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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:

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 3

        
Border country is off into June, the month of the Ojibwe full “strawberry” moon. Where did May go?

The past weekend's intro to summer probably seemed bleak if one was a visitor to the area. Our Memorial Day break was nearly a bust as “Mother Nature” chose to do some catching up on overdue moisture, along with cool, but “moose comfortable” temps.

However, we Gunflint byway residents are not complaining. Furthermore, we are deeply appreciative for the heaven-sent liquid. The rain couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, after a near month of tinder dry conditions. Nearly an inch and three-quarters filled the Wildersmith rain gauge during the soggy weekend siege.  

The accumulation will surely enhance mosquito habitat, and the now gushing streams and rivers will provide equal enthusiasm for hatching more of an already active black fly contingent. So everybody, net up!

The north woods jungle has exploded, no doubt aided by the welcome rain. Early wild flowers are aglow, and weeds will soon be beckoning to be whacked. With exception of the sugar maples along the Mile O Pine, leaf-out is completed for summer, while red and white pines are sporting the candles of next generation branches. 

People activities along the Trail were not a washout, as a nice crowd filled the hall at YMCA Camp Menogyn for the annual pancake breakfast on Sunday, while the seasonal opening of the museum at Chik-Wauk & the new Nature Center drew a busy crowd of visitors last Saturday.    

This is just the beginning of what looks to be another hectic summer in the Gunflint Community. Next weekend (June 11 & 12) finds the Boundary Waters Expo taking center stage up at the Seagull Lake boat landing. This 2nd annual event will feature both exhibits and family friendly programming on learning how to explore the Boundary Waters Canoe Area wilderness. For a full schedule of events, contact Visit Cook County at (218) 387-2788.   

As the “Expo” draws down on Sunday the 12th, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be holding its annual Shrimp Boil and bake sale at the Seagull Lake Community Center. Commencing at 4 pm, this is always a fun gathering. A fundraiser for the Society, a per-plate donation is suggested, with proceeds going to the Chik-Wauk facility operations. 

While the weather was cold and dismal, it didn’t temper the excitement for area fisher people. A friend down the road found catching to be action packed down on North Lake with a goodly number of trout keepers and subsequent releases. I’m told, the most difficult part of the angling/watercraft excursion was fighting through the rapids from Little Gunflint Lake into Little North. Guess “Beaver & Beaver” Construction have engineered and built quite a dam in the passage, causing the entry to be narrowed with turbulent flowage. 

Spring babies are growing rapidly to the point where they begin venturing out from their birthing places. Guests at Rockwood Lodge had the rare pleasure of recently watching a trio of fox kits playing around and learning of life. Fortunately, the activity was captured on video and shared with WTIP. One can get a look at this foxy fun by clicking on the website at WTIP.org and going to the “photos on the edge" section.

Meanwhile, a few moose opportunities have been reported. One such was a calf the Smiths’ observed in a swamp along the Trail at the turn-off to Big Bear Lodge. And on another day, a couple gals found a big bull munching greens in the pond above the Birch Lake overlook.    

Then, in a rarity during a recent mail run, I found a trail of moose tracks along the Mile O Pine. Moose are seldom found in this neighborhood, other than near the “dog eared” bay of mid-Gunflint Lake. Other Alces alces sightings have been re-counted from mid-Trail on up since last week's scoop. 

If our current cool weather trend extends, there surely will be more sightings of the iconic creatures as they venture out from the shady shelter of balsam groves in twilight hours. 

Those feisty hummingbirds have returned to many feeders around the territory, although to date, we at Wildersmith have observed only minimal arrivals at our nectar supply port. Guess the heavy traffic time for ruby throats is yet to come, and/ or they might be delayed in TSA security lines somewhere south of here.

Finally, the Smiths observed a young “Bruno” crossing our vehicle path not long ago. Other than this lone sighting, I’m not hearing of bear happenings. Stay tuned for future bear tales as more careless humans infiltrate their domain with appetizing temptations.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, savoring, “the land of sky blue waters!”

(still shot from Sally Wilson's video; footage courtesy of Rockwood Lodge & Outfitters)
 
 
 
 

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Common Nighthawk

West End News: June 2

The best piece of news I’ve heard in awhile is the announcement by Cook County Attorney, Molly Hicken, that drug court is coming to Cook County. 
Drug court has been around in Minnesota since the mid-1990s and has been slowly expanding around the state since then.  Drug courts are problem solving courts that bring together judges, prosecuters, defense attorneys, probation and law enforcement officers, social workers and addiction counselors to help non-violent offenders find restoration through recovery. 
Not only do the drug courts help people turn around their lives, but numerous studies have carefully documented tremendous savings, both direct and indirect, for taxpayers. I am not the first to say it: drug court is not being soft on crime – it’s being smart on crime. 
Kudos to County Attorney Hicken and the Cook County Board of Commissioners for establishing and supporting this important program here in Cook County.  There are numerous ways that individuals and businesses can get involved in this program, so give Molly Hicken a call at her office in the courthouse if you would like to help out. 
We can only hope that our national policy on addictive drugs can continue to move away from the clearly failed war on drugs toward the public health model that has enjoyed relative success in other countries. 
There is still time to get your tickets for this year’s “Gala For The Grove,” Birch Grove Community School’s biggest annual fundraiser.  The gala is a fun social event, even if it wasn’t held in support of the ultimate good cause: our children.  This sixth annual “Gala For The Grove” is on Saturday, June 18th.  You can reserve your tickets online this year at the Birch Grove School website or give Caroline a call at 663-0170.  
Also coming up soon is the now famous Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.  From humble beginnings in 2011, when just a handful of riders raced, the 99er has grown to one of the midwest’s premiere mountain bike races, with nearly 2,000 racers. 
This year’s event ramps up on Friday, June 24th with check-in and a barbeque at Rosie’s Chalet at Lutsen Mountains Ski Area. Saturday is the big day with breakfast starting at the brisk hour of 5 am, followed by more check-ins and the race start at 7:30. 
The term 99er refers, of course, to the distance – in miles – of the main race.  A single day of racing at the famous Tour De France averages around 100 miles, but that is on paved roads.  The 99er is a little bit on paved roads, but mostly on gravel roads, logging roads, single track bike trails and, frankly, muddy sloughs that have little in common with anything resembling a road. 
There are races of 69, 39 and 19 miles for the mere mortals among us.  There are also kids races, activities and fun for families, friends and fans.  
The Lutsen 99er, co-sponsored by Visit Cook County and Lifetime Fitness, has grown into one of the biggest and best annual events in the little old West End.  As I’ve been know to say, be there, or be square. 
This week’s nature note is the arrival of the common nighthawks. Their graceful, acrobatic flights at twilight are strongly evocative of the beginning of summer. The common nighthawk is a medium sized bird that is a crepuscular, or nocturnal, member of the nightjar family. They are usually first noticed by their distinctive “peenting” call, before they are observed swooping and dodging over lakes and fields in pursuit of insects.  They also seem fairly unafraid of humans, sometimes letting you approach within a couple feet before taking flight.  This may also be a defense mechanism, because they are wonderfully camoflauged when they aren’t flying. 
Back in the day, some of the old timers called them “goatsuckers” due to a myth that they drank milk from sleeping nanny goat, which led to their milk drying up or even going blind. 
The Nighthawks’ cousin, the European Nightjar, has long inspired poets, including this line from George Meredith: “Lone on the fir-branch, his rattle-notes unvaried/Brooding o'er the gloom, spins the brown eve-jar.” 
In any case, they are a creature that makes it more interesting to live in the mysterious and fascinating West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 

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A Year in the Wilderness: June 1 - Brule Lake

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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North Woods Naturalist: Bumblebees

The queens are busy this time of year, contributing to their important role as pollinators. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about bumblebees.

(Photo by Bill Bumgarner on Flickr)

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Woodland caribou

Dr. Seth Moore: Cook County's vanished woodland caribou

Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses an historic fur trade site on scenic Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues. 

In this segment, Dr. Moore talks about the woodland caribou - an animal that once roamed parts of Cook County.

(Photo by Just a Prairie Boy on Flickr)

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Saturn (Voyager 1/NASA/Wikimedia Commons)

Northern Sky: May 28 - June 10

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

Saturn takes the stage: a huge lightweight in opposition on June 3 - only 378 million miles away; Saturn's winds, rings and many moons.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: May 27

Month five is almost into the books as spring surged during the past seven. Clear skies provided this territory with a perfect “budding flowers” moon, setting the stage for luminous blooming, while the day of official summer looms on the horizon. 

Flowering has finally reached the upper Trail. Marsh marigolds, squill, wild strawberry blossoms, forget- me-nots and of course, those “dandy” lions head the list of north-country returnees.  Adding to the resurgence of growth, fiddlehead ferns are uncoiling their fronds, and domestic rhubarb has popped up enough to provide the first “pie plant” desserts of the season.          

Green-up of the deciduous forest has intensified right on schedule. From those late bloomers about to explode their buds to hillsides alive with verdant haze, if green is one’s color there are many shades from which to choose. Total leaf out should be complete in a week or so.      

It’s amazing how resilient plant life can be, considering the area had passed another week devoid of moisture. We’ve been “bone” dry, choking in late summer dust along back country roads. A blessed rain finally quenched our thirsty forest since mid-week. A six-tenths dose, late Tuesday, has lessened wild fire danger, so folks out this way have dodged a flaming bullet for the time being.           

Considering forest fire danger, the recent decision for a prescribed burn that escaped control west of the Ely area, is simply mind boggling. I realize these procedures are a necessary forest practice, but it's apparent science-based conditions, supporting the right time for a intentional burn, can well be one in the same with warnings of wildfire potential. So why would you ignite one?    
            
In the meantime, common sense says, Trail residents had better be taking their own prevention measures, even though the area has been dampened down. Periodic running of wildfire sprinkler systems is recommended to keep a dome of humidity over properties during our increasingly frequent dry spells, and tending to “firewise” needs is vitally important right now and always.
  
There are good things and some not so good with each of our border country seasons. Everyone out this way is smiling with the warm sunshine. But sad to say, those “black fly terrorists” have a grin on their faces too, in anticipation of a little bloodletting. I’ve been into my netting for the past week, and thus far my batting average against the fierce nippers is far better than our Minnesota baseball Twins.     

Along with the no-nonsense biting flies, the season ahead looks to be gloomy from a “tick” standpoint. A hiker I heard of reported picking off fifty of the creepy things following a recent trek along the Border Trail. In the meantime, mosquitoes are amassing troops out there somewhere with only a few small battalions appearing around sunset thus far.    

So if one thinks winter is less than accommodating, think again, this time of year has its distressing elements too. All these biting critters are making me think freeze!

Speaking of the tourist times ahead, several businesses catering to such have seen operator changes over the past few months and years. New management has been on board at Clearwater Lodge for the past couple years, while Big Bear Lodge has also come under new proprietorship. In addition, those at the helm of Tuscarora Lodge & Outfitters are beginning their second year. While just recently, a changing of the guard has taken the reins at both Rockwood Lodge and Loon Lake Lodge. Everyone in the Gunflint Community welcomes and wishes these new wilderness hosts well, in their Trail endeavors. 

Critter notes are scant as I air this week. No bear adventures have been reported, but I have observed a number of north woods bunnies scampering about, some still in dirty white socks. Grouse meanwhile, (“you know, those Minnesota chicken birds”) too numerous to count, have dared frequent pedestrian catastrophes in front of my vehicle.
  
In regard to grouse, another sighting found that although their hunting season is closed to humans, the times are always open to predators. I came upon a fox, trotting along the Trail not long ago, with a nice “chicken bird” in its jaws. The now faded red one was so intent it did not flinch or waver from its roadside course as I drove by. My hunch is a hungry batch of kits was waiting for lunch back in the den. 

In the past couple days, a solemn report came my way of the loon pair at the Chik-Wauk Museum nesting platform having abandoned the site. Reasons are unknown, but suspect would be an airborne predator pilfering the eggs, it’s happened before. The possibility remains that hormonal instincts might re-balance and they will return to try again. Stay tuned for any updates.    

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Savoring northern magic and swatting all at the same time! Have a safe Memorial Day!                                                                                        

(photo by Mike Quinn via Wikimedia Commons)


 
Wild strawberry blooms

North Woods Naturalist: Spring marvels

Spring is definitely slipping toward summer.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the spring marvels of this time of year.

(Photo by Frank Mayfield on Flickr)
 

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Brule Lake

A Year in the Wilderness: May 26 - To Brule Lake

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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Kevlarus Canoeum Exclusivei

West End News: May 26

When the Minnesota State Legislature adjourned this week, it became obvious to even the casual observer that Minnesota's governing body has gone the way of our national governing body, the U.S. Congress, by descending into ineffective chaos. For the last two sessions, most of the important work of the legislature was not finished and the people of Minnesota were not well served.

Not only did the most important bills of the year, bonding, transportation, RealID and the managing of the budget surplus, fail to pass, but much of the negotiation and horse trading went on behind closed doors in the final days of the session, without the scrutiny or participation of the voters, the news media, or even most of the sitting legislators. A 32 million dollar tax cut for the tobacco industry is this year's poster child of baffling legislation snuck into law without the knowledge or consent of the voters or most of the lawmakers themselves. This makes the legislature resemble a dictatorship more than a "small d" democratic institution.

In my opinion, the troubles besetting the Minnesota Legislature flow from the same source as those that afflict the Congress, the unbelievable amount and influence of money in politics. If we don't move swiftly and decisively to correct campaign finance and lobbying policy, we risk the permanent loss of our democratic traditions. There are two relatively bright spots in this mess. First, it seems like unlimited and unaccountable money mostly bring the political process to a halt, at least so far, rather than just selling laws to the highest bidders.  Second, our system still, mostly, allows for one vote for each of us, giving us the option of changing this crazy system at the ballot box.

This year the Governor almost has to call a special session to complete the huge pile of work left undone, but a part of me wants him to let the leadership of both parties suffer the natural consequences of their misbehavior.

The blackflies are out in the West End if you travel up over the hill. They aren't bad as compared to many years in the past, although this is my 60th blackfly season and in every one of them I've heard many people declare that this is the worst year ever. I discovered about 59 years ago that the most effective way to enjoy the woods during the black fly season lies in the judicious use of the DEET based repellents. If you apply a very small amount of the repellents to your exposed skin and the adjacent clothing you can walk blissfully through the woods for up to eight hours without a single bite.  

Thanks to the Zika virus, Consumer Reports just did a thorough study of spray-on insect repellents. Long story short, they found DEET and similar chemical repellents to be amazingly effective and the natural repellents, like citronella, eucalyptus, cedar, rosemary and lemongrass to be amazingly ineffective.

The kerfuffle surrounding the building of a Dollar General store in Grand Marais seems to have died down for the moment. In Silver Bay, however, plans have been moving ahead for Dollar General to open a store in the business park along Highway 61 near the AmericInn. According to the Lake County Chronicle, the agreement between Dollar General and the city, which owns the land, included a clause that would forbid the city from selling land to a Dollar General competitor. After much discussion, the Silver Bay City Council voted to strike the no-complete clause from the purchase agreement, which may well kill the sale. The Dollar General spokesperson said the decision was too new for them to react to, but I suppose they would have the option of looking for private land in the same area. 

One of the joys of living in the West End, of course, is the ever-changing entertainment provided by good old Mother Nature. Most of the glory goes to the large animals, but there are many critters that go almost unnoticed most of the time, even though they are quite common.  

About a month ago, here at Sawbill, we took delivery of 41 brand new Kevlar canoes. We stacked them on the ground in the canoe yard, tipped up on their sides, one leaning against the other. This week we found the time to bring each canoe to the shop, install the carrying yoke pads and put on the licenses and company stickers. After doing the first six, I noticed that each canoe had one resident spider. There was one, and only one, small, nondescript brown spider in each new canoe – with no exceptions. Once I noticed this, I started keeping track and it held true for every single one of the 41 canoes, except for two that had two spiders, but each in the far opposite end of the canoe.

I looked them up online and as best I can tell they are Cheiracanthium mildei (ky-ruh-KAN-thee-um MILL-dee-eye), also known as the long-legged sac spider. I could be totally wrong about that, of course. Apparently, the overturned canoes must mimic their ideal habitat, but also encompass exactly one Cheiracanthium mildei territory.  

Seeing as how I'm not sure about the identification and I struggle to remember the pronunciation, I've decided to rename them Kevlarus Canoeum Exclusivie and hereby proclaim them the official spider of Cook County's interesting and unique West End.
 

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