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North Shore Weekend

  • Saturday 7-10am
Genre: 
Variety
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

 

 


What's On:
TrailTime photo by Lars

Trail Time - Events and Phenology on the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time
By Marcia Roepke
October 15, 2021

It’s definitely fall on the Gunflint Trail. Many aspen and birch have lost their leaves, and the weather is cool and damp. Unlike spring, with its gradual unfolding, autumn loveliness arrives quickly. Two days ago day I saw the limbs of a birch covered in shimmering yellow leaves, reaching toward the clear blue sky; the next morning almost all the leaves were lying on the ground, like a puddle of gold, like a slender dancer had just let her silk dress drop to her feet. The whole of last week was magical, with the warm sun sparkling on water and gauzy little fairy-like bugs floating around in the air. At first I mistook these incredibly tiny insects for gnats or ash, but I managed to catch a few – very gently, for they were so easy to squash – and looked them up online using the search term “tiny blue insects with fuzzy butts.” I got answers immediately. They were woolly aphids. It seems there are as many kinds of woolly aphids as there are trees, with at least 15 different kinds in Minnesota, and some sources said that there are probably more.  The adult woolly aphid sucks tree sap and produces a waxy white covering that looks like minute downy feathers. I had never seen them before. I wonder if it was the unseasonable warm weather which brought them out. For a few a while, whenever the weather warmed, you could see these little fairy bugs floating by, just being wafted by the breeze.

Last week was unusually warm for October, and Lars and I took good advantage of the fine weather by driving down some dirt roads we hadn’t explored before. We had a canoe on top of the car, lunch, paddles and life jackets packed and even a thermos of hot tea along. It felt so civilized. Lars and I had spent the evening before comparing maps and negotiating where to explore. We meant to leave early the next morning, but with one thing and another we didn’t get on the water until 9. It was early enough for there to still be mist floating above the water, with the morning sun shining through. The day was sunny and nearly windless, and our first stop was a favorite lake for a quiet farewell paddle. It was a lovely way to say goodbye until next spring. There was just one another canoe on the water, and we quickly lost sight of them. We saw and heard many kingfishers, darting across the water and swooping up into nearby snags and fir trees. A few times we saw them hover before diving headlong into the water to catch fish. These birds have such unusual proportions, with a head that seems outsized to its body, long stout beaks and very short legs. Everything about them seems direct and no-nonsense except for those wild shaggy feathers on their heads that look like punk hairdos. They are such a gorgeous shade of blue, with white necks and bellies and black markings around their eyes. The female has an additional rusty band of feathers across her chest, like a too-tight waistcoat. They nest mostly in dirt banks after digging a tunnel that can range from 3 to 6 feet long. They lay 6-7 eggs, with both male and female sharing incubation and feeding. The Belted Kingfisher is the only one which summers this far north.
 
I had a front-row seat to a Battle Royale between two kingfishers a couple summers ago. I was sitting in a second story balcony and they went round and round the building chasing each other and chittering that distinctive call. They were flying so fast and calling so loudly! I’m not sure if it was a mating ritual or warfare, but they looked like they meant business, whatever their intentions, and they were moving too fast for me to distinguish between male and female. Kingfishers must be late migrators for us to see so many of them in October. They fly south to spend the winter on open water. I always love spotting them.
 
Lars and I said good-bye to the kingfishers at that first lake and paddled back to the landing, then headed down the Gunflint Trail to find a new lake – one that had intrigued us during our map reading of the night before. We headed south of the Trail, went down a dirt road and found the entry point. After we filled out a day pass, we made an easy portage to the next lake. Once more, we had the place mostly to ourselves, paddling quietly down the shore, heading to anything that sparked our interest. I saw what looked like a small raft of reeds and dry grasses and paddled over to investigate and noticed a brown furry body in motion. I thought it was an otter, but as I got closer I saw a naked tail -- there was a pile of two or three muskrats sitting on top of this raft. One of them looked up, wrinkled his nose at us and then they all slipped into the water. Maybe they were building a house, getting ready for winter. It was a gorgeous day of paddling and nature watching to end this canoe season.
 
This is the end of the season for Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center as well. This weekend is your last chance to hike the trails, gaze at the moose pond, view the exhibits in the museum, or shop in the gift shop. Sunday is their last day for this year, and it is predicted to be a sunny day. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see a moose!
 
This is Marcia Roepke on the Gunflint Trail
 

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Photo by Martha Marnocha

North Woods Naturalist: Ballooning spiders

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Star Map October.jpg

Northern Sky

Northern Sky     -        October 2021
By Deane Morrison
     
October’s darkening skies provide a backdrop for planetary maneuvers and the unending stream of stars across the celestial stage.
     
As Venus holds its position above the sunset horizon, Saturn, followed by much brighter Jupiter, heads westward with the stars of Capricornus. On the 9th, red Antares, the heart of Scorpius, will be left of Venus and a waxing crescent moon in the sun’s afterglow. As Antares exits the sky, it draws closer to Venus and glimmers directly below the planet on the 16th. On the 14th, Jupiter and Saturn come out above a gibbous moon. 
     
On the 7th, Mars passes behind the sun and officially takes up residence in the morning sky—which is where you’ll also find Saturn, Jupiter and Venus next year.
     
Facing south, you’ll see—perhaps with help from a star chart—the relatively dim fall constellations. From west to east, the main ones are chevron-shaped Capricornus, the sea goat; scraggly Aquarius, the water bearer; and two-tailed Pisces, the fishes. Fairly high in the southeast at nightfall is the Great Square of Pegasus. Below the Great Square is a pretty ring of stars known as the Circlet of Pisces.
     
October’s full moon arrives the morning of the 20th. To see it, get outside by about 40 minutes before sunrise or it will have set in the west. If you’re not a morning person, enjoy the moonrise on the evening of either the 19th or the 20th. 
     
October closes with Halloween, an astronomically based Celtic holiday that was one of four “cross-quarter” days falling midway between an equinox and a solstice. On that night, evil spirits cooped up since May Day were released to wreak havoc on humankind. People left out food to appease the spirits and lit candles in gourds to ward them off; these were the forerunners of trick-or-treating and jack-o’-lanterns.  
 

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Photo by Casey Clark.

Trail Time--the sounds of autumn

Trail Time
10-01-2021
By Marcia Roepke
 
​The last two weeks of September have been absolutely lovely on the Gunflint Trail. We’ve had rain, we’ve had sun, we’ve had temperatures about ten degrees above average. Usually the shorter days and cooler temps of September make me want to slow down, but this fabulous weather has sped me up again. I can’t get enough canoeing or fishing, it’s 76 and sunny and I just might swim this afternoon.  I want to be by, in or on the water all the time. With the weather so warm, it feels kind of strange to see little groupings of buntings by the road. I think of them as cooler weather birds. Juncos are back as well and yesterday we heard then saw a flock of cranes fly overhead, bugling and honking. They were flying so high, it was hard to see them. It is autumn, though it feels like August.
 
I’ve spent a few hours this September watching a new beaver lodge. First I found a comfortable place to sit with a good vantage point. I quieted my movements and my thoughts and then I waited. A red squirrel spent a few minutes announcing my arrival, then the woods behind me grew quiet; a raven then flew overhead, wheeled around and landed in a spruce tree right above and behind me, its screams seconding the squirrel’s vote about my presence. 
 
I used to try to talk back to the ravens, but they are wise to my tricks. I don’t fool them for a second — though I do think (immodestly) that my impersonation is pretty good. My dog demurs, and just gazes at me, concern all over her face whenever I make that strange sound. 
 
I once talked back to a red squirrel in its own language and I felt so amused when it grew furious and bounced up and down on all four feet chattering, railing at me. I walked into the cabin, then turned and saw the squirrel running straight at me. I knew there was a full length of glass between us, but the squirrel saw nothing but air and launched himself toward me til smack! Full frontal squirrel smash into the window. He fell back, then after a millisecond of a shake he launched again into the air. Smack! He fell back again and appeared unhurt but dazed, then he ran up a little hill and into the woods. If that glass hadn’t been there, God knows what that squirrel would’ve done to me. I don’t talk back to squirrels anymore. 
 
There was no talking at all on my part for this day of quiet beaver-watching. The weather was perfect for it. Cool in the shade, not too hot in the sun, zero bothersome insects. The water was still and smooth save for the circles from fish rising to feed. The leaves barely moved in a faint breeze. Occasionally a golden birch leaf fluttered down and plopped on the surface of the water. It was so quiet I could hear the leaf hit the water and a hundred feet away I heard the rising of a fish as it mouth closed upon a tasty fly. 
 
I sat for an hour? two hours? I lost track of time. There were no boats on the lake, no planes in the sky. I was mesmerized by the perfect mirror image of the sky and shore on the surface of the water, forming a design like a horizontal Rorschach blot. A junco flew up and perched in a cedar, cocking its little head at me before flying off. A dragonfly flew around me as it fulfilled its duty patrolling the shore. “No time to chat!” I imagined it saying to me. “I’ve got business to do!” They are such earnest flyers. Now, my goal had been to watch for beaver activity, and I did manage to see one shiny wet head surface and circle around before it silently dove under. That had been the goal, but I had gained much more than that in those silent hours by the water. The deep quiet felt as if it had got into my bones, as if I had soaked it up like a sauna. I had a long deep draught of quiet and I felt heartened and strengthened by it. 
 
 Loons are still in residence. I hadn’t heard them for a number of days and I assumed they’d left, even though it was unusually early. But it has been a strange summer. The lack of rain hit the area hard and we had those mid-summer dry crunchy weeks with fire danger a daily worry. I thought loons leaving early seemed congruent with the rest of the weird summer. But I was wrong. I tried not to take it personally, after all the whereabouts of the loons is their business. I have to remind myself: This is their place. I am the visitor. They will keep flying here long after I’m gone. 
 
This is Marcia Roepke on the Gunflint Trail
 

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Sandhilll cranes.  Photo by Michael Janke via Flickr Creative Commons.

North Woods Naturalist: Frost, cranes, and bats

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Photo by Martha Marnocha

North Woods Naturalist: Fall Colors & Fungi

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel describes the confetti of leaf colors that are beginning to appear as well as her latest observations as we head into fall.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Scott Oeth-photo by Mike Patterson

Pack & Paddle

"Pack & Paddle" with Scott Oeth
September 20, 2021

In this edition Scott talks about the many uses of cattails - from nutritional and medical, to kindling and insulation.

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Autumn has arrived...! (Photo by Bryan Hansel)

North Woods Naturalist: Advancing Autumn

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist and she joins us periodically to report on what she’s seeing in our woods and waters right now.

In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel describes her recent observations that tell us autumn is on the way.

This project is supported in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

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Star Map Sept 2021

Northern Sky Aug 28 - Sep 10

Northern Sky 
By Deane Morrison

With daylight slipping away, September’s skies make an excellent background for watching stars and planets.
     
Venus shines briefly above the western horizon after sunset. On the 9th, a young crescent moon joins the planet. As both sink, the brilliant star Arcturus, in Bootes, the herdsman, comes out above them. 
     
At nightfall, the Teapot of Sagittarius hangs low in the south. Its spout tips downward, as if pouring the tea onto the tail of Scorpius. A little further west of the Teapot glows Antares, the scorpion’s red heart.
     
East of the Teapot, Saturn and brilliant Jupiter dot the darkness. Moving east again, the Great Square of Pegasus is gaining altitude. 
     
Above Saturn and Jupiter, the Milky Way courses through the large Summer Triangle of bright stars. If you haven’t seen the Triangle stars and constellations yet, September is the best month to check them out. Turn your binoculars on the brightest of the three stars: Vega, in Lyra, the lyre. Enjoy its brilliance and the almost perfect parallelogram of stars right below it. Those stars represent the lyre of the mythical Greek musician Orpheus. Also look for the Northern Cross, which extends from Deneb—the least bright star in the Triangle—and outlines the body of Cygnus, the swan. 
     
A waxing moon shines above Antares on the 12th, below Saturn on the 16th, and below Jupiter on the 17th. The moon becomes full at 6:55 p.m. on Monday, the 20th. It rises shortly afterward, so it will be very round as it climbs into the pale but rapidly darkening sky. Because this is the closest full moon to the fall equinox, it’s also the harvest moon. The harvest moon got its name because at this time of year, the moon moves rapidly northward as it waxes to fullness and begins to wane. As a result, the moon rises relatively earlier from night to night, cutting the time farmers have to wait for a source of light for harvesting their crops.      
     
The fall equinox arrives at 2:21 p.m. on the 22nd. At that moment the sun crosses the equator on its way south and Earth will be lighted from pole to pole. 
 

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Smoke Plume Photo By Marcia Roepke

Trail Time - Notes and observations from the Gunflint Trail

Trail Time
8-27-2021
By Marcia Roepke
 
As I write this, it’s Wednesday, August 25, 2021 and the upper part of the Gunflint Trail has been in pre-evacuation mode for almost two days. It was just past 8 pm on Sunday when I read an email marked “urgent” from the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department (GTVFD) requesting that residents from End of the Trail to the south side of Loon Lake prepare to evacuate. The email  linked to a video where Mike Valentini explained how to get ready. Stressing that this was NOT an evacuation, and NOT a time to panic, he calmly and clearly said that “ready mode” means homeowners should turn on sprinklers, pack medications, gather pets and pack up valuables. 
     
Well, that certainly got my attention. I forwarded the message to neighbors and then my husband Lars and I got busy: He to print out wildfire evacuation checklists, and I to start packing my “Go Bag.” These lists helped us prioritize our actions, and while I wouldn’t say I felt totally calm on the inside, I didn’t feel panicky, just very focused and alert. We’ve been very fire-aware this summer. The air has been smoky for months around here due to the Quetico and Ontario fires. There was the Delta Fire earlier then the fire at Greenwood Lake and now the John Ek was the one heading our way. Minnesota has had one of the driest summers in recorded history. In truth, we had been preparing for this wildfire scenario for years. With the John Ek fire moving closer, Monday night felt like the pointy end of a graph showing a spread of tasks over time leading to this one last job: packing to get ready to go. So that night, after clothing, valuables, medications, and dog food were stowed in backpacks and totes, cell phones were plugged in and charging, we headed outside to complete some of the other chores on our list.
         
With the sprinklers spraying water pumped from the lake, we moved the two cedar canoes and our tractor into the garage, which is within our spriklers’ perimeter. We moved the gasoline can to a safe area, moved wooden deck furniture and doormats off the deck and made sure both garden hoses were hooked up and had nozzles attached. We checked that the standby generator was gassed up and we filled potable water containers in case we lost electricity. There were many more items on the checklist, but you get the picture. We worked hard and went to bed late that night, keeping company with a beautiful blue moon. I didn’t sleep very well. 
         
We have been cutting brush and dead trees for years, following a program of wildfire fuel reduction called Firewise. We had created a thirty-foot zone around our cabin with no conifers and, among other things, we had protected the area underneath our wood deck with metal, guarding against blowing embers. But each year there is always more brush to cut and more dead balsam firs to cut down. Firs are the best fuel for wildfire and so they’re the worst thing to have near your home. They grow like weeds.  
     
The morning after the pre-evacuation notice, Lars set off with Duffer Don to help cut and haul brush to the local brush pile. After they left, I didn’t know what to do with myself. We had done a good job the night before — we were packed and ready to go, but I just couldn’t sit around being ready. I checked our refrigerator and saw the chicken and ribs I had thawed for this week’s meals. I wondered if I should re-freeze it, but instead I decided to start cooking everything I could. So I baked cookies, then roasted chicken wings and after that put the ribs in the oven for a long slow bake. I’m so glad the cooler weather had arrived! Since the campfire ban, I didn’t want to cook outside, not even with a grill. I kept myself busy all day with various chores inside and out, and I had to force myself to not check constantly for email updates and status reports from the Superior National Forest. We knew that we would be informed by someone coming to our house should we need to evacuate.  
     
We had attended a jam-packed town hall meeting Sunday night to get an update on the John Ek fire and I had been impressed with the professionalism and clarity of each speaker. They stressed many times that fire is unpredictable and they could not tell us with any certainty what would develop in the immediate future. I sat there feeling very grateful for the forest rangers, our emergency preparedness system in Cook County and for our own Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department. We really felt – and still do – that we have excellent people doing their jobs very well to help protect us, our homes and care for the forest. I also thought to myself that nearly two years of Covid has taught me a lot about living with unpredictability and quickly-changing situations. Both fire and pandemic have certainly improved my prayer life.
         
We live in a boreal forest that requires fire to sustain it. We knew this when we moved here. We accepted the risk and have done our best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. You can’t live up here and be in denial about fire.
         
Our minds are strange places when we’re anxious, though. The day after that meeting at Schaap Community Center, we headed to town for groceries. We were feeling much more at ease about the wildfire situation. When we had woken up that morning, we did not see or smell smoke. The wind had shifted during the night and the morning sky was clear. The fire felt much farther away than it had the day before. After shopping, we headed back up the Trail. We were on our way to Voyageurs Outfitters to fill some propane tanks when we saw a strangely-colored plume of smoke in the sky. There it was, right in front of us, the smoke from the John Ek fire rising in the distance, stretching south across the western horizon. Suddenly the fire felt closer. Then, as the Trail curved to the northeast, the plume of smoke disappeared from our view, as did that momentary rising of fear I had felt when I first saw it. Like a light switch turning on and off, as the curve of the road changed so did my mental and emotional state. It was a very strange experience. It made me feel more like an animal, but not in a beastly way. I mean like in the way an animal fears fire when it is present, but gives it no thought in its absence.
 

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