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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: June 11 - 24

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

Mars in retrograde; gigantic Antares between and below Mars and Saturn; Arcturus; on June 20, the summer soltice and a full moon.

(image courtesy of Blueshade via Wikimedia Commons)


The Red Canoe by Winslow Homer

Gus' Wild Side: A solo canoe

Gus tells about buying and traveling in a new "used" solo canoe.

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.


Sawbill Lake, looking peaceful after an efficient rescue

West End News: June 9

We had some excitement at Sawbill this week, but not the kind we like to see. A quiet afternoon in the store was interrupted when a frantic camper rushed in to report hearing cries for help and seeing a swamped canoe on Sawbill Lake. Three of our crew-members, Kevin Taralseth, Alyssa Dahle-Koch and Phil Lindgren, responded instantly by running to the lake with canoes and warm blankets. Kevin is a Wilderness First Responder and an active leader in the fine Outdoor Program at UMD. Alyssa is a college student who has been on dozens of wilderness trips with her pastor father. And Phil is a wilderness canoeist with more than 20 years of experience. Within minutes they had pulled an older couple from what is still pretty freezing water and brought them back to the store. 
The couple had been concentrating on fishing and both leaned the same way at the same time. The husband was recovering from recent surgery, so he reacted pretty strongly to the cold water and was in the early stages of hypothermia. The Sawbill crew had them warmed up and in dry clothes in no time. The couple gratefully returned to Bluefin Bay only slightly worse for wear. The whole unfortunate situation could not have gone better and we are extremely proud of our competent and calm Sawbill crew.
Congratulations to this year's Birch Grove Community School graduates! The June 3 ceremony marks a big turning point in the school careers of these scholars. Next year, they will be attending school in either Grand Marais or Silver Bay.
I remember well when our own kids graduated from Birch Grove. They talked a lot about their excitement and fear of moving up to the "big school" in Grand Marais. This caused Cindy and I some amusement, as we both had attended schools in the Minneapolis suburbs that really were big schools. In any case, our kids were well served by their school experience in Cook County and used their great early education to excel in college and beyond.
There is still time to purchase your tickets for the Gala For The Grove scheduled for the evening of June 18. Call Caroline at Birch Grove Community School or visit their website to purchase yours!
The new FIKA coffee location in the Clearview complex at Lutsen is coming together fast. I mention it because they will have a soft opening, probably within the week, so keep your eyes open and be among the first to sample freshly blended, roasted and brewed coffee in Lutsen. I will have much more to say about this once they are officially open, but I will say that I'm thrilled that young entrepreneurs are opening new businesses in the West End.
Construction on the Sawbill Trail is in full swing and I'd like to give a shout-out to Northland Constructors from Duluth who is the contractor for the eight mile paving project. They are still in the preparation stage, which means that they're replacing many culverts and strengthening the road in areas that are known to have problems.
They seem to be very good at their jobs, even drawing praise from local contractor, Mike Rose. Mike said they are almost as good as his crew of Brett Hansen, Dave Rude and Charlie Nelson who are currently working on a septic system here at Sawbill. Coming from Mike, this is high praise… and is also probably true. 
Charlie Nelson, from Lutsen, turns an incredible 86 years young this week. When Mike told me that they were going to dig some test holes with the excavator, I commented that I thought Charlie would dig them by hand. Mike replied that Charlie could probably dig them faster than Brett could with the excavator. He then turned to Brett, the North Shore's best equipment operator, and said "no offense." Brett quickly replied, "none taken."
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
(Photo by Bruce Rubinstein)



A Year in the Wilderness: June 6 - Dragonflies

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: June 3

Border country is off into June, the month of the Ojibwe full “strawberry” moon. Where did May go?

The past weekend's intro to summer probably seemed bleak if one was a visitor to the area. Our Memorial Day break was nearly a bust as “Mother Nature” chose to do some catching up on overdue moisture, along with cool, but “moose comfortable” temps.

However, we Gunflint byway residents are not complaining. Furthermore, we are deeply appreciative for the heaven-sent liquid. The rain couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, after a near month of tinder dry conditions. Nearly an inch and three-quarters filled the Wildersmith rain gauge during the soggy weekend siege.  

The accumulation will surely enhance mosquito habitat, and the now gushing streams and rivers will provide equal enthusiasm for hatching more of an already active black fly contingent. So everybody, net up!

The north woods jungle has exploded, no doubt aided by the welcome rain. Early wild flowers are aglow, and weeds will soon be beckoning to be whacked. With exception of the sugar maples along the Mile O Pine, leaf-out is completed for summer, while red and white pines are sporting the candles of next generation branches. 

People activities along the Trail were not a washout, as a nice crowd filled the hall at YMCA Camp Menogyn for the annual pancake breakfast on Sunday, while the seasonal opening of the museum at Chik-Wauk & the new Nature Center drew a busy crowd of visitors last Saturday.    

This is just the beginning of what looks to be another hectic summer in the Gunflint Community. Next weekend (June 11 & 12) finds the Boundary Waters Expo taking center stage up at the Seagull Lake boat landing. This 2nd annual event will feature both exhibits and family friendly programming on learning how to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. For a full schedule of events, contact Visit Cook County at (218) 387-2788.   

As the “Expo” draws down on Sunday the 12th, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be holding its annual Shrimp Boil and bake sale at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Commencing at 4 pm, this is always a fun gathering. A fundraiser for the Society, a per-plate donation is suggested, with proceeds going to the Chik-Wauk facility operations. 

While the weather was cold and dismal, it didn’t temper the excitement for area fisher people. A friend down the road found catching to be action packed down on North Lake with a goodly number of trout keepers and subsequent releases. I’m told, the most difficult part of the angling/watercraft excursion was fighting through the rapids from Little Gunflint Lake into Little North. Guess “Beaver & Beaver” Construction have engineered and built quite a dam in the passage, causing the entry to be narrowed with turbulent flowage. 

Spring babies are growing rapidly to the point where they begin venturing out from their birthing places. Guests at Rockwood Lodge had the rare pleasure of recently watching a trio of fox kits playing around and learning of life. Fortunately, the activity was captured on video and shared with WTIP. One can get a look at this foxy fun by clicking on the website at and going to the “photos on the edge" section.

Meanwhile, a few moose opportunities have been reported. One such was a calf the Smiths’ observed in a swamp along the Trail at the turn-off to Big Bear Lodge. And on another day, a couple gals found a big bull munching greens in the pond above the Birch Lake overlook.    

Then, in a rarity during a recent mail run, I found a trail of moose tracks along the Mile O Pine. Moose are seldom found in this neighborhood, other than near the “dog eared” bay of mid-Gunflint Lake. Other Alces alces sightings have been re-counted from mid-Trail on up since last week's scoop. 

If our current cool weather trend extends, there surely will be more sightings of the iconic creatures as they venture out from the shady shelter of balsam groves in twilight hours. 

Those feisty hummingbirds have returned to many feeders around the territory, although to date, we at Wildersmith have observed only minimal arrivals at our nectar supply port. Guess the heavy traffic time for ruby throats is yet to come, and/ or they might be delayed in TSA security lines somewhere south of here.

Finally, the Smiths observed a young “Bruno” crossing our vehicle path not long ago. Other than this lone sighting, I’m not hearing of bear happenings. Stay tuned for future bear tales as more careless humans infiltrate their domain with appetizing temptations.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, savoring, “the land of sky blue waters!”

(still shot from Sally Wilson's video; footage courtesy of Rockwood Lodge & Outfitters)


Common Nighthawk

West End News: June 2

The best piece of news I’ve heard in awhile is the announcement by Cook County Attorney, Molly Hicken, that drug court is coming to Cook County. 
Drug court has been around in Minnesota since the mid-1990s and has been slowly expanding around the state since then.  Drug courts are problem solving courts that bring together judges, prosecuters, defense attorneys, probation and law enforcement officers, social workers and addiction counselors to help non-violent offenders find restoration through recovery. 
Not only do the drug courts help people turn around their lives, but numerous studies have carefully documented tremendous savings, both direct and indirect, for taxpayers. I am not the first to say it: drug court is not being soft on crime – it’s being smart on crime. 
Kudos to County Attorney Hicken and the Cook County Board of Commissioners for establishing and supporting this important program here in Cook County.  There are numerous ways that individuals and businesses can get involved in this program, so give Molly Hicken a call at her office in the courthouse if you would like to help out. 
We can only hope that our national policy on addictive drugs can continue to move away from the clearly failed war on drugs toward the public health model that has enjoyed relative success in other countries. 
There is still time to get your tickets for this year’s “Gala For The Grove,” Birch Grove Community School’s biggest annual fundraiser.  The gala is a fun social event, even if it wasn’t held in support of the ultimate good cause: our children.  This sixth annual “Gala For The Grove” is on Saturday, June 18th.  You can reserve your tickets online this year at the Birch Grove School website or give Caroline a call at 663-0170.  
Also coming up soon is the now famous Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.  From humble beginnings in 2011, when just a handful of riders raced, the 99er has grown to one of the midwest’s premiere mountain bike races, with nearly 2,000 racers. 
This year’s event ramps up on Friday, June 24th with check-in and a barbeque at Rosie’s Chalet at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area. Saturday is the big day with breakfast starting at the brisk hour of 5 am, followed by more check-ins and the race start at 7:30. 
The term 99er refers, of course, to the distance – in miles – of the main race.  A single day of racing at the famous Tour De France averages around 100 miles, but that is on paved roads.  The 99er is a little bit on paved roads, but mostly on gravel roads, logging roads, single track bike trails and, frankly, muddy sloughs that have little in common with anything resembling a road. 
There are races of 69, 39 and 19 miles for the mere mortals among us.  There are also kids races, activities and fun for families, friends and fans.  
The Lutsen 99er, co-sponsored by Visit Cook County and Lifetime Fitness, has grown into one of the biggest and best annual events in the little old West End.  As I’ve been know to say, be there, or be square. 
This week’s nature note is the arrival of the common nighthawks. Their graceful, acrobatic flights at twilight are strongly evocative of the beginning of summer. The common nighthawk is a medium sized bird that is a crepuscular, or nocturnal, member of the nightjar family. They are usually first noticed by their distinctive “peenting” call, before they are observed swooping and dodging over lakes and fields in pursuit of insects.  They also seem fairly unafraid of humans, sometimes letting you approach within a couple feet before taking flight.  This may also be a defense mechanism, because they are wonderfully camoflauged when they aren’t flying. 
Back in the day, some of the old timers called them “goatsuckers” due to a myth that they drank milk from sleeping nanny goat, which led to their milk drying up or even going blind. 
The Nighthawks’ cousin, the European Nightjar, has long inspired poets, including this line from George Meredith: “Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-notes unvaried/Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar.” 
In any case, they are a creature that makes it more interesting to live in the mysterious and fascinating West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



A Year in the Wilderness: June 1 - Brule 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)



North Woods Naturalist: Bumblebees

The queens are busy this time of year, contributing to their important role as pollinators. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about bumblebees.

(Photo by Bill Bumgarner on Flickr)


Woodland caribou

Dr. Seth Moore: Cook County's vanished woodland caribou

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 woodland caribou - an animal that once roamed parts of Cook County.

(Photo by Just a Prairie Boy on Flickr)


Saturn (Voyager 1/NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern Sky: May 28 - June 10

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

Saturn takes the stage: a huge lightweight in opposition on June 3 - only 378 million miles away; Saturn's winds, rings and many moons.