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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: June 5

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The Great Place Race micro grants provided by Cook County Moving Matters and the Cook County Chamber of Commerce included several awards in the West End.  Tofte and Schroeder will install bike racks and improve wheelchair accessible picnic spots at Tofte Park and Father Baraga’s Cross.  The Birch Grove Foundation will create a more comfortable gathering spot around the wood fired oven, including seating, a garden and an info board.
The Great Place Race also funded the placing of four Little Free Libraries around Cook County.  Little Free Libraries are an informal national phenomenon of people placing tiny roadside libraries that can be used by anyone.  Volunteers build and maintain them and they’ve proven to be very popular.  Anyone can take a book whenever they like. They can either return the book when they’re done, or donate a different book, or just keep the book, if they want to.  Many of the tiny libraries are whimsically designed and many are targeted toward children’s books. We are building a Little Free Library here at Sawbill, which should prove popular with campers and canoeists.
The Cook County Invasives Team will lead two hikes in the West End in the coming weeks.  The hikes will concentrate on learning about native and non-native plant species.  The hikes are free and no registration is required.  The first hike will be along the Cascade River Monday, June 16 and the second will be along the Temperance River  Monday, June 30.  If you want to go, just meet in the parking lot at 5 p.m.  You can get more information by calling Angelique Edgerton at 387-3772.  Or you can contact WTIP, if you missed that phone number.
April Knight, the adventurous nurse who is paddling from Sawbill to Hudson Bay this summer, is already in the International Falls area and heading north to the Winnepeg River.  She called this week from Ranier, Minnesota where she was waiting for the Rainy River to drop below flood stage and picking up new supplies.
She reports that she is having the time of her life.  Her travel kit is serving her well and her fitness level is increasing daily.  She is making excellent time and has no doubts that she will finish the trip on schedule.
When I asked her if she was lonely, she said that she has only had one bout of loneliness when she had a particularly great day and wished for someone to talk to about it.
The people of Ranier have welcomed her with open arms and invited her to a potluck celebrating the life of a man named Oscar who recently passed away.
For the next few weeks, she’ll be passing through relatively populated areas, so I’m sure she’ll have a lot of interaction with locals who are interested in her trip.
Driving up the Sawbill Trail a few nights ago, I saw a pair of eyes lit up by my headlights in the road ahead. They stared at me without blinking or moving, and when I got close enough, they resolved into a big, fat bear. He was the first bear that I’ve seen this season.  He was in no hurry to run off, so I got a good look at him.  He slowly rolled down and up through the ditch and melted into the dark woods.
Seeing a friendly bear is just another reminder of why it’s great to live here in the wild West End.


Grand Portage 1857 by Eastman Johnson

West End News: May 29

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Congratulations to the 2014 West End graduates from Cook County High School.  This year’s graduates are coincidentally all from Lutsen.  Anna Carmen, Charlie Lawler, Megan Lehto and Shannon O’Phelan are exemplary students, which is exactly what we expect of our West End scholars.  All four are attending good colleges and have strong ambition.  They are the latest example of why it is good to grow up in the West End.
The Schroeder Area Historical Society has a lot going on at this time of year.  On June 6th they will be having the Opening Day Party starting at 6:30 pm. The party is a casual social time with wine, hors d’oeuvre and a chance to get up to speed on what is happening in Schroeder this summer. Of course, the party is at the lovely Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder.
The featured exhibit at the Heritage Center this year is from the St. Louis County Historical Society and is titled “Ojibwe Faces and Stories.”  The core of the exhibit are portraits and every day scenes painted by Eastman Johnson in the mid-1800s.  Johnson spent an entire summer in Grand Portage, so the exhibit has a strong local connection.
On June 14th, Grand Portage elder, Billy Blackwell, will be speaking at the Cross River Heritage Center as part of this year’s emphasis on the original North Shore people.  You can call Suzanne at 663-7706 for more details.  As always you can call WTIP for contact information.
Don’t forget about the upcoming fundraiser at the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland.  Saturday, June 7th starting at 6:30, there will be great food, music and lots of fun neighborliness. I especially encourage Cook County people to support our Lake County friends and neighbors.  If you haven’t ever been to the Clair Nelson Center, you owe yourself a visit.  It’s a beautiful facility and the hub of life in the Finland area.
April Knight left the Sawbill Lake canoe landing on May 17th for a solo voyage to Hudson Bay.  Over the Memorial Day weekend, we received a brief text message from her, reporting that she was camped on Washington Island in Basswood Lake and that everything was going well.  Andy Keith, who completed the same trip in 1987 said that based on her progress, she should be in Voyageur’s National Park by now and into Canada by the end of the week.
My hat is off to the people who have taken their hats off and thrown them in the ring for the upcoming local elections.  It is a significant personal decision to stand for election and serving as an elected official is truly a public service.  It is popular now-a-days to be cynical about politicians, but the truth is, they have a tough job and perform a valuable service.  It’s a lot easier to be a critic on the sidelines than it is to take on the responsibility of guiding public policy with the goal of improving the community for all residents.  Balancing the competing interests, like many things in life, is harder than it looks.
The filing deadline for county commissioner closes on June 3rd.  As a person with some experience in the matter, I urge everyone who has an interest it get involved.  Being a candidate is fun and interesting, even if you don’t win. Our democratic process is the basis of civil society and a big part of making the West End a wonderful place to live.



West End News: May 22

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I’m sorry to report that Joyce Krueger, one of Tofte’s most beloved residents, took a nasty fall down her stairs and broke both ankles.  She was taken to Duluth for treatment and is now in a swing bed at the Care Center in Grand Marais.
Joyce is a life-long Cook County resident and has lived in Tofte for quite a bit more than 50 years.  She was a long serving postmaster at the Tofte Post Office before her retirement and was the undisputed ambassador of good will for Tofte all those years.
I’m sure Joyce would appreciate a quick visit or phone call while she’s recuperating at the Care Center.  The whole West End joins me in wishing her a speedy recovery.
There’s a fun event coming up at the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland.  On Saturday, June 7th there is a dance, concert and food event to raise money to support the Community Center.  The event starts at 6:30 pm with tapas and appetizers.  The Spruce Roots will start playing at 7:30 pm for listening and dancing fun.  There is a suggested donation and you should RSVP at 218-535-0300 or at the Clair Nelson Community Center Facebook page.
The 2014 Gala for the Grove fundraising event for Birch Grove Community School is in the record books.  Once again, it was a sold-out affair and a lot of fun. 
Dennis Rysdahl and the staff at Surfside deserve a ton of thanks for donating the space and the food.
Colleen Brennan was the main organizer for the fourth year in a row.  She is claiming that she will pass the torch to someone else next year, but we’ll see.  In any case, she has done a wonderful job of organizing the biggest fundraiser of the year for Birch Grove.
There were too many acts of generosity at the Gala to recount here, but one particular generous act deserves special mention.  Two of the many items included in the live auction this year were a season ski-pass from Lutsen Mountains and a really nice pair of downhill skis donated by Lutsen Recreation.  Chuck Whiteside, of Schroeder, bought the season pass and Plamen Dimitrov, of Tofte, bought the skis. 
After the auction, I was chatting with Plamen who, along with his wife DD, are the parents of two young Birch Grove scholars and very reliable community volunteers in Tofte.  Chuck approached Plamen and asked if he had purchased the skis to use himself.  Plamen said that he had just learned to ski this year, but was planning to use the new skis frequently next season, now that his kids are old enough to ski.  Chuck responded by handing Plamen the season pass, saying “here’s your season pass, Plamen, thank you for all you do for the community.”
It was a touching moment that illustrates how the Birch Grove School and Community Center bring people together in the West End.


George Nelson

West End News: May 15

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Sawbill Lake officially became ice-free on May 14 this year.  We started monitoring the ice depth on a daily basis during the brief warm spell in the first week of April, only to have winter return with a vengeance and hold the ice in place for well over a month.
I’ve filed my report with Ken Stewart, a professor in the New York State University system, who has been monitoring the comings and goings of lake ice for at least the last 40 years. Ken keeps track of roughly 2,000 lakes across North America. He catalogs the data within the university system, but the whole thing is basically a hobby for him.
According to Ken, ice-in dates have been trending later and ice-out dates trending earlier for the last 20 years, in spite of our local experience in the last two years. Just for the record, the latest ice-out in modern history for Sawbill Lake was May 24 back in the mid-‘70s.  The earliest ice-out was March 27 and that was just two years ago. That record skews the average dramatically.
As in past years, within minutes of a path opening up through the ice, canoeists were on our doorstep, looking for their permits and canoes so they could launch into the wilderness.
As we are all grousing about the long and bitter winter, it’s important that we remember that the devastating Ham Lake Fire began on May 4 back in 2007. Personally, I’d rather endure a cold, gray, wet spring, than a fast moving wall of flame.
Wildfire, of course, is never far from our minds here in the north woods.  If you are interested in learning more about wildfire, North House Folk School is offering a class called “Fire Ecology in the Field.”  The instructor is our own Patty Johnson, who an acknowledged expert in the complex and interesting field. 
The class is offered as a part of North House’s Northern Landscapes Festival in the last week of May. Patty is a great teacher and it would be good for all of us to have a better grasp on the role that fire plays in our region, because like it or not, we have to live with it.  You can go to the North House Folk School website for more information and registration.
It’s been a very sad week in the West End this week with the passing of George “Bub” Nelson at the age of 88. George was probably best known as the founder of the Lutsen Mountains Ski Area, as well as the longtime owner of historic Lutsen Resort. 
It was George’s military service in the famous 10th Mountain Division that gave him the vision of a ski area in the hills above Lutsen Resort.  He started with a rope tow and two runs in 1948 and built it into one of the finest ski resorts in the Midwest.
West Enders know that the ski hill and resort were just part of what George did for his community.  He was an intelligent, calm, friendly and wise presence in nearly every good thing that has happened in the West End in the last 60 years. 
My favorite memory of George was the long cross-country ski I did with him back in the late ‘80s from Bally Creek down to Cascade Lodge.  It was everything I could do to keep up with a man nearly 30 years my senior.  While I was catching my breath at each rest stop, he was telling another colorful story from the history of Lutsen. We ended the day with blueberry pie and ice cream at Cascade, while the stories continued to flow. We parted that day with traditional Scandinavian affirmation of a shared skiing adventure and I left with a precious memory of quality time spent with a great man.
He will be greatly missed by his many friends and family.  He leaves behind a wonderful legacy and big shoes to fill.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



Hudson Bay

West End News: May 8

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The second annual Cook County Ramble held last week at Cascade Lodge was a huge success again this year.  About 20 local musicians played songs inspired by the late American music icon, Levon Helm. The place was packed and everyone seemed to have a good time. My hat is off to the staff at the Cascade Pub who labored mightily all night long to keep everyone fed and watered.  They got into the spirit of the evening by donating some of their tips to the fundraising cause, which is Cook County High School's instrument repair and replacement program.
Present company excepted, I can only say wow to the level of musicianship that we have walking around in Cook County. If you haven't gone out to hear any local music lately, you might want to give it a try.  Our local musicians have a lot of opportunity to perform in public and they just keep getting better and better.  Special thanks to Jessa and Eric Frost from Tofte for organizing the Ramble, and to Maureen and Michael O'Phelan for hosting.
It's not too early to sign up for the third annual North Shore Landowners Workshop, which will be held this year at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland Friday, June 13 from noon until 4:30 pm. This has become a very popular and fun event for landowners along the North Shore. Sponsored by the North Shore Forest Collaborative, the event is part of their effort to restore the forest of the North Shore to a healthy and high functioning ecosystem. The workshop connects landowners with professional foresters, tools and resources to help in the effort.  It's also a great opportunity to meet your fellow landowners - from up and down the shore - to compare notes and get to know each other.
The event is free and open to everyone, but registration is required, which you can do by calling Molly Thompson at 218-525-0001 or just search online for the Sugarloaf North Shore Stewardship Association.  As always, you can contact WTIP for details and contact information.
A lot of people are thinking about the health of the forests and Lake Superior recently after the latest National Climate Assessment was released this week. The assessment observes changes in the climate based on the best scientific methods available. The report leaves no doubt that our climate is changing at a rapid rate and is mostly caused by human beings burning fossil fuels.
In our region, it is easy to observe some of the effects, including dying birch trees, declining moose population, deeper and longer droughts which can lead to larger forest fires, more intense rain events and flooding, among many others. In my opinion, if we human beings don't get serious now about climate change, we will be remembered as the generation that left a much more difficult and unpleasant world to our children and grandchildren.  The report deftly bats away the various arguments of the climate change deniers, who are now thoroughly discredited by the obvious facts.
Reacting to climate change doesn't have to be a bad thing.  Switching to more local, non-polluting energy and food sources would be good for Cook County's economy, keeping the money circulating here instead of sending it out of the area.  This is a big issue for the West End and for the world and I urge you to look at the surprisingly clear and readable report. You'll easily find it online by searching for "National Climate Assessment."
April Knight is a nurse from North Carolina who visits the BWCA Wilderness every few years for a canoe trip.  A few years back, April met Andy Keith, a former Lutsen resident who now lives in Mexico.  Many years ago, Andy and Herb Wills, also from Lutsen, canoed from Sawbill Lake to Hudson Bay over the course of several months.  April was intrigued by Andy and Herb's adventure and is planning to canoe the same route this summer.  She will start the trip alone, but is scheduled to join a group once she reaches the big Canadian rivers in order to be safer in the big rapids there.  She was planning to embark on May 8, but will be delayed a few days by the late spring ice.
April is no stranger to adventure travel, having used her nursing skills to help people in some of the most remote parts of the world.  She has certainly done her homework and has tapped Andy's experience for practical advice.  Hopefully, I'll be able to update her progress for you occasionally as the summer goes on.
I just like knowing that it's possible to throw a canoe in the water a few steps from my front door and travel ancient routes almost to the Arctic Circle.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



West End News: May 1

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As of today, Sawbill Lake is still sporting 27 inches of ice.  This is only a few inches less than I reported two weeks ago, news which could just aggravate the chronic late winter depression that is epidemic in Cook County these days.  However, the ice is quite a bit more degraded that it was two weeks ago and there is some hope that open water will arrive eventually.  Based on recent weather trends, I would guess that it will be at least two more weeks until the lakes clear, taking us well past the opening day of fishing season for the second year in a row.  I can only imagine the joy we will all feel when the next warm sunny day arrives.
The Birch Grove Foundation and Tofte Township invite you to the second community conversation at the Birch Grove Community Center on May 7.  The event starts with a wood hearth pizza bake at 5:30 p.m. and the conversation starts at 6:30.  The goal is to prioritize the ideas and goals that were identified at the first community conversation last month.  Once the priorities are set, strategies will be discussed for practical steps for attaining the goals.  Everyone who cares about the future of the West End should attend. 
If you plan to participate in the pizza bake, you should RSVP so they know how much dough and sauce to prepare.  As always, bring your own toppings.  Email or call 663-7977 to let them know.
While on the topic of Birch Grove, don’t forget to buy your tickets for Gala for the Grove scheduled for May 17 at Surfside Resort in Tofte.  This is the social event of the year and an important fundraiser for the Birch Grove Community School, which is the heartbeat of the West End. 
It’s not too late to donate an item to be sold at the exciting live auction that is a big part of the gala.  Contact info is and 663-0170.
The Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center in Schroeder is offering an interesting free program comparing our ecosystem with the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica.  The Osa Peninsula has been called the most biologically intense place on Earth by National Geographic magazine.  It contains more than 700 species of trees alone.  The program is free and open to all on Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m.  I suggest that it might be very pleasant to watch a slide show of lush, green, sun-dappled forest at this particular point in time.  I’m just saying…  
The cell tower that has been standing on the hill above the power plant in Schroeder is finally fully operational.  This is only good news if you are an AT&T customer because that is the only service it supplies at the moment.  The plan is for Verizon Wireless, which is the carrier most of us have, to also provide service in Schroeder in the near future.
Meanwhile, the cell tower in Tofte, which was supposed to provide Verizon Wireless service last fall, is still just a tower with no service available.  Hopefully, that will come online as soon as possible.  I have heard reports that the AT&T signal from Schroeder is pretty reliable in Tofte.  The plan is for the Tofte tower to offer AT&T service sometime in the future.
The best news of all though, is the report that Arrowhead Cooperative is actually hooking up broadband Internet customers in Schroeder.  A couple of homes have had high-speed connections for a few weeks as a test and regular customers are being hooked up as I speak.  The connections are starting at the county line and moving east.  Only a couple of crews are working now, but more crews will be added as summer gets under way.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!
Finally, it’s my privilege to report the end of an era at the Forest Service District Office in Tofte.  As of May 1, Meg Tofte, who has been the den mother of the Tofte office for 25 years, has retired.  I’m personally shocked that Meg can be retired at such a young age, because she and I are the same age. 
All kidding aside, Meg’s ability, intelligence and caring personality will be deeply missed by Forest Service crew and all of us who have cause to spend time at the district office.  Fortunately, she will be hanging around Tofte with time on her hands, so we can all continue to enjoy her friendship and wisdom.  Now, if she can just get Greg to retire…



Cook County Ramble

West End News: April 24

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It’s a well-established fact that affordable housing for working people in Cook County is a problem.  That problem is particularly acute for young people who are just starting out and don’t have the assets that lenders want to see as collateral.
We suffer from what I call “the Aspen Syndrome” where much of the already scarce private property is occupied by expensive vacation homes, which in turn, drives up the cost of all available properties.  Add the high cost of a septic system and general construction, and the dream of home ownership is effectively out of reach, even for double income families.
If you live and work in the West End – and want to own your own home or start your own business, you should attend the information and strategy session, that is designed specifically for you, on Thursday, April 29th, starting at 7 pm at the Lutsen Resort Ballroom.
A panel of people knowledgeable in housing and business in Cook County will go over, in detail, the resources that are currently available for buying or building a home and/or starting a business in the West End.  
There will also be time to talk about what strategies can be brought to bear on these long-standing problems.  We are not alone in this problem, so we can learn from other communities.  I urge everyone who is interested in the local housing issue to attend and contribute ideas.
You can contact WTIP for details and contact information.
Birch Grove Community School in Tofte is once again offering its popular Campsite Kids summer program for children from Kindergarten to 5th grade.  The program runs every weekday from 7 am until 5 pm in June, July and August.  It includes many creative and stimulating activities, including field trips, S’Mores and much more.  You can find all the details by googling Birch Grove School.  Call Diane at 663-0170 to register your child for this excellent program.
Lutsen Mountains has hit the news all over the Midwest by announcing that they will be open for skiing through the first weekend in May.  This is a first for the hill and probably a first for any ski area in Minnesota. 
For locals who know the hill, only the Eagle Mountain runs will be open, with only the Bridge chair lift running.  It is Saturday and Sunday skiing only.  The hill is closed on weekdays now.  There are very reasonable local lift tickets available, including a two fo the price of one offer, but you have to purchase them 72 hours in advance on the website.
I was at the hill all day on Easter Sunday.  Not only was there plenty of great snow, but sitting on the chalet deck and watching the experts ski the moguls on Hari-Kari was endless entertainment.
The second annual Cook County Ramble is being held at Cascade Lodge on Friday, May 2nd starting at 7 pm.  The name references the famous Midnight Rambles organized by the late American musical legend, Levon Helm, at his farm in New York.  The Cook County Ramble features a bunch of local musicians playing songs that were previously performed by Levon Helm. 
Last year’s event was a smashing success, so I expect this year’s event to be even more fun.  There is a suggested donation at the door and the proceeds go to the instrument fund at Cook County High School. Last year, the event raised a thousand dollars for the instrument fund, which more than doubled their budget.
Many thanks to the O’Phelans at Cascade Lodge for donating their restaurant space for this great event.  As I always say, “Be there, or be square!”


Eric "Frosty" Frost

West End News: April 17

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It’s time again for the annual West End guessing game called “when will the ice go out?”  Sometimes this is a game of casual interest even when it involves small amounts of money being wagered. On the other hand, in a year like this one, when it seems like the ice might not be out by the opening day of fishing, it gets serious.
Here’s what I know.  At the moment, there is 31” of good ice on Sawbill Lake.  The snow pack in the woods is about 20” on average.  The creeks and rivers are open where the water is moving.  The grackles, purple finches, juncos and robins are back.
If I were subjected to enhanced-interrogation techniques, I would say that ice-out will be just in time for opening day.  However, I’ve learned over the years that nothing makes you look foolish faster than predicting the ice-out date.
Every year about this time, Lutsen Mountains holds its “Mountain Meltdown” celebration.  Last Sunday, four local bands performed for what amounts to the defacto end-of-the-year party for the ski hill.   At the height of the Meltdown celebration, local musician and all around good guy, Eric Frost, from Tofte, was treated to a great surprise. 
Last fall, Frosty recorded a handful of his original songs at the recording studio of Jerry and Dusty Levine in Silver Bay.  Jerry and Dusty are the long-time sound engineers at Papa Charlie’s nightclub in Lutsen.  Frosty recorded only the vocal tracks of his songs, with the intention of adding the instruments sometime in the future.  Jerry and Dusty took the vocal from Frosty’s song call “Mr. Moonshiner” and added all the instruments in the style of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the iconic southern rock band, including a blistering rock guitar solo by Dusty.
All the other musicians had been alerted by Jerry, so Frosty was lured to the middle of the room and Jerry unleashed the song with all the considerable audio power that Papa Charlie’s sound system can muster.  It was great fun to watch Frosty’s face as it changed from listening to just any song, to realizing it was his song, which caused him consternation, to the dawning realization of what Jerry and Dusty had done.  His smile was priceless.  Listen for it soon on a radio station near you.
The Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts of the US Forest Service are looking for full time wilderness volunteers for the upcoming summer season.  The volunteers are full-fledged wilderness rangers, spending 8 days at a time in the BWCA Wilderness, working on campsites and portages.  Volunteers receive reimbursement for expenses, which amounts to about $200 per trip and free housing when they are off the trail.
This is a great opportunity for someone who is contemplating a career with the Forest Service or who just loves wilderness.  You should know that the work is physically very demanding and requires a high level of fitness.  The wilderness rangers travel, work and camp together in small groups for 8 days in a row, so it helps to have an easy-going personality.
If you are interested, contact Cathy Quinn at 218-387-3240.  You can always contact WTIP if you missed that number.
One of the best things about small town newspapers, including our own Cook County News Herald, is reading the law enforcement briefs that often read like little haikus about the more difficult parts of life in our community.
Amongst the common complaints of keys locked in a car, noisy neighbors, and vehicle in the ditch, is the occasional report of something that is unintentionally hilarious.  The all-time classic, from a couple of years ago, was “caller reports three legged dog running in front of the library with a chicken in its mouth – headed east.”  The level of detail in that report made me spit out my coffee.
This week comes another classic: “Monday, March 31, 7:50 am – Caller said there was a deer sitting by the front door, unknown if it was injured or just hungry.  He gave it a bagel, but was unsure if the deer can get up.”
This report raises a bunch of questions for me.  Was the bagel toasted?  Was cream cheese involved?  Did the deer eventually get up and leave?  Did it return the next morning for breakfast?  I guess we’ll never know.
I do know that I like living in a place where law enforcement is called to help deal with a bagel-eating deer.



West End News: April 10

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It’s not too early to mark your calendar for the “Gala for the Grove.”  The Gala is a gourmet dinner, live auction and dance, and is the largest annual fundraiser for the remarkable Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.
This year, the Gala is scheduled for Saturday, May 17th at Surfside Resort in Tofte.  Seating is limited, so reserve your place early.  You can also be a sponsor of the event at various levels.
You should also think about what you might have to donate to the live auction.  In the past, some memorable items have been auctioned, including a pedigreed puppy, free use of a vacation villa in Mexico, and a truckload of black dirt, among many, many other things.
This year, the Gala is looking for a local artist to donate a significant piece of art.  The artist will be given a lot of publicity and will have the chance to mingle and meet many local art buyers during the Gala’s social hour.
For reservations, sponsorships or auction donations, call Diane Blanchette at 663-0170.  You can always contact WTIP for that phone number if you missed it.
In every story that I read about job openings in Minnesota, welding is invariably mentioned as an area where many high paying jobs are currently available.  Cook County Higher Education is offering a 30-credit Welding Technology Certificate right here in Cook County.  Completing the course will qualify you to work in production welding, manufacturing, repair, maintenance work or the construction industry.  The program is geared for working adults and can be completed over two years.
The certificate can also be applied toward higher degrees including Applied Engineering and Technology Management.
Scholarship help is available, but the scholarship deadline is April 15th, so if you’re interested, contact Cook County Higher Education at 387-3411 right away.  The wonderful folks at Higher Ed will help you with every step of the process.
The Cook County Soil and Water Conservation District is offering low cost tree and shrub stock for sale this spring. A variety of species are available.  You can see images and descriptions on the District’s website.  Just google “Cook County Soil and Water Conservation” to find the site.  Orders are due by April 18th for pickup on May 15th in Grand Marais.
Many years ago, one of the trail food companies produced a package of freeze-dried water as a marketing gag.  We had the package on display in our store here at Sawbill and it drew a lot of comment.  A surprising number of people took it seriously and suggested that it would be perfect for desert camping trips.
Imagine my amusement when I heard that the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota is busy freeze-drying water samples taken from Lake Superior. 
It turns out that freeze-drying the water gives them a more accurate sample of what is dissolved in the water than the traditional method of evaporation.  Letting water evaporate gives volatile compounds the chance to evaporate too, giving the scientists -who are a picky bunch - inaccurate results.
Now if they can just figure out how their freeze-dried water can be used for desert camping…



West End News: April 3

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There are definitely some trade-offs to living in the West End.  We get to live in one of the most beautiful spots on Earth.  We are
surrounded by compassionate and talented people.  On the other hand, it seems like we'll never get broadband internet and when we have an emergency, help can be far away.

In modern times, we've been lucky and smart to develop systems that provide emergency services - police, fire and emergency medicine - in a timely manner.  Locals can respond quickly to most populated parts of the West End and have the training to do what needs to be done to save property and life.

Hovland is in the same boat, if you will, and has developed similar fire and rescue systems at roughly the same time.  In recent years though, Hovland has pioneered a new volunteer service called STOP. STOP stands for Safety Team Operational Patrol.  Because so many of our most serious emergencies happen on or near Highway 61, the STOP volunteers have been trained to provide safety and control along the highway so everyone involved in the incident can avoid further injury.

The Hovland Fire Department is hosting a STOP training session soon to encourage the spread of the STOP program throughout Cook County.  The one day training begins at 8:30 AM on Saturday, April 12th at the Hovland Town Hall.  Lunch will be provided and a social barb-e-que is planned immediately after the training.

You don't need to have any prior emergency training to take the course - just a desire to help out your community and provide crucial aid to the heroes who are there for us in the worst moments of our lives.  I strongly encourage you to call 218-475-2766 for more information.  You can always call WTIP for information as well.

The concept of stewardship is a powerful notion if you think about it. Taking care of ourselves, our families, communities and the world we live in, is really the most profound function of our lives.  We are all on this earth for only a short time and the reality is that we don't really own anything - it's just ours to take care of for awhile. My friend Hal Greenwood put it well a couple of years ago when he donated a valuable autographed baseball to a local charity.  He said, "My stuff is just someone else's future stuff."

Some folks around the region are working on an exciting new stewardship project.  It doesn't have a name yet, but they are forming an organization to coordinate volunteer efforts in and around the BWCA Wilderness and the Superior National Forest.

The idea of the new organization is to make it easy and painless for people to get their boots on the ground and hands on tools to help protect and improve the wild lands in our corner of the world.  There are a lot of volunteers working in the woods now, but there is a lot more work to be done and many more people willing to do it.  Having an umbrella organization will make it easier for the many agencies, clubs and groups to recruit, train, supervise and reward volunteers.

This new group does not plan to be an advocacy group but plans to help anyone who needs work done, including, but not limited to, the US Forest Service, Minnesota DNR, Cook County, snowmobile clubs, ski clubs, biking clubs, ATV clubs, hiking trail clubs, and other groups who operate in the forest.

This idea has been kicking around for awhile, but it has really caught on around the country, with dozens of similar groups having success all over the U.S.  Right now the Superior Forest group is just a steering committee, but they hope to have the organization normalized and funded in the next year in time to put their first volunteers in the woods during the summer of 2015.

As a side benefit, the new organization should provide a few professional level jobs in the future, which, if I have anything to say about it, will be based in good old Cook County.

It's just another way that we can provide stewardship in the short time that we are blessed to live in the beautiful and interesting West End.