Listen Now
Pledge Now


 
 

North Shore Weekend

800px-Lake_Superior_North_Shore.jpg

  • 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:
Gunflint Lake

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 27

The eleventh chapter of Gunflint's 2015 story is fading fast. Final thoughts reflect an unusual month with little or nothing to show in terms of winter character. Unless conditions change in the next few days, border country might usher in December with a brown landscape for the first time in many years.

After a healthy dose of preliminary rain, a snippet of winter oozed in last weekend with some puny snow. There was barely an inch counted out this way. With any kind of sunshine, this thin coating will evaporate like relatives when it's dish-washing time after Thanksgiving dinner.

The “Mom in charge of things” set the thermostat back to a more normal setting following this feeble snow attempt. In fact, the neighborhood around Wildersmith experienced our first single digit mercury readings for a couple mornings. Throughout these northerly reaches, the frigid setting found us getting into ice making on smaller lakes and swampy wetlands.

Minnestota’s rifle season for whitetails found the hunters I know around Gunflint Lake blanked over the past two weeks. It’s a sad consolation, but at least they had tolerable weather conditions during the fruitless pursuit, and their ammunition will not go bad, so there willl always be next year. Perhaps “old man winter” will thicken ice soon in hopes “hard water” angling might treat outdoor sports-people better.

A trip out and about last Sunday turned heartening for yours truly. With all the leaves down, sightseeing through the forest provides a remarkable view of the fire-ravaged upper Trail territory. What’s so amazing is the new growth of coniferous beings that had been obscured by leaf foliage. As far as one can see, countless acres of youthful evergreens are popping skyward to begin displacing the skeletal wildfire remains.

Most of the visible new growth along the Trail comes in the form of naturally propagated jack pine while in select places off-road, many sections of spruce, white and red pine have taken off as well. The off-road growth was fostered through efforts of hundreds of Gunflint Green-up volunteers planting in partnership with the USFS efforts, this happening over several years since the Ham Lake tragedy in ’07.

If humans did not live in the area, this horrific blaze would have been a welcome means of wilderness revival. However, tragic as it was for hundreds of our Gunflint neighbors, we are thankful to have survived, and are now able to proudly observe a healthy new spirit of forest growth.

This phenomenon of rebirth sure has taken off quickly. Remarkable indeed is the resiliency of the natural world to start itself anew, without us and in spite of us. In a few more years, this National Scenic Byway will again be a tunnel through the pines.

Congratulations to “Mother Nature” on a continuing job well done! And many thanks to others who care so deeply for this extraordinary place on the planet.

Here’s hoping everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving holiday. As we head off into the season of “material grabbing madness,” may “common sense” show some resurgence so “Black Friday” does not become a nightmare of singing the “blues.” Remember it’s the coming of December, a time to be ritualized in mystery, grace and divine significance of the holiday season.

Speaking of the holiday season, if Gunflint Trail listeners haven’t heard, the second annual holiday open house, put on by our Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department, is scheduled for Saturday, December 5. All Gunflint residents are invited.

The doings extend during the hours of 3-6 pm at the Schaap Community Center (mid-Trail fire hall # 1). In the spirit of this giving season and doing good for others, your donations to the local food shelf would be welcomed at the event. Mark your calendars for this time of food, fun and refreshments.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! With snow shovel in hand, I'm waiting, waiting and waiting.

(Photo by Chauncer on Flickr)

 

 

Listen: 

 

A Year in the Wilderness: November 19 - Wolves and Ciscoes

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 travelling the BWCAW. Here’s their latest installment as they try fishing for ciscoes and observe a curious wolf.

(Photo courtesy of Dave and Amy's Facebook page)

Listen: 

 
Fred's grouse

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 20

Finally, our upper Gunflint territory got some snow that counted. Although it is likely gone in all but shaded places as this scribing airs, those of us with affection for the fluff were excited, if at least briefly.

The first substantial dose of the stuff accumulated anywhere from two to about six inches depending upon one's locale. At Wildersmith we received two inches whereas up the Mile O Pine a little ways, six inches required dropping the snow blade down. Funny how such weather variables can happen in only short distances apart.

Regardless of one's opinion about this seasonal character, it’s not debatable as to the elegance of this first sticky flake application. Every appendage throughout border country wilderness was laced in purity. So as Thanksgiving rolls around, us woodsy folks are thankful for this majestic natural blessing, and hopeful the remaining November skies will be spreading more white cheer real soon.

The waxing “freezing over moon” is nearing the month eleven pinnacle while we head to America’s festival of plenty. His “lunar highness” is a good bet to be glistening off open lake water. In spite of our heavenly liquid bodies being biting cold, rolling waves continue to hold off any coagulation.

Most animals of the neighborhood are fully changed into their winter garb. In a sampling, I spotted a snowshoe hare and an ermine, both of which were fully in tune with the newly frosted landscape.

Then on another note, the morning after our snowy spectacle, I was able to track several overnight visitors along the road on my way for the daily mail delivery. A meandering fox led me over the entire two mile trek to the mail box, while off and on prints of a marten, snowshoe hare, wolf and a solitary deer dented the bleached ground cover. There were no bear trailings so perhaps this brief swat of winter put them to bed.

Speaking of deer, neighbors along the Gunflint south shore spent the first week of their stalking time in quiet solitude. I’ve heard of only one buck being taken in this part of the upper Trail during week one of the firearms season. Although there may be a few whitetails here and there, it would appear the severe winter of 2013-14 and the wolves have pretty much wiped venison opportunities off the menu.

It may take several years for the herd to recover for hunter satisfaction. In the meantime, I ‘m certain the hunters I know are still contemplating the joy of their time outdoors in this splendid forest. Their hunting time is much like angling, “fishing is always great, but sometimes the catching just isn’t!” I hope their fortunes turned around during this second and final week of this season.

A new avian pet has adopted our yard as an apparent safe haven. In spite of making light of the “clucky” birds, it’s energizing to see this grouse guy hanging out around the place. His presence seems not affected by my moving about the yard so I would guess we are pretty much stuck with him. The gamely bird even did a photo-op for me last week. It was caught perched high up in a pin cherry tree pecking away at whatever critter bugs hole up on those branches.

We at Wildersmith hope you have a safe and glorious gathering while being thankful for the grand bounty we in America celebrate. Remembering there are billions of people on other parts of the planet not so blessed, wouldn’t it be nice to do some good things for each other during this time of violence, pain and suffering!

Gunflinters give thanks every day for this idyllic, peaceful place. We may be unorganized territory, but our state of civility far surpasses the sickening barbarism engulfing many world places at this moment. Citizens of the world, come to your senses!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! Happy Turkey Day!

Listen: 

 

Northern Sky: November 14

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

As we approach the end of November there will be lots of activity in both the morning and evening skies, including the Leonid meteor shower.

(Photo by Helen Cook on Flickr)

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: November 13

Atmospheric conditions along the Gunflint Byway have remained on the passive side of the ledger. As the area reaches the mid-point of our 11th month, unless things change abruptly, those not in tune with winter will be happy as clams noting the long cold season is being shortened by one segment.

This neighborhood has been yo-yoing since we last met, with abnormal warmth, then a couple days near normal and then back to September character. A skiff of white was recorded, but vanished quickly in the midst of one more “El Nino” swoosh.

It would appear the actual lake freezing over, as acclaimed by the Ojibwe “freezing over moon” of November, will probably be put off until next month. The usual skimming over of our smaller lakes, ponds and swamps by this time of year just isn’t happening.

Although the larger Gunflint Lake is traditionally one of the last territorial bodies to become solid, this “old Gal” is still offering a summer-time lure. Last Sunday, the purr of an outboard motor was heard near sundown from a late season angler heading home. Yes, fresh water angling in the midst of firearms deer hunting season. Wonders of the north land never cease to amaze!

In further testament to our extending tepid spell, another week has passed and more bear wanderings are being reported - no denning up just yet. Perhaps they are holding out for Thanksgiving leftovers.

A couple down the road had the thrill of recording a night time photo-op with a Canadian Lynx. This is the first “kitty” report heard from out this way in quite a while. They sent me a digital of the cat which was unfortunately not crisp enough to share, but you can take my word, this feline of the north was a handsome critter. Snowshoe hares and grouse should beware!

Speaking of grouse, their numbers must be in an upswing cycle. It must have been a fertile year for chick production. In my travels through this neck of the woods I see uncountable numbers of the seemingly dimwitted “chicken birds.”

Continuing avian excitement engulfs the Smiths anytime we step out the door. For some reason, known only to our winged neighbors, the chickadees and nuthatches are infatuated with our presence. I’ve heard of this from other long time Gunflint residents but this tweeting experience is a first in going on 17 winters here. It's like an attack of the birds. They expect to be fed, and we have fallen right in line with their feeding-frenzy expectations. This experience with our feathered friends, in addition to being enjoyable, has proven educational too. Getting an up-close look at their routine of hammering each morsel into a nook or cranny of tree bark is amazing to watch. Their system of warehousing and inventory control would probably even wow “Amazon.”

All this being said, guess we (Smiths) might be included in the “dimwitted” category for getting such a kick out of their greedy companionship!

Last weekend a winter season visitor came back to our deck side feed trough. “Piney” the marten stopped by, having not been seen since the meltdown of last spring. It was easily recognized as one of our previous marten visitors with a tiny notch missing from one ear. Hungry as usual, it spent considerable time munching sunflower seeds much to the annoyance of the usual squirrels and bluejays.

One adventure of north woods living is wondering and imagining where these “wild neighborhood” critters have been, and what they’ve been up to during their transient times. We’ll obviously never know, but it’s energizing nonetheless realizing this one survived the wild for another year, and came back looking quite healthy and remembered a nice place to get an easy meal.

Although not a whitetail deer has been observed for months around Wildersmith, there must be scent of such a return in the air. Wolf reconnaissance has been noted (although not physically witnessed) with evidence from the timber canines found along our Mile O Pine. So the saga of predator and prey lives on, only now a human factor has been tacked on for a few weeks. It is hoped the stars of fate are aligned for both the stalked and the stalkers in this wilderness drama.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! We're keeping an eye out for the stalled “great northern express!”

 

 

Listen: 

 

North Woods Naturalist: Ciscoes

There are many names for lake herring, but only one that’s truly correct. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about ciscos.

(NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory)

Listen: 

 
Gathering water along the Basswood River

A Year in the Wilderness: October 29 - Traveling the Horse and Basswood Rivers

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 travelling the BWCAW. Here’s their latest installment as they travel the Horse and Basswood Rivers.

 

Listen: 

 
Pacific loon

North Woods Naturalist: Fall Migration

The bird migration at Hawk Ridge is approaching half a million. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about songbirds and raptors, ducks and loons.

(Photo courtesy of Morro Bay Winter Loon Study on Flickr)

Listen: 

 
The Fomalhaut System {NASA/P Kalas via Flickr}

Northern Sky: October 31

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

Halloween, one of the cross quarter days; Fomalhaut, a near neighbor of the sun; and more action in the morning sky.

Listen: 

 

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: October 30

The Gunflint October is idling in neutral as month eleven is about to slip into gear. Most days of the past week our weather has taken on a November look with more gray than blue overhead along with bone chilling winds.

Although temps have not been bitterly cold, one has the feeling “old man winter” is about to rise from his recliner with a dose of something soon. Summer/fall has passed on and November will be slipping across the border in a couple days. It won’t be long until permanent skims will be glazing area lakes and ponds as water temps are heading south rapidly on these leaden tinted, cool days.

This neighborhood received another meager ration of rain over the past seven segments. Again, there was less than a half inch in my rain gauge, but it’s doing the right thing in regard to soaking the ground. Murky clouds and cool air don’t allow for much drying out this time of year. So this is good for all things needing to freeze damp.

Meanwhile, as the tamaracks are dusting off the last of their golden needles, and with Halloween at hand, long-time Gunflint residents are holding their breath so to speak in hope a storm the likes of 1991 doesn’t throw a ghostly white blanket over trick or treat activities. For those who weren’t a part of the “beggars” time dropping, this territory received upwards of 40+ inches of white 24 years ago at this time. Not living here myself back then, it’s hard for me to grasp snow to such a depth falling at one interval.

Ghosts and goblins will be trekking about the county this year on the heels of the Ojibwe “falling leaves” moon. Having made its tenth appearance of the year this past Tuesday, his “lunar highness” will still be lighting the way and creating frightful shadows behind trillions of timber beings.

Although few youngsters live, or venture from town out this way, everyone is urged to be on the look-out for the little masked creatures darting across roads and driveways. Let's make it a safe and sweet end to October.

Although I receive many comments on moose sightings, it’s been some time since yours truly has come upon one of our dwindling iconic herd. However, my moose observation fortunes got a boost a few days ago.

While traveling up toward end of the Trail, near Seagull Fishing Camp, a huge bull emerged from a swampy domain and crossed right in front of my vehicle. It was not a close call from a collision point of view, but heart stopping nonetheless. Slowing to watch as it trudged off into the forest one direction, a peek the other way, found another of similar enormousness munching some swamp water goodies.

I had to wonder if I might have barely missed out on a battle for the engagement of a fair moose maiden between the one now on my right and the other to my left. It would surely seem the two were not sharing cordial greetings about where the girls are. Whatever the case, like yes, there is a Santa Claus, a few moose are still out and about.

The next day while talking with a local gal about my sighting, she shared observing a pair of bulls in the same location just hours earlier. Perhaps it was the same pair. If so, maybe they’re DNA brothers, then again, territorial issues just might not have been settled before my interruption of the previous day. And yet, could there be four of the big guys in the same neighborhood? It’s “Moose Madness” deja vu.

A timely reminder comes your way as we return to true “sun time” this coming Sunday morning. “Falling back” from another of mankind's manipulations, don’t forget to reset those clocks before you go to bed Saturday evening.

Also be advised to start digging out the “blaze orange” gear as the rifle season on deer opens next Saturday. Sharing the woods with amorous crazed deer and excited hunters can be dangerous, be prepared!

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith! The express of November is cruising into this idyllic Gunflint territory, right on schedule!

(Photo by Gary Siesennop)

Listen: