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What's On:
Star Map Aug 2020

Northern Sky August 15-28

Northern Sky – Deane Morrison​

August 15-28, 2020

Now that we’re in the middle of August, it’s two months since the June solstice, and summer is
noticeably fading. But the good news is, the night sky is expanding, meaning the stars come out
earlier and fade away later.

In the predawn sky, Venus shines in the east as a brilliant morning star. A waning crescent moon
rose just above Venus the morning of August 15. On the 16th, the moon comes up next to Pollux,
the brighter of the Gemini twins. On the 17th the moon rises beneath the twins. That morning,
the bright star that rises off to the right of the moon and a little bit lower is Procyon, in Canis
Minor, the little dog. After the 17th, the moon disappears into the sun’s glare.

This month Venus has been pretty much holding its ground as the stars of Gemini and other
winter constellations stream past it. Also in the predawn sky is Mars, the lone bright light high in
the south. At the end of August, Mars’s opposition will be barely six weeks away. When Mars is
at opposition, Earth sweeps between the sun and the red planet, causing it to appear opposite the
sun in the sky. As that day approaches, Mars is brightening. It’s already brighter than Sirius, the
brightest star in the night sky, and its candlepower is still waxing. If you can’t wait to compare
Mars and Sirius, go outside close to dawn near the end of the month, when Sirius will be rising
in the southeast.

A new moon arrives on the 18th. At that moment the moon passes into the evening sky, but we’ll
have a few days before it gets bright enough to seriously interfere with watching stars and
planets. At nightfall in the southeast to south we have our old friends Jupiter and, off to the left,
Saturn. If you want to see them in the evening, remember that while Jupiter comes out around
sunset, Saturn doesn’t show up very well until the sky gets good and dark. These planets have
been moving away from each other and reach a maximum separation, 8.3 degrees, on August 28;
after that date, they start to draw closer. The distance between them will be steadily shrinking
until the winter solstice, when they make a very close pass. Also on August 28, a fat waxing
moon appears just below Jupiter.

In the neighborhood of these planets we have, low in the south to southwest, Scorpius, with
Antares, the bright red star at the scorpion’s heart. Immediately east is the Teapot of Sagittarius,
and then Jupiter. Above Jupiter is a curved line of stars known as the Teaspoon. It sits above the
giant planet like a hat. If you go outside around 11 o’clock, Mars will be low in the east, Jupiter
and Saturn in the south, and you can see three planets at once.

But back to nightfall. Look to the west for the brilliant star Arcturus, which anchors the kite-
shaped constellation Bootes, the herdsman. This time of year, the kite stands upright above the
horizon as Arcturus seems to drag it down like a stone.

Above and east of Jupiter and Saturn is the big Summer Triangle of bright stars. Just a few words
about the star at the Triangle’s southern vertex. This is Altair, sandwiched between two dimmer
stars in the constellation Aquila, the eagle. Altair is close; only about 17 light-years away. It’s
famous for rotating very fast—once every 10 hours, or more than twice as fast as Earth. This has
flattened Altair into a shape not unlike that of a pumpkin.


Chik Wauk Nature Center has partnered with the UMD Planetarium to offer a Virtual Dark Sky Caravan. Submitted photo

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - August 21

Last weekend defined what nice days along the Gunflint Trail are all about. One could say they were near perfect. Azure skies with cool temps and northwest breezes made folks out this way forget about hot and sticky that can be annoying in the latter days of month eight. 
Precipitation has been minimal during the past seven, but overall August thus far has provided enough to keep fire danger in the moderate category. However, I wouldn’t advise giving thought to pulling in those wildfire sprinkler systems for another six weeks or so.   
It has been a busy week in the territory, not only with visitors flooding the area but also with the end of the summer fundraising drive for our Trail volunteer fire department. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cast gloom over our daily lives, the Gunflint Community gathered forces once again to support our local heroes in a way different from years of Canoes Races, Auctions, Flea Markets and Concerts.                                                               
Friends of the Gunflint Trail Fire Department re-programmed with a couple of raffles, Fire Department calendar sales, on-line T-shirt sales, and from-the-heart donations, in addition to a closing ceremony with the virtual concert, of Woods, Winds, Strings and a Little Jazz.                                   
While dollars of support are still being counted, a preliminary report from organizers indicates over $52,000.00 was raised. Once again, the drawing for the winner of the Wenonah kayak and the Mid-Trail Quilters masterpiece caused considerable excitement, even though it came via Zoom.                                   

The winners were separated by nearly six hundred miles with end of the Trail local, Matt Ritter having the lucky ticket for the beautiful quilt and Colin Smith of Sheldon, Iowa capturing the glossy gold kayak. Thanks go out to all who volunteered from the Mid-Trail Property Owners and the Gunflint, Seagull, Saganaga Lake Property Owner groups for their time and energies to make this happen, and not to miss mentioning organizers and performers of the Concert. And of course, all the charitable donors!                                                                                                                                                                             
It goes without saying, this Community has unmatched determination, and has never failed to produce under the most trying circumstances, come wind, fire or storm of disease!                       

It is amazing what humans can do when they pull together. Such is the case with another event that has been happening in recent years but has also been stalled by conditions of the virus. The Dark Sky Caravan, which has been an end of the trail activity in cooperation with the Gunflint Trail Historical Society for the past couple of years, is canceled too.

However, with human ingenuity and energy, the event will not be face to face in the inflatable GeoDome, but will be produced and actually come through the ebony heavens this year.                                                                         

Dark Sky enthusiasts are invited to join a Virtual Caravan August 24 through the 29th. Celebrate the night skies of northern Minnesota hosted by the Marshall Alworth Planetarium on the Campus of University of Minnesota Duluth and local Partners. Facebook Live shows begin at 7:00 p.m. each evening, and Telescoping Livestream will commence at 8:30 p.m. (weather permitting) to enjoy views of the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, and more. Access the celestial happenings on                                                                                             
Closer to home loons apparently are looking skyward too. A report has come from Dog Eared Bay on Gunflint Lake telling of independent (lacking parental responsibilities) loons observed gathering. While some loon moms are still parenting, this gathering is signaling a southerly trip plan is underway.                                                                                                                           

Guess this seasonal flight scheming affair matches up with increasing flora signals from goldenrod, roadside dogbane and moose maple pigment changes. Autumn, while officially still a month away, is trying to intrude on its prior season cousin. At moments, along backcountry roads, the woods already seem to murmur a tone of fall.                                                                           

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, with an ever-changing display of Nature’s Glory! 


Michelle Schroeder_Photo submitted by MS

Backpacking 101 - Michelle Schroeder - August 4

Backpacking 101 - by Michelle Schroeder
August 4, 2020


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North Shore Health Care Foundation Update - Valerie Eliasen

North Shore Morning host Mark Abrahamson talks with Valerie Eliasen, North Shore Health Care Foundation following the NSHCF monthly board meeting.


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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?


Star Map Aug 2020

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.


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 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!