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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:
Carol Christenson

A Cooler Week Ahead

After an end-of-January thaw, more seasonal temperatures return. North Shore Morning host Mark Abrahamson talks with National Weather Service meteorologist Carol Christenson.



North Woods Naturalist: Snow crystals

There are billions of them and no two are alike.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the amazing diversity of snow crystals.

(Photo by Jason Hollinger on Flickr)



A Year in the Wilderness: January 27 - Dogs and otters

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)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: January 29

Weather in Gunflint Territory mellowed since week three of the month. Bitter cold was swept away by another El Nino moment of warmer Pacific air. Meanwhile, additional snow has avoided this area like the plague as we head toward February. It seems as though this snow loving region is snake-bit in terms of powdery deliveries. Furthermore, other places in the country are dealt the stuff when they have no desire for such. 

The snow in place right now is hanging on, and will provide the key ingredient for the beginning of the annual John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon late Sunday morning. With the race making its round trip run from Two Harbors to Grand Portage and back, the race comes into these parts from its Sawbill checkpoint to reach our mid-Trail checkpoint at Trail Center in the estimated pre-dawn time of Monday morning.  

On the return chase, mushers should be coming back through the Trail Center area in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. In both stops along the Trail, there’s a mandatory lay-over. So in spite of the not too convenient arrival times for viewing, the time lapse for teams before departing in either direction can allow for getting out to show some Gunflint cheers of support.

One Cook County musher is entered in the Marathon, while three other locals are in the mid-distance race, which by the way, finishes at Trail Center, midday on Monday. Tracking the races can be followed at Good Luck to all!

More winter fun takes place in Gunflint land next weekend with the seventh annual Cook County Ridge Riders fun run. The power sledders' trek to collect their cards for the long distance poker game will start along the South Shore drive on Devil Track Lake on February seventh beginning at 9 am.   

Stops to get cards and participation stamps include Hungry Jack Lodge, Trail Center Lodge, Windigo Lodge, Gunflint Lodge, and Gunflint Pines Resort. All riders must be back at the CCRR clubhouse by 5:30 pm to turn in their playing hands. Food, fun, and a raffle follow the day's sledding. 

I don’t know who to thank for the neat temporary signs posted in select locations along the Trail, warning drivers to slow down in those moose zones. For whoever’s responsible, it’s a great idea and, hopefully, will save a precious moose life. Moreover, it could well save even serious injury or possible death to vehicular passengers, and perhaps totaling one’s vehicle. All Trail users should be thankful for the insight into these alert postings.  

The beauty of our flocked forest continues unabated. After many weeks, periods of brisk wind have failed to dislodge the uncountable frozen, fleecy puffs.

Such is true for the Smith’s favorite conifer along the Mile O Pine as well. This magnificent backwoods being caught our eye when first observed some seventeen years ago. The affair with this stately pine might seem strange, but I’m betting there might be others in border country that might also have a wild item of particular Gunflint area significance.  Whatever the case, we Smiths have been keeping a watchful eye on this prime piece of timber since it was a just little shaver, barely head high.  

At the time we embraced this symmetrical sapling, it was small enough to survive the horrendous blowdown in 1999 and then luckily endured the wildfire scare of 2007 when flames charred its cousins just over a mile or so across the lake.

During the years, the “mother” in charge of all things has nurtured it well. “Our tree” as we call it now, has grown tall, nearing 25 feet. Over the time, it has maintained unique pomp in the Mile O Pine parade of needled elements. While bending and twisting in the winds; enduring the cold and hot; dodging the lightning and bearing tons of snow for going on two decades, this verdant subject has not succumbed.  

This season’s hefty decorations are no exception in testing its fibrous vitality. “Our forest starlet” has simply flexed its muscles and stands lofty, beaming at the beckon of our head lights on many a cold winter night. While in daylight hours, winds in the woods help this comely adolescent tremble with a gentle wave as I go by on my daily mail box run.

Dazzled by the glistening grace of shapely frosted bows, we are overwhelmed at the elegance, and inspired by enduring evergreen charm. “Our tree,” silently enriching life in the Gunflint Forest 
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith!  Come on out the Trail and savor the winter bounty!

(photo: Winter Blues, Michel Bernier via Flickr)



Superior National Forest Update: January 29

Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, wildlife biologist, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the end of January, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Work continues clearing trails and roads from our December ‘snow-down’ storm, but most of our trails are now open thanks to a lot of dedicated trail volunteers, partners, and our own trail crew.  If you’re snowmobiling or skiing though, be aware that many trails are not open to their full normal width, and you need to be aware that you may hit a narrow spot on the other side of the hill.  If you’d like to lend a hand and help out with this effort, contact Jon Benson at either the Gunflint or Tofte Ranger District, and he’ll find the right activity for you or your group.
In the last update, we talked about reporting lynx sightings and we’d like to thank the people that have seen lynx and reported the sighting.  We biologists though are doing more than just looking for lynx, we’ve been collecting scat.  It’s not that we are so interested in lynx poop – we are interested in the lynx DNA which can be recovered from scat.  The DNA allows to tell which animal has been where, and also how the animals are related.  All of this is helping us determine if we have a healthy population of lynx here on the Forest.
There will also be lots of dog tracks in the woods starting Sunday.  Leaving those tracks will be the dog and sleds competing in the John Beargrease Sled Dog Race.  Watching the mushers pass at a road crossing is always an exciting event.  If you’re planning on being a spectator, we ask that you take care in how you park your car on the road.  You need to leave enough space for possible log trucks to pass your car safely, but also beware of ditches that are filled with snow and may look like a firm surface.
Which roads may have those log trucks?  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Pine Mountain Road, Bally Creek Road, Caribou Trail, Ball Club Road, and the Grade.   Less is going on in Tofte this week.  Hauling will be taking place on the Tomahawk Road, probably beginning this weekend.  There will also be log trucks on the Honeymoon Trail, traveling between the Caribou Trail and the Poplar River area.
Best of luck to all the mushers in the race!  And whether you are racing, skiing, or just enjoying the winter scenery, have a great time out in the Forest.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.



West End News: January 28

Save the date for March 15 in Lutsen to hear the results of a two-year study by the North Shore Community Climate Readiness project.  Three universities cooperated on a variety of research methods to examine how the changing climate will affect tourism on the North Shore. 
For example, they looked at how lake ice thickness and summer heat waves may change.  Will there be a greater risk of hotter and larger forest fires?  They also asked both locals and visitors what they thought about climate change and how it may or may not affect their behavior.
The interactive workshop will be from 5 until 8 pm on March 15 in Lutsen with a second workshop being held in Two Harbors on the 16th.  Location has not been set yet, but the details will be well advertised as the date draws nearer.
Climate change is a big issue for Cook County and it’s past time to start planning for a future with a different climate.  It would have been good to start this effort about 20 years ago, but we play with the cards we are dealt, I guess. The campaign to cloud climate science in the public mind was pretty good at delaying any policy action on climate change for a long time.  Nowadays, anyone who doesn’t realize that climate change is upon us is either willfully ignorant, or clinging to a political position that has no foothold in reality.
Sugarloaf Cove Nature Center in Schroeder is offering its fine Master Naturalist training again this year.
The course will run from 9 am to 5 pm every other Saturday for six sessions beginning February 20 and ending May 7, 2016.  Field trips will be incorporated into the scheduled class days. A capstone project is expected from participants, as well as the commitment to volunteer for 40 hours during the year.
The real payoff though is the deep knowledge that students of all ages gain about the world around them.  While you can easily spend a lifetime studying the natural world, the Master Naturalist course is a great way to increase your appreciation for the complex web of life that surrounds us here in the West End.
There is a cost associated with the course, although scholarships are available. Registration is through the Minnesota Master Naturalist web page, that’s  Or, call WTIP to get the contact information.
There is an interesting twist to the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon this year.  A song-cycle titled “Crazy Cold Beautiful” will have its world premiere at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Grand Marais at 7 pm on Friday, February 5. 
The song-cycle was composed by Robin Eschner and will be performed by the Borealis Chorale and Orchestra, the Stonebridge Singers Drum and the Sawtooth Elementary Choir, under the direction of Bill Beckstrand.  The composer’s own musical group, “Take Jack” will also join in the fun. 
This will not only will be an amazing show, but it is open to all with only a freewill offering requested in return.
The same basic show goes on the road to Duluth the next day, appearing at the Sacred Heart Music Center at 4 pm.
If jazz is more to your liking than chorale music, I recommend catching my friend Willie Waldman on that same day, Friday, February 5.  Willie is a well-known fusion jazz trumpeter who travels the nation playing with a changing kaleidoscope of inventive and skilled musicians.  The music is completely improvised, so each performance is a composing session, jam session and – for sure in Willie’s case – a virtuoso performance.
Willie discovered Cook County when he arrived each summer for a canoe trip in the BWCA Wilderness.  He and some of his regular band-mates are working their way through virtually every canoe route in the wilderness by taking a different 50-mile route each summer for the last 13 years and counting.
Willie will be at the Voyageur Brewery in Grand Marais from 4 until 7 pm, so you could catch that show before heading up to the church for Cold Crazy Beautiful.  Willie reconvenes a larger group, including some members of the Big Wu, that same night at 9:30 at Papa Charlie’s in Lutsen. 
Full disclosure, Willie has invited me to sit in with him while he’s in the county, but don’t let that discourage you from coming.  Willie’s prodigious musical skills and generous personality make all his shows a delightful experience.
(Photo courtesy of Willie Waldman)


Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: January 27

Kalina, Sophia and Silas report the latest School News.


The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The John Beargrease Sled Dog Race

The 2016 John Beargrease Sled Dog Race will start on January 31. Born in 1858, John Beargrease, was the son of an Anishinaabe chief. He delivered mail between Two Harbors and Grand Marais, following a challenging route that paralleled Lake Superior. In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, Curtis Gagnon and Doug Seim talk about the beginnings of the sled dog race that commemorates John Beargrease.

Photos courtesy of Curtis Gagnon.



A Year in the Wilderness: January 20 - Enjoy winter

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)



West End News: January 21

Skip Lamb, from Schroeder, called last week to gleefully report that he has counted 20 babies born, or about to be born, in the West End.  And, although Skip keeps careful track, there may be a few he doesn’t know about.
Skip keeps a running baby count not just because he is interested in everything that goes on in the West End, but also because he is a long time member of the Birch Grove Community School Board.  Like all small rural school systems, Birch Grove has struggled with declining enrollment over the last couple of decades.  It is starting to look like that trend is finally reversing, at least here in the West End.
Both the Birch Grove Community School and the Birch Grove Community Center have been thriving in recent years.  Programming and facilities for people of all ages are up to date and running like a well-oiled machine.  For instance, the skating rink is in prime shape right now, so dig out those skates and check it out.
Skip is also involved in the ongoing community conversation about the fate of the Taconite Harbor Energy Center, which is due to be moth-balled in October.  The power plant’s owner, Minnesota Power, has indicated that they will keep the plant in operable condition for at least several years after they shut it down. 
It seems like the world is moving on from polluting and inefficient coal-fired power plants, so it’s wise to start thinking about what to do with that prime piece of Lake Superior property over the long haul.  The fact that it includes a large protected harbor and a connection to the railroad, makes many people think that it should be repurposed for an industrial use. Wood pellet production, some type of clean energy production and food production have all been mentioned.
It is also one of the most beautiful sections of the North Shore, so it’s possible that the industrial buildings could be removed, the land restored and a tourism destination constructed.  The railroad line up to the Iron Range, which is one of the most beautiful stretches in the country, could be used as a scenic and historic attraction.
I’m sure there are many other ideas out there.  But at the end of the day, it is really up to Minnesota Power. They are a good corporate citizen and are involved with the local community, but like all corporations, they are obligated to maximize their profits for shareholders.
Filings have closed for the upcoming township elections in Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen.  It looks like the only contested election will be in Tofte, where incumbent Supervisor Jim King will face off with new candidate Sarah Somnis.  Jim moved to Tofte when he retired many years ago and has been very active in the community.  Sarah is a Tofte native with four generations of her family currently living in the West End.  She has also been an active community volunteer.  The beauty of democracy is that you can’t go wrong with two great candidates.
In Lutsen, according to reliable sources, Supervisor Tim Goettl did not file for re-election.  Long time Lutsen resident Rae Piepho is running for the vacant seat.
In Schroeder, the incumbent supervisor and clerk, Tina McKeever and Doug Schwecke, filed to continue in their positions without opposition.
Mark your calendars for Tuesday, March 8, which is not only the date of the township elections, but also the date of the annual township meetings.  Many people do not realize that citizens can fully participate and make real decisions at the annual meetings.  It’s the most direct form of democracy and has real consequences on all our lives, so I highly recommend attending.  Even if you don’t have an issue to advance, it gives you a good insight into the workings of your township’s public activity.
We had the first winter campers of the season at Sawbill this week.  Normally, by this time we’ve seen dozens of cars in the parking lot.  Two factors are at play this year.  The first is that the weather made for unsafe ice conditions followed by terrible slush.  The recent cold temperatures seem to have set up good ice conditions.  The second is that Charles Lamb of Schroeder is too busy being a dad to two teenagers and coaching the downhill ski team to go ice fishing even once.
Charles’ predicament is just one example of having too many choices for fun here in the wonderful West End.

(Photo courtesy of Minnesota Power)