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News & Information

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!


What's On:
Crescent Moon & Venus (Jan Kalab/Flickr)

Northern Sky: September Brings A Striking Morning Sky

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains some of the great things to see in the morning sky this September: new & crescent moons, the autumnal equinox, and much more.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Check out Deane's story on the U of M's role in exploring the Van Allen Belt.

Noah Horak - on the road

West End News: September 6

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Noah Horak is a native son of Tofte. His parents are Jan and Kathy Horak, who own Cobblestone Cabins. Noah, who is 28, quit his job as an electrical engineer several months ago and is riding his motorcycle around the world for at least the next two years.  He spent the first few months exploring Canada, Alaska, and the western United States.  He was home in Tofte for the month of July, then headed for Europe.
After being in Europe for just a short time, his motorcycle was stolen, in broad daylight, in Dublin, Ireland.  What could have been a disastrous ending to his adventure turned into a real blessing when he was adopted by the motorcycle community in Dublin.  He was not only given outstanding hospitality, but they arranged for a replacement cycle and gave him shop space to put it into condition to continue his trip.  They also pulled out all the stops to find his stolen cycle, and eventually the bike was located and recovered.
Noah is now back on the road, currently in Scotland where he reports great scenery, friendly people and good trout fishing.  He is writing a blog and posting many spectacular pictures documenting his adventure.  You can find it by googling "rtw with noah," as in “round the world with Noah."  It’s clear from his blog posts that Noah’s outgoing and friendly personality is serving him well in his travels. The only really bad part of this story is how jealous I feel every time I read his blog…
Speaking of big adventures, Dave and Amy Freeman, from Lutsen have just passed a major milestone on their epic journey around North America.  Dave and Amy technically live in Lutsen, but in reality, they live on the trail, while they complete a 12,000 mile trip by kayak, canoe and dogsled through the U.S. and Canada.  They started out from Seattle in 2010, traveled by kayak to Alaska, hiked over the mountains, paddled a canoe up the Yukon River – yes, you heard that correctly, they paddled upstream on the Yukon - then dog sledded across the Northwest Territories and canoed from Great Slave Lake to Grand Portage.  That would be enough for most people, but Dave and Amy headed east down the Great Lakes in kayaks this spring and just this week they entered the Atlantic Ocean between Maine and New Brunswick.  They have turned south and will wind up in Key West, Florida eight months from now.
This is not vacation for them.  They do it as part of a web based curriculum that they offer to schools all across the country.  They now have hundreds of thousands of students that follow their travels in real time.  The students become quite involved in the trip and learn a variety of valuable lessons along the way.  Right now, the trip is scheduled to end in Key West, but the last time I talked to them, they were toying with the idea of continuing around the Gulf of Mexico and on down to Central and South America, with the possibility of ending up back in Seattle a few years from now.  You can follow Dave and Amy’s adventure online at  Again, the sin of jealousy arises every time I read their blog, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying their adventures vicariously.
For those of us holding down the fort here in the West End, there is a wonderful opportunity to pursue higher education without having to travel outside the county.  Cook County Higher Education, based in Grand Marais, has been quietly helping people achieve their dreams by going to college right here in Cook County.  In the last fifteen years, more than 500 people have completed college degrees or certifications through this innovative program.  The wonderful staff at Cook County Higher Ed will help you form your education plan and will support and encourage you while you complete your studies.  They charge nothing for their services, as they are a non-profit supported by public funds as well as considerable foundation and private support.
I especially encourage any West End residents who would like to go, or go back to college, to check out Cook County Higher Education.  They are especially skilled at helping people who have been out of school for a long time, or people who didn’t have a good experience with school in the past. They will do whatever it takes to make sure that you are successful.  There are many other interesting things happening there, but they are too numerous to mention here.  You can find them on the web by searching Cook County Higher Education, or call them at 387-3411.
The recent holiday weekend was noteworthy for its great weather and great fishing.  The weather was essentially perfect, which usually isn’t good for fishing, but contrary to tradition, fishing was excellent.  In the more than 50 years that I’ve been in the Cook County tourism business, I’ve never seen a holiday weekend that was so ideal.  It’s so unusual, that it makes me worry that it might be the first sign of the coming apocalypse.  Mark my words, within the month it will be raining frogs around here.   Or maybe we just get lucky once and awhile.

A snapping turtle catching some rays on Saganaga Lake (Blue~Canoe/Flickr)

Wildersmith September 7

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‘Tis the season for kick-offs: another school year, football, etc. For yours truly, it’s a kick-off time too. It was 10 years ago with this scribing that I started this trek of bringing folks the Trail scoop each week. As I begin year 11, I want to thank everyone for the kind words of encouragement as well as sharing some of their north woods happenings on occasion. 
More north woods romance blossomed for us wilderness folk last week as the unusual second full moon of August burst over the horizon to greet chapter nine of 2012. What a showing this lunar experience turned out to be for those in lake country!           
Raves have been heard from up and down the Trail in regard to this once in a blue moon showing. Skies were crystal clear, setting the stage for a grand arrival, which happened just before 1950 hours on day 31.
Fortunately the Smiths and a swell friend were out on the Gunflint ripples cruising when the celestial body first peeked above our eastern shore line. We watched intently as the faint heavenly creation grew quickly to a stunning full size. Yes, the rising movement was discernable!
Then if that moon magic wasn’t enough, a turn of the craft 180 degrees found Sol doing his daily disappearance act. With the usual pre-sundown haze of late, our daytime luminary was piercing the northwestern sky like a molten spear complete with a blinding hot iron bar reflecting off the lake. The setting scenario extended beyond our scope of imagination and was lending a bridging hand toward the lunar visitor from the east.
The ambiance of being in the midst of this astronomical rhapsody was exhilarating, totally beyond adequate description! Hope all you readers and listeners got to share a moment of this enchantment.
A secondhand report came to me about two area fishermen that happened upon a gathering of loons while angling on North Lake. Not too unusual except that they counted 13 in the grouping. While counting, I am told that the bakers’ dozen broke out in a yodeling interlude. This choral call of the wild had to be something special, probably not often presented where humans could hear. There’s nothing like being in the right place at the right time!
Being in the right place at the right time recently meant another unusual natural experience for a couple living up on Gull Lake. The scene was set in the lake not far from their shore when two huge snapping turtles surfaced in a frenzy of thrashing water. The observation of the aquatic activity went on for some time before it became evident that the hard-shelled critters were not fighting, but more likely in some sort of amorous ritual.
They were tumbling over and over while hugging in a belly-to-belly position only interrupted for brief moments of heads above water to gasp a snort of air. Trying to find out whether this was just a late summer fling, or if it was a normal time for beginning the reproductive cycle, I turned to north woods naturalist, Chel Anderson.
I would have guessed that this natural occurrence might happen after coming out of hibernation in the spring, but Chel’s research found that snapping turtles can mate anytime from May thru the summer. So this surely could have been the beginning of this terrapin couple’s extending the reproductive cycle, more than just a summer romance.  
As golden birch leaves begin trickling ground-ward, autumn is picking up a little more momentum. Area roadsides are gathering the fallen tokens and with the breeze of passing vehicles, I see them blown into rows like soldiers lined up for inspection.       
The crimson of sugar maples sprinkled through the coniferous forest is in an accelerating mode and should be in full regalia in not too many more days. With the help of some morning frost, continuing warm afternoons and maybe some rain, foliage will be spectacular.
More signs of advancing times are being noted in a decline of hummingbird activity at area sweet stops, along with the bombing of rooftops as squirrels harvest cone provisions from the white pine treetops.
Thinking about critter survival, during the winter months a gal down the road shares of watching a major excavation by a chipmunk. I’m told that this one was trying to bury an entire ear of corn. Guess it was quite a digging exercise for the greedy striped rodent.
Lastly, the territory has taken on a sudden stillness with the passing of summer’s final fling. The Labor Day weekend was bustling as I have not seen in recent years but all has become quiet on the northern front. Now begins the time of waiting, waiting for arrival of the “northern express!”
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the sensations of autumn!

Airdate: September 7, 2012

John & Patrick Pierre

Anishinaabe Way: John & Patrick Pierre

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Brothers John and Patrick Pierre have served as Grand Portage Royalty for the last three and four years. WTIP producer Staci Drouillard  met with them on the Grand Portage Reservation at the annual Rendezvous and Pow Wow.  The day before the interview John and Patrick had passed along their banners to the new, incoming Royalty.

In this edition of Anishinaabe Way, Staci speaks with them about their responsibilities as Tiny Tot Brave and Jr. Brave, their travels and any advice they might have for the next young tribal representatives.

Rural Standard Station, 1956 (National Archives & Records Administration/Wikimedia)

Moments in Time: Slower Times

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Grand Marais has always been a small town, but for many who grew up in the community, it feels much bigger and busier than it did in the past. Buck Benson and Rick Anderson were both brought up in the community. They still reside here today. Rick owns Sweetgrass Cove, a small inn and retreat in Grand Portage, and Buck owns the Hardware Hank in Grand Marais. They explain the slower times of Cook County life in this edition of Moments in Time.

"With the cool, wisps of wood smoke will soon be wafting through the woods foretelling of the magical fall changes in store..."

Wildersmith August 31

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The Gunflint bids farewell to month eight under a full gaze from that “old man in the moon.” The past chapter of 2012 has quickly trudged off into the history book, beginning in a full lunar experience, and taking a curtain call with another gleaming glimpse of “his Fullness.”
A little bit of summer angst surged in the final week of August. The sticky warm-up even prompted a resurgence of some those bitin’ bugs, mosquitoes, yuck!
Enter, and welcome September! The month of the wild rice moon now offers hope for a few frosty mornings in the northland. With the cool, wisps of wood smoke will soon be wafting through the woods foretelling of the magical fall changes in store.
Remembering a favorite saying about this special place is that “it’s only cool, when it’s cool” yours truly is anxious for that first visit from Jack, the man, Frost. Nobody does it better, when it comes to interior decorating of our Gunflint forest.
During the past week, only a smattering of heavenly moisture has fallen in the territory. That which has accumulated in select spots is barely enough to wet one’s whistle.
Around the Wildersmith neighborhood, our rain gauge has caught drops that have been measured only in a few hundredths. So we are kissing August goodbye and offering little remorse for her rapid passing, since she has put us back into that drought mode.
Perhaps with September’s call, rainmaking will be in the cards so that the area can begin soil soaking in advance of winter’s freeze-up. Nature’s flora need wet feet before going dormant to avoid adversity when next spring unfolds.
Another of September’s call comes in the clanging of the school bell. The last hurrah of summer is front and center this weekend with the big Labor Day holiday. Many of the seasonal residents of the area will be calling it a season.
School days will be beckoning this coming Tuesday, for not only our Gunflint kids, but also all of those vacationing folks. So it’s best wishes for the coming year, and hit those books with a vengeance!
We had some rough seas here on Gunflint Lake last Sunday. It was one of those days when common sense would tell you that it’s best to not take chances in a watercraft of any kind.
Yet the wonders of ignorance will never cease as one of those self-appointed experts decided that he could handle anything the old Gal had to offer. While the up lake trip to Bridal Falls with the wind and waves was tolerable, I’m told the return voyage against the bashing torrents turned to be a harrowing experience.
In the end, this terrified family was finally able to pull into shore safety just a couple docks down the line as the bucking waves were beginning to fill the boat. Thank goodness a potential tragedy was averted!
Neighbors helped the frightened family get back to their point of departure. This surely had to be a hard lesson learned by the decision-makers’ risky undertaking. You don’t mess with Mother Nature, or more specifically, with an angry Gunflint Gal. Some folks will just never learn!
Bald Eagle sightings are not unusual here on the Gunflint, but when they happen several days in succession right over the Wildersmith dock, and at a low altitude, there has to be a reason. The sudden appearance of this splendid bird is sure to be caused by the discovery of an animal carcass that probably zigged when it should have zagged. 
This apparent wilderness fast food establishment seems to be drawing raves from many hungry beings of the wild neighborhood. Such enthusiasm is heard through the woods from a collection of raucous avian voices, including this eagle that makes a daily, back and forth flight along the mid-Gunflint Lake shoreline to share in the sustenance.
The Gunflint corridor is so blessed to have such an active and caring group of volunteer protectors; I’m referring of course, to our EMTs and firefighters. The EMTs recently offered both new and refresher training to the public in CPR.
Several folks along the Gunflint have participated and found the time to be well spent. The instruction was most beneficial and professionally taught. I would encourage others in the territory to take advantage of these opportunities whenever they are extended. The training might just save a life!
Keep on hangin’ on, and savor a September song!

Airdate: August 31, 2012

Photo courtesy of Travis Wiens via Flickr.

Sauna - photo by Pete Kratochvil

West End News: August 30

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For a couple of days this week, the pace of the summer tourism slowed down and all West End residents took a collective deep breath.  I had lunch at a local restaurant and the staff was commenting that it was slow that day.  Looking around, I thought that in any other restaurant, it would have been considered a busy day.  All things are relative.  Of course, the few slow days before the Labor Day weekend are just an illusion, blown out of the water by the slightly crazy holiday weekend.  We'll have to wait for the sales tax figures to confirm it, but it feels like this was one of the busiest July and August seasons in many years.
My mom, Mary Alice Hansen, was going through some old boxes recently and came across my kindergarten and first grade report cards - or "growth records" as they were called in the late 1950s.  I was relieved to see that my growth back then was satisfactory to my teachers.  They both described me as "cooperative and well groomed."  My kindergarten teacher, Miss Pedersen, wrote a nice little paragraph about my interest in music. She noted that my singing was enthusiastic and on key.  She added that I was particularly interested in listening to music.  I guess it's true what they say about everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten.
My first grade teacher was named Miss Eich and she was well into her 70's when she taught me in 1959.  I distinctly remember her telling us that she started teaching when she was 18 years old.  That meant that she started teaching right at the beginning of the 20th century.  Back then you could get a teaching job with a high school diploma.  She was an excellent teacher, commanded the absolute respect of her students and had high expectations.  Her methods were definitely old school, but effective.  I wasn't exactly scared of her, but I made sure to never get on her bad side.
The reason I bring all this up is that a customer came in this week and in the course of chatting, we discovered that she too had been taught by Miss Eich at Endion School in Duluth, although several years earlier than I.  I ran to my mailbox to retrieve my old report card and we reveled in the nostalgia of seeing Miss Eich's beautiful, flowing cursive again after all these years.  We both were slightly shocked to see her first name, Estelle, because we never would have dreamed that she actually had a first name.  She was, and always will be, Miss Eich to us.  It is a testament to good teachers everywhere that we both remember her so clearly and favorably more than 50 years later.
The construction projects at Birch Grove School and Community Center are progressing nicely.  Although much work remains, the basic elements are now clear.  Next week, the HOBBITs invade Birch Grove to start construction of the community, wood fired bread-baking oven.  If you are passing by, stop in and take a look at all the progress.
Mark your calendar now for the Cross River Heritage Center's wine and beer tasting gala on Thursday, September 20, from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.  Also keep in mind the upcoming program titled: Lutsen Lumbering: Hall and Lyght Family Lumbering Operations, on Saturday, September 29 at 1:30 pm.  This should be a fascinating presentation on two of Lutsen's most respected pioneer families.  Both sound like a lot of fun and details can be had by calling Suzanne at 663-7706.
Finally, you can catch Arnold Alanen speaking about his book "Finns of Minnesota" at the Silver Bay Public library on Tuesday, September 4 at 6 p.m.  The talk will highlight the the culture of Minnesota Finnish Americans, including their history of cooperative ventures, political involvement and, of course, saunas.  The program is free and sponsored by the Friends of the Silver Bay Public Library.  Maybe the whole audience can adjourn to one of the fine local saunas after the show!

If you look along the Milky Way, you should see three bright stars: the summer triangle (Top to Bottom: Deneb, Vega & Altair)

Northern Sky: Gaining Constellations, Losing a Few Old Friends

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Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota, where she authors the Minnesota Starwatch column. In this edition of Northern Sky, Deane explains what's going on during the end of August and the beginning of September. During this time, we should pay special attention to the morning sky, and catch Jupiter, Venus and the Hyades star cluster. In the evening sky, we have a full moon on August 31, the summer triangle of stars, and much more. Learn more in this edition of Northern Sky.

Read this month's Starwatch column.

Photo courtesy of Cano Vaari via Flickr.

Dr. Moore and staff confer about fish caught and seen.

Dr. Seth Moore: Electrofishing on Lake Superior

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Dr. Seth Moore is Director of Biology and Environment with the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. 

The Grand Portage Reservation is located in the extreme northeast corner of Minnesota, on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Cook County. Bordered on the north by Canada, on the south and east by Lake Superior and on the west by Grand Portage State Forest, the reservation encompasses a historic fur trade site on beautiful Grand Portage Bay.

The band engages in fisheries and wildlife research projects throughout the year, working with moose, wolves, fish, deer, grouse, and environmental issues. Dr. Moore appears regularly on WTIP North Shore Community Radio, talking about the band's current and ongoing natural resource projects, as well as other environmental and health related issues of concern to the Grand Portage Band.

In this segment, WTIP reporter/producer Carah Thomas accompanies Dr. Moore on an electrofishing survey around the coast of Susie Island, on Lake Superior.  Produced by Carah Thomas.

"...The foliage of aspen and birch are beginning to favor aurous tones over their virescent tints of the past few months.."

Wildersmith August 24

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Ambiance of adventure in this north woods territory is ever present, but is never more cherished than as we pass from season to season. Such is the case right now while summer fades into its final stanza.
In this resident’s opinion, autumn is gathering momentum earlier than usual. It would appear that the color show will be a few weeks in advance of most.
Flora along the byway is tinged with early crimson, and the foliage of aspen and birch are beginning to favor aurous tones over their virescent tints of the past few months. As a whole, there are an amazing number of golden tones already on stems, and this in advance of uncountable hues of brown that will soon follow summer’s last hurrah.
Mother Nature has provided some splendid weather over the past seven. However, the rain gauge has pretty much been stuck on empty during the same segment.
The area is getting nerve-wrackingly crunchy in regard to ignition potential. Therefore we have hope both for rain and that common sense will prevail with visitors and residents alike, if any type of burning is necessary.
Invasive species are continuing topics of conversation for those of us that really care about out north woods naturals. Everything from flora renegades, to water nemesis, to crawling invertebrates and even a few winged and four-legged critters keep on invading our midst with full intent of taking over our pristine paradise.
Sadly, due to our insatiable human greed, I would have to say, but without absolute scientific proof, that we Homo sapiens are most likely either directly, or indirectly, the cause for a good part of what is happening in our part of the planet. Even sadder is that a good share of our population is unwilling to bite the bullet and change our lifestyle in order that our natural place, as we would have it, might regain and sustain command over these nasty elements.
So much for my soap box prattle, I just fell off. I will tell you, though, that I had an encounter with a north woods invasive just a few days ago. It is the second episode with this species in 2012. My regular followers on WTIP will recall my details of a visiting masked bandit this past spring.
It turns out there are obviously more than one of these critters that have moved in and are now taking up residence in border country. A kin to my spring visitor showed up on the Wildersmith deck one night last week.
Like its cousin, this one too turned out as easy pickins for exclusion from the neighborhood because of a gnawing appetite that included a sweet tooth and not much savvy. Once again a small pig-sized raccoon could not resist the aroma of my enticing PB&J.
As the trap door slammed shut, the unwelcomed varmint’s journey came to an end. Humanely, it was dispatched to those happy hunting grounds out in the forest where it will provide sustenance to native critters that have called this place home for eons.
The mystery remains about how these masked invaders get here. It seems like it would be a long walk from their usual more southerly habitat. Perhaps they hooked a ride with some of that southern state sweet corn that is sold from the back of a pick-up in several north shore locations? Whatever the case, there are now two less of the troublesome bandits hanging around trying to upset the wilderness cycle of life.
What a great day for the Mid-Trail Property Owners Association this past Saturday. Their annual fundraiser, on behalf of the Gunflint Trail Volunteer Fire Department and EMT folks, drew what looked to be a record crowd. At day’s end, the event garnered just shy of $10,000.
The winner of the mid-trail quilt raffle drawing was Jo Ann Krause, who just happens to be a mid-trail resident. Congratulations Jo Ann, and a huge thanks to all those who had a hand in organizing this fun and worthy event!
Keep on hangin’ on and savor the magic of summer to fall along the Trail!

Airdate: August 24, 2012

Photo courtesy of BruceCyg via Flickr.