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West End News: Aug. 25

Leif Gilsvik from Two Harbors covered a lot of ground in just one day in the BWCAW
Leif Gilsvik from Two Harbors covered a lot of ground in just one day in the BWCAW

Finalcut_WEN_20110825.mp39.25 MB

Leif Gilsvik and Caleb "Hurrikane" Hamp-Sill, from Two Harbors, have set what I am guessing is a record for distance traveled in one day in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. They started at Sawbill Lake at 6:30 in the morning and completed the route known as the Little Sag West Loop. They headed west through the Lady Chain of lakes: Beth, Grace, Phoebe, Hazel, and Polly. They turned north at Polly and traveled to Little Saganaga via Malberg, the Kawishiwi River and Malberg. They stopped on Makwa to cool off by jumping off the 30-foot cliff found there. They took another break on Little Sag to eat lunch and relax for an hour. Then they turned south and returned to Sawbill via Mora, Hub, Mesaba, Zenith and Kelso Lakes. This stretch contains many portages including one that is a mile long and another that measures a mile and a half.

On the north end of Kelso Lake, Leif and Hurrikane found a wildfire on a small island. They took another hour break to haul dozens of packsacks full of water and put out the fire that has burned about 500 square feet of forest. They couldn't tell if the fire was the result of careless people or a lightning strike. Leif said that putting out the fire gave them a second or third wind and they fairly cruised the last five miles into Sawbill. They arrived at the landing at about 9:30 pm. Distance is hard to measure accurately in wilderness travel, but I estimate that the young athletes covered roughly 60 to 70 miles including around 9 miles of portaging. As you might expect, Leif and Hurrikane are in better than average physical condition. Leif is a varsity cross country skier at Gogebic Community College and a Junior Olympian. Hurrikane is the reigning state high school champion in both the long jump and the triple jump. Leif's only comment about their trip was to mention that they should have brought more food.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced a major study to determine the effect of the big oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on Minnesota's loons. No one knows how many of Minnesota's loons were killed outright by the oil in the gulf where our loons spend their winters. Many loons did return this spring, although numbers do seem to be down somewhat, at least in the West End. The concern is that the oil will affect the long-term ability of baby loons to reach maturity in the gulf before they return to the north country. The study will equip a bunch of loons with tiny satellite tracking devices so their travels and mortality can be tracked. You can follow the travels of some loons by going to the Minnesota DNR website.

Light bulbs have been in the news lately as the federal government begins the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs in the United States. This is a very sensible policy that has long been established in other developed nations. The traditional incandescent bulb is a very old technology that is terribly inefficient in its energy use. The newer compact fluorescent bulbs are much more efficient and will save you serious money over time. The new LED light bulbs are even more efficient, long lasting and money saving, but are still prohibitively expensive for most people. Requiring incandescents to go away will create an economy of scale for the compacts and LEDs that will bring the prices down quickly. Even more important, it will save the country huge amounts of energy that will both increase our productivity and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. There has been a little bit of political push back on the incandescent phase out, but they haven't gotten much traction in the face of the overwhelming evidence that the switch to more efficient lighting will be a very smart move in the long run.

While on the subject of energy, I'd like to engage in some shameless promotion. My son, Carl, is a finalist in a short film contest sponsored by the non-profit organization Environment Minnesota. The task was to produce a very short film that promotes the use of solar power to make electricity in Minnesota. The films will be judged on a variety of attributes, but one of the factors will be how many people vote for each film on Environment Minnesota's website. You can view and vote for Carl's film by going to and clicking on his film, which is titled "My Fellow Minnesotans…" By the way, you may recognize the voice of the narrator.

The Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder will have a program titled "Teacher Day" featuring John Salls, teacher and author of the book "First Year," and Larry Longmore, a former teacher at a logging camp school. The program starts at 1 pm, Saturday, Aug. 27.