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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:

Northern Sky: August 6 - 19

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

The Perseid meteor shower peaking on August 12, with a chance of an ‘earth grazer’; the Persied’s parent comet – Swift-Tuttle; August’s full moon on the 18th; Mars gliding through the crown of Scorpius August 6-11; and in the West, Bootes, the Herdsman.

Dark skies for starwatching around the new moon on August 2; Scorpius low in the south with Mars and Saturn; an asterism - the teapot of Sagittarius; this episodes challenge constellation: Ophiuchus, the snake handler; and the summer triangle, high in the east and moving westward.

(photo by Nick Ares via Wikimedia Commons)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 5

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods once again. It’s great to be home to the “cool” north woods after a trek along the Mississippi to “steamy” Iowa for a visit with our daughter. 

With nearly a week of August under our belts, tell-tale signs of autumn are perking up in places along the Trail and back country roads. The first indication of such is noted in ground level cover called dogbane. Apparently, this is the first flora to discover the diminishing daylight minutes and has begun to cut back on chlorophyll production, thus illuminating roadsides with our first sampling of fall gold. 

In the company of this happening: fireweed, Joe-Pye weed, black-eyed Susans, and goldenrod have picked up the blooming slack from June and July's floral decline. Further signals are noted in grasses of many varieties beside our pathways turning golden brown with seed tops ready to drop, sowing next year's generation, and last but not least, rose hips are gaining on their crimson color.   

Since our return to paradise, upper Trail weather has been spectacular with cool nights and moderate daytimes. Here at Wildersmith, we even experienced a temp in the thirties one night late last week. Whoa, we have tomatoes yet to ripen!  
The pleasantness has been well received but somewhat with tongue in cheek. There has been almost no significant rain in this neighborhood over the last two weeks, until a four-tenths dropping a couple days ago. Therefore, the forest had become quite dry. If one was caught traveling backwoods roads following another vehicle, it’s been like one of those wicked Arizona dust storms. In spite of the recent shower, area folks might want to be cranking up those wildfire sprinkler systems just to add a dampening to their properties.   
Lots of August happenings occur during the next week or so. First up is The Gunflint Trail Historical Society meeting, this coming Monday, the 8th, beginning at 1:30 pm. The gathering will be at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Following a short membership meeting, an interesting program will feature Patricia Emerson, from the Minnesota Historical Society talking on the underwater exploration of the Granite River, which the Society conducted from 1963 to 1970.

Then on Wednesday, the 10th, the big mid-Trail flea market/gift boutique, auction and quilt raffle takes center stage at
Fire Hall number one. The always fun event commences at 1 pm and runs until about 4 o'clock. Proceeds from the flea market will go to the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, while the balance from other activities will be donated, once again, to our volunteer fire department. Chances for the quilt raffle drawing continue on sale at Trail Center Restaurant. Come one, come all!    

If these two wilderness community affairs aren’t enough, another happens on Sunday, the 14th. The fourth annual Woods, Winds and Strings concert takes place at Fire Hall number one and the Schaap Mid-Trail Community Center at 4 pm. Ticket reservations remain on sale through the GTHS at Chik-Wauk Museum. Call 388-9915 if you haven’t already reserved yours. The concert of classical and jazz music highlights a blend of many local musicians heard in the past, as well as new performers from Cook County and beyond. New this year will be Mike DeBevec’s Sky Blue Jazz Ensemble. The woods will be alive with “the sound of music”, don’t miss it.      
If Cook County residents and visitors haven’t made the trip out to the new Nature Center at Chik-Wauk yet, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Every day finds some neat natural occurrence being explored with naturalists Jacqueline Mallinson and Kathy Lande.     
As an example of what one might experience, yours truly was in attendance last Sunday when Ms. Mallinson presented a female “striped fishing spider” captured with an egg sack attached to an intricate web encompassed branch. During the hours soon after being incarcerated in a big glass container, the arachnid’s egg sack hatched. Bearing countless (perhaps hundreds) of baby spiders, each one was smaller than the head of a straight pin. The new mom and her family were to be carefully released back into the end of the trail wild later that day.     
Although I’m not into these creepy crawlers, having never been this up close and personal with the critters, the marvel of observing this miracle was one more for the books of Gunflint Trail magic.  
Fascinating programming continues on Sunday afternoons at the Nature Center providing special insights into many aspects of our natural Gunflint world. This coming Sunday will feature Wildfire Ecology, presented at 2 pm by Gunflint Lodge Naturalist John Silliman. While there, it would be a good idea to stop in the museum for a look at the Trail of yesteryear, and to observe the current temporary exhibit, “Heard but not seen” on birds in the Gunflint Territory.
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, watching the wonders of summer begin to fade away!

(photo by grassrootsgroundswell via Wikimedia Commons)


Dr. Seth Moore

Dr. Seth Moore: Should moose be listed as a federal Endangered Species?

Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses an historic fur trade site on scenic Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues. 

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the impacts of listing moose under the Endangered Species Act.



West End News: August 4

I am very sorry to hear that Caroline Wood has resigned as Director of the Birch Grove Community School and is leaving the area. Caroline was a strong asset for the community as the school director and in her previous role running the Birch Grove Foundation. She will be missed and hers will be large shoes to fill.
It seems crazy to me that no one can give us a straight answer about whether or not the townships are legally allowed to contribute to a community school. This is exactly the kind of situation where our legislators should be able to get a definitive answer fast. If it is deemed that current statute does not allow the townships to contribute, our representatives should be able to quickly pass legislation that will allow the townships to follow the will of the community. The whole point of government is to organize the community the way the voters want it organized.
The ongoing uncertainty is very damaging to the school. It discourages young families from committing to living in the West End and has a chilling effect on foundations who don’t want to spend their money on a program with and uncertain future. It also makes it difficult to attract and retain staff, who very correctly wonder if they will have secure employment at Birch Grove.
I encourage all West End residents to contact Senator Tom Bakk and Representative Rob Ecklund and urge them to apply their energy and influence to a speedy resolution of this frustrating issue. There really is no more important issue on the front burner in the West End.
The Plucked Up String Band, of which I am a member, had the honor of playing on the statewide public television show, Almanac, last week.  Almanac is the sassy political show that has been on the air for more than 30 years, hosted by Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola.
It was really fun to watch the live hour long show being put together. Almanac is famous for its casual attitude and we sure found that to be the case. The whole crew was very professional, but very relaxed. Live television could easily cause anxiety, but after 30 years they seem to take it in stride.
The highlight for me was meeting, and being interviewed by, Jearlyn Steele, the legendary gospel and pop singer. She is a force of nature, both in her phenomenal singing talent and her intelligence, wit and good nature. I invited her to be a member of the Plucked Up String Band, but she graciously declined, citing her busy schedule. She was genuinely complimentary about our music, which I took as a huge compliment, considering the source.
You can see the clip of our performance on FaceBook, both at the Plucked Up String Band page and the Twin Cities Public Television Almanac page.
Now, if we could only get a guest spot on the Red Green Show…
The Sawbill Trail is now sporting a little over ten miles of asphalt pavement on its southern half. Northland Contractors laid down the first layer of paving in just two days. Now, they are working on the finishing layer and will soon be painting lines. 
Northland and the Cook County Highway Department have done a very good job on this project. Not only has the Trail been extensively repaired, but also the pavement is as smooth as a baby’s cheek. County Engineer Dave Betts designed nice wide shoulders for biking, roller blading and roller skiing, which will be a great community asset for residents and visitors alike.
It’s just another reason to love the wonderful West End.



North Woods Naturalist: Flowers that open and close

Some flowers close at night, others stay open. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about how they do it and a bit about what we know why they do it.

(Photo courtesy of Forest Farming on Flickr)



A Year in the Wilderness: August 1 - Storms

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 antti_nannimus on Flickr)



Stage Door: Practice Rooms

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

(Photo courtesy of Grand Marais Playhouse Facebook page)


Taconite Harbor "back in the day"

West End News: July 28

The project to pave eight miles of the Sawbill Trail, which has been undergoing prep-work all summer, is finally underway. Mechanical breakdowns and storm damage elsewhere in the region had caused some delays, but as of this week, there is actual pavement on the Sawbill Trail where there has never been pavement before. Cook County Engineer, Dave Betts, says that the remainder of the project should take about three weeks if the weather cooperates.

The project makes me think often of Jean Raiken, who lived on the Sawbill Trail from the early 1930s until the 1980s. Jean was a county commissioner and an influential community activist  during those years. She would have been delighted to see the Sawbill Trail being paved. She often talked longingly about that possibility, as far back as the 1960s. Jean was also a prime force in getting the original hospital and care center built in Grand Marais, so she would be pleased to see that project as well. I guess the lesson is to be patient and persistent when advocating for community improvements and they will come eventually, even if you don't live to see them.

We are coming up on the fifth year since my dad and former author of this commentary, Frank Hansen, passed away. Among his many community contributions was working to get a hospice established in Cook County. It was quite a struggle, but Frank, along with many others, finally succeeded in establishing a hospice in Grand Marais. As it turned out, Frank was the very first person to use the new hospice. As he was wheeled through the door, he was smiling and celebrating being the first hospice patient in Grand Marais. I told him that he may also be the last person to be cheerfully celebrating their entrance into hospice.

In a slightly more cheerful historical vein, the Schroeder Area Historical Society is hosting a reunion of the former residents and friends of Taconite Harbor residential area. The housing development was built in the 1950s primarily to house workers at the Taconite Harbor power plant.  It was beautiful little 22-home suburban style housing development just south of the existing power plant. Erie Mining Company evicted the residents and sold the houses for removal in 1986. To this day, no one really knows why they removed such a valuable housing resource when affordable housing for working people was - and is - so difficult to come by. The site is now a ghost town feel to it, with overgrown curbs and gutters punctuated by surviving lawn shrubs and ornamental trees among the thick native brush that is slowly talking over.

The tight-knit community of Taconite Harbor still survives in the memories of the people who lived there, especially among those who were children in a time and place where kids experienced real outdoor adventure almost every day of the year. The reunion starts at 1 pm on August 6 at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. There will be plenty of time for conversation about living and growing up in Taconite Harbor, along with the usual North Shore refreshments of cookies, bars and coffee. This year's featured exhibit at the Heritage Center is the Tac Harbor community, so there will be plenty pictures and artifacts to trigger old memories. The festivities will also include a tour of Birch Grove School in Tofte where the community's children all attended elementary school.

My most vivid memories of Taconite Harbor are of visiting the house that had been converted to a doctor's office and staffed by Dr. MacDonald one or two days a week. Roger MacDonald saved my life several times by treating routine - but potentially deadly - childhood illnesses. I can still vividly recall the smell, which was a not-unpleasant combination of disinfectant, the receptionist's perfume and the developing chemicals from the truly antique x-ray machine. These are good memories of a bygone era in rural medicine.

As predicted, the blueberry season is in full swing and it's a good one. The Duluth couple who camp at Sawbill and pick more than 30 gallons of blueberries per year, are telling me that this may be the best year in a couple of decades. They've been doing their early picking in places that everyone knows about and getting a couple of gallons every time out. They'll be back next week for the heart of the season and will move to their secret spots (cough, cough Pagami Creek Fire) for the main harvest. So even if you're in the three quart and not the 30 gallon league, get out there an pick while the picking is good.




A Year in the Wilderness: July 26 - South Lake

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: July 23 - Aug 5

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

Dark skies for starwatching around the new moon on August 2; Scorpius low in the south with Mars and Saturn; an asterism - the teapot of Sagittarius; this episodes challenge constellation: Ophiuchus, the snake handler; and the summer triangle, high in the east and moving westward.

(map by Torsten Bronger via Wikimedia Commons)