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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:

Northern Sky: September 3-16

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

A waxing moon with lots of company; Venus and Jupiter; Spica; Saturn and Antares useful for finding Mars; the teaspoon near the teapot of Sagitarius; and the Harvest Moon near perigee on the 16th.

(photo of Mars by NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team via Wikimedia Commons)



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 2

As the northland celebrates the coming of September, yours truly heads off into year fifteen of my weekly commentary on life along the Gunflint Trail. I would never have thought my retirement years would find me at the keyboard every Sunday evening scribing happenings   about this enchanting territory.

It’s been an experience for the ages as I‘ve had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and learn of their journeys along this scenic byway. I often feel it a daunting task following the footsteps of the iconic pioneer gal, Justine Kerfoot, who carried on Gunflint news reporting for decades. Although I’ll never have the firsthand experience she had in this adventure filled area, it's been an indescribable privilege to be able to carry-on sharing our wilderness goings-on over the past fourteen years.

The month of the “wild rice/harvest moon” has stepped off in marvelous fashion with near perfect weather. Since our last radio meeting, this neighborhood had seen only sprinkles from what few clouds have passed us by until our call was answered in the wee hours of Monday morning when a mini thunder boomer dropped little over one-half inch. 

The deciduous portion of the upper Gunflint forest will soon be dwindling like that of our daylight minutes. I can’t help but reflect on the lush flora growth which has been nothing short of unbelievable this past summer. “Mother Nature” has done a number in terms of obscuring views too far into the forest. After months of looking at nothing but leaves, I can hardly wait to gain a look into the woods and maybe see who or what might be looking back. 

Unless one has been in the territory watching for a number of years, you just can’t imagine how vegetation can consume us in such a short period of time. A long time path between the Wildersmith place and our neighbors to the west has grown to be an invisible mire of greenery during the summer months.  I elected to pass on keeping it clear, and if I didn’t know it had been there, no one would ever understand it had existed, except maybe the deer of yesteryear.       

Speaking of white tails, the sights of blaze orange out this way will probably be few and far between once again, as this hunting season nears. Few, if any, reports are being heard in regard to deer sightings from middle to Trail's end. One fellow did report a momma and her twin fawns in his yard recently, while we wood shapers saw singles on only three different days during our recent trips to Grand Marais, but those are about it.  

This scenario of a venison deficiency makes one wonder what is going on with the wolf population. Guess they must be finding some edibles as the Gunflint /Loon Lake pack is still heard making their “call of the wild” on an occasional summer evening. 

Another comment heard recently, concerns there being seemingly less bear activity than usual. I have caught sight of a couple here and there, but thankfully, none around Wildersmith, to date. I suppose I shouldn’t be boasting too much yet as berry picking season is about done and they’ll likely be scrounging for anything and everything, anywhere, in prep for their long winter's nap. With the “Bruno” hunt now in its opening days, it will be of interest to see how the bear harvest goes this year.  

Meanwhile, harvesting for winter has really intensified with the squirrels.  White cedar seed clusters are being cut and husked, while pine cone collection can mean an early wake-up call as they plummet onto roof tops around daybreak.  

The sweet treat weekend is finally at hand. The GTHS pie and ice cream social will sweeten everyone’s pallet, Sunday (the 4th) on the grounds at Chik-Wauk. Serving will be from noon to 4 pm, rain or shine. A $5 donation per person is suggested, with proceeds going to continuing Chik-Wauk facility operations.   

The Museum gift shop will also be holding their annual sidewalk sale in conjunction with the pastry delights from our local bakers. Plan to join in with friends and neighbors, as we bid summer farewell during the Labor Day weekend.                                                                                                                               
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and some are even better! 

(photo by Managementboy via Wikimedia Commons)



A Year in the Wilderness: September 2 - Rice and swans

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)



Superior National Forest Update: September 2

Hi.  This is Steve Robertsen, Superior National Forest interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of September 3rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
With Labor Day this weekend, we can say that fall has begun, one of my top four seasons.  With the change of season comes cooler temperatures, clear starry nights, and the first touches of frost and even snow by the end of October.  One sign of fall is that our website will begin hosting its annual fall color reports starting next week.  No color yet, but if you can believe it, in about four short weeks, we will be at the peak of the fall color season.  If you can’t get out this fall, check out the website.  You can enjoy a virtual fall on the Superior through our photos and writing, as well as see links to fall in national forests across the country.
Another sign of the season’s changing can be seen in our wildlife.  Bucks are in velvet still, but some buck rubs are showing up as they begin to polish their antlers for the fall rut.  Animal activity in general is high this time of year as all the wildlife begins to prepare for winter.  It is also the opening of bear season this weekend, so be aware of bait stations and bear hunters in the woods.  Make sure to respect the hunters’ space by giving any barrels or piles of bait found in the woods a wide berth.  This time of year, it is a good idea to start wearing blaze orange and keeping your dog on a leash or close to you while hiking.
While you are out, you may find yourself in the middle of some road improvements.  A new round of grading is happening on roads throughout the Forest, so loose gravel, gravel piles, and graders may slow travel in some areas.  Be patient, and think of how nice it will be once the washboards and potholes are smoothed out.  More major work is happening on Forest Road 170, the Grade.  Culvert replacement will close portions of this road between the Sawbill Trail and Crescent Lake beginning sometime during the next two weeks.  Some closures could be quite long, so you may want to look for alternate routes.
Logging traffic can be expected in the same areas as last week.  On the Tofte District, watch for trucks hauling on Sawbill Landing Road, Lake County 7 and 705, Cook County 33, and the Grade.  On the Gunflint District, trucks will be on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road.  There will also be large gravel trucks on the Grade and other roads as part of the grading and culvert replacement.
With few bugs, cool weather, and fall fishing, this is one of the best times of year to get out into the Boundary Waters.  Permit season continues through September, so you will still need to get an overnight entry permit to enter the Boundary Waters.  Some prescribed burns are planned in the Boundary Waters for this fall, so contact a ranger station for details when planning your trip.  If you are interested in more details concerning these burns, there will be an open house on the subject at the Gunflint Ranger Station on September 15 from 4 to 6 pm.
If car camping is more your style, water and garbage service at our fee campgrounds continues past Labor Day to mid-October.   Camper numbers usually drop off after school starts, so this can be a great time for a spur of the moment overnight trip as there are often spaces available.
Whether camping, hiking, hunting, or just driving around looking for that first yellow leaf, have a great time out in the Forest this Labor Day weekend.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.


Former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght

West End News: September 1

I was surprised to hear that Tom Spence, from Schroeder, has resigned as the West End representative to the board of directors of North Shore Health, also known until recently, as North Shore Hospital and Care Center.
I encourage any West End resident that has an interest, to apply to fill out Tom’s term of service. We are blessed with excellent health care facilities here in Cook County, with North Shore Health covering inpatient services and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic providing a wide array of outpatient services. The governance of both of these organizations has a long history of excellence and is critically important to the well being of the whole county. Contact hospital adminstrator Kimber Wraalstad if you are interested in serving.
Over 100 former residents of the Taconite Harbor housing development gathered last week in a reunion organized by the Schroeder Area Historical Society. I wish the reunion hadn’t fallen on such a busy weekend, so I could have attended. Nevertheless, it was fun to hear all the familiar names from my youth. Sadly, two of my best friends from Tac Harbor, Floyd and Roger Maxfield, have already passed on. 
The decision to close and dismantle Taconite Harbor was made right after my dad, Frank Hansen, became the county commissioner for the West End. He fought hard to convince the company, LTV Mining, to reconsider removing the houses from Taconite Harbor. He even arranged a meeting with the President of LTV, but his efforts, and the best efforts of many other politicians and community members, came to nothing. He always felt the company had a hidden agenda when it came to closing down the housing site. Indeed, their stated goal of using the area to store bulk materials never came to pass. I guess we’ll never know now, but the good memories of the good people who lived there are still very much alive.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune ran a nice historical piece last week about former Cook County Sheriff, John Lyght. It was, of course, a complimentary piece about a remarkable man. As with most of John’s press over the years, the article emphasized John’s niche in history as the first African American sheriff in Minnesota. John, and indeed most county residents, never really paid much attention to that particular accomplishment. Instead, most of us who knew John well, remember him for his honesty, good humor and no nonsense air of authority. He was truly a peace officer, using his judgment and common sense to keep Cook County a peaceful community. Some of his methods were unconventional, but the proof of his success was in his popularity with the voters.
Everyone who had more than a passing acquaintance with John, has a story of some remarkable deed, usually involving John’s ability to quietly command respect in any situation. He was truly a West End original and will be remembered after most of us have been long forgotten.
Speaking of West End originals, a memorial service to celebrate the life of Rob McCampbell will be held at Pancore Lake on Saturday, September 17, at 11 am. Rob was a well known man-about-town in the West End. He had a keen wit and was a good friend to many, many people. To find his celebration, drive 12 miles up the Sawbill Trail, turn right on the Pancore Lake Road, go 3.5 miles and turn right on Erickson Trail. Knowing Rob as well as I did, I’m sure his memorial will include a lot of laughter along with the tears.
The interesting characters of the West End, both past and present, are a big part of what makes it such an interesting place to live.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: August 26

My, oh my, August along the Gunflint has almost slipped away, barely noticed. Seeing September 2016 on the horizon is hard to comprehend. But it is what it is, so bring on month nine.  

With the last big summer season weekend just seven days away, vacation activities are fading fast and another school year has our attention. If this isn’t stirring enough interest, I see tinges of orange on maple leaves, and the berries of mountain ash and high bush cranberries are exchanging tints of green for fall-like decorations. 

Amidst this autumnal advancement, except for one day of clouds and rain during the previous week, the upper Gunflint has been sparkling. In fact, when beginning this commentary last Sunday evening, our neighborhood had been so “cool” windows around the house remained closed all day for the first time in many weeks. That in mind, the moose and I are in “hog heaven” hoping for more of the air conditioning. 

After ten days of working nine to five on the timber frame project, I’m back in the retirement saddle. It was a splendid, but challenging experience with fourteen other Gunflint Community volunteers and three other great new acquaintances from outside the county.                                                                            
Some interesting statistics were recorded by one of our group showing the enormity of our undertaking. To mention a few: of the eighteen volunteers, the average age was just shy of sixty-eight years; in terms of time spent, the group contributed 1440 hours and adding in 160 instructor hours, the project consumed 1600 total hours; also a good number of us commuted on a daily basis, spinning the odometer for some 8000 miles.   To top all of this off, there were few “sugar plums dancing in our heads” as several night time moments found us awake in the wee hours hoping for the next day's complicated cut, to be finished as designed. One of many interesting comments made during our shaping episodes included “my head is about ready to explode” when transferring blue print dimensions to actual cut lines on a raw piece of wood.  

Getting to the crux of this project, our sawdust/wood chiseling team crafted a total of 103 white pine timbers ranging in length from sixteen to twenty-eight feet. Being either eight by eight or eight by ten inches, they were monsters to move about.

Our vocabulary focused on the joinery jargon of shaping corner posts, king posts, tie beams, bents, knee braces, rafters, purlins and a ridge beam, all components of the 24 by 36 foot structure. Uncountable saw cuts, mortises, tenons and chamfers produced bushels of shavings and sawdust.  

In the end, we made it! No fatalities, one serious chisel drop accounting for ten stitches, and only four band-aids, all sandwiched in with comforting smiles, supportive tips and encouragement from teammates, and two splendid North House Folk School instructors. A job well done will be determined when all the puzzle pieces are joined together next summer.  

Another Trail topic over the past week fostered a bit of humorous entertainment for some passers-by, while understandably, raising the dander of others.   

 It all began as a situation where an apparent remodeling effort found someone with a used commode on their hands. Perhaps, either trying to elicit a laugh, or just being ill-informed as to the legality of dumping such a unit, it was set up along the Trail.  

The porcelain throne sat roadside for a few days before signage was added entitled “Rest Area.” As we wood chippers drove by on a daily basis, we found that the lid would be up one day and down the next. So others were obviously getting involved in whatever comedic relief was intended. A roll of TP being posted alongside must have been the tipping point.

With an implied image of this being a new Gunflint Trail rest area things were headed in a downward flush. One can only imagine what could have been next, and complaints were on the rise, so I found out via our district County Commissioner. This apparently led the county highway department to terminate the trickery. The obvious, non-compliant facility has since been removed, and things are back to normal with scenic Trail flora being the point of attention once again.   

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great and some are even better!



Superior National Forest Update: August 26

Hi.  This is Nancy Larson, district ranger on the Gunflint Ranger District, with the Superior National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Forest. For the week of August 26th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Summer is winding down.  The flowers on the fireweed are slowly creeping their way up the stalk, and the countdown has begun.  When the blooms reach the top of the plant, summer is officially over.  The State Fair started this weekend, and so the local traffic here in the north country should be lighter than it has been.  This makes right now a great time to get out into the woods - after the summer rush, but before the start of the autumn leaf season.  Before you go out, you may think about starting to dig into the winter clothes.  Even though there are plenty of hot days left, there have been a few evenings cool enough to have to find where the polar fleece jacket got hung up last spring.
One sign of the end of summer is that we at the Forest Service have to start saying good-bye to our seasonal workers.  We’ve had a lot of help this year from crews in the Faces of Tomorrow and Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa programs, so thanks to them.  This is the last week of our summer naturalist programs as well, and our seasonal naturalist staff will be moving on, though one naturalist won’t be moving far as he has taking a teaching position in Silver Bay.  All of our sesaonals have worked hard this year, clearing debris from snow down and blow down events, helping with wildlife surveys, marking timber sales, patrolling the wilderness, and staffing our fire crew.  Thanks to all of our seasonal help, and good luck to them in their next adventures.
As you are out and about, you may run into trucks hauling gravel from Richey Lake Road to the Toohey Lake Campground this week and next.  They are coming from the Sawbill Trail area so are travelling most of the Grade west of Sawbill.
In the same area, log trucks can be expected on The Grade and Lake County 7 and 705.  You’ll also see them on Cook County 33 and the Sawbill Landing Road.
On the Gunflint side of things, 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.
Enjoy these last weeks of summer and, this has been Nancy Larson with the National Forest Update.


Historic Ranger Dwelling, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the U. S. Forest Service Tofte District compound

West End News: August 25

The U.S. Forest Service is holding a public open house at the historic Ranger’s Dwelling on the Tofte Ranger District compound on Sunday, August 28, from 11 am until 1 pm.

The Ranger’s Dwelling was a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was part of the "New Deal" during the recovery from the Great Depression of the early 1930s. Recently, the beautiful log cabin has been undergoing extensive rehabilitation lead by the Superior National Forest and largely staffed by volunteers.

The open house also will serve as a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act, which has been responsible for saving and preserving so many historically significant buildings across our region. In addition to a guided tour of the cabin, there will be historical displays and historic photos of the West End.

The Civilian Conservation Corps was particularly active in Cook County during its existence from 1933 until 1942. It provided conservation jobs for unemployed men between the ages of 17 and 28. The goal was to provide immediate jobs, teach work skills, improve health and improve employability. The secondary goal was to complete long-term conservation projects and increase appreciation for the great outdoors and natural resources.

With the benefit of now considerable hindsight, it is clear that the CCC was one of most successful government relief programs ever. It provided work and dignity to 3 million young men who would have suffered without the program.

Up until about 20 years ago, we used to get a lot of former CCC members stopping in at Sawbill to reminisce about their days at the Sawbill CCC camp. Their praise for the program and the positive impact it had on their lives was universal. In fact, many respected Cook County families are the descendents of CCC workers who stayed on and made their lives in the area.

The CCC also ran separate programs for veterans and Native Americans, helping them to weather the Great Depression. Seventy percent of all the new enrollees in the CCC entered service either malnourished, poorly clothed, or both.

The scope of work done by the CCC is staggering. Enrollees planted 3 billion trees, some of which we now enjoy as mature forests right here in the West End. They constructed trails, portages, lodges and related facilities in more than 800 parks across the country. They built roads, did erosion control and upgraded most of America’s state parks. Many CCC projects, like the Tofte District Ranger Dwelling, are still in active use and benefiting America after all these years.

Many people, including me, are calling for a revival of the CCC, especially in times of economic downturn. It is truly a win, win, win concept in terms of human dignity, return on investment and national service. If Congress ever decides to start doing their jobs again, this would be a great place for them to start.

I should mention the existing Conservation Corps of Minnesota, which is a similar, if much more modest, program targeted at youth. This is a great program and another example of something that government can do exceptionally well.

This is the time of year when the tourism workers around the West End really kick it into high gear. Not only has this been a busy summer, but the seasonal workers who attend college are all leaving, so the remaining folks have to take up the slack. This means a lot of short-handedness at local resorts, retail and restaurants, so be patient and kind with the harried and overworked staffs. November will eventually arrive and we will all be able to draw a collective breath.

For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.


Schoodic Point

Gus' Wild Side: An encounter at Schoodic Point

Acadia National Park is located along the coast of Maine. Gus worked at Acadia as a Park Ranger, and remembers a special story told by a visitor to this beautiful spot.

Gus’ Wild Side is a regular feature on WTIP. Gus writes about our connections to Nature as he explores wildness from the High Arctic to his own backyard along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

(Photo courtesy of Kim Carpenter on Flickr)



A Year in the Wilderness: August 22 - Four boys and fall

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)