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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:
A carefully built cairn shows the way to last week's Rainbow Gathering in Tofte

West End News: September 22

The Rainbow Gathering on the Sawbill Trail has come and gone. Most West End residents and visitors were probably not even aware that it happened. It was deep in the woods about two miles beyond the “Dog Tired” gravel pit, which is about ten miles up the Trail from Tofte.
Before the gathering started, some authorities were advising us that we would be inundated with Rainbow people, as Sawbill Outfitters had been designated as their “official” store for supplies and drinking water.
A few days before the start of the gathering, a couple of people did stop in to fill water jugs and buy firewood. After that, we seemed to have almost no traffic from the event, except for a few genial young people who had missed the turn and were lost.
One couple I talked to was looking for Forest Road #350, but of course, being a local, I don’t know the roads by their numbers. I know them by their local names, like Kawishiwi Lake Road, Rhino Road, Pancore Lake Road or Raspberry Road. When I asked them what their destination was, they were shy about revealing that they were looking for the Rainbow Gathering. They finally said they were looking for “a gathering of people” and I was able to give them directions with no problem.
When I drove into the gathering site to see what was going on, the most remarkable thing I saw was a giant bull moose about half a mile before seeing any Rainbows.
I doubt this will be the last that the West End will see of the Rainbow People. Like almost everyone else, they seem to like it here. I’m glad that they are able to have their peaceful gatherings without controversy or even much comment from locals.
There are a couple of cool events coming up that you should put on your calendar now. The first is a performance of the “Music and Magic of Patsy Cline” featuring Cassie and the Bobs at William Kelley High School in Silver Bay. The show is scheduled for 7pm on Saturday, October 8. Northern Lake County Arts Board is the show’s sponsor, so you know it will be great. Who doesn’t like Patsy Cline… and if you don’t know who Patsy Cline is, then you are required to attend – no exceptions.
The second fun event is the annual Birch Grove Community School Halloween Carnival, scheduled for Sunday, October 30, from 2 until 4pm. The carnival is not only fun and a great tradition, it’s also an important fundraiser for the school. So be there, or be square.
Tofte garderner extrodinaire, Jessa Frost, was proud to announce that she has successfully raised black beans in her gardern in the heart of the infamous Zone 3. She posted a picture on Facebook holding seven ripe beans in her hand, with mightly Lake Superior in the background. Under questioning, she admitted that the seven beans are a third of the total harvest so far, but did say that there will be many more if we can hold off the first frost for another week or two. This is ironic, coming from a gardener named Frost.
The fall colors have really popped up in the high country in the last few days. You have to get at least 10 miles away from the big lake for the best viewing, but nature’s big show should be coming soon to a hillside near you. If you’re looking for good color this week, I recommend the Eagle Mountain Trail, which is not only colorful right now, but is also the highest point in Minnesota.. and just one of the high points in the wonderful West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.


Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: September 22

Kalina, Sophia and Tucker report the latest School News.



North Woods Naturalist: Autumn update

Autumn is slow in coming, but changes are being made in the natural world, just not as apparent as in some years. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about an autumn update.


The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: The Hovland plane crash

A Cessna 185 disappeared in the fall of 1971, and no trace of the plane or its three occupants was found until nearly 12 years later.

In this edition of The Lake Superior Project, we hear the story of the Hovland plane crash from Orvis Lunke - one of the four DNR forestry workers who discovered the remains of the plane in a remote section of forest, just inland from Lake Superior. 

(View slideshow for photos of the plaque and the crash site)



Northern Sky: September 17 - 30

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

In the evening sky, the Summer Triangle high in the south, binoculars needed for the Coathanger, and Venus low in the west; Mercury best seen in the morning sky on September 29; Jupiter moves from the evening to the morning sky; the Fall Equinox on September 22; and in news: a cryovolcano on the dwarf planet Ceres.

(photo of the Summer Triangle by NASA via Wikimedia Commons)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 16

It hardly seems possible we are at the half-way point of September. The northland universe will be celebrating the full “wild rice” moon with our Ojibwe neighbors this weekend, and by this time next week the seasonal equinox makes autumn official, heading us off toward many beautiful days until the white stuff arrives.  Time sure flies by when you’re having fun.  

Our fall prelude continues as the first leaves are parting ways with their summer connections. The original “golden arches” are convening over many back country roads with an aura of birch leaflets intensifying in a big way since we last met. Over the past few days, what sugar maples we have along the Mile O Pine have begun surrendering chlorophyll for their scarlet blush and some of the coniferous crowd is displaying ebbing tawny needles of years past. Last but not least, on a couple damp dreary days, I actually got a whiff of the magical harvest time forest aroma. How sweet all of this is!  

Atmospheric conditions have had their good moments over the past segment with both sun and clouds. While a heavenly blessing for this neighborhood came in a couple nice showers yielding three-fourths of an inch, thus keeping wildfire danger at bay.

Another sign of the times was a forecast of cooling temps, highlighted by a potential for our first frost.  By the time this scoop hits the air streams, we out this way will confirm if the prognostication was just one of those “ten percent” chances with which we are so often encumbered.       

Further evidence of our daily cadence changing has been seen overhead. Several flocks of those Canadian honkers have winged aloft in recent days. At least one flock has been observed setting down on the Gunflint Gal for an overnight. One of our Gunflint lakeside neighbors captured a spectacular digital rendering of them lifting off southward bound, after their brief stay. For a look, check this out on the Wildersmith column at  

Bear traffic throughout the territory seems almost more prolific than the tourists now. I see them with regularity, and if not the “Brunos” in person, their “scatty” calling cards.

In one amusing observation, I saw one standing upright along county road #20 (South Gunflint Lake road) near a mail box. The black bruin looked as if it might be checking for a sweet delivery as it sniffed at the unit and grabbed at the door. The entire happening had a distinct (time to get the mail) human look. Finally as my vehicle neared, the big “Teddy” spooked and scrambled off into the roadside brush.      

In another wild encounter, a huge bull moose was caught crossing Loon Lake Road by a couple residents. The big fellow lumbered across in front of their vehicle, then turned around and marched right at them before stopping a short distance away. Guess it might have been as curious about this humming machine, as were the occupants inside about him. Or maybe, since they are known to have poor eyesight, it might have been swooning over this large rumbling monster (with headlights for eyes) as a potential romantic encounter. In any event, he didn’t realize he was posing for a photo op. Several pics were snapped and one has been shared with me, and I in turn share one with you.  Yes everyone, there are moose in the woods! Take another look at and click on the Wildersmith commentary, this guy’s a beauty! 

Dock time along Gunflint Lake at Smiths’, as on other area lakes around sundown, mirrors unimagined beauty rippling across crystal border country waters. The gamut of colors can be mind boggling, sometimes changing from moment to moment and always based on happenings high in the stratosphere. From breathtaking cotton candy pink to dark charcoal and most every tint in-between, this glorious natural liquid pigmentation through heavenly reflection has been going on since the beginning of time.

Unfortunately, this aqueous daily occurrence is most likely taken for granted by the bulk of the human race, often putting such beauty in jeopardy through their decisions and actions. However, those of us living around the glacier filled basins of the Superior National forest cherish the creation of this blessing and the joy it can bring to everyone’s lives. One would hope an ever-expanding America might come to its senses soon and stop trying to tamper with what “Mother Nature” has provided here in the Northland. Clean, clear, “water is life.” 

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every northwoods day is great and some are even better!
 (geese photo by Betty Hemsted; moose photo by Joanne and Paul Johnson)



Superior National Forest Update: September 16

Hi.  This is Becky Bartol, environmental coordinator, with this week’s Superior National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 16th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Fall color is starting up, and with it comes people driving the roads looking at the leaves.  It may be a little early and a little green to see fall at its peak, but it’s a great time of year to get out and go for a drive.  It is also a great time of year for both ‘leaf peepers’ and other drivers to remind themselves of some good driving habits.  First and foremost, respect and be considerate of other drivers.  If you are driving slowly to enjoy the scenery, remember others may want to drive faster because they are on their normal daily commute.  And, if you are one of the faster drivers, remember that you’re likely to run into slow moving traffic this time of year and you need to be patient.  Slow drivers need to pull over in safe areas to let faster drivers pass.  Don’t try to wave someone to pass you on a hill or blind corner.  You may need to speed up for a while until you get to a good spot to pull aside.  Faster drivers need to avoid tailgating, and not be tempted to pass in those dangerous areas.  If you’ve stopped to take pictures, or just to get out and walk in the fall air, make sure your vehicle is off the road far enough to let others pass by.  Close the doors, use your four way flashers, and don’t stop where there is no visibility.  You may not be able to stop next to that perfect tree you want to photograph; you may end up walking back to the tree after finding a good place to pull off.  It all boils down to being aware of others, and being respectful of the rights of other people to use the roads, even if they are using them in different ways than you.
September 12 marked the 5th anniversary of the Pagami Creek Fire.  This was a very large fire which swept through the wilderness north of Isabella Lake, covering many acres in just one day.  The young jack pine growing in the wake of the fire are now three to five feet tall in areas, and it is great to see the forest in natural recovery.  The drive up to the Forest Center site at Lake Isabella is good way to visit the Pagami area and see for yourself what a forest looks like five years after a fire.  Be aware though that the trail down to the lake enters the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and you’ll need to fill out a day use permit if you want to take this hike.  You can also visit this area through the pictures on our website taken every year on the fire’s anniversary to document the forest’s regrowth.
There is still culvert work being done on The Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake Campground.  There won’t be any closures over the weekend though, and the closures for the remainder of the project will be shorter than one day.  The work that had closed the Richey Lake Road is now completed, and that road is fully open again.
Logging traffic is in similar areas as the last few weeks.  On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Grade between the Sawbill Trail and Baker Lake, on the Sawbill Landing road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing area, and on the Dumbell River Road and Wanless Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.  Log hauling will be taking place on these roads, so please use caution when driving or recreating in these areas.
Keep an eye out this weekend for migrating hawks.  While Hawk Ridge in Duluth is famous for large numbers of raptors during the fall migration, there are plenty along all of the shore.  The birds follow updrafts along the hills, and end up creating a highway in the air parallel to Highway 61 on the ground.  Other birds are migrating as well.  If you go out at night and are very quiet, you’ll hear chirps from migrating flocks of songbirds as they pass by. 
Whether you are quietly listening for songbirds, driving in search of those early fall colors, or just out in the Forest for some other reason, enjoy the weekend!  Until next week, this has been Becky Bartol with the Superior National Forest Update.



West End News: September 15

Last week I mentioned that Heath Ekstrom, Superior National Golf Pro and longtime Lutsen resident, was attempting to play 100 holes of golf on a single day. He was doing it to raise money for the charity called “Folds of Honor” that provides scholarships for children and spouses of military personnel who have been killed or disabled while serving our nation.
Well, he did it. In fact, he ended up shooting 122 holes of golf before daylight faded. Although Heath’s accomplishment was amazing, he was quick to point out that it was just golf, while being a member of the armed services was truly public service. Heath did raise $3500 for the charity, which will go a long way in providing someone with a quality education.
Although I’ve been in the outfitting business my whole life, a week seldom goes by that I don’t learn or see something new. Last week, we had a situation that I have never seen before.
Last Sunday afternoon, a solo canoeist stopped into the store and reported that he had talked to a camper on Polly Lake, deep in the wilderness, who had been abandoned by his canoeing partner. The marooned camper, who was named Pete, wanted word passed to the authorities that he would like someone to paddle in and bring him out of the wilderness.
We contacted the Forest Service and they determined that two Wilderness Rangers were just two lakes away. The next morning, the Rangers paddled down to Polly and picked up Pete. Pete told them that he and his friend had argued about the route and had mutually agreed that the friend would go on, leaving Pete to find a way to get himself out of the wilderness by going back the way they had come.
I got the call from the Forest Service to meet the rangers and Pete at the Kawishiwi Lake entry point and transport him back to Sawbill where his friend was due to arrive the next day. I must say, that Pete was very contrite and apologetic. He wasn’t really blaming his friend, as the decision to split up had been mutual. He did admit that he didn’t really think it through and was genuinely sorry to have caused the rangers to spend a full day rescuing him.
With my strong encouragement, Pete patched things up with his friend when they were reunited at Sawbill, at least enough so the friend would drive him back to southern Indiana. The friend reluctantly agreed and I feel like it was a pretty long and quiet road trip for both men.
As I was driving Pete back to Sawbill from Kawishiwi, he asked me how long I had been at Sawbill Outfitters. “Sixty years, this year.” I told him. “Has anyone ever been abandoned in the Boundary Waters before?” he asked. “Nope…” was my reply.  And hopefully it will never happen again.
Many West End residents will remember the huge national Rainbow Gathering near Barker Lake in Lutsen in 1990. Rainbow gatherings are a loosely knit community of people who gather in remote forest locations to celebrate their shared values of peace, harmony, freedom and respect.
There is a small Rainbow gathering going on just off the Sawbill Trail this week. As in 1990, the Rainbow people cause little or no trouble, just quietly camping and communing before going back to their regular lives. You would hardly know they were there except for seeing more than the usual number of colorfully dressed people in the grocery store.
The leaves have begun to change color in earnest over the hill. The trees are still about 90% green, but the occasional flash of yellow or red really stands out. As usual, the underbrush is farther along. I estimate it to be about 30% turned.
If you decide to go for a drive or a bike ride to view the leaves in the next couple of weeks, be sure to check out the new pavement on the Sawbill Trail.  The project is completely done now, making for the smoothest ride in the beautiful West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



A Year in the Wilderness: September 13 - Winding down

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)


Belted kingfisher

North Woods Naturalist: Belted kingfishers

They’re blue and somewhat stocky and you’ll always see them around water. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about belted kingfishers and their strange nesting habit.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Seng on Flickr)