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West End News

Clare Shirley

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Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.

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Northwoods Volunteer Connection

West End News: August 31

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

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Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom with Aren and Freja

West End News: August 17

Congratulations are due to the Tofte family this week. Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom, along with their extended clans, have welcomed the newest addition to their family. Aren Andrew Tofte Hedstrom joins big sister Freja, and we couldn’t be happier for them. While Abby and Sam have not yet had the good sense to move back to Tofte and instead reside a bit further east in the county, they are both lifelong residents of the North Shore and it is wonderful to see another
generation coming along to carry on the great legacy of two such wonderful families.

Volunteers Ginny Cooley and Nancy Koloski are joining forces with RSVP to offer bone builders exercise classes at Birch Grove. This is a very popular national program aimed at helping prevent and treat osteoperosis. The weight bearing
exercises focus on increasing bone density, gaining strength and improving balance. If you are interested in learning more, they will be having an information session on Wednesday, August 23, at 10:30 a.m. at Birch Grove. The class times are
not set yet so if you have any interest at all, come to the meeting and let them know what times work for you. Classes will begin the first week of September. Thanks Ginny and Nancy!

A soggy summer, with a hint of sun every now and again, has made for a lush and bountiful woods. The blueberries back in the west end woods are at their peak, right now. It sounds like they might be past their prime elsewhere, but our patches
are still full of plump blue delights. We’ve also been harvesting an abundance of lobster mushrooms this week. Lobster mushrooms are large, often fan shaped, bright orange mushrooms that grow in the duff on the forest floor. The color is
similar to cooked lobster meat, and they even have a faint seafood-like aroma. Interestingly, the odd shape and color are actually a result of a mold attacking a mushroom. The underlying mushroom is overtaken by the lobster mold and a
beautiful, weird, delicious fungus is created. You prepare them by cutting off any brown spots then sautéing them in a pan of butter. We stirred ours into a risotto. As always with mushroom hunting, it is best done the first time with someone
who knows what they are looking for. Eating the wrong fungus could have really nasty consequences.

Also found in the woods with great abundance this season are woodchucks. We have had a number of the cute little visitors waddling around our place for the last week. They are adorable, and they haven’t discovered my tomato plants yet, so for
now we are coexisting quite happily. I’ll take that arrangement anytime.

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

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West End News: August 10

If you spend time along the north shore of Lake Superior, chances are you’ve tried your hand at cairn making. Stacking the oblong lake rocks on top of each other in a tall, slender, stack is a time honored past-time on the beaches in our area. No does it better though, I’d venture to say, than Peter Juhl, professional stone balancer. He will be giving a presentation on his unique method of stacking of rocks at Sugarloaf Cove on August 12 during their annual ice cream social and membership meeting. Activities begin at 1pm with a short meeting followed by ice cream sundaes and a presentation by Peter. If you haven’t seen his work before, it is often recognizable by his unique ability to balance large rocks on tiny slender ones. His talk at Sugarloaf will begin with an on-screen presentation at the visitor center, then a short walk down to the Cove for some hands-on balancing practice.

A reminder that Birch Grove Community School is having their open house for the saplings program on Tuesday, August 15, from 4-7 p.m. Come find out about the great saplings program for kids ages 3-5. It runs Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through May. The program has flexible hours for busy families, a high quality staff, and focuses on kindergarten readiness. I tend to believe that an early childhood education like this program offered by Birch Grove is a key to a healthy start for any child. Come check out the school on August 15 and see what would be a good fit for your little one.

August 11 is the deadline to submit your comment to the US Forest Service regarding their proposed withdrawal of approximately 234,000 acres of National Forest lands from disposition under mineral leasing laws. Basically, the agency is looking at the whether these lands in the Rainy River watershed adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should be protected from future mining projects for the next 20 years. The purpose of the withdrawal is the protection of the natural resources and waters located on the national forest lands and the potential for adverse environmental impacts that arise from mining exploration and development. This withdrawal would only apply to federal, public, national forest system lands, of course. Private land owners in the area are free to do as they wish.

This is a major proposal, and there are only a couple of times during the review process that the public has any input. Now is one of those times. You can submit a comment by mail or email, just Google Superior National Forest Application for Withdrawal and you’ll find the links from the Forest Service. Public comments are all taken into consideration. If you have a well supported comment, it is much more effective than simply signing your name to a petition. This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a close, hard look at the potential impacts to our region. The deadline for comments is August 11, so don’t procrastinate any longer!

It should come as no surprise that I fully support the withdrawal. Public lands are here for all of us to enjoy. It might be our backyard, but it belongs to all Americans. All that protects these special places are some words on paper in Washington DC, and the hard work of people like us. It’s our turn now to take up the constant effort to educate others and preserve our greatest resource. I think we can all agree that we love our Wilderness area and the outdoor opportunities we are afforded here. Let’s keep the long view in sight and protect this way of life for our kids and grandkids.

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

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West End News: July 27

I am sad to report this week that the West End has lost one of its fixture members. Mike Nelson, of Tofte, passed away peacefully this week after a short battle with cancer. Mike raised four daughters in Tofte - Alana, Sarena, Gina and Christina. Among many wonderful qualities, they say they will especially remember his love for his friends and family and his great sense of humor through everything. There will be a celebration of life for Mike on August 5 at 11 a.m. at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte. I will miss seeing Mike parked on the Sawbill Trail at the Temperance River crossing, pausing to appreciate the day.
 
On Tuesday, August 15, Birch Grove is holding their Dress to Play open house. The whole communitiy is invited to join current, past and potential Birch Grove families at Birch Grove in Tofte. From 4-7 p.m. you’ll be able to meet school staff and school board members, ask them your questions, tour the school and connect with other Birch Grove families. There will be free hot dogs, S'Mores, a bouncy house and art projects for the kiddos. They will also have registration information available for the Community Service Program, the Saplings program for 3-5 year olds, and the K-5 program. Bring your family and friends and dress to play! Again that’s coming up on August 15 from 4-7.
 
On Sundays from now until August 27 you can catch Music on the Mountain at Mogul's Grill and Taproom in Lutsen. Each week from 5-8 p.m. different bands will play outside on the deck. It’s a great excuse to sneak away to Lutsen for an evening and enjoy some outside time during our all too brief summer.
 
The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and Sustainable Ely are having a Boundary Waters Grill-Out on Thusday, August 3, from 4-7 p.m. in the Grand Marais Rec Park lakeside pavilion. I realize that’s not in the West End, but the Boundary Waters is, and if you’re curious what these organizations have been up to, please join us on Thursday to hear their update. The Campaign is providing all grill items and beverages, so feel free to bring a side dish to share if you like. There will be a bonfire, lawn games, and music as well as Campaign information, updates and merchandise.
 
Even if you aren’t familiar, or are even suspicious of groups like Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, I encourage you to join for an evening of fun and get to know each other. I recently attended the US Forest Service’s listening session in Virginia, Minnesota, regarding the agency's proposal to put a moratorium on mining leases on a portion of land adjacent to the BWCAW. Emotions ran high at the public listening session where people from both sides of the issue argued passionately about their view points. I had my one-year-old Kit along, so I spent a fair amount of time wandering the hallway just outside the meeting room. There were quite a few mining advocates also milling around this hallway, and Kit and a I had a wonderful time chatting with them about life on the Range, funny kid stories, and, of course, the weather. It was a much-needed reminder that even though we are on polar opposite ends of an emotional issue we are still neighbors first, and really, Northeastern Minnesotans have a lot more in common than we don’t.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Grand Canyon sunset

West End News: July 20

I often talk about the myriad outdoor opportunities to be had here in the West End. One of my favorite aspects of the landscape here is that it is so accessible. While out in the woods and on the lakes I’ve seen people from all stages of life, whether it be babies on their first excursion, or 90-year-old grandparents revisiting their favorite lake from a lifetime ago.

If you are closer to that second category than the first, you should be aware that the Senior Pass for National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands is increasing in price from $10 to $80 on August 28. So for the next week, if you are over the age of 62, $10 will get you access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six federal agencies, including the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. The pass covers the entrance and standard day-use amenity fees. Your traveling companions can also enter for free on your pass. You can get your pass at any federal recreation site that charges an entrance fee.

Speaking of our national treasures, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are holding the last official public listening session on the issue of mining near the Boundary Waters this Tuesday, July 25, in Virginia, Minnesota. These listening sessions give the federal agency the opportunity to hear from the public about their concerns, on the record. Those who want to speak will be chosen that day through a lottery system. Each person selected has three minutes to speak. You can also defer your three minutes to someone else if you are chosen.

The listening session will be held at the Virginia High School auditorium from 5 to 7:30 p.m., doors open at 4:30. The session is focused on the fact that on January 13, federal agencies initiated an environmental revew of the watershed surrounding the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Lake Superior region to determine the impacts of potential sulfide-ore copper mining. So, if you have something you’d like the officials to hear about this topic, please consider taking the trip over to Virginia and make your voice heard.

While the world sometimes feels small in our little corner of Cook County, these are good reminders that we are part of a larger community both here in Minnesota and in our nation. It is up to us to be good stewards of our land, nobody else is going to do it for us. We have a long and proud legacy that is closely tied to our landscape. I hope we can speak loudly for this quiet place and keep it out of the hands of large foreign corporations. We owe it to ourselves and our community.

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


 

West End News: July 13

Beer lovers rejoice! Caribou Highlands in Lutsen is once again hosting the annual beer tasting weekend-long event, Hopped Up Caribou. This weekend, July 14- 16, will be full of beer tasting, live music, and adventure. You can purchase tickets to any of the events individually, or the whole weekend package. Check out their website, hoppedupcaribou.com for more info on what all is happening and when.
 
Also happening on Saturday, July 15 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. is Sugarloaf Cove’s Stop the Invasives program. Join the folks at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder for a hands-on experience identifying problematic invasive plants present in our region, but not yet widespread. Learn to identify these invaders and distinguish them from native look-alikes. Want to report invasives to the experts when you spot them? Well, there’s an app for that. At the program on Saturday, you will learn how to report infestations using the GLEDN smartphone app. Invasive plant species are a real growing concern, no pun intended. In many cases, invasive plants can choke out native growers, potentially eliminating food sources for local animals and changing our very landscape. Learning to spot and eradicate the non-native plants is a valuable skill for anyone who spends much time in our west end woods.
 
Also happening at Sugarloaf Cove in Schroeder is the ever-popular songbird banding. Every Thursday from now until August 31 from 7 a.m. to noon, folks at Sugarloaf will be banding and monitoring the populations of songbirds that nest and travel through the area. Stop in to learn about the process and the importance of the research in understanding the lifespan, movement, and productivity of songbirds. This is a free event, but donations are appreciated. For more information on the variety of things happening at Sugarloaf this summer, you can always give them a call at 218-525-0001.
 
The bloodmobile will be at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte this Tuesday, July 18. If you’ve never donated blood, or it’s been a while, now is a good time to get back to it. The supply is dangerously low and many of the regular donators are unable to donate this time around. Donating blood is easy, and sometimes even enjoyable if you end up sitting next to a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. It’s a good chance to catch up! There are openings between 2:15 and 4:15 on Tuesday the 18th. You can give Jane a call to schedule your spot. You can reach her at 663-7254.
 
Water levels remain high in the Wilderness. I planted flowers right after Memorial Day and I haven’t yet had to water them. Suffice it to say, we are soggy. That’s the price we pay, though, for low fire dangers.  More rainy days means more saunas and that’s a pretty good trade-off in my opinion.
 
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Tofte Trek

West End News: July 6

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

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West End News: June 22

With the solstice comes the true arrival of summer. And with summer comes an array of outdoor activities here in the west end. If you need an excuse to get out and explore our collective backyard, you could attend one of the nature walks at Oberg Mountain in Lutsen this summer. Every Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon from June 22 and running to August 24 there will be a naturalist at the Oberg trailhead with something interesting to share. There are no guided hikes and no fees so feel free to just drop on by.
 
If biking is your scene, be sure to join the Superior Cycling Association in their grand opening and subsequent ride of the new Flume mountain bike trail in Tofte. The opening is on Saturday, July 1 at 3 p.m. Riders can meet at the Britton Peak parking lot and the group will ride to the start of the Flume Trail and beyond. All riding abilities are welcome.
 
If you’re a runner I hope you’re planning to attend the annual Tofte Trek 10K trail Run on the fourth of July. Sponsored by the Sugarbush Trail Association, you can register on their website, sugarbushtrail.org. Pre-registration closes on July 2, although you procrastinators can still register on the Fourth starting at 7:45 in the morning at Birch Grove. The first 200 registrants are guaranteed a t-shirt. The races begin at Birch Grove at 9a.m. This is always a fun event, that also includes children’s sprinting races, a youth one-mile run, and the main muddy event, the 10K. It’s a wonderful way to kick off your big Tofte Fourth of July celebration.
 
If you’re not a runner, you are still welcome to participate in the fun atmosphere and the Birch Grove Foundation will be selling breakfast pizza from the wood-fired oven from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. After the race, head over to festival at Tofte Town Park. There will be the ever-popular dunk tank, live music, food, beer garden, bingo, art and craft show, and minnow races. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks show over Lake Superior that is not to be missed. 
 
The woods update this week is more wildlife. Bear cub sightings, moose with babies swimming across lakes, and loons galore have all been reported this week from the wilderness travelers. The no-see-ums have also made their presence known, but rumor has it that even just a few lakes to the north of us here and the bugs are much less nuisance. Fishing has picked up a little, and the frequent bouts of rain interspersed with sunshine have made for some lush green growth and an abundance of wild flowers.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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West End News: June 15

Clare Shirley's West End News is a weekly feature on WTIP. Clare is a fifth-generation local, and third-generation canoe outfitter from Cook County's West End.

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Loren Acton

West End News: June 8

Meeting new people is one of my favorite parts of the summer visitor season. With a wide array of things to do and see in the most popular Wilderness area right in our backyard, people from all walks of life are drawn to Cook County. You just never know who is going to walk through the door, and I love it.

This week a nice fellow stopped by my office to inquire whether I, or someone I knew, would like to buy is his old Kevlar canoe. Now, he is not the first person to ask me this, nor is it really something I usually do. I have plenty of my own canoes to deal with. This man was so nice, however, that I thought I’d at least take a shot at finding a new home for his canoe. He and his wife were hitting the road for Montana the next morning. Fellow Sawbillian Jessica Hemmer sent out a few texts and lo and behold, Adrian Hess of Lutsen was in the market for a new-to-him canoe. The next morning, the gentleman came back to our store and while Jessica was helping him get the canoe off his car he casually mentioned “well, something kind of interesting you can tell your friend, he just bought this canoe from an astronaut.”

Sure enough, our kind visitor turned out to be none other than Loren Acton, a physicist who specializes in solar physics. Loren flew on STS-51-F/Spacelab-2 Challenger in 1985. It took seven years of training to prepare and at the end of the mission he had spent just over a week in space, and traveled over 2.8 million miles in 126 Earth orbits. Currently, he is a research professor of physics at Montana State University. Loren and his wife Evelyn are two of the nicest people I’ve met, which would’ve been great in and of itself, but it’s not everyday that an astronaut strolls into your office - that’s for sure!

The much anticipated Lutsen 99er bike race is coming up on June 24 this year. While registration for the race itself is closed, there are still volunteer opportunities to be had. If you are interested, you can get a hold of Signe Larson by emailing her at signesummer@gmail.com. There are pre-race jobs on Thursday and Friday as well as places to help during the race itself. The race is quite the event, and something well worth checking out. The big start is at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday at Lutsen Mountain near Rosie’s Chalet and spectators are welcome. After the race there will be live music at Papa Charlie's.

Speaking of biking, the sun is shining and it’s time for me to hit the trail.

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

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