Listen Now
Pledge Now


West End News

Clare Shirley

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.

What's On:

West End News: September 25

WEN_20140925.mp34.96 MB

I’m happy to report that the Highway 61 construction projects that have been plaguing travel both ways from the West End are finally nearing completion. 
The 5-mile construction site centered on Little Marais is now completely paved with the first layer of asphalt.  The detour up through Finland and the bone-jarring stretches of potholed gravel are now just fading, unpleasant memories. The flag-person stops are now quite a bit shorter in duration.
The Lutsen resurfacing project is also making nice progress. It also seems to have its first layer of asphalt.  The bridge and culvert repairs are done and the traffic stops are quite a bit shorter.
Both projects are due to be completed in October.  Even though the construction has been a major pain in the neck for West End residents and visitors alike, there is no doubt the highway desperately needed repair. The smooth ride will make all the hassle well worth it.
A few days ago, I found the time to play hooky from work and ride my vintage motorcycle up Highway 1 to Ely. It was a glorious 70-degree day with no wind, a deep blue sky and fall colors at their peak. 
Nearly half of Highway 1 has been either rebuilt or resurfaced in recent years. The design engineers wisely kept the wonderfully curvy nature of the road, while making sure the curves are predictable and safe. It is a peak experience for any motorcycle rider, which was evidenced by the dozens of other bikers I saw during my ride.
I returned to Sawbill via the Tomahawk Trail and all the other gravel roads that follow the southern edge of the BWCA Wilderness. These roads have recently become popular with a group who identify themselves as adventure motorcyclists. They ride bikes that are for use on trails, gravel roads and paved highways.The riders who stop at Sawbill tell me that the back roads of Cook and Lake counties are listed as great riding destinations for this subset of the motorcycle world. 
All of this is good for our tourism industry, of course.  I personally contributed to the success of the Ely Dairy Queen in the middle of my recent ride.
In just two days last week, we enjoyed contacts with four of the most glamorous animals found in the West End.
After almost five years of zero bear problems, we had a funny visit from one local bruin. Our crew left a case of beer out on the back deck of the crew quarters.  In the morning, the case was discovered broken open and the cans strewn in a trail into the woods. Several of the cans had large caliber bite marks in them and had been drained of beer.
That same morning, a large bull moose strolled down the Sawbill Trail and straight through the Sawbill Lake Campground, much to the delight of the campers. The bulls are in the rut right now and not quite in their right minds.
That evening, someone heard wolves howling in the distance. One of our employees had never heard wolves, so she asked Cindy Hansen to howl into the night in the hope of provoking a response from the wolves. Cindy has a well-earned reputation for her ability to get wolf packs howling. After a few attempts, a wolf cut loose with a classic set of howls from less than 100 feet from where we were standing.  It was a deep baritone howl from an obviously large wolf. 
The next morning a lynx wandered through the campground and was spotted by several campers. 
I don’t know if all this animal activity is just coincidence, or if the turning of the season or phase of the moon is causing a wildlife gathering around Sawbill. No matter what the case, it has been great fun.
The fall colors are now at or near their peak.  I like it best when there is still some green on the trees for contrast.  The change is happening very fast now, so if you plan to get out for a color drive, now is the time.
The Honeymoon Trail is in full, blazing glory right now. The 600 Road north of Tofte and Schroeder is also gorgeous, but the Forest Service will be permanently closing the old iron bridge across the Temperance River to vehicle traffic soon, so get over there soon.
The gondola ride at Lutsen Mountains is at its peak right now too and makes a great outing for residents and visitors.
This is a glorious season here in the West End, so get out in the woods before the arrival of the grey season.



West End News: September 18

WEN_20140918.mp33.88 MB

Where would we be without Boreal Access over the last 15 years or so? 
It started up as a member owned cooperative back in the early days of the internet to provide dial-up service to Cook County residents and businesses.  At the time, the big providers couldn’t be bothered with our little bit of business.  Boreal became our crucial link to the amazing world-wide-web.
Boreal quickly became an indispensable community asset, providing news, classified ads, community calendars, the home page and the list-serves that we’ve all grown to depend upon.
Additionally, they provide web hosting, site design, technical advice, computer repair and many other services large and small.  In this day and age, it’s a rare treat to pick up the phone or send an email to a real person, someone you see at the grocery store, and have them respond immediately with expert advice and service.
Now, on the cusp of county-wide broadband internet service, Boreal’s role may be changing.  I sense a strong consensus in the community that Boreal continue to provide many of the services that we all rely upon.
As a result, Boreal Access is making a change in their tax-exempt status.  The change will allow them to apply for funds from foundations and make any personal or business donations they receive tax deductible.  This change is critical for Boreal to thrive into the future.
Boreal is a member owned entity, so to make the change they need the approval of 10% of their current members.  If you are a Boreal member, go to where you can cast your ballot in favor of the change.
Another great organization in Cook County is the North Shore Health Care Foundation.  They have, in recent years, organized the Oral Health Task Force in cooperation with Grand Marais Family Dentistry.
On Friday, October 3rd, any child between the ages of 18 months and 18 years can receive a free dental exam, cleaning, x-rays and a few other basic treatments.  To schedule an appointment, call the dental office at 387-2774.
Oral health is a surprisingly important part of life, so early dental exams and simple treatments can contribute to a lifetime of good health.
The goal of the program is to make sure that every Cook County child receives basic dental care and gets in the habit of regular dental visits.
If you missed the phone number, you can contact WTIP for more information.  Thanks to all who donate their time and money to this important project.
Well, after an incredible season of blueberries I’m sorry to report that they are finally done.  Several nights of frost finally ended what may have been the best blueberry crop in more than 50 years.
However, not all is lost, because we can enjoy a slice of blueberry pie and then head outside for what is shaping up to be a great fall color season.  So far, only the underbrush and an occasional splash of color are showing.  I would estimate that the Sawbill Trail and the other back roads are still about 90% green.  The shore, as always, is running a little behind that.  It’s my guess that by this time next week, we should be entering the peak season for colors.
The fall colors basically do for the eye what the blueberries do for the taste buds – but with less calories.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.




West End News: September 11

WEN_20140911.mp33.96 MB

The Cook County Comprehensive Land Use Plan is an important set of guidelines that determines what kind of place Cook County will be in the future. The plan is updated every so often and the current update is happening now.
The committee charged with recommending a new plan is inviting all Cook County citizens to share their ideas for the future.  To that end, they have organized a community planning session that invites Cook County residents and landowners to share their ideas on future land use policy.  The session is scheduled for Wednesday, September 17th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais.
Trained facilitators from outside the area will run the meeting.  They are asking participants to think about how they want Cook County to look in 20 years in the areas of land use, economic vitality and community life.
If you want some background on the process so far, you can find it on the Cook County website under the heading of “Desired Future Condition.”  If you can’t make the meeting, you are welcome to submit your comments and ideas by email to the Cook County Zoning Department.
Of course, you want to be careful not to submit your comments to the other Cook County, which contains the good-sized city of Chicago in Illinois.  The land use issues there and here in the “real” Cook County are likely to be a little different.
I applaud the thoughtful, sensitive and well-written editorial by Rhonda Silence of the Cook County News Herald last week.  She tackled the difficult and sensitive topic how a small town newspaper should cover news of a suicide.  Her piece wasn’t an abstract analysis, but a reaction to the suicide of Megan Bauer Stejskal, who was a resident of Lutsen.
Megan’s father, John Bauer, from Grand Rapids, is using the unimaginable grief he is suffering from his daughter’s death to raise the subject of mental health and suicide within communities.  Education, awareness and engagement are the keys to prevention.  It’s not an easy thing for any of us to talk about, but talk we must.
Thanks again to Rhonda for bringing it to our collective attention.
I was interested and pleased to note a news item from Silver Bay that publicized the plans to expand the existing greenhouse/fish farm to a commercial scale operation.  The new venture is called Mariner Farms and the West End’s own Bruce Carmen is the President.
The pilot project has obviously been a rousing success and I wish the expansion the same success. 
It would be great to see a similar facility in Cook County.  There was some talk of re-using the old pool building in Grand Marais for this purpose, but it was in too rough of shape to remodel.  I wonder if the old Moffatt building in Lutsen would be a suitable candidate?
An existing West End business was honored and highlighted by United States Senator Amy Klobuchar recently.  The Senator featured the wild blueberry muffins from Moondance Coffee House in Lutsen at her weekly “Minnesota Mornings” get-together at her office in Washington.
Congratulations to the great staff at Moondance and also congratulations to the prolific blueberry bushes of the West End.  Both are a big part of what makes life so sweet here in the West End.



West End News: September 4

WEN_20140904_finalcut.mp35.92 MB

A study conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health has found that 10 percent of the babies in northeastern Minnesota have a higher level of mercury in their blood than is considered safe.
This is a very alarming statistic because, according to the National Institutes of Health, mercury poisoning in infants can cause permanent damage to the brain.
Mercury is introduced into the environment from a variety of sources, including coal burning power plants, fluorescent light bulbs, and even some food processing systems.
In response to finding mercury in the blood of our infants, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais is coordinating a study of women who are 16 to 50 years old and live in or near Cook County.
The study strives to interview and test at least 500 women. The interview lasts for an hour and is free and totally confidential. You will be asked about your fish eating habits and will have your blood tested for mercury. You will receive the results of the tests and will get information on how to get the positive health benefits of eating fish while avoiding exposure to mercury.
Better yet, all study participants who complete the process receive a $50 Visa gift card.
Registered nurse, Joyce Klees, is holding an enrollment event at the Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte Wednesday, Sept. 10 from 3 until 7 p.m.
If you can’t make the Birch Grove date, there is another all day enrollment opportunity at the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic Saturday, Sept. 13, from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.
This is a very important study for the future health of our children and I strongly urge every eligible woman to participate.
At both events snacks and childcare will be provided.  Call the clinic at 218-387-2330 and ask for the FISH coordinator if you want more information.
On a lighter note, the semi-regular card-making get-together is scheduled for the Birch Grove Community Center on Sunday, Sept. 14 from 3 to 7:30 p.m.  There is a small charge and you are asked to bring a dish to share, potluck style, for dinner.
If you are new to card making, you can just show up and the veterans will share their supplies and expertise.  Just think about how satisfying it would be to have all your cards made for the year – and to have them be cool, handmade and thoughtful.
Call Penny at 475-2432 for more information. You can always contact Birch Grove or WTIP for information as well.
I thought the blueberry report would be history by this point in the season. However, Duluth’s most avid blueberry harvest team, Jim and Teresa Warren, managed to pick 25 quarts of sweet berries in the Sawbill area over the Labor Day weekend. 
They report that the bushes are still loaded and due to the cool, wet weather, the berries are unusually plump and sweet.
The Warrens admit to being obsessive about their picking habit, but I’m estimating that they have picked at least 30 gallons of blueberries this year.  You’ll recognize them if you see them because they are the people with blue stains on their clothes, hands and faces.  If they keep this up, they may start growing black fur and hibernating in the winter.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

Rose Hips

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 29

wildersmith_20140829.mp34.87 MB

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods. After a swell time with our daughter in Iowa, we’re happily home in the wilderness quiet.
For 57 years the Smiths were citizens of what most would call organized civilization. Having been away from urban America’s hubbub for 15 years, it’s culture shock to go back after being graced with the serenity of border country living. Our unorganized territory is oh so sweet!
August 2014 is a near has been. How could it have slipped away so quietly? As America takes another monthly break for the Labor Day holiday, summer’s gone, in spite of the calendar still calling for another three weeks. And for many, parting with warm season elements is difficult to accept.
One can sense our warm season demise;  in whispering winds, browning tangles of roadside weeds, the apprehension of ripening tomatoes and maturing garden produce,  aspen hills and valleys turning to gold, dwindling daylight minutes with hurried sunsets and the early fall animal rituals.
The fading of this short season should not be taken with too much alarm. More good things are just over the borderland horizon. We year-round residents welcome the renewing of solitude after a busy summer, with the upper Gunflint at the threshold of autumn’s Technicolor explosion.
Tinges of yellow, orange and red are fringing some of the maple leaves along the Mile O Pine. While the last flowery blooms twinkle with their final hurrahs, rose hips and high bush cranberries are aglow like scarlet holiday ornaments. The area will be a leaf peeper’s enchantment in a couple weeks.
Speaking of rose hips, many find them a tea drinker’s delight following a frosty end to their time of maturation. The quaint fruit of the rose is rich in vitamin C, but don’t attempt eating one; I’m told the fuzzy innards could bring on some gastric distress.
Although I wasn’t present to observe such, I find the Wildersmith neighborhood received some valuable moisture during my absence. The frequency and duration are a mystery but proof was in the rain gauge where 1 inch was captured.
However, at this scribing, the area is moderately dry once more. So care should be exercised with any burning activities.
The Gunflint Lake water temp at the dock has slipped to the high 60s (68 degrees) and is probably following suit on other area bodies. Such would indicate that atmospheric conditions during my time away were certainly not like the muggy heat experienced in southeast Iowa. Living up here for a decade and a half kind of has me forgetting the miserable sticky corn growing times of my previous life.
The area looks to be busy for the next few days as several families and property owners gather to commence a beginning of the end for cabin days throughout the Gunflint forest. 
Another memorable sweet happening will be held on Sunday. The annual Gunflint Trail Historical Society pie and ice cream social will take place on the grounds of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. The craft of area pie-making artisans and frozen sweet cream will be served from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. along with coffee and lemonade.
Everyone is invited to come up and enjoy not only the treats of the day, but also the magic of this special place at Trail’s End. The event is a fundraiser for the society in support of museum operations, with a free-will donation being appreciated.
Of course the museum will be open for viewing and several local authors will be on hand for book signings. The Chik-Wauk gift shop will also be holding an end of season parking lot sale. So it looks as though several bases can be touched by making this upper Gunflint journey a must do!
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the end of the summer song!



West End News: August 28

WEN_20140828.mp35.25 MB

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act.  The law established a National Wilderness Preservation System, along with a process for Congress to identify and preserve more wilderness areas in the future. 
In my opinion, the Wilderness Act is one of most significant and beautiful legislative actions in the history of this country.  It ranks right up there with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, The Social Security Act and the 19th Constitutional Amendment giving women the right to vote.
The act is unusually poetic for legal language, including this much quoted definition of wilderness:  “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
The use of the obscure word “untrammeled” was deliberate.  It has a precise definition of: “not deprived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered.”
The 1964 Wilderness Act included the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a big chunk of which is located right here in Cook County.  Interestingly, the act contains many management exceptions for the BWCA, including continued motor use and logging, reflecting the political climate in Minnesota at that time.
Since 1964, the National Wilderness Preservation System has grown from 54 wilderness areas totaling 9.1 million acres to 758 wilderness areas comprising more than 109 million acres.  In 1978, the BWCA Wilderness Act removed all logging and most of the motorized use from our local wilderness.  
The Wilderness Act created a lot of controversy in the West End back in the day, but now it has become a welcome and treasured part of our local economy and lifestyle.
My hat is off to the men and women who early on recognized the need to protect wilderness areas and those who continue to work hard to protect and expand wilderness across this beautiful country of ours.
Speaking of modern day wilderness defenders, Lutsen’s own Amy and Dave Freeman are off on another big adventure in an effort to raise the public’s awareness of the value of wilderness.
They are paddling and sailing 2,000 miles from Ely to Washington, D. C. where they will present a petition to the Obama administration in opposition to the proposed mining projects near the BWCA Wilderness and the Lake Superior watershed.
The Freemans will be featured speakers at the Lake Superior Wilderness Conference in Duluth on Sept. 5 and 6.  The Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College in Ashland, Wisc. sponsors the conference, which will be held at the Inn on Lake Superior in Duluth.  The conference is dedicated to Sigurd Olson, who was one of Minnesota’s most prominent advocates for wilderness preservation.
You can find information and registration information on the web by searching for “wilderness conference in Duluth” or contact WTIP for full contact information.
Ted and Marcella Jensen were Silver Bay residents who came to the town when Reserve Mining built a taconite plant there in the 1950s.  They were active in the community, especially in the welfare of children.  They had many foster children as well as their own four children.  I knew them because they camped for many weeks each summer in the Sawbill Campground, especially in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Their son, Hawk, is one of my dearest friends to this day.
Ted died a number of years ago, but Marcella just passed away a couple of weeks ago.  Even though they were like second parents to me as I grew up, I have to think a moment to remember their first names.  The reason is that they were called “Ma” and “Pa” Jensen by virtually everyone. 
I spent many happy days at their house in Silver Bay, which was always a hub of activity for every kid in town.  Ma kept a freezer full of frozen pizzas, so when you arrived at her house you were immediately fed, made to feel loved, closely questioned and carefully steered to the straight and narrow.  She was one of those amazing people who accepted everyone as inherently good.  In her eyes only the behavior could be bad – never the person.
Her memorial wishes were that anyone who knew her should buy themselves flowers, a good mystery novel or a puzzle in her memory.  She also asked that her family gather at the Sawbill Lake Campground in a couple of weeks to share memories and honor the life of a woman who spent so many happy days here.
She was 91 years old when she died and will be missed by many, many people.


Ahmed Samatar, PhD

West End News: August 21

WEN_20140821.mp34.07 MB

Cook County is offering a couple of interesting and free workshops this week about restoring and maintaining healthy shorelands and aquatic plants.
The first workshop is Wednesday, August 27th, from 1 to 5 pm at the Schaap Mid-Trail Community Center, which is located next to the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department Hall halfway up the Gunflint Trail. It will include some indoor learning, followed by a field trip to tour some shorelands and maybe even some actual restoration work, time permitting.
The second workshop is the next day from 8:30 am until noon. It also starts at the Schaap Mid-Trail Community Center, but will head right out for East Bearskin Lake for a tour of aquatic plants.
Pre-registration is preferred, but not required.  You can call Ilena Berg at 387-3648 or, as always, you can contact WTIP for more information.
If you’re interested in plants, don’t miss Chel Anderson’s talk at the Sugarloaf Nature Center in Schroeder at 10 am on Saturday, August 30th.  Chel’s talk is titled “Tales They Tell – Plants At Sugarloaf.”  She is truly an expert, not only on the botany of the North Shore, but on the relationships that plants have with each other, with history and with the human community.  I guarantee it will be a fascinating experience.  Just search “Sugarloaf Nature Center” online to get a full description and contact info.
It’s not too early to mark your calendar for the return of Professor Ahmed Samatar from Macalester College in St. Paul.  He will be the Cook County Higher Education guest lecturer on Friday, September 12th at 3 pm. The guest lecture is always at Higher Ed’s North Shore Campus in Grand Marais. 
Professor Samatar’s subject will be “Perspectives on Globalization.” He is a respected researcher, writer and teacher in the areas of global political economy, political and social theory, and African development. I caught his lecture in Grand Marais back in 2011 and I highly recommend his upcoming talk.  Call Higher Ed at 387-3411 for more information.
The Blandin Foundation has been calling attention to recent research that is good news for rural Minnesota.  For decades, the common wisdom has been that our brightest and best young people are moving to the city and leaving their rural roots behind.  The story of boarded-up downtowns, declining school enrollment and declining population has dominated the rural conversation. This is often referred to as “brain drain.”
New research is showing a marked reversal of this trend. Mid-career professionals are migrating back to rural areas, especially those areas that offer high quality natural amenities. Some of these migrants are newcomers and some are people returning to the communities where they grew up. This new trend is being called “brain gain.”
It’s pretty clear that we’re seeing this trend in Cook County. The research clearly shows that brain gain picks up when broadband internet is established in rural areas. The research also shows that the rural areas with the most brain gain are the ones that work to strengthen their existing strengths. Outdoor recreation, access to higher education and a vibrant arts scene have all been mentioned.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years in Cook County. In my opinion, broadband internet, our inherent natural beauty, our vibrant arts and culture, and the creation of affordable housing, will cause a significant “brain gain” here in the West End.

(Photo courtesy of Macalester College)


April Knight celebrates her arrival at York Factory on Hudson Bay

West End News: August 14

WEN_20140814.mp33.73 MB

On Tuesday, August 11th, April Knight walked into the Sawbill store.  April had paddled away from the Sawbill Lake canoe landing on May 17th and made her way to York Factory on Hudson Bay. 
April was fit, tanned and happy to be back in the West End after her epic solo canoe adventure.
She reported that her two favorite parts of the trip were the BWCA Wilderness at the beginning of her trip and the Hayes River at the end.  She enjoyed the solitude and beauty of the formally protected BWCA Wilderness and the same attributes on the remote and unpopulated Hayes River.
Her least favorite part of the trip was the large bear that appeared, as if by magic, uncomfortably close to her in camp.
Judging from her attitude, I have the feeling that more long distance wilderness trips are in April’s future.
Wayside rests are popping up all over the West End.  The beautiful Tettegouche Interpretive Center is now fully open in Little Marais after more than two years of construction.  It’s as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside and will host a variety of programming related to the stunning Tettegouche State Park.
The Ray Berglund State Wayside is now open at the Onion River in Tofte.  Although it’s tiny compared to the Tettegouche complex, it has its own beauty and will be much appreciated by travelers, hikers, bikers and trout fisherpersons alike.
Last, but not least, ground has been broken on a new wayside rest and Gitchi-Gami trailhead in Beaver Bay.  This wayside will have natural and human history interpretive displays, restroom facilities and parking.  It is expected to open mid-summer next year.
The opening of the new wayside rest areas is especially welcome this summer, when the travel time from Cook County to Two Harbors has been significantly increased by the various highway construction projects.
For the next three weeks or so, north shore travelers will be detoured up through Finland via Highway 1 and Lake County 6.  The good news is that both those roads have wide, smooth pavement and the scenery is outstanding.
I have just two words for this week’s blueberry report: pick now!  This is the best blueberry crop in the last 20 years.  We are right in the peak of the season now, so don’t miss this golden opportunity to sock away some sweet taste of summer for the upcoming winter.
Congratulations to Bruce Martinson and Ginny Storlie for their success in the recent primary election for West End County Commissioner.  Many thanks to Stan Tull and Tim Goettl for offering to serve their community.
I was pleased that the campaign was civil, subtantial and focused on the issues.  This is how democracy should work everwhere.  Knowing Ginny and Bruce as I do, I expect the civility will continue through the general election in November.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Holy Cow has it been busy for the last few weeks!  This is always the high season, but it seems even a little busier than usual.  My theory is that there is pent-up demand for North Shore goodness after the tough winter, spring and early summer weather.  Blue skies and blueberries aren’t hurting things either.  This should be the last week of craziness until the fall color season starts, so hang in there and enjoy the rest of this beautiful West End summer.



West End News: August 1

WEN_20140807.mp34.29 MB

April Knight, the adventurous nurse from North Carolina, arrived in York Factory on Hudson Bay on Tuesday, August 5th.  April left Sawbill Lake in Tofte on May 17th
She paddled solo to Winnipeg.  From there, she rode on a supply barge to Norway House on the north end of Lake Winnipeg. From Norway House, she joined another group of paddlers on the Mackenzie and Hayes Rivers for safety in the big rapids on those remote rivers.
April will be hanging around Cook County for awhile after she travels back from York Factory, so hopefully she will schedule a public slide show of her adventure.
I had the pleasure of guiding two rock stars for a paddle on Sawbill Lake this week.  Dessa is a hip hop performer with the Doomtree Collaborative based in Minneapolis.  She is not only internationally famous for her music, but is also a published author, newspaper columnist and radio host. 
Ben Burwell is a well known songwriter, performer, guitarist and member of the popular Twin Cities band Taj Raj.
The two were in the West End for a performance at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen, where they play at least twice a year.  They’ve become big fans of the West End and are slowly sampling all the outdoor activities that we have to offer up here.
I must say that they are delightful people to hang out with.  They asked good questions, are sparkling conversationalists and just genuinely nice people.  Hopefully, they’ll be regular visitors for many years to come.
There are a couple of fun upcoming events at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland.  On August 20th, the next cooking class with Tracy Jacobsen will be held.  This class will feature red meat entrees.  There is a small charge for the class.
On August 29th, there is an Asian Dinner fundraiser at the Clair Nelson Center.  It will include, among other things, peanut steak stir fry, Asian barbeque pork, jasmine rice, manchow soup and five spice chocolate cake.  It makes me hungry just talking about it.
Sign-up for both events can be done by calling the Clair Nelson Center at 218-353-0300.
This week’s blueberry report is that the blueberries are ripe, plump, plentiful and can be found everywhere.  The picking season is now fully underway and the yields have been among the best I’ve seen in my 58 years in the West End.  Everyone’s secret spot is producing, but if you are a beginner, just go to any of the areas that experienced forest fire in the last ten years and you can’t go wrong.
We are at the front end of the prime season, so you have at least two – and probably closer to three – weeks to get your annual supply of delicious fruit.  I have learned from experience though that the early berries are the sweetest, so I give you permisson to leave work right now and go picking.
There are two teenage sisters who are staying in the Sawbill Campground this week.  They’ve been camping at Sawbill every year since they were born, as their mother did before them and their grandparents before them.
The entire family is nuts for fishing and have become acknowleged experts on all the lakes in the Sawbill area.  The sisters are very serious about fishing and are carrying the family expertise into the next generation with aplomb. 
I was chatting with them last year and they volunteered one reason they enjoy fishing so much.  They admitted that they tend to argue with each other almost continuously, but they never fight when they are fishing.  When I asked why, they looked at me like I was dim witted and said, “We can’t argue while we’re fishing because it would scare the fish!”
That is the best argument for world peace that I’ve ever heard.



West End News: July 31

WEN_20140731.mp34.79 MB

The hot news from the West End this week is the ripening of the blueberries. We’re still at least a week from the peak, but ripe berries can be found now on south-facing slopes.  There is an anonymous couple from Duluth who stay in the Sawbill Campground and are the world’s leading experts on blueberries in the West End of Cook County.  They picked four quarts in a couple of hours last Saturday.  Based on the number of green berries, they are predicting one of the best berry crops in history this year, thanks to the plentiful moisture and abundant black flies earlier in the season.
The Sugarloaf Nature Center in Schroeder is having its annual meeting and ice cream social Saturday, Aug. 9, beginning at 1 p.m.  The festivities will also include a presentation from Andrea Crouse, aquatic ecologist from UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute.  Andrea will cover the health of North Shore streams and what you can do to help monitor, maintain or improve their quality.
Mark you calendar now for John Schroeder Lumberjack Day in Schroeder Saturday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  As usual, this fun event celebrates the rich timber harvesting history of Schroeder, with sawmill tours, kid activities, vendors, brats and the always popular history walks with Skip Lamb.
The next day, Sunday, Aug. 17, the Schroeder Area Historical Society will host a book signing with Carl Gawboy and Ron Morton, authors of “Talking Sky,” the fascinating book about Ojibway stories connected to the night sky.
The primary election ballots for the West End county commissioner race, and several statewide races, have been mailed and need to be returned by election day, which is Aug. 12.  This will determine which two candidates advance to the general election in November.  Primary elections can easily be won or lost by one or two votes, so it is critical that you exercise your democratic right to vote.
If you aren’t registered to vote, you can register at the Cook County  courthouse in Grand Marais.  To be eligible to vote in this election you must be a U.S. citizen and have lived in the West End for more than 20 days prior to the election.  You also have to be 18 years old by election day and not be a convicted felon.  You can register with a valid ID that shows an address in the precinct where you plan to vote, or you can bring along a registered voter from the precinct who can vouch that you’ve lived here for more than 20 days.  In Minnesota, you can register up to and on election day.
Thanks again to everyone who is running for office and keeping our democracy vital and relevant.
One of my favorite parts of working in a tourism business is never knowing who might walk in the door.
Last week, a gentleman approached me at the store counter and asked if there used to be a lodge at Sawbill.  When I told him that Sawbill Lodge existed here until the early 1980s, he told me that his father worked there when he was a young teenager in the 1950s.  When he said his father’s name was Don Sunde, I surprised him by telling him that I not only knew his father, but he had saved my life in 1957.
I was four years old and spent all day, every day at the Sawbill Lodge dock, where my dad was dock boy, in charge of renting boats and motors, dispensing bait and cleaning fish.  I spent my time exploring the dock area, especially the shoreline and Sawbill Creek.  I was fishing continuously, with a line in the water from dawn to dusk.  I fell in the lake at least twice a day.
I was pulled from the lake by my collar more times than I can remember, but one day I fell into the flooded creek when no one was around to see me.  I was washed down the creek and was unable to save myself.  Don Sunde just happened to be walking by and saw me go.  He ran through the woods and intercepted me as I was swept by.
I don’t actually remember the incident, but according to my parents, I was about three-quarters drowned by the time he got to me.  I can only remember waking up, sick and battered, with my parents’ very worried faces hovering over me.
So, 58 years later, in the midst of an ordinary working day, the son of the man who saved my life pointed his phone at me and said, “Say something to my dad.”  Across time and space I was able to say, “Thanks for saving my life.”