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North Shore Weekend

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  • Saturday 7-10am
Genre: 
Variety
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

 

 


What's On:

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 4

Entering month eleven, this part of the world has said its good byes to the showers of falling leaves, even the tamarack needles have sifted silently to their resting place. Wilderness dioramas of “Neebing” (Ojibwe summer) have stopped.  

Quiet is now the order with cool season lyrics hissing through the pines and irregular ripples lapping against our granite shores.  An occasional “awlk” from a raven, chirping chickadees or chattering of a squirrel skirmish are about the only vibes breaking silence of the woods in advent of the “crystal coming.” A season unto its own, autumn seems so short. 

Meanwhile, tourist travel along the Gunflint has come to a near standstill, “leaf peepers” are history, outfitters have racked up the canoes, and most Trail food service establishments are breaking for a little R & R until ice is on and snow deepens on the trails.     
                   
Our month, of the “freezing over moon” (Gash Kadino Giizis), looks to be mislabled through the first November days. The making of ice has slackened to nothing as cold progress stepped back to allow “Tagwagin” (Ojibwe autumn) one last gasp, before it waves a white flag to the “old man in the great white north.”

Evidence, of crinkling skims on a few ponds along the Trail a week ago, has vanished.  Temps around here have been hanging in the high thirties to forties, under often drizzly or flurried dismal gray skies, all of which has made the atmosphere feel colder than it has actually been. This time of year is often more bone chilling than forty below in January.

One thing nice about the cool damp conditions of the past few weeks, “Mother Earth” is quite wet, indicating it should freeze holding a good deal of moisture. This is good for all things needing a moist jump start come next spring.   

Our pause in the parade toward winter has not interrupted one critter species from getting into the proper apparel mode. A couple weeks ago I reported snowshoe hares had not yet started fitting into their winter wardrobe. Over the past few days I’ve observed changes are occurring. The northwoods bunnies have now pulled on their white socks and under-belly wear, obviously sensing a need for “camo” in the frosty days ahead. 

The wilderness telegraph has, no doubt, let it be known whitetail hunting season commences this weekend. This happening in mind, the woods will be alive “with the sound of rifle booms (not music)” and the usual blaze orange fashion show. Good luck to deer seekers, lookout for one another and be safe!

On another note concerning this weekend, we get back to the reality of being in concert with “old Sol.” It’s “fall back” time, to our authentic sense of being. Don’t forget to set those clocks back before you retire Saturday night.  

Last week's WTIP fall membership campaign drive is over and grateful thank “yuz” have been extended to our wonderful community of radio listeners. As an on air volunteer voice, I would like to personally extend my thanks for kind words of listener appreciation about my weekly Wildersmith on the Gunflint commentary that were reflected during the stump for member support. Your gracious comments “make my day.”   

Many long time WTIP family members answered the call once again. It’s been a real “pledgure” to follow their re-upping of continuing love and resources.  Furthermore, a hardy welcome to forty-one new folks joining the WTIP clan, it’s great to have them on board. Thanks to all for helping to realize the “Treat Yourself” campaign goal!    

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where daylight is dwindling, and cold, northern nights are awesome!

​(photo by D. Sikes via Flickr)

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Marbled murrelet chick

Gus' Wild Side: He is the walrus

In this edition of Gus' Wild Side, we learn about the marbled murrelet....and also hear about Gus and his wife's encounter with a biologist who seems to believe he is a walrus.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Peter Halasz on Wikimedia Commons)

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Northern Sky: October 29 - November 11

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

A new moon on October 30; in the evening sky, Venus and Saturn on the southwest horizon; on November 5-6, a crescent moon gliding past Mars; in the morning sky, Jupiter low in the east with Arcturus; save the date: a full moon on Monday November 14, the biggest and brightest of the year.  Plus the origin of Halloween in Samhain, a cross-quarter day.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 28

The weather outside hasn’t been frightful just yet, but Gunflint skies have been looking the part for several days during the past week. Last Sunday had one of those looks with rain in the AM that was on the verge of snow and temps in the thirties. By day's end, ghostly clouds seemed like they had a belly full of the white stuff.  

So in spite of official autumn being just beyond a month old, there’s a feeling winter is beginning to squeeze in at any time. As for yours truly, bring it on, all is ready in the Wildersmith neighborhood!  Meanwhile, about all “Mother Nature” has to do is put the bears to bed.    

With trick or treat time in the offing, old timers out this way will remember the winter blast of Halloween in 1991. Yes, it’s been a quarter century since the big ghost and goblin snow storm dropped over forty inches of the stuff in places along the Trail. One might wonder if this could happen again after twenty-five years, or was it one of those so called “one hundred year Weather Service" occurrences. Only the “MOM” in charge of all things natural knows.

A thing I know, though, is our “winter welcome wagon” is on and along the Trail. Flocks of snow buntings are ready and willing to lead your vehicle either up or down this Scenic Byway. Their annual return is kind of spiritually uplifting to those of us looking forward to the season of white landscapes and frosty breath.

This season of transition has unique moments often catching the eye of keenly focused observers. Happenings I often report may seem trivial, possibly leading another to believe I should get a life. However, for yours truly, it can be the simple things that make living in Gunflint country so special. 

Such is the case with a skinny but tall, red barked tree standing just off the deck outside my lake side window. This wispy woodland member has always been the last to leaf out in the spring, while being a holdout in giving up its foliage this time of year.  I’ve been watching from my favorite chair in the just-after-dawn, time slot, every day, since the falling commenced. Every other deciduous tree in the yard has called it quits, but this one has some “last hangers-on” growing season tokens. It has given up some ,but is clinging to perhaps a dozen or so, each leaflet withstanding days of gusty October winds and a number of rainy occasions.    

It occurs to me it enjoys a charmed life each year, adding a few inches of height while exhibiting character of being the toughest guy in this forest neighborhood. As death is imminent to most all growing flora during fall, I’m betting these last leaves will refuse to be taken until a good dose of wet snow bids them farewell. Spirit is reflected in many ways of the wilderness!

Since my report of a wolf sighting over in the Hungry Jack Lake area, sightings have been noted by several folks from around the territory. One family with which I visited, was hiking on a cold morning and happened on four specimens of scat, some of which was still exuding steamy body warmth. Obviously this pack was on the move somewhere just ahead, but never seen.

All these canid observations makes me wonder if the coming firearms deer hunting season, has them rallying pack members for when blaze orange clad, two legged predators start stalking what few deer remain in these parts.  

If one is an eagle fancier, they are sure to be interested in an article in the fall Audubon Magazine. I found it particularly engaging as the writing (Eagles & Chickens) included a supplementary snippet of chronological history on the big bird from 1782 to the present. It was entitled “THE BALD EAGLE’S RETURN,” authored by Jonathan Carey. Good reading on a cool fall evening!   

A reminder, if you haven’t already heard, your community radio station is in the midst of the fall membership campaign. It’s Halloween, so why not “Treat Yourself to a little of that WTIP sweetness.” Don’t procrastinate, or ghosts and goblins will surely be haunting you.  Join now at 218-387-1070; or 1-800-473-9847; or click and join at WTIP.org and thank you in advance.    
                
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day in the north woods is great and some are even better!

(photo by grfx Playground via Flickr)
 

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Too many deer in the deer yard?

Deer weren't always common along the North Shore of Lake Superior. With the increase in their population, the plants that make our landscape so appealing are disappearing in areas where deer gather during the winter. 

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, WTIP's Martha Marnocha joined State Park naturalist Kurt Mead and Silver Bay High School students to learn about a project being conducted at Tettegouche State Park. The project hopes to develop strategies for protecting young trees from heavy deer browse.

 

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Buttered Lutefisk (Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons)

West End News: October 27

The 2016 summer tourism season in the West End is in the records books and it may well be a record breaking year.  It was an unusually busy season for all, and especially busy through the fall, right up to and including the recently concluded MEA weekend. The traditional Minnesota school holiday was the latest possible this year, which extended the season beyond its usual boundaries. 
 
Back in the old days, many resorts in the West End would close on Labor Day.  The decision to promote the fall color season, back in the 1960s, quickly made September and half of October one of the busiest parts of the year.  Now, even the slow seasons see a fair number of visitors to the Shore.  Linda Jurek, Director of Visit Cook County, told me the other day that her highly effective marketing efforts are now shifting to spring and fall, because the capacity of Cook County to host visitors in the summer is approaching the saturation point.
 
If you need more evidence that the West End has become a "world class" destination, look no further than the venerable "Grey Lady,' the New York Times, that published a glowing travel piece on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness last week.  They tagged the beautifully written and photographed article as "relief from the election season" and for a couple of days it was the most read article in the Times. To be fair, the article described a canoe trip hosted by Sue and Paul Schurke in the Ely area, but of course, everyone knows that the best part of the BWCA Wilderness is in Cook County. 
 
Minnesota Public Radio's popular Newscut blog suggested that next year the wilderness will be overrun with people with accents that are not Minnesotan.  In my opinion, the article was designed to build national support for preserving the wilderness on the cusp of a political fight to prevent huge sulfide mining projects from opening on the very edge of the popular wilderness area.  My hunch is that political maneuvering will reach a peak in the time between the election and the end of the Obama Administration. 
 
Speaking of elections, I strongly urge you to exercise your rights and vote in this year's election.  Most West End residents have already received their ballots.  If you are a new resident, you can register at the polls on election day.
 
I've been frightened by the Brexit vote in Britain and the referendum on the peace settlement in Columbia.  Like the presidential election here in the U.S., polling showed strong support for one side and the election ended up narrowly going the other way, due to voter apathy.  It can't be said enough, every vote counts and elections have huge consequences. Please, please, please cast your ballot before or on November 8th.
 
By the way, the recent claims that the presidential election is somehow "rigged" is complete bunk.  Minnesota has a nearly flawless record and reputation for fair elections.  Our system has been rigorously tested by two extremely close statewide elections during the last decade.  The intensely detailed scrutiny that those elections brought to bear clearly showed that voter fraud in a complete non-issue.
 
If you really want relief from this year's campaigns for presidents, I recommend the venerable Lutifisk dinner at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte.  The annual dinner featuring the Scandinavian delicacy of cod fish soaking in lye has anchored the fall season in Tofte for generations.  This years feast is on Saturday, November 5th from 5 to 7 pm.  Of course, the delicious lutefisk is what draws in the crowds, but rest assured, if you follow a lutefisk free diet, there will be plenty of ham, potatoes and bread to fill you up.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 21

Our prelude to winter along the Gunflint Trail has mellowed some, settling back to more typical autumn conditions. Light winds and slightly warmer conditions are the order as the Wildersmith scoop begins flowing from my keyboard.  

In spite of a few days with dismal skies, nothing dramatic has disturbed the peace and quiet as Trail folks get more ready for winter. Scant episodes of moisture deposits have done little more than keep the dust down on backcountry roads since our last radio visit.  

Nocturnal illumination created excitement in this part of the universe with Aurora Borealis dancing across the heavens on at least one night, while clear skies favored a magnificent full, “falling leaves” “super moon” just after midnight last Saturday. The brilliance of the “old man in the moon” gave a “luster of mid-day to objects below”, especially those skeletal trees lurking over the wilderness. 

While the deciduous portion of the forest has been almost totally undressed of all leaves, tamaracks are at their peak. A trip up to end of the Trail last Sunday found the gold-needled spires a buttery blur under the rays of “old Sol.” Although they don’t last long, if one hasn’t experienced the tamarack radiance, there’s still a chance it would be worth a trip out this way to get a glimpse of this golden attraction.     

Also, not lasting too much longer will be a chance to visit the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The facility will be closing its doors for the season after Sunday.  

Gunflint community energy sparked again last Sunday as fifteen Historical Society volunteers showed up at the Chik-Wauk Museum site. The group spent the morning cleaning up brush, branches and downed trees left from the wind storms of June and July. Two huge trailer loads of debris was gathered and hauled away, really spiffing up the grounds. Thanks to all for sharing a splendid northwoods day, all in the name of a good cause.           

I’ve noticed many of the mountain ash trees along the Trail are still loaded with bright red-orange fruit. It makes me wonder what’s going on with the cedar waxwings. I don’t know if they might be late migrating from whereever, or perhaps have already passed through, before the berries were properly ripened to their liking. It seems as though the ravenous birds have cleaned them off by now in most years. Meanwhile, the bears seem to have taken their share of the lower hanging fruit based on calling cards left here, there and everywhere.     

Speaking of the north country “Brunos,”almost anyone I talk to has observed one of the critters in past weeks. However, there have been few serious reports of bear vandalism, except for the theft of a bag of sun flower seeds from one couple’s garage, and the destruction of a half-dead apple tree here at Wildersmith. Settling in for a long winter's nap will soon be on their minds. 

I spotted a snowshoe hare in my headlights one night last week. Winter must not have been on its mind yet, as there was no sign of exchanging its summer apparel. It makes me wonder if this could this be a result of our extended warm fall, or perhaps a late arriving cold season, or possibly a warmer than normal winter, or maybe none of these at all, just a silly “wabbit.”   

Then again, I observed a red fox a night or so earlier. This furry creature appeared to be in full winter regalia, with a tail fluffier than one of those household dust-catching utensils.  

Another sign of potential significant weather change might have subtly come to me earlier this week. Whereas chickadees are always around, they seldom come close begging for a hand-out during the warm season. An up-close visit from some chickadees last Sunday surprised me when a couple of the pert little black caps came swooping in at me and landed but a foot away in a lilac bush, chirping excitedly. So I guess it's time to start carrying a handful of seeds in my pocket.                                          

Thinking of all these wild pre-winter notions, it would probably be better to just wait and not contemplate too much. Only “Mother Nature” knows what she has in store for all the beings of our Gunflint neighborhoods.    

On a final note, as Trick or Treat night approaches, don’t forget a treat for our community radio station. The WTIP fall (and final 2016) membership campaign gets underway this next week. Join in the fun of "giving" during this Halloween season at WTIP, beginning Wednesday ebvening, the 26th!

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where northwoods days are great and some are even better! 

(photo by Linda Baird-White via Wikimedia Commons)
 

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Bob Dylan, in his early days out on Highway 61

West End News: October 20

Although he’s only an honorary West Ender, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Bob Dylan, on his award of the Nobel Prize for Literature.  Our enigmatic and talented native son is the first musician to win the Noble for literature, but it should came as no surprise to anyone who has been moved by the profound poetry of his song lyrics. 
 
I’m sure Mr. Dylan is a regular visitor to the West End, but just keeps his usual low profile.  If not, we still have a strong connection to him, if only through his iconic album and song, “Highway 61 Revisited.”
 
If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to look up the aerial drone footage of the Manitou River Falls on the Internet.  There are two large sets of falls that are rarely seen by the public.  They are out of view from the highway and are surrounded by private land, so the only way to see them all is from the air.  The last drop is a 50-foot falls directly into Lake Superior, making it a fairly rare phenomenon on the big lake. 
 
The footage is the work of a company called Liftoff Aerials.  Thanks to them for sharing this spectacular footage with their North Shore neighbors.  You can find it by Googling Manitou Falls drone footage.
 
Sugarloaf Nature Center, in Schroeder, is hosting a program next month on historic bark-peeled pine. Apparantly, during the era of birch bark canoe, in what is now the BWCA Wilderness, the canoe builders peeled red pine bark to collect the sap that was used to seal the seams.  Some of the trees, in use during the fur trade circa 1700 to 1900, still exist.  By studying their location, archeologists can shed new light on the economy and travel patterns of people in that distant time.
 
Lee Johnson, the Superior National Forest Archeologist, will be presenting on this discovery at Sugarloaf on Saturday, November 12th from 10 to 11 am.  He will be describing how to identify the bark-peeled pine and is asking wilderness travelers to report any that they find back to him.
 
Given the deep, deep history of canoe travel in the West End, and all of northeastern Minnesota, this is a significant archeological find and really interesting for canoe nerds like me.  I think I’ve read every word ever written about birch bark canoes and I’ve always been told that the sealing pitch was a mixture of black spruce sap and animal fat.  History is always fascinating and surprising.
 
I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of local voices supporting the two referendum questions that Cook County School District #166 has placed on this year’s election ballot.  One question asks for approval of a new Capital Bond to make repairs and improvements to school facilities.  The other question asks for an Operating Levy that virtually all Minnesota Public Schools need to fund themselves.
 
I’ve carefully studied both proposals and listened closely to the arguments – both for and against.  In my opinion, both are excellent investments for the future of Cook County and will pay us back many times over in the future.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  Go to CookCountySchools.org and read the material there for yourself.  I was also influenced by the carefully thought out support from the Cook County Chamber of Commerce.  I plan to vote “yes” and “yes” on the questions and urge you to do so too.
 
Just a quick reminder of two important events coming up in support of Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.  The Barbeque Rib Feast is at the Schroeder Town Hall on Thursday, October 27th from 4:30 to 7 pm. Also, the umteenth annual PTO Halloween Carnival at Birch Grove on Sunday, October 30th from 2 until 4 pm.  Be there, or be you-know-what.
 
The leaves are mostly down back over the hill and even the Shore is past its prime.  That is no reason to avoid the back roads.  The tamaracks are still beautiful and some of the underbrush, especially the willows, is still vivid. Plus, it’s fun to be able to see a reasonable distance into the woods. You might spot a moose, a partridge or a bark-peeled pine that have been hiding for the last five months.  Every season is a good season here in the ol’ West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

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Northern Sky: October 15-28

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

In the evening sky: Saturn, Antares and Venus; Mars and the teapot of Sagitarius; in the morning sky: Jupiter low in the east.  Fomalhaut, the lonliest star, and its candidate planet Fomalhaut B (pictured, NASA via Wikimedia Commons).  A full Hunters Moon on the 15th.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 14

The upper Gunflint Territory has experienced a gamut of atmospheric conditions since our last radio meeting. Over the past seven days, we’ve seen the splendor of a few marvelous warm and sunny fall days succumb to a brief winter preview during the weekend.    

Wouldn’t you know, this cold season prelim happened just as some great friends arrived at Wildersmith to bring the dock ashore. So here we were, in the fifty-five degree Gunflint Lake white capped water, heaving and hoeing amongst drizzle and a snow squall, toting dock sections to their winter storage quarters. Alas, we prevailed over the elements, and thankfully, the job is finished! As might be expected, after all was done, the sun, then made an appearance.      

There was no snow accumulation here in comparison to a few other places in northern Minnesota. However, the growing season can be declared over in this neighborhood, as a hard freeze terminated things last Saturday and Sunday mornings. Thermometers in some places found the mercury at about twenty degrees, with nineteen being the low at Wildersmith Sunday AM.  

It was frosty enough to make ice in the bird waterer, freeze a couple small Mile O Pine puddles, see summer garden plants wilt with a good bye, and bring on ignition of a cozy fire in the wood burning stove, ‘tis the season.  

Autumn's color spectacular got hit as weather took a turn. For a couple days, both rain and blustery winds sent a good deal of the seasonal aura packing.  

There are still a few patches of gold quaking, but we will see most of them on the ground by the time this scribing airs. One neat aspect of this deciduous leafy drop is the ability to see deep into the forest for the first time in months.   

The final blush of our pigmentation spectacle, is picking up the slack from the leaflet letdown. Tamarack needles can be observed taking on their flaxen tones in select places along the Trail. There are few fall affairs to top the romantic awe of a feathery tamarack in blooming 24-carat.   

While things of fall are settling into their winter resting place, tourist business is winding down along the Scenic Byway. It appears to have been a bustling summer and has even extended well into early fall.  Proprietors, from whom I’ve heard, indicate the season has been great, with one wondering from where all the people keep coming.    

I’m told it was a record breaking season for the fabulous pie maker over at Clear water Lodge. Guess she normally produces about one hundred seventy pies a summer. 2016 has been overwhelming as in excess of three hundred fifty of her tasty pastries came out of the oven. Wow, that’s a lot of pie crusts and fruits of the forest!   

With grouse hunting season underway, I hear success has been moderate to good, depending upon the day's weather and, of course, the shooter's aim. Recently, one of the seemingly unintelligent Minnesota “chicken birds” made a landing on our avian feeding trough. It was, maybe, seeking refuge from the sound of gunshots down the lake. Due to possibly attracting a marauding bear, the seed cafeteria was not open, so it just sat for a while then winged off into parts unknown.

Hunting isn’t just for the two-legged beings this time of year. A sleek wolf was observed doing a little food service reconnaissance recently along the Hungry Jack road in the mid-Trail area. The northwoods warrior was digitally captured by a Hungry Jack Lake couple. A photographic recording can be seen alongside my Wildersmith column on the www at WTIP.org.       

Those same HJ residents have also been enjoying regular visits from some kind of hawk over the past several weeks. Since appetite satisfiers have not been offered, reasons for the stop-overs are unexplained, but it must involve an easily accessible, natural, nourishment supply somewhere nearby.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where cool Gunflint days are energizing, and oh so special!
 

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