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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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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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(Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region on Flickr)

North Woods Naturalist: Freshwater mussels - Part 1

In Cook County we have three species of non-invasive freshwater mussels. In this first part of a two-part interview, WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about some of the unusual traits of these often overlooked species.

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Superior National Forest Update: August 11

Hi.  I’m Frances Meger, seasonal naturalist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of August 11.

This weekend is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers are caused when the Earth moves into the debris left behind in the path of a comet. The comet in this case is called Swift Tuttle, and it seems to leave a lot of debris behind it, making for lots of meteors as the bits and pieces of old comet burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. How many?  It varies from year to year, but the Perseids can have as many as 100 meteors per hour. It’s usually best to watch for meteors after midnight, but the moon will be rising around 11:00, so the best viewing might be right before moonrise. Northern Minnesota and the Superior National Forest are known as areas with very little in the way of light pollution and spectacular views of the night sky, so, grab a lawn chair where you can lean back, put on plenty of bug dope, and get set to watch the show.

The frequent rains have kept fire danger low all season this year, a fact which Smokey Bear liked while he celebrated his 73rd birthday this past week. On the west end of the Forest, Smokey’s friends, our fire crews, are doing some prescribed burning, and there are a few burns planned for our east end as well. Keep an eye on our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll keep you informed as to when and where those burns will be taking place as we try to fit them in between rain showers. 
 
There are only a couple of weeks remaining of summer naturalist programs, sponsored by Visit Cook County. Mike Zemaitis and I would like to thank everyone who has come to our programs this year, and invite everyone to join us by the campfire for one of the remaining presentations. You can find the schedule online, at the visitor center in Grand Marais, at Forest Service offices, or at any of the participating resorts.

If you are out driving in the Forest this week, there’s a number of roads which will see logging traffic. On the Tofte District, watch for trucks on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, The Grade, and the Sawbill Trail. On the Gunflint District hauling is taking place on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Forest Road 1385. There will also be trucks on the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and the Bally Creek Road.

Enjoy the meteor showers, or have a s’more at the campfire, or why not do both? Until next week, this has been Frances Meger with the National Forest Update.
 

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The wonderful new sign at Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center, as mentioned by Wildersmith last week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 11

Lest WTIP listener/readers think I might have slipped and hit my head while scribing the news last week, I did not.  As you might recall, I spaced off into oblivion while sharing about the “blueberry moon” and subsequently short circuited right into a discussion about the coming eclipse as a lunar experience.

Obviously, I must have had an “eclipse of the mind” to have not caught such a dimming blunder before it hit the air waves. 

Furthermore, any number of proof readings by we Smiths never caught the snafu, and it even got by staff scrutiny at the station.                                                              

The reporting glitch didn’t come to my attention until shortly after the second airing when I suddenly remembered the heavenly occurrence is of the solar nature. By then it was too late, and must have had folks scratching their heads in wonder as to how I could make such a foolish mistake. But I did, and regret wasting people's time putting out incorrect information while jeopardizing the integrity of future reporting.                                                                                                                         

So all the other info listed was correct, it will happen on August 21; the celestial phenomena will not be total for us at 48 degrees north; and the best view of “Sol’s” brief disappearing act in the Midwest will be a couple states to the south.    

News of this week finds the entry into August week two as north woods nice. Although shy of a good rain, there have been spotty incidents of shower downpours off and on over several days, but not amounting to much.                                                                                                                                                                         
Meanwhile, complaints about the temps being either too hot or too cool are not being heard. This goes for the lake water temps as well. Here on the Gunflint, the rippling liquid has been holding in the low to mid-70s, just right for fun in and on the “old gal.”                                                            

At the mid-point of official summer, autumn continues to nudge its way onto the scene. The fall advance is noted in places with sugar maple leaves fading to a lesser green tint; rose hips along the Mile O' Pine gaining some scarlet tone; and roadside grasses at the seed stage with flaxen shades of their final hurrahs.                                                                                                                    

With summer not yet giving way to the harvest season movement, another hatching of mosquitoes reminds us “it’s not over ‘til it’s over." This batch is of smaller character, but seems hungrier than their cousins of a few weeks ago.    
                                                                                                             
The Smiths meanwhile encountered a couple of “wild neighborhood” critters recently. It turned out to be a near-miss situation as they crossed our vehicular path without looking both ways. In fact the meeting was a double jeopardy incident as a food service 18-wheeler was coming at us from the opposite direction. The scene turned out to be a lucky day for a momma moose and her calf as well as both vehicle occupants when making moose-burger was avoided.    

Cruising the Trail a day later, I had a similar up close meeting with a young "Bruno.”  It too must have been more concerned about getting to a blueberry patch than watching for traffic along the road. Once more, a collision was averted, and the startled bear stopped long enough to look back at me in wonder. I suppose thinking, from where did that noisy, iron beast come.                                                                                                                                                                                           
Being absent for a good share of the summer, hummingbird flights have returned to our international feeding terminal. Arrivals and departures are nonstop. I’m supposing they have been on nesting duty, and with parenting out of the way, the hovering minis are free to begin bulking up for the soon to come southern trip. So the hum of birds is now in concert with that of mosquitoes buzzing about in search of a little protein.                                                                                                    

Speaking of concerts, the sound of music will be in the air on the Trail Sunday. Woods, Winds and Strings Concert (and a little jazz too) number five will be in the Fire Hall at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow in the Schaap Community Center next door. Ticket reservations are still available at broadcast time, but must be made ASAP by calling Patsy @ 313-673-6202.                                                                 

As of this newscast moment, results of the goings-on at the Mid Trail hoedown this past Wednesday are not available. A report of their events will be included in next weeks’ Gunflint news.  
  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, in a land of majestic backwoods history!
 
 

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West End News: August 10

If you spend time along the north shore of Lake Superior, chances are you’ve tried your hand at cairn making. Stacking the oblong lake rocks on top of each other in a tall, slender, stack is a time honored past-time on the beaches in our area. No does it better though, I’d venture to say, than Peter Juhl, professional stone balancer. He will be giving a presentation on his unique method of stacking of rocks at Sugarloaf Cove on August 12 during their annual ice cream social and membership meeting. Activities begin at 1pm with a short meeting followed by ice cream sundaes and a presentation by Peter. If you haven’t seen his work before, it is often recognizable by his unique ability to balance large rocks on tiny slender ones. His talk at Sugarloaf will begin with an on-screen presentation at the visitor center, then a short walk down to the Cove for some hands-on balancing practice.

A reminder that Birch Grove Community School is having their open house for the saplings program on Tuesday, August 15, from 4-7 p.m. Come find out about the great saplings program for kids ages 3-5. It runs Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through May. The program has flexible hours for busy families, a high quality staff, and focuses on kindergarten readiness. I tend to believe that an early childhood education like this program offered by Birch Grove is a key to a healthy start for any child. Come check out the school on August 15 and see what would be a good fit for your little one.

August 11 is the deadline to submit your comment to the US Forest Service regarding their proposed withdrawal of approximately 234,000 acres of National Forest lands from disposition under mineral leasing laws. Basically, the agency is looking at the whether these lands in the Rainy River watershed adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should be protected from future mining projects for the next 20 years. The purpose of the withdrawal is the protection of the natural resources and waters located on the national forest lands and the potential for adverse environmental impacts that arise from mining exploration and development. This withdrawal would only apply to federal, public, national forest system lands, of course. Private land owners in the area are free to do as they wish.

This is a major proposal, and there are only a couple of times during the review process that the public has any input. Now is one of those times. You can submit a comment by mail or email, just Google Superior National Forest Application for Withdrawal and you’ll find the links from the Forest Service. Public comments are all taken into consideration. If you have a well supported comment, it is much more effective than simply signing your name to a petition. This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a close, hard look at the potential impacts to our region. The deadline for comments is August 11, so don’t procrastinate any longer!

It should come as no surprise that I fully support the withdrawal. Public lands are here for all of us to enjoy. It might be our backyard, but it belongs to all Americans. All that protects these special places are some words on paper in Washington DC, and the hard work of people like us. It’s our turn now to take up the constant effort to educate others and preserve our greatest resource. I think we can all agree that we love our Wilderness area and the outdoor opportunities we are afforded here. Let’s keep the long view in sight and protect this way of life for our kids and grandkids.

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

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Ring nebula, courtesy of NASA

Northern Sky: August 5 - 18

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

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Superior National Forest Update: August 4

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts. 

Here's the weekly report from Kyle Stover.

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Joe Pye weed by Liz West, Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 4

It’s been delightful along the Gunflint if one is partial to 80 degrees and a beastly sun beating down. The stickiness of last weekend made for an unpleasant few days in “moosedom” and caused yours truly some crankiness.                                                                                                               

As luck would have it though, a brief blessing from the rain gods last Sunday afternoon tempered the heat in border country. Although more precip is always welcome, beginning this week's scoop, some natural air conditioning has calmed my mood.                                                                                                                           
Having departed July and moved into August, the universe is but days away from the Ojibwe, full “Blueberry Moon.” In the words of North Country phenologist Larry Weber, “August is awesome” as our natural world is seeing new things blooming, others maturing and many more fading into next season obscurity.                                                                                                                                            

If this isn’t enough mysteriousness, the “man in the moon” will eclipse parts of the planet into total darkness later this month (on the 21st). Word in this territory indicates the lunar path will not make it 100 percent at this latitude. Nevertheless the heavens will be somewhat dimmed of lunar illumination around here. I’m told Missouri is the place to be for the full affect in the Midwest.      

New floral blooming is taking the byway spotlight by storm. Fireweed, black eyed Susans, goldenrod, yarrow and an early patch of Joe Pye weed have caught my attention on several up the Trail treks in recent days.                                                                                                                                                                                                         
The shower mentioned earlier couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m certain these new flowering Trail starlets are drinking it up. The power of “Sol” has dried the area considerably since we last met. Thus low level wild fire risk, during the past several weeks (since Memorial Day) has hiked up into the moderate danger category. Everyone is urged to exercise common sense/caution when it comes to sparking that primeval survival force of a fire at the campsite or wherever.                                                                                                                                                                                  
In addition to all these nature made comings and goings, several manmade affairs dot the calendar. The “biggest blueberry contest” continues into week three.                                                   

WTIP listener/readers are reminded once more of the Mid-Trail fundraising event taking center stage Wednesday, the 9th at Fire Hall  No. 1, beginning at 12:00 noon.                                                        

Next is act two in the Mid-Trail date book with the Woods, Winds and Strings Concert, Sunday, the 13th. It too is held in Fire Hall No. 1/Schaap Community Center beginning at 4:00 p.m. Ticket reservations can be secured from Patsy @ 313-673-6202. 

Then two weeks from now, on Saturday, the 19th, a celebration of National Honey Bee Day will find special presentations at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center. Running from 11:00 a.m. til 3:00 p.m, activities include a pollinator-focused nature hike at 12:30; Bumblebee Identification; Building for native bees; Making seed paper; Wax crafts and Children’s bee and flower crafts.

Featured speaker, local beekeeper, Mark Ditmanson will talk on diversity and importance of the wild bee population along with beekeeping in the Boreal forest at 1:00 p.m. At approximately 2:00 p.m., a couple of Master Gardeners will discuss the need for pollinator plants and bee habitat in garden plots. Things look to be a buzzing that day at end of the Trail.                                                                                                                                                                                    
If area folk were not in attendance for the programming at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center last Sunday, you missed an energetic and informative session with Saturday morning WTIP commentator and outdoor specialist, Larry Weber.   

In this day of alleged “Fake News,” he gave attendees the real scoop on “Spiders of the North Woods.” It was so enlightening I am now counting spiders in the same category as beavers in terms of top level engineering design and craftsmanship excellence. Mr. Weber clued us in on architects of the original “world wide web," from identification of our crawling eight-legged neighbors, to separating the boys from the girls; and to their abilities in silky web construction. Not only are these beings awesome fine line fabricators, they are terrific recyclers! Should Larry ever pass this way again, it is well worth the effort to spend time with him!                                                                                

Along with the mention of beavers a few lines ago, I found a thought-provoking article worth reading in the August/September National Wildlife magazine. While a lot of folks out this way have little good to say about the gnawing critters, specifically in regard to their cutting this or blocking that on and along our water-ways, this scribing looks at the busy “aamikwag” (Ojibwe) differently and sees “Beavers as Ecopartners.” The commentary, by Anne Bolen, may not change North Woods opinions but nevertheless provides an alternate perspective. Hope all beaver fans, or otherwise, can get a chance to read it.                                                                                                                                                     
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with the “greatest show on earth” right outside our front door!
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 28

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the Superior National Forest with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of July 28.

There’s a lot of activity in the Forest this time of year, and this past Wednesday some of that activity was what is called a Bioblitz. A Bioblitz is a single day devoted to recording all the living things in a certain area, and has been described as a biology nerd-fest! Bioblitzes happen across the country on different days, and help us to understand the complex web of life which covers our planet. The Bioblitz in which our Forest Service biologists took part happens annually at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, right next door to the Forest. Participants in this year’s effort included many volunteers - even groups of school age kids from the Twin Cities! All these people searched for plants, birds, insects, mammals, and everything else they could find. By the time they were done, the Bioblitz had recorded over 450 different kinds of life, showing just how rich North Shore nature is.

One aspect of biology which seems to be particularly abundant right now are the insects. Black fly numbers are lower than they were earlier in the year, but it seems to be prime time for butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, and other insects. Many of these are insects which spent the early part of summer as immature nymphs and larvae, and are now flying adults. The adults are searching for mates, and will lay eggs which will either overwinter and hatch in the spring, or hatch now and produce young which will overwinter. For many of our insects, life as an adult is short and most will die with the coming of cold weather. Unfortunately, in their hunt for a mate, a lot of these adults choose to fly over roads which means this is a good time of year to check the washer fluid level in your vehicle - I removed a dozen dragonflies from the grill just from one trip down Hwy 61 in the evening.

Dragonflies aren’t the only thing to watch for while out driving. You should be on the lookout for logging trucks in the following areas. On the Tofte District, there will be logging traffic on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade. On Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Shoe Lake Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, Trestle Pine Road, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, and Cook County 6. Additionally, starting this week, there will be trucks on the Bally Creek Road south of Devil Track Lake and Cook County 7. 

Like the insects, you should take advantage of the summer weather to get outside. Explore the Forest, or do your own Bioblitz in your backyard with your family. You’d be amazed at how many living things you share your yard with. 

Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 
 

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A lovely young buck was spotted on Moose Pond Road this week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 28

Summer is humming along out Gunflint way. With month seven on its last legs and August pushing the issue, there’s a subtle hint of fall showing in Trail territory.                                          

Dogbane turning gold, lupine blooms fading to seed pods and rose hips popping out on wild rose bushes, validates summer is peaking. Further authentication, of the season at hand, finds berry picking season in full swing.                                                                                                

A trip along the upper Trail requires drivers to maintain keen observation as the blueberry picking folk might be caught pulling their vehicles from secret off road places, while others, in a frenzy to get out in the patches, barely get off the hard surface. In either case, traffic safety is jeopardized for a few weeks.                                                                                                                                                            

In regard to the excitement of blueberry season, week one of the Gunflint Trail “biggest blueberry contest” is ending, and week two commences this weekend. What a unique idea by whoever suggested such. I find the contest interesting in that it’s called the “biggest” when the big winner each week will be measured in grams.                                                                                            

Weigh-in stations are located at several places along the Trail from Bearskin Lodge to Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. I was present for a weigh-in at Chik-Wauk last Saturday when a young gal presented her largest purple pearl. It came in at a whopping .78 of a gram. After the official documentation, she promptly ate it.                                                                                                                                                                                            
There are some neat prize opportunities for the weekly winners. Sorry, but no store purchased specimens allowed. Learn more here. 

Final results of last week's canoe races have been tallied. This year's fundraiser for the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department generated a donation of just over $20,000. Another great effort, and thanks to all!                                                 

This in mind, with August but days away, the second event on behalf of the Trail Fire Department & Rescue Squad is coming on fast. The annual Mid-Trail Flea market, Gift Boutique and Live Auction happens on Wednesday, August 9th. Event activities begin at 12 p.m.  in Fire hall # 1, Mid-Trail.                                                                                                                                                     

The now famous Mid-Trail quilters have another work of art that will be given away to conclude the afternoon festivities. Tickets continue on sale for that drawing from folks living in Trail Center neighborhoods. The Live Auction is always a raucous happening with lots of frivolity, so mark your calendars and don’t miss it!                                                                                                                                  

The month eight Gunflint calendar features another event on the second weekend. The fifth annual Woods, Winds and Strings Concert with a little jazz too, hits the Trail on Sunday, August 13th, also in the Mid-Trail Fire Hall facilities.        

Beginning at 4:00 p.m., this event has continually been a sell-out with only 150 tickets available. Ticket reservations can be made by calling Patsy at 313-673-6202 or by email at pcoleman@chem.wayne.edu.

This performance is an outstanding chance to hear the talent of many local musical artists together in concert amidst great outdoor ambience.    

Before all of these August happenings, July begins its fade away at the Chik-Wauk Nature Center this coming Sunday the 30th. Nationally known phenologist, retired Duluth science instructor and Saturday morning  WTIP commentator, Larry Weber will be the featured program speaker.                                                                                                                                                                     

Living in an area where uncountable insects and crawling things command our attention, Mr. Weber will be acquainting attendees with one of those classifications. Having written many books on our out-of-doors, he will be telling us about the original fiber optics producers, “Spiders of the North Woods.” The program begins at 2:00 p.m.                                                                    

An added note on the Chik-Wauk facility comes to mind with the new signage along the Trail. It’s located at the turn off onto Moose Pond Drive (County Road # 81). If you haven’t been out and seen the new unit, I’m telling you it’s a work of art.

Kudos go to Bruce Kerfoot and Bill Douglas for the magnificent stone work foundation, and the Seatons (Dave and Nancy) for their design and production of the woodwork. A few ladder signs are yet to be completed, then the new display board will better head visitors in the right direction for stories about the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                     

A week of news from the Gunflint doesn’t seem complete without a story of a critter in our “Wild Neighborhood.” This time the wilderness celebrity is a white tailed deer.                                                      

Over the past several years, members of our venison herd are seldom seen in these parts due to an imbalance in the predator-prey environment. So the gal that spotted this one was quite surprised “when what to her wondering eyes should appear,” but a handsome young buck in the early day sun.                                                                                                                                              

Of amusing significance is the copper-tone beauty was observed not on a typical wild land trail, but on Moose Pond Road near--what else?-- the moose pond. What a whimsical situation! See a digital of “Mr. Bright Eyes” walking toward the photographer’s vehicle alongside this report.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great in the “Land of Sky Blue Waters.”       

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West End News: July 27

I am sad to report this week that the West End has lost one of its fixture members. Mike Nelson, of Tofte, passed away peacefully this week after a short battle with cancer. Mike raised four daughters in Tofte - Alana, Sarena, Gina and Christina. Among many wonderful qualities, they say they will especially remember his love for his friends and family and his great sense of humor through everything. There will be a celebration of life for Mike on August 5 at 11 a.m. at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte. I will miss seeing Mike parked on the Sawbill Trail at the Temperance River crossing, pausing to appreciate the day.
 
On Tuesday, August 15, Birch Grove is holding their Dress to Play open house. The whole communitiy is invited to join current, past and potential Birch Grove families at Birch Grove in Tofte. From 4-7 p.m. you’ll be able to meet school staff and school board members, ask them your questions, tour the school and connect with other Birch Grove families. There will be free hot dogs, S'Mores, a bouncy house and art projects for the kiddos. They will also have registration information available for the Community Service Program, the Saplings program for 3-5 year olds, and the K-5 program. Bring your family and friends and dress to play! Again that’s coming up on August 15 from 4-7.
 
On Sundays from now until August 27 you can catch Music on the Mountain at Mogul's Grill and Taproom in Lutsen. Each week from 5-8 p.m. different bands will play outside on the deck. It’s a great excuse to sneak away to Lutsen for an evening and enjoy some outside time during our all too brief summer.
 
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and Sustainable Ely are having a Boundary Waters Grill-Out on Thusday, August 3, from 4-7 p.m. in the Grand Marais Rec Park lakeside pavilion. I realize that’s not in the West End, but the Boundary Waters is, and if you’re curious what these organizations have been up to, please join us on Thursday to hear their update. The Campaign is providing all grill items and beverages, so feel free to bring a side dish to share if you like. There will be a bonfire, lawn games, and music as well as Campaign information, updates and merchandise.
 
Even if you aren’t familiar, or are even suspicious of groups like Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, I encourage you to join for an evening of fun and get to know each other. I recently attended the US Forest Service’s listening session in Virginia, Minnesota, regarding the agency's proposal to put a moratorium on mining leases on a portion of land adjacent to the BWCAW. Emotions ran high at the public listening session where people from both sides of the issue argued passionately about their view points. I had my one-year-old Kit along, so I spent a fair amount of time wandering the hallway just outside the meeting room. There were quite a few mining advocates also milling around this hallway, and Kit and a I had a wonderful time chatting with them about life on the Range, funny kid stories, and, of course, the weather. It was a much-needed reminder that even though we are on polar opposite ends of an emotional issue we are still neighbors first, and really, Northeastern Minnesotans have a lot more in common than we don’t.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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