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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:
"Yes, loons have come back to Gunflint Lake during the past week..."

Wildersmith April 27

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The universe, north woods included, is about to bid farewell to month four and ascend into segment five of the year 2012. By our next meeting on the radio/website, border country will be well into May, and about to celebrate the full “budding flowers moon,” (Zaagibagaa Giizis) on day six.

My how April flew by! Everything transitional in the northern outdoors has retreated somewhat, now proceeding more or less normally, following the warmest March in memory. The walleye spawn has slowed and deciduous buds have gone into a holding pattern.

With samples of winter raising its ire as we journeyed through the past 30 days, we forest dwellers got a little bit of everything Mother Nature has to offer. It’s time to settle things down from that up and down passage into a real spring.

With shoots of green reappearing through the dwindling snow, this is a time for the reality of rebirth to get going in earnest. Mallards are hatching and next generations of foxes, wolves, otters and many other wild creatures have been coming into the world. Meanwhile, spiders, caterpillars, beetles and a million other crawling creatures are popping out just in time for the return of hungry avians. I even observed a beetle-like critter crawling over the new snow.

I’m told that the first wood ticks are out and about, although none have found yours truly during early outdoor chores. Beyond those nasty pests, a more pleasant announcement signals the true vernal return, the birds of Minnesota have landed. Yes, loons have come back to Gunflint Lake during the past week. I’ve heard that some were back to other area lakes the week prior, but regardless of the timing, it’s great to hear those sweet northwoods calls.

As the last snow moved on, leaving a smooth forest blanket, we at Wildersmith were paid a visit by at least a part of the Gunflint/Loon lake wolf pack. We did not see them in the flesh but had fresh track evidence that they were snooping about the yard during the nighttime. We also had a fox in the mix sometime during those same bewitching hours.

Maybe they were brought near by the animal version of the moccasin telegraph passing word about an unusual visitor in the neighborhood, that of the Wildersmith raccoon. Whatever it was that prompted the Canid visit, those tracks in the white afforded us another intriguing wilderness adventure to contemplate.

Regarding that masked critter saga, the final chapter for it at Wildersmith has come to a close. Finally after nearly two weeks of being a no-show, the return happened a few nights after the big snowstorm.

This visit turned out to be its last, as curiosity for a piece of bread and jelly brought surprising incarceration. After several dark hours of fruitless escape attempts, it was pretty much worn out and docile by the time it was bid farewell into happy hunting grounds elsewhere.

Up to this point, none of its kin have come by, but one has to figure that this one didn’t just come to the Gunflint Territory as a solo tourist.

So it’s goodbye to the first one-third of the year, and welcome to the month of growth. It is hoped that the allergens are not too bad and that we all break out with a rash of spring fever!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the goodness of nature around us!

Airdate: April 27, 2012

Photo courtesy of Adam Knowles via Flickr.

The Lake Superior Project / logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Sensing Changes

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All around the lake, folks are noticing changes in the weather and climate. In this segment of the Lake Superior Project, we begin to take a look at how climate change is impacting Lake Superior. We speak with several different people around the lake about their perspectives on what's happening.



Earthworms: Good for Gardens, Bad for Boreal Forests

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Ryan Hueffmeier knows a lot about worms.  He's a researcher with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) at the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), and Program Coordinator with Great Lakes Worm Watch.  In this interview, Hueffmeier talks with WTIP's Jana Berka about why earthworms are good for gardens, but not so good for the forest. 


Commissioner Martinson

Commissioner explains negative Historical Society vote

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At the recent county board meeting – a funding request from the Historical Society, a new Lutsen Fire Hall, Boreal-TV and the community center. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Commissioner Bruce Martinson.


Haze over BWCAW - photo courtesy Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

West End News: April 26

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I was sorry to hear that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency caved to political pressure and weakened its plan to reduce haze over the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park.

Haze from air pollution is definitely noticeable in northeastern Minnesota. I’ll admit that my eyesight has deteriorated over the years, but when I was a kid, the sky was bluer, the views over Lake Superior were longer and there were more stars in the night sky.

I’m not a scientist, but I’m told that our haze comes largely from coal-fired power plants and nearby taconite plants. Air pollution rules are incredibly complex, but the long and short of it is that the M.P.C.A. backed down from their original haze and pollution standards after the mining company, Cliffs Natural Resources, threatened to close two of their taconite plants rather than meet the standards.

While Cliffs has had its ups and downs over the years, the company is incredibly profitable right now and should voluntarily reduce its air pollution while they can afford it. I understand that they are important players in Minnesota’s economy, but I also feel like clean, healthy air is important to Minnesota too.

If we only stand up for our air and water when it’s convenient, where does that leave us – not to mention our children and grandchildren?

The big excitement here at Sawbill last week was the replacement of the Forest Service airplane dock at the Sawbill Guard Station. The floating dock is designed for the safe mooring and loading of their big DeHavilland Beaver floatplanes. In truth, it is rarely used by airplanes and is mostly used for launching canoes, swimming and fishing.

The old dock was built by Billy Tormondsen, I think in 1972. Billy was a well known and well liked Tofte native who operated a small sawmill back in those days. Originally, the dock was all white cedar. I remember the year because Billy suddenly and unexpectedly died shortly after he built the dock. He was a good friend and a truly unique individual. He would be around 90 if he were alive today. It’ll be interesting to see if this new dock can hold up as long as Billy’s craftsmanship did.

The big new dock presented quite a challenge to get into the lake as there is no vehicle access right to the shore of Sawbill Lake. After some head scratching, the competent services of Peter Borson and his big construction forklift were recruited and things went smoothly from there.

Patty Nordahl, director of the Birch Grove Foundation tells me there quite a few contractors interested in the construction projects planned for Birch Grove this summer. These are the first projects among many around the county that are funded by the 1% sales tax that we voted in last year. Bids are being accepted until May 3rd and information and specifications are available at Birch Grove in Tofte.

Mark September 29th on your calendar for the grand opening celebration of the Birch Grove construction projects. The grand opening will feature pizza from the outdoor wood fired oven that is also in the planning stages at Birch Grove. The Hearth Oven Bread Baking Initiative Team, or HOBBITS, has settled on September 9th through the 13th for the oven building class that will be run by North House Folk School. If you are interested in taking the class, get in touch with Patty at Birch Grove or North House Folk School. There is a tuition charge, but Patty is seeking grant dollars for scholarships, so don’t let the cost stop you if you are interested.

Last call to sign up for the North Shore Stewardship Association’s free North Shore Landowners community meeting on May 11th from 12:30-4:30 at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland. This is an opportunity to connect with other landowners, public land managers, and private organizations to discover what North Shore forest restoration activities are underway and how you can become involved. You can register online at the North Shore Stewardship Association web site, or, as always, call WTIP for more information.

I’ve seen more moose in the last week than all of last year. The moose always look terrible at this time of year. Tourists often report seeing a “sick” moose in late April and early May. They’re losing their winter coats, causing them to look ratty and mostly white. They’re at their skinniest right now too. By June they will be sleek, shiny, dark brown and chubby. The bulls will be sporting their velvet racks and the calves will be growing fast. Here’s hoping that my more frequent moose sightings indicate a rebound in their population.

Split Rock Lighthouse - photo by Randen Pedersen via

Moments in Time: Split Rock Lighthouse

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Split Rock Lighthouse, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, celebrated 100 years in 2010.  A year later, the lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.  In this edition of Moments in Time, Historic Site manager Lee Radzak talks about the lighthouse and its history.  Produced by Carah Thomas.

"During the last five years, we’ve learned to love rocks at the end of the Gunflint Trail..."

Of Woods and Words: After Fire

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During the last five years, we’ve learned to love rocks at the end of the Gunflint Trail. When the Ham Lake wildfire roared through the area in spring 2007, the fire consumed over 75,000 acres of forest, more than 100 buildings, and a large amount of the topsoil covering hills of granite bedrock. The fire left charred, branchless tree trunks scratching at the sky, and exposed dark pink granite cliff faces.

Each winter it seems the snow scours the granite, making the rocks’ rosy and ivory hues gleam brightly from the roadside in the springtime. The proper geologic name for the granite is Saganaga Tonalite and it’s some of the oldest rock in the world. Until the wildfire, towering pines and brushy undergrowth stole the spotlight from this million-year-old rock. Now, moss is slowly regaining its footing in the granite cliffs’ nooks and crannies and soon the rock will once again disappear under a shroud of green.

Jack pine seedlings crowd the top of these granite hills. The tiny trees nestle so closely that their branches overlap and interlock, making them appear ready for the ultimate game of Red Rover. Each spring, the trees grow a little taller and stronger and now most of them are at least two feet tall.

Many people who pass these jack pine stands comment on how happy the little trees look. From their perch on hilltops, the little jack pines do seem friendly and decidedly less stand-offish than the remaining towering pines who stand sentinel with a rather bored dignity. These little trees are even newer to the world than we are and since they haven’t reached the size where they have to compete for their spot in the forest yet, they seem especially fresh-faced and optimistic.

Whenever I come close to stumbling into the cliché of marveling that fire was five years ago already, I remember that five years ago those cheerful little trees were nothing but the speck of an idea of a tree, tucked inside jack pine cones which require 122 degree Fahrenheit temps to release their seeds. The charred tree trunks that stood straight and inky blank in the days after the fire, now lean precariously and have faded to a silvery brown. The burnt trees that have fallen now disintegrate into a shower of rot when tapped with a foot.

There’s also no denying that I’m no longer the freshly minted college graduate who arrived on the Gunflint Trail May 19, 2007, exactly two weeks after the fire started. I spent that summer working for a canoe outfitter and shuttled many a slack-jawed tourist through the burn area as I transported them to the starting point of their canoe trip.

Now when I drive up the Trail, I’m heading home.

Five years have definitely passed. The evidence is everywhere. Cabins have been rebuilt, millions of trees planted, and landscapes that once stretched out all gray and black to the far horizon, now glimmer with the green of seedlings and undergrowth. We’ve all gotten a little older too.

I’ve never felt a need to dwell on what this little corner of the world would look like if it hadn’t caught fire in the spring of 2007, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t really learn this neck of the woods until after the fire. Still, I have to think that the sweet taste of blueberry pie, compliments of the bumper crops in the burn area, must wash away some of the angst and heartache the fire caused for so many.

There’s plenty of proof that this land will once again host towering pines it’s known for. But for the time being, I’ll enjoy the sight of happy little pine seedlings perched on top of bright pink granite cliffs, soaking up sunshine.

Airdate: April 25, 2012

Photo courtesy of Eli Sagor via Flickr.

Newspaper...a treasury of moments in time...

Moments in Time: Cook County News Herald

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The Cook County News Herald is truly a treasury of moments in time. In this edition of our historical series, WTIP's Jay Andersen, a former News Herald editor, interviews the current editor, Rhonda Silence, about the history of the newspaper.

Photo courtesy of Luc de Leeuw via Flickr.

"It’s “tweener” time in north country..."

Wildersmith April 20

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It’s “tweener” time in north country, the period of each year when Gunflint residents celebrate quietness, separating winter activities and the mad rush of our fishing opener, along with ensuing summer vacationers just over the horizon.

At this keyboard exercise on Monday, April 16, the Wildersmith neighborhood is experiencing a winter storm. We are getting it all, blizzard conditions with snow, gale force winds and temps in the low teens.

For the second consecutive week, we started off with a white landscape. This winter shot left anywhere from three to five inches of fluff depending upon where one is located up the Trail. Many think of spring vacations along about now, but for the situation in border country, it’s spring that has suddenly taken a vacation.

All of this mixed-up weather happens just as the first wildflowers peeked out of their buds in the yard at Wildersmith. The tiny violet-like blooms, along with aspiring rhubarb shoots and budding lilac branches, are probably in shock, but hopefully not ruined for warmer time’s resurgence.

And, I might add, the first mosquito was buzzing me a day or so before the “s” word made another return. I hope that it froze its little tush off!

As clouds of the winter storm built, the preliminary act was some much-needed rain. In fact, before the rain gauge froze during the ferocious main performance, liquid in the amount of three-quarters of an inch filled it up.

This was a welcome refresher, at least temporarily stifling wildfire danger. Coupled with the new layer of white that is soon to be melting away, we should feel safe for the next few days.

My saga with the Wildersmith raccoon extends without resolution. The decision to live trap and dispatch the masked intruder to another heavenly place has produced no results.

The trapping experience has outraged a couple pine martens in the area, though. Baiting appetizers of bacon strips and ham have excited the curious critters. Thus, they are the only ones to have been incarcerated to date.

No plea bargaining required, but releasing the angry animals has been an experience in itself. With long arm-covering leather gloves, I was a little nervous about what to expect upon opening that trap door for the snarling wild creatures.

A friend shared an unintended otter trapping experience where the animal darted out of the trap, went a short distance away to apparently compose itself, and then came back and bit the releasing jailer on the boot before heading off into nature. So I was un-sure of what might happen in my situation.

Following considerable angst of growling and jumping around trying to get at me, I found it amusing that once the cage door was opened, the escape to forest freedom seemed hard to figure out. I would have expected it to zip out of that temporary jail like a shot from a gun.

Once released however, in both cases, the lush brown animals casually meandered away and perched themselves on a deck rail close by to check me out. Guess maybe I wasn’t such a bad guy after all!

Meanwhile the Wildersmith folks continue to undo the winter preparations in spite of current atmospheric happenings. Deer protection fencing around baby trees is coming down and freeze-protecting straw has been pitched from the septic mound. The usual clean-up of fallen forest debris continues, never ending. I’m confident that others throughout the area are in the same mode. So when warmer days are here to stay, we’ll be ready for deck/dock reflecting and bug swatting.

Keep on hangin’ on and savor the greatness of the northern outdoors!

Airdate: April 20, 2012

Photo courtesy of Tundra Ice via Flickr.


Gunflint Notebook: Hitting Deer

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In the edition of the Gunflint Notebook, there are those that HAVE hit a deer with their car and there are those that WILL hit a deer with their car. Just a few weeks ago, Steve's time came due.