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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:
April brings us brilliant spring sunsets.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 14

Gunflint territory heads into the third week of month four having just passed the Ojibwe “maple sugar moon” (Iskigamizige Giizis).  Spring is in full command now and has been sweet as the sugary juice running into collectors’ buckets.

Warming really grabbed this area last weekend with brisk southerly winds leading the way. Winter character has vanished with exception of manmade heaping and some areas deep in the forest where sunshine struggles to peek through.

Ice meanwhile has loosened from its shoreline connections on the sun-drenched northern sides of area lakes, and is taking on the gray color of solidarity under stress.  There’s a good chance some of the more shallow lakes will be open as this scoop hits the air.

Here on the Gunflint, although ice is still tight against the granite south shore at Wildersmith, it’s a good bet we’ll be seeing open water within two weeks, assuming there are no cold setbacks.  This assumption being said, large bodies like Poplar, Loon, Seagull and Saganaga lakes are likely on the same timeline.

Speaking more of ice under stress, hooray for some heroes over on Hungry Jack Lake for taking a big risk to save the life of a yearling moose. For those of you not already aware of this exploit, it seems the gawky youngster wandered onto the ice and after a short distance broke through.  The scene required quick strategizing by those involved in the rescue attempt.

Struggling for many minutes to climb out of the icy liquid, the moose was near motionless (just kind of floating) when the folks, using canoes, got to its side and began the dangerous task of bringing the frightened critter back onto safe ice. After much tugging and pulling, the exhausted animal was finally rolled back up on the ice. Probably in shock, it took some time before the youngster regained its feet. Apparently none the worse for wear, it eventually ambled off into the woods.

I wonder if the iconic beast will remember the valiant efforts of some great northwoods neighbors who gave it another chance on life.

See photos of the heroics on the web at WTIP.org.

Mountain streams and rivers are on the move as melting snow is racing lakeward. Last week on a trip to end of the Trail, it was a joy to see a liquidation of winter raging over the mini-falls on Larch Creek near the US Forest Service guard station. While small by comparison with other falls in the county, it is nevertheless a picturesque setting nestled back in the forest.

Driving the Trail a couple times in the past week I found several byway ponds and wetlands have succumbed to spring's ways. Already showing off sparkling tea-colored liquid, under several bright sky days of late, mirror images reflected double exposures of natural photo ops. Regardless of the still muted wilderness hues, the magic of wildland images on a medium of quiet water goes unmatched in aesthetic accomplishment.

On a negative note, some not-too-beautiful things forever seem to appear this time of year. As snow has left the roadside ditches, the ugliness of an uncaring segment of our user society has been revealed. I’m talking of litter!      

I find it hard to understand how some users of this magnificent place can treat it with such disrespect. The unsightly casting out of beverage containers and other debris is simply beyond belief, confirming we have too many self-serving, shameless folk who just don’t give a darn. In answer to this dirty problem, it behooves all of us common sense people (residents and caring visitors) to get out and do the annual spring house cleaning.

On a cheerier note, there are many moments in time, when one is surrounded by the natural world. With daylight minutes growing by leaps and bounds, another such fleeting moment was emulated last Sunday evening as I keyed this Gunflint news. I’m talking of a sunset like none I’ve ever witnessed here in border country (and I’ve seen a few Canadian sunset beauties over the years).  

The uniqueness of this flaming inferno, which came in the circumvention of our skyline from due north, clear around to the southwest. Thin, deep pink clouds caught fading rays from both the southwest and north points on the compass, converging at “old Sol” who is just beyond due west, in a colossal “hot pink’ explosion, beyond comprehension.

The piercing illumination was one of those timely moments to be etched in memory as the best ever, perhaps forever. But while all good things have to come to an end, this celestial spectacular faded quickly to twilight orange and peach just before daylight gave way to darkness.

Brief, yes, but what an uplifting encounter!  It was great. I hope listener/readers were residing in an area where they got to see it, too!

Finally, two reminders to area residents. First, bears have to be near so get those temptations put away. And second, as it remains abnormally dry, get the wildfire sprinkler system lines into the lake ASAP after ice-out and fire up the pump unit to be sure it’s in operating order.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with the splendors of nature right outside our doors.

Photo courtesy of Michele/Flickr

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North Woods Naturalist: Migrating birds and artificial light

Migrating birds and artificial light are not just a big building metropolitan problem. Any lighting appears to distract the migrators. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about lighting and migration.
 

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Star-nosed mole

West End News: April 13

Happy Easter from the West End. We’ve had lots of seasonally appropriate rabbit visitors around our place this week. None of them have come bearing chocolate yet, but we remain hopeful. Along with the surplus of bunnies comes more frequent lynx sightings. If you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Canada lynx, a drive on the Sawbill Trail is a good bet.

If you’re on the hunt for Easter candy, then Lutsen is the place to be this Easter Sunday. On Sunday, April 16, at 9 am Lutsen Mountains is hosting a Giant Easter Egg Hunt. Kids of all ages are invited to search for 500 eggs hidden all over the slopes. You do need a lift ticket to get out there, where eggs filled with candy and prizes await you.

Next weekend is the 7th Annual Fingerstyle Guitar Masters Weekend, featuring Richard Smith. This year, the music and workshops will take place at Bluefin Bay in Tofte. There’s something for everyone at these weekends, as long as you’re either a music lover or player, but in Cook County, who isn’t? Friday, April 21, at 8 pm is the free informal evening of listening. On Saturday, April 22, at 7:30 Richard Smith will be playing and tickets are $20. Saturday at 10 am, there are two workshops. Gordon Thorne and Richard Smith will be leading the Fingerstyle Guitar Workshop. Tom Shaefer will be leading the fiddle workshop. Both cost $60 and are open to all ages. If you’re under 18 you’re in luck as there’s no cost. Lunch is included and preregistration is requested. For tickets to the concert or to register for a workshop, call Gordon Thorne at 218-353-7308. So come on down to Tofte, enjoy the atmosphere of camaraderie and treat yourself to some good tunes at Bluefin next weekend.

Also next weekend, the third annual Midwest Extreme snowmobile event will take place at Lutsen Mountains. There’s hillcross on Saturday, April 22, from 9 am - 6 pm and cross-country on Sunday from 9 - 4. Both nights will have an after-party at Papa Charlie’s, but if you go on Saturday night you can catch my personal favorite Cook County band, The Plucked Up String Band. Tickets to the event are $20 for one day or $30 for both.

The ice on Sawbill is eight inches thick but no longer safe to travel on. This lesson was learned the hard way by one unlucky star-nosed mole this week. Our ice technicians found the frozen fella floating just offshore in between the landing and the ice. These curious little creatures often run amok in the spring, enthused by the thaw and in search of a partner, but often bumbling since their eyesight is poor. One year Bill even had one run up his pant leg. So keep your eyes open for the funny looking moles while you're out driving the backroads, and don’t be like the Hungry Jack moose or the Sawbill mole - stay off the lakes for now and spend that time digging out your paddles and PFD’s from their winter storage instead.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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North Woods Naturalist: Closing in on spring

The sap is running, buds are budding and birds are molting. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about closing in on spring.

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One of the first signs of spring - pussy willows.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: April 7

Spring along the Gunflint Trail continues awakening from its semi-winter slumber. Weather conditions during the past seven have been pretty much a yawn. Nevertheless, night time freezing and daytime melting have been splendid in allowing a calm meltdown. Thus, this process has avoided a hot, one day gush that gashes back country roads with gullies.

Further, for those tapping sugar maples for their sweet sap, this tranquil transition has been pleasing to date.                                                            

Concern has to be voiced in regard to there being no precipitation out this way for going on ten days or so. Where “old Sol” has vaporized all unshaded snow, the northern landscape is already becoming crunchy dry. “May flowers need April showers.”                                                                

According to the DNR, 98 percent of wild fires in Minnesota are touched off by human invaders; we hope the agencies charged with commanding burning bans are doing more diligence than was done in 2007 so there is no re-run of the Ham inferno. It would seem prudent to ban all burning (including camp fires) sooner rather than later, to avoid waiting until some accidental blaze gets takes off.                                         

The interior hinterland is at the stage where the white blanket has been thrown back to reveal “Mother Nature's” creation in its ugliest state. However, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and some see our barren surroundings with the prospect of blooms and green to come. Even as we look at the gloomy gray/brown scene, it doesn’t hurt to dream a little blue skies and more colorful days ahead.  

Rituals of warmer times are gradually making their way up the Trail. Robins have returned and are tweeting about, while crows are adding a basal contribution to the growing spring concert and pileated woodpeckers are hammering the percussive background. I’ve also made note of an orange and black moth fluttering about our deck, and found a few arachnids creeping here and there.                                                                            

Another rite of the season was observed the other day on a trip to the Village. A snowshoe hare, in the early stage of putting on its summer apparel, was barely visible as it blended in well with the gritty windrowed snow bank along the Trail.                                                                          

The north woods bunny would not have been seen at all, had it not been hopping along the snowy mound. Being whiter than summer brown, its camo coat would have rendered it no more than a chunk of frozen winter.                                                                                                                      

Speaking of other fuzzy things, most deciduous buds are still cuddled snug in their winter wraps. However, I’ve noticed pussy willow shoots getting their first peeks at warm rays along the byway.                                                                                                                                                            

While moose can be observed most anytime if one is in the right place, a couple reports have come my way from the Hungry Jack and Loon Lake neighborhoods indicating moose presence but no photo ops. Tracks were found in the dwindling snow along with calling cards of scat. Genders are not known, but if they are mommas, next generation deliveries are due soon.                                                                                                

Mother Nature's  routine of removing the snow and ice by way of run-off must have the County Highway department about to tear its hair out as pot holes are abundantly catching driver’s attention. Whereas plowing of white has been the order for months, the task of grading miles of county roads shifts into a different grading mode.

What a nightmare for those guys! We users should be about keeping a heads up on the road ahead, slowing down and being patient until they can get a blade on our road.

The Gunflint Trail community welcomes new business owners. Windigo Lodge has been sold and the process of moving old stuff out and refurbishing is under way. New proprietors, (spouses) Bryan Gerrard, Stacey Palmer with Kibby Kuboy and Lynse McDonough are shooting for an early summer re-opening.  The foursome is energized with their new endeavor, and will be changing the facility's handle. From now on it will be known as, “The Poplar Haus.” Residents will want to stop by to meet and greet our new neighbors.                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as we anticipate re-birth of the wild land.

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West End News: April 6

Spring has sprung here in the West End. The sap is running and so are the snowshoe hares who are still sporting their winter attire. Grackles and redwing black birds have made their appearances. Our yard is serving as a personal lost and found stash as items unknowingly dropped into a snowbank back in December are slowing reemerging.

Another sure sign of spring is Lutsen Mountains annual Mountain Meltdown. This weekend they will be celebrating the last full week of skiing for the season. On Saturday the 8th and Sunday the 9th there will be a live music on the outdoor stage (weather permitting) and a barbeque. Music starts at 11:30 both days and the last band takes the outdoor stage at 4pm. If you, like me, have a small human who makes going out to live music late at night a challenge, or if you’re simply an early to bed kind of music lover this is a great opportunity to catch some really great tunes before the sun goes down. If you are a night owl, stick around for the late night music at Papa Charlie’s. Lutsen has been open into April every year for the past 26 years, if 26 years of spring skiing isn’t worth a good celebration I don’t know what is.

Congratulations are due to the Fika family. Many West End residents are frequent visitors to Josh Lindstrom and crew at the Fika coffee shop in the Clearview building in downtown Lutsen. If you tried to get your coffee fix on a certain weekend in mid-March you may have noticed that they were closed for a few days. They had a good reason though as they were in Duluth welcoming their fourth child. While the Lindstroms have not yet had the good sense to move their family to the West End, we are glad to have Fika Coffee in our midst and wish them the very best with their new baby boy.

Congratulations are also in order for Birch Grove School which received the 2017 School Finance Award from the Minnesota Department of Education. A friendly reminder that Birch Grove is having its Kindergarten round up on Tuesday April 11. If you’ve got a kiddo who will be 5 years old by September 1st, 2017, they are invited to come check out our neighborhood school. You can register on Birch Grove’s website or by calling 663-0170.

Okay, now what you’ve all been waiting for - the ice report. There is quite of bit of standing water on top of the ice, especially near shore. In many places, water can be seen, and more noticeably heard, seeping up through degraded spots creating little bubbles and a sense of anxiety for us ice measuring technicians. My sources tell me that as of April 5 there is, drumroll please, still 17 inches of ice. That’s seven inches less than last week though, so we’re moving in the right direction, and fast.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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Donna Lake

North Woods Naturalist: River and lake ice

Ice on area lakes and rivers seems to change frequently this time of year. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson to learn more.

(Photo by Martha Marnocha)

 

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Northern Sky: April 1 - 14

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

Jupiter takes center stage, while Mars is dim in the west. There is a full moon on April 10 - also known as the full pink moon or the sprouting grass moon - and will be perfectly full on April 11. Spica can be seen below Jupiter and the moon while they are rising. Look for Mercury early in April in the sun's afterglow.

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There are bold gray jays in the Wildersmith neighborhood

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 31

No foolin', March is into the books! Out here in the Gunflint forest, segment three has been fickle to say the least. We’ve seen about all Mother Nature has to offer in terms of weather. And as the month comes to an end, “Zigwan” (spring) is gaining a foothold day by day. Mud season in back country is advancing to become the norm.

Atmospheric happenings in our upper end of the Trail have dished up a few inches of mixed snow, sleet and freezing rain along with a couple mornings around the zero mark, necessitating snow removal once more. Sandwiched in were slots of pleasant, sunny times. In short, our past week's weather pretty much paralleled what the rest of the month was like, drippy where the sun shines while wintery under the clouds and evergreen canopy.

The disappearance of winter character remains a bit sporadic, and back country roads are still white for the most part. Meanwhile along the Trail, a gnawing sun has eaten away at snow banks revealing the ugly look of urban America grit.

Lake ice has remained stable in support of this final week of trout season angling. Keying this report, I still see everything from snowmobiles to four-wheelers and pick-up trucks heading back and forth on the Gunflint as catching’s zero hour approaches tonight.  

The fresh snow of last week provided what may be a final tracking opportunity of “wild neighborhood” visitors. The mystery of who might have been here during darkness hour always captures yours truly.

On the morning following our last flaky episode, smooth new carpeting found imprints of a fisher, wolf and a myriad of smaller forest beings. Such evidence always stirs wonder of whether they were pursuing or being pursued. Guess we can be guaranteed all were in some mode of finding something to eat.

The Smiths were in the right spot at the right time last week to catch two quirky avian incidents. The first involved a curious “whiskey Jack” (Canadian Jay). This saga happened one early evening, moments after I put a couple burgers on the grill. I noticed this gray jay hanging out, and apparently it was keeping an eye on me, too, or at least what I was doing.

Stepping away from the grill, I turned back just as the jay swooped down to the deck rail near the grill. I could tell it must be eyeing the exposed side of raw ground beef. Who would ever believe that in a surprising advance, this guy/gal flapped in and for an instance, hovered over what was cooking. It took but a nanosecond before a sampling could be snatched, when the hungry critter discovered it was too hot in the kitchen.

Avoiding a feather roasting catastrophe, the jaybird made a hot-footed escape off into the tree tops. Farfetched, yes, but the story is absolutely true.

The second birdy interlude took place in darkness hours, long after these feathery folk should have gone to roost. In this episode, a sudden noise at the window startled us away from the “boob” tube. Inquiry as to what was going on found a misguided flyer had flown into the glass. This happens often, but it has never occurred at 10:00 at night.

The stunned bird, of sparrow or finch size, lay on the deck for several moments before regaining its feet. Then it stood motionless for a longer time before beginning to hop about. Eventually, a few flaps of its wings and it took off into the dark of night.

Why this little fellow was not snoozing at this time, or why its GPS might have malfunctioned, leading it to a near death experience, we’ll never know. Maybe it just had days and nights mixed up? I’m supposing it found a safe place for some shut-eye.

Speaking further of and for our winged friends, scientists are finding some surprising discoveries about avian behavior in spring migrations. Did you know that flock size affects flight speed? The larger the flock, the faster the birds fly. Belief is that this principle applies to all bird species.

In a related note, a study documented in The Auk: Ornithological Advances found for the first time birds fly much faster migrating north after winter, and put forth more effort to stay on course than they do during autumn flights south. More specifically, birds fly 39 percent faster in the spring than in fall. Speculation is they are jetting to claim the best breeding sites.

This information was discovered in the spring edition of Wildlife magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation. This is a good read to learn of the innovative technologies used to gather these interesting facts.

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, always with promise of a natural adventure!       

Photo courtesy of Parks Connect, Flickr                                                                                           

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West End News: March 30

This past Monday the Birch Grove Task Force reached an agreement. This final consensus is the result of more than three months of fact-finding and negotiation by a committee representing all of the various interests connected to the Birch Grove Building in Tofte. The Consensus Agreement is a carefully balanced set of recommendations made for the decisions makers, including the Birch Grove Community School Board, W.E. Connect Board of Directors and the Township Boards of Tofte, Lutsen, and Schroeder.

The next step is for the agreed upon recommendations to be accepted or rejected by those decision making entities I just mentioned. These groups must accept or reject the consensus as a complete agreement. Any changes would require the Task Force Conciliation Committee to meet again and agree upon the alterations.

These types of community consensus agreements provide powerful and enduring solutions to complex community issues. There is no explicit term on the effect of the agreement, but typically this type of consensus endures until there are significant changes in circumstances. In which case, it would be a good idea to reconvene a community conciliation process to produce a new agreement.

This agreement is fully supported by every member of the Birch Grove Task force Conciliation Committee. Many thanks are due to the committee members for their patience, commitment and hard work in reaching community consensus. Thanks are also due to Bill Hansen, who graciously volunteered his time to facilitate the process.

As an outfitter, each spring we watch the waning ice thickness with a mixture of excitement and anticipation. A bit like the calm before the storm of visitors. Many inland lakes right now are currently covered in large puddles of standing water. Upon encountering this scene on our daily ski the other day we thought it prudent to measure the ice before venturing out too far.

Lest you worry about us, the ice on Sawbill is still 24 inches, solid. There’s about four inches of hard packed slush and snow on top of the ice, and an abundance of big sloppy puddles on top of that. Puddle skiing doesn’t get enough credit - if you don’t mind sloppy socks. On a still sunny day, the puddles reflect the blue sky and patches of snow become the fluffy clouds. Standing in the middle of this on a large lake with the blue expanse stretching out overhead and reflected below your feet, it feels for all the world like you are skiing on the ski.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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