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West End News

Clare Shirley

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Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

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West End News: July 20

I often talk about the myriad outdoor opportunities to be had here in the West End. One of my favorite aspects of the landscape here is that it is so accessible. While out in the woods and on the lakes I’ve seen people from all stages of life, whether it be babies on their first excursion, or 90-year-old grandparents revisiting their favorite lake from a lifetime ago.

If you are closer to that second category than the first, you should be aware that the Senior Pass for National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands is increasing in price from $10 to $80 on August 28. So for the next week, if you are over the age of 62, $10 will get you access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies, including the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. The pass covers the entrance and standard day-use amenity fees. Your traveling companions can also enter for free on your pass. You can get your pass at any federal recreation site that charges an entrance fee.

Speaking of our national treasures, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are holding the last official public listening session on the issue of mining near the Boundary Waters this Tuesday, July 25, in Virginia, Minnesota. These listening sessions give the federal agency the opportunity to hear from the public about their concerns, on the record. Those who want to speak will be chosen that day through a lottery system. Each person selected has three minutes to speak. You can also defer your three minutes to someone else if you are chosen.

The listening session will be held at the Virginia High School auditorium from 5 to 7:30 p.m., doors open at 4:30. The session is focused on the fact that on January 13, federal agencies initiated an environmental revew of the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Lake Superior region to determine the impacts of potential sulfide-ore copper mining. So, if you have something you’d like the officials to hear about this topic, please consider taking the trip over to Virginia and make your voice heard.

While the world sometimes feels small in our little corner of Cook County, these are good reminders that we are part of a larger community both here in Minnesota and in our nation. It is up to us to be good stewards of our land, nobody else is going to do it for us. We have a long and proud legacy that is closely tied to our landscape. I hope we can speak loudly for this quiet place and keep it out of the hands of large foreign corporations. We owe it to ourselves and our community.

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


 

West End News: July 13

Beer lovers rejoice! Caribou Highlands in Lutsen is once again hosting the annual beer tasting weekend-long event, Hopped Up Caribou. This weekend, July 14- 16, will be full of beer tasting, live music, and adventure. You can purchase tickets to any of the events individually, or the whole weekend package. Check out their website, hoppedupcaribou.com for more info on what all is happening and when.
 
Also happening on Saturday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. is Sugarloaf Cove’s Stop the Invasives program. Join the folks at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder for a hands-on experience identifying problematic invasive plants present in our region, but not yet widespread. Learn to identify these invaders and distinguish them from native look-alikes. Want to report invasives to the experts when you spot them? Well, there’s an app for that. At the program on Saturday, you will learn how to report infestations using the GLEDN smartphone app. Invasive plant species are a real growing concern, no pun intended. In many cases, invasive plants can choke out native growers, potentially eliminating food sources for local animals and changing our very landscape. Learning to spot and eradicate the non-native plants is a valuable skill for anyone who spends much time in our west end woods.
 
Also happening at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder is the ever-popular songbird banding. Every Thursday from now until August 31 from 7 a.m. to noon, folks at Sugarloaf will be banding and monitoring the populations of songbirds that nest and travel through the area. Stop in to learn about the process and the importance of the research in understanding the lifespan, movement, and productivity of songbirds. This is a free event, but donations are appreciated. For more information on the variety of things happening at Sugarloaf this summer, you can always give them a call at 218-525-0001.
 
The bloodmobile will be at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte this Tuesday, July 18. If you’ve never donated blood, or it’s been a while, now is a good time to get back to it. The supply is dangerously low and many of the regular donators are unable to donate this time around. Donating blood is easy, and sometimes even enjoyable if you end up sitting next to a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a good chance to catch up! There are openings between 2:15 and 4:15 on Tuesday the 18th. You can give Jane a call to schedule your spot. You can reach her at 663-7254.
 
Water levels remain high in the Wilderness. I planted flowers right after Memorial Day and I haven’t yet had to water them. Suffice it to say, we are soggy. That’s the price we pay, though, for low fire dangers.  More rainy days means more saunas and that’s a pretty good trade-off in my opinion.
 
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Tofte Trek

West End News: July 6

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

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West End News: June 22

With the solstice comes the true arrival of summer. And with summer comes an array of outdoor activities here in the west end. If you need an excuse to get out and explore our collective backyard, you could attend one of the nature walks at Oberg Mountain in Lutsen this summer. Every Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon from June 22 and running to August 24 there will be a naturalist at the Oberg trailhead with something interesting to share. There are no guided hikes and no fees so feel free to just drop on by.
 
If biking is your scene, be sure to join the Superior Cycling Association in their grand opening and subsequent ride of the new Flume mountain bike trail in Tofte. The opening is on Saturday, July 1 at 3 p.m. Riders can meet at the Britton Peak parking lot and the group will ride to the start of the Flume Trail and beyond. All riding abilities are welcome.
 
If you’re a runner I hope you’re planning to attend the annual Tofte Trek 10K trail Run on the fourth of July. Sponsored by the Sugarbush Trail Association, you can register on their website, sugarbushtrail.org. Pre-registration closes on July 2, although you procrastinators can still register on the Fourth starting at 7:45 in the morning at Birch Grove. The first 200 registrants are guaranteed a t-shirt. The races begin at Birch Grove at 9a.m. This is always a fun event, that also includes children’s sprinting races, a youth one-mile run, and the main muddy event, the 10K. It’s a wonderful way to kick off your big Tofte Fourth of July celebration.
 
If you’re not a runner, you are still welcome to participate in the fun atmosphere and the Birch Grove Foundation will be selling breakfast pizza from the wood-fired oven from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. After the race, head over to festival at Tofte Town Park. There will be the ever-popular dunk tank, live music, food, beer garden, bingo, art and craft show, and minnow races. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks show over Lake Superior that is not to be missed. 
 
The woods update this week is more wildlife. Bear cub sightings, moose with babies swimming across lakes, and loons galore have all been reported this week from the wilderness travelers. The no-see-ums have also made their presence known, but rumor has it that even just a few lakes to the north of us here and the bugs are much less nuisance. Fishing has picked up a little, and the frequent bouts of rain interspersed with sunshine have made for some lush green growth and an abundance of wild flowers.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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West End News: June 15

Clare Shirley's West End News is a weekly feature on WTIP. Clare is a fifth-generation local, and third-generation canoe outfitter from Cook County's West End.

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Loren Acton

West End News: June 8

Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts of the summer visitor season. With a wide array of things to do and see in the most popular Wilderness area right in our backyard, people from all walks of life are drawn to Cook County. You just never know who is going to walk through the door, and I love it.

This week a nice fellow stopped by my office to inquire whether I, or someone I knew, would like to buy is his old Kevlar canoe. Now, he is not the first person to ask me this, nor is it really something I usually do. I have plenty of my own canoes to deal with. This man was so nice, however, that I thought I’d at least take a shot at finding a new home for his canoe. He and his wife were hitting the road for Montana the next morning. Fellow Sawbillian Jessica Hemmer sent out a few texts and lo and behold, Adrian Hess of Lutsen was in the market for a new-to-him canoe. The next morning, the gentleman came back to our store and while Jessica was helping him get the canoe off his car he casually mentioned “well, something kind of interesting you can tell your friend, he just bought this canoe from an astronaut.”

Sure enough, our kind visitor turned out to be none other than Loren Acton, a physicist who specializes in solar physics. Loren flew on STS-51-F/Spacelab-2 Challenger in 1985. It took seven years of training to prepare and at the end of the mission he had spent just over a week in space, and traveled over 2.8 million miles in 126 Earth orbits. Currently, he is a research professor of physics at Montana State University. Loren and his wife Evelyn are two of the nicest people I’ve met, which would’ve been great in and of itself, but it’s not everyday that an astronaut strolls into your office - that’s for sure!

The much anticipated Lutsen 99er bike race is coming up on June 24 this year. While registration for the race itself is closed, there are still volunteer opportunities to be had. If you are interested, you can get a hold of Signe Larson by emailing her at signesummer@gmail.com. There are pre-race jobs on Thursday and Friday as well as places to help during the race itself. The race is quite the event, and something well worth checking out. The big start is at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday at Lutsen Mountain near Rosie’s Chalet and spectators are welcome. After the race there will be live music at Papa Charlie's.

Speaking of biking, the sun is shining and it’s time for me to hit the trail.

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

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West End News: June 1

For many west enders, summer means swimming in the Temperance River. While the river is unforgiving in many places, there are a few relatively safe spots where many a memory can be made. Kyle Puelston and his family were doing just that one summer day a year ago. Kyle had received a Go-Pro camera from his wife and was wearing it on his head, capturing thrilling footage of his family jumping into the river. What happened next probably didn’t surprise his wife much, but on one big jump, the camera slipped off Kyle’s head and was immediately carried off by the current. The family quickly resolved to never see it again.

A year later, Chris Flores and his brother were snorkeling downstream of the swimming hole when lo and behold, they came across a Go-Pro camera, still dry inside its waterproof case. Delighted with their find, the took it home and downloaded the footage. What they found were hours of family movies and adventures. Quickly realizing that this was more than just a cool river find, Chris dug in to find the camera’s owner. He was able to read a Chisago SWAT patch, worn by Kyle, the camera’s owner, in one particular video. A few quick phone calls later and they connected. Kyle was so touched by Chris’s efforts to return the camera, that he told him to keep it, just send along the video card.

You can see a short video about this story by going to the West End News tab on WTIP’s website. The video shows some of the footage taken after the camera fell into the river. You can briefly see Kyle swimming around above it, searching. Then some tumbling river rocks, and finally it comes to rest facing up, the outlines of fish passing back and forth overhead.

Here’s the link to the video: http://www.inspiremore.com/sunken-gopro-found-year-lost/

Next Saturday, June 10, Kah-Nee-Tah gallery in Lutsen is hosting a celebration of Anishinaabe Artists and their craft. The event is from 1:00 - 3:00 in the afternoon and features Author Colleen Balrica of the Pembina Band of Ojibwa, who will share stories and talk about her book, Tree Spirited Women. Also featured is artist Susan Zimmerman of the Grand Portage Band of Ojibwa, who will be introducing her new collection of handmade gourd drums. Weather permitting, Colleen Baldrica will lead a drum circle and folks are encouraged to bring their own hand-drum and join in.

Finally, high school graduation is upon us this Saturday. A special congratulations goes out to former Birch Grovers Madysen McKeever and Will Lamb of Schroeder and Erik Lawler of Lutsen. A job well done you three, we can’t wait to see what adventures you get up to next.

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

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West End News: May 25

Happy Memorial Day weekend! With holiday weekends, long days and sunshine, summer is upon us. If you have a West End kiddo still looking for summer activities, Birch Grove still has some openings for both Summer Saplings and Campfire Kids. Saplings is for kids ages 3 to 5 and is open June 12 to August 29, with the exception of the Fourth of July. The program runs Monday through Friday, 7am to 5pm. There are weekly nature themes, projects, activities and lots of time to play outdoors. If you have elementary aged kids, then they would enjoy the campfire kids program. It runs the same time as the Saplings and will include filed trips, bon fires, and cookouts, plus a fun overnight at Lamb’s Resort.

The qualified and caring staff at Birch Grove always put a lot of effort into these programs, so it’s worth checking them out. You can find out more information on the school’s website www.birchgroveschool.com under the Community Education tab, or by calling 663-0170, extension 26.

The Gala for the Grove is also coming right up on June 3. There are only a handful of tickets left to this wonderful event held in the Lakeside Ballroom at Surfside in Tofte. This event is a fun and spirited opportunity to socialize for a good cause. Dinner, drinks, and a live auction are all not to be missed. Call Birch Grove to snag one of the last tickets.

I often make mention of the great music opportunities here in the West End and this week is no exception. On Friday, June 2nd, there will be a unique show happening at Papa Charlie’s. Jeremy Messersmith is bringing his micro tour to the Papa Charlie’s deck. What’s a micro tour? As far as I can tell, it’s something Jeremy Messersmith made up. This summer he will be travelling around Minnesota performing 30 free, open to the public pop up shows. The shows will each be 15 minutes of unamplified music in a scenic and notable public place. All the songs can be found in his songbook titled 11 Obscenely Optimistic Songs for Ukelele. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own instruments and also to sing along. All the micro shows will be live streamed on the web. The view of Lake Superior and Lutsen Mountains from the Papa Charlie’s deck is nothing if not scenic and I’m sure the micro show will be a hoot. Again, it’s happening on Friday June 2nd at 6pm, don’t be late!

You can usually tell it’s Memorial Day because the blackflies and mosquitoes seem to arrive along with the visitors. Up in the woods here, the bugs aren’t quite out yet but a few have made their presence known here and there. The fish also seem to be waking up and the walleye are beginning to be enticed by a well-placed jig. For many of us, longer hours of sunlight each day mean a few more moments lingered in the woods or on the lake shore. Cheers to the season friends.

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

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West End News: May 18

The Forest Service took advantage of the recent wet weather and completed a couple of prescribed burns that have been on their to-do list for a little while. One burn was in our neck of the woods, just off The Grade road, otherwise known as Forest Road 170. This fire was used in timber harvest units where logging activities have been taking place. The prescribed fire was used as the method to consume residual slash from the timber sale and to remove hazardous fuels. It also served to prepare the area for seeding and planting, and restored fire to the ecosystem. This particular area hasn’t seen a wildfire in modern history, so what the agency is doing to help manage our Forest ecosystem is much, much needed. We drove by the burn while it was in progress, and the many firefighters on site appeared relaxed, which we were glad to see.

Coming up this weekend on May 20 is the Superior Trail Races in Lutsen. These races are for the foolhardy who enjoy running 25 or 50 kilometers through extremely hilly, rugged and technical out and back trails traversing the Sawtooth Mountain Range on the Superior Hiking Trail. The course parallels Lake Superior, climbs up to nearly 2000 foot heights, crosses rivers and streams - all while meandering through our boreal forest. The races start 7 and 8 a.m. on Saturday, and will be finished by 4 p.m. Which seems impossible. But I guess if you are familiar with the ultra-running world this doesn’t surprise you.

Spectators are welcome to visit the Oberg and Sawbill aid stations in Tofte. Please though, no parking in the trailhead parking lots. There will be signs and volunteers to direct you to safe parking areas at both locations. The races will begin and end at Caribou Highlands in Lutsen. There is a 4 p.m. finish cutoff time, after which is a free post-race event with food served. So come on down to cheer on some crazy runners.

If you’re one of the lucky few who gets some time off during Memorial Day weekend, be sure to check out the Art Along the Lake event. Various galleries and businesses along the North Shore from Schroeder to Grand Portage will be hosting demonstrations and events next weekend, Friday, May 26 through Sunday, May 28. Of particular interest in the West End, the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder will be hosting demonstrations by Mary Jane Huggins, Kathy West, Orlene Fisher and many more starting at 10 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Kah Nee Tah Gallery in Lutsen will have demonstrations in precious metal clay and silver and raku with Judy Christensen and Maggie Anderson at 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Kah Nee Tah has also recently had an update to the interior of their second gallery so if you haven’t been in a while, now is a great time to stop in. Other participating west end art stops worth a visit are the Last Chance Studio and Gallery in Lutsen and the Thompsonite Beach Jewelry Shop between Lutsen and Grand Marais.

If like me you don't get the holiday weekends off, I hope you will take some time for your own trail run or art. Maybe don't play with fire, though.

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

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West End News: May 11

Clare Shirley's West End News is a weekly feature on WTIP. Clare is a fifth-generation local, and third-generation canoe outfitter from Cook County's West End.

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