April always feels a bit like the calm before the storm in the West End of Cook County. While we slowly wake up from our winter hygge and begin going about the task of sprucing things up for summer, we seem to keep one eye looking south down Highway 61, anticipating the crowds of visitors headed our way in a few short weeks. It feels like such a privilege to be able to watch the wilderness here shake off winter. The transition seasons seem especially reserved for the locals.
This year, many local west enders have been kept busy with their backyard maple syruping endeavors. The sap started flowing a few weeks ago, and by all accounts it just won’t quit! Many folks are on their third or even fourth sap boils already. Boiling sap down to syrup is a very labor intensive project, so a big sap year like this can really turn into quite the time commitment. It’s hard to say no though when you are granted such a prolific batch of sweet maple syrup in the end.
I’ve been remiss in extending a warm welcome to the new Acting Tofte District Ranger with the Forest Service, Lenore Lamb. Lenore is on loan to us from Rhinelander, Wisconsin. She will be here for a few months, filling in for Kurt Steele who has moved on to the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. I’ve had the good fortune of meeting Lenore on a couple of occasions now and she is certainly a wonderful person who is thoroughly enjoying her time here in our corner of paradise.
The Forest Service, in particular the Tofte District office, has been working closely with the nonprofit Northwoods Volunteer Connection. This organization, based out of Tofte, partners to create connections to recruit, train and supervise volunteers. They work to help put boots on the ground and tools in the hands of people that care about the northwoods of northeastern Minnesota. The group organizes several volunteer trips throughout the summer, often led by Forest Service wilderness rangers. These trips are a wonderful opportunity to learn some new skills, spend some time outdoors, and help maintain our public lands. The Volunteer Connection is holding an open house this Monday, April 24, at 5 pm at Voyageur Brewing in Grand Marais. Many community groups, like the Superior Hiking Trail Association and Kekekabic Trail Club, will be at the open house to answer questions about what they do and how you can be involved. There are door prizes, a featured speaker, and best of all the Volunteer Connection will be unveiling this year’s volunteer trip opportunities. If none of that entices you, at least come to share a good beer with some new friends. For more information you can log onto http://www.mnnvc.org/.
Last, but not least, as a part of this writing (which is occurring at an embarrassingly late hour on Wednesday night, April 19) the ice on Sawbill is still not out. It has detached from shore, floated up, and turned a dark, dark grey so really this is it, and it should be out in the next couple of days.
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.