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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News & Information

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:

West End News: August 4

I am very sorry to hear that Caroline Wood has resigned as Director of the Birch Grove Community School and is leaving the area. Caroline was a strong asset for the community as the school director and in her previous role running the Birch Grove Foundation. She will be missed and hers will be large shoes to fill.
 
It seems crazy to me that no one can give us a straight answer about whether or not the townships are legally allowed to contribute to a community school. This is exactly the kind of situation where our legislators should be able to get a definitive answer fast. If it is deemed that current statute does not allow the townships to contribute, our representatives should be able to quickly pass legislation that will allow the townships to follow the will of the community. The whole point of government is to organize the community the way the voters want it organized.
 
The ongoing uncertainty is very damaging to the school. It discourages young families from committing to living in the West End and has a chilling effect on foundations who don’t want to spend their money on a program with and uncertain future. It also makes it difficult to attract and retain staff, who very correctly wonder if they will have secure employment at Birch Grove.
 
I encourage all West End residents to contact Senator Tom Bakk and Representative Rob Ecklund and urge them to apply their energy and influence to a speedy resolution of this frustrating issue. There really is no more important issue on the front burner in the West End.
 
The Plucked Up String Band, of which I am a member, had the honor of playing on the statewide public television show, Almanac, last week.  Almanac is the sassy political show that has been on the air for more than 30 years, hosted by Cathy Wurzer and Eric Eskola.
 
It was really fun to watch the live hour long show being put together. Almanac is famous for its casual attitude and we sure found that to be the case. The whole crew was very professional, but very relaxed. Live television could easily cause anxiety, but after 30 years they seem to take it in stride.
 
The highlight for me was meeting, and being interviewed by, Jearlyn Steele, the legendary gospel and pop singer. She is a force of nature, both in her phenomenal singing talent and her intelligence, wit and good nature. I invited her to be a member of the Plucked Up String Band, but she graciously declined, citing her busy schedule. She was genuinely complimentary about our music, which I took as a huge compliment, considering the source.
 
You can see the clip of our performance on FaceBook, both at the Plucked Up String Band page and the Twin Cities Public Television Almanac page.
 
Now, if we could only get a guest spot on the Red Green Show…
 
The Sawbill Trail is now sporting a little over ten miles of asphalt pavement on its southern half. Northland Contractors laid down the first layer of paving in just two days. Now, they are working on the finishing layer and will soon be painting lines. 
 
Northland and the Cook County Highway Department have done a very good job on this project. Not only has the Trail been extensively repaired, but also the pavement is as smooth as a baby’s cheek. County Engineer Dave Betts designed nice wide shoulders for biking, roller blading and roller skiing, which will be a great community asset for residents and visitors alike.
 
It’s just another reason to love the wonderful West End.
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Bloodroot

North Woods Naturalist: Flowers that open and close

Some flowers close at night, others stay open. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about how they do it and a bit about what we know why they do it.

(Photo courtesy of Forest Farming on Flickr)
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: August 1 - Storms

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of antti_nannimus on Flickr)

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Superior National Forest Update: July 29

Hi. This is, Paulette Anholm, information assistant on the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of July 29, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

It is the end of July and the beginning of August, and the fireweed has begun its countdown to the end of summer. Fireweed is the tall lavender flower with narrow leaves found in open areas after fires, but also in openings along roads and trails. The flowers are in a single spike, and begin blooming from the bottom at the end of July. They slowly creep up the stalk, and when the flowers reach the top, summer has ended. We still have a few weeks though to enjoy some summer activities out in the woods, so here’s some information to help you on your journey.

The paving project continues on the Sawbill Trail, usually not too bad, but allow time for the occasional long wait. There is also construction on The Grade near Toohey and Fourmile Lakes. That stretch was closed completely earlier this week for culvert replacement, but is now open. You may encounter logging trucks in some places on the Forest. On the Gunflint District, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road and Firebox Road. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks in the area around Sawbill Landing near Isabella.

Back roads may still have signs of the recent storms in the form of branches and other debris on the road. There may be some deadfalls blocking the road, but most have been cleared. Be aware that the storm activity has bent or loosened some trees, and some trees are still falling and may block previously cleared roadways. These same conditions are true for trails and portages. Give yourself extra time, and if carrying a canoe on your shoulders, you may want to scout the route before you start out.

Campers in the Boundary Waters or at backcountry sites should always look for possible hazard trees when making camp, but especially after storms which may have left broken branches dangling in trees, or caused other trees to be weakened.

This is a great time of year to get out and look for late summer wildflowers. Spring may be famous for flowers, but right now isn’t bad either. Along with the fireweed, we’ve spotted many other flowers not seen in the spring, such as a ragged fringed orchid. The advantage of looking for flowers now is that you can also be looking for blueberries and raspberries. If you are in search of berries, make sure to park well off the roadway. We also don’t recommend picking berries right on the road right of way due to road chemicals that may be in the area, and possible invasive species control spraying that takes place on some roads.

Enjoy our warm summer days, and see if you can get enough berries to make a pie! Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.

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Stage Door: Practice Rooms

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
 
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

(Photo courtesy of Grand Marais Playhouse Facebook page)

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Taconite Harbor "back in the day"

West End News: July 28

The project to pave eight miles of the Sawbill Trail, which has been undergoing prep-work all summer, is finally underway. Mechanical breakdowns and storm damage elsewhere in the region had caused some delays, but as of this week, there is actual pavement on the Sawbill Trail where there has never been pavement before. Cook County Engineer, Dave Betts, says that the remainder of the project should take about three weeks if the weather cooperates.

The project makes me think often of Jean Raiken, who lived on the Sawbill Trail from the early 1930s until the 1980s. Jean was a county commissioner and an influential community activist  during those years. She would have been delighted to see the Sawbill Trail being paved. She often talked longingly about that possibility, as far back as the 1960s. Jean was also a prime force in getting the original hospital and care center built in Grand Marais, so she would be pleased to see that project as well. I guess the lesson is to be patient and persistent when advocating for community improvements and they will come eventually, even if you don't live to see them.

We are coming up on the fifth year since my dad and former author of this commentary, Frank Hansen, passed away. Among his many community contributions was working to get a hospice established in Cook County. It was quite a struggle, but Frank, along with many others, finally succeeded in establishing a hospice in Grand Marais. As it turned out, Frank was the very first person to use the new hospice. As he was wheeled through the door, he was smiling and celebrating being the first hospice patient in Grand Marais. I told him that he may also be the last person to be cheerfully celebrating their entrance into hospice.

In a slightly more cheerful historical vein, the Schroeder Area Historical Society is hosting a reunion of the former residents and friends of Taconite Harbor residential area. The housing development was built in the 1950s primarily to house workers at the Taconite Harbor power plant.  It was beautiful little 22-home suburban style housing development just south of the existing power plant. Erie Mining Company evicted the residents and sold the houses for removal in 1986. To this day, no one really knows why they removed such a valuable housing resource when affordable housing for working people was - and is - so difficult to come by. The site is now a ghost town feel to it, with overgrown curbs and gutters punctuated by surviving lawn shrubs and ornamental trees among the thick native brush that is slowly talking over.

The tight-knit community of Taconite Harbor still survives in the memories of the people who lived there, especially among those who were children in a time and place where kids experienced real outdoor adventure almost every day of the year. The reunion starts at 1 pm on August 6 at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. There will be plenty of time for conversation about living and growing up in Taconite Harbor, along with the usual North Shore refreshments of cookies, bars and coffee. This year's featured exhibit at the Heritage Center is the Tac Harbor community, so there will be plenty pictures and artifacts to trigger old memories. The festivities will also include a tour of Birch Grove School in Tofte where the community's children all attended elementary school.

My most vivid memories of Taconite Harbor are of visiting the house that had been converted to a doctor's office and staffed by Dr. MacDonald one or two days a week. Roger MacDonald saved my life several times by treating routine - but potentially deadly - childhood illnesses. I can still vividly recall the smell, which was a not-unpleasant combination of disinfectant, the receptionist's perfume and the developing chemicals from the truly antique x-ray machine. These are good memories of a bygone era in rural medicine.

As predicted, the blueberry season is in full swing and it's a good one. The Duluth couple who camp at Sawbill and pick more than 30 gallons of blueberries per year, are telling me that this may be the best year in a couple of decades. They've been doing their early picking in places that everyone knows about and getting a couple of gallons every time out. They'll be back next week for the heart of the season and will move to their secret spots (cough, cough Pagami Creek Fire) for the main harvest. So even if you're in the three quart and not the 30 gallon league, get out there an pick while the picking is good.

 

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A Year in the Wilderness: July 26 - South Lake

Cook County adventurers Dave and Amy Freeman are spending a year in the wilderness. On a regular basis they’ll be sharing some of their experiences traveling the BWCAW.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

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Northern Sky: July 23 - Aug 5

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



Dark skies for starwatching around the new moon on August 2; Scorpius low in the south with Mars and Saturn; an asterism - the teapot of Sagittarius; this episodes challenge constellation: Ophiuchus, the snake handler; and the summer triangle, high in the east and moving westward.

(map by Torsten Bronger via Wikimedia Commons)

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Traveling by canoe with Maggie, the dog

Gus' Wild Side: Bugs, dogs and bears

Camping and traveling by canoe can have its own set of rewards...and challenges. We'll hear about Gus' wilderness experiences with bugs, dogs and bears.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Gus)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 22

North Country weather has been pleasantly normal during the past weekly segment. Cool nights and several sunny days have kept us back-country folks happy. However, the forecast, as I begin this week's report, indicates we could get singed by some nasty hot by air time. 

Sandwiched in between those great summer days, the upper Trail has been blessed with a couple good doses of rain. Thus, wildfire danger has been kept at bay, helped along by good old “Mother Nature."  
                                    
In the meantime, growing season throughout the woods is at its peak.  As summer advances into its middle of three calendar portions, we marked the Ojibwe “halfway moon,” and our annual Canoe Races hoedown. So with August little more than a week away, we can see summer beginning to trickle southward.      

In regard to those canoe races, a big thanks to Chairperson Arden Byers and his super crew of volunteers for yet another well run event. As of broadcast/website posting time, an unofficial total indicates over $28,000.00 was raised for the Trail Fire and Rescue departments.  

Gunflint Community goings-on are slowed a bit now, until month eight arrives when they pick up once again. Until then, Chik-Wauk Museum/Nature Center is busy with daily things to see and do. Tuesdays host kids' day activities in the Nature Center, along with U.S. Forest Service programming, while this coming Sunday has a special “wild edibles hike” led by Teresa Marrone, beginning at 2 pm. So if one is seeking a northwoods adventure, a trip out to the magic of Chik-Wauk is well worth the drive.  

It has been announced by planners of the Woods, Winds and Strings concert that ticket reservations are being accepted. This August 14th event has always been a sell-out. Only 150 seats are sold. It would be a good idea to get that call made as soon as possible to secure a spot for this fourth annual mid-Trail happening. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is facilitating reservations through Chik-Wauk . Call (218)388-9915 between 10 am and 5 pm daily.  

On the wild scene, hummingbird arrivals and departures have picked-up at our International nectar port. We went about six weeks with almost no traffic, so it’s nice to have the tiny hover-critters darting about. Another avian point of interest, finds a gal over on Hungry Jack Lake reporting the discovery of a nesting cedar waxwing. I don’t know if this is an unusual observation, but anytime one can see anything nesting, it’s a neat natural experience. 

According to my angling friend down the road, he says his catching fortunes have been improving over the past ten days or so. Perhaps unsettled conditions in the depths, caused by the storms of late June, plus another mayfly hatching, have eased, allowing a feeding frenzy for bait on a hook.  

The intensity of blueberry hunting is increasing along the upper Trail. A trip to Trail's end last weekend found several berry picker vehicles pulled off in the usual niches, so they must be out, bucket in hand. It would seem, with the rains of the past week and more bright sunshine, there will be a purple explosion in the days to come.  

On the domestic side of growing things, a friend has a tomato plant as big as a small tree, and one of my plants seems not far behind. Both plants have plenty of blossoms, but whether they produce ripened fruit to beat the frost is a question yet to be answered.   

As it relates to frost, it would be a fair trade to forfeit tomatoes in favor of an early passing of mosquito hostilities.

In closing, following the most recent rain storm, a drenched canine-type critter came darting up out of the ditch in front of my vehicle. At first glance, I thought it to be a coyote, or maybe a juvenile wolf, and then again, my wife thought it to be a shepherd-type dog. Regardless of the species, it did not look too comely in wet fur, as it scampered back into the woods avoiding a painful encounter with my truck.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, savoring thoughts of cool days and autumn colors.

(photo by Ryan Haggerty via Wikimedia Commons)
 
 

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