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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:

Northern Sky: August 19 - September 1

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

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Superior National Forest Update: August 18

Hi.  I’m Amy Wilfahrt, fisheries biologist 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 18.

We are coming into the end of summer where some days feel hot enough for a swim, and some require looking in the closet for that jacket that was put away in the spring.  One of the markers of the season is the fireweed plant.  Most of us are familiar with the spikes of purple blossoms along roadsides and other disturbed areas.  The blossoms start at the bottom and work their way up the spike as time goes on, and the story is that when the flowers reach the top and end, summer is over.  I hate to say it, but they are nearing the top.

Rain has still been keeping fire danger to a minimum, though it is actually high in other parts of the state.  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.

One prominent fire which will be out this week is the sun during the eclipse.  It would be amazing if you haven’t heard that there is going to be an eclipse on the 21st, but since this is a once in a lifetime event for some people, we just want to be sure you don’t miss it.  From the point of view of the Superior, the moon won’t completely block the sun, but it will block enough to be noticeable.   Be sure to not look directly at the sun, use proper eye protection, or look at a projected image.  It is predicted to start at 11:46, reach a maximum at 1:07, and end at 2:27.  Don’t miss it!

If you are out driving in the Forest this week looking for that perfect eclipse viewing spot, 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 Grade, and the Sawbill Trail.  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.

You may also get to see the start of some of the fall migrations.  You’ll notice that geese are gathering in larger groups, and if you happen to be near an abandoned chimney at dusk, you may see small insect eating chimney swifts diving into the chimney to roost through the night.  By the end of the month, these little mosquito eaters will have headed south to South America.  Other birds, such as warblers, who were here for the insects and to raise families, are also starting to move through.  It is not uncommon at night to hear the call notes of high flying groups of small birds headed south.

Moose and deer don’t migrate, but this is a great time to spot them along the roadsides with the bucks and bulls antlers in full velvet.  I think they are at their most photogenic this time of year, but be careful if you stop to take a picture.

Don’t miss the eclipse, but also don’t miss the last of the warm sun of summer.  Until next week, this has been Amy Wilfahrt with the National Forest Update.
 

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Hummingbird

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 18

As August passed the halfway mark on the calendar, our north woods splendor has extended into yet another week. Temperatures have been in the cool comfortable range, and the territory got some much needed rain. At Wildersmith, the rain gauge caught an inch, whereas the Mid-Trail area received considerably more during a mid-week deluge.                                                 
This same Mid-Trail storm occurred in the midst of their property owners’ big fundraising event. It didn’t dampen enthusiasm though. Showing true north country grit, folks outlasted the downpour, and in the end raised a whopping $13,000 in support of our dedicated Gunflint fire and rescue crews. Congrats and a big thanks to the organizational leadership and their crew of able volunteers. What a fun event, thankfully under the “big top.”                                                                                 
Speaking of fun and enthusiasm, the last activity of the day found Poplar Lake resident, Keitha Herron the most excited person in attendance. Her name was drawn as winner of the beautiful 2017 Mid-Trail quilters’ project.  Congrats to Keitha, and a big thank you to all those talented stitchers.                                                                                                                                                                    
More news from the Mid-Trail comes in the report of a big cat sighting. Recently, a fellow Gunflinter living on Tucker Lake advised me of observing the cougar in a driveway while passing through the Rockwood Lodge neighborhood. The feline described was big and had a long tail, so no doubt it was what it was. The sighting was reported to the DNR, with a confirmation from that agency of another such cat being seen a couple days earlier down along the “Big Lake” shore near Tofte.                                                                                                                                                                               

Although I’m still observing berry pickers parked in various spots along the Byway, I wonder if the purple treasures might be dwindling. My reason for this curiosity comes from an apparent increase of bears appearing  back into areas of residential habitation                                          

Maybe it’s just by chance I came across a pair of the critters, but with sweet berries on the wane, perhaps they might be starting to gather in search of human littering remains as they begin amassing winter pounds. Then again, maybe the burly animals might have been taking a short cut to just another berry patch.                                                                                                                             
Interest in hummingbird traffic around here whetted my appetite for knowing just how fast they fly. With constant activity onto and away from our nectar station, the tiny avian zoom around at what seems to be jet-like speed. Brief research from one “Google” source found they aren’t about to break the sound barrier, but do average between 25 and 35 MPH, and can reach up to 60 in some of their diving antics.                                                                                                 

To match their tightly wound propelling abilities (at up to 70 wing beats per second), they obviously have highly developed navigation systems to avoid mid-air collisions. On two separate occasions recently, one of the winged speed demons was in direct line with my head only to abort a collision and break off at top speed. With fierce competition for a gulp of sweet nectar, their in-flight air to air combat is nothing short of spectacular. What marvelous beings of creation!                                                                                                                                                                                                      
It may seem early to be thinking of winter, but some of us north woods beings are taking stock of their things to do list. I’ve already taken inventory of the wood shed status, and piled brush for snow season burning. Meanwhile, over on Loon Lake, friends are laying up their birch cuttings and splitting for colder times. It won’t be long folks until we’ll be getting real serious about buttoning up for the winter season.                                                                                                                        

If you haven’t noticed, September is less than two weeks from reality. A lot of activities are coming down the pike as month nine hits the Trail. The biggest of which is a new school year, but first up out this way, Labor Day weekend breaks right out of the blocks.                                                          

The Gunflint Trail Historical Society kick starts the autumn run with its annual pie & ice cream social on Sunday, September 3rd. The event is held on the grounds of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center from noon until 4:00 p.m.                                                                                                            

In addition to the luscious sweet treats being served, there’ll be a local author book signing, needle basket crafting, gift shop sidewalk sales and great music from the Northshore Community Swing Band. Should be a great day for an up the Trail outing, who knows there might even be some fall tinting in the hills!                                                                                                                                                        
On a related note, the “P & IC Social” coordinator, Judy Edlund is already on the look out for area pastry specialists to sign up with a donation or two. Give her a call at 388-4400 to confirm a sweet contribution. Pie & Ice cream trivia from a year ago tells of between 35 and 40 pies being served along with buckets of ice cream!                                                                                            
The yearly concert in the forest charmed attendees once again, last Sunday. “Woods, Winds and Strings” No. 5 played to a near full house in the Mid-Trail fire department storage building, turned concert hall. Kudos goes out to the gifted performers, and to the organizing folks bringing them together, along with many community volunteers. On this afternoon, the wild land hills came alive with the “sound of music.”                                                                                                        

In closing for this week, don’t forget all the activities up at Chik-Wauk this Saturday on National Honey Bee day. Things will be buzzing from 11:00 a.m until 3:00 pm around the campus.                                                                                                                                                                
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, among uncounted treasures of creation!
 

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Slug on a tomato!

Garden slug stories....and an original song from Gus and Sunny

For anyone who gardens, slugs can be a frustrating summer pest. In this feature, WTIP commentators Gus and Sunny tell stories about their own battles with slugs, in addition to singing an original song! 

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Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom with Aren and Freja

West End News: August 17

Congratulations are due to the Tofte family this week. Abby Tofte and Sam Hedstrom, along with their extended clans, have welcomed the newest addition to their family. Aren Andrew Tofte Hedstrom joins big sister Freja, and we couldn’t be happier for them. While Abby and Sam have not yet had the good sense to move back to Tofte and instead reside a bit further east in the county, they are both lifelong residents of the North Shore and it is wonderful to see another
generation coming along to carry on the great legacy of two such wonderful families.

Volunteers Ginny Cooley and Nancy Koloski are joining forces with RSVP to offer bone builders exercise classes at Birch Grove. This is a very popular national program aimed at helping prevent and treat osteoperosis. The weight bearing
exercises focus on increasing bone density, gaining strength and improving balance. If you are interested in learning more, they will be having an information session on Wednesday, August 23, at 10:30 a.m. at Birch Grove. The class times are
not set yet so if you have any interest at all, come to the meeting and let them know what times work for you. Classes will begin the first week of September. Thanks Ginny and Nancy!

A soggy summer, with a hint of sun every now and again, has made for a lush and bountiful woods. The blueberries back in the west end woods are at their peak, right now. It sounds like they might be past their prime elsewhere, but our patches
are still full of plump blue delights. We’ve also been harvesting an abundance of lobster mushrooms this week. Lobster mushrooms are large, often fan shaped, bright orange mushrooms that grow in the duff on the forest floor. The color is
similar to cooked lobster meat, and they even have a faint seafood-like aroma. Interestingly, the odd shape and color are actually a result of a mold attacking a mushroom. The underlying mushroom is overtaken by the lobster mold and a
beautiful, weird, delicious fungus is created. You prepare them by cutting off any brown spots then sautéing them in a pan of butter. We stirred ours into a risotto. As always with mushroom hunting, it is best done the first time with someone
who knows what they are looking for. Eating the wrong fungus could have really nasty consequences.

Also found in the woods with great abundance this season are woodchucks. We have had a number of the cute little visitors waddling around our place for the last week. They are adorable, and they haven’t discovered my tomato plants yet, so for
now we are coexisting quite happily. I’ll take that arrangement anytime.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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

North Woods Naturalist: Freshwater mussels - Part 1

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

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Superior National Forest Update: August 11

Hi.  I’m Frances Meger, seasonal naturalist with the Superior National Forest with the 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 11.

This weekend is the peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Meteor showers are caused when the Earth moves into the debris left behind in the path of a comet. The comet in this case is called Swift Tuttle, and it seems to leave a lot of debris behind it, making for lots of meteors as the bits and pieces of old comet burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. How many?  It varies from year to year, but the Perseids can have as many as 100 meteors per hour. It’s usually best to watch for meteors after midnight, but the moon will be rising around 11:00, so the best viewing might be right before moonrise. Northern Minnesota and the Superior National Forest are known as areas with very little in the way of light pollution and spectacular views of the night sky, so, grab a lawn chair where you can lean back, put on plenty of bug dope, and get set to watch the show.

The frequent rains have kept fire danger low all season this year, a fact which Smokey Bear liked while he celebrated his 73rd birthday this past week. On the west end of the Forest, Smokey’s friends, our fire crews, are doing some prescribed burning, and there are a few burns planned for our east end as well. Keep an eye on our website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll keep you informed as to when and where those burns will be taking place as we try to fit them in between rain showers. 
 
There are only a couple of weeks remaining of summer naturalist programs, sponsored by Visit Cook County. Mike Zemaitis and I would like to thank everyone who has come to our programs this year, and invite everyone to join us by the campfire for one of the remaining presentations. You can find the schedule online, at the visitor center in Grand Marais, at Forest Service offices, or at any of the participating resorts.

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 Grade, and the Sawbill Trail. 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.

Enjoy the meteor showers, or have a s’more at the campfire, or why not do both? Until next week, this has been Frances Meger with the National Forest Update.
 

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The wonderful new sign at Chik Wauk Museum and Nature Center, as mentioned by Wildersmith last week.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint August 11

Lest WTIP listener/readers think I might have slipped and hit my head while scribing the news last week, I did not.  As you might recall, I spaced off into oblivion while sharing about the “blueberry moon” and subsequently short circuited right into a discussion about the coming eclipse as a lunar experience.

Obviously, I must have had an “eclipse of the mind” to have not caught such a dimming blunder before it hit the air waves. 

Furthermore, any number of proof readings by we Smiths never caught the snafu, and it even got by staff scrutiny at the station.                                                              

The reporting glitch didn’t come to my attention until shortly after the second airing when I suddenly remembered the heavenly occurrence is of the solar nature. By then it was too late, and must have had folks scratching their heads in wonder as to how I could make such a foolish mistake. But I did, and regret wasting people's time putting out incorrect information while jeopardizing the integrity of future reporting.                                                                                                                         

So all the other info listed was correct, it will happen on August 21; the celestial phenomena will not be total for us at 48 degrees north; and the best view of “Sol’s” brief disappearing act in the Midwest will be a couple states to the south.    

News of this week finds the entry into August week two as north woods nice. Although shy of a good rain, there have been spotty incidents of shower downpours off and on over several days, but not amounting to much.                                                                                                                                                                         
Meanwhile, complaints about the temps being either too hot or too cool are not being heard. This goes for the lake water temps as well. Here on the Gunflint, the rippling liquid has been holding in the low to mid-70s, just right for fun in and on the “old gal.”                                                            

At the mid-point of official summer, autumn continues to nudge its way onto the scene. The fall advance is noted in places with sugar maple leaves fading to a lesser green tint; rose hips along the Mile O' Pine gaining some scarlet tone; and roadside grasses at the seed stage with flaxen shades of their final hurrahs.                                                                                                                    

With summer not yet giving way to the harvest season movement, another hatching of mosquitoes reminds us “it’s not over ‘til it’s over." This batch is of smaller character, but seems hungrier than their cousins of a few weeks ago.    
                                                                                                             
The Smiths meanwhile encountered a couple of “wild neighborhood” critters recently. It turned out to be a near-miss situation as they crossed our vehicular path without looking both ways. In fact the meeting was a double jeopardy incident as a food service 18-wheeler was coming at us from the opposite direction. The scene turned out to be a lucky day for a momma moose and her calf as well as both vehicle occupants when making moose-burger was avoided.    

Cruising the Trail a day later, I had a similar up close meeting with a young "Bruno.”  It too must have been more concerned about getting to a blueberry patch than watching for traffic along the road. Once more, a collision was averted, and the startled bear stopped long enough to look back at me in wonder. I suppose thinking, from where did that noisy, iron beast come.                                                                                                                                                                                           
Being absent for a good share of the summer, hummingbird flights have returned to our international feeding terminal. Arrivals and departures are nonstop. I’m supposing they have been on nesting duty, and with parenting out of the way, the hovering minis are free to begin bulking up for the soon to come southern trip. So the hum of birds is now in concert with that of mosquitoes buzzing about in search of a little protein.                                                                                                    

Speaking of concerts, the sound of music will be in the air on the Trail Sunday. Woods, Winds and Strings Concert (and a little jazz too) number five will be in the Fire Hall at 4:00 p.m. A reception will follow in the Schaap Community Center next door. Ticket reservations are still available at broadcast time, but must be made ASAP by calling Patsy @ 313-673-6202.                                                                 

As of this newscast moment, results of the goings-on at the Mid Trail hoedown this past Wednesday are not available. A report of their events will be included in next weeks’ Gunflint news.  
  
For WTIP, this is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is great, in a land of majestic backwoods history!
 
 

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West End News: August 10

If you spend time along the north shore of Lake Superior, chances are you’ve tried your hand at cairn making. Stacking the oblong lake rocks on top of each other in a tall, slender, stack is a time honored past-time on the beaches in our area. No does it better though, I’d venture to say, than Peter Juhl, professional stone balancer. He will be giving a presentation on his unique method of stacking of rocks at Sugarloaf Cove on August 12 during their annual ice cream social and membership meeting. Activities begin at 1pm with a short meeting followed by ice cream sundaes and a presentation by Peter. If you haven’t seen his work before, it is often recognizable by his unique ability to balance large rocks on tiny slender ones. His talk at Sugarloaf will begin with an on-screen presentation at the visitor center, then a short walk down to the Cove for some hands-on balancing practice.

A reminder that Birch Grove Community School is having their open house for the saplings program on Tuesday, August 15, from 4-7 p.m. Come find out about the great saplings program for kids ages 3-5. It runs Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through May. The program has flexible hours for busy families, a high quality staff, and focuses on kindergarten readiness. I tend to believe that an early childhood education like this program offered by Birch Grove is a key to a healthy start for any child. Come check out the school on August 15 and see what would be a good fit for your little one.

August 11 is the deadline to submit your comment to the US Forest Service regarding their proposed withdrawal of approximately 234,000 acres of National Forest lands from disposition under mineral leasing laws. Basically, the agency is looking at the whether these lands in the Rainy River watershed adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness should be protected from future mining projects for the next 20 years. The purpose of the withdrawal is the protection of the natural resources and waters located on the national forest lands and the potential for adverse environmental impacts that arise from mining exploration and development. This withdrawal would only apply to federal, public, national forest system lands, of course. Private land owners in the area are free to do as they wish.

This is a major proposal, and there are only a couple of times during the review process that the public has any input. Now is one of those times. You can submit a comment by mail or email, just Google Superior National Forest Application for Withdrawal and you’ll find the links from the Forest Service. Public comments are all taken into consideration. If you have a well supported comment, it is much more effective than simply signing your name to a petition. This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a close, hard look at the potential impacts to our region. The deadline for comments is August 11, so don’t procrastinate any longer!

It should come as no surprise that I fully support the withdrawal. Public lands are here for all of us to enjoy. It might be our backyard, but it belongs to all Americans. All that protects these special places are some words on paper in Washington DC, and the hard work of people like us. It’s our turn now to take up the constant effort to educate others and preserve our greatest resource. I think we can all agree that we love our Wilderness area and the outdoor opportunities we are afforded here. Let’s keep the long view in sight and protect this way of life for our kids and grandkids.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

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Ring nebula, courtesy of NASA

Northern Sky: August 5 - 18

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly with "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

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