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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:
Taconite Harbor "back in the day"

West End News: July 28

The project to pave eight miles of the Sawbill Trail, which has been undergoing prep-work all summer, is finally underway. Mechanical breakdowns and storm damage elsewhere in the region had caused some delays, but as of this week, there is actual pavement on the Sawbill Trail where there has never been pavement before. Cook County Engineer, Dave Betts, says that the remainder of the project should take about three weeks if the weather cooperates.

The project makes me think often of Jean Raiken, who lived on the Sawbill Trail from the early 1930s until the 1980s. Jean was a county commissioner and an influential community activist  during those years. She would have been delighted to see the Sawbill Trail being paved. She often talked longingly about that possibility, as far back as the 1960s. Jean was also a prime force in getting the original hospital and care center built in Grand Marais, so she would be pleased to see that project as well. I guess the lesson is to be patient and persistent when advocating for community improvements and they will come eventually, even if you don't live to see them.

We are coming up on the fifth year since my dad and former author of this commentary, Frank Hansen, passed away. Among his many community contributions was working to get a hospice established in Cook County. It was quite a struggle, but Frank, along with many others, finally succeeded in establishing a hospice in Grand Marais. As it turned out, Frank was the very first person to use the new hospice. As he was wheeled through the door, he was smiling and celebrating being the first hospice patient in Grand Marais. I told him that he may also be the last person to be cheerfully celebrating their entrance into hospice.

In a slightly more cheerful historical vein, the Schroeder Area Historical Society is hosting a reunion of the former residents and friends of Taconite Harbor residential area. The housing development was built in the 1950s primarily to house workers at the Taconite Harbor power plant.  It was beautiful little 22-home suburban style housing development just south of the existing power plant. Erie Mining Company evicted the residents and sold the houses for removal in 1986. To this day, no one really knows why they removed such a valuable housing resource when affordable housing for working people was - and is - so difficult to come by. The site is now a ghost town feel to it, with overgrown curbs and gutters punctuated by surviving lawn shrubs and ornamental trees among the thick native brush that is slowly talking over.

The tight-knit community of Taconite Harbor still survives in the memories of the people who lived there, especially among those who were children in a time and place where kids experienced real outdoor adventure almost every day of the year. The reunion starts at 1 pm on August 6 at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder. There will be plenty of time for conversation about living and growing up in Taconite Harbor, along with the usual North Shore refreshments of cookies, bars and coffee. This year's featured exhibit at the Heritage Center is the Tac Harbor community, so there will be plenty pictures and artifacts to trigger old memories. The festivities will also include a tour of Birch Grove School in Tofte where the community's children all attended elementary school.

My most vivid memories of Taconite Harbor are of visiting the house that had been converted to a doctor's office and staffed by Dr. MacDonald one or two days a week. Roger MacDonald saved my life several times by treating routine - but potentially deadly - childhood illnesses. I can still vividly recall the smell, which was a not-unpleasant combination of disinfectant, the receptionist's perfume and the developing chemicals from the truly antique x-ray machine. These are good memories of a bygone era in rural medicine.

As predicted, the blueberry season is in full swing and it's a good one. The Duluth couple who camp at Sawbill and pick more than 30 gallons of blueberries per year, are telling me that this may be the best year in a couple of decades. They've been doing their early picking in places that everyone knows about and getting a couple of gallons every time out. They'll be back next week for the heart of the season and will move to their secret spots (cough, cough Pagami Creek Fire) for the main harvest. So even if you're in the three quart and not the 30 gallon league, get out there an pick while the picking is good.

 

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A Year in the Wilderness: July 26 - South 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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Northern Sky: July 23 - Aug 5

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



Dark skies for starwatching around the new moon on August 2; Scorpius low in the south with Mars and Saturn; an asterism - the teapot of Sagittarius; this episodes challenge constellation: Ophiuchus, the snake handler; and the summer triangle, high in the east and moving westward.

(map by Torsten Bronger via Wikimedia Commons)

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Traveling by canoe with Maggie, the dog

Gus' Wild Side: Bugs, dogs and bears

Camping and traveling by canoe can have its own set of rewards...and challenges. We'll hear about Gus' wilderness experiences with bugs, dogs and bears.

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.

(Photo courtesy of Gus)

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 22

North Country weather has been pleasantly normal during the past weekly segment. Cool nights and several sunny days have kept us back-country folks happy. However, the forecast, as I begin this week's report, indicates we could get singed by some nasty hot by air time. 

Sandwiched in between those great summer days, the upper Trail has been blessed with a couple good doses of rain. Thus, wildfire danger has been kept at bay, helped along by good old “Mother Nature."  
                                    
In the meantime, growing season throughout the woods is at its peak.  As summer advances into its middle of three calendar portions, we marked the Ojibwe “halfway moon,” and our annual Canoe Races hoedown. So with August little more than a week away, we can see summer beginning to trickle southward.      

In regard to those canoe races, a big thanks to Chairperson Arden Byers and his super crew of volunteers for yet another well run event. As of broadcast/website posting time, an unofficial total indicates over $28,000.00 was raised for the Trail Fire and Rescue departments.  

Gunflint Community goings-on are slowed a bit now, until month eight arrives when they pick up once again. Until then, Chik-Wauk Museum/Nature Center is busy with daily things to see and do. Tuesdays host kids' day activities in the Nature Center, along with U.S. Forest Service programming, while this coming Sunday has a special “wild edibles hike” led by Teresa Marrone, beginning at 2 pm. So if one is seeking a northwoods adventure, a trip out to the magic of Chik-Wauk is well worth the drive.  

It has been announced by planners of the Woods, Winds and Strings concert that ticket reservations are being accepted. This August 14th event has always been a sell-out. Only 150 seats are sold. It would be a good idea to get that call made as soon as possible to secure a spot for this fourth annual mid-Trail happening. The Gunflint Trail Historical Society is facilitating reservations through Chik-Wauk . Call (218)388-9915 between 10 am and 5 pm daily.  

On the wild scene, hummingbird arrivals and departures have picked-up at our International nectar port. We went about six weeks with almost no traffic, so it’s nice to have the tiny hover-critters darting about. Another avian point of interest, finds a gal over on Hungry Jack Lake reporting the discovery of a nesting cedar waxwing. I don’t know if this is an unusual observation, but anytime one can see anything nesting, it’s a neat natural experience. 

According to my angling friend down the road, he says his catching fortunes have been improving over the past ten days or so. Perhaps unsettled conditions in the depths, caused by the storms of late June, plus another mayfly hatching, have eased, allowing a feeding frenzy for bait on a hook.  

The intensity of blueberry hunting is increasing along the upper Trail. A trip to Trail's end last weekend found several berry picker vehicles pulled off in the usual niches, so they must be out, bucket in hand. It would seem, with the rains of the past week and more bright sunshine, there will be a purple explosion in the days to come.  

On the domestic side of growing things, a friend has a tomato plant as big as a small tree, and one of my plants seems not far behind. Both plants have plenty of blossoms, but whether they produce ripened fruit to beat the frost is a question yet to be answered.   

As it relates to frost, it would be a fair trade to forfeit tomatoes in favor of an early passing of mosquito hostilities.

In closing, following the most recent rain storm, a drenched canine-type critter came darting up out of the ditch in front of my vehicle. At first glance, I thought it to be a coyote, or maybe a juvenile wolf, and then again, my wife thought it to be a shepherd-type dog. Regardless of the species, it did not look too comely in wet fur, as it scampered back into the woods avoiding a painful encounter with my truck.  

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, savoring thoughts of cool days and autumn colors.

(photo by Ryan Haggerty via Wikimedia Commons)
 
 

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West End News: July 21

The Forest Service wants people know that the Fourmile Grade Road will be closed off and on this week while a contractor replaces culverts. The Fourmile Grade is Forest Road 170 that follows the old railroad grade from the Sawbill Trail west to the Wanless Road over by the Trestle Inn.
 
The Grade Road running east from the Sawbill Trail to the Ball Club Road is also slated for a major upgrade soon. I see markers for a gravel overlay and perhaps culvert work, too.  I’m told that this work is being done by the Forest Service, who owns the road, as part of an agreement to fix up the road and then give it to Cook County. The county already plows the Grade Road and, somewhat ironically, is eligible for federal funds that the Forest Service is not. I don’t know if the Fourmile Grade is included in the gift to the county or not, but perhaps the culvert replacement project hints that it is.
 
The back roads of the West End are getting major attention this summer. In addition to the projects I’ve mentioned, 8.4 miles of the Sawbill Trail is being paved as I speak. And, incredibly, power lines and fiberoptic cable will soon be laid in the ditch of the Grade Road from a few miles east of Gust Lake to the new ARMER tower near Lichen Lake.
 
Civilization is slowly growing along the back roads here in the West End, but it still isn’t very civilized back here - thank goodness.
 
I was charmed to see a recent call for volunteers from Finland resident Amy Gardner to help trap crayfish for an ongoing academic study. The call was particularly directed toward kids, who are, I happen to know, excellent crayfish wranglers. If you want to help out, get a hold of Amy directly or call the Clair Nelson Community Center in Finland and they will put you in touch.
 
The venerable West End Garden Show is Saturday, July 23, from 1 until 5 pm at the Schroeder Town Hall. This year’s theme is “Everything Under the Sun… and Shade.” This is a truly beautiful event that also includes cookies, bars and lemonade.
 
This is the time of year when many West Enders put their heads down and work like demons. That is certainly true for those of us that work in the tourism industry as well as the construction trades.  Given the train wrecks that are passing for national political conventions, the low expectations for the summer Olympics and a dismal win/loss record for Twins, perhaps this a good year to focus on the local and stay busy. 
 
If you do find a spare hour or two, by all means, head for the blueberry patch. It is going to be an epic year and even though the vast majority of berries are still green, people are getting quarts of the early season berries with very little effort. The early season berries are the sweetest, so the next couple of weeks are prime time for stocking your freezer with a little taste of West End summer.

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Twinflowers

North Woods Naturalist: Twinflower

This flower has three ways to reproduce – pollen, seeds and cloning. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about twinflower.

(Photo courtesy of Charles Wohlers on Flickr)

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A Year in the Wilderness: July 20 - Day 290

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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Stage Door: Interview with Sue Hennessy

'Stage Door’ takes us behind the scenes at the Grand Marais Playhouse. It’s a chance to meet the artists involved in our local theater…in addition to the people involved in production at the Playhouse.
 
Stage door is produced by Tina Krauz for the Grand Marais Playhouse and WTIP. 

(Photo courtesy of Grand Marais Playhouse Facebook page)

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Gunflint Lake July 2007 (Dale Sundstrom/ Flickr)

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: July 15

The Northland is turning the corner in July with weekend number three going into the books. Border country has experienced some swell atmospheric conditions as I hit the keyboard with this Gunflint scoop. With temperate air, cooling breezes and mostly sunny skies, it has made for some great dock time, including last weekend.  

Dock time for yours truly affords a terrific opportunity for contemplation. Following another week of American tragedy, there has been much to think about. Solving our ever growing societal dilemmas seems overwhelming to nearly impossible. As greed and self-gratification continue not yielding an inch toward compromise and/or respect for our fellow man, it’s just pretty discouraging for a country that once prided itself in being a land of opportunity for all.                                               

It sure makes me thankful for living in our “unorganized territory” where peace and civility are still the order of life.

On a happier note, while down on the dock last Sunday, when not pondering American ills, I was nudged back to the reality of how great this place is by rolling lake waters with gentle whitecaps and shadows being cast on the Canadian hillside by puffy clouds. The world seemed at peace, as one roller meshed into another and the heavenly wisps of gauze slowly eased over the green mountain tops to be gone forever. We in this neck of the woods are so fortunate to reside far away from the hubbub of an urban America gone wild, in spite of the constant media bombardment. 

Ongoing news from the upper Trail has me reporting about berries, bitin’ bugs and bunnies. First up is the progress of blueberry ripening. A few pickers are hitting the patches and gathering early purple pearls. However, most reports indicate the best is yet to come, probably in another week or two.      

As to the bug situation, black flies have simmered down a bit, but still can be stirred up. “No see umms” remain a nightly nuisance if lighted windows are left open, and mosquitoes are lurking in mass as the sun sets. Knowing how these winged terrorists get after we humans, one has to feel for the critters of the woods that must be in 24/7 agony from these carnivorous nippers.  

Meanwhile, snowshoe hares are practicing multiplication exercises with diligence. The hopping crowd can be noted at almost any turn of the road. I can’t remember observing so many during any one season as I’m seeing this summer, and other folks are echoing similar information. This speaks well for critters seeking a rabbit dinner, especially Canadian lynx. We might look for increased lynx appearances as fall and winter grow closer.  

Elsewhere out this way, the ghostly reminders of the Ham Lake fire are diminishing in many areas bit by bit. A recent trip to end of the Trail, finds far fewer of the charred skeletal remains lurking over the landscape. One might guess the wind storms of a few weekends ago took down great numbers and buried them in the surging green rebirth.    

While driving any number of our back country roads, I’m often compelled to visit with myself about the traveled surface. I have taken to doing an assessment of quality verses appalling on those I traverse. 

I find many county maintained pathways to be in a difficult to deplorable state. At the same time, I realize this is a huge county with many arteries to be serviced, and understand the difficulty in keeping each road up to snuff and everyone happy. 

Nevertheless, my mid-summer rating finds the Sag Lake Trail to be far and away “the clubhouse leader” in regard to rattle your teeth roughness. I feel for those folks having to make daily trips on this rolling corduroy course. Number two on my list, and gaining on the Sag Lake Trail, is county number twenty (the South Gunflint lake Road). In both cases, I hope I’m not offending residents residing along these back woods byways, but rough is rough, and pot holes, wash-boards and ruts, are what they are!   

Our big Gunflint canoe race event is now at hand. Finally, after months of planning, canoeists will hit the water this coming Wednesday evening. Kids' activities begin at 4:00 pm, food service at 4:30, and the first race at 6:00, all on the Gunflint Lodge waterfront. Expect to have another great evening in canoe country as we celebrate summer and the Gunflint Trail Volunteer fire Department.   

Last but not least, from this weekly commentary volunteer, thanks once again for stepping up with a pledge of support in last week's WTIP summer membership drive. All station followers proudly confirmed their friendship, showing that “with a little help from our friends,” anything is possible.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, hoping sanity and peace can get a grip on our violent world!
 

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