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

 


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One of the first signs of spring - pussy willows.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 7

Spring along the Gunflint Trail continues awakening from its semi-winter slumber. Weather conditions during the past seven have been pretty much a yawn. Nevertheless, night time freezing and daytime melting have been splendid in allowing a calm meltdown. Thus, this process has avoided a hot, one day gush that gashes back country roads with gullies.

Further, for those tapping sugar maples for their sweet sap, this tranquil transition has been pleasing to date.                                                            

Concern has to be voiced in regard to there being no precipitation out this way for going on ten days or so. Where “old Sol” has vaporized all unshaded snow, the northern landscape is already becoming crunchy dry. “May flowers need April showers.”                                                                

According to the DNR, 98 percent of wild fires in Minnesota are touched off by human invaders; we hope the agencies charged with commanding burning bans are doing more diligence than was done in 2007 so there is no re-run of the Ham inferno. It would seem prudent to ban all burning (including camp fires) sooner rather than later, to avoid waiting until some accidental blaze gets takes off.                                         

The interior hinterland is at the stage where the white blanket has been thrown back to reveal “Mother Nature's” creation in its ugliest state. However, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and some see our barren surroundings with the prospect of blooms and green to come. Even as we look at the gloomy gray/brown scene, it doesn’t hurt to dream a little blue skies and more colorful days ahead.  

Rituals of warmer times are gradually making their way up the Trail. Robins have returned and are tweeting about, while crows are adding a basal contribution to the growing spring concert and pileated woodpeckers are hammering the percussive background. I’ve also made note of an orange and black moth fluttering about our deck, and found a few arachnids creeping here and there.                                                                            

Another rite of the season was observed the other day on a trip to the Village. A snowshoe hare, in the early stage of putting on its summer apparel, was barely visible as it blended in well with the gritty windrowed snow bank along the Trail.                                                                          

The north woods bunny would not have been seen at all, had it not been hopping along the snowy mound. Being whiter than summer brown, its camo coat would have rendered it no more than a chunk of frozen winter.                                                                                                                      

Speaking of other fuzzy things, most deciduous buds are still cuddled snug in their winter wraps. However, I’ve noticed pussy willow shoots getting their first peeks at warm rays along the byway.                                                                                                                                                            

While moose can be observed most anytime if one is in the right place, a couple reports have come my way from the Hungry Jack and Loon Lake neighborhoods indicating moose presence but no photo ops. Tracks were found in the dwindling snow along with calling cards of scat. Genders are not known, but if they are mommas, next generation deliveries are due soon.                                                                                                

Mother Nature's  routine of removing the snow and ice by way of run-off must have the County Highway department about to tear its hair out as pot holes are abundantly catching driver’s attention. Whereas plowing of white has been the order for months, the task of grading miles of county roads shifts into a different grading mode.

What a nightmare for those guys! We users should be about keeping a heads up on the road ahead, slowing down and being patient until they can get a blade on our road.

The Gunflint Trail community welcomes new business owners. Windigo Lodge has been sold and the process of moving old stuff out and refurbishing is under way. New proprietors, (spouses) Bryan Gerrard, Stacey Palmer with Kibby Kuboy and Lynse McDonough are shooting for an early summer re-opening.  The foursome is energized with their new endeavor, and will be changing the facility's handle. From now on it will be known as, “The Poplar Haus.” Residents will want to stop by to meet and greet our new neighbors.                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as we anticipate re-birth of the wild land.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain Elementary: April 6

General, Sofi, and Ruby report the latest school news.

Click here for more school news.

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West End News: April 6

Spring has sprung here in the West End. The sap is running and so are the snowshoe hares who are still sporting their winter attire. Grackles and redwing black birds have made their appearances. Our yard is serving as a personal lost and found stash as items unknowingly dropped into a snowbank back in December are slowing reemerging.

Another sure sign of spring is Lutsen Mountains annual Mountain Meltdown. This weekend they will be celebrating the last full week of skiing for the season. On Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th there will be a live music on the outdoor stage (weather permitting) and a barbeque. Music starts at 11:30 both days and the last band takes the outdoor stage at 4pm. If you, like me, have a small human who makes going out to live music late at night a challenge, or if you’re simply an early to bed kind of music lover this is a great opportunity to catch some really great tunes before the sun goes down. If you are a night owl, stick around for the late night music at Papa Charlie’s. Lutsen has been open into April every year for the past 26 years, if 26 years of spring skiing isn’t worth a good celebration I don’t know what is.

Congratulations are due to the Fika family. Many West End residents are frequent visitors to Josh Lindstrom and crew at the Fika coffee shop in the Clearview building in downtown Lutsen. If you tried to get your coffee fix on a certain weekend in mid-March you may have noticed that they were closed for a few days. They had a good reason though as they were in Duluth welcoming their fourth child. While the Lindstroms have not yet had the good sense to move their family to the West End, we are glad to have Fika Coffee in our midst and wish them the very best with their new baby boy.

Congratulations are also in order for Birch Grove School which received the 2017 School Finance Award from the Minnesota Department of Education. A friendly reminder that Birch Grove is having its Kindergarten round up on Tuesday April 11. If you’ve got a kiddo who will be 5 years old by September 1st, 2017, they are invited to come check out our neighborhood school. You can register on Birch Grove’s website or by calling 663-0170.

Okay, now what you’ve all been waiting for - the ice report. There is quite of bit of standing water on top of the ice, especially near shore. In many places, water can be seen, and more noticeably heard, seeping up through degraded spots creating little bubbles and a sense of anxiety for us ice measuring technicians. My sources tell me that as of April 5 there is, drumroll please, still 17 inches of ice. That’s seven inches less than last week though, so we’re moving in the right direction, and fast.

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

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Donna Lake

North Woods Naturalist: River and lake ice

Ice on area lakes and rivers seems to change frequently this time of year. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson to learn more.

(Photo by Martha Marnocha)

 

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Northern Sky: April 1 - 14

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

Jupiter takes center stage, while Mars is dim in the west. There is a full moon on April 10 - also known as the full pink moon or the sprouting grass moon - and will be perfectly full on April 11. Spica can be seen below Jupiter and the moon while they are rising. Look for Mercury early in April in the sun's afterglow.

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There are bold gray jays in the Wildersmith neighborhood

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 31

No foolin,' March is into the books! Out here in the Gunflint forest, segment three has been fickle to say the least. We’ve seen about all Mother Nature has to offer in terms of weather. And as the month comes to an end, “Zigwan” (spring) is gaining a foothold day by day. Mud season in back country is advancing to become the norm.

Atmospheric happenings in our upper end of the Trail have dished up a few inches of mixed snow, sleet and freezing rain along with a couple mornings around the zero mark, necessitating snow removal once more. Sandwiched in were slots of pleasant, sunny times. In short, our past weeks’ weather pretty much paralleled what the rest of the month was like, drippy where the sun shines while wintery under the clouds and evergreen canopy.

The disappearance of winter character remains a bit sporadic, and back country roads are still white for the most part. Meanwhile along the Trail, a gnawing sun has eaten away at snow banks revealing the ugly look of urban America grit.

Lake ice has remained stable in support of this final week of trout season angling. Keying this report, I still see everything from snowmobiles to four wheelers and pick-up trucks heading back and forth on the Gunflint as catching’s zero hour approaches tonight.  

The fresh snow of last week provided what may be a final tracking opportunity of “wild neighborhood” visitors. The mystery of who might have been here during darkness hour always captures yours truly.

On the morning following our last flaky episode, smooth new carpeting found imprints of a fisher, wolf and a myriad of smaller forest beings. Such evidence always stirs wonder of whether they were pursuing or being pursued. Guess we can be guaranteed all were in some mode of finding something to eat.

The Smiths were in the right spot at the right time last week to catch two quirky avian incidents. The first involved a curious “whiskey Jack” (Canadian Jay). This saga happened one early evening, moments after I put a couple burgers on the grill. I noticed this gray jay hanging out, and apparently it was keeping an eye on me too, or at least what I was doing.

Stepping away from the grill, I turned back just as the jay swooped down to the deck rail near the grill. I could tell it must be eyeing the exposed side of raw ground beef. Who would ever believe that in a surprising advance, this guy/gal flapped in and for an instance, hovered over what was cooking. It took but a nanosecond before a sampling could be snatched, when the hungry critter discovered it was too hot in the kitchen.

Avoiding a feather roasting catastrophe, the jaybird made a hot footed escape off into the tree tops. Farfetched, yes, but the story is absolutely true.

The second birdy interlude took place in darkness hours, long after these feathery folk should have gone to roost. In this episode, a sudden noise at the window startled us away from the “boob” tube. Inquiry as to what was going on found a misguided flyer had flown into the glass. This happens often, but it has never occurred at 10:00 o’clock at night.

The stunned bird, of sparrow or finch size, lay on the deck for several moments before regaining its feet. Then it stood motionless for a longer time before beginning to hop about. Eventually, a few flaps of its wings and it took off into the dark of night.

Why this little fellow was not snoozing at this time, or why its GPS might have malfunctioned, leading it to a near death experience, we’ll never know. Maybe it just had days and nights mixed up? I’m supposing it found a safe place for some shut-eye.

Speaking further of and for our winged friends, scientists are finding some surprising discoveries about avian behavior in spring migrations. Did you know that flock size affects flight speed? The larger the flock, the faster the birds fly. Belief is that this principle applies to all bird species.

In a related note, a study documented in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, found for the first time birds fly much faster migrating north after winter, and put forth more effort to stay on course than they do during autumn flights south. More specifically, birds fly 39 percent faster in the spring than in fall. Speculation is they are jetting to claim the best breeding sites.

This information was discovered in the spring edition of Wildlife magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation. This is a good read to learn of the innovative technologies used to gather these interesting facts.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, always with promise of a natural adventure!       

Photo courtesy of Parks Connect, Flickr                                                                                           

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Superior National Forest Update: March 31

Hi. I’m Sarah Poznanovic, natural resource specialist with the National Forest Update for March 31 - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the beginning of April, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

Spring is here for sure. Our snow cover is rapidly vanishing, and the ice is weakening on area lakes, though it remains pretty thick for now. All this melt water is, as usual, making clear why the nickname given to spring around here is ‘the mud season.' You may notice it in the amount of dirt appearing in your front hallway, but on the Forest, it is evident in the condition of our roads. What were firmly frozen, almost paved, roads in the winter are turning into road Jello in some places. The county has enacted spring road restrictions, creating a maximum 4 ton axle weight, and minimizing the logging truck traffic on the Forest. Your pick-up may be a lot less than 4 tons, but that restriction should remind you that roads in the spring can be treacherous, and it is easy to get mired down in low spots. While we have no reports at this time of washouts, they will be happening as well, so keep your eyes open when you enter low lying areas, and don’t be afraid to stop your vehicle in a safe location to get out and check the roadway. Should you get stuck, the best idea is to call for assistance. Pulling a vehicle out of the mud with inadequate equipment can be extremely dangerous when overstressed chains, straps, or ropes snap. It is a good idea to also think of the damage you can cause to the road if you drive in very muddy conditions. The ruts you create now may be haunting you all summer long when you try to get your boat trailer up to the lake.

Of course, spring isn’t all mud and drizzle. It also means the return of migrating birds and animals, and the beginnings of new life for many of them. Returning juncoes, the cries of gulls near Lake Superior, and robins hopping in the newly exposed grass all tell us spring is here. Our resident birds, including owls, eagles, crows, and ravens, are all setting up housekeeping. Owls and eagles started this quite a while ago and are already well into incubation, or even taking care of hatchlings. Ravens and crows aren’t quite that far along, but almost every one that you see flying seems to have a stick in its beak for nest building. While not as visible as the birds, things are stirring in the mammal world as well. Sometime in the near future, wolf pups will be born, along with many other animals such as foxes, lynx, and marten. Bears had their cubs back in January, but may now be starting to think about getting out of the den and looking for food, like backyard bird feeders.

While spring is a time for beginnings, there are also a couple of good-byes on the Forest. Unless it turns out to be an April Fool’s joke, Gunflint District Ranger Nancy Larson is retiring at the beginning of April, along with Mary Ann Atwood who has worked a variety of positions including at the front desk. We wish them both the best in this next phase of their lives!

Keep an eye out for signs of spring, and watch out for those muddy roads! Until next time, this has been Sarah Poznanovic with the Superior National Forest Update.

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West End News: March 30

This past Monday the Birch Grove Task Force reached an agreement. This final consensus is the result of more than three months of fact-finding and negotiation by a committee representing all of the various interests connected to the Birch Grove Building in Tofte. The Consensus Agreement is a carefully balanced set of recommendations made for the decisions makers, including the Birch Grove Community School Board, W.E. Connect Board of Directors and the Township Boards of Tofte, Lutsen, and Schroeder.

The next step is for the agreed upon recommendations to be accepted or rejected by those decision making entities I just mentioned. These groups must accept or reject the consensus as a complete agreement. Any changes would require the Task Force Conciliation Committee to meet again and agree upon the alterations.

These types of community consensus agreements provide powerful and enduring solutions to complex community issues. There is no explicit term on the effect of the agreement, but typically this type of consensus endures until there are significant changes in circumstances. In which case, it would be a good idea to reconvene a community conciliation process to produce a new agreement.

This agreement is fully supported by every member of the Birch Grove Task force Conciliation Committee. Many thanks are due to the committee members for their patience, commitment and hard work in reaching community consensus. Thanks are also due to Bill Hansen, who graciously volunteered his time to facilitate the process.

As an outfitter, each spring we watch the waning ice thickness with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. A bit like the calm before the storm of visitors. Many inland lakes right now are currently covered in large puddles of standing water. Upon encountering this scene on our daily ski the other day we thought it prudent to measure the ice before venturing out too far.

Lest you worry about us, the ice on Sawbill is still 24 inches, solid. There’s about four inches of hard packed slush and snow on top of the ice, and an abundance of big sloppy puddles on top of that. Puddle skiing doesn’t get enough credit - if you don’t mind sloppy socks. On a still sunny day, the puddles reflect the blue sky and patches of snow become the fluffy clouds. Standing in the middle of this on a large lake with the blue expanse stretching out overhead and reflected below your feet, it feels for all the world like you are skiing on the ski.

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

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Dr. Seth Moore: Should wolves be reintroduced on Isle Royale?

Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses an historic fur trade site on scenic Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues. 

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the ecological considerations of Isle Royale National Park's possible plan for reintroduction of wolves.

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Wolf at night, Mark Chinnick

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 24

Although spring has been making cameo appearances since the first of the year, it is now official. With the sun having reached its semi-annual journey to east is east and west is west, longer hours of daylight will indeed take on more meaning.

Beginning this weeks’ Gunflint scoop finds weather conditions still in a slight grip of winter. The upper Trail territory remains on the short side of moisture deliveries having picked up barely a couple mini snow/freezing drizzle/sleet intervals since our last visit. So the lack of life sustaining precipitation continues to wear on we forest dwellers.

In the interim, temps in this neighborhood have been about normal with night time shivering and daylight slightly above. There’s promise of more temperate happenings for this part of the world by this broadcast time. If such becomes reality, we’ll resume the meltdown which has recently been stymied, but this slowdown is not all bad.

In anticipation of the coming gardening season, green thumbs of the territory are readily planting under grow lights and greenhouse vitreous. Fact is, a report from one fellow tells of already having the first pickle (cucumber) on the vine under glass.

In confirmation of getting things growing, one sunny day recently found one of those northern indoor germinating facilities reaching the one hundred degree mark, without manmade assistance. Suppose a little bit of winter had to be let in so things could cool down. “Old Sol” is getting more power hungry with each passing day.

Winter could get in another lick or two, but we’ve passed the worst possible coldness and whiteness. Meanwhile, northwoods folks are about to conjure up thoughts about ice out. It won’t be long before entries in annual ice-out pools will be due.

Remembering 2016, the ice cake on Gunflint departed officially on April 30th, and was somewhere close to this date on other larger bodies in borderland. It’s a good bet lake solidarity could give way to liquidity, sooner rather than later, the way premature warming has been going so far in 2017.

Although I may be jumping the gun on getting at post-winter chores, a first excursion was made around the place last Sunday. Remnants of winter blowdowns were picked up to the tune of two big arm loads as I started the process of building next winter's burn pile. No pun intended, but things are really picking up around here. Who knows, I might be picking up shovels of snow by this time next week, or trying to channel running water.

A couple along the south Gunflint Lake shore reports a trio of wolves made a night time visit and were recorded on their trail cam. They must have been really hungry as the threesome was lapping up bird seed remains. With little to no venison available and other means of protein hard to come by, I suppose they are assuming omnivorous tendencies. One has to wonder how long it will be before these iconic predators move on to more generous hunting grounds or just die off.

There have been no local reports of bear appearances yet, but it probably won’t be long until these omnivores are scrounging about. A recent sighting not too far south of here indicates they might soon be squirming in winter quarters, and those winter babies could be wearing on momma bear.

Thanks are in order to listeners/streamers and website readers who made a big splash into spring with a vow of support for the WTIP “grass roots” membership drive last week. Although the “boys of summer” have yet to take the field, our family of members--both renewing and first timers--got the first “hit” of the season. Pledging generated nearly 23K dollars, and exceeded the budgeted goal.

At this time of uncertainty for continuing governmental backing with respect to independent/public radio, advocate willingness to dig a little deeper, to help assure this North Shore broadcasting gem remains vibrant, is appreciated beyond all means of understanding. WTIP is OUR radio station!  ALL who contributed made this funding effort the best of all reality experiences, and are congratulated for their enduring “commitment to excellence.”

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every Gunflint day is great, with budding dreams and evergreen enchantment!

Photo courtesy of Mark Chinnick/Flickr

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