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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:

A Year in the Wilderness: January 20 - Enjoy winter

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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Moments in Time: The Grand Portage Passage sled dog race

The Grand Portage Passage was a long-distance sled dog race that was held from 1999 through 2003. In this edition of Moments in Time, WTIP’s ongoing series, Doug Seim, Curtis Gagnon and Matthew Brown reflect on the meaning of the name and why the race was special…..

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Pink snow at dawn (Tracy Rosen via Wikimedia Commons)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 15

The upper Trail winter has taken positive steps forward since our last meeting. A bleak seasonal character, by usual north-country norms, has shaped up lately with freshening of the snow cover and serious ice making.   

Snow accumulations have not been extreme, but nevertheless, cleaned things up so that new critter tracks are more easily distinguished. Meanwhile, enough January subzero settled over the area to really get the old “Zamboni” cranked up.

With frigid temps in the forecast, enhancing ice development for the coming trout season opener couldn’t have come at a better time. It would appear safe ice for pedestrian traffic could be secure here on the Gunflint and most all area lakes by Saturday’s opener. Further, it seems a reliable surface for snowmobiles and ATVs might be questionable on a few lakes where icy acquisition occurred only recently. 

To preface this next story, I share with you the final freezing of Gunflint Lake favored the smoothest ice I’ve seen in my 17 winters here. The glass-like surface could allow uninterrupted skating for miles, and the lake remained free of insulating snow cover for three days of clear ice observation.

The charm of a Gunflint winter was never more evident than it was for yours truly on one pre-dawn day last week. Out early, as “old Sol” was making its daily debut, I was up on the Mile O Pine looking over the two day old lake ice.

The sunrise was on fire once again as it begun to light up our lives in this northern paradise. To compliment the celestial infinity, wispy clouds were floating aloft drawing on the awesome fiery rays. This heavenly interaction rendered a spectacle of pink cotton candy vapor. In turn, the vaporous veil was picked up in reflection by the mirror perfect hard water surface.  

There are not adequate descriptors to pictorially celebrate the magic of this rosy dawn in concert with “pink” Gunflint ice. Such radiance probably has happened before on countless water bodies in this great land, but for me, winter elegance of this magnitude has never been so visually consuming. This wilderness panorama was a breath-taking work of unmatched art.   

Additions of snow over the miracle glaze, minus something temps and north-northwest winds have since, put the Gunflint Gal in a grumpy state. As I key this week's report, she is murmuring tones of uneasiness. I’m not sure if her new coat isn’t a good fit, or she is shivering in the frigid air. Regardless, of the curmudgeonly attitude, her solemn dialogue is entertaining.       

More northwoods enchantment took place at Wildersmith recently when a moose tromped through the yard. Although such occurred during darkness hours, tracks in the fresh fallen snow, and broken branches along its path, confirm it was, what it was.

With so few moose remaining throughout the territory, coupled with the fact it’s been years since one has been seen around our place, this nocturnal visit reenergizes hope for this iconic herd to regain a healthy population status. The thought of a visit from one of the herd more often than once every few years would be welcomed at Wildersmith.  

The sudden turn to real winter character was equally appropriate this past weekend for the Gunflint Mail Run sled dog races. Racing conditions last Saturday morning were excellent. Enthusiasm was at a high pitch. Ten entries started the 12 dog (long race) while 13 teams made up the eight dog (shorter race) field, all finishing up on a sunny, but bitter cold, Sunday afternoon.

 To stage such an awesome event has to be a ton of work! Organization of the happening was top drawer. It seemed all phases went off without a hitch. Hats off to planners, sponsors, volunteers, mushing teams and Trail Center Restaurant personnel on a job well done! The Gunflint community looks forward to seeing the GMR become a premier post-holiday occasion in years to come.  

Winners of the two races were Ward Wallin of Two Harbors in the 110 mile section, and Dusty Klaven of Togo, MN in the 70 mile chase. Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all the teams for making this a great weekend. A tabulation of all race finishers can be found on our WTIP website.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith!  Trout season is open, happy angling!
 

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Lutsen’s Hazel Oberholtzer feeds a sled dog while visiting Amy and Dave Freeman on Wood Lake in the BWCAW

West End News: January 14

 When Hazel Oberholtzer from Lutsen, who is in 7th grade, woke up in a tent in the BWCA Wilderness last weekend, when it was more than 20 degrees below zero, the last thing she expected was to be too warm. Hazel found herself in this unlikely position while visiting Dave and Amy Freeman on Wood Lake near Ely. Hazel traveled into Wood Lake with her brother, Cy, who is 10, her dad, John Oberholtzer, and a friend, Andy Keith, from Grand Marais.
 
Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a full year in the BWCA Wilderness without coming out even once, to call attention to proposed sulfide mining that threatens to pollute the water in the wilderness.  They’ve been in the wilderness since late September, traveling first by canoe and now with the help of three sled dogs, Tank, Tina and Acorn.
 
The Oberholtzer party pulled four toboggans into Wood Lake via the 180-rod portage along the Fernberg Road northeast of Ely.  The portage is mostly downhill so Hazel and Cy took the opportunity to ride their toboggans down the slopes.  They not only had their own tent, woodstove and camping gear, but also brought in some people food, dog food and equipment for Dave and Amy.
 
The dog team, accompanied by Dave and Amy, met them at the wilderness boundary.  Dave suggested that all four toboggans be hooked into a train to be pulled by the dogs.  It was an open question whether the dogs could pull such a large load, but they took off so fast that Dave and Amy had to sprint and dive to catch the train before it left the station unaccompanied.
 
As the group traveled to the campsite it was 28 degrees.  By the second night of the trip it had dropped to -24 degrees.  With the help of the dogs, a good supply of down and dead ash firewood had been gathered, bucked and split, for feeding the wood stoves in the tents.  Everyone had a winter weight sleeping bag, but John, being a careful father, made sure the stove was stoked every two hours. That, along with a hot water bottle in her sleeping bag, was the cause of Hazel’s overheating.
 
Aside from the risk of heat stroke, the group had great fun skijoring, exploring, visiting and playing with the dogs. They particularly enjoyed absorbing the Freemans’ manner and mindset after they’ve spent more than one hundred straight days in the wilderness.
 
The Oberholtzers’ adventure is the perfect example of why the BWCA Wilderness is a national treasure and deserves to be fully protected.  The adventure, fun, peace and comradeship experienced by the Hazel and Cy will enrich the rest of their lives.  In fact, it was the wilderness that first brought their parents to northeastern Minnesota to establish their careers and raise their family. It creates an economy and community that are sustainable and enriching.
 
If you want to know more about the immediate and very real threats to the wilderness, the organization that is sponsoring the Freemans, “Save The Boundary Waters,” is hosting a community conversation in Grand Marais on Thursday, January 28 from 5:30 until 7 pm at the Community Center Social Room. You can find more details online at: savetheboundarywaters.org.
 
Speaking of the wilderness, it is slowly dawning on everyone with a connection to the wilderness that a quiet disaster has occurred.  The phenomenon is being called the “snow-down” or the “bend-down” as opposed to the “blow-down” that occurred in 1999.  A couple of heavy, wet snows, followed by cold weather, have bent or broken untold numbers of trees into portages and campsites in large swaths of the wilderness.  As trail maintenance workers have slaved to clear the snowmobile and ski trails outside the wilderness, it has become apparent that the clearing effort required to open the wilderness for the 2016 canoeing season is going to be massive.
 
The Forest Service has scheduled one of their Beaver aircraft to fly over the wilderness soon in an attempt to map the scope of the problem.  It is already clear that the work required exceeds the ability of the existing wilderness crews to do the job in a timely manner.  Either outside crews will need to be brought in or a huge volunteer effort will have to be organized – or both.
 
There is never a dull moment, here in the wild and wooly West End.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy Freeman)
 
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 14 - Guests

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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North Woods Naturalist: Under ice

With the lakes frozen over, many life forms lead a controlled existence under the ice.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about living under ice.

(Photo courtesy of Marshmallow Molly on Flickr)
 

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Winter Hexagon {peter jones /Flickr}

Northern Sky: January 9

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly on the Monday North Shore Morning program through "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

Jupiter below Leo; the winter hexagon and winter triangle; a new moon on January 9; and Venus, Saturn and Mars in the morning sky.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 8

The Gunflint winter in this New Year continues in a “funky” mood. The area has a decent accumulation of snow although none has been added since our last radio gathering, and not much is foreseen in the immediate future.         

Meanwhile, temperatures throughout our northland are way out of whack. With only a few nights in the Wildersmith neighborhood seeing the mercury dip below zero, making ice on the “Gunflint Gal” from our mid-lake location has been difficult. Whereas the western third of the lake took up solidarity sometime before Christmas, we had seen only a momentary skim one morning in the past week, and that scant crinkling was soon whisked away by daytime winds.

Since that time, persistent northwesterlies kept things in turmoil. The rolling icy surf ate away at edges of the eastern iciest advancement (the Gunflint always freezes from west to east) sending huge chunks crashing and grinding into the shore down our way. These floating mini-icebergs not only create intriguing sound bites against the granite shoreline, but also whip up unusual lake surface textures as rollers and ice cubes unite. This "liquidscape” often takes on the look of dancing waters, and in a case or two, one would think there might be school of hungry “bass” attacking at Mayfly hatch.  

Then in an unexpected happening, winds calmed last Sunday evening and by the morning of January fourth, Gunflint Lake had totally put on her winter coat.  Lifetime residents around here cannot remember such a tardy arrival of hard water. The new late date “ice on” will be recorded in my winter facts data as the old mark of December 29, 2001 was obliterated to a distant second.

On a related note, I heard of some gutsy ice skaters who tried the Gunflint ice a little over a mile west of here out from Heston’s Lodge, January 2. Guess there were no issues but they’re surely bigger risk takers than yours truly, particularly when chunks of the surface were breaking off not far from where their blades scarred the frozen surface.  

In another ice related story, a friend tells of meeting, and playing peek-a-boo with an otter along a narrow ice shelf at his shore line. The aquatic, carnivorous mammal was doing a little fishing at the edge of the ice formation and came up a time or two to show off its catching skills. It makes one wonder if the fun loving critter might have been teasing this on-looker in regard to already being able to ice fish, or was just playing a little “now you see me, now you don’t" game. 

Although wolves aren’t at the door, the Gunflint/Loon Lake Pack has been seen at any number of places along the south shore of Gunflint lake in the past week. From reports it’s a “five some” making the rounds.   

There have been no known confrontations between people and/or pets as these great hunters just want venison. With few white tails left in the upper Trail reaches, wolves are ranging in all directions to find even a whiff of their favorite meal. As confirmation of the low deer population, I know of only one buck being taken in these parts during the November 2015 rifle season. Since the Gunflint’s completely frozen now, I’m wondering if deer might matriculate from Canada, or will the wolves make their way in that direction for better hunting grounds.   

The first spectacle of northwoods dog sledding competition gets under way this weekend with the Gunflint Mail Run.  The 110 mile (long race) and a 70 mile (short run) commence at Trail Center Saturday morning, 8 am. Race observations can be viewed at any number of back country road intersections along the snowmobile trail network, and at turn-around points (for the long race at Blankenberg Pit) and (at King’s Road above Gunflint Lake for the short race).

Born to run and pull, these canine athletes display boundless energy as they get harnessed up. Their enthusiasm goes unmatched from start to finish. If you have not seen such an event, the Gunflint Mail Run is a good opportunity to cross such an event off one’s bucket list.   

While on the dogsledding subject, riding in a sled behind the dogs is an adventure everyone with wilderness spirit should get to experience. Bearskin and Gunflint Lodges both offer dogsledding rides in the snowy woods. Give them a call to make a reservation. Take it from yours truly it’ll be a timeless memory!  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. The Trail's going to the dogs, see you at the GMR, it’ll be a “woofing” good time! 

{photo courtesy of Gunflint Mail Run on Facebook}
 

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West End News: January 7

Congratulations to local photographer Paul Sundberg, who was featured in the Duluth News Tribune and the Saint Paul Pioneer Press last week.  Paul lives in Grand Marais, but is a frequent visitor to the West End when he’s out and about with his camera.  Paul has been a professional nature photographer for many years, but has really concentrated on his passion since retiring as the long-time manager at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
 
Paul’s website, <paulsundbergphotography.com> has a popular “Photo of the Week” that was viewed more than 3 million times last year.  He also teaches nature photography at North House Folk School and to 4th graders at William Kelley Elementary School in Silver Bay.
 
Paul is often joined in his photography outings by David Brislance of Lutsen, another talented wildlife photographer and teacher.  Tom Spence, of Tofte, yet another prolific local nature photographer, is also frequently seen on the back roads in the West End.  I’m sure Dave and Tom will get their own turns at being featured by the statewide press, as all three men are talented and dedicated to their craft. 
 
It’s a pleasure to have them – and many other home-grown photographers – documenting the beautiful West End.
 
The West End that attracts wildlife photographers is changing fast due to the accumulating effects of climate change.  It was encouraging to hear that most of the world’s leaders acknowledged the need for action at the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Of course, meaningful action on climate change should have started 25 years ago when the science became clear that human activity was changing the world’s climate in ways that had the potential to be very damaging to society.
 
As if it isn’t bad enough that action is coming too late to prevent really serious consequences, it’s even more disturbing that the majority of the current crop of presidential candidates are still denying that climate change is real and are condemning efforts to address the problem. 
 
In my opinion, we should all be outraged by this display of reckless and willful indifference to our children and grandchildren’s future.  Not only should the outrage be directed at the candidates, but also at the root of the problem, which is the uncontrolled and non-transparent flow of special interest money into campaign coffers.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the fossil fuel industry directly and indirectly spent half a billion dollars on candidates in the last election cycle.  It is widely estimated that more than double that will be spent in the upcoming election, focused narrowly on preventing meaningful action on climate change in the United States.
 
Bad as that is, it isn’t just climate change policy that is being blatantly bought off.  In virtually every critical issue facing the country today, special interest money is being is being fire-hosed into nearly every federal and state election, creating a situation where very small number of our most wealthy citizens has a virtual lock on public policy.  I’d like to blame all this on one party, but the reality is that both major parties are complicit, because that’s the way the game is now played, like it or not.
 
As the presidential primary season hits its stride next week in Iowa, the openly transactional nature of elections and politics will be obvious.  Most people agree that the founders of our democracy were very concerned that national political power should never be concentrated in the hands of just a few people.  It’s safe to say that if they were around today, they would be worried. 
 
Fortunately, they gave us the principal of one person, one vote, so I urge you to find out where every candidate stands on meaningful campaign finance reform before you cast your ballot this year.  The future of our children and grandchildren may depend on it.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: January 6 - Dogs

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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