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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: April 1 - Water Testing

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: April 1

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods. It’s sure a joy to be home in the peace and quiet along the Mile O Pine. Although time spent with our daughter is always precious, being away from what’s supposed to be organized civilization for seventeen years finds us almost completely out of touch with all the urban hub-bub. Too many people and too many vehicles!  

Ten days visiting in southeast Iowa, found spring in full swing. Daffodils were blooming, grass was nearing the mowing stage and Rhubarb had perked up from its winter abode. Meanwhile, back on the northern front, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to return to our winter character. In spite of a slushy/muddy combination while slogging down our pathway to “paradise found”, the scene of still copious white on either side of the road was encouraging after finding many stretches along the north shore drive looking crunchy dry.              

To substantiate it being quite dry down that way, during my trip back to border country this past Monday, I was shocked to see a burned patch about an acre in size right along highway 61. It’s unknown whether this was an accident or prescribed burn. Whatever the case, the scenario rekindles one’s attention to dangerous wildfire potential up this way in the days and weeks ahead. This serious situation suggests a reminder for Trail residents to be making plans for having those wildfire sprinkler systems operational as soon as open water is available.                                                                                                                                  
Just when the area appeared headed toward a serious early season brown-up, the wimpy winter mustered a fourteen inch surge on March sixteen and few more inches since has brought our seasonal total to over eighty inches in this neighborhood. The storm provided a generous addition to the snow pack of which the final meltdown will help replenish several depleted area lakes.                                                        

Regarding lake ice, the unseasonal warm rush, during the first two weeks of month three, had things cooking toward a potential new record ice-out. However, the tail end of this third segment has things back on a more normal course and lakes I passed along the Trail remain pretty well locked in crystal right up to the shorelines.                                                                                                     

Outside our back door, the ice on Gunflint Lake had several massive soggy patches of gray prior to the southerly departure, but our return finds her tightened back up for the time being. Thus, the early ice-out record of March 25 set in 2012 remains intact. Nevertheless, it’s almost certain ice will be making its disappearing act soon, rather than the usual end of April to early May.                                                                                                                  

Both ice-on and ice-out leads to much seasonal bantering and even a pool or two as to when such will occur each year. One instance of ice-out lore reflects on pioneer Gunflint mail runner, Don Brazell predicting ice-out on the Gunflint Gal following a succession of lake ice departures going up the Trail.                                                                                                                           

To recap Don’s historic account, beginning with the opening up of ice on the Brule River at the north Brule Bridge, it is said, seven days later, the Tuscarora Pond will open and seven days after Tuscarora, the Gunflint Lake will shed her winter coat. The progression then extends to Saganaga (Sag) as Gull and Seagull Lakes become players in the process with their solidarity sinking from the southwesterly direction. Lifelong resident, Bruce Kerfoot, attests to this commentary being pretty much true to form during his seventy plus years in the territory.                                                                                                                  

I would guess the key issue might be defining with some degree of accuracy whether the river opening is just a trickle or completely free of hard water shore to shore. So we’ll all be watching for one more of those celebrated, natural Gunflint adventures!                                                                                                                                                                      

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! Savoring outdoor transitions!

(photo by mattbuck via Wikimedia Commons)
 

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Huckleberry inspects hole where 19” of ice was measured on Sawbill Lake this week

West End News: March 31

I was thrilled to hear that Mary Somnis is very likely the new Director of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority.  Mary considers herself a West Ender, even though she has lived on the Range for the last 20 years. 
 
Back in the day, Mary lived in Tofte and was hired by the newly organized Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association as a secretary.  The LTTA was formed to administer the newly passed bed tax, charged to tourists who rented rooms in the townships of Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder, used to promote and market the area. 
 
Mary was hired with the idea that she would answer the phones, open the mail, take minutes at the board meetings and that type of thing.  Very quickly Mary’s competence and work ethic had her taking on greater and greater responsibility. A misunderstanding of the law created some confusion that made it look like Mary could not be paid in keeping with her actual skills, but after that was straightened out, Mary was named the full time Executive Director of the LTTA.  Under her leadership, the Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder area had the fastest tourism growth in the state for several years in a row. In fact, Mary did such a great job, that she was hired away from us by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to run their regional tourism program, which she has done with distinction for almost 20 years.
 
All through those years, Mary kept ownership of her home in Tofte, visited frequently and took a keen interest in local goings on.  She always maintained that her heart was in Cook County and that someday she would like to move back here.  Well, that day has come and we will all be the better for it. Welcome home, Mary.
 
Everyone who loves speed and excitement will be glad to know that the Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge will be returning to Lutsen Mountains April 15th through 17th.  This is a huge event that will attract more than 500 riders, including some of the best racers in North America.  The Lutsen event is perhaps best known for the hill climbing competition, which provides a thrilling experience for spectators.  The purse this year should be around 40 thousand dollars, so you can be sure the riders will be taking this seriously. 
 
A few people have questioned if Lutsen Mountains will have enough snow for the event and the answer is an emphatic yes. The Mountain management plans carefully for this event and with their ever-expanding snow making capability, they have plenty of snow for a great event.  You can go to Lutsen.com for details.  As I always say, “be there or be square.”
 
Speaking of snow, there is still at least a foot of snow still covering the ground once you get a few miles back from Lake Superior.  Even though it’s melting fast, it is not unusual at all to see significant snowfalls in April and even occasionally in May. In spite of a very warm winter overall, the snowfall back in the woods was pretty hefty.  As of this writing, I’ve recorded 85 inches of snow this winter here at Sawbill.
 
The warm weather, combined with early snow did do strange things to the lake ice this year.  The ice never got more than two feet thick, which is at least a foot less than normal and half of what we’ve seen in cold years.  The average ice thickness right now on Sawbill Lake is 19”, but some of the narrows are already opening up, making lake travel treacherous already.  I can’t recommend going out on the lakes anymore this season, but if you do, go with a friend, take your rescue picks, a throw rope and enough dry clothes in a waterproof bag for a complete change from the skin out.  As my dad always used to say, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: March 25 - Snow, Sun and Trails

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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West End News: March 24

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen will be presenting information regarding scams that are being perpetrated on local citizens, especially senior citizens, in a talk at the Cook County Senior Center in Grand Marais on Wednesday, April 13th starting at 12:30 pm.  He’ll share information on what the most popular scams are, how to recognize them and how to avoid being taken in.  There will be time for questions after the presentation.
 
I just finished reading a fascinating book called, “The Confidence Game” by Maria Konnikova.  Ms Konnikova delves deeply into the psychology of scams, why they’re so common and why they are so successful.
 
Although the term “confidence game” only dates back to the mid-1800s, the technique of swindling people by gaining their confidence goes back to earliest recorded human history and most likely quite a bit farther back than that.
 
“Confidence game” was coined by a scammer in New York City who would approach strangers on the street, strike up a friendly conversation and then ask them if they had the “confidence” to loan him their watch until the next day.  By appearing reasonable, friendly and trustworthy, he had a nearly perfect record of talking people into loaning him their watches, which they never saw again.
 
The stages of a successful swindle are pretty standard.  It starts with careful observation and gathering information about the victim or mark.  The victim is approached in an innocent and friendly way, to establish a small kernel of trust.  Then the victim is invited to participate in an activity that will benefit them in a small, but certain way.  The scheme quickly and easily earns the mark a little money, further cementing the trust between the new friends.  This step is often repeated, with the payouts getting slightly bigger each time.  The next step is a manufactured crisis, seeming to put both the scammer and mark in serious danger of losing everything. The biggest step comes when the scammer miraculously finds a way out of trouble for everyone.  All the mark has to do is temporarily put up a large sum of money, which the scammer often will match, promising a way out of the dilemma, with a huge payout as a bonus.  Of course, the money and the scammer disappear forever, leaving the mark much poorer and very embarrassed.  Many scammers add an additional step, called “the fix” where they manipulate the mark into the decision not to report the crime. By some estimates, more than half of criminal scams are never reported.
 
It turns out that confidence swindlers are actually taking advantage of some nearly universal quirks of the human brain.  Although effective scamming was no doubt developed by trial and error, it has long become so sophisticated that it is nearly impossible to resist. 
 
Think about magic shows that you have seen.  Magicians, or illusionists as they are sometimes called, can make you believe that they are doing impossible things before your very eyes. They are exploiting the same brain quirks and bits of human behavior that the scammers do.  The difference is that illusionists do it for entertainment and acknowledge that they are fooling you.  Scammers take your money and ruin your life.
 
I am personally amazed that someone can be so cold as to make their living by taking advantage of others, especially the most vulnerable members of our society.  As it turns out, one of the major traits that define a psychopath is a complete lack of empathy for others.  While not all psychopaths are scammers, all scammers are, at least to some degree, psychopaths.
 
Of course, Konnikova’s book goes into much more detail, especially in looking at how modern brain science is revealing how the hard wired parts of our nature allow the con artists to take advantage of us.
 
All of this leads me back to Sheriff Eliasen’s important upcoming presentation.  The only effective way to avoid being scammed is to educate yourself about common scams and the methods behind them.  Armed with that knowledge, you are not only less likely to fall for a scam, but the con artists will recognize your knowledge in the early stages of their game, which makes you a risky mark for them. They will likely move on to another, more naïve victim, before you even know that you’ve been targeted.
 
I hope Sheriff Eliasen will repeat his talk in the West End soon.  If you want more information about the April 13th session, call the Sheriff’s Department or WTIP.
 
On a more pleasant subject, the word is out that conditions are quite good on local snowmobile and ski trails.  Inland lakes are also in good condition for recreation travel right now and will probably stay that way for a couple of weeks.  Downhill skiers are reporting nearly perfect conditions at Lutsen Mountains.  With the longer, warmer days ahead, it is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the fabulous West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Snowbank Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: March 21 - Rain on the Tent

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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Scorpius_John Flannery_Flickr.jpg

Northern Sky: March 19

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.

The Spring Equinox and March winds; Jupiter all night long; in the predawn sky, Mars and Saturn with Scorpius; a full moon on the morning of March 23.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 18

It’s frightful what’s been going on in the north woods since we last met on the radio. Over the past seven, with temps some twenty degrees above normal, there’s a scent of spring in the air, but it’s supposed to be winter! There’s just no seasonal bite anymore.                                                                                                                                                                                  
All this being about six weeks early, the upper Gunflint is flat out into our icky ice and mud scene. Locally, we in the Wildersmith neighborhood are being terrorized with the worst case of slippery wet conditions in seventeen years. Movement out of doors has been at no more than snails’ pace, either on foot or in the vehicle, for fear of ending up on ones’ posterior or careening off into the woods on wheels.                                                                                                                                      
Improvements are slow to happen as areas along the shaded, Mile O Pine have been spared the power of “Old Sol” to some extent. Slow melting has allowed daily oozing which then has been re-freezing to skating like surfaces by the next AM. This is further complicated by a few open places where beaming rays have gashed the frozen surface with patches of bare road. So one moment, one can splash along safely, only to end up slip sliding along on water slick ice.                                                                                             
At the time of this broadcast/scribing, the Wildersmith driveway remains a slippery path to vehicle disaster with all friction applications being of little support. That in mind, the truck sits on high ground until further notice.                                                                                                                                                           
The wilderness landscape has become a patchwork of white and brown. In our yard, it is interesting to assess how winter winds dispersed the snow. Spots where gusts had direct access a thin coating has easily been whisked away by our meltdown. Meanwhile protected places have substantial white remnants, in spite of being reduced by a considerable amount during the past days.             
Observing sunrise on the morning before daylight savings time, confirmed to me spring is now in command. Beams of light lit up the forest and revealed the first return of arachnids. Their network of fiber optics is already strung between our coniferous appendages. It was quite surprising to see the filaments so soon.                                                                                           
Even more startling, a couple creepy crawlers have made illegal entry into our house, yuck!  At ground level, a “murder” of crows has returned and is busy picking through winter remains while breaking silence of the neighborhood with raucous conversation.                                                                                                        
Another sign of more “Vernal” times finds tree juices thawed to resume the flow skyward. This is evident as the snow has melted away from the base of trees creating interesting tube like exposures of bare forest earth in the white.                                                                                                                                                  
In another moment of flowing spring energy, a couple fellows down the road have tapped their way into several Mile O Pine maples. This collecting process is obviously in quest of sweet nectar for syrup making.                                                                                 
The fisher that had been making appearances at several locations down the road recently made its way to the Smith place. This large version of a pine marten apparently knew its way around here perhaps affirming a previous visit. Unfortunately, all the cupboards were bare as it arrived checking out each feeding station. With noses pressed to the window glass watching such an uncommon visitor, this ferocious critter seemingly gave a glance our way, as if to say “where’s the beef” and then scampered off into the forest.                                                                                                                                           
A few days later the maple sap collectors mentioned earlier had an exciting moment when they happened upon a Canadian Lynx. The handsome feline was caught in a sitting pose either sunning itself along the county road or doing a little hare reconnaissance. It was interesting the north woods cat did not make a move until the fellas were about six feet away before loping off into the trees toward Gunflint Lake.                                                                                                                                                                              
In a sad note, “Dog Days of Winter” activities scheduled on Poplar Lake last Sunday, went for naught. A casualty of all this warm sloppiness, events had to be cancelled. Hopefully energy for this event carries over to next year with hope for revival of a real “Northwoods” winter.                 
Before signing off…after all this talk of spring being in the air, winter has come back.  A falling of some twelve to fourteen inches of snow covered the Wildersmith neighborhood and has put things on hold once more.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Regretting a winter lost, but savoring a re-birth of the forest! 

(photo by Phillippa Warr via Flickr)

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When not chasing rabbits, pine martens can sometimes be found eating bird seed

West End News: March 17

 
Everyone was pleasantly surprised this week by the announcement from Cliffs Natural Resources that they would re-open Northshore Mining in mid-May.  The plant in Silver Bay has been in shutdown since December, causing the layoff of 540 employees.  The good news came because the domestic steel market has picked up a little faster than many industry experts were predicting. Even the threat of curtailing sales of below cost steel from foreign producers seems to have perked up the market, along with a number of other factors.
 
The bottom line for the West End, though, is that many of our immediate friends and neighbors will be back to work full time – and that’s a relief.
 
I was a little distressed to hear that the Silver Bay city council banned the sale of Bent Paddle Beer in their municipal liquor store. The reason given was Bent Paddle’s membership in the Downstream Business Coalition, which is a group of about 80 regional businesses that support clean water and sustainable economic development. Full disclosure: I’m a member of the coalition, so I’m biased on this subject. However, I think the city council would reconsider if they could have a good conversation with the fine folks at Bent Paddle Brewery. The coalition is very supportive of iron mining and doesn’t even oppose sulfide mining. It is just opposed to the risk of water pollution that historically accompanies sulfide mining.
 
It’s all a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but I would like to point out that the only purchase that I made in the Silver Bay liquor store this year was a couple of cases of Bent Paddle Beer. I do think, no matter where people stand on the sulfide mining issue, that spirited discussion is healthy for our communities and people should not be threatened with business retaliation for their honestly held political opinions.
 
Mining news continued last week with a couple of serious setbacks for the proposed Twin Metals mining project near Ely. Governor Dayton wrote a public letter to the company expressing his grave concerns about sulfide mining directly upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  The Governor said he was unwilling to allow the risk of pollution in the wilderness, calling it “a crown jewel of Minnesota.”
 
Just a few days later, the Bureau of Land Management denied automatic renewal of two key federal mineral leases that have been held by Twin Metals for decades. These two developments, along with a depressed global metals market, may well spell the end for the Twin Metals project, at least for the foreseeable future. Time will only tell.
 
The 2016 Great Place Project is accepting applications until the end of March. The Great Place Project a collaborative effort of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s Moving Matters initiative. The Great Place Project is a friendly, local opportunity for funding of high impact, low cost ideas to create great places in our communities. Funding amounts range from $250 to $1,250 per selected project. This year, the Minnesota Power Foundation has joined as a major sponsor of the Great Place Project.
 
The theme for 2016 is “playability.” Projects that enhance or create a place that welcomes people with a playfulness or whimsy, especially for children, will be favored. You can find more details, examples and some really fun and well-produced videos by googling “Great Place Project – Cook County.”
 
It was a good week for animal viewing on the back roads. I saw a pine marten chasing a snowshoe hare down the road. The pine marten ducked into the woods as I drew near, but the exhausted rabbit could barely climb over the snow-bank. Moments later I passed a second marten that was closing in on the rabbit from the other direction. I have little doubt that the rabbit became lunch not too long after I passed.
 
The next day I saw three lynx on the road. The largest of the three cats stayed on the road, but kept glancing toward the woods, where I spotted two adolescent kittens. Once the kittens ran off, the adult followed, disappearing with two effortless leaps.
 
It’s always a thrill to see wildlife in the woods. It reminds me why we love living here in the West End.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 11

I sound like a broken record in recounting the week's upper Gunflint weather. Trail residents went through a third consecutive weekend meltdown. This past episode took on more serious connotations in terms of winter packing up and calling it a season. With a forecast of unseasonal warmth in the offing this week and beyond, it would seem “old man winter” has played his last hand.

Sadly, if such is the case, this has to be one of the shortest winters in memory. When borderland normal usually ranges from November into May (a good half calendar year), we barely experienced three months in ‘15 and ’16. Whether this is a cyclical phenomenon or another outgrowth of self-serving mankind abusing the environment, guess we might as well accept this is probably the new norm.

A brief reflection of what our season of cold and snow has been, finds snow accumulation at Wildersmith to date measures 66 inches. Most of this has fallen in minimal doses of two, three or four inches with no meaningful droppings at least in this neighborhood.

Meanwhile we did not experience the traditional multi-day siege of sub-zero in January. In fact, we had only a handful of morning low temps in the minus 25 to 30 realms. This followed a bumbling December with minimal frosty personality and February having little bitter clout as well. To further illustrate the meek north woods air, the National Weather Service sensation of wind chill has been almost non-existent. Bluntly speaking, my favorite season has been simply wimpy!

Here we are heading into the second week of March, warm, slushy and slimy slick under foot. Trail-side snowbanks are showing the look of icky urban crud, and “mud season” seems just a few more warm days off and early to say the least. Adding to our winter catastrophe, rain showers, hail, thunder and lightning pelted various places up the Trail early this week.

It would seem the Ojibwe full, “crust on the snow moon” will be inappropriate this time around. The way things are going, there may be no snow left as we reach the “Vernal Equinox” and the full lunar rising about the same time.

On another note, this coming Sunday (2:00 am) marks another instance of our society tinkering with the natural world, as we nonsensically “spring ahead” on our time pieces. To yours truly, time passes by fast enough, surely lessening the need to jump our clocks ahead every year at this time. Furthermore, the “fall back” come November is little noticed and always seems a lost cause in the total scheme of late autumn happenings.

Getting down off my “soap box” now, I’m happy to announce the annual trout fishing derby made it just under the wire as winter staggered under a beaming “Sol” last Sunday. Somewhere over 70 ice anglers registered for the competition on sloppy Gunflint Lake ice.

A big crowd of onlookers gathered to enjoy a day in the sun as they stood on the ice in ankle deep slush and water. Miraculously, there were no issues with the uncommonly thin frozen surface. Guess it was safe enough though as any number of pickup trucks ventured onto the gooey mess, and at day's end, spun their way back to the mainland.

The purpose of the day was trout catching fun, but only a few were pulled through the hard water holes. The fish, once again, had the last laugh as only five were posted by quitting time.

In the end, two Grand Marais gals were at the top of the leader board. The $500 first prize, for the largest catch of the day, went to Lynn Christensen, with Britney Trovall coming in second. Congratulations and thanks go out to the organizing Cook County Ridge Riders, on braving the difficult lake conditions for another swell event.

At broadcast time, the “Dog days of Winter” are still on the docket for Sunday in spite of the big warm-up. The dogsled derbies and skijoring will be held on Poplar Lake at Trail Center Lodge. To keep track of any possible scheduling changes due to the reeling winter conditions, check visitcookcounty.com.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, savoring the thought of real yesteryear winters and looking for first buds of the next generation.

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