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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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Bill Sarah Adam

West End News October 5

West End News 10/5/2017  
 
If you haven’t had a chance to sneak out and take part in the Art Along the Lake Fall Studio Tour, this weekend is your last chance. The fall studio tour is a fabulous time for locals and visitors alike to meet artists in their studios. Stops on the tour include home studios as well as galleries, and some are featuring guest artists. The locations are all open daily from 10am to 5pm until Sunday, October 8th. Of particular note is the tour stop at Mary Jane Huggins’ place in Tofte. She has many demonstrations going on each day, including bracelet weaving and scarf dying workshops as well as basket weaving and spinning demonstrations. If you haven’t yet spent some hours chatting with Mary Jane, don’t miss your opportunity this weekend!
 
Birch Grove Community School is off to a running start this fall. The new curriculum has arrived, purchased thanks to funds provided by the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation. The school also just received a $500 donation from the Library Friends of Cook County, thanks friends! Community lunches have also started up again, with the next one this Tuesday October 10. Come on down to Birch Grove for a delicious lunch and a chance to chat with the west end’s youngest residents. A reminder that there is no school on Friday October 6th, and the school board meeting will be taking place on Tuesday October 17 at 6pm.
 
While I know the Gunflint Trail has had more than its fair share of bear trouble this year, up here on the Sawbill Trail we are having a different kind of wild life issue. Every fall the red squirrels go into overdrive it seems, storing up food for the impending snow storms. This year though, instead of simply collecting seeds out of the towering white pines, the little buggers are using us for target practice with their pinecones. There is a constant barrage of banging with the cones dropping out of the trees onto our metal roofs. Walking between buildings almost requires a hard hat at this point. Some folks in our campground had a particularly vindictive squirrel that they swore was dropping cones on them on purpose. When they mentioned it to their neighbors, they fessed up that they had originally set up in that same site but moved after they realized the squirrel was out to get them! I wonder if filling our bird feeders will ease the squirrels aggressive fall actions?
 
Honorary west ender, Bill Hansen, and his son Adam are currently vacationing in Kenya. Adam studied abroad in Nairobi in college and this is the second time the pair have travelled back to visit Adam’s old friends and host family. This visit, they have decided to forego the dog and pony show of public transportation and have rented a car, allowing them some freedom to visit out of the way places. One such place, was the home of Barack Obama’s grandmother, Sarah. On a whim, the guys looked her up and drove to her house. Outside was a security guard, on an even crazier whim, they asked him if they could say hello and pay their respects. The guard called the 95 year old woman up and she promptly invited them in for a visit. Bill reports that they had a wonderful chat about her life as a farmer. Her main concern now, though, is the importance of promoting education for all. It’s a good reminder how, even a world away, peoples’ values and goals can be so very similar.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Pickle Ball

West End News September 28

West End News 9/28/2017
 
Let me start with a hearty thank you to Bill Hansen, aka Dad, for filling in last week while I had a rare September vacation to Denver, Colorado. While being away this time of year can be difficult for a number of reasons, I was especially worried that we would miss out on the best of the fall colors as this is shaping up to be a stellar year. The maples lead the charge a couple of weeks ago, with some brilliant reds just hinting at the show to come. Luckily, we don’t appear to have missed the lovely golds and oranges of the birch and aspen. It seems the farther inland you go from Lake Superior, the more the trees have changed, so up here at the end of the Sawbill trail it is quite lovely right now. As we begin to say goodbye to our summer visitors, the wildlife has started moving back in. A large whitetail buck has been frequenting our back yard and the wolves have been heard howling out in the Wilderness. Grouse hunting has been a little slow, but it is challenging while the leaves are still on the trees, at least that’s what the unlucky hunters tell me.
 
The Schroeder Area Historical Society will be hosting Marcia Anderson at the Cross River Heritage Center on Saturday, September 30 at 11am. Marcia will be discussing her book, A Bag Worth a Pony, a history of bandolier bags. These heavily beaded shoulder bags are made and worn by several North American Indian tribes around the Great Lakes. From the 1870s to the present day, Ojibwe bead artists in Minnesota have been especially well known for there lively, creative designs. Often, the Ojibwe would trade a beaded bandolier bag for a pony from neighboring Dakota people, hence the name of Marcia’s book.
 
The West End Pickle Ball players would like to share that they will be playing every Thursday and Saturday from 9am to 11am at Birch Grove Community Center. All levels are welcome, even those who have never heard of pickle ball before! If you are interested, call Carroll Peterson at 612-377-8748 for more information. Pickle Ball is basically a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. You play on a badminton sized court with a paddle and plastic ball with holes. It’s a great sport with simple rules and a fun way to stay active through the winter.
 
Birch Grove Community School was recently awarded a grant of $21,600 dollars from the Lloyd K Johnson Foundation for new math and reading curriculum. The curriculum arrived this week and the teachers and students are eager to begin exploring the new materials. Birch Grove is also gearing up for the annual Halloween Carnival, which is not to be missed! This year it will be on Sunday October 29, from 2 to 4 in the afternoon. The carnival features games, cookie decorating, bingo, prizes, food, and, my personal favorite, the cake walk. Costumes are welcome and there’s fun to be had for the whole family.
 
For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.
 

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Fall Colors by Bill via Flickr

West End News September 21

Clare Shirley is traveling this week, so she called in the second string to present the West End News. Clare is a tough act to follow, but I will do my best.
The U. S. Forest Service is asking for public comment on Lutsen Mountains Ski Area's proposal to expand onto 550 acres of public land adjacent to the existing ski hill.
You can see Lutsen Mountains' proposed master development plan online at lutsen.com. Basically, the ski area owners are saying, that given the state of the ski industry nation-wide, they need to grow dramatically in order to survive. Based on the statistics and Lutsen Mountains' long and deep involvement in the ski industry, it's hard to argue with their analysis.
Lutsen Mountains is the largest private employer in Cook County now.  Many other businesses rely on their existence, so it is very important to all of us that they survive and thrive.
The Forest Service is involved because terrain that is suitable for ski area expansion is on public land administered by the Forest Service.  It is actually very common for the Forest Service to make land available for ski areas.  Many, if not most, of the big western ski areas are located on federal land, which is leased by the businesses under an agreement called a special use permit. The process of applying for a special use permit is still in the early stages, so comments should address issues that you think the Forest Service should investigate.  The issues can be about social and community impacts, not just the obvious land-use and environmental impacts.
The deadline for these preliminary public comments is September 29th. You can find the physical and cyber addresses at the Superior National Forest website.
I saw long time Lutsen resident, Steve Dobbelmann a couple of weeks ago and immediately noticed that he is even thinner than usual.  It turns out that he was diagnosed with stage three dance in the tonsil and lymph node on the right side of his neck back in May.
He spent the summer receiving intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments. As with all cancer treatments, he was burned and sickened as a side effect to stopping the disease.  The good news is that Steve has now completed his treatments and the side effects are starting to recede.  The success rate for his type of cancer, treated in this way, is 85 to 90 per cent, so Steve and his family are feeling pretty upbeat.
This is good news, because we'd like to keep Steve around Lutsen for another 40 years if we can.
The county budget and property tax levy are much on people's minds now days.  The county is proposing a pretty substantial property tax increase this year. In past years, the county board, under pressure from tax payers, has elected to spend reserves and delay capital improvements to keep the levy low, which has now caught up with them, requiring a higher levy to get the budget back in balance.
While it is very easy to have the opinion that the county should spend less, the reality is much more complicated and nuanced than that.  My philosophy is that taxes should be raised and spent, efficiently for three reasons. The first is to provide services that are best handled by public entities.  Roads, law enforcement, education, public health are a few examples.  Second, are things that pay a handsome return on investment.  The YMCA, Cook County Higher Education, Child Protection Services, and community centers are good examples.  All prevent huge spending later by building community and preventing problems now.  This is the definition of wisdom, in my opinion.  The third category includes things that are simply the right thing to do.  A community is measured and respected according to how it takes care of its members who can't take care of themselves.  I, for one, don't want to abandon people with legitimate needs to their fate, like was done in the dark ages.  We are better than that.
The good news for taxpayers is that Minnesota has a number of ways to reduce your property tax bill if you are having trouble paying it.  The Cook County website has a helpful section that will allow you to easily determine if you are eligible.  I urge everyone to investigate, because it's surprising what is available.
Finally, I urge you to be polite and encouraging to our county commissioners, even if you disagree with them.  They have a very tough job and I know that don't want to do anything that hurts people.  However, they are elected to make decisions on our behalf and we should honor and respect that responsibility.  If you feel very strongly that they aren't representing you, than by all means stand for election the next time around.  Like everything in life, it isn't as easy as it looks from the outside.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with theWest End News.
 

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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.

Listen: