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North Shore Weekend

  • Saturday 7-10am
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.



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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 27

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 27, 2020     

November is fading fast as we gathered to celebrate the bounty of blessings from another growing season. I hope all holed up to stay safe during this raging surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Thanksgiving 2020 for millions was not the most glorious!                                      

On a related note, we should have given thanks, and must continue giving thanks, for thousands of essential healthcare professionals who gave their utmost to the deceased, and keep hanging in there against difficult odds for the countless humans, being cared for at the moment. To all of these heroes’, please don’t give up, never give up!                                                            
The holiday in this neighborhood was quiet as might be expected. In fact, a busy day in the Wildersmith neighborhood during cold season never has much activity. All was good!              

With the word “normal” hard to define on a lot of fronts these days, even weather conditions in the upper Trail are confusing. I would guess we could say the last days of month eleven have been normal. But since the first touch of winter in mid-to late October, recent temps of warmth, to coldand back to warmth has me wondering, if this is going to be the “new norm” as winter keeps sputtering.                                                                                                                                                                                  

In the meantime, our snow covered landscape looks like a spotted brown and white dog, and several lakes are melting their hard water cover. Our “Hallmark card” majesty has stepped back into a rather unsightly naked forest. I guess we’ll just give it twenty-four hours and see what’s in the offing.                                                                                                      

Perhaps the rising of an Ojibwe, “freezing over” full moon will turn the tide (no pun intended) back toward the crystal persuasion. And, December can step up with the customary “grace and meaning, bringing finality” to this painful and troublesome 2020.                                            

While wolves don’t necessarily, really howl at the moon, this might be a good time to do such for one that has apparently, been deer hunting along the Mile O Pine. In what snow remains along the road, I tracked one heading toward Wildersmith a few days ago. Tracks eventually disappeared into the woods so where it ended up, is anyone’s guess.                                                     

It would be a good bet the hungry carnivore went without venison if fortunes matched those of two legged hunting counterparts. Wolfy probably had to settle for an appetizer of snowshoe hare or head to a local beaver lodge.                                                                                     

My foxy friend has gone AWOL again, not being seen for over a week. Neighbors down the road have a similar fluffy tail visitor, so maybe the one I claim has adopted new providers.      

Nevertheless, a pine marten or two have not abandoned this place of fast food opportunities. While the art of hunting in the wild, by a wild being is a seldom, observed reality, timing was just right for the Smith’s to follow a couple episodes of predator/prey drama, playing out right here on our deck.                                                                                                      

The mortal scene could make one feel a little squeamish as Mr./Ms. Marten bagged a daily limit of two squirrels (in separate incidents) right before our eyes.                                            

The goings on were dreadful from a squirrel stand-point. But Martens have to eat too. This favor of watching death or life in our natural world can be either dire or delightful. It’s just the way of the woods, but always, an experience to remember.                                                                                                                       
Another loss has come to our Gunflint Community of neighbors. Word has been received from the family of Robert “Bob” Omoth,  announcing his un-expected passing, on November 14th at his winter home in Florida. Bob was 90.                                                                

He first came to Cook County in the 1950’s and has resided seasonally with wife Barbara at their cabin on Gunflint Lake for over thirty years.                                                                           

Bob was an aerospace engineer working in both the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs until retirement.  He was one-time president of the Gunflint Lake Property Owners Association and active in many lake activities.                                                                                                            
Bob is survived, and will be missed, by his wife of 66 years, two daughters, five grandchildren, other family relatives, as well as his Gunflint Lake friends and neighbors. Gunflint Community condolences are extended to all who knew and loved him.                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with “nature being a refuge, from the ills of humanity!”                            


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Superior National Forest Update - November 20

The Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen will get you up to speed on the conditions on forest roads and trails.  He also talks about getting a permit and cutting your own Christmas tree in the National Forest.


Photo by Needsmoreritalin / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

North Woods Naturalist: November weather changes

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist. In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel describes her observations in our woods and waters - as well as the sky above - as the weather finally begins to cool down.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 20

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 20, 2020    

Quiet as the Gunflint forest, days of November have slipped by ending week three. It hardly seems possible the celebration of America’s Thanksgiving has crept into the picture. So we’ll be doing the gobbling with those big gobbling birds as the feature entrée.                         

One has to wonder what the weather will be like by the time we get to next Thursday. Conditions in border country have been on a yoyo as the pages of 2020, chapter eleven, have been flipping.                                                                                                                                                
We’ve been through a gamut of happenings since we last met on the radio. Snow of the plowing variety, another brief meltdown and then a return to winter as this weeks’ report rolled off the keyboard.                                                                                                                             
Last Sunday was a howling success as winter tried to regain the control started in October. A northwest blast found the pine forest clinging to earth for dear life, and waves crashing the shores of lakes not already under winter cover.                                                             

As the day of rest started in a melting mode, just above the freezing mark, I watched with interest, the drippy roof edge slowly transition to icicles as the mercury began to slide. The mini spears defied gravity at the huff and puff of gale winds, to end daylight time angled to the east. These stalactites of hard water are magical, truly a miracle component of the winter adventure.                                                                                                                       
Meanwhile, twilight gave way to darkness in near blizzard surroundings although snow accumulations were minimal in the Mile O Pine neighborhood this time. Since “there’s no business like snow business” a good stimulus to our flake-less economy would be appreciated.                                                                                                                                                                      
There’s a good chance we’ll have another dose of melting before the passage of Phrenologist, Larry Weber’s “Autwin” yields to full blown winter. So there’s still time to get out and enjoy nature” in advance of every day frosty breath, frozen nostrils and squeaky snow.                   

While the Pine Marten has been getting sole enjoyment of chicken treats for a week, sharing could be in the offing. My old fox friend has been making routine visits during night time hours. Tracks in the snow around my wood shop door confirm the fox knows the feeding routine, and must be the frequent guest. Hanging around here until spring gave way to summer, a formal re-union with the AWOL animal has not taken place. But it’s likely just a matter of time until we make eye to eye contact, and I can resume my role as the server.                      

Since last summer an extensive invasion of annoying critters has been bugging many Trail residents, and Wildersmith is no exception. They are forever trying to infiltrate wherever warmth and/or nourishment might be found. And cold weather makes them even more invasive. I’m talking mice, of all types.                                                                                                    
I have trapped uncountable numbers in my out-buildings, even a couple in the vehicle and they just keep coming. Happily, they have not gained entry into the house.                                        

They are wily invaders as everybody knows, and everyone deals with them in their own way. I have reached the point where I’m now chaining the catching devices to a fixed place so they can’t run off with the trap, should the bait and trip operation not do them in at first bite (I used to lose a lot of traps).                                                                                                                        

To authenticate my efforts in culling this vermin population, I would have a good start on a mouse pelt coat if I were not making daily rodent offerings to avian predators. Mice, like mosquitos and black flies, have been a menace since the beginning of time! Some things never change.                                                                                                                                              
For WTIP news, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and it is open season, for wilderness adventures!         


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 13

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 13, 2020    

A glorious week of autumn had folks up the Trail in jackets, sweaters and smiles during week one of our new month. Temps in the fifties finished off the October snow and even dried up slop on back country roads.                                                                                                            

The landscape is back to various fall shades of brown, and it was worrisome from a wild fire stand-point with no “precip” to replace the snow, but a timely rain earlier in the week eased my concern. Slightly over one inch of rain was recorded in my gauge. It was an amount not seen in months around this neighborhood.                                                                                                                                                    

November character is at hand as this report comes your way. Lakes will resume making ice and the “s” word has been bantered about over the past few days.                                           

The good weather allowed completion of my list of weather delayed outdoor chores, and even a couple that could have waited until spring. So we at Wildersmith are ready for whatever comes our way.                                                                                                                       

Speaking only for lakes I’ve noticed recently, water levels are at the lowest seen in my twenty plus years. A longtime resident on Gunflint Lake says this “old Gal” is lower than he’s observed since his childhood days. I don’t know of his age, but he has to be near or at a half century old.                                                                                                                                                         

My last trip up to the end of the Trail at Chik Wauk found Saganaga Lake to be in the same dismal circumstance. Bays surrounding the Museum Campus are about to take on the look of a wet land with plant growth consuming about half the water surface. Seeing the old high water marks along shoreline granite is a little frightening. It’s going to take a lot of moisture and a long time to build the many bodies back to normal levels as we know them.                     

I’ve heard little bragging about deer being taken around the territory, so it’s my guess there were few hunters out and few shots taken. I did hear of a gal getting an eight pointer somewhere, but that’s it to date. Perhaps the unusually warm weather on opening weekend had some affect, if in fact there are any deer still hanging out in these parts.                            

It was a homecoming of sorts around Wildersmith last Saturday when “Piney” the marten stopped by for a visit. It must be a returnee as the plush little animal went right to our feeding stations, obviously looking for a bit of chicken dinner.                                                          

Not expecting the surprising visit, I was ill prepared, but being trained well, promptly obliged with a couple poultry morsels. The crafty critter must have been keeping an eye on me, or a nose in the air, as it was not long before she/he was back. It has been a regular since, and I would expect some of its’ kin are soon to be arriving, once word of the “clucking” menu gets out.                                                                                                                                                          

Friends down the road report being entertained by an Ermine recently. This sleek little rodent had made the full transition to its winter white coat. It too was provided a poultry treat, consuming such right in front of the curious observers, not four or five feet away. See a pic of the ghostly being alongside my column at under the Community Voices drop down. 

Gunflint Community congratulations are offered to Bruce and Sue Kerfoot upon their recognition by the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation. The Kerfoot’s received the organizations “Generosity Award” for their decades of uncountable volunteer contributions to the Gunflint Community and Cook County.                                                                                    

Bruce, born in the upper Gunflint over eighty years ago, and Sue, operated the celebrated Gunflint Lodge for over fifty years. They represent living archives of history about life and times along this nationally known Scenic Byway.                                                                                                                                     
The award will be presented in Duluth on November 17th at DSACF ceremonies, and will be televised locally on WDIO channel 10 in Duluth.                                                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where all the days are great, and everyone is linked by “Mother Nature.”

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 06

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 6, 2020    
Our eleventh month slipped into the north woods as one might expect, on the heels of gale force NW winds and a night time snow squall. The new month kind of snuck up on us as October took on the November character over the past few weeks. Maybe we should be calling the recent months’ look-a-likes, Oct-ember?                                                                                              

Here we are with one week already in the books.  Daylight has now taken on new meaning with the loss of artificial time last Sunday morning.  Darkness closing in by about 4:30 in the afternoon is now reason for adjustment after all these months as daylight minutes dwindle away.                                                                                                                                                         

At air time this week, we are in a spell, where a big switcheroo has blown winter back across the border. The snow has melted away in most places and temps have become more like autumn, so icy conversations have turned to talk of the big Minnesota deer hunting season.               

Yep, it’s that time when venison seekers put on their post-Halloween bush or tree costumes in hope of catching an un-suspecting white tail by surprise. Successes throughout the upper Gunflint territory have been minimal for the past several years. However, there will likely be a few folks decked out in blaze trying their luck. It is a good bet hunters out this way will be modeling a hot orange fashion show, rather than actually loading meat for the freezer into their pick-ups.                                                                                                                                                                           

Over several years, between a couple of recent stressful deep snow winters, and wolves out doing rifle toting folks, the herd has been culled to near extinction around here.  What is interesting, by driving fifty miles or so back toward the village and up into the Lake Superior highlands, hunter fortunes are much more favorable.                                                                                         

Regardless of bagging a prize, fundamentally, hunters seek and find the calm of spiritual adventure during a renewal with nature. It’s an inner feeling, and like the “magnetic north”, the primeval flair for the hunt keeps drawing them back every year at this time. Hunters are wished safe and successful outings over the next couple weeks, wherever they are stalking.               
In the meantime, the rest of us should be donning our blaze colored gear for good measure when out and about in the woods. It is best to be seen, and not an accidental statistic.                                                                                                                                                              
As fall conditions have stepped back onto the wild land stage at the moment, a couple “getting ready for winter chores” at Wildersmith might get completed after all. I’d pretty much given up on them since winter took over month ten, thinking they would just have to wait ‘til spring. So windows will likely get washed and roof gutters will get cleaned, along with some late season Mile O Pine pot-hole filling before “old man winter” re-grips for the long haul.                             

With the opening of deck side feeding for area critters last week, dining is in turmoil twilight to twilight. The birds in particular, remind me of a bunch of hungry elementary students in the school cafeteria anxiously gorging lunch so they can get out to the playground as soon as possible. Talk about “eating on the fly.”                                                            

Meanwhile, my squirrely friends continue packing away winter supplies at a startling rate. Between the avian and red rodent population, I’m into 50 pound bag number two of sunflower seeds, with official winter over six weeks away. If there is any significance between these ravenous appetites and the potential severity of the season ahead, we Gunflinters could be in for a doozy.                                                                                                                                     

The area fox population is testament to adaptation. While in a time of rapidly warming atmospheric conditions, many species are struggling to acclimate easily.  Red ones are prolific, being observed readily by many Trail residents. Their gray cousins are not as common, but even less evident are Cross fox. However, one of those cross varieties is observed quite often up in the Sag Lake Trail neighborhood.                                                                                                                            

Meanwhile, a couple down the road report a gray one has been hanging around their place recently, perhaps even having adopted them as essential providers by being in regular attendance. Fox of any color, another Gunflint gift!                                                                                    

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail, where every day is a treasure, “growing more precious, the more we embrace it.”


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - October 30

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
October 30, 2020    
The northland and the universe bid October good bye under the brilliance of a “blue moon.” The Anishinaabe Band has a name for this 13th lunar happening of the year. For 2020, this celestial experience is between October’s “Falling Leaves” and the November “Freezing Over” renditions. Number thirteen is a “Big Spirit Moon”, chi manidoo giizis.                                         

 Our Indigenous neighbors proclaim the “blue moon” as a time of re-birth and healing. This “Big Spirit” couldn’t shine down on us at a more appropriate time!                                                

Since the falling leaves at this end of the Trail are a few weeks past, this weekend’s “Big Spirit” is a closer cousin to the “Freezing Over” moniker, with many smaller lakes having taken on the hard water look, although the actual full November moon is still thirty days away.                                                                      

As the big orb will be lighting up our night time life on Saturday evening, we may be able to set our clocks back to real time by the light, of the silvery moon. Yes, it’s time to regain our sense of reality as we “fall back” in our twice a year attempt to manipulate the natural world. One might as well make the timing move before retiring so an extra hour of slumber can be enjoyed Sunday morning.                                                                                                                                                                       

Gunflint Trail weather over the past seven days has lost the aroma of autumn. In fact, the essence is a frozen memory. Being traded for the scent of wood smoke, winter freshness has a familiar sting when one exits into the out-of-doors. While not bitter yet, we’re adjusting to the cold mode.                                                                                                                               

Some areas of the lower to mid-Trail got a good dose of snow, but the upper territory just received several lighter reps. Nevertheless, it has been enough to bring on some shoveling, driveway ploughing and some animal tracking. Although early, it surely looks the season, and if it hangs on until May, like last year in this neighborhood, it could be an eight month journey.  

There is likely some human grumbling about this early winter hit, but the cold and snow has likely convinced the “Bruno” population to crawl into winter quarters for a long winters nap, thus solving some problems. Let’s hope so, because I commenced with delighting the avian flocks by opening the deck side cafeteria. Arriving flights seem busy as it was when the hummingbirds were vying for sweet nectar.                                                                                                                                                                                

While those menacing bears may be out of our hair, another un-welcome visitor was up to some larceny down the road recently. A report came to me about a masked bandit, breaking into a place along Gunflint Lake’s south shore. An occasional raccoon rambles through the area, and this one is described as being larger than would fit in a large live trap, a real pig.                                 

 I’m told the Daniel Boone Hat look-a-like gained entry to a place, unlatched some cabinetry, made a mess and pilfered some goodies. How it was observed, I don’t know, but the furry thug is still on the loose. As these ring-tail critters are invasive, perhaps the local wolf pack might find this troublesome animal a menu alternative.                                                                                         
And speaking of wolves, with the fresh snow one day last week, I tracked one down the Mile O Pine during a run to the mail box. So the raccoon had better be looking back over its shoulder.                                                                                                                                                         
Glory be to the family of WTIP members, for the overwhelming showing of support during the “Phone a Friend” autumn fund drive. Congratulations to all who renewed their support, gave added donations as sustaining members and to 57 new members, a huge welcome. The family is well over thirteen hundred strong!                                                                            

WTIP is so grateful for your undying friendship, especially during what is a difficult time for so many people in our world of listeners. It is great to have friends like you, and we are so happy to be here for you! Thanks so much!                                                                                             
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, along the Gunflint Trail where every day is great in the woods, as we try to make sense of these troubling times. Keep on hangin’ on!


Frosted Trees - Martine Lambrechts

North Woods Naturalist: October snow

October snow isn't all that unusual, but the amount that's accumulated this month is.  Naturalist Chel Anderson talks about recent snowfall and how it compares to previous years, and much more about what she's observing in our woods and waters right now in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - October 23

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist with the USDA Forest Service - Superior National Forest. Steve talks winter driving conditions, forest roads and Christmas Tree permits in this edition of SNF Update.


Photo by Clare Shirley

North Woods Naturalist: Snow and more

The first snow of the year can be magical.  Naturalist Chel Anderson describes some of the changes that she's observed in our woods and waters as the first snows of the year begin to accumulate.