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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:

Wildersmith on the Gunflint

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     April 6, 2018    

As one might expect, “old man winter” was playing “April Fools” with us during March. Since right around the “Blue Moon” as month three gave way, spring hit a snag with a return to ice making conditions. In this neighborhood, the thermometer has even dipped below the zero mark a few mornings while daytime highs have hovered in the teens and twenties. It was cold, “no foolin’” as the Easter Bunny greeted April with a minus-four at Wildersmith along with a skiff of white.                                                                                                                                                           
While it’s been cold, the area continues to miss significant precipitation deliveries, leaving our snow in the woods having neither increased nor diminished to any extent.       
                                                                     
My opinion of winter to date is it’s been fairly wimpy. Some Trail folks relate to the season being too long and terrible. While we’ve had snow on the ground in this neighborhood since October 27, the Wildersmith total stands at only 73 inches, some 30 inches below last years’ total.     
                                                                                                                                                             
Thinking of Gunflint neighbors’ notions on severity, perhaps theirs is based on the deep ice accumulation in area lakes. Yet my viewpoint lends itself to observing a good deal of winter burn on juvenile white pines along the Trail. I base this theory on the inconsistency of temps tricking the whites into not staying frozen in solidarity. So maybe both thoughts have some credibility. Guess wimpy or harsh is in the eyes of the beholder.       
                                                                                                                                   
Regardless of what it’s like outside, gardening enthusiasts up the Trail have seeds germinating indoors in anticipation of getting their hands in outside dirt ASAP. I know of a couple serious “green thumbs” on Loon Lake that have their greenhouses at a summer setting.      
                                                                                                                                                                    
On another hand, while many are thinking green, others are talking around the coffee table about when lake ice will go out. Conjecture is, it will easily take until May. However, there is open water at the confluence of one lake to another in some areas.                                              
For the record, the latest ice out data, since 1982, on Gunflint Lake is May 19, 2014, while two years before, the earliest ice-out ever was March 25, 2012. So it’s anyone’s guess to this point. There are probably many dates from which to pick if one is in an ice out guessing pool.    
                                                                                                                                                        
Taking planting beyond the usual edible garden varieties, “2018 is the year of the bird.” This in mind, gardeners can do a lot of good if thought is given to planting species to improve healthy bird habitat. So as “Earth Day” approaches and many get fired up about growing things, why not explore sowing the right varieties around your yard to attract and sustain our winged folk. To learn what bird species and even butterflies need to thrive where you live, enter your zip code at audubon.org/native-plants.    
                                                                                                                                                   
In spite of the renewed cold, I’ve discovered a couple creepy crawlers emerging from winter quarters. Within the last week, two of those eight-legged web makers caught my attention while I was making woodshop sawdust. While this is a passing ritual of Arachnids, it also signals the inevitable, biting insect season is not far off.                                                                                                                                                                
And finally, it seems hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since volunteers gathered along the Trail to begin the process of helping the forest heal from the horrendous Ham Lake Fire. The “Gunflint Green-up” brought together hundreds of volunteers who in turn planted up to 75,000 coniferous seedlings in many ravaged areas near the end of the Trail. Those baby trees are now juveniles standing stately as a reminder of tragedy and triumph!     
                                               
A Green-up reunion/celebration is being organized for May 5th up at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Look for more details as they become finalized.    
                                                                                                                                                           
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of a renewed nip in the air!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - April 6, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith     April 6, 2018   
 

As one might expect, “old man winter” was playing “April Fools” with us during March. Since right around the “Blue Moon” as month three gave way, spring hit a snag with a return to ice making conditions. In this neighborhood, the thermometer has even dipped below the zero mark a few mornings while daytime highs have hovered in the teens and twenties. It was cold, “no foolin’” as the Easter Bunny greeted April with a minus-four at Wildersmith along with a skiff of white.                                                                                                                                                           
While it’s been cold, the area continues to miss significant precipitation deliveries, leaving our snow in the woods having neither increased nor diminished to any extent.     
                                                                       
My opinion of winter to date is it’s been fairly wimpy. Some Trail folks relate to the season being too long and terrible. While we’ve had snow on the ground in this neighborhood since October 27, the Wildersmith total stands at only 73 inches, some 30 inches below last years’ total.     
                                                                                                                                                             
Thinking of Gunflint neighbors’ notions of severity, perhaps theirs is based on the deep ice accumulation in area lakes. Yet my viewpoint lends itself to observing a good deal of winter burn on juvenile white pines along the Trail. I base this theory on the inconsistency of temps tricking the whites into not staying frozen in solidarity. So maybe both thoughts have some credibility. Guess wimpy or harsh is in the eyes of the beholder.   
                                                                                                                                       
Regardless of what it’s like outside, gardening enthusiasts up the Trail have seeds germinating indoors in anticipation of getting their hands in outside dirt ASAP. I know of a couple serious “green thumbs” on Loon Lake that have their greenhouses at a summer setting.      
                                                                                                                                                                    
On another hand, while many are thinking green, others are talking around the coffee table about when lake ice will go out. Conjecture is, it will easily take until May. However, there is open water at the confluence of one lake to another in some areas.                                              
For the record, the latest ice out data, since 1982, on Gunflint Lake is May 19, 2014, while two years before, the earliest ice-out ever was March 25, 2012. So it’s anyone’s guess to this point. There are probably many dates from which to pick if one is in an ice out guessing pool.   
                                                                                                                                                         
Taking planting beyond the usual edible garden varieties, “2018 is the year of the bird.” This in mind, gardeners can do a lot of good if thought is given to planting species to improve healthy bird habitat. So as “Earth Day” approaches and many get fired up about growing things, why not explore sowing the right varieties around your yard to attract and sustain our winged folk. To learn what bird species and even butterflies need to thrive where you live, enter your zip code at audubon.org/native-plants.   
                                                                                                                                                    
In spite of the renewed cold, I’ve discovered a couple creepy crawlers emerging from winter quarters. Within the last week, two of those eight-legged web makers caught my attention while I was making woodshop sawdust. While this is a passing ritual of Arachnids, it also signals the inevitable, biting insect season is not far off.

                                                                                                                                                               
And finally, it seems hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since volunteers gathered along the Trail to begin the process of helping the forest heal from the horrendous Ham Lake Fire. The “Gunflint Green-up” brought together hundreds of volunteers who in turn planted up to 75,000 coniferous seedlings in many ravaged areas near the end of the Trail. Those baby trees are now juveniles standing stately as a reminder of tragedy and triumph!        
                                            
A Green-up reunion/celebration is being organized for May 5th up at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Look for more details as they become finalized.    
                                                                                                                                                           
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, regardless of a renewed nip in the air!
 

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West End News - April 5, 2018

West End News - by Clare Shirley    April 5, 2018

This weekend, April 6th through the 8th marks the last weekend that all four mountains at Lutsen Mountains will be open for skiing. As usual, a celebration is in order. The annual Mountain Meltdown starts at 1 on Saturday, with live music on the outdoor stage. The stage will be full until 5 on both Saturday and Sunday. When the sun goes down on Saturday night, White Iron Band will take the party indoors at Papa Charlies at 9:30.

It’s true that skiing season is winding down all around the West End. The Sugarbush Trail association reports that the Onion River Road is still in pretty good condition and is the only trail being groomed right now. There’s plenty of snow on the rest of the trails too, for the time being. It’s spring skiing so snow is often crusty in the morning and soft in the afternoon. Skiers are reporting good days skiing on waxless or skin skies. The Ober Mountain warming cabin will be open for maybe another week, so get your last fix on the trails in while the snow is good and the sun is shining!

The lake skiing is still good too. Sawbill Lake, for one, still has 24 inches of clear hard ice with 15 inches of solid hard-packed snow on top of that.

Many of you have probably heard of the very successful and helpful tech nights provided in Grand Marais where you can show up with all your technology questions and high school students will help guide you through the problem. But did you know there are also tech support opportunities at the Clair Nelson Center in Finland? Every Thursday from 1 to 3 pm you can get the same sort of support and information on how to use your new phone or computer. They do ask that you call ahead to make sure they have space for everyone. You can reach them at 218-353-0300 to make an appointment.

Many West Enders have been enthralled by the irruption of owls this winter, especially along the Shore. On Saturday, April 7th at 10 am Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center will have an hour and a half long program called Tracking Minnesota’s Owls. This program will talk about the Owl Monitoring project, which was developed due to growing concern about changes in the distribution, population status, and habitat loss for many species of owls. Most existing bird surveys don’t account for owls very well, so the Owl Monitoring project worked to fill that gap with a volunteer-based owl specific survey conducted in April every year, starting back in 2005. Dave Grosshuesch, Wildlife Biologist from the Tofte District on the Superior National Forest will be presenting. Come hear the answers to questions like which years were exceptional for northern owl species like great Gray and Boreal owls? What has the project learned about Minnesota’s owls? What is the Superior National Forest doing to aid the owl populations? It’s sure to be an interesting and informative time!

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

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Vicki Biggs-Anderson

Magnetic North - April 4, 2018

Magnetic North April 4, 2018
Liftoff and Reentry

Welcome back to Spring in Magnetic North, where folks are still swaddled in parkas and mukluks. However, even with April, aka Mud Month, and downright balmy daytime temps of almost 40 degrees, no-one with a grain of sense would jinx the good weather by boxing up winter gear. Do that and a blizzard is all but guaranteed.
 
This is also the month when many snowbirds return from their winter sun spots, or for folks like me, leave for a week or so, just to keep the wheels from coming off after putting up with winter for five months. Both of us have the same challenges when traveling, lift-off and reentry, each with its own perils. Here are mine:
 
First off, due to my own lack of impulse control, I have what amounts to a small zoo to maintain. In all, there are twenty laying hens, five laying ducks, seven bantam hens and roosters, two big geese, five goats, two bunnies, two big dogs and two cats. No turtle doves or partridges in pear trees.  But a turkey and some guinea hens might be in my future.
 
I do the daily watering, feeding, and such, practically in a trance. It’s automatic, so writing out chore instructions for a critter and house sitter is tough. Just out of college I edited computer software manuals and my boss told me the trick to vetting the writing was to imagine I was writing directions for tying my shoelaces. The chore instructions are like that, miss one thing and, well ....there can be complications.
 
So my chore instructions are lengthy, often illustrated with names of friends to call for help and numbers for power outages, plus my recipe for washing skunk stink off any of the above four-legged animals.  The goal is to arm them for any eventuality but not scare them.
 
That said, some sitters have obviously never looked at my instructions. Back in the 90’s, one such allowed our dear departed twin Labs to run far and wide, prompting calls from friends reporting the dogs were harassing picnickers at Magney State Park, a good four miles from our farm. She was, to be fair, focused on more interesting matters. Upon returning home, Paul and I found every candle and oil lamp we owned arrayed in our bedroom, along with the pungent aroma of Aramis cologne. 
 
Another sitter called us while we were in Norway to say that the well pump had quit, but not to fret because he had called “someone.” When we got home, the sitter had left hours earlier and the guts of our well were spread out over our back deck and yard. 
 
Memories like this are why I call coming home from a trip Reentry, as in the return of a rocket ship from outer space. For me, it carries the twin emotions of relief to be coming home and dread over what might greet me when I walk in the door.
 
The good news is that Paul and chose to live in a place where we are surrounded by caring neighbors and friends who seem sometimes to be waiting by the phone for our call for help.
For example, one time we got home on July 4 one year and found a note: from the sitter,  “Had a great time here, but dropped a screwdriver down the upstairs toilet and now it won’t flush.” Why a screwdriver would be employed whilst using the facilities is a mystery, but the point is that within the HOUR a kindly (and strong) neighbor was merrily shaking our toilet bowl over the back deck, dislodging the tool, after which he reinstalled the throne. 
 
And just last week I got home to find everything in tip-top shape, but, no fault of the sitter, the electric heat meter was broken, leaving me with no hot water and a slowly frigid home.   Naturally, it was Sunday night and cold. But after three calls I had an electrician at my door at 9 pm. My heat and joy over being home were restored immediately.
 
“Only in Cook County” is a line oft said when commenting on some of our negative or bat-crazy quirks, but I also say it when speaking of the generosity of time and caring we extend to each other. Even on holidays and wintery weekend nights.
 
As for the flip side of leaving home, “Liftoff,” it’s all about logistics. We are 110 miles from one US airport in Duluth and 160 miles to another in Minneapolis. Plus we have the added factors of snow and ice in winter and roadwork detours in summer. No question, living far from the madding crowd has its challenges, too many for most city dwellers, even those besotted with the North Shore and woods.
 
Lucky for me, I find that the biggest challenge of trips away is not liftoff or reentry, but the very act of leaving this place I love and that loves me back. So yes, leaving a place some call Paradise is a hassle, but I like the proverb “Take what you want and be willing to pay for it,” Sort of like signing a blank check. Only something someone in love would do.
 
 For WTIP, the is Vicki Biggs-Anderson with Magnetic North
 

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The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The story of "the Pond" in downtown Grand Marais

Most local residents know that an area of downtown Grand Marais has a periodic flooding problem. But what may not be well known is the history of that area. Early photos, maps and paintings of Grand Marais show a body of water called "the Pond." Over time the role and appearance of the pond changed - from an idyllic spot for wildflowers and recreation, to a dumping ground - and the pond was eventually filled in to facilitate expansion of the downtown area.

In this edition of the Lake Superior Project, feature producer Martha Marnocha talks with local historian Eugene Glader and the executive director of the Cook County Historical Society, Carrie Johnson, to learn more about the history of "the Pond."

​Click on slideshow above to see more historic photos of "the Pond."

Photos are from the collection of the Cook County Historical Society.

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April 2nd Sky

Northern Sky: March 31 - April 13, 2018

Northern Sky - by Deane Morrison for March 31 - April 13, 2018.

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota.
She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.  It can be found on the University of Minnesota website at 
astro.umn.edu.

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Spring Ice

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 30, 2018

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith      March 30, 2018 
   

Commencing with this weeks’ scoop last Sunday evening, winter and spring are pretty much at a stand-off. Spring tries to take over during daytime and winter digs in again after dark. Who knows what Gunflint conditions will be like as this report airs’.   
                                                                
Whatever the case, it will be what it will be, as March goes into the books... Remembering thirty days ago when we celebrated the “crust on the snow” full moon, it’s de ja vu “in blue” with “a big cheese #2” in our night sky                                                                                                                     
Un-organized territory ushers in April on the shirttail of a month that has been extremely dry at forty-eight degree north. Checking my daily weather journal, March had recorded only a skiff of snow going into its final days before a light couple inches closed down month three.  We forest folks are in hope there will be some catching up with showers of any nature in the next thirty.    
                                                                                                                                     
The landscape in most places up the Trail finds moving about on foot a dangerous endeavor. Several folks are reporting ice build-up in places they’ve never seen before. With our daytime winter oozing, and nightly refreezing, getting around while staying in the upright position has been challenging indeed on uncountable slippery slopes, and it looks to not be improving anytime soon. There are no easy answers to this unaccustomed hard water build-up.

To this point, yours truly has only counted one spin-out onto the ice. Luckily there’s no damage to report, other than my pride.    
                                                                                                                                
Taking our slip-sliding a step further, driveways and roads off the main county arteries offer little relief from this greasy character. So no matter whether one is on foot or behind the wheel, advancing from one place to another right now can be a “white knuckler” experience. Sand and ice grippers are words of the day, every day!                                                                                        
Having not seen a wolf in person for months, the scene changed during the past week when one was observed along the Trail. Although the local pack has been making candid appearances now and then for other Trail observers, I have only come across occasional tracks, scat, and territory marking along the Mile O Pine.     
                                                                                              
Not to shock anyone listening to or reading this Gunflint news, I report being privy to a murder in this neighborhood. My first account of the situation came in early twilight hours one morning recently.    
                                                                                                                                                         
To ease your concerns, I’m talking about a murder of crows, of course! Last week, I mentioned their rackety, yack conversation from afar, and now the ebony critters are gathering in mass most every morning just below our lakeside deck.                                                                                                                 
There has easily been a dozen or two scratching around in what must be at least a trillion sunflower seed remains for breakfast. While it’s a treat when one will actually land up on the deck side feeder, the unique part of their visit is when one is spooked all erupt like a black storm cloud swooping across the sky. Although some may find them less than pleasant among birds, they are spectacular up close in their glistening carbon plumage.  
                                                                                   
Speaking of other things shadowy, I just now read an informative article about night skies. Entitled, DARK MATTERS…IN SEARCH OF A STARRY NIGHT it’s authored by Heather Smith (no relation) in the March/April, SIERRA MAGAZINE. The feature is an illuminating (no pun intended) scribing about our dark night skies and/or the lack thereof.  
                                                                                                                           
 I’m in awe of “seriously dark” northern night skies, free of the polluted glow from “Urbania.” I mean, it’s really dark out here, and often driving the Trail at night finds me thinking I could be driving off into a black hole. 
                                                                                                                          
Another view finds me astonished at visitors coming into border country saying “from where do all these stars come, we don’t have this many back home in suburbia.”  

This reflection of how Euro-American invaders lit up America, thus suppressing the grandeur of the galaxy, reveals many taken for granted facts of light and life. Hope you can get a chance to review this great commentary.     
                                                                                                                                                                
By the way, our “full moon” will be doing a little celestial subduing of its own this weekend. Happening every twenty-eight days, blame for this override of dark night starry brilliance can only be pinned on the “Big Bang Theory.” Once a month, mankind is not in command of flipping the switch.   
                                                                                                                                                   
As a closing, note, the Gunflint Trail Community bids farewell to Don and Marilyn Kufal as they retire from Gunflint Lodge and head off to Florida for new opportunities. For many years, Don has been a pillar of service to the Community through his efforts with the GTVFD. He has touched many lives during this time and the Community is in-debited to him for his dedication to making this volunteer fire and rescue department the very best it could be. Thanks to the Kufals’, and we wish them the best of luck on their next journey!    
                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day and night is great, featuring boundless, heaven to earth adventure!
 
 

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Superior National Forest Update - March 30, 2018

National Forest Update – March 29, 2018.

Hi.  I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s National Forest Update, a round-up of everything that for the next two weeks may affect your visit to the Superior.  This is a season of change, so there are a lot of things going on in the Forest that you should be aware of.

The biggest change that happens every spring is the change of frozen water to liquid.  For us, that means that unpaved roads in the Forest are changing from hard concrete to mushy sponges.  In response to this change, the state, county, and Forest impose load restrictions in the spring.  Weight restrictions went into effect March 22 for many state, county, and Forest roads.  In most cases, the restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of eight weeks.  For details on what this means, visit ‘Current Conditions’ page of the Superior National Forest’s website for links to all the state and county road restriction pages.

Even if you are driving a lightweight vehicle well within the guidelines, these restrictions should be a signal to drive with extra caution.  This time of year, there are always portions of roads that wash out, and the state of the roadway will change significantly between north facing and south facing slopes, and between shady and sunlit areas.  When driving, if you are in a place where you have concerns, don’t hesitate to stop in a safe place, get out of your vehicle and inspect the road before you attempt to drive on.  Before you go, check our website for any alerts about washouts along your route.  Getting stuck in the mud is no fun at all, so be patient and realize that you may have to take a few detours.

You may be sharing the road with some timber hauling.  Hauling is taking place on the Firebox and Greenwood Road, and on the Stoney Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.  This will take place as conditions permit, which is to say when the roads are solid.  Some of this hauling will take place at night when the temperature is lower, so be cautious if you are driving in these areas after dark.

As spring moves on, we are losing ice slowly from our lakes.  There is still a fairly thick layer of ice on most inland lakes, but if you are ice fishing, you should always be checking for yourself.  One suggestion is to bring along a cordless drill and a 5/8 inch wood auger bit – the kind with a spiral flute on it.  With that equipment, it is easy to drill a quick hole in the ice and check the depth with a tape measure.  If you are fishing, the trout season ends the weekend of April 1, and walleye season has already closed.  Check the DNR fishing regulations before you go, and bring your license.

Ski and snowmobile trails are deteriorating as well.  Our website has links to all our partners who groom the ski trails so you can get current trail conditions.  There are also links to the DNR snowmobile trail conditions site, but things change faster in the spring than websites can track.  Use your discretion and if it looks like you’ll damage the trail with your machine, don’t use it.

However, spring isn’t all mud and trail deterioration.  There’s a lot of animal activity.  Bears have been spotted in the area, and they will be headed for their favorite bird feeders because there isn’t a lot of other food out there right now.  If you haven’t noticed, there are lots of deer on the road right now.  They are drawn to roadsides where melting snow has exposed the grass.  Slow down, and keep your eyes peeled for when the herd decides the grass is greener on the other side of the road.  We’ve also had a lot of reports of howling coyotes recently.  Coyotes are known in some parts of the country as song dogs or yodel dogs, and it can be a wonderful experience to hear them singing to the moon on a still night. Coyotes are not going to bother people, but they don’t particularly care for dogs in their territory, so keep an eye on your pup when they head out to relieve themselves. 

All these animals are stirring with the warmth.  Even with the mud, and the soggy roads, you can probably feel it yourself.  It’s spring, and time to get outside and enjoy the sun. 

Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update. 
 

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Great Expectations School News - March 30, 2018

Great Expectations School News with Greta and Charlet.
March 30, 2018

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Castle Danger Brewery's White Pine Project

CJ Heithoff talks with Castle Danger Brewery's Marketing and Events Coordinator, Maddy Stewart about their White Pine Project.

The brewery will be giving away 2000 white pine seedlings this spring in hopes of reestablishing the white pine population along the North Shore.

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