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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:

Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 29

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 29, 2020    

May turns the reins over to June kicking-off next week, and closes the books on month five after another dry week in the upper Gunflint territory. One can never put much faith in weather forecasting, but the way things have been going, there’s a 100% chance it will be doing something, hopefully wet along the Gunflint Trail.                                                                                                                                                                    
While there have been more clouds of dust along backcountry roads than puffs of moisture in the skies, conditions for us two legged beings have been splendid. Sunshine and warm temps have brought on the green.                                                                                                    

The deciduous forest has come alive with quaking aspen and birch, exploding under the influence of chlorophyll. A trip up the Trail from the Gunflint Lake look-out mimics a glorious emerald blanket draped on the granite mountainsides. In many places the curtain of camouflage has nearly masked all Ham Lake fire evidence of thirteen years ago.                                                           

At ground level, countless varieties of verdant sprouts have pierced the earth. Marsh Marigolds and those “Dandy” lions are beaming a buttery contrast to the growing sea of green. During my daily mail box run, I’ve been watching fiddleheads uncoil their lacy fronds by several inches per day, all in readiness for summers’ concert series. And our vision into the forest is soon to be totally obscured as dense lower underbrush of the wild lands fill in the voids.                                                                                                         
As I mentioned in the last scoop, the onslaught of biting bugs was minimal. Well, I take the ill-characterized opinion back. The nasties have exploded in a fury, same as our leaf out. “Skeeters”, black flies and a zillion other gnat sized terrorists have forced the issue with “bug dupe and netting.                                                                                                                                                     

Although all things are eco-purposed, one has to wonder why in heavens’ creation these mini-monsters could not have been programmed only for plant pollination with a taste for sweets instead of flesh. Oh well, this too will pass, come September!                                                        

Speaking of the other terror about us, one would think the Pandemic had evaporated like the last winter snow. Decoration Day weekend found the area engulfed with visitors. Parking lots at outfitters and resorts seemed packed with vehicles. While these business folks surely need help, residents of the Trail and all of Cook County hope the outsiders don’t open the flood gate to the deadly epidemic which hasn’t yet invaded border country.                                                

On a less serious note, one of our visitors time fishing with dad and two grandpa’s in North Lake over the holiday weekend was great! Smiles on the young angler’s face almost match the length of the trout he displays. See his happy face alongside the Wildersmith column under the drop down Community Voices at For those fisher people not so lucky, yes, there are fish to be caught, sometime.                                                                                                                                                               

“Mother Nature” operates in unpredictable ways at times. Such was the case on the loon nest in Sag bay at Chik-Wauk Museum Campus. Word comes to me telling of the loons having departed the site after setting-up housekeeping a couple weeks ago. The couple was there one afternoon and gone the next morning.                                                                                                                                                   

It’s a good bet they were driven off by either a black flies onslaught or by a member of the Sag Lake eagle convocation. A drone observation indicated there were no eggs in the nest. It is hoped the pair might return as this is known to have occurred at other sites and in other years, but nothing can be certain.                                                                                                                 

Warmth of the past week finished off the last reminder of winter 2019-20. Gone along the Mile O Pine is the final mound of white. In our neighborhood, we had white on the ground, in at least some form, since last November 11th, and it disappeared just a few days ago on May 23, totaling 97.25 inches.                                                                                                                                                                      
The season in general reflected our warming climate, not experiencing extended stints of bitter cold of years past. There were only three nights where the temperatures exceeded minus thirty, with the coldest Wildersmith readings of minus 34 on consecutive mornings, February 13 and 14.                                                                                                                                                                              
Official ice cover on Gunflint Lake came December 11 and departed May 5 which is about normal based on my data since 1982. Lake ice drillers tell of depth on the Gunflint being in the thirty plus range, and such hard water had difficulty gaining more thickness due to heavy insulating snow cover right after freeze –up.                                                                                                                
So that’s a wrap on winter at this wilderness place! Yes, it was beautiful, but we’re also happy to be seein’ green again!                                                                                                                                                    
On a closing note, while the Chik-Wauk exhibit facilities are closed for Pandemic reasons, an energetic crew has been planning virtual activities to maintain connections with the public.                                                                                                                                                                             
Visitors can now visit the Campus through the magic of technology by way of the website: or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter@chikwaukmuseum. Please check the sites regularly for cultural and natural history programming snippets both indoors and out around the site. The staff would love to hear from you!                                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as new woods adventures are revealed!



Northern Sky: May 23 - June 5

By Deane Morrison

Venus has just left the evening sky, and now Jupiter and Saturn are moving in. By mid-month both will be up in the southeast before midnight. Jupiter, by far the brighter planet, shines west of Saturn and leads the ringed planet across the night sky. 
Mars doesn’t quite make it into the evening sky. But it rises earlier each day, approaching midnight from the morning side. By dawn Mars will be a fairly bright dot in the southeast. As for Venus, it reappears in the morning sky this month, but doesn’t climb out of the sun’s foreglow until late June or early July.
If you’re out at nightfall, the brilliant star Arcturus dominates the southern sky. Arcturus, the jewel of kite-shaped Bootes, the herdsman, is the brightest star in the northern hemisphere of sky. However, it’s barely brighter than Vega—the beacon to the east of Arcturus—so they can be considered co-holders of that title.
Between the 28th and 29th, a waxing moon glides between Arcturus and Spica, the brightest star in Virgo, the maiden, which shines about 30 degrees below Arcturus. Whenever Spica is up, you can find it by following the curve of the Big Dipper's handle —always somewhere to the north—to locate Arcturus, then keeping going to find Spica. In other words, “arc to Arcturus, speed on to Spica.” 
June’s full moon arrives at 2:12 p.m. on the 5th. It follows Scorpius and Antares, the scorpion’s bright red heart, across the night sky. Jupiter and Saturn follow the moon that night; between Jupiter and the moon is the Teapot of Sagittarius. 
If you like challenges, look for a very old crescent moon to the lower left of Venus, right above the east-northeastern horizon about half an hour before sunrise on June 19. Then look for an extremely young and thin crescent moon getting ready to set over the western horizon at nightfall on the 23rd. Use binoculars, and see if you can find the Beehive star cluster right below the moon. 
 Summer begins with the solstice, at 4:44 p.m. on the 20th. At that moment the sun reaches a point over the Tropic of Cancer, and an observer from space would see Earth lighted from the Antarctic Circle up to the North Pole and beyond to the Arctic Circle on the night side of the planet.

The University of Minnesota’s public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses have been curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, 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


Photo by Jessica Bolser/USFWS.

North Woods Naturalist - May 19

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist. In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel talks about the spring activities she's been seeing in our woods and waters.


Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 22

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, Education and Interpretation specialist with the USDA Forest Service-Superior National Forest.
May 22, 2020


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 22

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 22, 2020    

Although we Gunflint folk could be fooled, it looks as though spring is in full swing.  May’s third weekend along the Trail was splendid. Although it was breezy at times, “Sol” warmed temps into the fifties and sixties sending “the old man of the north” packing back that direction.                                                                                                                                                                           
Winter reminders are now few and far in between. By next week, pockets of white will be gone, and it’s likely I can share statistics of winter trivia for 2019-20.                                                                                                                                                                               
The wild land drought was tempered some last week when a couple showers netted just about one-half inch around Wildersmith.  The sogginess was short lived as we’ve dried out quickly, putting residents back on the edge of fire danger once again.                                                                   

Meanwhile, wild fire sprinkler systems are being rapidly installed. I talked to one fellow who mentioned he put sixty of the systems into area lakes last week alone. Since about 98% of wild fires in Minnesota are caused by careless humans, it seems to be a good thing these WFSS are in readiness as campfire restrictions in the BWCAW have been lifted. Why, is hard to understand.   
The opening of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness has seen a distinct up-tick in Trail traffic over the past few days. Paddlers and uncountable fishing craft are on the water, in spite of camping facilities still being under lockdown. Of course this restriction might be history by the time this scoop hits the air.                                                                                                                    
 Up-ticks in “Bruno” sightings are becoming an almost daily occurrence. Although I’ve not heard of any bear break-ins, with the critters rambling through the woods, its “bearly” a matter of time until human miscues will tempt a larcenous act.                                                                                 

Up around Seagull Lake and the Chik-Wauk Campus, the big “Cinnamon Bear” of yore has been making the rounds. A photo of the chestnut colored brute can be seen on the Chik-Wauk Museum Facebook page. More “wild neighborhood” citizens can be seen by scrolling further down the page to see the loons nesting, bears ruling the roads and two swans a swimming.                                                                                                                                                                     

Another heart-warming confirmation of spring was noted at Wildersmith a few days ago when the first hummingbird streaked by. At least it was thought to be such as the scarlet breast was at break neck speed. The nectar station is now open for dine-in delight.                                                       

Speaking of other things that fly, I hesitate to mention, but black flies have yet to be of bother. I did a little grubbing around in the dirt the other day to remove an old tree stump and did not stir up any of the nasty nippers. Saying this probably marks me for the “kiss of death’, or at least, a few bloody bites around my hat brim in the days to come.                                                                                                                                     

While there has never been a bad sunrise or sunset, we’ve experienced more beauties of late on the Gunflint Gal. “Sol” has now crossed back over the international border, edging toward the summertime solstice. Those molten iron bars etched on the lake surface at days beginning and end have been ever so spectacular. One can add on some gauzy tints of peach, pink, lavender and purple for a heavenly mosaic that boggles the mind. Not that a frosty December/ January sunrise/sunset doesn’t have its unique character, but there’s just something awesome about a warm season onset and conclusion to a days’ journey!                                                                                        

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is glorious, as we count the days ‘til green leaves are quaking!


Photo by Gary Siesennop

North Woods Naturalist: Spring so far

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist. In this edition of North Woods Naturalist, Chel talks about all the spring activities she's seen so far in our woods and waters.


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 15

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 15, 2020
Since our last air waves gathering, conditions of weather along the Trail have been less than what we anticipate for month five. Our excitement of fifties and sixties around “May Day” has descended into shivers for the second consecutive weekend along the Mile O Pine.           

Since the Gunflint Lake ice-out on the 5th, several early morning low temps have allowed shore line waters to once again glaze granite and nearby flora with winters’ reminders. Even daytime high temps failed to temper the bone chilling northwest currents.                                                              

One morning was so cold the hardy blooming Squill and a growth of chives in the Smith yard succumbed to the frostiness, while protected bays and ponds skimmed over. And last Sunday saw a morning snow squall with off and on flurries around the Wildersmith neighborhood through the afternoon. All in all, it’s been late March in May.                                                                      

As the angling season got underway last Saturday, I’ve not heard much bragging about  hooking and netting, although a couple nice trout were taken out of Gunflint Lake by Trail Community neighbors. With the weather as it was, it’s a good bet some fish seekers could have caught a cold at the very least.                                                                                                                                        

If the brisk air wasn’t aggravating enough, navigating was difficult on our rough inland seas. Strong winds during both days of opening weekend were relentless as white caps dashed area shores. For the throngs of fisher people, the opener looked to be mostly miserable.                                                                                                                                                                       

The misery of drought has extended another week throughout northeast Minnesota, further increasing potential for wild fire. Since lake ice is gone, homeowners are urged to get those wild fire sprinkler systems ready and tested. Yours truly spent some time in the cold lake earlier this week to set my systems’ pump hoses. It’s done, but burr, what a frosty wet ritual.                                                     

By the way, local residents are reminded of the “Firewise Webinar” this coming Wednesday night May 20, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.                                                                                                       

With exception of a few mini piles of snow, the neighborhood looks brown and barren as it was late last October. I’ve been watching some green tips on the branches of a couple juvenile birch located just off the deck, but the bud unfolding progress has been stymied to the point where they are shivering in their sheaths as I scribe this report.                                                                                                                                     

Spring clean-up is under way around the Wildersmith place. Enough winter downfalls have been picked up so far to start the first burn pile for next winter. Speaking of clean-up, a trip along the Trail in either direction shows the manners of mankind have not improved with regard to littering.                                                                                                                                                                                

While the COVID Pandemic has turned our world upside down, the annual Trail clean-up has not been on the front burner. For folks locked down up this way, a good excuse to get out of the house/cabin would be to grab a bag, put on a safety vest and pick-up a couple miles section. This will be an easy way to stay socially distanced because the likelihood of anyone stopping to help out is remote, just watch out for flying beverage bottles or cans.                                                                                                                                    

Reports are beginning to trickle in with critter sightings in the “wild neighborhood.” A wolf was captured on the trail cam at Chik-Wauk, two different sources have observed momma bears and cub sightings (one with triplets), a couple yearling moose were seen around the Cross River gravel pit, a grey/silver fox entertained some neighbors up along Seagull Lake, a pair of majestic white swans are hanging out on the Moose Pond off county road #81 and the Chik-Wauk loon pair is back on their nest in the Sag Bay.                                                                                           

Closer to home, I’ve been hearing a barred owl boom its “who, who cooks for you”, and I’m keeping an eye on a pileated woodpecker who recently perched on the feed tray. It made me wonder if the “woody woodpecker” look alike was inspecting my house siding to maybe hit upon a meal of insect morsels.                                                                                                                                                          

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as “Zigwan” (spring) is jumping back on track!


Photo by Dennis Chick.

North Woods Naturalist: Signs of spring

Chel Anderson is a botanist and plant ecologist.  Chel talks about the signs of spring in this edition of North Woods Naturalist.


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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 8

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 8, 2020     
Weather along the Gunflint has been on the fickle side as I hit the keyboard after one week of May. The only constant has been with precipitation up at end of the Trail, and the lack thereof.                                                                                                                                                                 
Conditions looked like spring put a choke hold on an ailing “old man winter.” Temps soared into the fifties and sixties for several days, at least where the sun bore down on the thermometer. Our fair “princess spring” finally had conditions in hand going into last weekend as “Sol” gulped up gobs of snow.                                                                                                                     
About all the snow remaining is that heaped during snow removal efforts over the past six months.  The Mile O Pine neighborhood is about ninety percent bare brown earth and mud right now.                                                                                                                                                                       
But in a not to unusual twist, and in what may be a last gasp, the “spirit of the north” blew in with cold northwest winds and a brief snow shower at Wildersmith to end last weekend. Such was happening in spite of lake ice trying to do its disappearing act.                                                                                                                           
 Ice conditions on Gunflint Lake have deteriorated rapidly. The big ice cube looks to be of the liquid sort as this scoop hits the air. Alas, the fishing opener should not be interrupted by ice, as I declared the official ice-out date, May 5.                                                                                                                                                                             
 I’m told by folks further up the Trail, Seagull Lake is now clear of hard water. Other big lakes, like Loon, Poplar and Saganaga are likely the same or in close pursuit of lapping at the shores.                                                                                                                                                                   
Rocks are a way of life around this place on the planet, and anyone who has tried to pierce the earth in these parts will attest to frustrations they present. A rock happening (not of hip-hop character) awhile back has been reported by a couple folks out for a walk on one recent bright spring day.                                                                                                                                                                         
During their trek along what locals call Warren’s Road (running through the Cross River Gravel Pit), the twosome came upon what looked to be an optical illusion of something a distance down the road. As they got closer, it turned out to be no illusion. It was a huge chunk of granite, smack dab in middle of the road.                                                                                            
Apt to weigh several tons, it turns out this boulder did not plummet from the heavens, but broke away from a roadside cliff. With dimensions of a small car, this natural road block likely succumbed to ages of freezing and thawing before disconnecting from its glacial placement thousands of years ago.                                                                                                                                                         
The impact was probably a pretty big thud, and maybe shook the earth nearby, but with summer residents living along Warren’s Road not yet back for the season, it’s like a tree falling in the forest, nobody heard or felt an earthly tremor.                                                                                                         
In the meantime, some good neighbors of the Gunflint territory are plotting its removal. Thank goodness this squashing moment didn’t occur during summertime usage!                                                                                                                       

WTIP website readers can see a digital of the temporary monument by scrolling down to the Wildersmith column under Community Voices.                                                                                       

First forest babies of spring have been announced by a gal up on Seagull Lake. She spotted a momma cross fox out and about with her kits on a recent sunny day. And with summer camouflage not yet emerging, it’s easy to spot members of the “wild neighborhood.” Trail cams on trails at the Chik-Walk Museum Campus have captured lynx, moose and wolves in the past couple weeks. Check out the Chik-Wauk website as they are often posted.                                                 
One annoying note associated with the big warm-up, is the sudden appearance of creepy things that crawl and winged critters that get in your hair and bite. I’ve been engaged by both over the past few days.                                                                                                                                     
On a couple happier notes, those arachnids (creepy as they can be) have already been hard at work running fiber though the forest. The beauty of early morning sunshine has this webl network glistening with dew. So yes, it’s another example of every creature having purpose, even artfulspiders.                                                                                                                                                                           
In another warm season happening, a White Admiral has been meeting me each day in a select location along the Mile O Pine during my mail box run. Not far beyond a Mourning Cloak has been hanging out too. Both butterflies, observances seem early, but apparently guess not!                     
With COVID-19 continuing to ravage thousands, folks along the Trail are still minding the recommendations of science. Hope all listeners are too! It’s masks up, stand away, stay well, and CARE for one another.                                                                                                                  
For WTIP, this is WIldersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, as we wait for showers and more May flowers!

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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - May 1

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
May 1, 2020

After April seemed like two or three months crammed into one, Gunflint territory has made it to May. We all welcome month five with hope for more lives saved and lessening complexities of overwhelming suffering and sadness.                                                                                               

May in the northland is when memories of the past six months fade, and verdant realities are within our sight.                                                                                                                                                    

A confirmation of warmth along the Mile O Pine and all around the area is displayed with about a 50/50 split between bare earth and dingy snow. The power of “Sol” has taken a big bite out of winter remains over the past few days. Although friends out hiking recently raved of bare Trails, they still had to navigate thigh deep snow a time or two during their trek along the border route.                                                                                                                                                                               
Simultaneously the sun has been gnawing at lake ice cover. I’m told the far west end is opening at the Cross River Bridge, but there’s about eighteen inches of frozen stuff at least from mid-lake near Wildersmith, and on to the east sand beach. There was even snowmobile traffic by the place as recent as last weekend.                                                                                                                                                                      

I’ve been thinking, ice-out on the Gunflint might not happen before the May 9 fishing opener. If the recent warmth hangs on, this idea might need re-consideration. I heard one local has predicted the 12th. We’ll see!  In 2019, ice departed Gunflint Lake the day walleye chasing commenced.               
Here in the yard, the gap between the house and the nearest snow bank has expanded to about three feet, allowing the green sprouts of Squill and Rhubarb to take advantage of soaking up warm rays. It’s May for sure and the month of the Ojibwe, “budding flowers” moon will shine down on us before we meet again!                                                                                                                                                                

In contrast, 20 feet away, nearly a foot of snow remains on my shaded woodshop roof. While in another direction, the woodshed has melted off the three foot mass of just three weeks ago. It just goes to show how much strength the gaseous solar ball emits.                                   

Happy days in the woods are here again as numerous moose sightings have been reported. Yours truly had not observed any for several months during the winter, but have observed three in the past weeks. Others have reported seeing a foursome in one location along with more single viewings.                                                                                                                                    

On the smaller side of our “wild animal kingdom”, chippies have emerged from winter quarters, making me wonder if the Bruno population and other hibernators have made any residential stops along the byway. If anyone has a sighting to report, I’d enjoy hearing such.                                                                                        

Another report came to me from a fellow down the road telling of a visit from one of those masked bandits. It’s not the first time a raccoon has been seen along the Trail, but is still somewhat unusual.                                                                                                                                                                   
The presence of one, ring-tail, likely means potential for an invasion over time. They are not the nicest critters to have around, for any number of reasons. While there’s a reason for every being of the forest, I kind of equate their popularity with the equivalence of a skunk, rattlesnake or alligator. How do they get up this far north, I wonder? I’ll bet they are hooking a ride on the trucks of those sweet corn peddlers from down south in the summer.                                                                                                                                                                                         

As the delayed opening of the Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center was announced last week, I mentioned planning is underway to create a virtual campus. Funding for developing, online programs, presentations and a virtual museum is needed. All of this programming falls outside of the yearly GTHS/CW budget, and is absent support revenue coming through the gates. The virtual Campus will assist in keeping staff employed and community members/far away visitors connected until Chik-Wauk is open again.                                                            

The COVID-19 battle continues eating away at America, both physically and emotionally. All are encouraged to work harder at being patient and prudent in the push to regain a degree of normalcy. Our behavior to stay safe and at the same time protect others remains critical.                                                                     

In the words of iconic actress, Julie Andrews, try just “standing still a moment” during a time of frustration or disgust, before jumping into endangering situations!  You know, “everybody matters”!                                                                                                                                                       
For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, and each always counts, as special!