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North Shore Weekend


  • Saturday 7-10am
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:
Bill Hansen with African friends in Nairobi, Kenya.

West End News: September 26

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There is still time to make your plans for the 18th Annual North Shore Health Care Golf Scramble, which will be held at Superior National in Lutsen this Sunday, Sept. 29. 
This valuable and important event was the brainchild of Sue Hansen and Patty Nelson, two of the most effective and respected residents in Lutsen.  It is the largest single fundraiser for the North Shore Health Care Foundation.  The Foundation supports Cook County health care organizations with grants and operates several very useful programs.  They have contributed more than a half million dollars since they started in 1995.
Registration for the golf scramble can be done in advance online - just Google the North Shore Health Care Foundation office in Grand Marais.  You can also register starting at 8:30 a.m. this Sunday.  The shotgun start is at 10 a.m.  You can put together your own team, or you can join a team when you register.  The golf will be spectacular this year, as it will coincide with the peak of the fall colors. 
There are many, many great sponsors for this event, but I do want to specifically mention Lutsen Resort, which traditionally sponsors the 19th hole after-party.  As always, you can contact WTIP for full details and contact information.
Another long-running North Shore event is happening all this week. The Crossing Borders Studio Tour is a chance for a self-guided tour of the home studios of professional artists all along Lake Superior’s North Shore.
This year, the art includes stone sculpture, Ojibwe artwork, pottery, weaving, glass, printmaking, wood turning, metal works, jewelry, and leather.  This is a great excuse to make some interesting stops while you’re out enjoying the fabulous fall colors. 
The tour runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. every day from Sept. 27 through Oct. 6.  Not only will you see a lot of beautiful art, but I guarantee you’ll meet some interesting and entertaining characters.
You can find a map and detailed directions at or contact WTIP.
Construction of the new, high-speed six-pack ski lift at Lutsen Mountains is moving full speed ahead. Last week, a heavy lift helicopter was delivering the lift towers to their permanent locations.  The Caribou Express lift replaces the old two-place Caribou lift and will cut the time between runs from 10 minutes to three and a half minutes.
Which reminds me, local ski pass deals get more expensive soon, so you might want to act fast if you want to take advantage of the generous discounts available to locals and part-time West End residents.
I was shaken by the terrible news about the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya last week. 
Two year ago, I traveled in Kenya with my son, Adam Hansen. Adam spent a year in Kenya when he was a junior in college.  Nearly a decade after that experience, he arranged a three-month visit back to Kenya and invited me to join him for a couple of weeks.  We stayed with his college host family less than a mile from the Westgate Mall. 
We were actually inside the mall a couple of times, so when I saw the video of the attack and the nearby streets, I recognized it immediately.  Even at this safe distance, I felt a little of the fear and horror that the people in that neighborhood were feeling.
Like everyone else, I’ve become somewhat hardened to news of terrorist attacks in far away places.  It’s hard to admit that, because each attack is a crushing tragedy for those involved.  Every victim – and every terrorist – is someone’s child, and the violence causes grief that can last for generations.
Terrorism has been part of the human condition since prehistoric times.  It is not a problem that can be solved by increasing security or even by an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” as tempting as that may be.  It can only be solved by the long, arduous task of building a civil society.  Education, economic opportunity, a fair and equitable legal system, good governance and strong civic systems are the ultimate answer.
The good news, if there can be good news associated with such a horrific event, is that Adam’s host family and his many friends are all safe.  However, as he and I check in with the people we know and love in Kenya, their anger, sadness and shock have been palpable.  My heart goes out to them.
The whole experience has given me a new appreciation for what we have here in the little old West End of Cook County.  We aren’t without our problems here, but I’m profoundly grateful for the civic life that allows us to live in relative safety and happiness.  The distant tragedies serve to remind us to never take it for granted.

There is so much to see in the night & daytime skies in the next few weeks (Bill Dickinson/Flickr)

Northern Sky: Comets & constellations dominate the late Sept. sky

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

During the last part of September and first part of October, catch the fall constellations, the Andromeda galaxy, and comet ISON. Deane explains more in this feature.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Dennis Todd

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 20

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Tragedy has once again hit the Gunflint community. For the second time this summer the area has lost one of its friends. Longtime Gunflint Lodge fishing guide, Dennis Todd, has been lost in a boating mishap. The incident occurred on a return fishing excursion from Northern Light Lake early last Thursday evening.

Accurate details of just what happen are unavailable as this week’s commentary was being prepared. It is known that a passenger in the boat was thrown into the icy waters of Trafalgar Bay along with Mr. Todd. This person was able to swim to a nearby island to safety, but the guide never resurfaced. The survivor, who was wearing a flotation device, was eventually able to summon assistance from another group of fishermen a short time later. Search operations for Dennis were initiated as soon as word got back to land communications, and was administered by Ontario authorities from the Thunder Bay Marine unit.
Mr. Todd’s body was recovered by divers in 46 feet of water just after noon last Sunday. He was the most senior member of the Gunflint Lodge’s guiding crew, and had been serving lodge guests in that capacity for 27 years. He lived in Missouri in the winters. The Gunflint Community offers heartfelt condolences to Dennis’ immediate family, his Gunflint Lodge family and his many friends and neighbors. His always jovial mood and smiling face will be missed!
Word has also been received about the passing of another area summer resident. Frank Smith of Black Mountain, North Carolina died of pneumonia complications this past week. Frank and wife Jean shared cabin property on the shores of Loon Lake, off North Loon Lake Road. Like many others, they had a deep affection for this precious place and had spent many joyous times here in the woods until ill health constrained them to assisted living back in Carolina. Sympathy from Frank’s Gunflint friends and neighbors is extended to Jean and his family.

With autumn about to become official, the weather in the area has followed suit.  Here on Gunflint Lake we’ve had several days that were just marvelous. On a couple occasions, the feeling was mindful of those late October times when brisk northwest winds over thrashing waters called for two layers to quell the cold shivers. And, we even received more rain!  Ahh, it’s getting to be my time of year!

The migration that started several weeks ago for some of the avian flocks is now in full swing. A day doesn’t seem to go by that I don’t see at least one flying “V” high in the sky, as a sense of urgency is permeating the northern latitudes.  Further, it would appear that our hummingbird gang has called it a season. The last filling of their sweet nectar station has gone untouched for the past several days, indicating they must be en route south.  Those winged critters who do hang out year-round have begun to circle the wagons, so to speak. I’m noticing an increased gathering of chickadees, red breasted nut hatches and blue jays after being AWOL most of the summer.

A big bird happening was reported by friends over on Hungry Jack Lake during a recent fishing venture. The event was initiated when a small fish was released back into the lake but did not survive. A watchful eagle soon made a pitch for the floating finny and lifted it high into the pines. An osprey apparently took notice of the goings-on and had another idea about who was going to get the fish dinner. It soared in and literally bumped the eagle from its perch. The underwater fare went tumbling earthward, and the raptor battle was on. An airborne attack ensued as the osprey continued strafing the eagle. The eagle finally had enough and retaliated. This soaring skirmish eventually ended up in mid-air, talon-to-talon combat. After several seconds of tumbling through the heavens and roughing each other up, the eagle disengaged and winged off into the wild blue. It is unknown if either celebrated victory with a filet-o-fish that afternoon. It would be a safe bet some other critter of the wild woods probably made off with the eagle’s catch, and might be wondering how this fish could be so far from water.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor this heaven on earth, as we celebrate, the equinox of fall!

Duluth (Photo by Stephan Hoglund)

Duluth panel discusses sex trafficking in Duluth, on Lake Superior ships

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Over 40 people gathered at the American Indian Center in Duluth Thursday night for a panel discussion on the issue of human trafficking and prostitution - particularly of native women and children - in the Duluth area and on the ships of Lake Superior. WTIP's Kelly Schoenfelder attended the panel and has this report.

James Deloria stands by the brook trout canoe that he created.

West End News: September 19

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Congratulations to the Finland community on the occasion of paying off the debt for their beautiful Clair Nelson Memorial Community Center.  The taconite production tax, which is what the taconite companies pay instead of property taxes, was used to pay off the final debt.  The taconite industry had a good year last year, so some extra money was available.  Representative Dave Dill, working with Crystal Bay Township Clerk Deb Johansen and Lake County Commissioner Pete Walsh, arranged for the funds to come Finland’s way.
The original Finland Community Center was built sometime early in the 20th century and still stands, although it is now a private residence.  The second Finland Community Center was useful for many years, but in its later life it was in pretty tough shape and wasn’t a very welcoming space.  It was torn down in 2007, and the new Community Center was built, utilizing best practices for environmental responsibility and energy efficiency.  Features include super-insulation, geothermal heating and solar panels for electricity.
Friends of the Finland Community, led by Honor Shauland, manage the beautiful new facility and it receives a lot of use.  It has a commercial kitchen, a large auditorium that can double as a dining room, and lots of meeting space.  Now that the building is paid for, the Friends of the Finland Community can focus their resources on running and expanding the many programs they offer citizens of Finland.
The Care Partners Senior Rides program is an exciting new resource for seniors in Cook County. Senior Rides is a volunteer-assisted transportation program that fills in the gap for transportation needs not met by Arrowhead Transit or friends and relatives. The program includes trips to Duluth and trips around the county.
Arrowhead Transit already offers low cost rides for seniors, but sometime the schedule might not be convenient, or the senior might need someone to walk with them to the doctor’s office or carry groceries to and from the car.
The Senior Rides will be staffed by trained and qualified volunteers and is available to anyone over the age of 60.  They are currently recruiting volunteers, who must have a reliable vehicle and good driving record. Care Partners will reimburse mileage and provide a short training.
The next orientation is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the lower level classroom at Sawtooth Mountain Clinic. Call 387-3788 to sign up or for more information.
The program gets under way after Oct. 1.  It is best to schedule the rides a few days ahead by calling 387-3788.  As always, you can contact WTIP for details and contact information.
The Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder will be having its Wine and Beer Tasting Gala on Thursday, Sept. 26 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  It will also be a good time to take in the current photography exhibit by Dave DeGree.  Dave is a master photographer and the current exhibit includes fall color shots from last year, along with wild river pictures from the flood of June 2012.  Contact Susan at 663-7706 for more information.
Everything related to the weather has been late this year, so the fall colors are late too.  Here at Sawbill, this leaves us slightly bored at this time of year, so we were delighted when James DeLoria rolled in with a giant brook trout strapped to the roof of his car.  James is a well-known sculptor, painter and master goldsmith.  The trout on his car was actually a solo canoe, painted in the uncanny image of a brook trout.  James was headed to a secret book trout lake for a little fall fishing.  Maybe the brook trout canoe provides him with camouflage?

(Photo by Jessica Hemmer)


Wildersmith on the Gunflint: September 13

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The Gunflint corridor is at the halfway point of month nine.  That in mind, I pause at the thought of kicking off my 13th year of reflecting on weekly Trail happenings and commentary.

Who would have thought I’d carry on for a dozen years bearing the news about the Gunflint? Much less than I’d be treading in the footprints of that eloquent icon of this wilderness, Justine Kerfoot, who reported for decades.  Whew, my, how time flies, and what an honor it is being blessed with so many cordial readers and listeners.

The wilderness atmosphere has been reasonably mellow for the past seven segments. We cooled a bit and then warmed for a couple days before settling back into a typical mid-September north woods feel.

As I finalized this keyboard exercise for today’s release, the upper Trail received some much needed rain. Moisture deliveries had been almost nonexistent, and the territory’s earth had become crispy dry from the previous allotment until this past Monday’s dose.
It would appear that the natural fireworks set off during the thunderstorms of a weekend ago did not kindle any announced fire activity. Thank goodness!

As the neighborhood critters are getting serious about pre-winter chores, most of us year-round border country folks are into getting ready for our cold season too. Yours truly has already checked a couple things off my list with lingering thoughts of just how much longer I can wait to do some others.

Several of our snowbird friends and neighbors have put away the boat, pulled in the docks, battened cabin hatches and set their GPS gear for southerly latitudes. Meanwhile those of us hangers-on are sitting pat, anxiously waiting for the next adventure. Maybe we’ll get an early arrival of the great northern express.

Bear activity is edging nearer to the Wildersmith place as one “sleek monster of the Mile O Pine midway” was seen cruising down a neighbor’s driveway. A younger version also crossed the Smiths’ path during one of our down-the-road excursions.  

I was amused as it stood at the side of the road looking first one way and then the other before crossing. It kind of reminded me of youngsters heading off to into another school year, which also happened in these parts last week.

During one of several trips up to the Chik-Wauk Museum site over the past week, I had occasion to come across a dashing red fox. Although it appeared thin and lanky, I was impressed at the fullness of its coat and, more so, its fluffy white-tipped tail. We can only imagine how cuddly that’s going to feel wrapped around Mr./Ms. fox on a frozen silent night in the not-too-distant future.

The autumn color transition seems to have stalled out in the past few days. Perhaps that is because Mother Nature couldn’t seem to make up her mind on which way the weather should go. A few red fringes are beginning to tip our maple leaves, while only slight pigment changes are happening to the birch and aspen, and many are simply drying up and falling off. I’m still feeling that by the time this scoop reaches you, we’ll be seeing a big change as the daylight minutes are rapidly giving way to darkness heading into the due west sunset next week.

The last wild roses of summer are long gone, gone to hips every one. And only a smidgen of wild blossoms are hanging in there, that being goldenrod and those invasive tansies. There are, however, vivid patches of blue or lavender decorating back country road sides. I’m making reference to a great year for wild asters. These hardy blooms are twinkling as the last bastion of our wild flower season, and most are as deeply tinted as I’ve seen them in years.

About the only berries of color remaining are the striking fruit of the mountain ash trees. These stand out like the proverbial sore thumb… that is, if the bears in your neighborhood have not made a harvest visit.

A gal from up at the end of the Trail did however, report finding a swell patch of late blues last weekend. Guess her bucket was filled to the point of providing two late season fresh blueberry pies. How could the bears have missed these?

Keep on hangin’ on and savor northern blue skies shining on you!

U.S. Senator Al Franken

West End News: September 12

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If you’ve ever thought about going back to college, you should know that you can do it right here in Cook County, in a flexible way that fits with your life.  Cook County Higher Education has helped hundreds of people attain degrees and certificates in every field that you can imagine.
The folks at Higher Ed specialize in helping people who are worried about returning to school.  They will do whatever it takes to make sure that you succeed with your education plan.
If you have some worries about going back to school, I highly recommend Higher Ed’s “Academic Warrior” program.   Bob Pratt, who is a retired educator and Cook County native, will be presenting four sessions of the “Academic Warrior” starting on Wednesday, September 18th in Grand Marais.  It will continue for each of the next three Wednesdays from 4 to 5:30 pm.
Bob is an expert in preparing non-traditional students for academic success.  He will cover note-taking, ways to improve memory, reading skills, setting goals and creating good habits.  The last session will cover methods for learning critical thinking skills, asking good questions and engaging the brain.
Bob is a wonderfully encouraging teacher.  He grew up in Cook County and was the first person in his family to go to college.  He has a gentle and cheerful approach, but is fiercely passionate about helping people improve their lives through education.
I highly recommend this program to anyone who is thinking of going back to school. There is a modest charge for the sessions, but scholarships are available, so no one will be turned away.  You can attend any or all of the sessions.  For more information, contact Cook County Higher Education at 387-3411 or  As always, you can contact WTIP for full contact information. Thanks to the Duluth/Superior Foundation for making the program possible.
Just before Labor Day, we were surprised to see Senator Al Franken walk into our store here at Sawbill.  He was with a group of four friends, including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who were headed into the BWCA Wilderness for a few days of fishing and relaxing. 
It is notoriously difficult for members of congress to get a little vacation time, so we treated the senator like every other customer, giving advice on fishing spots and recommending good campsites.  A few of the other customers recognized the senator and shook his hand. He was cordial, of course, but we could tell he was focused on getting to the nearest walleye hole and putting his line in the water.
His staff insisted that he carry a satellite phone because they were worried that the crisis in Syria might require him to return quickly to Washington.  Sure enough, that’s what happened.  Just a few hours after Senator Franken hit the trail, President Obama announced his intention to have the congress vote on the use of force in Syria.  The senator had to pack up his gear and drive back to the Cities, where he arrived about 2 in the morning.  He was in Washington later that same morning for a classified briefing on the Syria situation.
On the one hand, I feel bad for Senator Franken, because his vacation was cut off just as it began.  On the other hand, I was glad that he puts the effort for world peace ahead of his fishing plans.  Hopefully, he’ll find another opportunity to come back and hook the walleyes he had to pass up this time.
The whole Syrian situation brought to mind the presidential campaign of Ely resident and well-known writer Bob Carey, back in the ‘70s.  Bob ran a spirited campaign for President as the candidate of the “Fishing Party.”  He viewed every national and international issue through the lens of how it affected fishing.  He declared his unconditional opposition to war because it was noisy and scared the fish.  I couldn’t agree more with that position!
The 18th annual Lutsen Fire Department pancake breakfast is scheduled for Sunday, September 15th, from 8 to 11 am.  It will be held in the brand new Lutsen Town Hall at the corner of Highway 61 and the Caribou Trail.
Sonya Hellend’s famous secret pancake recipe will be used again this year, along with real maple syrup extracted from maple trees right in Lutsen.  Of course there will be bacon, sausage, orange juice and lots of strong coffee available too.
The Lutsen Fire Department benefits from the proceeds.  It isn’t all for fire protection though.  They use some of the proceeds to fund and annual $500 college scholarship awarded to a deserving Cook County High School senior.
I’ve been to a lot of pancake breakfasts in my life.  I love pancakes and I always enjoy the food and the community camaraderie, but the Lutsen pancake breakfast has the best pancakes and best syrup of any breakfast in the world, hands down.  Be there, or be square.

Sudbury, Ontario, circa 1942 (F.C. Tyrell, National Film Board of Canada/Wikimedia Commons)

Moments in Time: Sudbury Meteorite

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On March 9, 2013, the Cook County Historical Society held a storytelling event at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts in Grand Marais. Sue Kerfoot, longtime Gunflint Trail resident and owner of Gunflint Lodge, told a story from way, way back in our regional history. In this edition of Moments in Time, Kerfoot shares the story of the meteorite that landed in Sudbury, Ontario, 1500 million years ago.

Ann Kiral packs meals for delivery.

Meals on Wheels; more than food

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In Grand Marais, the Meals on Wheels program is offered by the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency through the Cook County Senior Center.  Meals are delivered Monday thru Friday with the option of receiving frozen meals for use over the weekend.  

WTIP's Veronica Weadock spent time with some of the folks involved in the Meals on Wheels program, and has this report.

There's a lot to see in the night & daytime skies in mid-September (Photo Fiddler/Flickr)

Northern Sky: Harvest Moon, Waning Daylight & More In Mid-Sept.

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

In the second two weeks of September, there's a lot going on in both the morning and the evening skies. In this edition, Deane explains some of the things to check out during this time.

Read this month's Starwatch column.