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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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: February 5

Here we are into month two already. Although January seemed long, it was not as long as it might have been if this area was having a traditional winter. 

Having passed the legendary woodchuck/whistle pig/ground hog day, our part time winter reached the half-way mark just a day or so ago, according to the calendar. If conditions follow suit for the second half, our semi-winter is sure to be taking on a spring look sooner rather than later. 

As to the cranky critter with presumed prognosticating capabilities seeing its shadow and bailing back into its burrow for six more weeks of winter, the calendar says we’re going to have it in some form, regardless. Furthermore, the gnawing little nuisance was still snoring away in this neck of the woods on the second February day. Moreover, at this latitude it will likely not make an appearance until late April.

In addition, a weather observer/researcher down in Iowa contends the buck-tooth varmint is accurate less than 50 percent of the time. By comparison, this degree of rodent dependability equates closely with those who get paid to sensationalize our atmospheric happenings. Thusly, neither source is too reliable.  

In conclusion, whatever one thinks about this shadowy marmot spoof, the folk tale lines up quite well with our current array of aspiring presidential hopefuls, whose rhetoric predict this and promise that with, at best, perhaps an even lesser chance of ever delivering. 

Meanwhile, the Gunflint area experienced a brief spring-like interlude last weekend with temps along some parts of the Trail perking up over the freezing mark. This spike made short work of the few inches of new white dropped on us a couple days earlier and had roof edge icicles growing to new lengths. Now it’s colder once again.

It would seem the sudden warm-up did not lend itself well to the start of the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. With soft and sticky snow, it’s for certain those canine athletes labored long and hard. They, like the moose, would much prefer 20 below instead of that much above zero. See results of how our local entries finished on WTIP.org. 

Calling all power sledders! The long distance poker game hits the Trails Sunday morning at nine am. Entries will depart from the Cook County Ridge Riders clubhouse on the Devil Track Lake south shore. Trails will be alive with screaming snowmobiles as the players make five stops at various lodges for their card hands before heading back for a 5:30 pm call. This event is always a fun time for those sledding folks. Participants are wished a safe run and good luck! 
                                                                 
With lakes frozen over, not many give thought to the ever increasing threat of invasive species in our pristine waters. However, if there are some such critters in border country waters they are not going away just because it’s cold outside.

The International Lake of the Woods Watershed Board met in mid-November and discussed a number of international border water quality issues.  Gunflint Lake resident Jerry Caple is a Community Advisor to the Board. He reports one item of discussion was the correlation between calcium levels and invasive species, notably rusty crayfish and zebra mussels.

This is a concern due to calcium residue run-off from its use on roads draining into streams feeding watershed lakes. The prospect of such accumulations is pertinent because these invasive species take hold and are supported by high levels of calcium.    

This scenario should be of considerable interest to those of us in the upper Trail watershed, what with years of continued calcium and other chemical treatments on county roads. Lake property owners along the Gunflint byway might want to get into the information-loop about implementing a plan for their lake water testing, if not already doing so. Water quality and testing info can be obtained from Ilena Berg at Cook County Soil and Water. 
                                                                              
On a related note, the Gunflint Lake property owners are in the early stages of building a data base, by testing inflow samplings in select locations for Ph, temperature, and conductivity. The group will also begin calcium testing (which is relatively inexpensive) this coming spring.  All this is being done to affect change, should test data provide evidence of our lake water quality being compromised. 

Further water quality issues data can be found in the Heart of the Continent Partnership’s  "new outdoor news source.” By contacting Charlene Mason wandcmason@frontiernet.net  one can subscribe to this online magazine for free. It often has articles or synopsis of scientific research covering watershed quality issues.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith!  It’s the month of hearts, chocolates, and the Ojibwe “sucker moon”, enjoy it in a Gunflint way!
 

(photo by Ladycamera via Wikimedia Commons)

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A Year in the Wilderness: February 4 - Slush

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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West End News: February 4

Last week I mentioned a university study that is looking at what economic and social changes are coming to the North Shore due to climate change.  The two-year study is ready to report its initial findings at a meeting in Lutsen on Tuesday, March 15th.  You must RSVP to attend.  Contact Karen Katz at katzx096@umn.edu or 651-246-0974.  You can find Karen’s contact information on the WTIP website, or by calling WTIP.
 
I know that many people in Cook County are very concerned about the impact of climate change on our economy and life style, so the study results should be very interesting. 
 
By the way, there is a Cook County Chapter of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  You can sign up to be a local member by searching for Citizen’s Climate Lobby online.
 
The next West End visit of the Bloodmobile is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1st at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte from 2:30 through 6 pm.  Call Carla at 663-0179 to schedule your appointment to donate blood.  All blood types are needed, but they are particularly interested in type O negative.  If you haven’t donated blood before, it is easy, almost pain-free and a fun social event. 
 
The Finland area 2016 Community Conversation was held on January 9th at the Clair Nelson Community Center with a contra-dance afterward.
 
More than 50 people attended the Conversation and enjoyed a lasagna dinner with ice cream dessert and a lively discussion on topics ranging from food and farming to housing, the economy and the arts. Each table recorded their discussion on paper and shared their findings with the larger group. Afterwards, everyone present marked community priorities with sticky dots.
 
Some of the priorities identified included the Finland Community Mural, which is currently in the works, a coffee/tea cafe, a wild rice processing facility, a community barter book and better onsite camping at the Clair Nelson Center.
 
Many other topics were raised and will continue to be worked on by those that are interested.  You can find the details by searching for “Friends of Finland” online.
 
Now that the Iowa caucuses are in the record book, it’s time to start thinking about our own Minnesota precinct caucuses. Here in Cook County the Republican and Democratic, Farmer, Labor Party precinct caucuses will all be on Tuesday, March 1st, starting at 7 pm. 
 
The Republicans will hold all of their precinct caucuses at the same time at the Log 4H Building at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais. 
 
The DFL precinct caucuses will be held in four locations this year.  Schroeder, Tofte and Lutsen will be at the Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte, while the Grand Marais area precincts will meet at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais.  Hovland and Grand Portage will meet at the Hovland Town Hall and the Gunflint Trail precinct will meet at Trail Center.
 
You can go to the Minnesota Secretary of State website to discover which precinct you live in, if you aren’t sure.  You can also call the always-helpful Cook County Auditor’s office and they can tell you too.
 
Both parties will be conducting straw polls on presidential candidate preference. With lively contests for president in both parties, the caucuses should be a lot of fun.  You can throw your hat in the ring to become a delegate to the county-wide party conventions and on up the line to a state senate district conventions, congressional district conventions, state conventions and even the national conventions.  Participation can be very meaningful, especially in a big election year like this one.
 
You can also present resolutions at your caucus, requesting that your party take a certain position on an issue that is important to you.  The resolutions flow through the process right up to the state and federal level where, if they have enough grassroots support they become the official goals of the party.
 
I started participating in my precinct caucus when I was in high school.  I’ve been a delegate to the state convention many times.  It has given me the honor of meeting many of Minnesota’s most famous and well-loved political figures.  It was my participation that caused Senator Paul Wellstone to ask me to run for the legislature in 2002.  Although I never made it to the legislature, having the Senator’s trust and support is still one of the highlights of my life.
 
It’s truly a case of doing as much, or as little, as you like so the process is very user friendly.  It’s also the basis of our democracy so, you know…, important.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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School News from Oshki Ogimaag: February 2

Denali reports the latest School News.

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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.
 

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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)
 

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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)

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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 www.beargrease.com. 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)
 

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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.
 

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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 minnesotamasternaturalist.org.  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)

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