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North Shore Weekend

  • Saturday 7-10am
Host CJ Heithoff brings you this Saturday morning show, created at the request of WTIP listeners.  North Shore Weekend features three hours of community information, features, interviews, and music. It's truly a great way to start your weekend on the North Shore. Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP’s North Shore Weekend are made possible with funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.



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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 17

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
January 17, 2020    
Gunflint territory has settled into normal winter as we pass the half way point of month one. Last weekend was more like it should be with a frigid reminder last Saturday morning.

In the twilight of morning, while out and about working for the Gunflint Mail Run Event, temps of twenty-five to thirty-five below zero were encountered along the Byway.                                                                

It was truly a premier North-country time as Sol was brightening in the east and the colossal “Great Spirit” moon hovered in the west. While us north woods folk savor every diurnal moment, this one seemed special beyond any in recent memory. I can’t come up with enough descriptors to pay homage to the serene beauty. Our natural world seemed to be standing still in frozen silence under full lunar boldness. Magnificent is an understated word for the feeling of my being in this special time and place.                                                                                                                     

Meanwhile, the glory of this day gleamed down on activities going on in the Gunflint surroundings. Joy and elation was at fever pitch in the mid-Trail area as sled dogs and their mushers readied for a weekend in the snow and cold.                                                                                                                   
It was organized mayhem with nearly three hundred barking canine athletes waiting their turn to be released at the start line for a run through wild country. It was all handlers and volunteers could do to control this boundless energy and the will to run.                                     
Amazingly, when they were off, like a rocket, it was suddenly all business. The yelping conversation ceased with total effort focused on moving on! What a delightful event with a hats-off tribute to their loving mushers, supportive handlers and veterinary care-givers. If one has never been present at an event such as this, it ought to be added to your bucket list.                    

On a related note, kudos is extended to the race organizers and great folks at Trail Center Restaurant and Lodge for their tremendous work in putting this together. Further, in addition to this leadership, these tireless folks couldn’t do it without dozens of volunteers. For all great events in backcountry America “it takes a community”, and this Gunflint Community plus many other sled dog enthusiasts made it happen. Thanks to all!                                                                                                                                                                

Oh, and by the way, a big thanks and congratulations to all the teams. Added is a salute to the winning teams. If listeners haven’t already heard, the 100 mile, twelve dog class was won by Ryan Redington, of Skagway, Alaska, for the fourth consecutive year, and the 65 mile, eight dog event was won by Joanna Oberg, of Grand Marais, formerly of Northwestern Ontario.   

In other news, more activity in the north woods gets underway this weekend as the day anglers have been long awaiting has arrived. Barking of dogs in Gunflint territory will have been traded for snowmobiles toting gear to that special place and ice augers boring a hole in the lake, all in search of a prize trout. Good luck to all and be safe on that ice!                                                                

In the Wildersmith neighborhood, we’ve had a minor eruption of furry animal activity. While our usual winter Pine Marten visitors have been few and far between, without advanced notice a pair finally showed up last weekend. They frolicked around their feeding stations and each enjoyed a poultry part before scampering off through the fluff. Hope they remember where they can always get a treat.                                                                                                                                     
And frequencies of fox visits have stepped up too. One early morning before daylight, on a trip to the woodshop, I was startled into a rapid heartbeat when the friendly red gal suddenly snuck up behind me, glad it wasn’t a wolf. As I jumped, she too was startled, don’t know which of us was spooked more.                                                                                                                                                                              

A Gunflint Lake and Trail note of condolences is extended to the family and friends of Jean Oleheiser. Jean passed away January 3rd. Jean and husband Chuck were longtime residents of the upper Gunflint Trail before retiring to Richfield, MN several years ago. Both Jean and Chuck worked at end of the Trail for a period of time before spending many years employed at the historic Gunflint Lodge. Jean was a consummate baker, friend and a delightful person to be around!                                                                                                                                                                    
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where we treasure every day, enjoying the blessing of a quiet natural world!


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - January 17

Superior National Forest Update
January 17, 2020

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist with the Superior National Forest our National Forest Update.  It’s time to take a break from shoveling and cursing the snow, and get out and play in the snow and enjoy the reason we live up here.  Winter is great if you have the right mindset, and there have been some studies done which show that the way to chase off winter blues is to get outside and do something!

The snow is perfect for all kinds of recreation right now.  We had that wet heavy snow mixed with rain earlier, but that has been mostly covered up with fresh snow.  It did create a very solid snow base, so there are good conditions for almost everything from snowshoeing to snowmobiling.  The exception are some of the smaller ski trail systems along the shore where they lacked the equipment to break up icy snow in some places.

Maintaining a good trail takes a lot of equipment and a lot of time.  Most of our trails are groomed by trail partner organizations who use funds generated by the sales of licenses for snowmobile trails and sales of the Great Minnesota Ski Pass for cross country ski trails.  You may have read in the paper that the fund for cross country ski trails is low this year.  People are not buying ski passes.  This could be due to warmer winters in the southern parts of the state with poor enough skiing conditions that people are unwilling to pay for what may be only a couple of skis a year.  It also could be because people just don’t understand why you should pay for cross country skiing.  Either way, people need to realize that their passes fund the trails, and without that revenue, we wouldn’t have the skiing opportunities we enjoy now.  Minnesota Ski Passes are required for skiing on state grant-in-aid trails, and are now really easy to purchase.  You can buy them online at the Minnesota DNR’s website, and print them off yourself at home.

If you plan on skiing this weekend, be aware that there is an eight team high school meet on Saturday January 18th at Pincushion Mountain.  The parking area and the trails will be crowded with students and their supporters.  Spillover parking will be available on the Gunflint Trail.  So, if you are going to cheer on the Cook County Nordic Team, that’s great!  If you are planning a peaceful ski through a quiet winter woods, you may want to look at alternative trails.

We’ve had some fun at the Forest Service these past two weeks with students from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities Fish and Wildlife Club.  They’ve been volunteering to help with our lynx survey program, which means they’ve been logging miles on snowshoes tracking lynx and collecting lynx scat.  The scats are later analyzed for DNA, which allows us to recognize individual animals and even lynx family relationships.  This helps us understand where lynx live, and how they are using our forest resource.  So, thank you to all these young volunteer wildlife biologists!

If you are driving out to snowshoe, you’ll find that the roads are in pretty good shape.  In fact, in many places they are smooth enough to trick you into thinking you can go fifty miles per hour.  And, while you can go that fast, you’ll also find you can’t stop if you are going that fast.  Some of the hills headed toward the lake are particularly treacherous – coming downhill from the Oberg Trailhead you’ll find you may need to keep your speed down below twenty miles an hour if you don’t want to toboggan down the slope onto Highway 61 in your car.  Just to add to the fun, snowbanks have gotten high enough to hide the deer looking to cross the road, and it seems like there are more coyotes and wolves wandering on the roads who have decided walking a plowed road is easier than wading through chest high snow in the woods.  Slower speeds on the road will give you more time to react and avoid animal collisions.

Of course, you also have to be aware of logging trucks in the woods.  On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on the Hall Road, Cook County 14, Cook County 60, Firebox Road, Greenwood Road, and the Sunfish Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, trucks are using Hoist Lake Road, Lake County 7, Trappers Lake/Sawbill Landing Road, Perent Lake Road, The Grade, Cook County 27 and Cook County 8.

So, don’t let the winter blues or the gray skies take over your life.  Go out and take over winter instead, whether it is on skis, snowmobiles, snowshoes, or armed with a fishing rod and ice auger.  Trout season outside of the BWCAW opens this Saturday.  Before you know it, the groundhog will be telling us how many weeks of winter are left, so don’t let it slip away without enjoying some good old outdoor winter fun.  This is the best part of the season, so go have fun in the snow! 

Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.


The Lake Superior Project/Logo by Lauryl Loberg

LSProject: Northeast Minnesota - A history of fire, ice and inland seas

Northeast Minnesota has undergone many geologic events to produce the landscape we know today. Most of us know that glaciers left a large imprint on northeast Minnesota, but in Part 1 of a two-part series, Producer Martha Marnocha explores our geologic history before the glaciers – a period of time that lasted over three billion years and known as Minnesota’s bedrock history.

Thanks to naturalist Margie Menzies for her contribution to this feature.


First Snow by Travis Novitsky

North Woods Naturalist: A look back at 2019

2019 was certainly one of the wettest years in recent memory.

Naturalist Chel Anderson reflects on the year that was and talks winter ephemera with WTIP's CJ Heithoff in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - January 10

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
January 10, 2020    
Gunflint territory celebrates the Ojibwe, “Great Spirit “moon (Gich-Manidoo-Giiziz) and an eclipse all at once this Friday evening. With hope for clear skies, this lunar double feature should be splendid on the breast of this beautiful white landscape.                                                                                                                           

A trifecta could even happen if the “Great Spirit” would summon another night of howling wolves in this border country neighborhood. What a “hat trick” of dark hour happenings that would be.                                                                                                                                                               
Since last week’s commentary about the pack gathering along the Northshore of Gunflint Lake, at least one of the northern icons crossed the lake. Such was confirmed with tracks along the Wildersmith shore where the Canid came up into the yard before heading back to the icy surface during its nocturnal patrol.                                                                                                                                                                    

Meanwhile, a distant canine cousin returned to the yard a few days later. My foxy friend re-appeared after being A.W.O.L. over the days of Christmas. It’s hard telling where she’d been dining lately, but came right up on the deck seeking attention. With the usual expectation of a hand-out, I obliged again with barnyard fowl and fries. I could be wrong, but it seemed I detected a grin on her face as I tossed goodies out on the snow.                                                                                                                                                               
Speaking of another North Country critter, one who is now dozing the winter away, I had the pleasure of gaining some insights about bear hibernation habits in the January/February issue of the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer Magazine. It’s amazing what Minnesota researchers are discovering about Ursus slumbering tendencies.                                                       
In the article, entitled INTO THE BEAR’S LAIR, by Amie Durenberger, “scientists believe that getting a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms of hibernation may lead to breakthroughs in human medicine.” The author relates remarkable adventure at gathering such dozing data in this frozen wild country. I recommend getting a copy for reading on a cold winter night, or find it on-line at                                                                                                                                 

Another MCV article has some interesting perspectives on the problems statewide road maintenance departments are causing the environment through salt applications. While traffic safety is always an issue, Chloride contamination is a serious concern for our precious waters.                                                  
With this ever-growing threat to Minnesota’s freshwater resources, efforts are being stepped up by the MPCA and DNR to tackle our salty polluting problem. “Salt does not breakdown or settle out, “Chloride is permanent. You can’t get it out.” The article, “HOLD THE SALT” should be required reading for everyone who enjoys a fresh glass of water and a clear, healthy lake for whatever recreation. Perhaps the days of using just plain old sand should be re-visited, at the very least, on the byways of Gunflint territory.                                                                                                                                                                              

In other news, one of the most refreshing events ever, kicks off tomorrow (Saturday). It’s refreshing because of the snowy, cold crisp air venue and the energies between man and dog.                                                                                                                                                                                          
All is in readiness for the Gunflint Mail Run Sled Dog Races. The twelve dog, long distance race hits the trail beginning at 8:00am on Poplar lake (mid-Trail), followed by the eight dogshorter race at 9:00am. Races will conclude Sunday by late afternoon.                                                                                                                                                                               

This will be a hectic time for traffic from Trail Center on up the Trail, so folks are asked to slow down and expect some pedestrian/vehicle congestion during the weekend.                                                        

The energy and color of the event is a big deal, so come out and enjoy the historic re-enactment of wilderness travel in yester-year! There are several sites along the race course where mushers and their teams can be observed. Check-out the Gunflint Mail Run website for race course mapping and best observation sites.                                                                                                                                                      

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where we savor every day, whether cloudy or clear!


Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS via USFWS Midwest Region on Flickr.

North Woods Naturalist: Porcupines

Did you know porcupines have around 30,000 quills?  

WTIP's CJ Heithoff talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about porcupines in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS via USFWS Midwest Region on Flickr.

North Woods Naturalist: Missing finches

We've recently heard the question, where are the finches?  WTIP's CJ Heithoff gets some possible answers from naturalist Chel Anderson in this edition of North Woods Naturalist. 


Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Dec 27

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
December 27, 2019    
As the last verse of year 2019 is being written, I hope your time of this winter celebration with family and friends was safe, peaceful and fulfilling. The Smith’s had just such a visit in Iowa journeying to be with kids, grand-kids and dogs.                                                                                                        

We are back in the quiet of the north woods now, reflecting on the trek of this past year, thankful for good health and the joy of being together for fifty-seven Christmas celebrations. I can’t help but think of many junkets we’ve taken together along the way, and how we looked at each as being the best thing that ever happened.                                                                                                       

Taking a more in-depth look at my seventy-eight year journey, I see minutes, hours, days, months and years having gone by so quickly. Like most everybody, with the routine of day to day business, I’ve seldom taken time to fully assess how great the many stops along the way have been. As life has slowed during retirement, in addition to the stops along life’s way, I’m counting the blessings for the uncountable folks with whom I’ve crossed paths, so many of whom have had a decisive impact on my character.                                                                                                        

Pondering life’s happenings at this time of year reminds me of a favorite scribing I’d like to share with listeners and website readers as we look forward to 2020. While some of you may have seen this before, I’m confident it remains meaningful.                                                                                           

It’s entitled, THE STATION, authored by Robert J. Hastings, and it comes as an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune in 1988.
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are traveling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn, beans and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.                              

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags will be waving. Once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering---waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.                                                                                                                   

When we reach the station, that will be it, we cry! “When I’m 30.” “When I buy a new Mercedes Benz.”  “When I put the last kid through college.” “When I’ve paid off the mortgage.” “When I get that promotion.” “When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!”                                                                                                                                                                            

Sooner or later we must realize there is not a station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly out-distances us.         “Relish the moment” is a good motto--- It is the regret over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.                                                                                  

So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

Have a have safe and sane end to 2019 and a joyous greeting to the new decade. Happy New Year!                                                                                                                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and the splendor of nature is a gift beyond words!


Wildersmith_Photo by Fran Smith

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - Dec 20

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith   December 20, 2019    
Our seasonal madness is clearly in focus as everyone is scurrying here and there to be ready. Being ready means different things to different people which often does not necessarily hone in on the true meaning of Christmas. However, no matter what the intent, I hope there can be a moment of quiet, at least for one day. Perhaps all of us can reflect with a little respect and love for our fellow man in these darkest of American times.                                                                                                                                                    

There have been some atmospheric happenings along the Trail since we last met on the radio. Whereas this end of the Trail had been on the short end of snow affairs, an unexpected dumping brought a fresh eight inches to this neighborhood. Further, subzero followed with mercury readings dipping to twenty below and a bit more in places, so one of my Gunflint Christmas wishes was delivered surprisingly early.                                                                                                                         

It was mentioned last week I would confirm the ice-on date for Gunflint Lake. While it appeared the 10th would be the likely date, “Mother Nature” had other plans. Winds on the 10th raised a ruckus opening things back up. The next day was a different story as both zero temperatures and quiet air combined to put on the final icing, therefore, December 11thgoes into my weather data bank. This is about the Gunflint Lake norm over the past four decades.                                                                                                

It’s amazing how so many get caught up in the magic of this season, and yours truly is no exception. I can possibly blame it on coming into the world on Christmas Eve while others seem to come down with the fever right after Halloween decorations give way to Christmas.                                                                                                

It’s just hard to resist humming the traditional tunes that dance through our heads in prelude to the night of all nights. In honor of this advent time, I’d like to share a rendition of an old favorite with a north woods twist. The lyrics will be a stretch, a composer I’m not, nor a warbler, I cannot carry a tune in a bucket. I’m certain all remember the melody and I invite you to hum along  if the spirit is moving Titled, “The Twelve Days, of an up North Christmas,” here goes.                            

On the first day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                               

On the second day of Christmas, the forest gave to me… two lynx a slinking…and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                                                                                                                                              
On the third day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                                                                                                              

On the fourth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                                                                      

On fifth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…five prowling wolves…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:

On the sixth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking…and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:

On seventh day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:

On the eighth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me… eight soaring eagles…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:

On ninth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…nine blue jays yapping…eight soaring eagles…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                       

On the tenth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…ten black bears sleeping…nine blue jays yapping…eight eagles soaring…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree;                                                                                                                                                              
On the eleventh day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…eleven white tails browsing…ten black bears sleeping…nine blue jays yapping…eight eagles soaring…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:                                                                                                                                               

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the forest gave to me…twelve hidden moose…eleven white tails browsing…ten black bears sleeping…nine blue jays yapping…eight eagles soaring…seven ravens squawking…six gray jays begging…five wolves a prowling…four foxes trotting…three martens chasing…two lynx a slinking and a squirrel slipping up a tall tree:
Whew!!! That’s it, out of breath from humming to myself and keyboard digits are numb!!!                                                                                  

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is savored, wishing all the merriest of Christmas’, with love and peace on the greatest birthday of all!


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - Dec.20

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, Interpretation and Education Specialist.
December 20, 2019