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North Shore Weekend

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  • Saturday 7-10am
Genre: 
Variety
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

 

 


What's On:
Orion and Sirius (David Joly /Flikr)

Northern Sky: August 23

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

Jupiter and the winter stars, Mars and Saturn, Bootes (the Herdsman) and one more supermoon.


 
Fullish Moon at Perigee (Greg Wilson / Flikr)

Northern Sky: August 9

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

A perigee moon, or super moon, on Aug 10th; Venus & Jupiter on th 17th and 18th; and the continuing story of the summer triangle, star #3 - Altair.


 
Red Squirrel (Bob MacInnes / Flikr)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 25

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            Summer has stepped up, though not with a vengeance, while I begin this week’s Gunflint scoop. Guess it’s about time as we’re headed into the last stanza of July.
            With the increased heat and bright sunshine walleyes are being driven into deeper, darker places so there’s likely to be some angler angst. Thus it’s “smallie” time, they’re fun too. In addition to whining from yours truly, the moose will also be headed into darker places too.  A little of this sultriness goes a long ways toward making one appreciate minus 40-something!
            Our rainy times have dwindled over the past seven with just a little over 1/2 inch claimed in the Wildersmith gauge. In fact, the last serious rain was just over 10 days ago.  That is, until the heavens were cracked open with some July fireworks early Tuesday morning.  Until then back country roads were starting to choke in dust, and green as things may be, the wilderness duff was getting crunchy in a hurry.
            The drier conditions of late have been a blessing to the construction crew, which is in the final stages of resurfacing a section of the Trail out this way. For those of us traversing this paradise pathway on regular basis, early trips on the new ribbon of blacktop are almost too much to believe. Thanks go out to the County Highway Department for administering and rapidly expediting a great improvement!
            As August creeps toward our horizon, summer seems right on cue. The perennial lupine crop is fading fast and is being replaced by a more favored native, fireweed. Meanwhile the bird’s foot trefoil has surged to front and center in place of hawkweeds and daisies to be next in line among non-native floral luminaries.
             I noticed the other day wild rose blooms along the Mile O Pine have grown into hips, although the fruit are far from mature. And, it is hard to fathom, but a few moose maples are already blushing with a faint tint of something other than green.
            All these natural happenings are signaling the coming of berry season. A couple ripe raspberries were plucked a few days ago with many in the final stages. A friend shared she got her first cup of early blues (berries) from her favorite patch, with oodles more just days away.  I can almost smell the aroma  of fruits of the forest pies wafting from cabin kitchens through the pines.
            Berry time will also favor a gang of north woods growlers who will be equally grateful. Bet those bears can hardly wait to get off their sunflower seeds and garbage compost menus of the past few months.
            I hesitate to get too enthused, but it seems as though the biting surge of insects has backed off somewhat. It could happen, that hearing of my opinion, a news release via the “moccasin telegraph” will summon a second or third generation of mosquitoes to prove me wrong.
            A bear paid another visit to our deck while the Smiths were away. Apparently, Pappa or Momma bear was miffed at there being no goodies. It took a swipe at my grilling ashes collection can and knocked the lid off.
            The woolly one must have got into the dusty stuff with both forefeet, and I suspect, also got a good snoot full before it tramped across the rain-soaked deck, leaving big gray footprints. The trail of paw reproductions led to the edge of the deck where the animal either fell off or managed an acrobatic dismount. Being a rather inconsiderate woodsman, it definitely left a trace.
            There’s three red squirrels who have adopted me as their guardian for the past couple months, in spite of my not stocking the usual feeders. In order to minimize inviting bears, I scatter three small patches of seed on the ground away from the house.
             These miniature rodents are so enthused each day when I come outside, I’m often met at the door and they run into my wood shop where the supply can is located, prancing around like kids at Christmas. They are worse than little puppies, under foot to the point where I have to almost boot them out the door to avoid stepping on one.
            The handouts allocated are quickly consumed, leaving no trace to bring in the bears. If any seed morsels are missed, their chipmunk cousins are soon on the scene, cleaning up any scraps.
            It would seem the squirrely creatures might be big as bears since the threesome are about to finish off a second 50-pound bag of sunflower seeds since the warm season commenced. It probably won’t be long before stashing for winter will get under way, if it hasn’t already.
            Paddling is a way of life in these parts. Last week the Gunflint Trail Canoes Races took center stage and this week it’s the Dragon Boat Festival down on the harbor. Come and enjoy the weekend festivities beginning on Friday evening with race competition starting Saturday morning. It’ll be a fun time, and will benefit three worthy county nonprofits: the North Shore Health Care Foundation, North House Folk School and “THE” community radio station.
            Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some time on the Gunflint!
 


 

West End News: July 24

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As Cindy and I stood at our patio doors at 3:30 in the morning on Tuesday, I thought, “Here we go again.” 
 
The 100-foot-tall red and white pines in our backyard were bent halfway to the ground and the rain was whipped into a white, sideways froth filled with branches, leaves and needles flying by at 60 miles per hour.  Massive lightning bolts were creating a disorienting strobe effect, brilliantly lighting the landscape one second and plunging into cave-like blackness in the next.
 
As I was lost in a flashback to the catastrophic 1999 blow-down, Cindy’s voice brought me back to the present by announcing that someone was at the door. 
 
We opened the door to the bedraggled Bagnato family, Greg and Ellen, along with their young children, Mia and Taj.  Ellen was a Sawbill crew member 15 years ago and they were camping on the Sawbill Campground for the night before beginning a canoe trip.
 
As we hustled the bedraggled family into dry towels, they informed us that a tree had fallen on their tent, landing on Mia’s legs.  Although the tent is a total loss, x-rays at the emergency room in the morning revealed that Mia did not have any fractures, just large, colorful bruises to show for her frightening experience.
 
We ended up with nine large trees down in the campground, including some huge white and red pines.  Four of them fell within feet of people sleeping in tents. 
 
Mia’s bruises turned out to be the only injuries from the storm in the Sawbill area, and the blow-down didn’t materialize, but both were very close calls.
 
Weather disaster was already on my mind, as earlier in the day I had attended a workshop on climate change hosted by the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.  The University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University and Carleton College have teamed up to study how Minnesota’s North Shore can adapt to climate change.
 
The workshop was attended by representatives from government, non-profits, tourism business and academics.  The project will study how climate change will affect the North Shore and what strategies will help us deal with those changes as they come.
 
Ironically, one of the prime topics of conversation at workshop was increasing frequency of extreme weather, in the form of floods, droughts, wind storms, and wild variations in seasonal temperatures.  The examples are too numerous to ignore, including the ’99 blowdown, the Ham Lake and Pagami Creek fires, the Duluth flood, the record early ice-out in 2012 and the polar vortex last winter, just to name a few.
 
The climate change adaptation project will be active on the North Shore over the next year, interviewing stakeholders and collecting data of all kinds.  I applaud their efforts, but I also think we are far past the time for the world to come to grips with this important issue. 
 
I often hear the argument that our economy can’t afford to slow down climate change, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious, here on the West End, that we can’t afford not to deal with climate change.


 
Ollar Snevets' Headstone at Maple Hill Cemetary

Moments in Time: Ollor Snevets

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Noel Ollor Snevets was born on May 26, 1896 in Michigan.  He spent much of his adult life living in Cook County.  Ollor is somewhat legendary in these parts and there are countless stories to be told about his life here.  Doug Seim and Deb White bought land from Ollar back in the early 1980’s and got to know him towards the end of his life.  Here are just a few stories they shared with me during a recent visit.
 

Listen: 

 
Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling

Local Music Project: Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling

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This edition of the Local Music Project features long time Minnesota music makers Rich Mattson and Germaine Gemberling.  Rich and Germaine reside in Sparta, Minnesota where Rich runs his recording studio Sparta Sound.  The duo performs together throughout the region regularly including frequent visits to Cook County.  
 


 
Grand Marais Ole Opry

Local Music Project: The Grand Marais Ole Opry

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The North Shore Music Association presented the first ever Grand Marais Ole Opry on Saturday, February 15, 2014.  WTIP Classic Country host, Carl Solander, emceed the event which featured four acts performing before a nearly packed house.  Carl had a chance to visit with all of the performers backstage before the show.  In this edition of the Local Music Project we’ll hear those interviews as well as a few segments from Saturday’s performance.


 
Snowmobile race

West End News: February 13

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One of the fun things about surfing the internet is stumbling across a random news story that hits home for one reason or another.  This morning, I was delighted to find a television news feature story about Jerry Gervais, better known as the Snowmobile Doctor of Tofte.  It ran a couple of weeks ago as part of the “On The Road with Jason Davis” series that the Twin Cities TV station KSTP has been doing for what seems like a hundred years.
 
The story highlighted Jerry’s success as a pioneer snowmobile racer in the early 1960s.  Jerry was a big part of the racing scene when it was just getting started.  His daring and skill quickly brought him to joining the Polaris Company racing team.  I remember what big news this was back in the day, and how Jerry, who went by the nickname “Red” in those days, was quite the local celebrity. 
 
I was about nine years old at that time and I remember a Tofte resident telling me, with a mixture of horror and pride, that Jerry sometimes went 60 miles per hour on his Skidoo.  When I expressed my desire to do 60 on a Skidoo myself, I was told that Jerry had just broken his leg while riding at high speed at the Tofte airport.  I think the word maniac may have been used.  It didn’t diminish my desire to race snowmobiles, just like Jerry.  Fortunately, I never had the opportunity, which kept my skeleton mostly intact.
 
Jason Davis also covered Jerry’s current skill as a snowmobile mechanic and his passion for vintage snowmobiles. He pointed out that Jerry’s shop is located in the middle of nowhere.  As proof, he noted that it was located just off the Sawbill Trail.  He did admit that the shop is located immediately adjacent to a major snowmobile trail.
 
Davis also mentioned that if you go to Jerry’s shop, you should plan a little extra time to hear Jerry tell a few stories.  I don’t think I’ve ever spent less than an hour in Jerry’s shop, even when I’ve just stopped by on a minor errand. 
 
You can see the story for yourself by going the KSTP website, or google “On the Road: Snowmobile Doctor.”
 
If you have a big dog and want to have some fun, you should attend the first annual “Best In Snow” Ski-joring race, scheduled for the first Saturday March at the George Washington Pines ski trail, just a few miles north of Grand Marais on the Gunflint Trail.  Ski-joring is basically harnessing your dog to pull you on cross-country skis. 
 
This event is being sponsored by Go Dog North Shore, which is a new non-profit organization based in Grand Marais that aims to promote healthy and active human and dog relationships on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.  Plans include a 2-mile and 4-mile race, with a limit of one dog per skier and each race capped at 15 teams. If you don’t know how to ski-jor this would be a good way to see if it’s for you and your dog.
 
You can find details at godognorthshore.org, or contact WTIP for full contact information.
 
Last week, I mentioned my epic fall off the peak of my house.  I got a number of emails and comments about my inventing the new Olympic sport known as roof diving.  It got me to thinking about other West End winter sports that could be included in future winter Olympic Games.
 
One event could be Cold Weather Dog Walking.  This would be judged on the dog’s form and skill at walking while holding one or more freezing paws off the ground.  Points could be awarded for maintaining speed while walking with one, two, or at the pinnacle of skill, three paws in the air.  Extra points are awarded for successfully “taking care of business” with one or more paws off the ground.
 
Another sport could be competitive car starting.  Athletes would each be provided with a 1992 Toyota Camry with two hundred and thirty thousand miles on it and a four-year-old battery, cooled down to 32 degrees below zero.  Points would be awarded for the least time elapsed from leaving the house to pulling out of the driveway.  Style points would be added for combinations of starter fluid, gas pedal pumping and application of jumper cables. Needless to say, at the Olympic level, only batteries with the tiny little side-mounted terminals would be allowed.  Points would be deducted for failure to make a solid connection or having the jumper cables pop off just as you turn the key.  You are disqualified if you leave your choppers sitting on the air cleaner when you slam the hood.
 
The final new event could be that ultimate test of speed, agility and strength that we call roof shoveling.  Points would be awarded for speed and style, with extra points being added for the size of each block of snow pushed over the edge of a low pitch cabin roof.  The judges will want to see a few graceful roof diving moves, with points being added for the length and loudness of the scream and the gracefulness of the landing.  Veterans of this Olympic sport, like me, would delight the crowd with our perfect belly flop techniques.
 
This all gets me to thinking that the West End should submit a bid to host the 2022 winter games.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 


 
Northern Sky looks at what's happening in our night sky this month (John 'K'/Flickr)

Northern Sky: February 10-24

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

In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane talks about the winter constellation, Taurus, and its orange star. 

Read this month's Starwatch column.


 
Here’s what the divot made by a radio commentator falling 22 feet looks like.

West End News: February 6

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There is great news from the Section 7 High School Alpine ski meet that ran on Tuesday at Giant’s Ridge.  West Ender Will Lamb, who has deep roots in Schroeder, placed seventh overall in a field of 120 skiers.  This earns Will, a 15-year-old freshman, his second consecutive trip to the state meet at Giants Ridge on Feb. 12.  Last year, he went to state when the team placed highly enough to go as a group. 
 
This year, neither the boys’ nor girls’ team placed high enough to qualify for state.  However both teams are very young and did extremely well in a competitive field.  The girls were sixth out of 18 teams and the boys were fifth out of 20.
 
Seventh-grader Riley Wahlers, from Grand Marais, also qualified for state, finishing an incredible 11th overall out of 114 of the region’s best skiers.
 
Coach Charles Lamb reports that he has many young skiers who are improving fast, which bodes well for the future.  There can be no doubt that the Junior Ski Team program sponsored by Lutsen Mountains Ski Area is working well to develop top-notch high school skiers.  It’s wonderful to have such a world class facility here in the West End and even better that they offer such generous support to local kids.
 
Speaking of local kids, I urge everyone to attend the community conversation get-together at the Birch Grove Community Center Wednesday, Feb. 19. This is a fun brainstorming session to identify the opportunities and challenges for the future of the whole West End community. Anyone with an interest, or ideas about the community center and how it can enhance our quality of life, should attend.
 
The event kicks off with a community meal at 5:45 p.m., followed by a structured discussion.  The goal is to identify and prioritize the three- to five-year goals of the Birch Grove Community Center.  RSVPs are encouraged.  Call 663-7977 or email bgf@boreal.org.
 
As of Feb. 5, the Canadian Ice Service has declared that Lake Superior is officially frozen over.  This is a relatively rare phenomenon, happening only about once every 20 years on average.  The last official freeze over was in 1997, although 2003 came very close.
 
I well remember the ice-box year of 1982, when the big lake not only froze over, but developed a swath of smooth ice, safe for skating, from Two Harbors to Grand Marais. On the night of the February full moon that year, nearly every resident of the West End was out skating. It was a peak moment in West End history. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it will be smooth on such a large scale this year.
 
I am particularly happy to be able to report the West End News this week, because by all rights I should be either be in an intensive care ward or attending my own funeral. 
 
Last Wednesday, I fell off the peak of my roof, plunging 22 feet straight down on to rock-hard frozen ground. 
 
I was up there to clear a frozen sewer vent, which is something that a lot of West End residents have been doing lately.  To access my roof, I climb the latticed radio tower that is bolted to the high peak of my two-story home. At the peak, there is a steep eave about 18” wide that I have to step over to reach the much flatter main roof area.  When I committed my weight in that first step, the snow on the eve broke loose and avalanched down and off.  I wasn’t too worried because I still was holding the tower with both hands and my other foot.  Unfortunately, the physics of the avalanche took a large chunk of dense snow off the flat part of the roof with it, including my foot that was buried within it. The huge mass of the moving snow plucked my hands off the tower like you would pluck a mosquito off your arm.  Meanwhile, the foot that was still on the tower became momentarily wedged in the latticework and in the blink of an eye, I was spun around and launched into mid air 22 feet above the unforgiving earth.
 
I’m here to tell you that good old gravity accelerates a falling object frighteningly quickly.  It’s one thing to observe an object dropping from the heights – and quite another thing to be the object.
 
I’ve often wondered what would pass through my mind if I were facing sure death with only a few seconds to ponder my fate. Would my life flash before my eyes? Would I think of my children, spouse, family or beloved friends? Would I feel regret or fear? Well, now I know. I had one thought and one thought only as the ground rushed toward me. Calmly and without fear, I thought to myself, “This is really going to hurt.” – and it did.
 
As it turned out, I was incredibly lucky to land a perfect belly flop on absolutely flat ground that was covered by 25 inches of soft snow.  Thanks to the cold weather, I was wearing multiple layers of thick clothing. That combination saved my life. I had the wind thoroughly knocked out of me, but once I recovered from that, I had only a moderately sore shoulder and foot to show for my adventure.
 
The experience definitely did change my outlook on life. I was stupid, then lucky, and that’s a combo that you don’t get to repeat too many times in one life.  After the fall, you can be sure that I’ve thought often about my children, spouse, family and beloved friends. And I am so grateful to say…for WTIP, this Bill Hansen with the West End News.