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West End News: January 16

Mesabi Miner
Mesabi Miner

WEN_20140116_finalcut.mp36.44 MB

The 30th running of the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is coming up January 24th through January 30th.  Tofte is a great place to be a spectator for this unique race that celebrates the history and culture of the North Shore.
The racers participating in the full 384 mile marathon race are required to rest of at least four hours at the Sawbill checkpoint, which is located on the Sawbill Trail six miles north of downtown Tofte.  The first teams should arrive there on Monday, January 27th at around 7 am. There should be teams at the checkpoint until about 2 that afternoon.
The Sawbill checkpoint has a fabulous atmosphere.  It’s right on the Temperance River and is doesn’t have any buildings, electricity or even cell service, so it’s a true wilderness experience.  It’s entirely possible to visit directly with the racers and their support teams around the bonfire there. 
Many years ago, when my daughter Clare was about five years old, she shyly approached the late Iditarod legend, Susan Butcher, at the checkpoint.  Susan was kind enough to really engage with Clare. She took her by the hand and introduced her to the dogs, one by one, telling Clare about each dog’s personality and racing history.  It was a highlight of Clare’s young life and we still have the picture posted that she drew when she got home that day, with each dog’s name laboriously labeled in her childish printing.
 The 112 mile mid-distance race has its exciting finish right in Tofte.  The winner should break the tape at about 8:30 on Monday morning, January 27th.  The last place finisher should cross the line around 1:30 that afternoon.
The awards banquet for the mid-distance race is being held at the Birch Grove Community Center, Monday evening starting at 6 pm and the community is welcome to attend.
Our wonderful local internet service, Boreal Access, has recently added a very fun feature to their website that allows West Enders to get real time information on the ships that are passing on Lake Superior.  The website displays a map, with the passing vessels showing up in their current location.  If you click on the ship icon, it brings up its name, a detailed description, photos, current speed, destination, with estimated time of arrival, what cargo it carries and where it came from most recently.  There are several other features, for the truly shipping obsessed.
It’s fun to track the ships as they pass, but in light of the recent reporting by WTIP’s Program Director Kelly Shoenfelder concerning human trafficking on great lakes vessels, I’ve started looking at the ships with a different eye.  I sincerely hope that her excellent reporting, along with the efforts by police and victim advocates, will lead to the permanent end of this sordid practice.
Speaking of Lake Superior, the water level in the big lake is back to nearly its average height, thanks to a relatively wet year.  According to the Lake Superior Board of Control, the lake level declined less this year than it normally does in the month of December.  It is now just one inch lower than the long-term average for the beginning of January and a full foot higher than it was at this time last year.  The lake level will continue to drop until spring runoff, which is normal. 
As predicted, snowmobile, cross-country ski, downhill ski and snowshoe trails are all in perfect trim at the moment, so now is the time to enjoy outdoor fun in the beautiful West End.
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.

{photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard}