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West End News April 21


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I saw my first chipmunk of the season this week. It was standing up, in that cute chipmunk way, right in the middle of the Sawbill Trail. It didn’t move a muscle as I approached in my car, so I hit the brakes hard, not wanting to run over the first chipmunk of the year. In a grim twist of the ground hog day tradition, I’m pretty sure if you kill the first chipmunk you see in the spring, it dooms us to at least six more weeks of winter weather. At the last second the chipmunk turned and dove into a hole right in the middle of the road. I wonder what it will do when the county road grader comes along in a few weeks?

Congratulations to the McKeever family of Schroeder on their nomination for a Joel Labovitz Entrepreneurial Success Award. They were nominated in the innovation category for developing a process that increases the efficiency of geo-thermal heating systems. The Labo Awards are a program of the UMD Center for Economic Development and recognizes entrepreneurs and business owners from Northeastern Minnesota. Former West End resident David Peipho, son of Butch and Rae Peipho of Lutsen is also nominated for a Labo Award in the micro entrepreneur category for his business, Superior Squeegee.

The excellent online news source, MinnPost, is running a series of in depth articles about Minnesota rural youth called, “Rural Minnesota: A Generation at the Crossroads.” MinnPost reporter, Jeff Severns Guntzel, was in Cook County recently and produced a nice profile of Cook County’s own Kelly Schoenfelder. The reporter also visited Cook County Higher Education and I hope he will feature that outstanding home-grown program in a future article. Even many Cook County residents don’t know that you can attend college right here in Cook County. Since it’s inception 305 students have been awarded degrees or certificates through Cook County Higher Education, using a variety of distance learning methods. You can find MinnPost online at

The Annual meeting of the Tofte Historical Society will be held on Sunday, May1st, at the Birch Grove Center in Tofte. The event starts at 2 PM. There will be a brief business meeting, followed by a presentation on boat building from Todd Miller, owner of the the Grand Marais Boathouse. There will be, of course, refreshments, treats and plenty of time for visiting. You can call 663-7050 for more details or if you have questions.

The ice on Sawbill Lake is still 22” thick and plenty strong enough to walk on. A couple of weeks ago, when it was so warm, the ice actually floated up. Floating up is the phenomenon of the ice sheet detaching itself from the shore and becoming so porous that it becomes lighter than the water and spontaneously rises up about a foot an a half. Usually, when the ice floats up, it will be gone in ten days to two weeks. This year, the day after it started floating, the weather turned so cold that the water around the edges has refrozen and the ice sheet is once again anchored to the shore in most places. The streams that flow to Lake Superior have dropped dramatically from their raging peak last week. Their flow will pick up again when the weather warms up, providing more fun for the white water kayakers that are parked along Highway 61 these days. Things change fast this time of year, and I’m confident that summer will arrive before the 4th of July.

Speaking of summer, there is a new and exciting event that will occur in the West End this summer. The Lutsen 99er is a 99 mile mountain bike race that will be held for the first time on June 11th this year. It’s a collaborative effort of our local tourism groups and the national company, Life Time Fitness. It is already being billed as the premier mountain bike race in the Midwest. It will start up at Lutsen Mountains, descend to the shores of Lake Superior, then climb back into the heights of the Superior National Forest before ending, 99 miles later, back at Lutsen Mountains. In addition to the main event, there will be a 39 mile event for people who are new to the sport or just don’t want to tackle the grueling main event. There will be many other activities planned around the weekend and much more information to come. As always, you can find information on the web at

Airdate: April 21, 2011

Photo courtesy of Dawn Huczek via Flickr.