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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:
A full moon over Lake Superior

Northern Sky: A Real Smorgasbord of Splendors

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains what's going on in the first weeks of August. There are two full moons, plus a rare grouping of two planets and a star. Learn more in this edition of Northern Sky.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Photo courtesy of Kyle Rokos via Flickr.


 
Swallowtails find a shady patch of ground and vibrate in the sheer joy of being

Magnetic North: Flutterbys Are Us

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Welcome back to Magnetic North where the air is filled with winged things, and not the kind with feathers!

No, I speak not of the dread mosquito, or black fly or no-seeum, but of butterflies. For some reason, the population of Monarch and Swallowtails is way, way up this season. With the first blossoming of dandelions on our backyard lawn, the burnt orange Monarchs literally swarmed above the ocean of yellow fuzz balls.

My granddaughter, Jane, stood in the cloud of Monarchs with her arms literally cutting through the waves of the jeweled insects above and around her. A photo op if ever there was one!

A few days later, the Swallowtails appeared. These are the mustardy gold butterflies with black tipping on their wings. As if being beautiful weren’t enough, the Swallowtails show off by grouping on a patch of ground, usually a sunny patch of gravel. Once a critical mass forms, the little darlings appear to vibrate in unison. Makes me wonder what’s going on.

Probably innocent enough. But even bugs have their kinky side, I suppose.

On the darker side, literally, we have the creatures of the night; the stunning moths gyrating around every porch light. For sheer over-the-topness, I choose the Cecropia moth--one of the biggies, only with more than size setting it apart from the pack.

This season, I inadvertently trapped a female Cecropia inside a screen window one night. Come morning, the outside of the screen was plastered top to bottom with males, half her size but all aflutter with hormones.

Only the Luna moth outdoes the Cecropia for loveliness. Every year at least one clings to our siding for the night, pausing until the noon sun hits her sea-green wings, allowing admirers to Ohhhh and Ahhhh over her long, droopy teardrop-shape wings.

Green, yellow, orange - it’s like fireworks without the hiss and bang. Tender awe.

Memorable. Even now, weeks later, I can look out on the back lawn, where dandelions are gone to seed and nothing fills the air but raindrops and a clear picture appears: my darling towheaded Janey, pirouetting midst the monarchs.

And while I would like to see only such pleasant scenes out my window, I am sad to report that my groundhogs are still with me. Not only are they tougher to trap than I’ve been told, but they too have been inspired by our early spring. Where there were two, there are now FIVE! And the little ones are even cuter than the parents.

Time to call my neighborhood trapper. Perhaps he can catch and release them where I so pitifully failed.

Other than that, I am in baby bird heaven right now. The turkey poults are a month old and my two are so tame already that they jump out of the brooder to be cuddled.

Add to that joy, I now have two just-hatched Buff goslings that miraculously arrived on the mail truck from Duluth on Wednesday. I give the Post Office mega-high fives for navigating the flooded roads and getting the birds here in time to get the food and water they so desperately need in those first few days. Of course, being geese, they stuck their scrawny little necks out and assumed a don’t-mess-with-me attitude right out of the carton. But after a few nights of watching TV in my lap, I’ll socialize them. With geese, that is even more important than making a dog people-friendly. Geese live 20-plus years.

How’s that for optimism on my part, huh?

Now if only I can train the little buggers to trim around flower beds and fence lines, I’ll be set for the next two decades!

Airdate: July 23, 2012


 
Canoe Lineup, Gunflint Canoe Races 2012

Wildersmith July 27

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One can hardly believe that by the next time we meet on the radio, July will have been chalked up to the record books. 2012 is flying by out of control everywhere, including here along the Gunflint Trail.

The brunt of the vacation season is upon us up and down the Trail. While the warmth of the summer has a few of us somewhat grouchy, our weather has been a welcome relief for everyone coming into the territory from all places south.

Mother Nature has been yo-yoing around in the past seven days. A couple segments have been downright outstanding for July, but the rest have been a no-fun example of heat and humidity.

Further, she gave us another dose of that “not much rain for now” (about a half inch total for the past week here at Wildersmith). This precipitation neglect has made stepping through the woods on the crispy side.

To make things worse, due to a few spotty summer storms that have cropped up, lightning has set off several fire episodes, creating some smoky conditions here in the upper Trail reaches.

Last Saturday morning folks along Gunflint Lake awoke to smoky smells and skies. We were finally brought up to speed that there was fire in Manitoba as well as a few lightning-ignited spots around Ely and near the Pagami Creek inferno of last summer.

Winds eventually swept the unwelcome memories of fire away, and we breathed a sigh of relief. Yet we know all too well that we’re never completely out of danger as long as there are people, lightning and tinder dry elements that can combine to change things in a hurry. Thanks again to the firefighting folks who jumped on these hot spots before they could become a major problem!

We all must be extremely careful since there seems to be an unwillingness to invoke burning bans. So much for all the science on the issue of fire danger; it’s d-r-y, dry out here.

The annual Gunflint Trail canoe races are history for 2012. Huge thanks go out to the Jamiesons (Margit & Jim) and nearly 100 or so volunteers that worked to make it happen. A final tally of the resources raised for the Trail Fire and Rescue Departments showed that their coffers were increased by approximately $14,500.

In so doing the Gunflint community had a swell evening of fun on an absolutely splendid northwoods evening. The grand prize drawing found Karen Reilly of Rochester, Minn., taking home the Spirit II Wenonah Canoe.

I recently heard of a security breach at a residence up near the end of the trail. It turns out that there was some peculiar breaking and entering. The residents came home to find screens damaged on their porch and that someone had done some rummaging around in the enclosure, but nothing seemed to be missing.

Screens were patched, but no sooner was this done than a second illegal entry happened, and this time the culprits were caught. A surveillance set-up eventually found the intruders to be hungry flying squirrels that gnawed their way inside.

The curious nocturnal beings were easily deterred after determining who they were by simply closing the windows, although I’m sure that with this steamy weather, it has not been the most comfortable solution.

Meanwhile, I had a similar experience when a chipmunk came into my wood shop through an open door and apparently did not get out before the opening closed. I came in a day or so later to find that the panicked mini-rodent had scampered in a hundred different directions knocking items off windowsills and walls, generally kind of ransacking the place, while seeking an escape route.

I never did find it in the facility and never observed the critter departing as I made my first re-entry. After a few days, though, the old whiff, whiff method led me to its final demise. I’m surely the one to blame on this one!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor a cool cruise on a lake in Gunflint territory!

Airdate: July 27, 2012


 
Photo by Carl Hansen

West End News: July 26

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Mother Nature delivered some very entertaining shows this week. The northern lights have made several appearances and a couple of times were nothing short of spectacular. There have been some amazing thunderheads drifting around the area too. I was at Moguls Grill and Tap Room in Lutsen this week when a spectacular thunderhead developed out over Lake Superior at Tofte. From Moguls' mountain vantage point, the towering storm was magnificently lit by the setting sun. As if that wasn't enough, huge webs of lightning played over and through the clouds. For more than an hour, a large group of people sat outside, oohing, aahing and applauding, as if they were at a light show or fireworks display. In between all this, blue skies and warm temperatures have put everyone in a sunny summer state of mind.

In addition to the natural light shows, here at Sawbill we were treated to an impromptu show by two canoeists who are professional fire performers. Eddy Wilbers and Star Williams, both from Minneapolis, make a good part of their living by twirling and juggling burning objects while dancing and doing acrobatics. The night before they started their wilderness canoe trip, they offered the Sawbill crew a short sample of their skills around the campfire with the stars shining overhead. We all sat open-mouthed and amazed as they juggled burning objects and set their own bodies on fire, including spewing great long flaming jets from their mouths. Lest that makes them sound reckless, let me assure you that they take safety very seriously. Eddy did say that he does get burned sometimes, but only small blisters that heal in a day or two.

Congratulations to some folks with West End connections who won the Lake Superior Binational Program’s ninth annual Environmental Stewardship Award. Lise Abazs, Jan Karon, and Mary Doch accepted the award on behalf of WaterLegacy, a grassroots non-profit that has as its mission protecting Minnesota's water resources from environmental degradation and supporting the human and ecological communities that depend on clean water for their well being. They are, of course, particularly concerned with the new mining proposals in northeastern Minnesota, that want to mine precious metals from ore that contains sulfides. Similar mines have led to disastrous pollution all around the world. You can learn more about their work at WaterLegacy.org.

My life and business partner, Cindy Hansen, just returned from her annual canoe trip with some other lovely ladies from Lutsen and Tofte. This year, they chose to paddle the international border from Moose Lake in Ely to Saganaga Lake at the end of the Gunflint Trail. On one lake, they spotted an eagle in the distance that was flying short gliding circuits from a tree on the shore. When they got closer, they realized that it was an adult eagle demonstrating beginning flight techniques to a fledgling chick. The chick was protesting and copping an attitude like all teenagers do from time to time. As they watched, though, the chick took the plunge and unsteadily glided out over the lake and back to the tree. The parent flew alongside and chirped encouragement to the youngster. All the ladies on the trip are moms who have seen their own chicks leave the nest, so they could all relate to the tender and terrifying scene that they had the privilege to witness.

Peter Harris, who lives in Little Marais and has worked at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center for many years, told me that Wolf Ridge is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. There will be a celebration in Duluth on September 28 that will, among other things, feature founder Jack Picotta and the stories he has about the early years. They will also be holding a staff reunion on September 29 and 30 this year. Peter asked me to announce the dates in the hope that any former staff who listen to this program will mark their calendars and plan to attend. There are quite a few former Wolf Ridge staff that have settled in the area and the reunion should be great fun for them. I've played my guitar at quite a few square dances at Wolf Ridge over the years, but I don't think it qualifies me as a staff member.

I can't believe that I missed the West End Garden Show that was held last week. My dad, who used to do this commentary and the weekly newspaper column for years before that, never missed announcing the annual garden show and reporting on the activities. By all accounts, it was another successful year for the show and I am resolved to cover it thoroughly next year.

Speaking of flowers, the Schroeder community, under the capable leadership of Jim Norvel, and with many other volunteers, has done a major renovation of the Father Baraga's Cross memorial. On Saturday, July 28, starting at 9 am, volunteers are needed to place the plantings that are the finishing touch on the renovation. Lunch will be provided. Call Jim at 663-7838 for details.


 
Lake Superior Ice (Andy Tinkham/Flickr)

Moments in Time: Winter Ice

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Art Fenstad is a descendant of a North Shore fishing family. A lot has changed since Art's ancestors immigrated here in the late 1800s. One thing that's very different these days is the weather here on the shore. Art's family kept detailed records, and winter here used to be much more severe.


 
A photo of Milt Powell

Anishinaabe Way: Milt Powell

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This segment of WTIP's ongoing series "Anishinaabe Way: Lives, Words, and Stories of Ojibwe People" features Milt Powell of the Saganaga Lake Powell family.

WTIP independent producer Staci Drouillard sat down with Milt and his wife Alice last fall. He shares stories about growing up on Saganaga Lake and about his "Grandmother,"  a great Aunt who lived with his family when he was a young child.  Milt will celebrate his 80th birthday this coming September.
 


 
Fireweed is already in bloom this summer...

Wildersmith July 20

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Mother Nature turned on those of us residing up the Gunflint this past week. After affording us some swell weather in the week prior, she slipped in some of that hot and sultry stuff, and had most of us whining with a wish for December-like relief.

The humid conditions have since sent a good number of folks to the water, which by the way is also warming more than we would like. Here at Wildersmith the dockside lake temperature stands in the mid-70s, and that is what it should be a month from now. If the warm water spiking continues, we’ll be having some natural “fish boils” in August.

It’s a definite fact that the summer season is advancing much faster than normal (whatever that means). Late summer flowers are already in bloom and we’ve not even reached the mid-point of “Neebing” dog days. Fireweed, goldenrod, black-eyed Susans and a few asters are heading the list of early roadside floral arranging. Could it be that we might just evolve into an early fall? Sure hope so, maybe even a long winter!

Our neighborhood was leaning toward that dry-as-a-wilderness-bone scenario over the better part of a week until late last Saturday afternoon, when a sudden thunder boomer drenched the Wildersmith neighborhood with slightly over two inches.

The moisture appeared to be very spotty though, as I’m told that the end and middle of the corridor got little to nothing. So while this little bit of paradise is sticky as an equatorial jungle, other parts of the territory remain parched and are getting worse with the blistering sun’s continued assault.

Folks are advised once more to be running those wildfire sprinkler systems to keep things damp around their places, and to be assured that all systems are in working order. Further, caution cannot be emphasized enough with regard to any kind of burning, even though things appear lush green.

On a lighter note, I decided long ago that it is simpler to join in support of the squirrel brigade rather than fight them. I have thus installed some feeding structures called “squirrel lunch boxes.”

The units are mini-sheds that have a hinged roof. It doesn’t take long for most of the red rodents to process lifting the roof lid and then crawling inside for their ration of seeds.

Since the berries have come on in the past week or two I don’t feel so much at risk in having them out there as a potential draw for bears. I do, however, take them in at night.

Oftentimes I have opened the lid to refill and found one of the little ones staring me in the face. Usually we are both startled and while I jump back, the squirrel scampers away.

The other day though, I popped that lid and there was one of my little friends. Guess I should have knocked first. This time it just looked at me, gave me a good scolding and went right back to rummaging through the shells for another bite.

Slightly taken back by this rude welcome, I closed the lid and went on to filling the next unit. A moment later the hungry animal was out and highly interested in the newly-cached feeder, not one bit embarrassed or apologetic for the way it had treated me. Guess I’m lucky that it didn’t choose to bite the hand that feeds. Life goes on for me and my wilderness pals!

It seems that the mosquito assault has subsided to sporadic rather than continued fits of rage. This too might be telling in regard to some unusual climatic shifting, in parallel with the other phrenology occurrences that we’ve been observing. We can only hope that this is not a respite to allow for the birth of the umpteenth generation of the bitin’ buzzers.

Folks who could not make the July Trail Historical Society meeting this past week missed a great program. Jim Wiinanen, who has long ties with the Wilderness Canoe Base near the end of the Trail, presented an energetic talk about his experiences on the Gneiss Lake Hiking Trail, before it succumbed to the 1999 blowdown and the subsequent Ham Lake Fire.

Jim, in concert with several other key people, was instrumental in helping to get the Gneiss Lake Trail spur cleared and re-opened to Blueberry Hill this past spring. The new addition to the trail system around the Chik-Wauk grounds is receiving rave reviews.

In a final note, referencing Blueberry Hill, the heavenly blue morsels are on all over the territory. Get out and get them!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor this land of lily pads and loons!

Airdate: July 20, 2012

Photo courtesy of Bruce McKay via Flickr.


 
Photo byPeter Juhl - courtesy of the Cross River Heritage Center

West End News: July 19

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Linda Lamb, from Schroeder, called the other day to remind me that there are some fascinating art exhibits currently on display at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder.  Kathy Gray-Anderson is displaying her beautiful wildlife photography.  Bruce Palmer is exhibiting his masterful acrylic paintings.  And, last but not least, Peter Juhl is exhibiting photos of his astounding temporary sculptures that he creates by balancing rocks on top of each other along the shore of Lake Superior.  You can see pictures on his website at http://temporaryscupture.com.  In addition to the pictures, Peter’s website has a tutorial, so you too can learn to balance rocks on each other in amazing ways.

It turns out that rock balancing as art is something of a world-wide phenomenon.  It even has its own Wikipedia entry.  In fact, Linda told me that Peter had attended an international rock balancing conference in Italy earlier this year.  She also mentioned that Peter’s family has a long connection with the North Shore, not the least of which is staying as guests at Lamb’s Resort in Schroeder for three generations.

The Cross River Heritage Center is located right on Highway 61 in downtown Schroeder and is open from 10:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Tofte and Schroeder both received surface treatments to Highway 61 this week.  A contractor to the Minnesota Department of Transporation was spreading pea gravel embedded in thick oil.  It was kind of a noisy mess while it was being applied, but will give the road surface a new lease on life for the next few years at least.

The Cook County Highway Department was also busy this week applying calcium chloride to many of the secondary gravel roads. Calcium chloride is a salt compound that looks like oil.  It’s main purpose is dust abatement, but it also helps the road tolerate the sharp seasonal increase in traffic, prevents, or at least slows down, the formation of the dreaded washboard and reduces the amount of grading needed to keep the road surface reasonably smooth.  All West End residents who travel the back roads applaud the Highway Department for their good work.

A customer came in yesterday with a good wildlife story from Alton Lake within the BWCA Wilderness.  The person, who will remain anonymous to protect her dignity, was sitting on the privy yesterday morning when she heard the bushes moving nearby.  Right away she could see that a large animal was moving through the brush, but she couldn’t see it well enough to indentify it.  As she watched, the animal picked up speed and then burst into clear view just a short distance from where she was sitting.  To her complete surprise, is was a full grown timber wolf, headed nearly straight for her.  She involuntarily exclaimed “Holy Bleep!” in a loud voice.  At that moment, the wolf noticed her for the first time, gave her a look that could easily be traslated as “Holy Bleep!” and sprinted off in the opposite direction. In all my years here on the edge of the wilderness, I’ve never before heard of a wolf sighting from that particular vantage point.


 
The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Changing Climate, Changing Forest - Part I

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There are a lot of ways climate change stands to affect Lake Superior. There's the reduction in ice cover, rising lake temperatures, the increase in storminess and declining water levels. But it’s not just the lake itself that stands to be impacted by the changing climate. The rising temperatures and increase in severe weather events are altering the ecology and forests in the Lake Superior watershed. The forest as we know it—full of birch, spruce, pine and firs—might not be that way for much longer.


 
A thermometer that measures the heat index (Karen Montgomery/Flickr)

Wildersmith July 6

A week of month seven has slipped by along the Trail. As June passed on, our area had some sparkling cool days as the rest of the nation was sweltering with the National Weather Service sensationalism called heat index (kind of like that wind chill thing in the winter). When I was a kid, we knew when it was hot, now the masses can’t figure those things out for themselves and have to be told when heated conditions warrant caution.

In the meantime, July 1 came and the heat began to build up this way too. Not as bad as it might have been (it wasn’t exactly firecracker hot), but nevertheless too warm for those who that think it’s only cool if it’s cool!

Our lake water temperatures have taken a sudden spike too. Here on the Gunflint, water at our Wildersmith dock is right at the 70-degree mark, which is rather warm for this early in “Neebing” (Ojibwe for summer). I don’t know what this might be doing to the fishing fortunes, but it’s a good bet that those lake trout are headin’ for the deep cold depths.

Speaking of fishing luck, yours truly caught a nice “smallie” off the dock the other day while dangling an unbaited hook in the water. I was digging in the worm box trying to pick out the best specimen when the strike occurred. The rest of that angling segment went for naught with bait on the hook.

Another smallmouth story comes from a fellow down the lake who has this “big mamma” hanging out under his dock. The fish is apparently quite protective of its domain and was seen recently in one of those great “gotcha” episodes.

Guess a duck swam over the fish’s realm and in a flash the “finny” darted up and took a swipe at the bird’s paddling tail end. Surprise, surprise, with a big quacking commotion, the duck sputtered and splashed into taxi mode and lit off down the lake. I wonder what was going on in its mind after regaining composure.

Excitement reigned at Gunflint Lodge last Sunday as the much awaited Towering Pines Canopy Tour commenced with its inaugural “zip” for the public. I’m told that those first day customers were raving about the thrilling trip above and through the forest. I’m still thinking I’d rather be watching, but we’ll see!

Those long eared critters that are so into multiplication are just everywhere along the south shore of Gunflint Lake. In my 13 years here, I have never seen one around the yard, exception being occasional tracks in the winter. Now they are coming through the place on a daily basis and have been seen in many other spots up and down the road. Guess their reproductive qualities are working well. I’ve got to believe that their presence will eventually bring some fox and lynx adventures to the neighborhood.

While the Minnesota DNR indicates that the grouse drumming count is down considerably in this part of the state, I’m still seeing plenty of the “chicken birds” in select locales. Guess I must be happening in the right place at the right time.

It’s also the right time for WTIP listeners and website users to reinforce your commitment to this great community treasure. We are only a day or two into this summer fundraising endeavor, “North Shore Sights and Sounds.” Please step to the plate and dish up whatever support you can muster. Let’s hit a big home run for our Community Radio family! Donate now at 387-1070, 800-473-9847 or click and pledge at wtip.org.

On a final note, the July meeting of Gunflint Trail’s Historical Society will be held this coming Monday, the ninth. The gathering will commence once again at 1:30 pm in the Conference Center at Gunflint Lodge. Parking is requested behind the facility and treats will be served. Be there or be square!

Keep on hangin’ on and savor our wilderness blessing!

Airdate: July 6, 2012