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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.



What's On:
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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 20

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
March 20, 2020    
For life along the Gunflint Trail, the onset of spring took on a slower approach since our last meeting on the radio. Completing week three of month three finds the atmosphere in border country returning to a more normal state of affairs.                                                                               

Daytime melting in the Mile O Pine neighborhood has been confined to places where the sun shines through, while the mercury has teetered from single digits to just below zero here at Wildersmith during a few night time hours. Consequently, insulating layers have again replaced warm weather attire of earlier in the month for my daily mail run.                                                                                           

Precipitation has remained on the scant side with a couple mini snows and one evening where the white was preceded by our first 2020 shower of the liquid variety. So slip sliding around has not improved much with this new coat of glaze.                                                                                                                                                

If locals are dreaming dreams of green, that’s all these nocturnal visions are. For the time being, buds of re-birth are only notions of a late winter slumber with plenty of ice and snow yet to melt                                                                                                                                                             

Speaking of cold season dozing, in case you didn’t notice, the equinox of spring snuck in during the past several hours. Bashing the “old man of the north,” is no longer necessary as his reign over2020 to date, has been officially terminated.                                                                                                               

He’s been attempting return overtures in the past few days which will likely stir the rancor of many folks in the territory who favor an end to his seasonal occupation. Meanwhile, my snow removal equipment remains on stand-by and was called into action with another three inches earlier in the week. By the way, this latest winter refresher brings the (to date) winter accumulation at Wildersmith to 90.25 inches.                                                                                                       

A step in the spring direction has been taken with the return of ebony avian. Crows are now in raucous collaboration with the jay bird population at the break of each new day.                                                                                                                                                                         
Although they raise discord with quiet of the neighborhood, they are glistening black beauties when caught in a beam of sunshine. While they talk way too much, they are nevertheless keen scavengers of winter left-overs. Isn’t it amazing how every being of the wilderness has a purpose!                                                                                                                                                  

In spite of the recent colder trend, another item of vernal notice is becoming more evident with each passing day. Those hollow cavities around the base of our forest spires must be signaling warm juices of life are being beckoned skyward. Although the hollows in the snow are still a foot to two feet deep in the yard, this ritual resembles others in the “March bag of advancements.”                                                                                                                                                         

It’s with sadness, the Gunflint Community received word on the loss of two upper Trail neighbors. Beverly Keller, longtime homeowner on Seagull Lake passed away recently at her home in Mt. Pleasant Wisconsin. Beverly was 96 years of age.                                                                  

She and late husband Arthur fell in love with the Gunflint Trail on their first visit in 1962, and then made it their summer home beginning in 1976. Gunflint friends and neighbors extend condolences to her five daughters and their families.                                                                                       

Word of the second passing comes from the family of Marjorie Grinnell. Marjorie died on Sunday, March 8th in Missoula, Montana with her husband Joe and their sons by her side.                                                                                                                                                                   

“Margie”, Joe and their family are longtime residents on the Northshore of Loon Lake. Once again, her Gunflint friends and neighbors extend best wishes and sympathies to the Grinnell family at this sad time.                                                                                                                                                               

Finally, in regard to the horrific viral tragedy that is gnawing its way into every fiber of our being and aspect of life, both here in Minnesota and around the globe, we at Wildersmith, and folks along the Trail want you to stay well. As everyone is in this catastrophe together, all must pull together, from a strategic distance.                                                                                                                        

While hope is not a strategy, only doing what research and medical providers prescribe is the track to follow. Exercise some common sense, be a respectful and sympathetic neighbor and do what’s right. Keep on hangin’ on!                                                                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where residents cherish every day, thankful for the preservation of this peaceful place!



Northern Sky: March 14 - 27

Northern Sky – Deane Morrison
March 14-27, 2020

The outer planets have all arrived on stage, and in middle and late March they perform the first act of their big morning show. On Sunday, the 15th, look to the southeast for brilliant Jupiter, then just to the west for a little reddish dot. That, of course, is Mars. East of Jupiter and lower in the sky is Saturn, which is following Jupiter as it approaches Mars. On Wednesday, the 18th, Jupiter will have moved noticeably closer to Mars and a waning, but hefty, crescent moon will be hanging right below them. The next morning, Thursday, the 19th, Jupiter and Mars are even closer and a slightly thinner moon joins all three planets when it rises at 5:26 a.m. On the 20th, Jupiter passes a mere 0.7 degrees—slightly more than a moon width—above Mars. And the moon rises at 6 a.m.
So if you’re up, consider going outside by 6 a.m. on any of those days—the 18th through the 20th. You’ll see three planets, two of them in the process of passing each other, and maybe a moonrise, too. All in a dark sky. That doesn’t happen every day.
As we near the end of the month, Saturn closes in on Mars. On the morning of Saturday, the 28th, the ringed planet will be at about the same height as the red planet, getting ready for the second planetary pass in less than two weeks. By then, Jupiter will have removed itself a respectful distance to the west.
In the evening sky, another approach is in progress. The Pleiades star cluster and Venus are moving closer together as Earth’s orbital motion drops the Pleiades down toward the sunset horizon and Venus’ orbit carries it higher. Venus is unmistakably bright. The Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, are a slightly blurry bunch a little west of and lower than the bright star Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, the bull. On Saturday, March 14th, the Pleiades will be high above Venus. On the 27th, the star cluster will be closer to Venus than to Aldebaran. Make sure your binoculars are in good working order as Venus and the Pleiades get ready to meet in the first few days of April. And also, just enjoy Venus. From now until well into April, it’s visible for a good three and a half hours after sunset.
East of Aldebaran, the hourglass form of Orion is tilting to the west as it begins its annual exit from the evening sky. We’re also getting into the last few weeks when Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is high enough for us to enjoy its full radiance; look for it low in the south-southwest at nightfall.
High in the southeast, Leo, the lion, is prancing into view. Leo is a two-part constellation. Its western section is the Sickle, a backward question mark of stars whose point is the bright star Regulus, the lion’s heart. East of the Sickle is a triangle of stars marking the lion’s hindquarters and tail. Leo follows the winter constellations across the sky and makes a very recognizable harbinger of spring.
And speaking of spring, it arrives on the 19th, at 10:50 p.m. At that moment the sun crosses the equator and enters the northern sky, and an observer in space would see Earth lighted from pole to pole. Also, since the fall equinox it’s been the case that as you traveled northward, the days got shorter. At the spring equinox that reverses, and the days get longer as you head north, all the way to the North Pole, which now has, officially, 24-hour daylight for the next six months.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - March 13

National Forest Update – March 12, 2020.
Greetings Superior National Forest Community.  I’m Jon Benson with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update including information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of March 13, here’s what’s going on.

As temperatures start to climb and the days are getting longer, it seems like a good time to talk about the changing season and the different types of recreation that are starting to take place on the Forest.

The ski and snowmobile trails are still in great shape thanks to the efforts of our many trail partners.  Now that the daylight is persisting into the early evening hours it is a great chance to get out on the skis after work to enjoy those winter activities before the snow melts and the rivers start running.  Current trail conditions are updated regularly on the Visit Cook County Website.

For folks who are more interested in venturing out onto the lakes, there are still a couple of weeks left to get out on the ice for some ice fishing, but remember that any fish houses must be off the ice no later than midnight on March 16 for all northern inland waters in Minnesota.  As the temperature continues to warm I would like to ask folks to be especially cautious in areas with moving water or current under the ice.  Remember that no ice is ever 100% safe and it is always good to fish in groups or at least make sure that someone knows where you are going.

As winter fades away and the open water season draws near, now is the time to start planning your Boundary Waters trips.  Reservations can be made at for Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness trips as well as some National Forest Campgrounds.  There is some excellent Boundary Waters trip planning info that can be found on the Superior National Forest website as well and folks can find that site at

Another topic that always comes up this time of year is the roads.  As the temperatures climb and the snow on the roads starts to disappear it is good to think about whether you really need to be on some of these roads.  Seasonal road restrictions for Cook County will go into effect at 12:01 am on Friday, March 13.  Not only will the roads be icy and slick this time of year, but the shoulders can often be very soft which can lead to cars and trucks winding up in the ditch.  These situations are certainly no fun for the occupants of the vehicle, but they also result in substantial road damage which cannot be repaired until the snow is gone and the roads have thawed.  I encourage all of you to think about whether it is necessary to travel down some of the lower use roads during this month until after road restrictions are lifted.

Speaking of roads, we’ve got some logging truck activity this week.  Once road restrictions go into effect Friday morning there will be hauling on the Gunflint Trail, the Sunfish Lake Road, and the Greenwood Road on the Gunflint Ranger District.  On Tofte there will be trucks hauling on the Dumbbell River Road, the Wanless Road, and the Trappers Lake Road.  All of these locations are dependent on the road conditions being suitable for hauling activity. 

That’s all for this week!  Let’s hope for good weather so we can all stay warm and safe out in the Forest.  Please have an elite weekend, and until next time, this has been Jon Benson with the Superior National Forest Update.


Grouse Photo by the real Kam75 via flickr.jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 13

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
March 13, 2020    

It seems organizers of last weekends’ trout derby and dog days of winter had it right when they selected the date for their late winter events. Spring like days stumbled with a multi-inch dose of snow (8 at Wildersmith) and another morning below zero a week ago at this time. “Old man winter” came to the rescue and bolstered the landscape for what is likely a last blast in our white world.                                                                                                                                                  

But as I sit at the keyboard to begin this weeks’ report, the spirit of winter stepped back once again and “Mother Nature” has put vernal things back on track. With temps zipping into the high thirties to mid- forties, Trail comfort out of doors was available in a baseball cap and a light jacket, really didn’t even need gloves.                                                                                                           

Even with this swell warm welcome of Mid-March, I find it difficult to become fully adjusted to the past few sparkling days, remembering the worst snow we’ve experienced at Wildersmith over the past twenty-one winters came in the last week of April, with a two foot deposit along the Mile O Pine. And then there’s May too, where the ice has not gone out until a few days after the walleye opener and snow has been known to fall on eager anglers. So we north woods residents should maybe temper our enthusiasm.                                                                                                  

It would be fair to assume cross-country skiing was difficult in the sticky mush and snow mobiles were heard laboring up Gunflint Lake as they plowed through slushy conditions.                                                                                                

It’s hard to argue with the conditions last Saturday and Sunday except for the thought of navigating sloppy slush and ensuing mud, let alone the possibility of dark hours re-freezing which always makes trekking about by any means, a slippery night mare. So the time is right for boot/shoe grippers. The words of the week are, “stay up right”, get a grip to avoid a wet seat of the pants or a more serious, structural bruise or break.                                                                                                                                                                        

The saga of important survival articles required for our many seasons in border country can be easily passed off as a nonchalant way of life. Just think about it for a moment, as semi-winter wear and ice grippers are the order now, we will soon be looking forward to knee high rubber boots and bug nets, then anti-itch insect dupe, then broad brimmed hats and sun screen, then sweatshirts or sweaters and then, add a light jacket, hat and gloves, before this whole regimentation of winter layers starts all over again. What a life in North Country.                                                                                    

A sample of spring in the woods took place at Wildersmith last Sunday. Before the crusted snow softened by mid-day, love appeared to be in the air. At least the Smith’s believed it to be so while watching out the window over the back yard.                                                                                                

A pair of grouse huddled in close proximity on a deep mound of white. While I really have no knowledge for the courtship mannerisms of these “chicken birds”, it sure seemed as though they were sizing the other up for the usual ritual resulting in a continuance of the species.                                                                                                                                                                  

Actually there was little fanfare, no ruffling of feathers, puffing out the chest, fanning of tail plumage and no cooing that could be heard, just strutting about and apparently, exchanging glances. Our observation lasted for some time, thinking we might see another miracle of nature.                                                                                                                                                                                       

But in the end, a signal must have been swapped to the affect neither bird was the one for the other. Eventually, they headed off in opposite directions, scarfing up a seed or two as they disappeared from view into the forest.                                                                                                        

In closing, this northern paradise was blessed with another heavenly big bang event last Monday. It probably happened in many places around the planet, but it would seem hard to match the almost simultaneous radiance during the rise of the “crust on the snow” full moon and flaming climax of “Sol” over Gunflint territory.                                                                                                                                   

Words cannot do justice describing the flare in the west and the lunar beam from the east. It was no “Paper Moon” hanging over a canvas scene, but the original “big cheese” suspended in a genuine, unspoiled, dark sky .The blazing west was another up north photomontage as is slithered below the horizon being spotlighted by the “Super Moon. I hope area listeners/streamers got to share in this celestial light show.                                                                                                   

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is savored, blessed with beauty beyond!


Spring sunrise over Lake Superior by Travis Novitsky

North Woods Naturalist: Early March observations

This time of the year is the beginning of the transition from winter to spring.  There's lots of activity starting up in the woods, but there's still cold weather and snow.  Naturalist Chel Anderson shares some of her recent observations in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.  


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - March 6

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
March 6, 2020    
Another weekend warm-up ushered in month three along the Trail. March came in like a fuzzy spring bunny in the upper reaches of border country, far from the mythical “lion” lore. The way things have been happening in recent weeks, it would appear our spring like conditions could be here to stay.                                                                                                                                                          

While warming temps in the Wildersmith neighborhood did not get way out of hand, there was dripping off the roof top edges, and the sun took a bite out of snow piles. It’s anyone’s guess what it will be like as this report hits the air.                                                                         

Perhaps pussy willows will be displaying a little five o’clock shadow next week at this time. I did see a gangly young white pine was seeping sap while catching a few warm rays last Sunday afternoon. If that’s an example of what’s going on in the natural world, one can bet maple sweetness is going to be hitting the boiling pots pretty quick. With a week of March  chalked-up so soon, one would hope winter doesn’t deteriorate too fast for fear of being swamped in run-off and wash-outs.                                                                                                                                  

The territory has two cold season events this weekend. Reminder is given about the annual trout derby, Saturday, on West Bearskin Lake. Registration begins at 9:00am. There’s plenty of safe ice, but soft snow could make for sloppy trekking and angling.  More information is available on                                                                                                                                                               

The other mid-Trail event is the annual Dog Days of Winter. Headquarters are at the Trail Center Restaurant. Activities commence on Poplar Lake at 8:00 am and run until 5:00 pm. The event is sponsored by Go Dog North Shore.                                                                                                

This is a day of family fun with events including cross country skiing, three classes of sled dogs racing (8, 6 and 4), two classes (2 and 5 miles) of skijoring, and more. If winter is truly about to give up the ghost, enthusiasts of fun in the snow had better get out to these events.                                                                                                                                                      

In the heavens, the Ojibwe, “crust on the snow moon” is waxing for the third time in 2020 and will be at its fullness on Monday. Meanwhile, on earth, we humans will be tinkering with time pieces this weekend as the nonsense of daylight savings time clouds our sense of realness once again. It becomes official at 2:00 am Sunday morning. So don’t forget to spring ahead before retiring Saturday evening. You may or may not get the hour of missed sleep back come November.                                                                                                                                                                         

A grouse has been hanging around the yard at Wildersmith, obviously unaware the friendly fox makes frequent visits. The little red gal was here just the other day apparently with a growling stomach. This time she dined on left-over pork chop bones and frozen poultry parts, but if that “Minnesota Chicken Bird” is not careful, Ms. Fox might have a fresh fowl dinner.                                  

My neighbor next door was up at his cabin last weekend and shared of discovering some unusually large foot prints coming on to his property from off the lake. With some broken underbrush branches nearby, it could be assumed the moose or more have been just a couple hundred feet from Wildersmith. It’s been years since we’ve had one of those big critters come this close to the place.                                                                                                                                                                              

The “leap into local radio” membership drive at WTIP is now into the books. The six day event was fun as ever with 48 NEW members joining the WTIP family. Thanks go out to those new friends of North Shore Community Radio and our long standing renewing patrons who stepped up to help surpass the $20,029 goal. Think about having that extra $29 in the challenge, pretty fitting for 2020 don’t you think?                                                                                                                                         

It goes without saying these all-important fund raising endeavors involve great organization and many hours of hard work by the staff and dozens of volunteers. An important trivia fact about the “leap” in 2020, 88 dedicated people gave of themselves to make it happen.                                                                                                                                                                              

For everyone who pledged, such support makes all the preparation very satisfying to those who shouldered the countless administrative tasks. The Board of Directors and staff are so proud of the wonderful contributors who jump in to keep this broadcast engine chugging along.                                                                                                                                                                                              

Although the official late winter drive is over, it’s never too late to join anew or re-up with a benefactor pledge. Every contribution matters, and a phone call or click on-line is all it takes!                                                                                                                                                                                 

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as the slumbering stillness of winter, begins to awaken!


Michelle Schroeder_Photo submitted by MS

Backpacking 101 - Michelle Schroeder - March 2020

"Backpacking 101" with Michelle Schroeder
March 2020

Michelle owns Backpack the Trails LLC and has been an outdoor enthusiast for 40+ years.  She talks with WTIP each month to share her backpacking insight and experience with our listeners.



Northern Sky: February 29 - March 13

NORTHERN SKY – Deane Morrison
February 29 – March 13, 2020
In March, the action in the predawn sky really picks up. The month opens with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn forming a straight line, in that order from right to left, above the southeastern horizon. On the 4th, the three planets are spaced almost evenly apart.
But that neat arrangement soon gives way as the planets switch positions. Jupiter and Saturn are about to leapfrog past Mars, and all because Mars, being the closest to the sun, orbits the fastest. 
What’s happening is that Earth’s orbit is carrying us eastward and thus toward all these planets, making them move higher and westward. But Mars’s own orbit carries it much more rapidly eastward against the background of stars than the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn carry those planets.
As a result, Mars resists the westward movement imposed by Earth’s orbit and appears to sail eastward toward—and past—the two giant planets. Actually, though, Mars is mostly holding its own as Jupiter and Saturn sail past it on their westward journey. 
Have a look on the 18th, when Jupiter and Mars make a close pair while a crescent moon hangs right below them. The next morning, Jupiter and Mars will be closer yet and the moon will now appear below Saturn. On the 20th, Jupiter passes a mere 0.7 degrees—slightly more than a moon width—above Mars. On the 31st, the ringed planet passes about a degree above the red planet. In April the new lineup will be, from right to left, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, with the gap between Mars and the other two planets rapidly widening.
In the evening sky, a young moon comes out below Venus on the 26th and 27th. And don’t miss the show as the brilliant planet and the Pleiades star cluster approach each other in the last week of March. Mark your calendars for April 2nd and 3rd, when Venus glides, spectacularly, in front of the Pleiades. Be sure to have binoculars handy.
March’s full moon shines the night of the 9th. It will be big and bright, though more than six hours past full when it rises that evening.
Spring arrives with the vernal equinox at 10:50 p.m. on the 19th. At that moment the sun crosses the equator into the northern sky and Earth will be lighted from pole to pole.

The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. For more information and viewing schedules, see:
Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium:
Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics:
Check out astronomy programs, free telescope events, and planetarium shows at the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum:
Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - February 28

Superior National Forest Update by Steve Robertsen 
February 28, 2019



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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - February 28

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
February 28, 2020    
As February started to fade away, spring took a swipe at “old man winter” along the Gunflint Trail. For a few days, he went whimpering away as temperatures crept above the freezing mark. This is the first time in weeks where the mercury has seen a plus side of thirty-two in this neighborhood. March enters, likely in a sugaring mood if the territory has really turned the corner.                                                                                                                                                                                   
Under mostly clear skies, and where “Old Sol” pierced the forest canopy, snow banks saw a good bit of gnawing away. Nevertheless, in the shade of old growth pines at Wildersmith, melting could barely be noticed. The semi-melt-down didn’t even penetrate the ice on my steps which has been haunting my every trip up or down since before Christmas.                                                                          

Progress was made on the Trail black top as the warm sun cleared the Byway of winter driving conditions. It took just two days to do what the plow guy has been working diligently to accomplish since November. So it’s clear sailing for the time being, except for those Nature-Made speed bumps at select locations.                                                                                                                           

Following the recent melting spell, our border country canopy looks pretty drab. The marsh mellow puffs that have been decorating coniferous boughs, since I can’t remember when, have vanished into the atmosphere.                                                                                                               
Yet at ground level, out here deep in the woods, the pureness of this special white season remains. Obviously, it’s due to minimal intrusion of human kind.                                                                                      

It is unthinkable how the masses of us two legged beings can make such a mess of this magnificent natural world. As winter is rounding third base on the way toward spring, the trash of people presence is beginning to re-appear.                                                                                                             

During a recent trip into the village and then on to “urbanity”, I’m always taken aback by the ugliness of grungy man- manipulated snow and items of human disposal that have been hidden under this glorious crystal blanket. “Mother Nature” has a marvelous touch in making things beautiful, but “she” could sure use a hand from we folks on the ground.                                      

What is likely to be the last big, organized snow mobile activity of the season happens Saturday and Sunday?  The Cook County Ridge Riders Club and Poplar Haus Restaurant are hosting drag races on Poplar Lake. Registration begins at 11:00am, with racing until 4:00pm.                                                       

The “Club” turns to a calmer activity next weekend with the annual trout derby on Saturday, March 7th.  Look for details on the Cook County Ridge Riders Snow Mobile Club Facebook page. Their trout through the ice is always a fun, family event!                                                            

Where animal, visuals have been scant over the past week, tell-tale evidence confirms they’re about when we’re not looking or awake. Of special note, I discovered moose tracks on the Mile O Pine during a daily mail run. Knowing moose can’t fly, the tracks were kind of a mystery as I could not find where they came out of the snowy woods and on to the road.                        

In other ghostly north woods happenings, I’ve observed a number of snow shoe hares recently. Tracks have shown their presence around here all winter without sightings, then again, white camo on white is sometimes blinding.                                                                                                                                                                       

As news from the Trail comes on the air this week, my hope is listeners and web-site readers have taken the “leap into local radio.” If not, you are certainly encouraged to pick-up the phone or get on-line, and “leap” into this important drive for support of WTIP, Community Radio in the Northland.                                                                                                                                                  

Support from everyone is critical in keeping operating strategies on budget. The staff and volunteers are at the mid-point of this six day journey, so please don’t wait until the last minute.                                                                                                                                                                                
Momentum is building as I speak!  To keep it going, give the station a call at 387-1070, or toll free at 1-800-473-WTIP (9847) or on-line at or stop in at 1712 West Highway 61, and pledge to the WTIP family! I thank you in advance!                                                                                            

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith on the Gunflint, where every day is great, and everything in nature has a purpose!