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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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 1

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods. It’s sure a joy to be home in the peace and quiet along the Mile O Pine. Although time spent with our daughter is always precious, being away from what’s supposed to be organized civilization for seventeen years finds us almost completely out of touch with all the urban hub-bub. Too many people and too many vehicles!  

Ten days visiting in southeast Iowa, found spring in full swing. Daffodils were blooming, grass was nearing the mowing stage and Rhubarb had perked up from its winter abode. Meanwhile, back on the northern front, I was pleasantly surprised and pleased to return to our winter character. In spite of a slushy/muddy combination while slogging down our pathway to “paradise found”, the scene of still copious white on either side of the road was encouraging after finding many stretches along the north shore drive looking crunchy dry.              

To substantiate it being quite dry down that way, during my trip back to border country this past Monday, I was shocked to see a burned patch about an acre in size right along highway 61. It’s unknown whether this was an accident or prescribed burn. Whatever the case, the scenario rekindles one’s attention to dangerous wildfire potential up this way in the days and weeks ahead. This serious situation suggests a reminder for Trail residents to be making plans for having those wildfire sprinkler systems operational as soon as open water is available.                                                                                                                                  
Just when the area appeared headed toward a serious early season brown-up, the wimpy winter mustered a fourteen inch surge on March sixteen and few more inches since has brought our seasonal total to over eighty inches in this neighborhood. The storm provided a generous addition to the snow pack of which the final meltdown will help replenish several depleted area lakes.                                                        

Regarding lake ice, the unseasonal warm rush, during the first two weeks of month three, had things cooking toward a potential new record ice-out. However, the tail end of this third segment has things back on a more normal course and lakes I passed along the Trail remain pretty well locked in crystal right up to the shorelines.                                                                                                     

Outside our back door, the ice on Gunflint Lake had several massive soggy patches of gray prior to the southerly departure, but our return finds her tightened back up for the time being. Thus, the early ice-out record of March 25 set in 2012 remains intact. Nevertheless, it’s almost certain ice will be making its disappearing act soon, rather than the usual end of April to early May.                                                                                                                  

Both ice-on and ice-out leads to much seasonal bantering and even a pool or two as to when such will occur each year. One instance of ice-out lore reflects on pioneer Gunflint mail runner, Don Brazell predicting ice-out on the Gunflint Gal following a succession of lake ice departures going up the Trail.                                                                                                                           

To recap Don’s historic account, beginning with the opening up of ice on the Brule River at the north Brule Bridge, it is said, seven days later, the Tuscarora Pond will open and seven days after Tuscarora, the Gunflint Lake will shed her winter coat. The progression then extends to Saganaga (Sag) as Gull and Seagull Lakes become players in the process with their solidarity sinking from the southwesterly direction. Lifelong resident, Bruce Kerfoot, attests to this commentary being pretty much true to form during his seventy plus years in the territory.                                                                                                                  

I would guess the key issue might be defining with some degree of accuracy whether the river opening is just a trickle or completely free of hard water shore to shore. So we’ll all be watching for one more of those celebrated, natural Gunflint adventures!                                                                                                                                                                      

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! Savoring outdoor transitions!

(photo by mattbuck via Wikimedia Commons)
 

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Huckleberry inspects hole where 19” of ice was measured on Sawbill Lake this week

West End News: March 31

I was thrilled to hear that Mary Somnis is very likely the new Director of the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority.  Mary considers herself a West Ender, even though she has lived on the Range for the last 20 years. 
 
Back in the day, Mary lived in Tofte and was hired by the newly organized Lutsen-Tofte Tourism Association as a secretary.  The LTTA was formed to administer the newly passed bed tax, charged to tourists who rented rooms in the townships of Lutsen, Tofte and Schroeder, used to promote and market the area. 
 
Mary was hired with the idea that she would answer the phones, open the mail, take minutes at the board meetings and that type of thing.  Very quickly Mary’s competence and work ethic had her taking on greater and greater responsibility. A misunderstanding of the law created some confusion that made it look like Mary could not be paid in keeping with her actual skills, but after that was straightened out, Mary was named the full time Executive Director of the LTTA.  Under her leadership, the Lutsen, Tofte, Schroeder area had the fastest tourism growth in the state for several years in a row. In fact, Mary did such a great job, that she was hired away from us by the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to run their regional tourism program, which she has done with distinction for almost 20 years.
 
All through those years, Mary kept ownership of her home in Tofte, visited frequently and took a keen interest in local goings on.  She always maintained that her heart was in Cook County and that someday she would like to move back here.  Well, that day has come and we will all be the better for it. Welcome home, Mary.
 
Everyone who loves speed and excitement will be glad to know that the Midwest Extreme Snowmobile Challenge will be returning to Lutsen Mountains April 15th through 17th.  This is a huge event that will attract more than 500 riders, including some of the best racers in North America.  The Lutsen event is perhaps best known for the hill climbing competition, which provides a thrilling experience for spectators.  The purse this year should be around 40 thousand dollars, so you can be sure the riders will be taking this seriously. 
 
A few people have questioned if Lutsen Mountains will have enough snow for the event and the answer is an emphatic yes. The Mountain management plans carefully for this event and with their ever-expanding snow making capability, they have plenty of snow for a great event.  You can go to Lutsen.com for details.  As I always say, “be there or be square.”
 
Speaking of snow, there is still at least a foot of snow still covering the ground once you get a few miles back from Lake Superior.  Even though it’s melting fast, it is not unusual at all to see significant snowfalls in April and even occasionally in May. In spite of a very warm winter overall, the snowfall back in the woods was pretty hefty.  As of this writing, I’ve recorded 85 inches of snow this winter here at Sawbill.
 
The warm weather, combined with early snow did do strange things to the lake ice this year.  The ice never got more than two feet thick, which is at least a foot less than normal and half of what we’ve seen in cold years.  The average ice thickness right now on Sawbill Lake is 19”, but some of the narrows are already opening up, making lake travel treacherous already.  I can’t recommend going out on the lakes anymore this season, but if you do, go with a friend, take your rescue picks, a throw rope and enough dry clothes in a waterproof bag for a complete change from the skin out.  As my dad always used to say, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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Gordon Thorne

Gordon Thorne talks about the Fingerstyle Masters Weekend on April 8-9

WTIP volunteer Yvonne Mills spoke with organizer and guitarist Gordon Thorne about the 6th Annual Fingerstyle Masters Weekend on North Shore Morning. The event is April 8 and 9 at Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte. 

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Great Expectations Charter School

School News from Great Expectations: March 25

Hailey and Stirling report the latest School News.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: March 24

Pierce, Kalina and Sophia report the latest School News.

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A Year in the Wilderness: March 25 - Snow, Sun and Trails

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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Superior National Forest Update: March 25

Hi.  I’m Mary Ann Atwood, administrative support assistant on the Gunflint Ranger District, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Gunflint and Tofte Districts of the Superior National Forest.
For late March and early April, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.
Spring brings a variety of changes from natural to regulatory. 
In the natural world, birds are migrating.
According to the American Bird Conservancy, the Superior National Forest is one of 100 globally important bird areas, an ideal location for bird-watching!
While in the Duluth area you may hear the Konka-ree spring song of the red wing blackbird as well as a symphony of other spring migrating species.  Along the north shore…the warblers will soon be on their way…
Birds, including eagles, that winter in the northland, are busy laying eggs or caring for their hatchlings.  The Highway 61 eagle’s nest just south of Grand Marais was lost in a recent wind storm, however the eagles are busy rebuilding in the same area.
The DNR reports active bears near Hibbing raiding bird feeders.  Might be a good time to quit feeding, or take your feeders inside at night unless you want to provide breakfast for a newly-awakened hungry bear.
Human activity also changes in the spring
While driving forest roads, be mindful of soft spots, eroded shoulders, and possible flooding from plugged culverts.  Please report any major problems on forest service roads to district offices.
Weight restrictions on gravel roads are in effect in both Lake and Cook Counties.  While some logging operations continue in the forest, logging trucks will NOT be on the roads. 
Spring brings changes: Fire & Ice
Ice houses on non-Canadian border waters should have been removed by March 21st.  Ice houses on Canadian border lakes need to be removed by March 31st.   
In southern Minnesota early ice out dates have been reported. That may or may not be the case for our northern lakes.  If the ice on your favorite lake was safe in March 2015, it may not be safe in March 2016.
2016 fishing licenses went into effect at the beginning of March. Check the DNR’s 2016 fishing regulations before heading out.  You can get a copy of the fishing regs at Forest District offices or on-line at mndnr.gov.
If attempting a last bit of winter fun - skiing or snowmobiling - you may encounter trees and branches have fallen across trails.  Deadfalls may not be cleared for several weeks.
Spring weather means the Forest Service will no longer be grooming the George Washington Pines cross country ski trail system.
Snow depths in the forest range from non-existent to DEEP.  Timber crews, working 20 miles inland, report snow depths of two feet and continue to wear snowshoes as they accomplish their tasks.   
The DNR started burning restrictions in the central part of the state on March 21st.  As of this recording, burning is still permitted in Lake and Cook Counties.  Check with the DNR or a Forest Service office for current restrictions before you burn.
In the immortal words of Yogi Bera, when describing changes in spring weather, “It was a dry rain.”
Until next time, this has been Mary Ann Atwood with the National Forest Update.
 

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West End News: March 24

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen will be presenting information regarding scams that are being perpetrated on local citizens, especially senior citizens, in a talk at the Cook County Senior Center in Grand Marais on Wednesday, April 13th starting at 12:30 pm.  He’ll share information on what the most popular scams are, how to recognize them and how to avoid being taken in.  There will be time for questions after the presentation.
 
I just finished reading a fascinating book called, “The Confidence Game” by Maria Konnikova.  Ms Konnikova delves deeply into the psychology of scams, why they’re so common and why they are so successful.
 
Although the term “confidence game” only dates back to the mid-1800s, the technique of swindling people by gaining their confidence goes back to earliest recorded human history and most likely quite a bit farther back than that.
 
“Confidence game” was coined by a scammer in New York City who would approach strangers on the street, strike up a friendly conversation and then ask them if they had the “confidence” to loan him their watch until the next day.  By appearing reasonable, friendly and trustworthy, he had a nearly perfect record of talking people into loaning him their watches, which they never saw again.
 
The stages of a successful swindle are pretty standard.  It starts with careful observation and gathering information about the victim or mark.  The victim is approached in an innocent and friendly way, to establish a small kernel of trust.  Then the victim is invited to participate in an activity that will benefit them in a small, but certain way.  The scheme quickly and easily earns the mark a little money, further cementing the trust between the new friends.  This step is often repeated, with the payouts getting slightly bigger each time.  The next step is a manufactured crisis, seeming to put both the scammer and mark in serious danger of losing everything. The biggest step comes when the scammer miraculously finds a way out of trouble for everyone.  All the mark has to do is temporarily put up a large sum of money, which the scammer often will match, promising a way out of the dilemma, with a huge payout as a bonus.  Of course, the money and the scammer disappear forever, leaving the mark much poorer and very embarrassed.  Many scammers add an additional step, called “the fix” where they manipulate the mark into the decision not to report the crime. By some estimates, more than half of criminal scams are never reported.
 
It turns out that confidence swindlers are actually taking advantage of some nearly universal quirks of the human brain.  Although effective scamming was no doubt developed by trial and error, it has long become so sophisticated that it is nearly impossible to resist. 
 
Think about magic shows that you have seen.  Magicians, or illusionists as they are sometimes called, can make you believe that they are doing impossible things before your very eyes. They are exploiting the same brain quirks and bits of human behavior that the scammers do.  The difference is that illusionists do it for entertainment and acknowledge that they are fooling you.  Scammers take your money and ruin your life.
 
I am personally amazed that someone can be so cold as to make their living by taking advantage of others, especially the most vulnerable members of our society.  As it turns out, one of the major traits that define a psychopath is a complete lack of empathy for others.  While not all psychopaths are scammers, all scammers are, at least to some degree, psychopaths.
 
Of course, Konnikova’s book goes into much more detail, especially in looking at how modern brain science is revealing how the hard wired parts of our nature allow the con artists to take advantage of us.
 
All of this leads me back to Sheriff Eliasen’s important upcoming presentation.  The only effective way to avoid being scammed is to educate yourself about common scams and the methods behind them.  Armed with that knowledge, you are not only less likely to fall for a scam, but the con artists will recognize your knowledge in the early stages of their game, which makes you a risky mark for them. They will likely move on to another, more naïve victim, before you even know that you’ve been targeted.
 
I hope Sheriff Eliasen will repeat his talk in the West End soon.  If you want more information about the April 13th session, call the Sheriff’s Department or WTIP.
 
On a more pleasant subject, the word is out that conditions are quite good on local snowmobile and ski trails.  Inland lakes are also in good condition for recreation travel right now and will probably stay that way for a couple of weeks.  Downhill skiers are reporting nearly perfect conditions at Lutsen Mountains.  With the longer, warmer days ahead, it is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the fabulous West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Snowbank Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: March 21 - Rain on the Tent

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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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: March 22

Sophia and Jack report the latest School News.

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