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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:
Fall color

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 15

Gunflint territory has been living “Indian Summer” at its best as I begin this week's news. The facts were never more evident than this past weekend when temps warmed under crystal blue following an early September cool spell.                                                                                             

Heading into week three, golden flurries of fall have started trickling down along back country roads. Along our Mile O' Pine, the passage of a few neighborhood vehicles is beginning to windrow an accumulation of flighty birch tokens.                                                                                            

With the start of leaf drop being our first chapter in autumn's fade-away, the second is seen in the sudden decline of hummingbird arrivals and take-offs from our deck side feeding terminal. It would seem most of the mini-drones must have departed the territory as the sweet juice container has remained half full for several consecutive days.                                                                               

The beat goes on for this autumnal passage. During a recent trip up toward Trail's end, I found a micro sampling of fall in full dress. It may be history by this airing, but the scene was glorious around the little waterfalls on Larch Creek just south of the U.S. Forest Service Seagull Guard station. Brilliant reds, orange and golds framed the liquid as it tumbled over the granite barrier. Ahhh, the beauty of border country, that’s why we live here!                                                                                                                                            

The Smiths at long last got an up close peek at the local momma bear and her four youngsters. Having heard uncountable reports of the family, we encountered them twice in less than 24 hours. Those little ones are so cuddly. Too bad they grow-up to be an occasional nuisance. Or do they become annoyances because we humans create the opportunity? I think we know!                                                                                                                                 
Another note from our natural world finds the staff at Chik-Wauk still awaiting the hatching of the snapping turtle eggs. If you will recall from a June Wildersmith column, the eggs were buried in a protected area of the parking lot near the museum entrance. It’s going on 90 days since momma laid them, so if it’s going to happen the little snappers should be cracking out any day. The average incubation is about 70 days, but can extend to up over 90, so internal nurturing is at the long end of this “shell game” process.                                                                                                                                          

A new historical display at the Chik-Wauk Museum this summer probably has not drawn the attention it should. Being located on the front porch, the exhibit is one commanding interest from both a natural and cultural point of view.                                                                                  

The subject of the display is a log which was salvaged from a dead red pine tree growing on Voyagers Island in Lake Saganaga. Through “cross-dating” the natural story can now be told about growth rings being matched to now living trees in the BWCAW. The inner most growth ring was formed in the year 1589 while the outermost solid ring was formed in the early 1900s thus making this tree over 350 years old when it died. Scars within the growth rings indicate the effects of fire that burned around the tree in 1659, 1743 and 1847.                                                                            

Culturally, speaking a large scar on the face of the trunk was created when bark was stripped off by mankind. This was likely done to induce the flow of resin which ultimately was used in the development of gum sealants for the building and repair of birch bark canoes. Tool marks remain visible to this day. Interestingly, now dead for somewhere over a century, small spots of resin can still be found oozing from the log. The peel on the tree seems to have been initiated in the 1770s giving credence to the influence of people in this area during the fur trade era and likely indigenous people before them.                                                                                                                                                   

Discussion of this thought-provoking exhibit leads me to announce a special program coming up at Chik-Wauk on Saturday, September 23. Evan Larson, an associate professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, will be on hand to enlarge upon this fascinating history of mankind in nature. Professor Larson discovered the log while conducting research connecting fire relationships and border country inhabitants in Sag Lake territory.                                                                                                                                                                                
The program will be held in the Nature Center facility beginning at 2:00 pm, and looks to be another in the great series of summer programs at Chik-Wauk. Residents and visiting “leaf peepers” are reminded to stop in, see the exhibit and listen to Mr. Larson.                                                                                                    
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, as autumn lights up our lives!
 
 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: September 8

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, Superior National Forest interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of September 8.

It’s hard to believe that summer is gone and autumn is here. Two sure signs are that the kids are back in school, and our fall color reports and photos have reappeared on our webpage. Our reports are not just the percentage of color and predictions on when the peak of color will be, but also include some musings on autumn and fall illustrated with photos from around the Forest. Check it out if you haven’t. 

Fall migrations are in full swing. There is a lot of bird activity, and it is good time to keep the feeders full as birds need the food to fuel their travels. Hummingbirds are still around, so keep those feeders full and clean as well. If you go out on a nice still, clear night you’ll be able to hear migrating flocks of birds chirping to each other as they navigate using the stars. 

There’s a bit of human migration happening this weekend as well. The annual Superior Fall Trail Race will be taking place on the Superior Hiking Trail this Friday and Saturday. If you’re looking to go for a hike, you may want to visit their website to find out where racers may be on the trail. Watch for people, spectators and racers at trail crossings, and take note of temporary ‘no parking’ areas in some locations. Running 100 miles, or even 50 or 26, on a hiking trail is a pretty incredible feat so best of luck to all the participants.

Bear season has begun, so there will be bear hunters out in the woods as well as the runners. Look out for both hunters and bait stations, and try not to disturb either. With small game season opening soon as well, it is a good time to start wearing your orange hat or vest when out and about. Our black dog always sports an orange vest of his own this time of year.

Speaking of bears, they are in their final fattening up stage before hibernation. They love fat-rich acorns right now, but are also happy to eat any human food they discover. Take your bird feeders in at night, close your garage doors, and safely store all your food and garbage when camping. Our fee campgrounds have dumpsters, but they don’t work unless the bars or chains are secure. In at least one campground, the bears have figured out the bar system, so there are additional pins through the bar to secure it in place. Make sure you secure the dumpster as much as possible when you are done using it.

There’s a fair amount of truck traffic happening out in the woods. On the Tofte District, there will be trucks using the Clara Lake Road, the Caribou Trail, the Dumbbell River Road and the Wanless Road. On the Gunflint District, look for trucks on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Forest Road 1385, the Gunflint Trail, the South Brule Road, the Lima Grade, the Trestle Pine Road, and, finally, the Ball Club Road.

Those trucks will be competing with the first of the leaf watchers. Expect to see slow moving and parked vehicles over the next couple of months when people come to look at and take pictures of the fall foliage. And, if you are one of those people, make sure to park in safe places and close the doors of your car when you get out. Pull over in safe areas to let faster moving cars pass you.

Enjoy the beginning of fall, and until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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wooley bear caterpillar - Richard Droker, Flickr.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint September 8

Could it be a geriatric thing as these wonderful days along the Gunflint seem to go by so fast? Here we are having whizzed right by the full lunar experience, with one week of the ninth month into the books. Although my memory skips a beat once in a while, I still remember how long the days seemed when I was a kid, and now they’re all so short!                                                                                                                                                                      
Day by day we Gunflint regulars are noting changes in our natural surroundings as fall intensifies. Travel in the upper Trail, past the Kekakabic Trail trailhead, finds the most spectacular crimson maples I’ve ever noticed in this area. There aren’t an over-abundance of them, but nestled in amongst the coniferous green, those cherry red beauties provide the viewer with a holiday look of December. For an added touch, a smattering of gold nuggets, on the paper birch have the territory lit up like a Christmas tree when the sun is just right.                                                                           

This is such a colorful time of year one can’t help but be energized. The area is about to be a “leaf peeper's” dream come true while the forest slips into autumn apparel.                                                                                                                                  

Adding more zest to these times have been those majestic “Canadian” sunsets. One such, at day's end on Gunflint Lake over the past week has burned indelibly into my memory bank. On this particular evening, through a combination of thin clouds and wild fire smoke from afar, “old Sol” was spewing out reflections over the water to make it look like pink champagne. All of mankind couldn’t have scripted an equal to this “pink water” magic sent from heavens to earth!                                                                                                                                                                                                
A little bit of heaven right here on earth took place last Sunday at the annual “social” up on the historic Chik-Wauk campus. Truly a sweet tooth’s delight, over 300 pieces of pie and an equal number of ice cream dips were served on a splendid day.                                                         

Folks came “out of the woods" from both near and far to share in celebration of summer's end and the autumn take-over. With a special touch added by the North Shore Community Swing Band, sweet tunes were echoing off the granite hills surrounding this grand, end of the Trail destination. The day was a “honey," one of unmatched north woods delight for all!                                                                                                                                                                                     
Once again the Gunflint community stepped up with a superb event. Huge thanks to GTHS organizer Judy Edlund and her crew of volunteers, the great Chik-Wauk staff, Gunflint Lodge for in-kind donations, the “Swing Band” and of course, to the Gunflint pastry artisans.                                                   

In a related note, the Gunflint Trail Historical Society will be hosting the final membership meeting of the season, this coming Monday, September 11. The meeting will be held in the Schaap Mid-Trail Community Center beginning at 1:30 pm. Treats and conversation will follow the program.                                                                                                                                                             

 A full-house turned out last week at the mid-trail Schaap Center for the first in a series of Cook County budget levy meetings for the coming year. It was a well-managed and informative session. Whether one agreed with the budgeting projections or not, it was great to see folks come out and exercise their rights as citizens. Some loud and clear messages were spoken, and it would be assumed they were heard by those charged with this difficult taxing task.                                                                                                                                                                                   
With prognostications of winter on my mind, and help from a dear friend, I got some firewood splitting and stacking done over the last week. So this task is scratched from the “getting ready” list. However, docket check-offs are far from complete.                                                                  

While speaking of forecasts, a couple of those wooly bear caterpillars have been observed recently. Dark and lush in their woolly coat, the age old story of the darker and fuller their fuzz, the more severe will be the winter ahead. On the contrary, this is a myth with no scientific substance. But if one believes the tale, it should be considered only reliable as one of those 10 percent chance predictions from the climatological sensationalists.                                                                                                                                                                  
A fellow from over on Loon Lake shared a recent bear happening at his place. A rumble early one morning found something causing a ruckus. Strangeness of the source was it seemed to be right above where he was slumbering. A nudge from his wife prodded him from bed to go outside and see what was going on. Prowling around the exterior, he came to where he believed the noise was originating. Looking up over the corner of the eve, he came face to face with “Bruno.”        

Not three feet away, he was startled into a vociferous rage sending the bear in a sprint to the other side of the cabin. Whether or not the bear was scared by this irate person from out of nowhere or just mad for being disturbed, the ornery critter stopped long enough to tear off a section of fascia trim at roof's edge before departing into the dawning twilight.

This “Bruno” occurrence makes me wonder if it might be the same critter or a cousin that ripped shingles of the roof at Wildersmith a year or so ago? Guess we’ll never know what’s going on in the head of our “Ursus” neighbors. A few things we do know for sure, bears were here first. Second they are always hungry and expect the unexpected!                                                                                                                                                                                        
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, with “oft” unforeseen adventures!
 

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(USFWSmidwest/Flickr)

North Woods Naturalist: Avian Affairs

Birds are flocking, some of the insect eaters are leaving and the woods are much more quiet than a month ago. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with North Woods Naturalist Chel Anderson about avian affairs.

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Superior National Forest Update: September 1

Hi. I’m Renee Frahm, Information Specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior. Here’s what’s happening for the week of August 28.

We are coming into the beginning of fall where some days still feel warm enough for a swim, and yet there have been a few frosty mornings already. With Labor Day weekend upon us, school starting for some students, and the Minnesota State Fair underway, we are noticing a slight dip in our use of recreation sites across the Forest although the tinge of yellow and orange starting to peak out throughout the woods is a sign that it won’t be long until leaf peepers will be out cruising the backroads.  

Even though rain has still been keeping fire danger to a minimum, it’s important to remember that whatever the conditions are, you need to be careful with fires and make sure every fire you light is totally out when you leave. Within the last week Forest Service fire fighters were dispatched from the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts to extinguish two unattended campfires. Please, be careful with your campfires and make sure they are dead and out before leaving them unattended!
Speaking of fires, wildfires continue to be numerous in the western part of the United States. The Superior National Forest has been supporting suppression efforts for several weeks now. At the moment, there are over 50 employees from the Forest working on fires in several states including Oregon, Idaho and Montana. Yesterday our two offices had quite a few calls regarding the smell of smoke in the air. That smoke was actually coming from fires out west and in Canada.

If you are out driving in the Forest this week, there’s a number of roads which will see logging traffic. On the Tofte District, watch for trucks on Lake County 705, Cook County 33, the Dumbell Road, Perent Lake Road, the Wanless, Sawbill Trail, Fourmile Grade, Clara Lake Road and the Grade. On the Gunflint District hauling is taking place on the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, and Forest Road 1385. There will also be trucks on the Gunflint Trail, South Brule Road, Lima Grade, Trestle Pine Road, Ball Club Road, Devil Track Road, Cook County 6 and 7, and the Bally Creek Road. With Labor Day weekend upon us, there is likely to be an increase in traffic on the back roads in general. Keep an eye out for bicyclists, hikers, OHVs and wildlife. 

If you venture off of the Forest roads you’re likely to notice some of the work being done by employees, volunteers and partners like the Conservation Corps of Minnesota who recently helped build a new fish barrier at Hogback Lake. The new and improved barrier aims to keep unwanted fish out while promoting the trout fishery. 

The Northwoods Volunteer Connection is coordinating an effort this Sunday, September 3, to install a new boardwalk on a popular section of the Superior Hiking Trail near LeVeaux Mountain. If you’re interested in helping out you can find out more online at mnnvc.org. 

The Superior Cycling Association has had a very busy and productive summer maintaining the single track mountain bike trails at Britton Peak and Pincushion Mountain. The group has installed several sections of new boardwalk and rock armoring to help protect the trails while also enhancing the ride. If you’re interested in helping out with mountain bike trails visit SCA’s website at superiorcycling.org. 

Have a safe and wonderful Labor Day weekend, enjoy your family and friends, and get in on some outdoor family fun before your kids head back to school next Tuesday! Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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The Pie Social at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center is Sunday

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - September 1

The spectaculars of September in border country has yours truly heading off into year 16 of reporting Gunflint Trail news. To be specific, September 2, 2002 was my first ever scribing attempt. It was first as a columnist for the News Herald until 2008 and ever since with WTIP.                                                                                                                                                                      

I’m indeed thankful for the enduring support over the years. It is truly gratifying to have met so many folks who seem to enjoy the weekly scoop. Furthermore, thanks to everyone who has offered a news tip or two from wherever they reside in Trail territory.        

So here we go into a little review of what’s been going on. It may be my imagination, but autumn seems to be advancing rapidly. Some of the late August atmospheric and natural happenings might not amount to one iota with regard to my pre-fall observations, possibly prognosticating an early cold season. However, unusual things keep catching my attention.                                                                                                                                        
Whereas the lush green of the forest is still pretty much in command, a tamarak hidden back in the wetlands along the upper Trail caught my eye recently with its sparkling gold needles. While these dazzling forest sentinels are ordinarily the last color of the season in October, the flashy yellow tree makes me wonder if this isn’t some kind of signal from the “old man of the north.”                                                                                                                                                                      
To compliment this gilded needle appearance, the territory experienced a couple early mornings of cold temperatures as month eight headed into the last lap. The mercury slipped into the low 30s at a few locations with one report of frost having to be cleared from a windshield. A couple gardeners I know even threw a cover over their tomatoes. Wildersmith had three or four nights in the high 30s before capping the cold snap off with a 30 degree morning for the lowest so far, and our tomatoes will be best served as the fried green variety,                                                                                                                                                    

Needless to say, it probably remains a long ways from first frost to first snow. However, with mosquitos having been in the attack mode lately, a counter-attack of early freezing would not make some of us too unhappy.                                                                                                                
One more early autumn transition I’ve noticed is that boats are starting to come ashore. Several are trailered up with wintering protection battened down. Although this has no predictability of atmospheric things to come, it indicates summer folks have mellowed into the harvest season planning mode.                                                                                                              

Those cold conditions have eased some as I key this first report of month nine, and rain dampened this neighborhood in a Sunday soaker last weekend. The cool soggy setting made me briefly think, October. It was a nice rain with no wind, thunder or lightning, totally contrary to the tragedy suffered by millions in Texas. Remembering the derechos of 1999 and the wildfires in ‘05, ’06, and ’07, our hearts go out to them as we Gunflint folk know a lot about terrible tragedies too.                                                                                                                            
Reports of more bear visits continue to trickle in. Recently, a friend down the road experienced an all-day stop-over of the Gunflint Lake momma bear and her quadruplet cubs. She would not go away and the five-some ravaged bird feeders not having been stowed away. One of the black “Teddys” by chance tramped through the Wildersmith yard last Saturday morning, but found no temptations necessitating a stop, which was just fine with me.                                                                                                      

One of my squirrelly rodent buddies might be sending a weather signal too. Getting ready for winter could be on its mind as it had been working at a “B & E” (breaking and entering) project on a door to the outhouse for our guest cabin next door. It had already been evicted once as I found cold season nesting quarters in place just a few weeks ago.                                      

After squirrel proofing the gnawed point of entry, the little devil is back at its scheming to re-enter once again. This in mind, I am determined to win this battle of rights to privy occupation. I’m about to post no vacancies, there are plenty of vacant tree cavities to accommodate the rascal.                                                                                                                                              

I’ve been hyping the Gunflint Trail Historical Societies, Pie & Ice Cream Social for the past couple weeks. Such clamor ends now with the event at hand on Sunday. Don’t miss this sweetest of all holiday weekends up at Chik-Wauk, from noon to 4 p.m. There’ll be a lot of things going on as we usher in the Ojibwe “Tagwaagin”/fall season.                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Fred Smith on the Trail at Wildersmith, where every day is great, during the month of the “wild rice” moon, September calls!
 

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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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North Shore Health - Amy Lacina talks about hospital construction

WTIP Volunteer Tina Krauz covers the progress on the renovations at the North Shore Hospital and Care Center. In this installment Tina talks with Amy Lacina about construction at the hospital.

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The baby loon at Chik-Wauk Nature Center is now as large as its mother

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 25

The hullabaloo in the heavens is in the rearview mirror and September is bearing down on the Trail as in other places of the universe. Next time these radio waves come out, we’ll be humming the September Song, and September is spectacular!                                                                                            

A lot of month nine happenings come to mind, including more celestial things like the full “wild rice moon” and the Autumnal Equinox kissing summer good bye.                                                                                                                                                       

Upper Trail residents experienced another week of mundane weather in lake country and along the Trail. A couple rainy segments paired with sunshine and pleasant temps, have been pretty much seasonal for our waning summer.                                                                                                            

Changes are in the making though. Lake water temps on Gunflint and Loon Lake have slipped back into the mid to upper 60s depending on where one dips the thermometer.                   

While on land, I’ve observed a few off-the-road spots of sugar maple orange/scarlet and adolescent birch tree gold. In concert, blooms of purple asters, tansy, toadflax (butter & eggs) and Joe pye weed have taken the spotlight, with fireweed and ox-eyed daisies fading into oblivion. However, not to give up yet are uncountable patches of black-eyed Susans and goldenrod. So the “technicolor” floral illumination remains vivid with a little bit old and a little bit new. Elsewhere, in the moist shade of our Wildersmith yard, milk cap mushrooms are popping into prominence.                                                                                                                                                                           
The onset of fall brings on not only movement back to school for our Cook County  Viking kids and southerly thoughts by snowbird neighbors, but any number of north woods winged folk also are feeling the southward allure. Waves of many warblers, flickers, monarch and red admiral butterflies are some of the first gathering to catch the “Indian Summer” currents toward winter quarters.                                                                                                                

While speaking of furry critters, I don’t believe I’ve spoken with one person who hasn’t observed a bear somewhere along the Trail in the last week. It is bears, bears, bears!                                           

As the season is open to hunting them, one might suppose they could be seeking refuge from a hunter's slug in our neighborhoods. While this seems hard to imagine with all the baiting goodies put out by “Bruno” stalkers, a better guess is the population has been booming over the past couple years around the territory. I’m still getting reports of momma bears escorting up to as many as three or four cubs throughout the forest.                                                                                            

Gathering is not limited to critters of airborne character. Dozens of rodent beings around the yard have commenced with stocking up their winter stashes as well. Red squirrels and chipmunks are so under foot, it often commands some fancy footwork to avoid squishing the little folk.                                                                                                                                                                                       
One such red squirrel has adopted yours truly, and is at the workshop door as regular as the sun up each day. It gets so excited when it finds me approaching that the little guy or gal doesn’t pay much attention to where my big clod-hoppers land. On a morning recently, my furry friend took a foolish turn and by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, got caught under one of my steps. Somehow with my aging agility and its being wiry resilient, death by crushing was averted. It managed to scramble away in a flash, only to be back waiting the next morning, still having not learned a good lesson.                                                                                                                                       
Wonders never cease in the natural world. After well over a year of not seeing a whitetail in the Mile O' Pine neighborhood, a doe made a cameo sprint in front of the vehicle just days ago. So in the least, there is one out this way the wolves have not found, as yet!                      

A constant in our animal world is babies have to growup so fast. Such is the case with the loons from the nesting platform at Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Mother loon and her 2017 chick have been staying close to home recently. Baby loon should no longer be called such as it’s bigger than mom. A digital is attached to this website column at WTIP.org showing the youngster on the left, a big baby indeed!                                                                                                                                 

A programming note from Chik-Wauk Nature Center reminds rock/stone enthusiasts of Sundays’ presentation by Don Wendel. Don’s talk on geology of the area will focus on Saganaga Batholith, the same formation on which the museum and nature were built. The program begins at 2:00 p.m.                                                                                                                                                                    
Lastly, on behalf of organizer, Judy Edlund, I’m giving another shout out for pie donations to the “social” at Chik-Wauk a week from Sunday (Sept. 3rd). Please don’t make Judy call you. Bakers, you do the calling, 388-4400. Just like “old Uncle Sam” used to tout, “we need you” and your talent for sweetness!  
                                                                                                                                  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, while watching the dawning of a new season!
 

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(Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region on Flickr)

North Woods Naturalist: Freshwater mussels - Part 2

In Cook County we have three species of non-invasive freshwater mussels. In this second part of a two-part interview, WTIP’s Jay Andersen continues talking with naturalist Chel Anderson about some of the unusual traits of these often overlooked species.
 

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