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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:

A Year in the Wilderness: June 27 - Snipe Lake side trips

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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by David Wilson via Flickr

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 24

              
Breaking news on the Gunflint! The historic Gunflint Lodge has new owners! After nearly 90 years of Kerfoot Family hospitality, the reins have been turned over to another family.  From Justine and her mother, to son Bruce and his family, the iconic resort operation has been one of the premier north woods vacation spots in the country for going on nine decades. Through good times and some not so good, the business remains standing tall like the surrounding white pines, boosting and reflecting the spirit of life gone by in wilderness America.   
                                                                 
The Gunflint Community thanks the Kerfoots, both Bruce and Sue, for their never ending contributions to our territory, wishing them the best in their long sought quest for retirement. At the same time, upper Trail residents welcome the Fredrikson family, John, Mindy and son, to the great border country, wishing them well in their new venture, with many “happy” Gunflint Trails!   
                                                                                                                                                     
Mother Nature has pulled the plug on homemade air conditioning since we last met on the radio. Summer has warmed considerably (well into the 70s), making me and the moose cringe in the jungle-like humidity. Although this neighborhood has not experienced the hot misery of most places around the country, for me and my Alces Alces friends, anything above 55 to 60 has us heading in haste to cool lake waters. Guess the danger of frost can be forgotten for the time being, and all planting should be safe.     
                                                                  
At the time of this Gunflint scooping, we’ve been on the dry side. Less than a quarter inch has fallen at Wildersmith over the past days making for a new beginning of dust build-up on back country roads.                                                                                                        
As fate would have it, rain did come to the area late last Sunday, but accompanied by high winds and hail in isolated places. The horrendous winds (60 to 70 mph, I’m told) brought back memories of the tragic July 4 in 1999, when a derecho demolished over 300K pristine northern wilderness acres.                                                                                                                                               
Although this occurrence did not display the violence of the 1999 version, it nevertheless did a job on countless trees in several Trail locales, along with death and injury, power and fiber outages. I have not heard of any building damages yet, but folks will be spending the next few days to weeks clearing up blowdown remnants. The Wildersmith neighborhood was, as in ’99, once again hit hard during this violent weather episode.   
                             
Something magical can catch one’s attention most anytime in this neck of the woods. Many times it can be a situation that has gone on for eons, but is either taken for granted, or never fully grasped until just the right moment for the observer. Such was the case for yours truly one cool morning prior to this sudden summer turn on.  
 
Recently, in the immediate time after sun-up, beams of brightness began to glisten through the forest. It was one of those rays streaming through the cedar trees that caught my eye. The focus getting my attention was a swarm of unknown winged insects hovering right in the midst of this golden shaft. Not giving the view much thought, a glance away, and then looking again later, I found the collection of buzzers in the same proximity. Giving a closer look for an extended period of time, they just hung in the area suspended, how strange I thought.         
              
Duh, finally, it dawned on me. They were not gathering in the attack mode, but simply bathing in the warmth of a new day, following a cold night. As the solar radiance moved with changing trajectory, these little critters followed right along until out of sight. It was just another interesting view of nature in the Gunflint world around us!                                                                                   
More North Country magic has been noted by a local fishing guide. Bear sightings are not too uncommon, but this one, as reported, found a momma and her family crossing the Trail out this way. The noteworthy detail of the bear trek was four little fur balls scrambling to keep up with her. Bears can be like pigs and sometimes can have a litter, but we seldom see more than two or three cubs, so this happening is surely interesting. I’m betting this “momma bear” was glad to see warm weather so she could get out of the birthing den. I suppose dinner time was a mad scramble with a lot of pushing and shoving for several months.    
                                                                
One more critter tale finds folks living along the Mile O Pine have sign of a mystery moose. The phantom creature has not been observed except occasionally, down in Gunflint’s “dog ear” Bay. But any number of us have seen tracks along the road. Leaving less than dainty hoof prints, the ghostly icon definitely leaves a trace.                                                                                                                       
This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, busy picking up after last weekend's wind/rain episode.
 
 

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Moose down

West End News: June 23

The annual Gala For The Grove was a smashing success again last week, bringing the West End Community together to raise a solid nest egg for the Birch Grove Community School. The generosity of the community is truly a wonder to behold, even if it does happen reliably year after year. Dozens and dozens of raffle and auction items were donated from businesses and individuals from Grand Portage to Silver Bay. The bidding was reckless and occasionally hilarious, with some people bidding against their spouses or even themselves.

It's all for a good cause though, as Birch Grove Community School is the heartbeat of the West End. If we can't support our children, then what good are we?

In the midst of the auction, Charles VanDoren, from Schroeder, offered an interesting auction item. He had four tickets to an alumni football game on July 2nd at Cook County High School in Grand Marais. I think this means that the former Cook County football players will suit up and play against the current football team. While this makes me profoundly grateful that I am not eligible to play, it does mean that Charley VanDoren has agreed to play. He will be the oldest player on the field, representing the alumni as a current three-time and soon to be five-time grandfather. I wish him the most sincere luck and best wishes for not getting hurt. The proceeds from the fun will go to support the girl's basketball and volleyball teams, along with the boy's football team.

A few years ago, my girlfriend, Cindy Hansen, participated in the much less risky alumni cheerleading exhibition. While she did avoid any serious injury, I did notice that the Advil bottle was in active use for a couple of weeks afterward.

While it is great to see Birch Grove thriving, we will soon need to turn our attention to a couple of levy referendum questions that Cook County School District 166 will place on the ballot this November. While I disagree with the system of funding public schools through periodic referendum, I do recognize that it is how things are done now and we should wholeheartedly support the District 166 in their request. Most of our Birch Grove graduates end up attending 166 for their middle and high school years, so we need to keep the system strong for the sake of future generations and the future of Cook County - in my humble opinion.

The Lutsen 99er mountain bike race booked every room and many campsites in the West End for the weekend of June 25th. The race started with 80 riders five year ago and registered nearly 2,000 riders this year and that's with registrations being cut off at 1,800 - all this on a June weekend that didn't come close to selling out in the past. It's just one example of the growth in the tourism industry since the Visit Cook County organization was formed and funded. It's amazing what we can accomplish when we all work together.

The storm of Sunday, June 19, exacted a tragic toll in the BWCA Wilderness, with the death of a fine teacher from Rochester and the serious injury of his 14 year old son. The property damage from the storm, although substantial, paled in comparison to the loss and grief for the Walz family and their larger community in southeastern Minnesota. Our hearts go out to them.

In Lutsen, many trees went down, including a few that fell on renowned sculptor Tom Christianson's Last Chance Gallery. To add insult to the injury to Tom's roof, his larger than life, multi-colored steel moose sculpture was blown over. On the following Tuesday, Tom was surprised to see the moose spontaneously back on its feet. This bordered on a miracle, because the moose weighs a ton, so putting it upright was no small task. After an incredulous posting on Facebook, it came to light that the Good Samaritan was Mike MacMillan and his merry crew at MacMillan's Tree Service. They had been called to remove the trees from the gallery roof and while they were at it, they used their heavy equipment and considerable skills to upright the giant steel moose. It's not only a story of neighborliness, but also an apt metaphor for how the West End community takes care of each other in the practical matters of food and housing and also in attending to our artistic and culture needs. It's just a part of what makes the wonderful West End a great place to live.

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

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 17

The Smiths are back in the woods once more. A week away from this northern paradise seems like an eternity. After a swell visit with family on both the western and eastern extremities of Iowa, it’s nice to return to “home sweet home” in border country.    

Our trip into the northland came just in time as we escaped the grizzly heat and humidity surging through the Hawkeye state a week ago. While those conditions are great for growing corn and soybeans, they are disconcerting to an old timer like yours truly.  

As I put together this week’s scoop, we Gunflinters are enjoying some natural air conditioning courtesy of our Canadian neighbors. I missed out on a frosty June morning while away, nevertheless, smiles abound, hoping the “cool” hangs in there until fall.      
                                                                                                 
More moisture blessed the area during my absence, keeping wildfire danger at bay, lake levels up and rivers a gushing. With the Gunflint Gal being an inflow/outflow body, this time of year finds the depth beginning to diminish. However, at this moment, the surface has risen several inches on the DNR lake measuring gauge since its placement near the Wildersmith dock about the end of May. 

The forest is now in full summer regalia. It seems our lush greenery might be the densest I’ve seen in 17 years of residence. Early summer blooms are decorating the landscape along back country roads - most notable are wild roses, Columbine and those pesky lupine.            

Meanwhile, the blue heavens have seemingly settled to earth right here in our back yard. An azure haze of Forget-Me-Nots, the likes of which we’ve never had before, blankets nearly every square foot. They’re so delicate one hesitates to even step off the walkway path for fear of blemishing the beauty.  

Speaking of summer, the Solstice passes before we meet again. It’s hard to realize “old Sol” starts the slow tilt southward soon after this coming Monday. One shouldn’t be discouraged though as plenty of great warm weather opportunities remain in Gunflint Country.           
Speaking of one such, the Gunflint Trail Canoe Races loom just four weeks away, July 20. Organizational plans have long been underway for this fortieth annual fund raiser to benefit the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and EMS crews. This event is soon followed by the Mid-Trail event, a similar fund raising endeavor in early August. There is plenty to look forward to, so mark your calendars and stay tuned for further updates.                  

Winged critters are buzzing with reckless abandon throughout the area. The war against mosquitoes has garnered additional troops as dragonfly airborne squadrons have entered the battle with us humans. Sad to say, it appears to be a losing cause with far more “skeeters” than there are “D Flies” to eat them. Added to the nasty biting onslaught are those obnoxious black flies and “no see-ums.” So in general, it has been quite uncomfortable out of doors, regardless of the cool green surroundings.        

However, one thing positive can be said for those blackfly rebels, they are a necessary evil when it comes to the upper Trail blueberry patches. As facilitators of the pollination process, it would be nice if these ravenous bugs would just do their job and leave us alone, - “fat chance.” And speaking of the “blue gems,” a fellow up at end of the Trail tells of seeing a lot of flowering and green berries on the bush already. Will it be another bumper crop?   

An update has come my way in the past few days with regard to the loon pair hanging out at Chik-Wauk's museum site. The staff up there reports, the handsome couple have returned to the nesting platform and are apparently incubating new eggs. Folks might wish to be checking the CW webcam to follow the aspiring parental activity.      

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society’s annual “shrimp boil” was a huge success this past Sunday. A record turnout enjoyed a “taste of southern dining” at its best in the great north woods ambiance. Thanks go out to the many volunteers for putting on such a unique feast.                                                                                                                      

Gunflint Trail residents are saddened to hear about the death of Harriet (Boostrom) Taus. A daughter of pioneer residents Petra and Charlie Boostrom, Harriet’s passing ends another chapter in history of this charming piece of the universe. She was a wonderful link to the past as she often shared stories of her family and their life in Gunflint territory, at both Clearwater Lodge and the Chik-Wauk Museum. All who knew her will surely miss this kind and gentle lady.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, wishing everyone “happy Gunflint Trails!”
 
(photo by dawnzy58 via Flickr)

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Proposed mining projects near the BWCA Wilderness

West End News: June 16

 
Every West End resident feels pain in their heart when the word comes down that another person is missing and presumed drowned near the mouth of the Temperance River. We can only imagine the shock and horror of knowing that a loved one has gone from relaxing and recreating - to leaving this world - in the blink of an eye. Disbelief quickly turns to grief and the entire West End feels it. Our little community extends our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Alec Lawrenz, who they lost at the Temperance River last week.
 
It's been a tough week for the nation in light of the tragedy in Orlando. In my humble opinion, it's well past time that we enact common-sense gun safety laws that allow hunters and collectors to enjoy their hobby, while making it difficult for deranged shooters to get their hands on military grade weapons that are expressly manufactured to kill a lot of people fast. Believe me, I know this is a politically sensitive subject, but other countries have done it and we can do it, too.
 
On a cheerier note, after several years of anticipation, North Shore Winery and Sawtooth Mountain Cider House are opening for business on the Ski Hill Road in Lutsen. Owners Chuck Corliss and Kim Schroeder have hired Rob Grubb, from Tofte, to manage the new business. The grand opening is scheduled for Saturday, July 16th from 2 until 5 pm. I admit to being pretty ignorant about wine, so I look forward to learning more from the experts at North Shore Winery. 
 
It cheers my heart to see another new and entrepreneurial business starting up in the West End. Starting a business from scratch is a labor of love and an incredible amount of work, so I urge everyone to patronize the new businesses early and often. I'm also pleased to hear that the Winery and Cider House will be a new venue for acoustic music in the West End, adding to the already rich music scene that we all enjoy.
 
I mentioned the new FIKA Coffee location in Lutsen last week. I saw that the sign went up this week, so I'm guessing that the soft opening is underway. Stop by and check it out.
 
Speaking of jobs, the creation of jobs is the most talked about reason for opening up a new form of mining in northeastern Minnesota that extracts precious and strategic metals from sulfide bearing ore. No one wants economic development in northeastern Minnesota more than I do, but I am part of the majority of people in the region who are deeply skeptical about the motives and reliability of the companies that are behind these mining proposals. In a nutshell, mining from sulfide bearing ore has been done all over the world and has, in every single case, caused serious pollution flowing downstream from the mine waste.
 
The second mine in the permitting queue, known as the Twin Metals project, was dealt a serious blow this week when the Forest Service indicated that they have serious reservations about locating a huge sulfide type mine directly upstream from the BWCA Wilderness. The issue is complicated, but the Forest Service is the landowner of the surface rights above two federal mining leases that Twin Metals obtained back in the 1960s. Twin Metals let the leases expire, but now wants to renew them with no environmental review. The leases have never been reviewed because they were leased before all the pertinent environmental protection laws even existed.
 
In the past, mining leases were renewed more or less automatically with no public process. But this time, the Forest Service has announced a public input period from June 20th to July 20th for people to weigh in, both pro and con, about the wisdom of promoting sulfide mining right on the edge of the country's premier, water-based wilderness area. I applaud the Forest Service for getting the public involved. Opinion on this subject is changing fast and the decision makers need to know what people are thinking. These are, after all, our minerals.
 
I freely admit that my mind is firmly made up that this type of mining has no place in the region, but I urge everyone, no matter what your opinion, to let the Forest Service know how you feel about this important issue. You can google "Twin Metals public input" to find news stories with links to the comment process. Or, as always, contact WTIP for that information.
 
Fishing was excellent all over the West End last week. But after a big rain storm and the appearance of mayflies, it seems to have slowed down a little bit, especially for the walleyes. Walleyes are still being caught at dawn and dusk, but smallmouth and northerns are still being caught during the day. Lake trout are also biting well, but are now 30 feet deep or maybe even a little deeper.
 
You know that you may be a blueberry fanatic when you scout the berry patches at this time of year to see how the blossoms are coming along. I've come across several sets of locals, who wish to remain anonymous, that have been doing just that. They report that the blossoms are as thick and healthy as they've ever seen them, which bodes well for a bumper crop. A little warmth and sunshine will be required to make it happen and would be generally welcomed by most West Enders just for the fun of it. Rain or shine, it's still great to live, work in play in the wonderful West End.
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: June 15 - Lake trout

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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Northern Sky: June 11 - 24

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

Mars in retrograde; gigantic Antares between and below Mars and Saturn; Arcturus; on June 20, the summer soltice and a full moon.

(image courtesy of Blueshade via Wikimedia Commons)

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The Red Canoe by Winslow Homer

Gus' Wild Side: A solo canoe

Gus tells about buying and traveling in a new "used" solo canoe.

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.

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Sawbill Lake, looking peaceful after an efficient rescue

West End News: June 9

We had some excitement at Sawbill this week, but not the kind we like to see. A quiet afternoon in the store was interrupted when a frantic camper rushed in to report hearing cries for help and seeing a swamped canoe on Sawbill Lake. Three of our crew-members, Kevin Taralseth, Alyssa Dahle-Koch and Phil Lindgren, responded instantly by running to the lake with canoes and warm blankets. Kevin is a Wilderness First Responder and an active leader in the fine Outdoor Program at UMD. Alyssa is a college student who has been on dozens of wilderness trips with her pastor father. And Phil is a wilderness canoeist with more than 20 years of experience. Within minutes they had pulled an older couple from what is still pretty freezing water and brought them back to the store. 
 
The couple had been concentrating on fishing and both leaned the same way at the same time. The husband was recovering from recent surgery, so he reacted pretty strongly to the cold water and was in the early stages of hypothermia. The Sawbill crew had them warmed up and in dry clothes in no time. The couple gratefully returned to Bluefin Bay only slightly worse for wear. The whole unfortunate situation could not have gone better and we are extremely proud of our competent and calm Sawbill crew.
 
Congratulations to this year's Birch Grove Community School graduates! The June 3 ceremony marks a big turning point in the school careers of these scholars. Next year, they will be attending school in either Grand Marais or Silver Bay.
 
I remember well when our own kids graduated from Birch Grove. They talked a lot about their excitement and fear of moving up to the "big school" in Grand Marais. This caused Cindy and I some amusement, as we both had attended schools in the Minneapolis suburbs that really were big schools. In any case, our kids were well served by their school experience in Cook County and used their great early education to excel in college and beyond.
 
There is still time to purchase your tickets for the Gala For The Grove scheduled for the evening of June 18. Call Caroline at Birch Grove Community School or visit their website to purchase yours!
 
The new FIKA coffee location in the Clearview complex at Lutsen is coming together fast. I mention it because they will have a soft opening, probably within the week, so keep your eyes open and be among the first to sample freshly blended, roasted and brewed coffee in Lutsen. I will have much more to say about this once they are officially open, but I will say that I'm thrilled that young entrepreneurs are opening new businesses in the West End.
 
Construction on the Sawbill Trail is in full swing and I'd like to give a shout-out to Northland Constructors from Duluth who is the contractor for the eight mile paving project. They are still in the preparation stage, which means that they're replacing many culverts and strengthening the road in areas that are known to have problems.
 
They seem to be very good at their jobs, even drawing praise from local contractor, Mike Rose. Mike said they are almost as good as his crew of Brett Hansen, Dave Rude and Charlie Nelson who are currently working on a septic system here at Sawbill. Coming from Mike, this is high praise… and is also probably true. 
 
Charlie Nelson, from Lutsen, turns an incredible 86 years young this week. When Mike told me that they were going to dig some test holes with the excavator, I commented that I thought Charlie would dig them by hand. Mike replied that Charlie could probably dig them faster than Brett could with the excavator. He then turned to Brett, the North Shore's best equipment operator, and said "no offense." Brett quickly replied, "none taken."
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
(Photo by Bruce Rubinstein)

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A Year in the Wilderness: June 6 - Dragonflies

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)

Listen: