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North Shore News Hour

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The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center had an interesting visitor this week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 23

Blessings from the heavens have been raining down on the territory as I begin keying this week's scoop. When one resides where wild fire can often be lurking, any rain is always a good rain in spite of the damper it might put on outdoor activities. Then again, energized wilderness folks are pretty much undaunted by difficult weather happenings.  

With the richness of wet soil, blooms are exploding all over border land. The golden floral edging along the Scenic Byway is growing by the day, while the rainbow of lupine spires is adding multiple tints to this journey through the northern Riviera.

And in other unique places, one can encounter wild roses flashing their pinkish splendor. Despite the recent gloom overhead, Mother Nature's pallet can’t help but brighten one's day.                                                                    
All growing things considered, we are slowly being consumed by the green forest monster. This big green scene makes one feel pretty minute in the total scheme of living beings.                                                                     
To go along with the glory of “Neebing” (summer in Ojibwe), a flurry of critter sightings has been reported. Yours truly had the good fortune of meeting a little gang of fox kits over the past few days. The little cuties were flirting with danger along the Trail near Little Iron Lake. Three foxy faces were peeking out of the roadside weeds, and then jumping frightfully into the air like popcorn popping as I crept by. Sure hope traffic through that area gives them a break.                                                                                                                                                     
Some residents can go days, if not weeks, without seeing a moose, and then out of nowhere the north woods originals are making all kinds of appearances. One couple spotted two in separate sightings through the mid-Trail area and another couple recently found a momma supervising swimming lessons for her twins in a pond up near end of the Trail.                                  

One just has to be in the right place at the right time. Somehow visitors to the territory seem to assume moose should be found just around the next curve. Tongue in cheek, I direct them by the Poplar Haus (old Windigo Lodge) as there is always one there.                                                                                                        
A snappy happening was observed up at the Chik Wauk Nature Center site last weekend. A fairly large snapping turtle meandered away from the bayside water apparently in search of a nesting site for her egg laying exercise. The hard shelled old gal ended up along the parking area perimeter near the museum entrance where she dug a hole in the sand and gravel and proceeded with her second step in motherhood.                                                                                                                                                   

It would seem doubtful the hatching process could become reality with invasive humans prodding around close by, in addition to the danger of some protein consumer sniffing out the eggs. Further complications might involve the up to 125 days of incubation running up against early cold weather when those eggs need 80 degree warmth.                                                                                                   

Regardless of the outcome, this was exciting viewing for staff and visitors. The nesting site will bear watching, as once again you have to be in the right place at the right time.                                                                                                                                                                         
During a recent “wild neighborhood” excursion, I came across a grouse hen alongside the county road. As usual, she reluctantly, sauntered out of harm's way. While slowing for the observation, I discovered the reasoning for not making a swift escape was her brood of chicks. The little puff balls were all scattered on either side of my pathway, and like the little foxes mentioned above, had no clue about dangers of playing in the road. There is little doubt momma grouse was about to pull her feathers out trying to keep them safe.                                                                                                                                                                  
One can be in the right place this coming Sunday at the Chik Wauk Nature Center as a program on “Loons from a Loon Enthusiast’s Point of View” is on tap at 2:00 p.m. Phyllis Sherman, who has been a volunteer since 2003 for the DNR non-game division Loon Watch Program, will be the presenter. It looks to be a meaningful and fun hour with loon-inspired door prizes for attendees.                                                                                                                                   
It’s with sadness area residents have received word on the passing of Ken Rusk. Since the late 1960s he’s been a seasonal resident of the upper Trail with his late wife Nathalie (“Nat”). Ken, who would have been 100 in October, died in White Hall, Wisconsin last weekend.                                                                           
In spite of the sorrow surrounding his departure from our midst, this north woods gentleman will always be remembered for the joyous smiles he brought to every occasion. Gunflint community condolences are extended to his survivors and many friends.                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, and  overflows  with majesty and adventure! 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 23

Hi. I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, on the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation in the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 23rd, here’s what’s up out there.

This weekend, you can expect a lot of traffic out in the Forest, but most of it will be bikes. This is the weekend of the Lutsen 99er, a mountain bike event which has been growing for the past several years. If you are traveling on forest roads in the Lutsen area, keep an eye out for posted information about the race route and the presence of bikers on the roads. There are also several spots for spectators where cars will be parked along the roadside. You may want to be a spectator yourself; it’s a fun race to watch. While the race itself is on Saturday morning, often participants stay the weekend and you can expect bike traffic in the Forest all weekend long.

Highway 61 is a designated scenic byway, and as such, it is often a destination for people who like to drive. Every year, various clubs come to drive the road, and in the past you’ve been able to see classic cars, great motorcycles, and, one year, the largest gathering of DeLoreans on the planet, all cruising 61. Some of these groups drive slowly, so exercise caution when passing them, and don’t try to pass the entire group at once. Pay attention to oncoming groups as well because there may be people pulling out into your lane to pass.  And… keep your eyes on the road, not on the very cool 1939 Ford coupe going by, but do take the time to appreciate our yearly mobile car show.

We may not have classic cars in the woods, but we do have some logging trucks out on the forest roads. On the Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and Trestle Pine Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is happening around the Sawbill Landing area.

This past week was the start of our summer series of naturalist programs at area resorts and campgrounds. These programs are brought to you through a cooperative agreement with Visit Cook County. The schedule is posted in many places, and is available on our website as well as on Visit Cook County’s website. The programs are free and open to the public, and while you learn about bats or wolves or bogs, you also get a great chance to visit some of the resorts along the shore and grab a s’more by the fire.

Speaking of fire, recent rains have kept the fire danger low. With our long days and warm sun, the forest can dry quickly, and people should check on fire conditions before heading out on trips when you plan a campfire. Crews are doing some work in Sawbill Lake, Wilson Lake, and Baker Lake campgrounds to clear understory brush and trees which would provide fuel in the event of a wildfire. While it may look destructive, fuel reduction actually keeps the forest in a more natural condition, mimicking what an understory fire would have done naturally. By reducing fuel on the ground, the intensity of a wildfire should be reduced. This makes it more likely that if there was a fire in the area, the fire would spare large pines, do less damage to structures, and be more easily brought under control. To minimize impact to campers, these crews are only working during the work week, during daylight hours, or when there are no campers in the area.
 
Enjoy the woods this weekend, and until next week, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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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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Summer in the forest

North Woods Naturalist: June and summer

June is ramping up toward full-fledged summer. Plants are flowering, trees are leafing out and insects are buzzing about. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about summer starting.

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Short-tailed shrew

North Woods Naturalist: Shrews

They’re our second smallest mammal, but they’re common, though secretive. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about shrews.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 16

Hi. I’m Susan McGowan-Stinski, administrative assistant on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the forest. For the week of June 16, here’s what’s going on in the forest.

With the recent rainy and stormy weather, it seems like a good time to talk about what to do if you get caught out in severe weather. Northern Minnesota is not in the tornado belt, but Mother Nature seems to compensate for that by making us one of the areas with the most lightning strikes per year. Our fire-based forest ecology actually derives from this fact: Without lightning, there’d be no natural source of fire in the forest, and we wouldn’t have the kind of woods that we do. This means, though, that lightning is something that you have to be ready for on any extended camping trip in this area. 

The first rule is one everyone knows. Get off the water during a storm. Actually, get off the water before the storm as lightning strikes ahead of the storm front. That means don’t wait for one more fish, or try to get to the next campsite - it means get off the lake now. Once off the lake, avoid scenery. That is, the beautiful, high, rocky knob with the lone tall pine isn’t the place to be. You want the low areas, free of trees that may fall during winds. Avoid standing on roots that could connect to tall trees, and minimize your contact with the ground by crouching instead of lying down. Use life jackets or other equipment to help insulate you from the ground. If you are at a campsite, look at the potential for trees to fall when putting your tent up. During a storm, shelter in your rain gear outside of the tent so you can watch for falling trees and see what is going on. Be aware, and you can weather the storm.

We’ve got some logging truck activity this week, the same as last week. Keep an eye out for trucks in the Greenwood Lake area on the Gunflint District, and around the Sawbill Landing area in Tofte.

There still may be some prescribed fires happening if the weather permits. If you see signs on roads concerning prescribed burns, drive with caution and be aware that trucks and personnel may be on the roads.

That’s all for this week! Enjoy the week and the forest, and hope for good weather! Until next week, this has been Susan McGowan-Stinski with the National Forest Update.
 

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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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North Shore Health - Wellness

WTIP Volunteer Tina Krauz covers the progress on the renovations at the North Shore Hospital and Care Center. In this installment she talks with Amy James about well-being and wellness.

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Jupiter and its four moons

Northern Sky: June 10 - 23

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.

The moon is waning which is good for starwatchers. Jupiter shows up in the southwest just after nightfall, and Spica can be seen southeast of Jupiter. Saturn will be at its brightest for the year in the southeast with the giant red star Antares to the west. Venus and a waning crescent moon can be seen in the east very early in the morning on June 20.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 9

Hi. I’m Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist, on the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 9, here’s what’s going on in the woods.

Schools are out in most of the state, and people are heading north! Expect some road congestion on Hwy 61 and Hwy 1 on Fridays and Sundays as people travel to and from the south. There can also be some congestion at our offices as people stop in to pick up Boundary Waters entry permits. Our offices are open from 8 to 4:30 every day during the summer, but there are often multiple groups picking up permits first thing in the morning, so there could be a wait. You may want to plan to get your permit at a later time of day to avoid the line.

There’s been an increase in people using emergency locator devices in the Boundary Waters. These small devices use a satellite system to send a location and pre-recorded help message in an emergency. If you plan on having one with you, make sure you know how to properly operate it so that you don’t accidentally trigger an emergency response. Pack these devices in a way so that the buttons can’t be accidentally pressed, and program them with different levels of concern, such as a ‘we’re late, but don’t worry’ message, or ‘there’s a problem, but don’t send help,’ or ‘send help immediately.’ Usually these devices contact a friend or family member, and those contact people should be prepared to respond by knowing the names of people in the party and what their itinerary was. They also should know that the correct next contact is the county sheriff, as search and rescue operations are run out of the sheriff’s department. In this area, that would be either the Lake or Cook County Sheriff, so the contact should find out which county the party will be in, and what the phone number for the sheriff is. The sheriff will contact the Forest Service if necessary. Remember, false alarms are expensive, and can needlessly risk emergency responders.

We are welcoming a new temporary ranger to the Tofte District. If you are passing by, stop in and say hi to Ben South who will be here for a few months. He’s coming from Colorado, so the Sawtooth Mountains may not impress him, but our 10,000 lakes are pretty spectacular.

While we are looking at some rain this weekend, we have had a recent dry spell and fire danger is moderate. During the summer, fire danger can change quickly as warm weather dries the forest quickly. Calculating the fire risk uses many factors. High temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds will all increase fire danger, so it is more than a measure of how long ago the last rain was. The drier forest did allow the fire crew to do a prescribed burn last Wednesday near Isabella. The underburn we conducted will allow for better growth of pine seedlings beneath the mature pines, and used up the fuel beneath the pines in a controlled way. That fuel could otherwise have created a major wildfire. As always, check for any fire restrictions before you head out camping, and be sure campfires are totally out before you leave the area.

Our roads are in pretty good shape, although they have yet to be graded this year. In fact, the dry weather has made them so hard that they can’t be graded right now. There is some logging traffic. On the Gunflint District, you may find trucks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Gunflint Trail, FR 1385, and Trestle Pine Road. On the Tofte District, logging traffic will be around the Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.

Enjoy the woods this weekend, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.

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