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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 7

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by    Fred Smith
August 7, 2020    

           
In case you haven’t noticed, August is a week old. Where have all the days gone, a long time passing. While in the midst of 2020 diurnal pandemonium, the eighth Ojibwe, “blueberry” moon quietly passed us by, and is now waning toward a rendition of “September Song.”                                                          

While all full moons have their moments of splendor, it’s the “big cheeses” of August through November that seem to emit an exclamation point unlike others. It could be a whisper of brisk air, earlier sunsets, mountain mosaics, sky high avian journeys, crystal in the ditches or fields of blessings from the toil in days gone by, making the great lunar orb of these months appear boldest of the bold. It always seems the sky is so enormous when these moons are at their peak.                                                                                                                                                                      
There is so much to relish in anticipation of an autumn moon. Some lunar gazers would even count their resting segments until the next full one rises, and then the next one after that.                                                                                     

It actually felt like month nine last week end, and has extended over the past few days too. Brisk northwest winds and temps in the low sixties last Sunday broke the spell of consecutive hot and humid weekends since Fourth of July. With a couple showers sandwiched in over the past seven, the cool Wildersmith neighborhood finds the moose and I are now in a zone of comfort, and hoping the spectacular days of late remain this way.                                        

While the local showers did little to mitigate the declining lake level on the Gunflint, I have noticed the water temp has dropped to just under seventy degrees, down from the mid to upper seventies of a few short weeks ago. Just over eight tenths have been caught in my rain gauge since our last meeting on the radio, and have been of benefit to dampen wildfire danger for the time being.                                                                                                                                                                            

It is nearing the time of year when “getting ready for winter” (season # three in the North Country) thoughts are dancing in my head. There will be fire wood to stack, more fire wise chores, brush piles to cover, a final whacking of the weeds, a garage to stain and come September, a sundry of winterization tasks. While laborious in nature, these activities match the juices of energy conjured up with full moons arisen.                                                                                        

A report came to me in the past week of an unusual “wild neighborhood” confrontation. Word is this Gal of the Gunflint let her feline pet out for its evening constitutional.  Time passed, and frightful screeching erupted from somewhere in the yard. Knowing her cat might be involved, she made a quick exit into the dark outdoors.                                                             

Head lamp on, and flashlight in hand, the quest began to find who or what was making the agonizing sounds. It wasn’t long before a trek around the property came upon a stand-off between her cat and a fox.                                                                                                                
The fox was but a few feet away from the feline and was shrieking in fear of this bristled up, tough “tabby”. The cat was scuttled away from the scene by its owner, and the relieved fox high tailed off into the black of night. No harm, no foul, but certainly a surprisingly unexpected scene of ferocity.                                                                                                                       

One would think the fox, being a wild thing, would be in control of such a situation. Although not scientifically confirmed, I’ve since been informed a fox will not engage a member of the feline family, and in this case, even a domestic kitty. Guess cats have too many weapons, no matter what the size or realm or domestication.                                                                                                                 

Other critter notes from the upper Trail, find the Monarch Butterflies should be emerging this weekend from the Chik Wauk incubator cages; the humming bird assaults on our nectar jug continue; and last Saturday, my neighbor saw a bear headed toward Wildersmith from the lake shoreline, but it was apparently diverted, never arriving, that I could prove.                      

In a closing item, a reminder that the Virtual Woods, Winds and Strings Concert will be “ZOOMING” through the forest on the Sunday the 16th, at 4:00 pm. Remember this event is part of the “Safe Summer” activities for the GTVFD sponsored by Gunflint Friends of the Fire Department and Rescue crew. More details on the Zoom invitation will be coming next week.                                                                                                                         

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail where every day is a looming adventure!
 

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Money Matters - Scott Oeth - August 2020

"Money Matters" by Scott Oeth 
August 2020

In this edition of "Money Matters", Scott talks about planning for your financial future.  Are you on track financially? How do you know?

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Northern Sky August 1-14

"Northern Sky" by Deane Morrison for August 1 - 14, 2020.

Deane is a science writer at the University of Minnesota and authors the Minnesota Starwatch column.
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 31

"Superior National Forest Update" with Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 31

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 31, 2020    
           
“A” is for August, and the territory bids July adieu. We have cruised through July not paying much attention amidst Pandemic confusion.  “Where goes July, there goes summer” as the old saying goes. Sad to say, August will likely escape us as well, so we’d better not blink twice.                                                                                                                                                                                             

All kinds of memories linger about month eight. Autumn oozing in, Indian summer days, fewer mosquitoes and back to school are but a few. Whereas back to school as we remember is only a “maybe” under current circumstances, the onset of fall is more certain.                                                                                        

While late summer and early fall blooms are mutually converging with an array of colors, in the past days I have noted the first flora signs of things to come. Fire weed is fading and a few sprigs of dog bane and a scattering of ferns have turned from green to golden along back country roads,                                                                                                                        

Another weekend of hot and sticky kept moose in the bays and evergreen shade. It seems this area is stuck in a rut as border country had a third straight weekend of annoying perspiring. However, the “mom” looking over us, favored another reprieve with more normal coolness over the past few days. Thanks to “Mother N.”                                                                                                                           
Winged things have had my attention over the past week. The Monarch daycare at Chik Wauk Nature Center is excited to announce caterpillars are munching milkweed and chrysalis are emerging into the next generation of butterflies. Screened nurseries have about two dozen miracles in the waiting.                                                                                                                                                        

They should be due to break-out in just a few days, with this generation not too long from heading toward winter quarters. The question of the week is how fast can a Monarch fly? The Naturalist up there tells me, it is five miles per hour. That’s a lot of time in the air, and energy, to cover countless miles to their warm destination.                                                                                                                            
If listeners can’t go up to see this marvel of the natural world, keep track of the happening on Chik Wauk.org via Facebook.                                                                                                                                                                 

Meanwhile, hummingbird arrivals and departures at Smith’s international nectar bottle seem to have doubled since last weeks’ report. The hungry hummers are now consuming over two bottles per day (the equivalent of two plus cups). They must be near tipsy with a sugar high. It is obvious they must not have any dietary issues with the sweetness.                                        

The other day a couple of them pestered me as I re-filled the container while outdoors among them. They were close as a few inches from my hands trying to get a slurp ahead of their ravenous competitors while I finished the pour. What an amusing and interesting experience. I can’t think of a quicker being in creation.                                                                                                                                                                          

Over the past several days, “Woody” the chuck has paid us a visit. While I do not have a garden menu from which it could be pilfering, the plump rodent nestles right in with its squirrely cousins for a munch-along on seeds I’ve thrown out on the ground. Of interest, neither of them is bothered with each other’s presence, but will not allow chipmunks a place at their table.                                                                                                                                                   
If you might be thinking I’m asking for a bear visit, I’ve been doing it for several years and have had not a trace. Further, when this gang of seed crunchers finishes in a couple hours each morning, there is nothing but shells. So if a bear has happened by in darkness hours, there’s nary a crumb left.                                                                                                                                                                   

Folks who travel the Trail with any regularity should be smiling due to the speed with which the road re-construction is progressing. While the one-way traffic delays have been troublesome at times, they have not been overly long in my opinion. Visitors from Metropolis probably would disagree however.                                                                                                           

With the apparent first lift of asphalt laid in both lanes over the five mile stretch, it is already a vast improvement over the washboard we’ve been accustomed to for many years.                                             

Thanks to the project contractor and Cook County Highway Department for their diligence in moving this endeavor along.                                                                                                                                                          
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is an up-lifting exposure, to the wonders of creation!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 24

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 24, 2020    

           
The territory got another reminder of what July can be like last weekend, with another dose of hot and sticky, just as I predicted. It was short lived, however as “Mother Nature” stepped up to end our whining.                                                                                                                           

The Saturday night into Sunday morning saw the “gal” in charge of natures’ things flipped the switch to cool and nice by mid-day Sunday. Perhaps one of those lightening charges from the heavens recharged our natural air conditioning.                                                                      

Severe storm warnings were touted for hours over the County, but area residents were spared predicted damage as there was more “bark than bite” from the rumbling clouds and celestial fireworks. And, precipitation along the Mile O Pine was rather piddly once again, with less than a quarter inch at Wildersmith.                                                                                                                                         

While the stormy “apocalypse” did not happen, interestingly enough, the upper Trail turned around from gasping for a cool breath on Saturday, to long sleeves, sweaters and closed windows on Sunday. “What a difference a day makes.”                                                                                        
Those gale force northwest winds off Gunflint Lake on Sunday were “bullish” or better, “wolfish.” Gusts culled the forest of weak limbs and trees like the Canid pack has done to the white trail population out this way.                                                                                             

Speaking of water, levels continue to dwindle around the region. The weekly measurement recorded at my dock will soon fall below the last tick on the DNR gauge. This usually happens in September. So unless the skies break loose with an unusual deluge in the watershed during the next couple months, Gunflint Lake and maybe others will be at frightening low levels by the time we start thinking about ice.                                                                                                                                     

The summer hiatus of ruby throats has ended at Wildersmith. The streaking little birds are attacking the sweet stop-over with a vengeance. One can barely land and gulp a swallow, before being driven off by others. There’s no calm hovering in line for a turn. They are consuming a bottle of nectar a day.                                                                                                                                                    

An interesting sidelight at the sweetness station finds rusty back bumble bees engaged too. I found this out by accident a few days ago when retrieving the bottle for a refill. One of the stinging critters refused to separate from its position at the fake floret and rode inside the house, only to be dislodged when I began the daily rinse out.                                                                               

Mr. Bumble was none too happy, but luckily for yours truly, the bee decided to escape by buzzing into the window screen. A handy dish rag covered the angry insect, and I transported it back outside. Neither the bee nor I were harmed. Then it happened again, a day or so later.                                                                                                                                    

Perhaps this bee has developed affection for me, much like the squirrel that greets me every day at the woodshop door to demand seed time. Guess I should smarten up and pay more attention before luck gives way to a stinging confrontation.                                                                                                                     

Each Saturday, I volunteer in the Nature Center on the Chik Wauk Campus. In addition to working with visitors along with the Naturalist/s, it is my goal to learn one new component about our natural world, no matter how trivial it may seem.                                                                            

It goes without saying I don’t have enough days to put a dent in the uncountable happenings of our ecosystem. Nevertheless, learning there are over 100 world-wide species of mosquitoes, to three species of thistles found in this area and countless invasive plants trying to take-over border country, I’m invigorated by the things happening that I have never thought about.                                                                                                                                                                
This past weekend, the question was raised about bears eating berries. Specifically, how many berries do you suppose a bear can eat in a day?                                                                        

Through investigative research from the North American Bear Center, the Chik Wauk interns found that bears can eat as many as 30,000 berries a day. That would be mostly blue berries at this time, up this way. Doing some dimensional analysis, based on approximate numbers of berries in a commercial 12 ounce container, this calculates into 161 pounds per day, or the equivalence of three shopping carts full.                                                                                                                               

Now I can’t imagine who might be willing to get close enough to research this tidbit, but if it is near accurate, folks better be getting out there soon, or the blue gems will be gone with a few big bear gulps.                                                                                                                                                                             
In a related matter, the annual biggest blueberry contest is under way along the Trail. Weigh-in stations are located at several resort locations and Chik Wauk. An even nicer rain, this past Tuesday will likely help pump them up, so get a pickin’.                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is an awesome refuge from the ills, of humanity!
 

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 17

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 17, 2020    

How can this be happening? We have surpassed the half-way point of July, and it seems the calendar just flipped over into 2020’s seventh segment. Although the calendar says we have plenty of warm season left, summer looks to have started its’ slide with the Independence Day celebration. I know some folks who declare summer is over after the 4th fireworks.        

Summer character released its hot, sticky grip on the Gunflint territory over the past few days. Daytime temps slipped back into the low seventies in this neighborhood, and night times into the fifties. While it has been a pleasant relief for the moose and me, we are likely to get another dose with August peering around the bend.                                                                                                     

Whereas forest management agencies have abandoned the campfire ban and other burning restrictions, claiming widespread rain, it seems ill-advised as rain has been spotty in the upper Gunflint.                                                                                                                                            

While places in the mid-trail area got deluged recently, if the area around Gunflint Lake and northward had been assessed, it is evident fire danger has not been suppressed to any extent. At Wildersmith, two separate rain events in the past week trickled a mere total of one-third inch.                                                                                                                                                                              

This is not exactly what one would call a drought terminator. It is prudent for residents to be diligent with regular sprinkler system applications to their property. The forest is still crunchy dry and most streams have dried up.                                                                                                                   
With the scarcity of rain in the past weeks, amazingly the berry season is getting under way. I’m told hikers are finding blues along some of their treks, and wild raspberries are coming on. I’m keeping eyes on a secret patch of Juneberry bushes, but they have a ways to go. In any case, there’s a good chance the berry harvest will be discouraging unless the heavens provide some kind of juice.                                                                                                                                                

The Mile O Pine neighborhood has experienced some candid animal sightings in the past week. A lone wolf made its’ presence known on a couple different occasions, while a momma bear scared the “hee bee jee bees” out of a gal as she walked down the MOP unknowingly past her cubs.  Guess the worrisome momma bear stood upright and grunted a warning, but otherwise made no aggressive moves. No harm, no foul as the lady moved on without further interruption.                                                                                                                                                                           
Another one of those serene north woods mornings caught my attention a few days ago. The day began with sun peering through uncountable foliage openings to spotlight an equal number of golden splotches on the forest floor.                                                                                                              

It was cool enough to condense moisture on every green component, including a night time installation of arachnid fiber art. Air currents were minimal, but just enough to make the fiber sway at times, glistening as beams lit up teardrops of joy, celebrating another dawning.           

Moments of quiet, calm, unassuming, beautiful peace! So comforting in a world oppressed with human turmoil!                                                                                                                                   

On a concerned side of the ledger, serenity as we know it throughout the Superior National Forest and BWCA is about to be diminished if a telecom behemoth has its’ way. Word is silently permeating about in regard to a bigger communications tower being erected above Gunflint Lake that will include wilderness connectivity for cell phones. The current tower will be replaced with a new, even taller structure.                                                                                                                              

While some advocates will swear the need for such, a good many more will be aghast to think our border country natural world is now succumbing to electronic tentacles of civilization. The spread of this telecom connectivity threatens the cherished wild character of serenity and presence, dictating “digital roads” everywhere and beyond, all to the benefit of corporate telecom profiteers.                                                                                                                                   

At the expense of ever diminishing, precious, protected land, one has to wonder how this can happen when the Wilderness Act stipulates, there shall be no commercial enterprise in the designated wilderness. The intrusion of cell phone noise pollution into the solitude would also seem to be in violation of federal laws, specific to the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Food for thought, Gunflinters!                                                  

In closing, big thanks go out to new and renewing members of the WTIP family. Once again, you have stepped to the plate during these uncertain times in support of your Community Radio station. You met the goal! Over $30,000.00!! It goes without saying, you are the greatest!                                                                                                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day, is, an incredible blessing!
 

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North Shore Health Care Foundation Update - Valerie Eliasen

WTIP's North Shore Morning host, Mark Abrahamson talks with Valerie Eliasen for the North Shore Health Care Foundation update.

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 10

Superior National Forest Update with Education and Interpretation Specialist, Steve Robertsen.
July 10, 2020

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 10

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 10, 2020    

GREETINGS…THIS NEWS… AND A VIEW…FROM THE GUNFLINT TRAIL
           
Gunflint summer has turned ugly during the first third of the month. Desert like temps and relentless drought have many of us woods residents reeling in discomfort.                                        
 
It’s surely not like the good old days when folks came to border country for natural AC. Our recent hot spell is dramatically confirming a much warmer trend during the past two decades of my residency. This is not to say temps haven’t experienced hot moments in the past but the duration and intensity seems to be expanding each year.                                                             
 
I do not have expertise in botany so I could be wrong but the growing season for some members of the plant neighborhood look to be changing in step with a warming climate. I’m already seeing some green things going to seed as if it was August and we’ve not yet reached the half-way point of July. Then again it might be just a quirk of nature for these emerald beings.                                                                                                                                                       

As I begin this report on Sunday after the Fourth of July hoe-down it looks as though Cook County escaped wildfire ignition. I see a number of areas around the country were not so fortunate even four spots of the western Superior National Forest dealt with small fires.      
 
Meanwhile with a million acres of tinder dry landscape around us it could take days to detect a wisp of smoke from a smoldering ember. Residents and caring visitors should be hoping …for two situations… to occur… firstly… big rain… needs to happen…and second, burning restrictions should remain in place. I’ve noticed aircraft overhead on recent occasions… so one has to think US Forest Service aerial fire surveillance is underway.                                                     
 
By the way this neighborhood did receive a minimal dose of precip in the past couple days for which we are thankful. In spite of the blessing it was a far cry from resolving our desperate need for more. The hot July sun gobbled this up in a few hours.                                             
 
Last weekend looked like a good share of urban Minnesota headed into the territory. Outfitter and resort parking facilities were packed to the gills. A report from one regular visitor to the BWCA indicated in all of his years he had never seen so many folks in the wilderness. Guess this un-organized land is the best way to social distance from COVID mayhem of suburbia.                                                                                                                                          

Since we last met a hatching announcement has come from the nesting platform in bay at Chik Wauk. One little puff ball cracked out on July 1st.                                                                          
 
Momma loon soon went back to the nest to nurture in a sibling to # one, but a couple days later, it was discovered # two did not survive its entrance into the world. There is no way of confirming what went wrong but excitement for the new arrival was dampened.                         
 
This loss is a natural world story in itself. Timing is everything for human observations in the woods. It happened the Museum director was checking things out on the loon cam a couple days after the first baby appeared and noticed some unrest on the nest.                                                                                  
Digital in hand, she captured some remorseful moments for the new mother as she examined her motionless chick. Then mother loon sadly removed the shell parts piece by piece dropping them into the lake water. All this time the lively first hatched was trying to keep up with her during the housekeeping chores.                                                                                                
 
This seldom, if ever seen chapter of life in the animal world can be viewed on the Chik Wauk Facebook page, just scroll down… click on the nested loon photo… and listen too.                          

In another more amusing “wild neighborhood” observation, I’ve been watching one of those little red rodents apparently doing some pre- winter preparations.                                                      
 
If you followed my winter time scribing you might remember reference to a squirrel cashing in on my daily seed distributions with trip after trip to a secret cache in a snow drift below my deck.                                                                                                                                             
 
I don’t know if this is the same one, but it sure could be. The little gal/guy is still on the run each day with seed after seed trip after trip, non-stop, scampering into a hollow, in the log rip-wrap, close to the winter time warehousing. There must be a zillion seeds down its’ burrow.  Each trip is near 100 feet round trip. Watching those stubby legs, makes me think how pooped the little one must be, by days’ end.                                                                                     
 
The Community Radio station of the northland is in the midst of its’ summer membership drive as this Gunflint scoop comes your way. The 2020 summer theme is “Honoring Volunteers” not only at WTIP which is Volunteer driven in so many ways, but all Volunteers.                                                                                                                                         

Not only is this Pandemic world changing for everyone, a “new normal” is evolving for the radio source, upon which, all of us rely. WTIP is counting on a contact from our listening audience to help see us through these unpredictable times.                                                    
 
With distancing the new norm, the drive organizers ask pledges to be made on-line at WTIP.org; (click on pledge now… for donating options) or mail in a support gift to PO Box 1005 Grand Marais 55604.                                                                                                                                      
 
The drive runs through noon on Monday, but don’t wait until the last minute. Show your support today!!!                                                                                                                                                    
 For WTIP this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint Trail where every day is majestic among the towering pines!!!
 

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