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The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
Raven in Snow

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 10

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

Now he’s escaped again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Great Expectations School

School News from Great Expectations: March 10

Hailey and Charlet report the latest School News.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain Elementary: March 9

Recko, Patience and Cameron report the latest School News.

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West End News: March 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LSProject logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Preserving Rock of Ages lighthouse

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

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

Photos courtesy of Rock of Ages Lighthouse Preservation Society

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School News from Birch Grove: March 6

Kalina, Arlo and Tucker report the latest School News.

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Northern Sky: March 4 - 17

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

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

 

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

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Superior National Forest Update: March 3

Hi. This is Mary Ann Atwood, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For March 3, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

Wilderness crews recently reported a lack of snow on the upper Gunflint Trail lakes. Puddles on the lakes last week, have probably refrozen but you may find slush in certain areas. Seagull and Clearwater lakes have ice depths ranging from 18 – 24 inches.

Snow conditions vary greatly in the woods. Timber crews report little to no snow under conifer stands, yet up to 3 feet of snow under hardwoods and in open areas. Their adjective describing the snow, was “crunchy.”

Trails for snowmobiles and cross country skiing have been deteriorating. Using trails when conditions are too warm can damage the compacted snow which creates the base of the trail. Once this base is gouged or damaged, it takes a good deal of fresh snow to return the trail to usable conditions.

Along with the trails, gravel roads have deteriorated. Ruts created now may refreeze causing problems in the weeks to come. Watch out for soft shoulders and slippery conditions caused by melting and refreezing.

Warmer weather affects wildlife as well. Timber crews report a multitude of moose tracks in the woods. Deer are moving along forest service roads, as well as on Highway 61. Several wolf sightings have also been reported. It’s a good time to keep your pets under control in the forest. Don’t want Fido encountering his wilder cousins.

Timber hauling continues in some areas of both ranger districts. Be aware that the DNR also uses the Trails for their logging activities.

On the Gunflint District, hauling can be expected on the Firebox Road from the Gunflint Trail to the Grand Portage Snowmobile Trail, Greenwood Road, and Forest Road 1385 (AKA the Swamper Snowmobile Trail).

On the Tofte District, trucks are on The Grade, Cook County 3, the Sawbill Trail, Trappers Lake Road, Lake County 7, the Honeymoon Trail, and the Caribou Trail.

You may know that March is Women’s History Month, but did you know that the Forest Service played an important role in that history? The first women in the postwar period known to have been paid for fire suppression work were wildland firefighting crews working for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. All-women Forest Service and BLM crews worked on fires in Alaska and Montana during the summers of 1971 and '72. Now, more than 6,500 women hold career firefighting and fire officer’s positions in the United States.

Until next time, this has been Mary Ann Atwood with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain: March 2

Grete, Grant and Kallie report the latest School News.

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