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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:
Witch Head Nebula

Northern Sky: February 4 - 17

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

Venus starts its drop into the sunset with February 17 being one of the best times for viewing. Mars can be seen to the upper left of Venus.

A full moon can be seen on February 10 with a penumbral eclipse at 5:12 pm.

 

(Photo by Stuart Rankin on Flickr)

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Clare Shirley

West End News: February 2

Clare Shirley is the voice of the West End News. Clare is a fifth-generation local, and third-generation canoe outfitter, from Cook County's West End.

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Raven in Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 27

Hard to believe month one is almost history. It’s fading as fast as our winter has over the past several days. The weather outside’s been frightfully warm.

Things are melting away like it was March/April, pretty sad for the north woods mood of hearty folks enduring grizzly conditions in January. But it is what it is.  With roof tops dripping and ground level slush, we’re covered from top to bottom in extreme climate evolution.

This trend we’ve been experiencing in recent days makes for many hardships. Most of which surely involve complications for business owners who depend upon our usual winter to enable activities for sustaining their operations.

It would appear cross country ski trails might be taking the biggest hit. Considerable manpower and time will be needed to bring them back to acceptable status when cold normalcy returns. Meanwhile, I hear power sledders mucking through the slop on Gunflint Lake as they traverse to ice fishing spots or to the next shoreline trail access. It’s a real mess!

Personally, moving about our place has required enhanced caution on slippery surfaces to maintain the vertical.

And, for the second time this year vehicle use of my driveway incline has been stymied for fear of being stuck at the bottom in an unenviable position until spring.

This untimely thawing couldn’t have come at a worse time for organizers of the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon traveling into the territory this weekend. Unless a turn-around should bring some cold and new snow, one has to feel for the stars of the show as they journey on what will likely be difficult trail conditions. Further, should temps be way above zero, like they’ve been lately, the difficulty rating is made even worse?

Let’s hope “old man winter” gets a grip and shows his true stuff for this great event.

One could guess the warm spell might have the “wild neighborhood” critters confused. However, they probably adapt better than we two legged invasives. So the beat goes on in the animal kingdom,

The less than bitter weather enabled yours truly to venture out for a brush burning exercise last week. During the time, my activity must have summoned the curiosity of a raven. The jet black bird settled into the tree tops not far from the ascending puffs of smoke.

It proceeded to strike up a conversation which I soon believed must be directed at myself. After a few indiscernible “awks,” I sent back a few of my own. Obviously not knowing what I was “awking” about, the two of us exchanged small talk for a few minutes. The ebony creature must have tired of the chitchat because it eventually took off into the wild blue yonder.

I’m betting it probably wondered what kind of a “boob” could have been speaking in such meaningless jargon. Somehow, it was fun to imagine this gabby one might just have enjoyed sharing the afternoon goings-on with this old guy.

A story of another intriguing animal happening came my way recently. During the cold snap of mid-month, seemingly a distant memory now, an unusual visitor came down the chimney at a place near end of the Trail. This had nothing to do with the bearded, jolly old soul in a red suit as one might visualize.

I’m told a curious, and maybe cold pine marten found “up on the house top” access to an opening in a fire place chimney. Apparently exploring what this black hole was all about, it lost its grip and slid down the sooty chute landing with a plop in the firebox.

Luckily the residents’ had the firebox glass doors closed so the furry critter did not get loose into the house. Needless to say panic set in for both the animal and the gal of the house.

The frightened animal made all kinds of commotion but was in no way going to get out the way it came in. A connection with her spouse brought him to the rescue and eventually a friend.  Considering several options, it was decided to give live trapping a try. This had to be of concern as opening those glass doors to wide could have resulted in a disastrous chase around the house.

In the end, baiting up the trap at first didn’t work as the scared/angry critter would not make a complete entry. Eventually moving the bait to end of the trap enticed “piney” to enter fully and in so doing, bang, the trap door dropped close.

Much to the relief of all concerned it was incarcerated and escorted out doors where a release to the custody of “Mother Nature” ensued. All’s well that ends well, perhaps lessons learned by both man and a nosey beast!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and most any adventure is possible!
 
 
 

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Skijoring in Montana

West End News: January 26

I know I’m not the first to tell you but, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is all set to make its way through our lovely West End again this year, starting on Sunday, January 29. The race runs nearly 400 miles and is the longest sled dog race in the lower 48 states. It’s a qualifier for the famed Iditarod race in Alaska and as such draws some really world class mushers.

You can check out the mushers and their dog teams between 9am and 11am on Sunday, January 29, at the start point, the Highway 2 gravel pit in Two Harbors. You can park at the Lake County Fairgrounds and ride a free shuttle bus there. At 11am sharp, the race begins.

If you want to see some action a little closer to home, there is a checkpoint on the Sawbill Trail at the intersection with the 600 Road. For the uninitiated, that’s about 5-1/2 miles up the Sawbill Trail, which starts in Tofte right by the Tofte General Store. If you want to catch them, teams will probably be rolling into the checkpoint between 5pm and 10pm on Sunday, and leaving again starting around midnight.

When I was little, I don’t think there was anything more exciting than hanging out at the Sawbill checkpoint, watching the mushers feed and care for their dogs while they took some much needed rest time. I remember being particularly impressed with the famous musher Susan Butcher. My parents still have one of my childhood drawings of Susan and her team.

Perhaps it’s that fond childhood memory that got me interested in skijoring, as a fan if not a participant. In Minnesota, skijoring is the practice of cross-country skiing while being harnessed to a dog, who is hopefully pulling you in a nice straight line. If you’ve been up to Sawbill in the last year, you’ve likely met my favorite skijoring team, Huckleberry the springer spaniel, and my husband Dan. Huck is nothing if not enthusiastic, but after about a mile of pulling he suddenly finds every last twig on the side of the road irresistible, and needs to stop, frequently, to investigate.

If this were the Wild West End News, we’d be talking about a whole different kind of skijoring. In Montana, where we used to live, they take it to a whole other level. Those skijorers strap on downhill skis and are pulled behind horses, using the same kind of tow rope you’d see a water skier hang on to. The intrepid skier holds on for all their worth while their horseback riding partner pulls them through a course, complete with turns and jumps. It’s quite the spectacle that makes me sort of appreciate Huck’s laid back approach to the sport.

We’ve been resigned to mostly skiing on the road up here, as the lake is totally covered in a deep layer of slushy water, hovering dangerously underneath a few inches of snow. I discovered this the hard way, when Huck decided to head for the Alton portage against our better judgment. I marched out to retrieve him, and within seconds my boots were full of icy water. My dad Bill has made falling through the ice up here something of a yearly tradition. While I very much value lots of our family traditions, this is one that I’m willing to let go of. I hustled back to shore as quickly as I could, and sloshed home cursing the January thaw.

The thaw is right on time though to inspire dreams of open water and summer Boundary Waters trips. Permits to enter the Boundary Waters can now be reserved for this coming summer. Check out www.recreation.gov to snag a permit for your favorite West End entry point to our beloved canoe country Wilderness.

(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Connors)

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSP: Cook County's "Operation Skywatch" during the Cold War era

During the 1950s Cook County participated in "Operation Skywatch" -- a nation-wide organization utilizing local citizens to watch the skies for possible Russian aircraft.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, WTIP's Martha Marnocha talks with Nona Smith and Gary Nelson about their memories of this Cold War-era volunteer organization.

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Northern Sky: January 21 - February 3

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

A waning moon in the morning sky late in January; Jupiter is brilliant and high in the south with Saturn low in the southeast. A crescent moon hangs above Mercury on January 25.

Venus is the brightest planet, seen in the southwest; Sirius - the brightest star - can be seen in the southeast.

(Photo by Michael Wilson on Flickr)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 20

My usual Sunday night exercise of putting the Gunflint scoop together finds the “great old man of the north” taking a break. The “cool north woods” fellow has been working overtime producing some real bitterness in the air, and must be totally out of cold breath.                                                                 

After the coldest night of the season a week ago Friday, with minus 36 at Wildersmith, a sun bathed upper Trail zoomed up to the teens and twenties by Sunday afternoon. As this report airs, forecasters predict some January thawing. Drip, drip yuck, this isn’t necessary until April.                            

Five inches was added over the past week bringing our seasonal total of snow in this neighborhood to 41 3/4-inches. Moving around here in the woods over the past week confirms on-the-ground depth to between knee and thigh deep.

It’s waning now, but how about that full, “great spirit moon.”  Clear, bitter cold nights found the “old lunar guy” casting his bluish splendor over the still, white mountain sides. Talk about spectacular!  A gal over on Hungry Jack Lake captured some of the magic and I share them with you here on the WTIP website.

Folks have come down with “fishing fever” since our last radio gathering.  First sign of the near epidemic cropped up last Friday as ice shanties started popping up on area lakes. This appearance of instant villages on ice came in prep for the opening day of lake trout angling. If one were to view this area from space, the little black shacks might look like snow fleas.

An avid fisher fellow, who shall remain nameless, experienced a quadruple of calamities on the Gunflint gal during opening day. To be ready at the brink of dawn, he set up his hut on Friday afternoon and preceded to auger his hole in the ice. Posting his DNR overnight hovel permit, all was in readiness so he retired to his cabin.

In the midst of 20-something below zero the next morning, and full of excitement to drop a line, he opened his shack door only to find a foot of water had flooded his quarters. Calamity number one, and bailing out was initiated, then came a decision to just pull up and move the entire unit to a more favorable location.

This plan brought about the second of his debacles. Lake water had seeped under and around the base of his unit, freezing it into the icy surroundings. So a chopping, he commenced. After nearly three hours of hacking and sweating, it was free, but unusable. In the meantime, he dropped a tip-up line into the waters only to have a hit dispatch the hook and get away while he set up a make-shift wind breaker.

To make matters more frustrating, the third of his misfortunes was discovered while dragging the shanty to shore, his shack permit was lost, apparently blowing away down the lake.

Finally able to catch his breath and maybe a trout, the forth snafu found him dropping a line thru the ice when he got a hit with line tangled in his fingers. Surprised, a brief battle ensued while trying to untangle line from around a finger submerged arm deep in the icy hole. Again the fish jumped off, another catch missed! There were a couple more hit and miss opportunities before a prize was subdued and onto the ice. What a day!

The next days’ catching fortunes proved futile, and a head cold condition he brought with him from suburbia worsened, sadly sending him back to civilization. A discouraging weekend, but he’ll be back. You can’t keep a good fisherman down.

Speaking of ice activities, the fisher guy let me know Gunflint ice where he drilled was at 10 inches with slush firmed up. A subsequent report from others report hard water accumulation up to 14 inches. Another neighbor found a good deal of slush not far away as he buried his more permanent fishing structure in the icy muck while towing it up the lake.

By this time next week the area will be awaiting the howl of another sled dog adventure. Barking hub bub will again center along the mid-Trail as the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon comes through for a lay-over and  eventual turn around during its 400- mile journey from north of Duluth at Two Harbors. Most of the activity out this way will happen through the day on Monday. Look at the Beargrease website for more details.

Speaking of dogsledding, if one has not experienced a sled ride pulled by canines, it surely might be one to include on the old “bucket list.” Anyone interested can take advantage of such opportunities right out here in the wild woods. Both Gunflint Lodge and Bearskin Lodge offer dogsledding adventures. Give either of these two facilities a call for details and reserve a date now as conditions are excellent. Believe me, it’ll be a trip back in time to remember!

Another of our good Gunflint neighbors has passed from our midst. Word has been received about the sudden death of Rhoda Serrin. She succumbed at her home in Green Valley, Arizona. She and husband Phil lived and enjoyed their special summer place on West Bearskin Lake for many years. Gunflint Community condolences are extended to Phil, her family and many friends.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and special in so many ways!

(Photos by Nancy Seaton)
 

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West End News: January 19

Music has long been a favorite pastime of many West Enders. After all, what else are you going to do when it gets dark at 4 pm? Whether it’s practicing in your living room, performing for a crowd, or going out to enjoy your friends’ tunes, music often brings us together. This week we have some particularly exciting music news, though. Lutsen’s own Cobi (known to us as Jacob Schmidt) will be performing live on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Monday, January 23.

Many locals will remember hearing Cobi play his guitar in a number of different settings when he was growing up in Lutsen. Most recently, he was home playing a few shows with his equally musical brother, Josh, who plays with the Minneapolis-based band, Step Rockets. Cobi’s 2016 single, Don’t You Cry For Me, has been played more than 20 million times, and counting, on the popular music streaming service Spotify. A simple Google search for Cobi, Don’t You Cry For Me, will show his music video for the song. You can also check out his music and videos on Facebook, just search for Cobi. So go look him up, show him some love from his hometown, and don’t forget to tune in to The Tonight Show on NBC on Monday, January 23, to see him live.

Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte is bringing people together every Wednesday night this winter for soup, conversation, and, you guessed it, music. On Wednesdays, from 5:30 to 7, you are invited to join a fun group of folks at Zoar. Soup is provided (rumor has it that it’s always delicious) and Dave Gustafson provides some musical entertainment. It’s a nice way to break up your work-week with a little socializing.

Lutsen Resort is happy to announce that Chef Ian Heieie has joined the resort to lead their culinary team. Ian comes to Lutsen by way of the popular Minneapolis restaurant, The Bachelor Farmer. To celebrate, they are holding a “Meet the Chef” dinner on Saturday, February 4, at 6:30 pm. It will be an intimate 4-course dinner presented by Chef Ian with wine pairings by Lutsen’s North Shore Winery. Chef Ian will be serving dishes prepared with a farm-raised Mangalitsa boar from Yker Acres farm down in Carlton. I can personally attest to the excellent quality of Yker Acres pork, so I imagine this dinner will be outstanding. Cost is $50 per person, and for reservations call Lutsen Resort at 1-888-887-5502.

Lake Trout fishing is open now, and the January thaw has people heading for the lakes. Winter campers up in our area have gone as far north as Cherokee Lake, giving us some insight into conditions on many inland lakes. They report that there is a fair amount of slush still in some spots, so snowshoes are recommended for travel. Overall, the ice thickness is generally around 15 inches, although one group did encounter thin, bad ice on Brule where the Temperance River exits the lake. The same group actually fell through the ice on another small lake where flowing water at the inlet and outlet has apparently kept much ice from forming. They were prepared so no harm done. So while you’re out there chasing lunkers, be sure to check ice depths and be aware of your beautiful, but unforgiving, surroundings.

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

(Photo courtesy of Ken Lane on Flickr)

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 Red squirrel in winter

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 13

Official winter on the Gunflint is nearly a month old, and winter it is. Following our last radio visit, a couple snow days at Wildersmith netted eight more inches for the seasonal total.

Beyond this feature, the neighborhood has been cold, really cold! As I begin this report around the Smith place, six out of the past eight days have failed to see the mercury eclipse the zero mark with most warming only into the teens below. This past Sunday was the first in several where the thermometer finally jumped to near zero. It’s amazing how warm it can feel at zero after what we’ve experienced.

Cold as last Saturday was (getting up to minus single digits) one would never know it was such with enthusiasm over flowing along the upper Trail. Sled dogs and their mushers had the spotlight for the much anticipated Gunflint Mail Run.

Trails through the woods were spectacular and fast as hundreds of handlers, volunteers and spectators cheered the frost-covered teams during their symbolic mail delivery journeys. In the end two winners were crowned.  The eight dog (seventy mile) race was won by Chad Schouweiler of Irma, Wisconsin. While in the twelve dog (110 mile section), Ryan Redington of Ashland, Wisconsin lead the pack to the finish.

The weekend of colorful activities was another splendid sampling of the Gunflint community coming together in celebration of our natural world decked out in white. Congratulations and thanks go out to organizer, Cathy Quinn and near one hundred volunteers for all the time and hard work show casing a bit of Gunflint history and the magic of what we Gunflinters cherish every day.

A big thank you is further extended to many wonderful sponsors for providing essential resources. Of course, special recognition goes to Sarah Hamilton and her dedicated staff at Trail Center Restaurant for the superb hospitality as the event host.

Last but surely not in the least, a great bunch of mushers, their support teams along with stars of the show, their canine heroes, merit our gratitude for coming to the Gunflint.  

Before and after last weekends’ barking happenings, the peace and quiet of the forest has prevailed except for a moment of frenzy between yours truly and one of those pesky red squirrels. It took place at our deck side feeder one morning. This could be one of those believe it or not trivia, but believe me, it happened. A little background “info” is necessary to set the scene.

Each day I set out two ears of corn, attached to small platforms with a screw protruding to hold the cobs in place. The items are for any critter willing to gnaw on them, but generally they are stripped by the blue jays and/or squirrels in a matter of minutes to an hour or so.

The shelled cobs are then left in place until the next day when I collect them, replacing with refills. These cobs are saved for fire starters in the wood burning stove. The saga begins now, only a few mornings ago.

In the process of putting provisions out for the day, I removed one cob from its connection and laid it on the seed tray while I proceeded on to the next station. Out of the corner of my eye, a blurr caught my attention. Looking toward the source, a squirrel had darted up on the rail and grabbed the shorn cob. Immediately “little red” began to nibble on the end and then decided to abscond with the prize.

Without giving much thought, I started hollering at the larcenous rodent thinking I could scare it into dropping the cob. Obviously we were not in the same communication mode because it paid no attention, and made off down the rail, cob in its jaws.

In a few steps, I caught up to where a tree branch provided escape potential for the little varmint. For some unknown reason, it decided to stop, right in front of me. The two of us were now barely a foot apart. Surprised I could get this close, I made a quick stab at the stolen goods. Unbelievably, the red critter offered no resistance as I took my belonging right from its tiny paws.

The little gal/guy then made a leap to the adjacent tree, perching on a nearby branch, chattering “what for” at me. Again, we were not communicating in understandable terms, but I had a feeling I was catching the devil. Apparently with no hard feelings, my trickster buddy has returned, not missing a meal opportunity since.

So that’s my story, and I stand by it. Sorry, but you really had to be here to fully appreciate. It’s just one more joy of living in the untamed paradise we call border country.

Not all was fun and frolic along the trail this past weekend. The Gunflint community was saddened after receiving word about the death of a longtime neighbor. Don Lease, who lived in the mid-Trail area passed away last Friday in Saint Paul following a brief, but sudden illness. Our sympathies go out to wife Eleanor and his family on the untimely loss of this kind and gentle husband, father, grandfather and friend.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, where every day is great, and full of mysterious goings-on! 
 

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Northern Sky: January 7 - 20

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

Constellations will take center stage with bright winter stars; look for the winter hexagon and winter triangle. Venus will be bright in the southwest with Mars close by, Saturn will be seen in the southeast just before dawn, and Mercury will make a brief visit to the morning sky around January 19.

(Photo by Kabsik Park on Flickr)