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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.


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    

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; (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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Backpacking 101 - Michelle Schroeder - July 7

"Backpacking 101" by Michelle Schroeder.
July 7, 2020

In this edition of "Backpacking 101", Michelle talks about staying cool on the trail in summer heat.


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Money Matters - Scott Oeth - July 2020

"Money Matters" with Scott Oeth is a monthly feature on WTIP's North Shore Morning.
In this edition, Scott talks about Life Insurance.  Do we need it? What kind should we consider?


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - July 03

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
July 3, 2020    
While some people thrive on hot sticky, beach cruising conditions, the moose and I find such miserable. And that’s just what it is, misery in the making as we celebrate Independence Day number 244.                                                                                                                     

“Sunstroke is no joke!” Such can be a distinct possibility in many places across the nation including border country on this holiday weekend as “Sol” gives us a dose of southern heat. With north woods natural air conditioning out of order for fireworks celebrations, the moose and me, declare frost cannot come soon enough! Sure makes winter look not so bad.            

In the meantime, the sun is taking its toll on both land and water. The blistering heat has enhanced drought conditions throughout the upper Trail. June ended with a meager thirty day rain total of slightly over three-fourths of an inch along the south shore of Gunflint Lake. The “lions’ share” of that fell in the first two weeks. At Wildersmith, we’ve counted just six one-hundredths of an inch in the past ten days.                                                                                        

The crunchy forest is a wildfire accident waiting to happen. Those of us living in the woods are thankful the agencies in charge have at long last put a burning ban into effect over the forest. With hundreds, if not thousands, of people out in the wilderness over the next days and weeks, it is just a matter of time until some human would make a bad decision with a campfire. “Smokey the Bear” is likely pretty growly about this arid situation, so let’s not stir him up!                                                                                                                                                   

It is my suggestion residents of the territory start activating their WF sprinkler systems a couple times a week until the spell ends. This is not a cure all, but a good measure to create an umbrella of protective moisture over your property just in case.                                                                 

I don’t get lake level reports from around the area, but I do report levels to the DNR for Gunflint Lake. Since the official gauge went into the lake on June 12th, at the Wildersmith dock, the lake has gone down a good four inches. This is a lot of water, gone in a short time, and worse, since the lake level was diminished even before the snow melt dried up. To say we need rain is an understatement!                                                                                                                                   

On a brighter note, another celebration occurs in concert with the usual Fourth of July explosives. The Ojibwe, “half-way moon” is ushering in part two of 2020. It would be nice if the lunar happening is the only thing lighting the dark sky at this flashing, boom-boom time, for fear igniting a potential disaster.                                                                                                           

Another celebratory occasion of local interest is added to the weekend of events. The Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center marks the tenth anniversary of opening its’ doors to share the romance and saga of the Gunflint Trail, but COVId-19 has spoiled a planned gathering of members and friends.                                                                                                      

However, during the hiatus, the GTHS is inviting all to a virtual party on Saturday. Check it out on Chik-Wauk .org via Facebook for a special program. The party is produced by staff and the summer interns, culminating with a real cake.                                                                                              
In addition to reminiscing the first ten years, a virtual grand opening of the new Interpretive Cabin will feature a sneak preview of what visitors can experience when the Campus does re-open.                                                                                                                                    

Speaking of re-opening, the Chik-Wauk Campus is schedule to re-open next Friday, the tenth, pending any un-expected state-wide health department mandates. Any change in the date will be announced on the CW website.                                                                                  

Visitors should expect restrictions based on CDC recommendations. Bring a mask, sanitized hands and some patience as Chik-Wauk welcomes in visitors.                                                 

In closing, listeners are reminded of the summer membership drive which commences this coming Wednesday, July 7th. While the format has been altered by the Pandemic, the intent remains the same. And the “good times” will be rolling as usual, only from a distance, as we are now getting somewhat used too.                                                                                                             

The WTIP crew will miss your call in voices or in studio visits, so pledges on-line or by mail will fill the void. Until we can meet again more cordially, keep rowing the boat through these turbulent waters! Thanks in advance for continuing to support Northshore Community Radio!                                                                                                                                                              

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is storied, with pioneering mystique!


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - June 26

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
June 26, 2020
June is in its last days as this Gunflint report is airing. While minutes, days and weeks have not changed in length, the first half of 2020 nevertheless has evaporated amidst turmoil and tragedy the likes of which U.S. history has not recorded.                                                                                      

Although many issues of this COVID mess remain in a raging mode, one can only hope the year’s second half is not a remake. It will only be possible, if WE the people make it happen through continuing safe practices.  The nasty, is not over!   
In the meantime, we’ve reached the pinnacle of “Sol’s ascension into the northern hemisphere. With just under sixteen hours of sunrise to sunset time, and adding an hour plus of twilight time at each end, we are in a border country version of the mid-night sun.                                                

I’ve discovered such conditions of extended daylight find the hummingbirds having started their engines as early as four in the morning, and still landing at our sweetness station going on ten in the evening. That’s a lot of beats per day on those delicate wings, and uncountable slurps of nectar.                                                                                                                       

Another remarkable story from our natural world came my way recently from the west end of Gunflint Lake. It seems a frantic call came out from a resident explaining they had a duck or something down in their cabin chimney. Wondering if a neighbor could help, investigation found it was in fact, a large duck.                                                                                                                           

The animal seemed near the bottom, but was not accessible through the fireplace. Since a duck cannot fly straight up this was a complex dilemma. With a bit of Gunflint ingenuity this man of the hour was suddenly cast in the role of hero or zilch. Sizing things up, he rigged up a snare of plastic conduit and flag pole rope.                                                                                                             

While not sure if this could work and if the creature could even be lassoed, let alone be saved, it seemed the only alternative. The idea was to snare the duck around the neck and pull it up the dark hole. Would the outcome be good?                                                     

Nevertheless, shining a light down while feeding the snare toward the “quacker”, luck was on “ducky’s” side, the rigging fell in place as hoped. With a careful tug, cinching the braided necktie, up the chimney it rose.                                                                                                                           
This Good Samaritan, who is always at beckons call through-out the territory, grabbed the duck not knowing what to expect. Loosening the mini noose, in a blink of an eye the soot covered critter was off into the wild blue yonder, to the cheers of excited observers. What a lucky duck!   
Asked what kind it was, this duck savior replied, it was a “black” duck. How the duck got into this quandary is not known. It could be the duck perched atop the warm chimney on a brisk cold day, perhaps dozed off and fell in. This speaks well for having a screening cap on ones chimney.                                                                                                                                  

Another piece on things that fly has my attention lately. I have never observed such numbers of white admiral butterflies along the Mile O Pine. Only “Mother Nature” knows why.
The Chik-Wauk loons are still on the nest, and perhaps there will be a happy announcement coming around Independence Day.                                                                                         

It is always a thrill to be in the presence of a “wild neighborhood” critter as long as one is not being considered as menu item. My most recent experience was crossing path with a momma bear and her triplet cubs. I don’t know who was startled most, yours truly or the Bruno family.     
Folks will want to keep track of the virtual programming from up at the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center. Daily snippets ranging from Phrenology on Mondays to night sky on Saturdays can be found via CW social media platforms.  Check them out!                                         

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is celebrated, with the pomp of nature!

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Northern Sky: June 20

Northern Sky - by Deane Morrison

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota.
She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and in this feature,
she shares what there is to see in the night sky - in our region.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 19

Superior National Forest Update - June 19, 2020

Steve Robertsen is an education and interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service, Superior National Forest.