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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:
Chik-Wauk

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 13

Into week two of our fifth month finds spring edging forward, seemingly with two steps forward then one step back. As this scoop hits the keyboard, the upper Gunflint Trail has been a part of extreme temperature swings.    

As last week's column aired, this neck of the woods saw the mercury soar to the 90 degree mark up at Trail's end, and in less than 24 hours, we at Wildersmith awoke to frost on the roof tops.  

All of this has happened under mostly fair skies, in spite of occasional tufts of smoke from the raging Canadian wildfire in Alberta. Fair skies obviously have left this area moisture starved with barely a few sprinkles since our return of a week ago.  

So we Gunflinters are in grave wildfire danger too. At this writing, folks remain on pins and needles wondering why responsible agencies have not invoked total burning bans in the county, knowing about 98 percent of all wildfires are caused by human actions. 

It’s particularly nerve racking remembering that nine years ago at this time, the territory was under searing siege due to a judgmental error by a lone camper. The resulting historic Ham Lake Fire torched 75,000 acres of the border country and destroyed over 140 upper Trail property structures. 

Needless to say, residents are quickly getting their wildfire sprinkler systems up and running. Yours truly has been into the cold lake placing pump lines and firing up the three units for which I have responsibility. Wildersmith is ready, hoping the need for pumping does not become a reality.  

Speaking of the cold lake, it was so cold my hands ached in a matter of seconds when dipped into the icy liquid. The rest of me was covered in deep sea wet suit protection. Going through this annual exercise is always a keen reminder of how dangerous the water can be soon after ice out. By the way, the water temp was in the mid to upper 30s as I took my first dip of 2016, brrrr!  

With cool temps and dwindling patches of piled snow, the eighth annual “Ham Run” half marathon and 5k run were celebrated last Saturday. The event, held in commemoration of human survival and forest re-birth following the horrendous Ham Lake burn of 2007, saw over 140 runners in the two events.

The anniversary of the running was a happy time, as have been the previous seven, with sunny skies guiding runners along this taxing, but most scenic course in the universe. Thanks go out to organizers, sponsors, and dozens of volunteers for making it happen. 

As May ends week two, excitement is building at the Chik-Wauk Museum site. The Museum will be opening for its seventh season. Meanwhile, final touches are being applied to the new Nature Center building project. Along with the new Nature Center exhibits and programming, the Museum is featuring a spectacular new temporary exhibit spotlighting “Birds of the Gunflint Wilderness.” Both facilities will open on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.  

I’ve had a sneak preview of the new NC facility. The exhibits are simply stunning as the Nature Center planning committee, in concert with the Split Rock Studios’ designers, have put together another splendid component for sharing more of the Gunflint story.  Gunflint Trail residents and visitors alike will want to make the historic resort site a destination choice for this summer. The new Nature Center and museum temporary exhibit is a must see. Special Nature Center programming events can be monitored on the Chik-Wauk website.         

This week's commentary finds me reporting a first bear sighting. It was a momma and her triplet cubs plotting a breaking and entering of the garbage canisters site along the Trail.

In another critter episode, a fellow reports the sighting of an adolescent moose having apparently received a snort from momma to get out on its own. This rejection must have been in favor of a new arrival. Guess the forlorn youngster was wondering aimlessly, looking as confused as a freshman going to the first day of high school.  

On a final “wild neighborhood” note, after telling of snowshoe hares making their wardrobe transformation in last week's column, I recently observed three white tails yet to have shed their winter camo. I’m thinking their copper tone summer wear is due very soon.   

Lastly, spring really becomes official this weekend with our “walleye opening day.” Good luck to all anglers and be safe in these icy cold northland waters!    

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! Our Gunflint spring is trying to “bust out, all over.”
 

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Spring Beauty

North Woods Naturalist: Spring ephemerals

They’re the first flowers of spring getting as much sun as they can before the leaf cover takes over.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about spring ephemerals.

(Photo by Emma-O Productions on Flickr)

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“Soon to be paved” Sawbill Trail

West End News: May 12

The Sawbill Trail has become a beehive of activity this week and the busy tourism season hasn’t even started.
 
Many fire engines have been patrolling the back roads, including the Sawbill Trail, due to the almost continuous red-flag fire conditions that we’ve been experiencing. On Wednesday, with cooler temperatures and a solid forecast of coming rain, the decision was made to burn over some recent logging sales along the Sawbill.
 
This involves many people in many pickups, semis with heavy equipment and a lot of good communication with stakeholders and the public. The Forest Service is really good at fire, due to their thorough understanding of fire science and many decades of hard-core practical experience. The fires burned hot, the rain arrived on schedule and it was “mission accomplished” all around.
 
On the same day as the fires, Northland Constructors of Duluth started work in earnest on the eight mile paving contract that they have this summer on the Sawbill Trail, which is known to them as Cook County State Aid Highway # 2. Unlike the Forest Service, the County does very little public outreach when they start a new project. I guess they figure the stakeholders and public will figure out what’s happening when they see it. In chatting with the contractors though, they mentioned that they expect to be on the job for at least three months, with a month and a half of prep work and two months for the actual paving.
 
The Sawbill Trail was completely reconstructed about 20 years ago, so the paving will basically go on top of the existing roadbed. It looks like some culverts are earmarked for replacement. I’m hoping that the half-dozen “Dukes of Hazard” style frost heaves that form every year will be dug up and stabilized, otherwise the paving in those spots will be broken chunks by this time next year.
 
While there is something sad about encroaching civilization up the Sawbill Trail, I recognize that a gravel road is no longer practical for the amount of traffic received.  The engineers also make a strong case for both the greater safety and long-term environmental advantages of pavement over gravel. Fortunately, the last six miles of the Sawbill Trail will never be paved, so the tradition of dusty washboard and bone-jarring potholes will continue for future generations.
 
As if that wasn’t enough activity for one little rural back road, there were also contractors that were placing some kind of foam protectors over recently planted trees along the Sawbill Trail. I assume it is a form of browse protection, but didn’t have time to stop for an explanation.
 
Very soon, the canoeists and fishermen will be mixing it up with all the workers along the trail, which will make for an interesting and lively summer.
 
I try not to put too much about my own family in the West End News, but I must break the rule to announce the arrival of my latest granddaughter, Kit Shirley, on May 7. Kit’s mother is our daughter, Clare, and father is our son-in-law, Dan.
 
The women on Clare’s side of the family have a reputation for fast deliveries, so that was a concern, now that hospital deliveries are no longer done in Grand Marais. When Clare’s labor started, she and Dan headed for Duluth as planned.  However, little Kit really wanted to be born in Grand Marais, just like her mother and grandmother, and that’s exactly what happened less than two hours later and just minutes after arriving at the emergency room. It was an anxious and hectic trip to town, but the result was perfect and healthy in every way. Kit is now firmly in residence at Sawbill, where her parents took over management this spring. She may not be washing canoes this summer, but I expect she’ll be completely in charge of public relations.
 
 

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Anishinaabe Way: Jonathan Thunder

Jonathan Thunder is a painter and digital media artist who was born on the Red Lake Reservation, raised in the Twin Cities, and currently resides in Duluth. In this segment, he shares his thoughts on dream imagery and some urban influences that have appeared in his paintings. He explains the choices that Native American artists have in classifying their work and the complications involved with using "traditional" images in works of modern art. He also tells the story of his first solo exhibition and the courage required to show highly personal artwork to a larger audience. In closing, Jonathan shares his experience animating the Onondaga Creation & Peacemaker Story, a film he created for the 2015 LaCrosse World Championships.

More art and information is available at www.thunderfineart.com.

(Photo of Jonathan Thunder by Jason S. Ordaz, courtesy of the Institute of American Indian Arts, 2016; other photos by Jonathan Thunder)
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: May 6 - Ice-out

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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 6

April has given way to May, and week one is into the books. The Wildersmith two are back in the woods following a trip to Iowa for my annual officiating duties at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, in addition to visiting our kids and re-connecting with many dear friends.   

The Gunflint wilderness seems so quiet and welcoming after what was a hectic time of helping our daughter prepare to relocate, and experiencing the never ending turmoil of human interaction in metropolis. We are surely blessed to have the better of two worlds, one being the ability to reconnect periodically with the civilized world; and two, being able to escape urban hubbub for the serenity of life in unorganized territory. No wonder this place has such magnetism!   

My last day at the Relays event proved to be record setting in terms of miserable weather endurance. A day in Iowa with rain, 40 degree temperatures, and 30 mile per hour winds made a brisk 40 below January segment in the north woods seem not too bad at all. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt such a bone chilling, and that’s saying a lot for a guy who enjoys winter as I do.    

Speaking of winter, it’s pretty much put to rest as of this scribing. But we can’t count it out for yet another couple weeks. Remnant splotches of snow in roadside ditches and shadows of the forest, along with broken tree branches, a few downed telephone poles and sagging phone lines linger as the only reminders of our past season.   

A further note on the area's advance toward seasonal rebirth, declares the ice is out on area lakes. Here on Gunflint, the progression of open water took the better part of a week, with final hard water disappearance at the east end occurring on April30. So it lasted just about as I thought it would. I’m indebted to a friend down the road who stepped up to make the official “ice-out” call in my absence.     

The water now lapping against our granite shore is every bit as joyous, as is the anticipation of those first freezing crinkles each November/ December. It’s just pretty darn energizing! And for angling enthusiasts, there will be no worry about ice in 2016 for getting after those walleyes next weekend.   

Back country roads are drying readily as run-off is back into drainage swales and culverts. In fact, my return trip found the vehicle kicking up dust instead of “mud season” goop!    

Meanwhile, the forest landscape is drab as it awaits renewal of chlorophyll production. The deciduous part of the forest is barely into the budding stage. However, coniferous cousins have regained the verdant twinkle as their juices are already running.     

Signaling spring is in full swing, snowshoe hares have just about completed their warm season wardrobe transition. One crossed our path on the county road during last Sunday's return. It was sporting the usual dusty summer coat with the only reminder of winter garb, being its snow white socks. 

In a closing tidbit, it’s always a relief to get back home after a time away. I was amused while beginning to unload the vehicle, as a couple of resident squirrels came by to greet me. Obviously they wanted a hand-out as they scurried about, chattering food service orders. Following me like a canine pet, until I threw out some seed morsels, one excitably came close to running into the house while I carried in luggage. It sure is nice to be wanted!  

This is Fred Smith, back on the Trail, at Wildersmith, savoring the Gunflint charm!

(photo by Enzik via Wikimedia Commons)
 

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Wild onion

West End News: May 5

I’m very excited to hear about the expansion of Fika Coffee in the Clearview complex in Lutsen. Fika, which can be roughly translated as the Swedish word for “coffee break,” has been roasting and distributing coffee in Grand Marais for several years. The shop in Lutsen, which will be in the old liquor store space, will also be a regular espresso and coffee shop where you can enjoy the aroma, the taste and the camaraderie of sharing coffee.

It is especially gratifying to see young entrepreneurs expanding their businesses across Cook County. The owner of Fika, Josh Lindstrom, is a participant in a program called “Ensure Cook County” run by the Entrepreneur Fund. It is a Cook County-specific program that connects people who want to grow their businesses with training, technical help and local angel investors. I love it when good intentions actually result in tangible results that make all our lives better.

Also, I can’t wait to hang out, drink some coffee and gossip… I mean, discuss the issues of the day.

All the important signs are pointing to the turn of the season. Every lake in Cook County is now free of ice. Sawbill Lake officially became ice-free on April 28, which is pretty close to the average over the last six or seven decades.

As of last Saturday, skiing operations at Lutsen Mountains came its seasonal conclusion. The final day included sunshine, balmy temperatures, live music outside on the deck and, by all reports, excellent skiing conditions. That same Saturday, the first rounds of golf were played at Superior National. A reliable source reported that a few people skied and golfed on the same day.

There is a little time to draw a deep breath before we plunge into the summer season, which is still the busiest time of year by far, up and down the North Shore.

The Onion River in Tofte earned its name from the wild onions that can be found nearby. They are really the first wild edible that can be gathered in the spring. They are also called wild leeks or ramps. They have a strong onion and garlic flavor that makes a nice addition to salads. Native West Enders used to render them into a concoction that induced vomiting, but don’t let that put you off.

Fiddleheads are another delicious spring delicacy that should be ready by the end of the week.

Steelhead fishing is at its peak right now, judging by the number of pickups parked along the highway at each stream crossing.

If you want to know more about the natural abundance that surrounds us, now would be a good time to register for the annual Master Naturalist Volunteer training that is offered by the Sugarloaf Nature Center in Schroeder. The class, which is being held in partnership with North House Folk School, starts in early June. The five-day immersion course is a whirlwind of biology, ecology and geology, specific to our own back yard. You can contact Sugarloaf Nature Center or North House Folk School for specific information and registration.

Several young moose have been spotted recently that are obviously two-year-old calves that have been rejected by their mothers. When a cow moose prepares to give birth, she forcefully sends her previous calf out on its own. For the first couple of weeks after this happens, the adolescent moose is sad and insecure to the extreme. I know it’s dangerous to anthropomorphize wild animals, but these guys are so woebegone, that it is obvious at a glance.

If you see one of these depressed moose on the road, be kind and gentle. The last thing they need is to be chased by a scary vehicle. Sad as they are, they will soon buck up, become adults and join the greater community that is Cook County’s West End.

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A Year in the Wilderness: April 29 - Barking at waves

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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Transit of Mercury

Northern Sky: April 30 - May 13

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

The spring sky features Leo, Jupiter and Virgo; Mars and Saturn are rising in Scorpio near midnight; the cross-quarter day of Beltane; and Mercury transits the sun on May 9.

(photo by Tomruen via Wikimedia Commons)

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Pharmaceutical toxins found in northeast Minnesota lakes and fish

Pharmaceuticals and other human-produced chemicals are appearing in northeast Minnesota's water and fish - even in remote and pristine lakes. In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, Dr. Seth Moore, director of biology and environment with the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa, talks about a new study on these emerging toxins.

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