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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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!

 


What's On:
Ring nebula, courtesy of NASA

Northern Sky: August 5 - 18

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

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Superior National Forest Update: August 4

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts. 

Here's the weekly report from Kyle Stover.

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Joe Pye weed by Liz West, Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 4

It’s been delightful along the Gunflint if one is partial to 80 degrees and a beastly sun beating down. The stickiness of last weekend made for an unpleasant few days in “moosedom” and caused yours truly some crankiness.                                                                                                               

As luck would have it though, a brief blessing from the rain gods last Sunday afternoon tempered the heat in border country. Although more precip is always welcome, beginning this week's scoop, some natural air conditioning has calmed my mood.                                                                                                                           
Having departed July and moved into August, the universe is but days away from the Ojibwe, full “Blueberry Moon.” In the words of North Country phenologist Larry Weber, “August is awesome” as our natural world is seeing new things blooming, others maturing and many more fading into next season obscurity.                                                                                                                                            

If this isn’t enough mysteriousness, the “man in the moon” will eclipse parts of the planet into total darkness later this month (on the 21st). Word in this territory indicates the lunar path will not make it 100 percent at this latitude. Nevertheless the heavens will be somewhat dimmed of lunar illumination around here. I’m told Missouri is the place to be for the full affect in the Midwest.      

New floral blooming is taking the byway spotlight by storm. Fireweed, black eyed Susans, goldenrod, yarrow and an early patch of Joe Pye weed have caught my attention on several up the Trail treks in recent days.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
The shower mentioned earlier couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m certain these new flowering Trail starlets are drinking it up. The power of “Sol” has dried the area considerably since we last met. Thus low level wild fire risk, during the past several weeks (since Memorial Day) has hiked up into the moderate danger category. Everyone is urged to exercise common sense/caution when it comes to sparking that primeval survival force of a fire at the campsite or wherever.                                                                                                                                                                                  
In addition to all these nature made comings and goings, several manmade affairs dot the calendar. The “biggest blueberry contest” continues into week three.                                                   

WTIP listener/readers are reminded once more of the Mid-Trail fundraising event taking center stage Wednesday, the 9th at Fire Hall  No. 1, beginning at 12:00 noon.                                                        

Next is act two in the Mid-Trail date book with the Woods, Winds and Strings Concert, Sunday, the 13th. It too is held in Fire Hall No. 1/Schaap Community Center beginning at 4:00 p.m. Ticket reservations can be secured from Patsy @ 313-673-6202. 

Then two weeks from now, on Saturday, the 19th, a celebration of National Honey Bee Day will find special presentations at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center. Running from 11:00 a.m. til 3:00 p.m, activities include a pollinator-focused nature hike at 12:30; Bumblebee Identification; Building for native bees; Making seed paper; Wax crafts and Children’s bee and flower crafts.

Featured speaker, local beekeeper, Mark Ditmanson will talk on diversity and importance of the wild bee population along with beekeeping in the Boreal forest at 1:00 p.m. At approximately 2:00 p.m., a couple of Master Gardeners will discuss the need for pollinator plants and bee habitat in garden plots. Things look to be a buzzing that day at end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                                                                    
If area folk were not in attendance for the programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center last Sunday, you missed an energetic and informative session with Saturday morning WTIP commentator and outdoor specialist, Larry Weber.   

In this day of alleged “Fake News,” he gave attendees the real scoop on “Spiders of the North Woods.” It was so enlightening I am now counting spiders in the same category as beavers in terms of top level engineering design and craftsmanship excellence. Mr. Weber clued us in on architects of the original “world wide web," from identification of our crawling eight-legged neighbors, to separating the boys from the girls; and to their abilities in silky web construction. Not only are these beings awesome fine line fabricators, they are terrific recyclers! Should Larry ever pass this way again, it is well worth the effort to spend time with him!                                                                                

Along with the mention of beavers a few lines ago, I found a thought-provoking article worth reading in the August/September National Wildlife magazine. While a lot of folks out this way have little good to say about the gnawing critters, specifically in regard to their cutting this or blocking that on and along our water-ways, this scribing looks at the busy “aamikwag” (Ojibwe) differently and sees “Beavers as Ecopartners.” The commentary, by Anne Bolen, may not change North Woods opinions but nevertheless provides an alternate perspective. Hope all beaver fans, or otherwise, can get a chance to read it.                                                                                                                                                     
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with the “greatest show on earth” right outside our front door!
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 28

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 28.

There’s a lot of activity in the Forest this time of year, and this past Wednesday some of that activity was what is called a Bioblitz. A Bioblitz is a single day devoted to recording all the living things in a certain area, and has been described as a biology nerd-fest! Bioblitzes happen across the country on different days, and help us to understand the complex web of life which covers our planet. The Bioblitz in which our Forest Service biologists took part happens annually at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, right next door to the Forest. Participants in this year’s effort included many volunteers - even groups of school age kids from the Twin Cities! All these people searched for plants, birds, insects, mammals, and everything else they could find. By the time they were done, the Bioblitz had recorded over 450 different kinds of life, showing just how rich North Shore nature is.

One aspect of biology which seems to be particularly abundant right now are the insects. Black fly numbers are lower than they were earlier in the year, but it seems to be prime time for butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other insects. Many of these are insects which spent the early part of summer as immature nymphs and larvae, and are now flying adults. The adults are searching for mates, and will lay eggs which will either overwinter and hatch in the spring, or hatch now and produce young which will overwinter. For many of our insects, life as an adult is short and most will die with the coming of cold weather. Unfortunately, in their hunt for a mate, a lot of these adults choose to fly over roads which means this is a good time of year to check the washer fluid level in your vehicle - I removed a dozen dragonflies from the grill just from one trip down Hwy 61 in the evening.

Dragonflies aren’t the only thing to watch for while out driving. You should be on the lookout for logging trucks in the following areas. On the Tofte District, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6. Additionally, starting this week, there will be trucks on the Bally Creek Road south of Devil Track Lake and Cook County 7. 

Like the insects, you should take advantage of the summer weather to get outside. Explore the Forest, or do your own Bioblitz in your backyard with your family. You’d be amazed at how many living things you share your yard with. 

Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 
 

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A lovely young buck was spotted on Moose Pond Road this week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 28

Summer is humming along out Gunflint way. With month seven on its last legs and August pushing the issue, there’s a subtle hint of fall showing in Trail territory.                                          

Dogbane turning gold, lupine blooms fading to seed pods and rose hips popping out on wild rose bushes, validates summer is peaking. Further authentication, of the season at hand, finds berry picking season in full swing.                                                                                                

A trip along the upper Trail requires drivers to maintain keen observation as the blueberry picking folk might be caught pulling their vehicles from secret off road places, while others, in a frenzy to get out in the patches, barely get off the hard surface. In either case, traffic safety is jeopardized for a few weeks.                                                                                                                                                            

In regard to the excitement of blueberry season, week one of the Gunflint Trail “biggest blueberry contest” is ending, and week two commences this weekend. What a unique idea by whoever suggested such. I find the contest interesting in that it’s called the “biggest” when the big winner each week will be measured in grams.                                                                                            

Weigh-in stations are located at several places along the Trail from Bearskin Lodge to Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. I was present for a weigh-in at Chik-Wauk last Saturday when a young gal presented her largest purple pearl. It came in at a whopping .78 of a gram. After the official documentation, she promptly ate it.                                                                                                                                                                                            
There are some neat prize opportunities for the weekly winners. Sorry, but no store purchased specimens allowed. Learn more here. 

Final results of last week's canoe races have been tallied. This year's fundraiser for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department generated a donation of just over $20,000. Another great effort, and thanks to all!                                                 

This in mind, with August but days away, the second event on behalf of the Trail Fire Department & Rescue Squad is coming on fast. The annual Mid-Trail Flea market, Gift Boutique and Live Auction happens on Wednesday, August 9th. Event activities begin at 12 p.m.  in Fire hall # 1, Mid-Trail.                                                                                                                                                     

The now famous Mid-Trail quilters have another work of art that will be given away to conclude the afternoon festivities. Tickets continue on sale for that drawing from folks living in Trail Center neighborhoods. The Live Auction is always a raucous happening with lots of frivolity, so mark your calendars and don’t miss it!                                                                                                                                  

The month eight Gunflint calendar features another event on the second weekend. The fifth annual Woods, Winds and Strings Concert with a little jazz too, hits the Trail on Sunday, August 13th, also in the Mid-Trail Fire Hall facilities.        

Beginning at 4:00 p.m., this event has continually been a sell-out with only 150 tickets available. Ticket reservations can be made by calling Patsy at 313-673-6202 or by email at pcoleman@chem.wayne.edu.

This performance is an outstanding chance to hear the talent of many local musical artists together in concert amidst great outdoor ambience.    

Before all of these August happenings, July begins its fade away at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this coming Sunday the 30th. Nationally known phenologist, retired Duluth science instructor and Saturday morning  WTIP commentator, Larry Weber will be the featured program speaker.                                                                                                                                                                     

Living in an area where uncountable insects and crawling things command our attention, Mr. Weber will be acquainting attendees with one of those classifications. Having written many books on our out-of-doors, he will be telling us about the original fiber optics producers, “Spiders of the North Woods.” The program begins at 2:00 p.m.                                                                    

An added note on the Chik-Wauk facility comes to mind with the new signage along the Trail. It’s located at the turn off onto Moose Pond Drive (County Road # 81). If you haven’t been out and seen the new unit, I’m telling you it’s a work of art.

Kudos go to Bruce Kerfoot and Bill Douglas for the magnificent stone work foundation, and the Seatons (Dave and Nancy) for their design and production of the woodwork. A few ladder signs are yet to be completed, then the new display board will better head visitors in the right direction for stories about the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                     

A week of news from the Gunflint doesn’t seem complete without a story of a critter in our “Wild Neighborhood.” This time the wilderness celebrity is a white tailed deer.                                                      

Over the past several years, members of our venison herd are seldom seen in these parts due to an imbalance in the predator-prey environment. So the gal that spotted this one was quite surprised “when what to her wondering eyes should appear,” but a handsome young buck in the early day sun.                                                                                                                                              

Of amusing significance is the copper-tone beauty was observed not on a typical wild land trail, but on Moose Pond Road near--what else?-- the moose pond. What a whimsical situation! See a digital of “Mr. Bright Eyes” walking toward the photographer’s vehicle alongside this report.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great in the “Land of Sky Blue Waters.”       

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West End News: July 27

I am sad to report this week that the West End has lost one of its fixture members. Mike Nelson, of Tofte, passed away peacefully this week after a short battle with cancer. Mike raised four daughters in Tofte - Alana, Sarena, Gina and Christina. Among many wonderful qualities, they say they will especially remember his love for his friends and family and his great sense of humor through everything. There will be a celebration of life for Mike on August 5 at 11 a.m. at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte. I will miss seeing Mike parked on the Sawbill Trail at the Temperance River crossing, pausing to appreciate the day.
 
On Tuesday, August 15, Birch Grove is holding their Dress to Play open house. The whole communitiy is invited to join current, past and potential Birch Grove families at Birch Grove in Tofte. From 4-7 p.m. you’ll be able to meet school staff and school board members, ask them your questions, tour the school and connect with other Birch Grove families. There will be free hot dogs, S'Mores, a bouncy house and art projects for the kiddos. They will also have registration information available for the Community Service Program, the Saplings program for 3-5 year olds, and the K-5 program. Bring your family and friends and dress to play! Again that’s coming up on August 15 from 4-7.
 
On Sundays from now until August 27 you can catch Music on the Mountain at Mogul's Grill and Taproom in Lutsen. Each week from 5-8 p.m. different bands will play outside on the deck. It’s a great excuse to sneak away to Lutsen for an evening and enjoy some outside time during our all too brief summer.
 
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and Sustainable Ely are having a Boundary Waters Grill-Out on Thusday, August 3, from 4-7 p.m. in the Grand Marais Rec Park lakeside pavilion. I realize that’s not in the West End, but the Boundary Waters is, and if you’re curious what these organizations have been up to, please join us on Thursday to hear their update. The Campaign is providing all grill items and beverages, so feel free to bring a side dish to share if you like. There will be a bonfire, lawn games, and music as well as Campaign information, updates and merchandise.
 
Even if you aren’t familiar, or are even suspicious of groups like Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, I encourage you to join for an evening of fun and get to know each other. I recently attended the US Forest Service’s listening session in Virginia, Minnesota, regarding the agency's proposal to put a moratorium on mining leases on a portion of land adjacent to the BWCAW. Emotions ran high at the public listening session where people from both sides of the issue argued passionately about their view points. I had my one-year-old Kit along, so I spent a fair amount of time wandering the hallway just outside the meeting room. There were quite a few mining advocates also milling around this hallway, and Kit and a I had a wonderful time chatting with them about life on the Range, funny kid stories, and, of course, the weather. It was a much-needed reminder that even though we are on polar opposite ends of an emotional issue we are still neighbors first, and really, Northeastern Minnesotans have a lot more in common than we don’t.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Northern Sky: July 22 - August 4

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

Photo courtesy of ESO/E. Jehin

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Superior National Forest Update: July 21

Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, information receptionist at both the Tofte and Gunflint offices with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 22.

We are hitting what is normally the hottest part of the summer. While the north may be the coolest part of the state, it is still hot enough to think about staying hydrated when you’re outside. Usually we think the best thing to do is to drink plenty of water, but a recent study which looked at how long liquid stays in your body showed some interesting alternative beverages. Milk actually had one of the best hydration indices, possibly because it is absorbed over a longer period of time. Commercial hydration solution used medically also, not surprisingly, had a high hydration index. The surprise, and good news for fans of iced lattes, is that coffee turns out to have just as good a hydration index as water. While studies like this are interesting to think about and make for good conversation, the main thing is that any liquid is better than none, and you need plenty of liquid if you are sweating on a hot day. 

It may be getting hot in the future, but our recent cool wet weather seems to have spurred more campers in and out of the Boundary Waters to want a nice warm campfire. We’ve seen an increase of people cutting live vegetation, possibly in hopes of fueling those fires. Cutting live trees is not allowed, and could result in a pretty good-sized fine, but the real reason not to cut live vegetation is just that it is a bad idea. In the first place, part of our wilderness ethic is to leave no trace of ourselves behind when we depart, and a noticeable stump or cut branch is certainly a big visible trace that you were there. Second, branches harvested off live trees make lousy fires anyway. Green wood does not burn well. You might think the solution would be cutting branches off dead trees, but that still is leaving a trace. Here’s what you should do instead. In the wilderness, gather dead and down wood from somewhere away from your campsite. Don’t remove branches from beaver dams or lodges. Pick wood that is wrist size or smaller as burning large logs are hard to extinguish and may continue to smolder after you leave.

At campgrounds, buy local certified firewood, and bring an axe or other tool to cut some of that firewood into kindling size. Never use waste paper to start a fire. Disposal of trash in fires is illegal, plus burning food saturated paper plates will make your fire pit smell like lunch to passing bears, and they will come and dig it up. Finally, when you are done with the fire, make sure it is totally out and cold to the touch. Smokey Bear has been saying this for years, but it is still true that many of our wildfires are caused accidentally by humans, and “only you can prevent wildfires.”

Speaking of fires, our fire danger is still pretty low due to the rain. Our fire crews are mostly out west helping with wildfires in other parts of the country.  In addition to keeping the fire danger low, the rain has kept our roads soggy. Keep an eye on road conditions when you drive. We’ve had a few of our rigs get stuck recently due to muddy soft roadways. 
There will be some logging trucks out on those roads as well. On the Tofte side, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On the Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6.

Logging trucks on roads are big and easily seen, but it may be harder to see small stuff, like butterflies. The northern blue butterfly is a little blue butterfly and is a species we are watching on the Forest. They like to ‘puddle,’ gathering in groups on roads where there is animal scat or some other concentration of certain nutrients. If you see northern blues, or any other kinds of butterflies on the road in an area where you can slow down safely, give them a break and let them fly off instead of becoming ornaments on your radiator.

Enjoy the butterfly watching, and think about escaping the heat with a trip to woods this week. Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 21

Another superior weather week along the Gunflint is into the books. Heading into the final stanza of month seven, the territory has escaped the miserable heat and humidity to date that has had areas to the south in a strangle hold for weeks. If we can get by another few weeks, the area will have had a marvelous “up north” summer.  

Rain accumulations have slackened over the past days, but still dropping just enough in this neighborhood to keep the dust down and wildfire danger low. Nevertheless, residents and visitors can never take fire potential for granted. It’s always plausible where there are people.  

The rising lake level of the past six weeks on the Gunflint Gal has stabilized, and dropped ever so slightly since peaking with my DNR measurement mid-month. It seems as though this body needs in excess of at least an inch a week in the watershed to hold steady against the outflow toward its final destination in Hudson’s Bay. Here at Wildersmith, we’ve had slightly over one-half inch since we last met.

While talking of water, the temperature of the lake at my dock has been registering in the high 60s to 70 at a depth of four feet. It will get one’s attention at first dipping, but becomes more comfortable after the old body adjusts.  

A few mornings ago, following a brief early-hour thundershower, I was sitting at my window to the forest world. Clouds were parting, and the flora was dripping as spears of sunbeams danced about wherever openings in the foliage would allow. The magic of the moment was captured as growing air movement had rain droplets wiggling loose from a trillion needles and leaflets. Catching the glistening rays, the rainy residuals were falling like sparkling diamonds.

Whereas the masses of droppings were crystal clear, a couple hangers-on found a spontaneous moment in the sun, refracting light into eye popping sapphires. Lasting for only an instance, the liquid blue gems were suddenly gone, lost on the forest floor to nourish the beings of “mother earth.” What a sparkling way to kick off another day as the beat of wilderness enchantment goes on and on with adventure after adventure!

Quiet as a windless north woods night, a momma bear and her three cubs came through a couple's yard one night recently. Although windows were open there was no “bear talk” to be heard by those inside. However, the “Bruno” family wasn’t aware of their cameo appearance on the trail cam, so like us humans in this day and age, you never know who might be watching.

While thinking of bears in the woods, it dawned on me the hungry blueberry consumers are soon to be in the patches scarfing up the purple gems. A gal up at Chik-Wauk came by on my volunteer day last week to show off a handful she had picked on the site. So the purplish treasures are on the way, and pickers might expect to share the patch with not only friends, but maybe a bear. We should all remember bears were here first, so it is prudent to yield without question! 

Canoe races hit the waterfront at Gunflint Lodge this last Wednesday evening for the 40th time. Another big turn-out enjoyed the aqueous events, especially the canoe tug-o-war and of course, the gunnel pumping.  

Congrats and thanks to Canoe Races chair, Arden Byers, and his great crew of volunteers for putting together another super-organized Community event. A report on proceeds from the fundraiser will be available next week. 

Finally, after a splendid program last Sunday on” Wolves at Our Door,” the Chik-Wauk Nature Center has another interesting program on the docket this weekend. Plan to be there Sunday, July 23, at 2:00 p.m. for the story of a Wisconsin logging company located in Port Arthur, Ontario, which built and traveled the “Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad.” Historian David Battistel will take attendees back in time for another look at events shaping the Gunflint Territory.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with countless places to see and things to do!                               
    
 

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Grand Canyon sunset

West End News: July 20

I often talk about the myriad outdoor opportunities to be had here in the West End. One of my favorite aspects of the landscape here is that it is so accessible. While out in the woods and on the lakes I’ve seen people from all stages of life, whether it be babies on their first excursion, or 90-year-old grandparents revisiting their favorite lake from a lifetime ago.

If you are closer to that second category than the first, you should be aware that the Senior Pass for National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands is increasing in price from $10 to $80 on August 28. So for the next week, if you are over the age of 62, $10 will get you access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies, including the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. The pass covers the entrance and standard day-use amenity fees. Your traveling companions can also enter for free on your pass. You can get your pass at any federal recreation site that charges an entrance fee.

Speaking of our national treasures, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are holding the last official public listening session on the issue of mining near the Boundary Waters this Tuesday, July 25, in Virginia, Minnesota. These listening sessions give the federal agency the opportunity to hear from the public about their concerns, on the record. Those who want to speak will be chosen that day through a lottery system. Each person selected has three minutes to speak. You can also defer your three minutes to someone else if you are chosen.

The listening session will be held at the Virginia High School auditorium from 5 to 7:30 p.m., doors open at 4:30. The session is focused on the fact that on January 13, federal agencies initiated an environmental revew of the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Lake Superior region to determine the impacts of potential sulfide-ore copper mining. So, if you have something you’d like the officials to hear about this topic, please consider taking the trip over to Virginia and make your voice heard.

While the world sometimes feels small in our little corner of Cook County, these are good reminders that we are part of a larger community both here in Minnesota and in our nation. It is up to us to be good stewards of our land, nobody else is going to do it for us. We have a long and proud legacy that is closely tied to our landscape. I hope we can speak loudly for this quiet place and keep it out of the hands of large foreign corporations. We owe it to ourselves and our community.

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