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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:

Northern Sky: March 18 - 31

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

Venus drops out of the evening sky during March, and on the 31st a crescent moon can be seen near Taurus, the Bull. The winter stars are starting to fade; Sirius - the brightest star - can be seen in the southwest after nightfall, with Jupiter ascending in the southeast. Spring arrives on March 20, with day length increasing in a northward direction.

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Fishing success

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 17

March seems to equate with madness, and although the Gunflint Trail is endowed in a semi-calm state most of the time, we residents are not excluded from at least some connection to the delirium. At this moment we are caught up in bedlam of some sort, from many of life’s manifestations.  One has to wonder if the spirit in the “crust on the snow moon” might have cast a spell of chaos over us to muddle up month three.

Of note in this territory, weather “madness” continues to up-end daily routines. Bouncing back from the early March meltdown, where we experienced warmth, thunder, lightning, pea-sized hail and rain, we have seen winter regain a foothold with a little snow, gale force winds, blizzard conditions and bitter cold for several days going into and through last weekend. And I see spring tinkering around once again as this report hits the air waves.

As a matter of seasonal character, this roller coaster warm and then cold is really accelerating the build-up of mini glaciers at many frozen back road culverts and low lying water ways. The process is likely to get even worse until running water and warmth can line up allowing liquid to find its way back underground, where it belongs. 

In this neighborhood, the winds were scary as those straight line episodes in the summers of 1999 and then again in 2016. They blew in some degree of rage over four days. Blowing at such force, at times I felt I would surely lose some “old growth” white pines. Fortunately, they showed their grit and remain vertical after bending in a tenuous state through the turmoil. Unfortunately, a couple centuries old cedars, right off our lakeside deck didn’t fare so well. Luckily they went down away from the house.

So now it’s just a matter of clean up when winter is no more.

Added to our northland atmospheric madness, many things are going on about us so life is literally in a whirlwind. Whew, from excitement of the full March moon; to the nonsense of humankind manipulating time pieces; to thoughts of the coming Vernal Equinox; to the fervor of hoops, hockey, wrestling; and more, it will be nice to see March give way to the calm of April and mud season.

As the trout season nears month's end, Gunflint Lake has been abuzz with anglers screaming up and down the ice to get in their final jigging reps. On a related note, the ice depth on Gunflint is hanging in there at two feet plus, easily accommodating all modes of vehicular use.

A family down the road on Mile O Pine was here last weekend to join in the fishing fun. Included in the group were two young grandsons. The oldest, a five-year-old, jigged right alongside Dad and Grandpa.  Wouldn’t you know it this little guy was a hero for the day pulling in a fine eight pound trout? No doubt, if fishing wasn’t already in his DNA, this young fellow is now probably hooked for life!

By the way, this catch would have easily won the recent trout derby over many veteran anglers.

It seems apparent our neighborhood fisher (the animal) is making the Wildersmith place a routine stop on its sustenance quest. The lush animal has made several visits over the past week both day and night. Sporadic visits earlier this winter found the grizzly character easily spooked, but recent calls have found it less alarmed by our gawking out the window. Guess hunger has power over common sense for all critters of creation, even if survival safety is jeopardized.

Speaking of common sense, which seems not so common anymore, I remind listeners it makes “good” sense to get on board with the grass roots effort going on right now at WTIP. This independent community station is in the midst of its’ “GRASS ROOTS” spring membership drive. Continuing funding resources are necessary to help further quality programming, and it takes us listeners to make it happen. Our north land treasure is for members, by members and about members!
So to pledge give operators a call at 218-387-1070; 1-800-473-9847 or click and join at wtip.org.                     

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith where every day is great, and full of unexpected natural grace. Have a happy day for the wearin’ of the green!
 

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West End News: March 16

If you, like me, have been a little stymied by the strange midwinter thaw and are in need of some entertainment out in the community, might I recommend heading to Lutsen this weekend. Papa Charlie's, up at Lutsen Mountains, is hosting their annual DuLutsen music weekend this Friday and Saturday. DuLutsen is a weekend chock full of Duluth’s top musicians playing way up North of North, as they say. This is a great opportunity to catch some good tunes from our neighbors to the South right here at home. This year you can hear groups like Black-Eyed Snakes, Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank (featuring Ryan Young of Trampled by Turtles), Jillian Rae, Sarah Krueger, Rich Mattson & The North Stars, and Brothers Burn Mountain. Tickets are $12 at the door and music starts at 8:30 both Friday and Saturday.

If that doesn’t entice you out of your midwinter stupor, listen to this! This year marks the 42nd annual St Urho’s day celebration in Finland. St Urho, of course, is famous for chasing the grasshopers out of Finland, thus saving the grape crop. Folks, this is a three day event. It kicks off with the Miss Helmi Talent and Beauty Contest from 6-8pm on Friday the 17th. There’s a parade through Finland on Highway 1 that starts at noon on Saturday, March 18. There’s music around town throughout the day Saturday as well as a craft fair, games and lunch at the Clair Nelson Community Center. If you’re still standing, you can win some door prizes at a raffle drawing at 3pm on Sunday. St Urho may be made up, but this party is for real. So put on some purple and we’ll see you in Finland!

If you need something slightly calmer, the woods are lovely right now. The thaw and freeze has made for a very solid crust that keeps a person on snowshoes right on top, making for easy travel all over the place. The inland lakes are pretty icy, but if you don’t mind a little slipping, you can usually find a ribbon of windswept snow along the eastern shores to carry you along on skis. Traveling so close to shore has given me insights into the winter woods I otherwise would have missed. Like the scattered remnants of an otter’s lunch, blue and orange shells adding to the illusion created by ocean-like ripples the wind has made in the snow.

So there you have it. Good tunes, a parade, and peaceful wilderness, all out our backdoor this week in the West End. I feel better already.

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that this week I am especially grateful for WTIP. In addition to all the wonderful things WTIP does for our community, which I’m sure you’re hearing about during this membership drive, I’d like to add one very personal thank you note. Years ago, my Grandpa Frank Hansen transitioned his newspaper column, the West End News, to WTIP. While I always enjoyed it when I heard it, I never fully appreciated the lasting impact of those recordings. Now, years after he’s left us, I can still listen to his voice recounting history and news as though I were in his living room anytime I want, just by clicking a button on WTIP’s website. It’s one of the only places his voice is recorded to my knowledge. So thanks WTIP, for capturing the voices of our community, what a gift.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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Raven in Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 10

The upper Gunflint has been in the midst of another grappling match between winter and spring. Commencing this week’s report finds the usually mild mannered “sweetheart" of spring out of character, by having “Old Man Winter” in a choke hold.

Now he’s escaped again!

Fact is, our month three full lunar orb on Sunday could easily be better heralded as the “mush (not crust) on the snow” Ojibwe moon.                                                                                                                              

The grizzly “Great White Spirit” just can’t keep a grip in his ’16-17 rendition and is slip sliding into oblivion while we border country residents continue trekking about on softening slush and greasy ice. At the moment of this release though, it’s back to subzero and wind-blown snow. Guess the “old” part of his “Old Man Winter” designation confirms he just can’t command things as in days of yester year. It’s a “bear” getting old, for all of us!

A forecast of temps reaching into the 40s and raindrops instead of snowflakes earlier this week, finds us Gunflint folk uttering disgusting remorse at the cold season's passing.  So it’s onward and upward toward buds, blossoms and new forest babies.

Enough cold did hold on for the Cook County Snowmobile Club’s trout derby last Sunday on Gunflint Lake. Once again the “one day” shack community development sprung up on the lake ice with several hundred folks snowmobiling and milling about while some 70 serious hard water anglers tried to trick a trout into taking a bite.

At derby’s end, few finny were taken, but everyone had a good time getting together.  The old adage that about ten percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish prevailed once again as the “fishing was great, but the catching was not.”

By late afternoon, shanty town was gone, leaving nary a trace.

The winning catch for 2017 was hooked by Shirley Heinz. Her four pound three ounce specimen won the grand prize of $500 while Parker Slanga came in second at four pounds one ounce and Connie Rasmussen took home the bronze at three pounds six ounces. Congratulations to all who took part and to the great group of organizers for putting on this swell event in the upper Gunflint territory.

The spotlight was to be shining back at mid-Trail this Sunday with the “Dog Days of Winter” on tap. However, bad winter remains after last weekend's meltdown and rain have caused a cancelation for this year.

Night time visitors to the Wildersmith place over the past week included the regular pine martens and their fisher cousin, along with some flighty flying squirrels. Meanwhile, in the day time, we enjoyed some winged folk as they frenzied over a roasted chicken carcass from the Smith kitchen. In the end, several species got a sample before Mr. Raven called a halt to the tasting by lifting off with the bony morsel.

Further down the Trail, during a trip to the village, we were confronted by a trio of moose. It was the first we had observed in many weeks so it was quite startling when we came over a rise and there they were -- two gawky yearlings and their mom. It was not a close call, so the engagement was pleasant. Yes Virginia, there still is a moose, or three, in the woods!

A couple notes in closing, first a reminder is offered to “spring forward” with clocks once again. Don’t forget to set time pieces ahead before retiring Saturday night or mankind will leave you behind by Sunday morning. Will we ever come to understand that you needn’t mess with the universe as it was intended?  Oh well!  

Secondly, next week at this time the community North Shore radio station will be into its spring membership drive. This amazing broadcast phenomenon is all about grass roots, being built from the ground up. So yours truly is encouraging one and all to keep it growing by joining anew or re-upping with a pledge of devotion to keep WTIP on the right track. Please consider investing your “green” where it will reap a huge return for this “Grass Roots” funding effort.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Gunflint Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, energized by the miracles of nature!
 

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West End News: March 9

Not to go full Minnesotan on you, but I need to take a minute to talk about the weather. Here in the woods of the West End, we’ve been treated to the full range of weather patterns over the last week. One day, we were skiing on the lake in sunshine and warmth. The next, we fell asleep to the sound of rain pounding the roof interrupted only by the occasional flash of lightening. When we woke up, it was once again a winter wonderland with big soft flakes floating down. As I write this, the wind is howling and chickadees are actually being blown right off the railing on our deck.

The rain and melted snow has refrozen into a very hard and thick layer of ice covering the ground virtually everywhere. Now, I’m no Chel Anderson, but it seems the local red foxes are having trouble catching mice. Typically, the foxes will listen for the mice under the snow, then pounce into the drifts in dramatic fashion. I suspect that the hard crunchy snow and thick ice is preventing them from a lot of this hunting activity. I come to this hypothesis after a couple of recent encounters with the cat-like red foxes.

Just yesterday, moments after I had walked in the front door of our crew housing to visit with Jessica Hemmer, a red fox appeared hot on my trail. Rather than come inside, he (or she) stopped just under the bird feeder and spent several minutes scratching spilled seeds out of the crunchy snow. Filling bird feeders is an inexact science in this household, so often we have a pretty decent pile of spilled seed on the ground but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a fox partake in the buffet. Jessica and I watched the fox until it causally trotted off towards my house. I later noticed its tracks up on our deck as well.

Jessica then told me about another close fox encounter this past week. I suppose an alternate hypothesis to the difficult mouse hunting conditions could be that Jessica is simply a fox whisperer. Maybe they just like her company, she is pretty cool. Anyway, Jess was hiking Briton Peak in Tofte a few days ago when she noticed a red fox skirting around the parking lot in the woods. A few minutes into her hike, and there was the fox again, heading straight towards her on the trail. It walked right up to her, gave her a look as if to say “um, excuse me, you’re hogging the path” before sauntering around her and continuing on towards the trailhead. Lest no one believe her, Jess managed to get the whole thing on video. We both wondered if well meaning folks were feeding this fox near the trail head, contributing to his blasé attitude.

While it's tempting to feed these beautiful animals, especially when it seems you could almost feed them out of your hand, doing so is not in their best interest. Rough winters come and go, and with them the corresponding fluctuations in populations. Living so entwined with the natural world, as we do here in Cook County, it’s important that we do not alter the natural patterns and behaviors of our animal neighbors by providing easy meals.

In other canine news, the frequent dustings of new snow on the hard packed ice has been great for spotting wolf tracks. There appear to be three or four wolves that frequent some of our favorite ski trails. Unlike their foxey friends though, we have yet to see anything more than some footprints and scat. Maybe this is the cabin fever speaking, but I think we’ll try stepping out on our back deck tonight for a good howl and see if we can’t start up a conversation.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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LSProject logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Preserving Rock of Ages lighthouse

The historic Rock of Ages lighthouse in Lake Superior has fallen into disrepair. A small group of people have banded together in an attempt to preserve this iconic light.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, WTIP's Rhonda Silence speaks with David and Heather Gerth of the Rock of Ages Preservation Society. 

Photos courtesy of Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society

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Northern Sky: March 4 - 17

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

As the equinox approaches, the night-time hours are shrinking fast, especially near the polar regions. Look for the Hyades cluster, with Aldebaran within the constellation of Taurus, the Bull. The full "worm" moon can be seen on March 12. Mars and Venus will separate in the first half of March. Saturn can be seen in the pre-dawn sky, near the "teapot" of Sagittarius.

 

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The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is planning an exhibit on the Ham Lake wildfire for this summer

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 3

Our “spring fling” cooled its heels as I key this week's Gunflint scoop. The crisp turn-around has made for crusty remains over our northern landscape. Snow leftovers have frozen into a compact mass of almost solid ice.

In concert with our frozen failure of the past couple of weeks, debris that has been drifting down out of the forest with each passing breeze is now exposed, making for unsightly litter on our once untouched white carpet.

Our semi-winter-like revival leading to such brittle ground level conditions surely authenticates our Ojibwe neighbors, honoring our month three full lunar experience, as the “crust on the snow” moon. Such a moniker is most fitting right now.

According to the snow depth on the Wildersmith roof before February’s winter downfall, I approximate the loss of nearly two feet of snow. The spared hard-pack is measured now in only inches depending upon one’s location in the upper Gunflint.

A brief dusting in this neighborhood last weekend did little more than cover up a few sun-drenched bare patches. For the record, around this place, we’ve not received any significant measureable fluff since the 10th of this past month. If not for the unseasonal rain during the warm-up, I’d say the area is heading toward a long dry time until green-up.

This would suggest the area might be in for dangerous wildfire conditions should the moisture “gods” not intervene once the snow cover disappears. Thought should be given by area property owners to begin planning for re-upping of wildfire sprinkler systems soon as lake ice is out.

Speaking of wildfire, the Gunflint community will be recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Ham Lake fire tragedy of May 5, 2007. I’m told the Trail Volunteer Fire Department is planning a gathering on the corresponding 2017 anniversary weekend. The event is intended to reflect on those tragic days in our history and to celebrate survival and glorious rebirth. More information will be made as it becomes available.

In addition, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society, in partnership with WTIP and the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee, will likewise be memorializing the historical event at the Chik-Wauk Museum & Nature Center with a new temporary exhibit for this summer. Further, exhibit space will be devoted to more than just the Ham Lake happening, but also an expanded look at fire history of the territory.

The GTHS will be hosting an official grand opening of their display on July 4. However, the new display will be up for visitors when museum & nature center open for the season on Memorial Day weekend.

In the meantime, these organizing partners are still seeking commentary from area folks who have a story to tell of their lives during the raging days of fire and turbulence. These stories will be preserved in audio, video and/or printed media for perpetuity. If one has a story of our inferno history to share, please make a contact with the GTHS at 388-9915, or Joe at WTIP 387-1070, for more information.

With the “vernal” season at the cusp, sounds of the times are augmenting with each passing day. Since our last meeting on the radio, crows have returned to our Mile-O-Pine vicinity with a murder of conversation.  

In regard to sounds of creatures in our “wild neighborhood” an interesting and amusing feature in the Jan/Feb. issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer takes a look at some northland noisemakers. Authored by Mary Hoff, the review titled “Squeaks, Whistles, Grunts and Hummms” examines how and why untamed critters communicate messages to kin and others, including maybe us invasive beings. As we get closer to this spring concert of natures’ choir, I suggest it as inspiring reading in preparation.

With winter on the downslide, a couple of end of season events highlight the calendar over the next two weekends. The first of such is the Cook County Snowmobile Club trout derby. This annual event on Gunflint Lake takes place this Sunday, March 5. Ice angler registrations run from 9 to 11 am with all catches to be weighed in by 2 pm. In addition to hard water fishing, prizes drawings, food and fun are the order for the day.   

The following weekend (March 12) goes to the dogs, as the “Dog Days of Winter” happens in the mid-Trail area on Poplar Lake. Lots of fun and unique activities are scheduled for folks of all ages. For more immediate details check out the Trail Center Restaurant's Dog Days of Winter website, and I’ll have more info in next week's report.

Let’s hope the staggering “old man of the north” can hang on just a bit longer to see these Gunflint pastimes are not complicated by another display of his wimpiness.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and chronicled in natural mystery!
 

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West End News: March 2

This week’s West End News is brought to you with a theme: Civic engagement. Don’t turn down the dial, this is important stuff! Let’s start with the local level.

The townships of Schroeder, Tofte, and Lutsen are all gearing up for their annual meetings, coming right up on March 14 this year. All three townships will hold elections for township positions from 5-8 pm on March 14, followed immediately by the annual meeting. Schroeder will be voting and meeting at the Schroeder Town Hall, Tofte residents can vote and meet at Birch Grove, and Lutsen folks will vote and convene at the Lutsen Town Hall.

In Schroeder, there is a race for one open supervisor seat. Marion McKeever, known as Bill, currently holds the seat and is being challenged by Rick Anderson. In Tofte, Craig Horak is running for the 3 year supervisor term. Craig is currently appointed to the seat left vacant by Paul James. Jeanie Larson, a current supervisor, is running for the 1 year supervisor term. Sam Crowley is running a write-in campaign for the 1 year supervisor term. If you would like to vote absentee for Tofte, call the town clerk at 370-0763 to get set up. The clerk will also be available for absentee voting on March 11, at the Tofte Town Hall from 10am to noon. Lastly, Lutsen resident Christine Ordemann has announced her intent to run as a write-in candidate for the open supervisor seat. If you’d like to vote absentee in Lutsen, call their town clerk at 663-7002 or email her at lutsentownship@gmail.com. Same as Tofte, you can vote absentee at the Lutsen Town hall from 10am-noon on March 11, prior to the March 14 meeting.

If you aren’t registered to vote, don’t let that deter you! You can register to vote at the polls. So if you’re interested in who is making decisions in your town, what they’ve been up to and what the year ahead looks like, by all means attend the election and annual meetings. Again, the meetings are all at 8pm on March 14, at the Schroeder Town Hall, Birch Grove, and the Lutsen Town Hall.

On the state level, Lutsen resident Molly O’Neill is headed to St. Paul. Last fall, Molly participated in a listening session in Grand Marais held to discuss challenges and successes of women in rural MN. Molly shared her story about the difficulty of living and working in rural Minnesota and paying her monthly student loan bill. Molly’s story is simultaneously very personal and very relatable. As a somewhat recent college and law school graduate, I know more than my fair share of people in the same situation as Molly. They are educated, motivated, and gainfully employed in rural settings, yet still struggle due to their student loan debt. Molly has been invited to share her story in the form of testimony before the Higher Ed Committee at the Minnesota Legislature. The Committee is considering a bill that would establish a loan forgiveness program for individuals working in greater Minnesota. The West End is proud that Molly will be there to represent us!

On the national scene, Lutsen native Jessica Chenevert is in D.C. this week with the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association for the annual Congenital Heart Legislative Conference. The conference brings together patients, parents, providers, and partner organizations to advocate for awareness and funding for congenital heart disease. Inspired by her son Barrett, who was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries two and half years ago, Jessica has become a veteran advocate for more funding, research, and awareness for the #1 birth defect. As the full time social media coordinator for the Association, Jessica is in D.C. telling her personal story as well as supporting other newer advocates. All told, 183 advocates will be meeting with their representatives in the House and Senate to share their stories and ask the legislators to co-sponsor the Congenital Heart Futures Reauthorization Act. This year, they will be asking for 7 million dollars to support surveillance and awareness activities aimed at addressing the public health impact of Congenital Heart Disease across the lifespan of those living with CHD. You can read more about their mission and how you can help at conqueringchd.org. This is Jessica’s third year attending the conference in D.C. Each year she has taken on more of a leadership role, and I feel confident that I can speak for us all in the West End when I say that we are very proud of her!

So there you have it, our very own West Enders are out there making a difference, from right here at home, to St. Paul, all the way to D.C. If you are interested in becoming involved, I encourage you to take that first step. It turns out the old cliché is true, one person really can make a difference.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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Mr. Kitty

Sunny's Back Yard: The story of Mr. Kitty

Sunny has lived off-grid in rural Lake County for the past 18 years and is a regular commentator on WTIP. Here she talks about what's been happening in Sunny's Back Yard, and also shares a story about a feral cat's transition from the wild to ruler of the household.

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