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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 23

The blush of fall is now fully engaged in the northwoods. The natural “east is east” and “west is west” equinox phenomenon has sent “old Sol” past the tipping point toward the southern hemisphere. 

Our border country “Technicolor” spectacle has shifted into high gear. While the intensity has been mounting rather deliberately up to this point, the official declaration, this past Thursday, seems to have set off an orange/red blitz in just a few days. This area will be a “leaf peepers” dream for the next couple weeks.  

Several cloudy days have been the order in this neighborhood during the last seven. Fortunately, the dismal time did not go to waste as the Wildermith rain gauge collected over an inch and three-quarters, with some upper Trail folks reporting even more.   

Speaking of wet happenings, a check of the Gunflint Lake water temp at the Smith dock, found the mercury in a state of decline to sixty-five degrees. This is down from our warmest summer reading of near seventy-five.  

Whereas several areas in the northland got nipped, this place in the woods missed the predicted frost of last week. It was close though, with two consecutive mornings at thirty-five on multiple thermometers. Yet I did detect what appeared to be frozen crystal in a few ditch locations during a trip to town on one of those days. 

I received an interesting report on some lake water testing conducted this summer here on Gunflint Lake. Some of our residents have long been concerned about the application of calcium chloride to roads adjoining the Gunflint Gal for dust control, as well as copious amounts of chemical treatment put on the Trail during the winter. Our interest of course, is whether this practice is having any adverse effect in regard to calcium (C++) run-off and a build-up of such in the lake water. 

Sample readings were taken in cooperation with County Soil and Water in mid-June. I’m told thirty-five lakes were tested in the County, and of all the lakes sampled, Gunflint was the third highest with analysis showing 8.2ppm. A rough calculation projects there could be nearly a thousand tons of excess calcium chloride in this lake. In comparison, Tucker Lake, just two lakes to the south, and not having close proximity road treatments, had a reading of 3.5ppm. 

The critical issue on excessive levels of C++ is a correlation between C++ and INVASIVE SPECIES, notably rusty crayfish and zebra mussels. According to our Gunflint Lake water monitor, Gunflint Lake, on the whole, does not have good habitat for “rusties,” but the invasive rascals could devastate the shallower Little Gunflint and Little North Lakes. What happens is that “rusties” destroy vegetation and hog available food, thus having a negative impact on fish habitat. This surely has potential implications for other upper Trail lakes as well. Apparently, research says that 5ppm (this could be found to be even lower) is a cutoff for sustaining rusty crayfish.    

Attempts are being made with MPCA to do some deep water testing this winter on the Gunflint to further assess the consequences of this C++ issue. In the meantime, Gunflint Lake property owners and other territory lake residents will no doubt be thinking about the value of keeping the dust down versus environmental costs to our pristine waters.   

A story of near tragedy and triumph took place on Hungry Jack Lake little more than a week ago. A loon was discovered near a resident’s dock in a seriously distressed state. The bird had a fish hook in its chest, and fish line tangled around its head, obviously making it difficult to eat, dive and/or swim. 

There are “good Samaritan” acts someplace every day. Fortunately for this Minnesota icon, Hungry Jack and Leo lake neighbors were in the right place at the right time and gathered quickly. A fish net was chosen as the implement for rescue, and a gal in a kayak with three folks in a canoe set out to corral the troubled animal. They soon netted the loon and brought it to the dock of Hungry Jack Outfitters.    

The terrified loon was wrapped in toweling, but nevertheless, inflicted numerous blows with its beak before rescuers were able to secure its head. The fish line was ultimately removed and the hook carefully cut off and pulled out.  With loving hands the handsome critter was released back into the lake where it gave a “hoot” (perhaps saying thanks), flapped its wings and swam away, for sure saved from an anguishing death. Congrats and thanks to the caring folks for helping a creature of the “wild neighborhood” to triumph over tragedy.  See pictures of the rescue effort attached to the Wildersmith column at WTIP.org.   

Most of the time it’s difficult to retrieve lost fishing tackle, but if at all possible, anglers could do these floating critters a big favor by not leaving to chance that line and hooks with bait will never cause a problem. 

On a final note, The Gunflint Trail Historical Society, in concert with the GT Scenic Byway Committee and WTIP, is looking for stories, pics, and artifacts of the Ham lake Fire. Such are needed for the 2017 Chik-Wauk Museum temporary exhibit, as next year commemorates the tenth anniversary of the tragedy. The exhibit will feature remembrances of this flaming disaster, along with educational presentation of wildfire ecology in the territory.  

If anyone has items from the historic event and is willing to share them with exhibit organizers, please let the Society know by calling the museum at (218)388-9915 to be directed to project planners. Donations are being solicited to assist in funding this extraordinary undertaking.      

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, at Wildersmith, where every border country day is great, and some are even better!

(photos courtesy of loon rescue team)


 

Superior National Forest Update: September 23

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 23rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Yesterday, September 22nd, was the fall equinox.  From here on out, until spring, our days are shorter than our nights.  The color change in leaves is actually triggered by day length, so our leaves are starting to turn in larger numbers.  If you’re out in the woods looking at fall color, be sure you are stopping in safe places where you can pull over with space for others to pass.  In addition to leaf watchers, there are also grouse hunters in the woods, along with people bow hunting for deer, so it is time to dig out some blaze orange to wear when you go for a hike.  Watch for vehicles parked along roads, but you may find other obstacles as well.  One of our vehicles was surprised to come over a hill and find the roadway completely blocked by a fallen tree.  They were driving at a sensible rate of speed, and were able to easily stop before the tree, but had they been going faster, it could have been a problem.  With no recent storms or winds, they weren’t expecting a deadfall.  When they got to look, it turned out that the culprit was a beaver who didn’t care where his tree fell.  You never know what might be on our roads.
Of course, added to the leaf watchers, hunters, and beaver felled trees, are logging trucks in some areas.  On the Tofte District, look for truck traffic on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Baker Lake, the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, and the Wanless Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.    
There is fall road work out there as well.  Culverts are being installed on the Blueberry Road, and on the north end of the Richey Lake Road.  The work also continues on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground.  There may be road closures between thirty minutes and an hour in all these locations.
One other sure sign of fall happens next weekend.  With the start of October, our district offices return to winter hours, so this is the last weekend Forest Service offices will be open.  Starting next weekend, our Ranger Stations will be open Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:30, excluding holidays.  Boundary Waters permitting also changes.  While all users will continue to need a permit, starting October 1st, overnight users will not need a reservation and can use the same self-issued permit as day users.  These permits are available at ranger stations, but also can be found at the information kiosk at most entry points.  That means that this is an excellent time of year for quick wilderness trips - if it looks like good weather, grab a canoe and your tent and head out.
Due to wet conditions in the woods, it is unlikely that the prescription burns planned for some areas in the Boundary Waters will happen over the weekend, and things may need to dry out until the end of next week.  Conditions change rapidly though, and you should check with one of our district offices for up to the minute information on these planned burns.  With the burns delayed, fire crews have been busy clearing the Border Route Trail of downed trees.  They’ve made excellent progress, and most of the trail is now clear.  The last half mile of heavy blowdown near the intersection with the South Lake Trail is expected to be cleared by the end of next week.
So, whether you are out hunting for fall color, or hunting for wilderness solitude, or hunting for grouse, have a great time out there!  Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Fall begins on a wet note

Fall enters with a rainy weekend.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen speaks with National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Stewart.
 

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A carefully built cairn shows the way to last week's Rainbow Gathering in Tofte

West End News: September 22

The Rainbow Gathering on the Sawbill Trail has come and gone. Most West End residents and visitors were probably not even aware that it happened. It was deep in the woods about two miles beyond the “Dog Tired” gravel pit, which is about ten miles up the Trail from Tofte.
 
Before the gathering started, some authorities were advising us that we would be inundated with Rainbow people, as Sawbill Outfitters had been designated as their “official” store for supplies and drinking water.
 
A few days before the start of the gathering, a couple of people did stop in to fill water jugs and buy firewood. After that, we seemed to have almost no traffic from the event, except for a few genial young people who had missed the turn and were lost.
 
One couple I talked to was looking for Forest Road #350, but of course, being a local, I don’t know the roads by their numbers. I know them by their local names, like Kawishiwi Lake Road, Rhino Road, Pancore Lake Road or Raspberry Road. When I asked them what their destination was, they were shy about revealing that they were looking for the Rainbow Gathering. They finally said they were looking for “a gathering of people” and I was able to give them directions with no problem.
 
When I drove into the gathering site to see what was going on, the most remarkable thing I saw was a giant bull moose about half a mile before seeing any Rainbows.
 
I doubt this will be the last that the West End will see of the Rainbow People. Like almost everyone else, they seem to like it here. I’m glad that they are able to have their peaceful gatherings without controversy or even much comment from locals.
 
There are a couple of cool events coming up that you should put on your calendar now. The first is a performance of the “Music and Magic of Patsy Cline” featuring Cassie and the Bobs at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. The show is scheduled for 7pm on Saturday, October 8. Northern Lake County Arts Board is the show’s sponsor, so you know it will be great. Who doesn’t like Patsy Cline… and if you don’t know who Patsy Cline is, then you are required to attend – no exceptions.
 
The second fun event is the annual Birch Grove Community School Halloween Carnival, scheduled for Sunday, October 30, from 2 until 4pm. The carnival is not only fun and a great tradition, it’s also an important fundraiser for the school. So be there, or be square.
 
Tofte garderner extrodinaire, Jessa Frost, was proud to announce that she has successfully raised black beans in her gardern in the heart of the infamous Zone 3. She posted a picture on Facebook holding seven ripe beans in her hand, with mightly Lake Superior in the background. Under questioning, she admitted that the seven beans are a third of the total harvest so far, but did say that there will be many more if we can hold off the first frost for another week or two. This is ironic, coming from a gardener named Frost.
 
The fall colors have really popped up in the high country in the last few days. You have to get at least 10 miles away from the big lake for the best viewing, but nature’s big show should be coming soon to a hillside near you. If you’re looking for good color this week, I recommend the Eagle Mountain Trail, which is not only colorful right now, but is also the highest point in Minnesota.. and just one of the high points in the wonderful West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: September 22

Kalina, Sophia and Tucker report the latest School News.

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North Woods Naturalist: Autumn update

Autumn is slow in coming, but changes are being made in the natural world, just not as apparent as in some years. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about an autumn update.

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The Hovland plane crash

A Cessna 185 disappeared in the fall of 1971, and no trace of the plane or its three occupants was found until nearly 12 years later.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, we hear the story of the Hovland plane crash from Orvis Lunke - one of the four DNR forestry workers who discovered the remains of the plane in a remote section of forest, just inland from Lake Superior. 

(View slideshow for photos of the plaque and the crash site)

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Northern Sky: September 17 - 30

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

In the evening sky, the Summer Triangle high in the south, binoculars needed for the Coathanger, and Venus low in the west; Mercury best seen in the morning sky on September 29; Jupiter moves from the evening to the morning sky; the Fall Equinox on September 22; and in news: a cryovolcano on the dwarf planet Ceres.

(photo of the Summer Triangle by NASA via Wikimedia Commons)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 16

It hardly seems possible we are at the half-way point of September. The northland universe will be celebrating the full “wild rice” moon with our Ojibwe neighbors this weekend, and by this time next week the seasonal equinox makes autumn official, heading us off toward many beautiful days until the white stuff arrives.  Time sure flies by when you’re having fun.  

Our fall prelude continues as the first leaves are parting ways with their summer connections. The original “golden arches” are convening over many back country roads with an aura of birch leaflets intensifying in a big way since we last met. Over the past few days, what sugar maples we have along the Mile O Pine have begun surrendering chlorophyll for their scarlet blush and some of the coniferous crowd is displaying ebbing tawny needles of years past. Last but not least, on a couple damp dreary days, I actually got a whiff of the magical harvest time forest aroma. How sweet all of this is!  

Atmospheric conditions have had their good moments over the past segment with both sun and clouds. While a heavenly blessing for this neighborhood came in a couple nice showers yielding three-fourths of an inch, thus keeping wildfire danger at bay.

Another sign of the times was a forecast of cooling temps, highlighted by a potential for our first frost.  By the time this scoop hits the air streams, we out this way will confirm if the prognostication was just one of those “ten percent” chances with which we are so often encumbered.       

Further evidence of our daily cadence changing has been seen overhead. Several flocks of those Canadian honkers have winged aloft in recent days. At least one flock has been observed setting down on the Gunflint Gal for an overnight. One of our Gunflint lakeside neighbors captured a spectacular digital rendering of them lifting off southward bound, after their brief stay. For a look, check this out on the Wildersmith column at WTIP.org.  

Bear traffic throughout the territory seems almost more prolific than the tourists now. I see them with regularity, and if not the “Brunos” in person, their “scatty” calling cards.

In one amusing observation, I saw one standing upright along county road #20 (South Gunflint Lake road) near a mail box. The black bruin looked as if it might be checking for a sweet delivery as it sniffed at the unit and grabbed at the door. The entire happening had a distinct (time to get the mail) human look. Finally as my vehicle neared, the big “Teddy” spooked and scrambled off into the roadside brush.      

In another wild encounter, a huge bull moose was caught crossing Loon Lake Road by a couple residents. The big fellow lumbered across in front of their vehicle, then turned around and marched right at them before stopping a short distance away. Guess it might have been as curious about this humming machine, as were the occupants inside about him. Or maybe, since they are known to have poor eyesight, it might have been swooning over this large rumbling monster (with headlights for eyes) as a potential romantic encounter. In any event, he didn’t realize he was posing for a photo op. Several pics were snapped and one has been shared with me, and I in turn share one with you.  Yes everyone, there are moose in the woods! Take another look at WTIP.org and click on the Wildersmith commentary, this guy’s a beauty! 

Dock time along Gunflint Lake at Smiths’, as on other area lakes around sundown, mirrors unimagined beauty rippling across crystal border country waters. The gamut of colors can be mind boggling, sometimes changing from moment to moment and always based on happenings high in the stratosphere. From breathtaking cotton candy pink to dark charcoal and most every tint in-between, this glorious natural liquid pigmentation through heavenly reflection has been going on since the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, this aqueous daily occurrence is most likely taken for granted by the bulk of the human race, often putting such beauty in jeopardy through their decisions and actions. However, those of us living around the glacier filled basins of the Superior National forest cherish the creation of this blessing and the joy it can bring to everyone’s lives. One would hope an ever-expanding America might come to its senses soon and stop trying to tamper with what “Mother Nature” has provided here in the Northland. Clean, clear, “water is life.” 

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every northwoods day is great and some are even better!
 
 (geese photo by Betty Hemsted; moose photo by Joanne and Paul Johnson)
 

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Superior National Forest Update: September 16

Hi.  This is Becky Bartol, environmental coordinator, with this week’s Superior National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 16th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Fall color is starting up, and with it comes people driving the roads looking at the leaves.  It may be a little early and a little green to see fall at its peak, but it’s a great time of year to get out and go for a drive.  It is also a great time of year for both ‘leaf peepers’ and other drivers to remind themselves of some good driving habits.  First and foremost, respect and be considerate of other drivers.  If you are driving slowly to enjoy the scenery, remember others may want to drive faster because they are on their normal daily commute.  And, if you are one of the faster drivers, remember that you’re likely to run into slow moving traffic this time of year and you need to be patient.  Slow drivers need to pull over in safe areas to let faster drivers pass.  Don’t try to wave someone to pass you on a hill or blind corner.  You may need to speed up for a while until you get to a good spot to pull aside.  Faster drivers need to avoid tailgating, and not be tempted to pass in those dangerous areas.  If you’ve stopped to take pictures, or just to get out and walk in the fall air, make sure your vehicle is off the road far enough to let others pass by.  Close the doors, use your four way flashers, and don’t stop where there is no visibility.  You may not be able to stop next to that perfect tree you want to photograph; you may end up walking back to the tree after finding a good place to pull off.  It all boils down to being aware of others, and being respectful of the rights of other people to use the roads, even if they are using them in different ways than you.
September 12 marked the 5th anniversary of the Pagami Creek Fire.  This was a very large fire which swept through the wilderness north of Isabella Lake, covering many acres in just one day.  The young jack pine growing in the wake of the fire are now three to five feet tall in areas, and it is great to see the forest in natural recovery.  The drive up to the Forest Center site at Lake Isabella is good way to visit the Pagami area and see for yourself what a forest looks like five years after a fire.  Be aware though that the trail down to the lake enters the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and you’ll need to fill out a day use permit if you want to take this hike.  You can also visit this area through the pictures on our website taken every year on the fire’s anniversary to document the forest’s regrowth.
There is still culvert work being done on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground.  There won’t be any closures over the weekend though, and the closures for the remainder of the project will be shorter than one day.  The work that had closed the Richey Lake Road is now completed, and that road is fully open again.
Logging traffic is in similar areas as the last few weeks.  On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Baker Lake, on the Sawbill Landing road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing area, and on the Dumbell River Road and Wanless Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.  Log hauling will be taking place on these roads, so please use caution when driving or recreating in these areas.
Keep an eye out this weekend for migrating hawks.  While Hawk Ridge in Duluth is famous for large numbers of raptors during the fall migration, there are plenty along all of the shore.  The birds follow updrafts along the hills, and end up creating a highway in the air parallel to Highway 61 on the ground.  Other birds are migrating as well.  If you go out at night and are very quiet, you’ll hear chirps from migrating flocks of songbirds as they pass by. 
Whether you are quietly listening for songbirds, driving in search of those early fall colors, or just out in the Forest for some other reason, enjoy the weekend!  Until next week, this has been Becky Bartol with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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