up in the air. Nevertheless, early indicators are readily perking up throughout the wilderness.                                      
 I’m noticing wells forming at the base of trees in the yard. This situation points to the fact our forest canopy is soaking up the powerful rays, stimulating juices of life to renew the run skyward.                                                                                                                                                        
Speaking further of the forest around us, during a trip down and then back up the Trail, it appears the coniferous characters are suddenly sparkling with a brighter shade of virescent (green) after bearing up under mounds of snow and a drab army green tone since late October..   
With tree juices beginning to run, north land syrup makers are surely getting into the “tap a tree/or trees a day” routine. Although the upper Trail does not have a quantity of maples to provide a serious boiling effort, there’s a trio of sap tappers along Gunflint Lake who will likely be at it soon. They aptly call themselves the “three sap suckers”, and while their yield may not be measured in gallons, they have a swell time consuming a little ale and watching sap boil to sweetness.                                                                                                                                                       
Another sign of spring times was observed recently when I came across one of the first hibernators. In this case, it was one of those black and white aromatic dispensers. The “skunky” critter was found on the Trail as a casualty of not looking before crossing, therefore deceased, before it had much time to celebrate the season of re-birth.                                                                               
As yet, I’ve not heard of any bear appearances. However, those mommas might be getting restless after a couple months cooped up with hungry cubs and getting a whiff of warmer air.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
As we close in on the “fools’ day” of April, canine family babies are but days, to just a few weeks away from coming into this world. Neighbors down the road are hearing coyotes at night, with a trio of them making darkness hour visits to their bird feeding remains. In another “howling “ note, the Gunflint/ Loon Lake wolf pack has been spotted down at the east end of Gunflint Lake, eight members strong.                                                                                                                                                           
From southerly heavens, crows have returned to the area with a chorus of rackety, yack, while air traffic at the Wildersmith feeders has slowed as other avian kin have taken to nesting in preparation for continuing their species.                                                                                                                                            
So the advance of cold to warm is on. It’s sad, the crystal beauty covering up “Mother Natures’ rough edge is giving way to this not too comely time of year. Biding our time, we beings of the northern universe anxiously look for the days of June to blossom with emerald camo.                                                                                                                                                                       
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we trade mukluks for knee high galoshes.
 
 
 

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West End News - March 22, 2018

West End News 3/22/18

You may have noticed a lapse in the West End News last week. Well, rest assured, I have a good excuse! I was out of town on my first trip to our nation’s capital, Washington DC. I had the good fortune to be invited to join a group of intelligent, well-spoken, and extremely well-informed people to lobby Congress. We were there to visit with Senators and a few Representatives regarding the proposed land-swap that would give almost 7,000 acres of Superior National Forest land to the Glencore company, the parent company for the PolyMet mine outside of Duluth.

The Forest Service already approved the land-swap, but the agency valued the land at 550 dollars per acre. In case you haven’t looked at the price of land in Northern Minnesota recently, that’s pretty darn cheap. The valuation is being challenged in court in four separate lawsuits. This is the normal process for a land-swap of this nature. An important part of the process is the opportunity for public input and judicial review. If Congress decides to force the land-swap through, it will nullify these lawsuits and remove any opportunity for public input. Effectively taking our public lands and putting them in the hands of a foreign corporation for a song. This is a bad economic deal for Minnesotans, never mind the environmental consequences.

Our Minnesota senators are silent on this issue at best. At worst, they are actively supporting the passage of this legislation. Congress is working on a budget bill, as this West End News airs, and rumor has it that the land-swap bill will be added on to the budget bill as a rider. If you, like me, don’t think this the right avenue for this project, please call senators Amy Klobuchar, Tina Smith, and Chuck Schumer, today and let them know.

Speaking of the water quality of Lake Superior…
This Saturday, March 24th at 10 am Sugarloaf Cove will be presenting the program “Taking Lake Superior’s Temperature.” You don’t have to be a scientist to know that Lake Superior is big and deep. These factors make it difficult to collect data such as temperature and water quality. Fortunately, the University of Minnesota’s Large Lakes Observatory and the EPA have come up with a solution – gliders.

On Saturday, you can join EPA researcher Tom Hollenhorst at Sugarloaf Cove where he will take you on a journey through the waters of Lake Superior. Tom will explain gliders, also known as autonomous underwater vehicles, which collect data by diving down into the water column and back to the surface as they travel according to programmed GPS coordinates. All the while they continuously measure things like water temperature, particles in the water, chlorophyll and colored dissolved organic matter.
There is a suggested donation of $5 per person or $10 per family for this event. Sugarloaf Cove nature center is located on the lakeside of highway 61 just past mile marker 73.

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

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Predawn Sky SSW April 2 2018

Northern Sky: Mar 17 - 30

Northern Sky by Deane Morrison -  March 17-30 2018

March came in with a full moon, and it's going out with a full moon. Meanwhile, there's plenty going on in both the morning and evening skies.
 
Look to the south an hour before dawn and you'll see Jupiter blazing away. Then look eastward to see the stars of Scorpius, especially bright red Antares, the heart of the scorpion. Moving east again, we have the Teapot of Sagittarius. Right above the Teapot, Saturn seems to float motionless from day to day. But Mars is moving eastward against the background of stars, and it's rapidly closing in on Saturn. Mars stays to the west of Saturn until the end of March, but in the first week of April it's going to zip right below the ringed planet.
 
If you look above and east of Saturn and Mars, you'll see the Summer Triangle of bright stars high in the southeast. And off to the west of Jupiter, and higher, we have Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern hemisphere of sky. If you're ever in doubt as to which star is Arcturus, you can find it by extending the curve of the Big Dipper's handle.
 
In the evening sky, Venus is low in the west after sunset. So is Mercury, but not for long. The best night to see it was March 15. But now it's fading and dropping toward the sun because it's on its way between Earth and the sun. On the 17th Mercury is to the upper right of Venus, which is by far the brighter planet. On the 18th, a young crescent moon appears with the two planets--that will be lovely. But by the 21st Mercury will have dropped down to the level of Venus, and then it just plummets out of sight.
 
Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is still up. It's somewhat low in the south to southwest after nightfall. If you've never seen it, do take a look. And while you're at it, grab some binoculars and look for the Beehive star cluster, an inconspicuous little jewel that is now high in the south.
 
The Beehive is between two bright stars. One star is Pollux, the brighter of the Gemini twins. To find it, start with Sirius and look up to the bright star Procyon, and then up about the same distance again. The other star is Regulus, the brightest in Leo, the lion. It's east and a little south of Pollux. The Beehive is a bit dim, so you may need a star chart to get its exact location. But seeing it through binoculars is a real treat.
 
The spring equinox arrives at 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, March 20. At that instant, Earth will be lighted from pole to pole and it won't be tilted with respect to the sun. That's because our spring equinox is an inflection point, the point at which the Earth’s orientation to the sun switches so that the Northern Hemisphere starts tilting toward the sun. The tilt changes fastest in the days closest to the equinoxes; therefore, these days we're gaining daylight at the maximum rate, approximately three minutes a day. Also, starting at the spring equinox, days get longer as you travel north.
 
March gets its second full moon on the 31st. This qualifies as another blue moon. The moment of fullness comes at 7:37 a.m. However, the moon sets over Grand Marais at 7:10 that morning. If you want to see the moon at its fullest, you might want to get outside by 6:30, or even earlier if there are obstructions to your view of the western horizon. Or just enjoy it the evening of the 30th.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 17, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      March 16, 2018
    

The northland reaches the mid-point of month three with winter on hold as the “old man of the north” has taken another week of spring vacation. At this scribing, the character of the season remains pretty much in evidence for most of unorganized territory. However, there’s a feeling its days are numbered.                                                                                                          

Since our last meeting on the radio, with only a scant dose of snow, temps have been normal for March to this point. Here in the Wildersmith neighborhood, we’ve had a few nights below zero while mostly sunny skies have provided a rapid recovery into daytime comfort.                                                                                                                                                                        

As the “vernal” season edges ever closer, the power of our “day star” is shrinking roadside snow banks away from the Trail in spite of deep freezing nights. For the time being, the Gunflint Byway is totally clear of winter driving conditions, the first time in many weeks. However, the bleached white beauty of a trek up the Trail is tainted with a grungy look of urban windrows exposing gray sludge and littering remains of human occupation.                                          

Another sign of the times is being revealed as the innards of “mother earth” are moderating to release the frozen grip beneath our only paved access to civilization. This subterranean turmoil is magnifying those jaw-jarring dips in the Trail blacktop. For the traveler not knowing of these hidden locations, the bounce as your vehicle bottoms out and the head hits the roof can be a stunning roller coaster shock.                                                             

Meanwhile, on local unpaved roads, winter to spring driving conditions prevail. Users can expect anything from packed snow to glazed ice, to mud and even a few dry patches. I’m still observing any number of indentations in the ditch snow banks indicating several metropolis visitors have no idea of the need to slow down on our backcountry pathways.                                          
If I wanted to work full time, it seems a towing business could be lucrative. I know of one fellow down the road who has already pulled seven vehicles from the white mire.                                                  

Speaking of littering along the Trail, it would seem appropriate that lake property owner groups might be organizing volunteer crews for a debris pick-up when the snow is gone. According to information from the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, the days of May 14 through May 24th have been established for such policing. Collection bags are to be placed along the Trail for pick-up by the County. Of course, one does not have to wait if the opportunity to pick up some unsightly trash should appear before the organized dates.                        

Another issue has again gained the attention of area residents and businesses. After being discussed a few years ago, the proposal for construction of an ARMER communications tower in the upper Trail region is being re-examined.                                                                                          
ARMER (Allied Radio Matrix for Emergency Response) is Minnesota’s program to connect agencies and public safety departments. MnDot has been legislatively mandated to install towers throughout the state to connect agencies under one communication system.                                                                                                                                

While it may seem hard to argue issues of public safety agency connections, the sacredness of the adjoining BWCA or living in the area of such a tower (not in my backyard) has many in a contentious mood.                                                                                                                                             

MnDOT, Cook County, and the GTVFD are collaborating to examine options to address filling in the current communication voids to the satisfaction of all concerned. Editorially speaking, though changes are never easy, “the process would seem more palatable if such a communication spire could be constructed to look like a tall white pine or a rock on a point of high elevation.” I’d bet it could be done.                                                                                                                                        

A public informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 10th at the Schapp Community Center (mid-Trail). The gathering will begin at 6:00 pm. Everyone is encouraged to attend; become informed, ask questions and explore connecting communications alternatives.       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, while we contemplate more winter or early mud season. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 16, 2018

National Forest Update – March 15, 2018.
 
Hi.  I’m Hayley Henderson, CCMI contractor with the Forest Service, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  We are on the edge of spring but don’t get too excited yet.  Remember that March is one of the heaviest snowfall months of the year and you never know what might happen.
What has happened so far though is some deterioration of our winter trails?  Right now, trails are mostly rated as good, with some icy conditions on south-facing slopes.  With about of warm weather ahead of us though, users should beware of more glazing of trails and possible bare spots.  Snowmobile trails are rated fair to good, with a couple of very goods, but still, watch for soft spots as melting is expected to continue.  But it is March, and we still may be in line for a good dumping of snow before winter is done, so don’t put away your snow toys yet.  Don’t forget that snowmobiles are not permitted on ski trails; we’ve had indications that a couple of people appear to have missed that message.

The roads are much like the trails.  They are still firmly frozen and good for travel, but just be aware that in the sun the layer of frozen snow may be turning to truck-eating mush in the near future.  If you are unsure, get out and check the road before you go down it.

We are coming close to March 19th, the date ice houses must be removed from lakes in northern Minnesota.  Ice fishing will continue, but you cannot leave your house on the ice unoccupied overnight.  Every year, it seems someone pushes the season and ends up floating out into the lake, or having a vehicle drop into the water.  Don’t let it be your embarrassing picture that is in the news; check ice thickness and be careful.  After all, it could be a lot worse than just embarrassment.

There’s still too much snow on the ground to worry about fire danger, though we are sending some of our fire people to southern forests where the fire season has started already.  But, it’s never too early to start thinking about Firewise!  Firewise is the idea that you can help protect your property by managing it in a way that reduces the possibility of a structure fire.  Materials about Firewise are available online and at the Forest Service offices in Tofte and Grand Marais.

There isn’t a lot of timber activity right now on our eastern side of the Forest.  Hauling is taking place on the Greenwood Road, the Firebox Road, the Greenwood Lake Access Road, the Homestead Road in Lutsen, the Caribou Trail, Cook County 39, the Ward Lake Road, and Forest Road 333.  The Firebox Road and Forest Road 333 are also snowmobile trails, so be extra careful traveling on them.

Biologists have been conducting owl surveys at night recently.  This is the time of year when owls can be quite vocal, so they are easy to locate.  Hawks generally have to fly south in the winter because the snow covers the ground and the hawks can’t see the mice to catch them.  Owls, on the other hand, locate their prey by hearing and can hear the mice right through the snow.  This saves owls the work of migrating and also allows them to start nesting long before the hawks arrive to compete with them for nest space and food.  The facial disc that gives owls their distinctive face is actually part of their hearing mechanism.  The visible disc is the edge of a reflector made of harder feathers that works like a satellite dish to bring sound right to their ears. 

Enjoy the warmer weather, and maybe use it to take a walk outside at night and listen for owls.  After all, they are probably listening to you.  Until next time, this has been Hayley Henderson with the National Forest Update. 
 

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