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North Shore Weekend


  • Saturday 7-10am
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:
Schoodic Point

Gus' Wild Side: An encounter at Schoodic Point

Acadia National Park is located along the coast of Maine. Gus worked at Acadia as a Park Ranger, and remembers a special story told by a visitor to this beautiful spot.

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 Kim Carpenter on Flickr)



A Year in the Wilderness: August 22 - Four boys and fall

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)



Northern Sky: August 20 - September 2

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

Venus and Jupiter are seen low in the west; Mars will put on a show of speed. The "summer triangle" will appear in the south. The Milky Way stretches from northeast to southwest across the evening sky.

(Photo courtesy of Philippe Put on Flickr)


Gunflint Volunteers at the Woodchippers Hall

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 19

The Gunflint Trail is alive with summer visitors as we head into week four of month eight. As luck would have it “Mother Nature” has provided some sparkling conditions over the past seven. Pleasant days with comfortable temps have been complemented by a couple night time rains yielding slightly over one and one-third inches here in this neighborhood.

Fall continues to nudge along as I’ve been watching on daily runs to Grand Marais for the timber framing class of which several Gunflint neighbors are participating. Speaking of this undertaking, it’s an energizing project that will end this coming Sunday.

It’s definitely been a lifestyle change for many of us as we put our retirement on vacation to go back to work each day from nine to five. I didn’t realize how much I’ve come to enjoy leisurely mornings until they went away.

Although the learning curve has been quite high for those of us with little to no experience, we are learning more each day and gaining comfort with reading prints and using tools of the art. As we hone out the components for this neat project, it might well be this is a crafty gang at the “wood chippers hall” and by “hall” I mean the red building at North House Folk School. One can view the mighty sawdust makers as they gathered for work one morning by hitting the website, and clicking on the Wildersmith column.

The annual mid-Trail homeowners summer celebration is into the books for another year following last week's flea market, gift boutique and auction. A big crowd turned out at the fire hall number one and when all was said and done, those folks raised $13,000 on behalf of the Trail Historical Society and our volunteer fire department.

By the way the ever-popular mid-Trail stitchers 2016 quilt raffle found Samantha Payne of White Bear Lake with the lucky ticket as the event came to a close. Congrats and thanks to Chair Judy Edlund and her wonderful group of volunteers for putting together another swell afternoon on the Gunflint Trail.

As if Judy Edlund didn’t have enough to do with this past event, she is looking for Trail pastry artisans to step up with the donation of a pie for our Labor Day weekend pie and ice cream social on the grounds at Chik-Wauk. The sweet treats will be served on Sunday, September 4, from noon until 4:00pm. Anyone wishing to donate a pie should contact Judy at 388-4400.

As we passed the full Ojibwe “blueberry moon” in the wee hours of Thursday morning, the fervor for blueberry heaven continues. Although many easily accessible patches have been picked over, those willing to go the extra mile into rough back country are finding buckets of the blue/purple gems.

The “Woods, Winds and Strings” concert held last Sunday was a melodious whisper through our Gunflint pines. Another sell-out crowd enjoyed many renowned musicians from our “tip of the arrowhead” talent pool. Thanks go out to organizer Susan Scherer, many of the usual Trail volunteers, all performers and of course a fine audience.

Up at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this weekend, wildlife enthusiasts will want to be there for a program on the ever-changing Canadian Lynx population in the upper Trail territory. Making the presentation at 2:00pm will be USFS wildlife specialist David Grosshuesch.

A final note comes from one of our local resort owners. Last Monday while guiding a guest on Gunflint Lake near Campers Island, the scent of smoke was detected from nearby shore. Investigation found an unattended, still-burning campfire with brush placed on top of the flaming fire ring. Adding insult to an impending disaster, trash remains and plastic had been included in the blaze which is a recognized no-no for wilderness users.

Obviously Gunflint Trail residents dodged a bullet thanks to a good friend being in the right place at the right time. This carelessness is in-excusable regardless of whether the perpetrator was a visitor or a local. Campfires must be “dead/cold” out before departing any wilderness site!!!!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where all days are great and some are even better!!!


Some of Ontario's finest junior cross country skiers, relaxing at the Tofte General Store after a 20 mile roller skiing workout

West End News: August 18

Earlier this week, I was on the town run from Sawbill to Tofte. I had been driving on the brand new pavement for a couple of miles, when I was pleased and surprised to see two cross-country skiers on roller skis coming toward me. As they drew near, I could see that they were extremely fit and skilled young skiers. Their technique was flawless and they were flying down the road.

As I continued toward town, I was thinking that roller skiing is a great new use for the flawless new pavement. As I crested the next hill, here were two more skiers, equally fit and skilled, also cruising along at top-speed. Behind them came four more, then six, then a pack of 20 and then more than I could count. They were all young, fit and fast. Just before I got to Tofte, I saw a van covered with skiing stickers, so I stopped to get the lowdown.

It turned out to be an elite junior training program from the Lappi Nordic Centre near Thunder Bay. It was a joint training camp, so it included members of the Nordic Loppet Club of Minneapolis. There were 57 teenaged skiers, including one Junior Olympian, and a handful of coaches and assistants. The group stayed in Lutsen and Grand Marais for the long weekend, before moving over to Marquette, Michigan, for more training.

The coach I talked to said that he had chosen the Sawbill Trail for its two miles of almost continuous upslope, but when he scouted it two weeks ago, he was disappointed to see the black top ended at the top of the hill. Imagine his surprise when he came back last week to find 8 more miles of perfect asphalt. Many of the skiers took full advantage, skiing the entire 20 mile round trip. Both coaches and skiers were enthusiastic about the terrain, asphalt and relative lack of traffic. I must say, they were very polite and careful not to interfere with traffic. They told me that they would be back for future training camps, adding a small, unexpected economic boost from the brand new paving job.

The skiers I talked to had never skied the fabulous Sugarbush Trail system, although they had been biking on the single-track mountain bike trails and were enthusiastic about that system. Maybe it’s time for the West End to start thinking about a Nordic training center of our own?

I’d like to put in a plug for the Facebook group called “North Shore Tribe.” It seems to be mostly current and past North Shore residents who post contemporary and historical photos. The historical photos usually trigger a bunch of mini-memoirs from the older members of the group. It’s not only entertaining, but also a good historical record of everyday life on the North Shore over the last 60 years or so. It’s a public group, so anyone can see it – just search North Shore Tribe on Facebook.

Mark your calendars now for the 20th anniversary celebration at the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte. The weekend of September 3rd will include a lot of fishy fun on the museum plaza to celebrate the museum’s opening just 20 short years ago. There will be songs, storytelling around a campfire, kids games, fishcakes, fish recipes, fish sales, and tours of the museum and outdoor exhibits. Call 663-7050 for more details and times.


Fall Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: August 15 - Visitors and Crickets

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)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 12

As autumn rounds the bend, the “magnetic north” continues its attraction. Wilderness enthusiasts see their time in this spectacular place dwindling. Based on the idea of time in border country waning, vacationers are packing into area outfitters in droves. If parking facilities at both Seagull and Way of the Wilderness outfitters is an indication of what’s happening all along the Trail, business is booming as August heads into week three.

Added to the outdoor fanciers are blueberry pickers galore, making for perhaps more people in the BWCA/Superior National Forest right now than there are bears, or certainly moose.  

To make these wilderness adventures even more pleasant, Gunflint atmospheric conditions have been spectacular for paddlers, tent pitchers, and blue thumbed pickers. Moisture has been spotty though, but thankfully, what did fall came without the violence of storms experienced in June and July.   

Hopes for more fair weather are on the minds of eighteen Gunflint Trail Historical Society volunteers who will be starting an adventure into timber frame building at the North House Folk School as this report hits the air waves. Yours truly included, the group will be making sawdust and wood chips, while shaping timbers for the watercraft display facility to be erected on the bay-shore at Chik-Wauk Museum in the summer of 2017. Under the guidance of Folk House timber frame experts, the project will run daily beginning Friday the 12th and continue through August 21st. Wish us well in cutting a straight line and keeping all fingers intact!

A reminder to all seniors residing up the Trail, the AARP sponsored “Safe Driving” refresher course is being conveniently offered up this way on Monday, August 22nd. The class will be held in the Conference Center at Gunflint Lodge from 10 am to 2 pm. Be sure to bring your own brown bag lunch. 

Last call is being made for the Woods, Winds and Strings concert this coming Sunday. Some tickets remain available for the 4 pm performance at the facilities of Fire Hall number one. Give the Chik-Wauk Museum a call @ 388-9915 to reserve your seating.

August is the perfect month to be planting. If area property owners are intending to enhance their woodland properties, the Minnesota DNR offers help through a Forest Stewardship Program. The program provides technical advice and long-range forest management planning. All aspects of the program are voluntary and are designed to meet landowner goals, while maintaining sustainability of the land. A Forest Stewardship plan is always prepared by a natural resource professional from our local area. For more information the following website provides a link to such at, or phone local DNR Forestry offices. 

News from the staff at Chik-Wauk is that the loon chicks hatched on the man-made nesting platform are back in the bay after a few weeks’ hiatus to somewhere. They are nearing adult size, complete with white breasts and darkening formal attire. It is heartening to note they have matured enough to escape the jaws of a hungry northern pike and the talons of a ravenous eagle. It won’t be too many weeks until loon young’uns will be gathering for their first trip south.   

The Wildersmith two have observed very few bears over the summer, and not one in a couple months. However, one did cross our path just days ago on a Smith trek toward end of the Trail. It was a little guy/gal, suggesting a birth date back around first of this year. Being a youngster, there was a strong probability a mommy and perhaps a brother or sister could be nearby. In the area viewed, it was more than likely to have been coming from or entering a blueberry patch. Pickers beware! It’s time for Brunos to start tacking on the pounds. 

On a final note, harvest time is entering early stages for the rodent critters around our yard. Pine cones high in the white pines and white cedar seed clusters will soon be cut to fall earthward and onto our roof tops, as the foraging race begins. Chipmunks have already begun the mad competition with squirrels for seeds, stuffing their jowls and scampering to unknown winter food banks, while their gnawing cousins seem not the least bit concerned right now. Let the games begin! 
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, thinking of “getting ready for winter” chores! 

(photo by Seney Natural History Association via Wikimedia Commons)


Camp Finland kids study rare dragonflies

West End News: August 11

Birch Grove Community School invites one and all to their annual open house. This year it is on Tuesday, August 23, from 5 pm until 8 pm. This event is open to everyone, but is especially geared to families that would like to have their children attend Birch Grove. The open house includes informal conversation with teachers and staff, a tour, a bouncy house in the gym and a free pizza bake in the outdoor wood-fired oven.
Birch Grove serves kids for pre-school, starting at the age of three, on up through the fifth grade. It is an award winning program and the opportunity to give your child an excellent education with a lot of personal attention from their teachers. I can vouch for this because I’m the proud parent of two Birch Grove graduates.
For more information, you can contact Diane Blanchette at 663-0170 or email
There is a great report out of Finland from the Camp Finland program that runs out of the Clair Nelson Community Center every summer. Among many other activities, the kids got to capture and identify dragonflies with DNR biologist, Kurt Mead. Kurt reports that there are about a hundred known species of dragon and damselflies in the Finland area.
Kurt expected that most of the captured insects would be the more common varieties, but was surprised by how many of netted flies were uncommon or rare. The predominant damselfly that the kids were catching was the Aurora damsel, which has only been documented in Lake County once before. Another exciting find was the Ski-tailed Emerald Dragonfly. The last time this species was found in Lake County was in 1920!
Reports of the outing will be included in a national database and a few species have been donated to the University of Minnesota Insect Collection in St. Paul. Although the kids had a lot of fun chasing dragonflies around on a warm, windy day, they did real science that will advance everyone’s knowledge of these fascinating and beautiful creatures. If you want to see the full dragonfly report, go to the website:
While I’m thinking about the excellent Clair Nelson Community Center, let me remind you of the Finland Farmer’s Market that takes place every Thursday from 5 until 6:30 pm through the first Thursday in October. 
The entire West End community is saddened by the passing of Craig Spates, who was a long time resident of Lutsen. Craig was a true character in a community that isn’t short on characters. When my son, Carl, was about four, he used to call Craig “that really ugly guy.” That sounds sort of cruel, but Carl really, really liked Craig, and actually meant “that very interesting looking guy.”
Craig was a mainstay in the community, working for decades in almost every capacity at the ski hill among a host of other jobs. He was an intelligent man with many interests, two of which I shared with him - music and politics. Craig was a big music fan and a unique and original musician and songwriter. He was also a dyed in the wool Democrat who followed all levels of politics closely. He had a deep understanding of the issues and the complex political dynamics that surround them.
Craig was a friend to everyone he met and the West End is a less interesting place without him.

(Photo courtesy of Camp Finland)



Gunflint Woods, Winds and Strings Concert - August 14

The 4th annual concert features vocal and instrumental classical and jazz music to benefit the Gunflint Trail Historical Society and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. The concert is held in the cold storage building with a reception to follow in the Schaap Community Center adjacent to Fire Hall #1 at Poplar Lake.

The concert will also feature a commissioned piece composed by Bill Beckstrand.

More information and reservations are available at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center, 218-388-9915



A Year in the Wilderness: August 9 - Girl Scouts

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)