A pat on the back for parents

It’s been a busy few weeks for the community, especially for our local schools as they wrap up the school year. It’s been an adventure as Brian Larsen and I struggle to remember when and where all the events are taking place. We’ve been juggling and rearranging schedules to try to be everywhere to get photos. And then, we have to find time to write it all up. It’s a tiring, but fun time of year.

I’ve been consoling myself that coming soon is the one week of the year that I do not write a column. You see this week before graduation is a bit of a cheat week for me.

I try really hard not to repeat myself in Unorganized Territory. I’ve written this column every week since October 9, 1999, so there have been times when similar ideas have been expressed. I’ve never intentionally run the exact same thoughts on the exact same topic.

But I’ve come close with the column I’ve written for parents of graduating seniors each year. It’s become a tradition to write this column which almost writes itself.

I write for the parents because the graduates of the Class of 2015 are far too busy to read a newspaper column. I know, they were almost too busy to get their senior photos and interview to us for our special Meet the Class of 2015 feature!

Last year's graduates celebrating. The Class of 2015 will have its turn on Saturday, May 30. Congratulations all!

Last year’s graduates celebrating. The Class of 2015 will have its turn on Saturday, May 30. Congratulations all!

The members of the Class of 2015 are too excited to look to the News-Herald for sage advice. They are busy making travel and housing plans for college next fall or getting in shape for the physical training they will be met with when they enter the military. They are spending these final spring days with the dear friends to whom they will soon be saying tearful farewells.

It’s an amazing time for the Class of 2015 and they don’t need any more advice from caring community members.

It’s different for parents. It’s a bittersweet time for them. Parents are filled with relief that all those battles over homework and curfews are over. They are proud that their child has fulfilled the requirements of graduation and will make a dramatic entry in his or her cap and gown.

But there is also that looming goodbye—the one that every parent dreads from the time their son or daughter takes his or her first steps, shyly waves goodbye on the way to preschool, or gets behind the steering wheel for the first time. Graduation is a final rite of passage, one that comes all too soon.

It’s impossible that the tiny baby that changed your world could turn into an adult so quickly. It’s hard to believe how fast all those years of teacher conferences, spring concerts, sporting events, and last-minute grade concerns, flew by.

The last few months are the craziest, with the final chaos of invitations and open houses. I think the parents are the ones who need the pat on the back right now.

So, I hope they take a few minutes to sit down and read this column. They need a little time for themselves right now. They need a break between cleaning house for the party and figuring out where visiting relatives will sleep; between buying decorations and calculating how much cake will be eaten; between all the chaos that comes from planning for graduation.

Truly, it is good that there is a lot to do—it makes the fast-approaching farewell a bit easier for mom and dad. At least until the graduate packs up his or her belongings and leaves them to the empty nest.

For those parents, I’m ending with a longer-than-usual quote. I received it from my mom when my first “baby” graduated in 1997. I’ve shared this Erma Bombeck quote in Unorganized Territory several times now. It still makes me tear up when I read it, but I still find comfort in it.

I hope the parents of the Class of 2015 do too.

     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Children are like kites. You spend a lifetime trying to get them off the ground. You run with them until you’re both breathless – they crash – you add a longer tail – they hit the rooftop – you pluck them out of the spout – you patch and comfort, adjust and teach. You watch them lifted by the wind and assure them that someday they’ll fly!

…Finally they are airborne, but they need more string – you keep letting it out and with each twist of the ball of twine, there is a sadness that goes with the joy, because the kite becomes more distant and somehow you know that it won’t be long until that beautiful creature will snap the life line that bound you together and soar as it was meant to soar – free and alone.

Erma Bombeck

Where are we in May 2015?

Where are weCook County News-Herald staffers love to get out and about the county. So we decided, while we are traveling the highway and bushwhacking through the forest, to take pictures to see if our readers can guess WHERE ARE WE?

We had a number of guesses of where we were in April, including Devil’s Kettle, Kadunce River, and Cascade River. However, the correct location was below the Highway 61 bridge on the Cross River in Schroeder.

Try your luck! Take a look at the May photo. If you think you know where we were when we took this picture, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers. Whoever is drawn from the correct entries will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the May WHERE ARE WE? must be received
by June 16, 2015.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
email: starnews@boreal.org
Questions? 218-387-9100

Mom’s selective memory

I’m a sucker for those goofy Internet quizzes that answer burning questions such as “What Disney princess are you?” or “What state should you live in?” After clicking to answer a variety of nonsensical questions or choosing which picture you like best from an odd assortment, these digital Rorschach tests supposedly give you great insight. They tell you what the theme song for your life should be or which character on the Golden Girls sitcom you most closely resemble or whether you are a girlygirl or a tomboy.

These little personality tests remind me of the quizzes that used to be found in magazines. Taking those were more work. You had to jot down your answers—a., b., c., or d.—and then add to get your score. Once you tallied the points for each a., b., or c., etc., you had the score that would answer the burning question.

Seventeen magazine had quizzes every month, giving readers the chance to find out if her soulmate was Davy Jones of The Monkees or David Cassidy of The Partridge Family. As I got older, I graduated to quizzes in Redbook or Cosmopolitan. Quizzes that asked important questions such as “What career should you have?” or “How compatible are you and your sweetheart?”

I guess I like the silly cyber quizzes because I grew up on those magazine questions. And they are fun conversation starters. A friend recently shared a quiz asking “How bad were you as a child?” It was interesting to see who was 20 percent, 50 percent and 70 percent “bad.”

I took that test with some trepidation. I knew I wasn’t a very good kid. I was surprised when the results said I was 40 percent “bad.”

My Mom has put up with a lot through the years, from her kids -- and my goofy Dad!

My Mom has put up with a lot through the years, from her kids — and my goofy Dad!

That is when I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who saw the results on Facebook. When I saw the 40 percent, I stated that I didn’t agree. I thought I should have been much higher on the “bad” scale. Mom, bless her heart, has selective memory. She said I was a good kid.

She is partially right, I was a good kid in elementary school and even into junior high. I was terribly shy and wanted nothing more than to shrink into the background with a book. So, aside from being a poor math student, I was a very well-behaved child.

But when I hit high school, I think I was horrible. I look at some of the journals I kept from that era and apparently the only word in my vocabulary was stupid. School was stupid. Confirmation classes were stupid. My sister was stupid. Life was stupid.

And, unfortunately, as friends from high school know, I really did misbehave. I was part of the snotty teenage crowd that hid in the woods behind the school and smoked cigarettes. I skipped school and I smarted off in class. My best friend and I snuck out of our junior-senior banquet after dinner and before the speaker because we didn’t want to be bored. There’s more, but I don’t need to tell on myself.

But what is important, what is wonderful, is that my mom was—and is—able to overlook it all. When I brought home mid-quarter slips showing failing grades or was got caught misbehaving, she didn’t scream and holler. She didn’t lecture too much. She simply shook her head and gave me “the look.”

“The look” let me know she was disappointed in whatever I had done. But it also let me know that she saw past the bad behavior. It let me know that she knew I could—and would someday—do better. Thanks for the love and support and the selective memory, Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day!


A mother is not a
person to lean on, but a
person to make leaning

Dorothy Canfield Fisher

Bring back Pony Express

Phones at the Cook County News-Herald have been ringing off the hook this week as readers from all ends of the county have been calling asking why they haven’t received the latest issue. We’ve had frustrated subscribers stopping by the office, asking what has happened to the Saturday delivery of the paper. While we are delighted that readers are eager to get the paper, we are frustrated at our inability to do much about it. There might be good news though.

For years, folks who live out of Cook County or out-of-state have dealt with slow delivery. Newspapers have never been handled nicely by the postal service. I’ve frequently heard from friends and family far away that their papers take weeks to get to them. I saw it myself when I visited some relatives in Illinois—three weeks of News-Heralds arrived on the same day.

How did that happen? Where was the log jam in the system? We’ve struggled with this for years, advocating for these far away readers, asking that the newspapers be traced from our end and their end. Sometimes a complaint from the reader to his or her local post office gets the delivery problem solved.

Fortunately most of our far-flung subscribers don’t mind the wait for the paper. They are people who have lived here in the past who just want to stay in touch with the Arrowhead. They are people considering a move north or who love to vacation here, who just want the flavor of the county. They don’t necessarily need to know that the county is holding a special meeting or what bands are playing at Papa Charlie’s over the weekend.

County residents though rely on the News-Herald for those upcoming meetings and events. For years county residents on mail routes— while not necessarily happy about it—have been resigned to the fact that they don’t get their News-Heralds until Saturday. There is no way to rectify that, as we don’t receive the newspapers in the county until after the mail carriers have left the Grand Marais Post Office.

However, our April 25 issue did not arrive on Saturday. Most outlying county subscribers didn’t get their paper until Monday, some not until Tuesday. And that is not acceptable for our readers, as we’ve heard loudly and clearly.

The News-Herald has been waiting to see what happens with the proposed closure of the Duluth Post Office. News-Herald staffers, like many Northlanders have been hoping that the U.S. Postal Service will realize that this center is critical to not just Grand Marais, but all the outlying rural areas whose mail is sorted there. We’ve breathed sighs of relief several times as the closure was postponed in 2011 and again in 2013. We’ve hoped the closure would be halted entirely.

Is it time to bring back the Pony Express? The reliable delivery service would now be 155 years old.

Is it time to bring back the Pony Express? The reliable delivery service would now be 155 years old.

Last week though, it appeared that the closure process is beginning and we were disappointed to see how it negatively impacted our readers. We had one irate reader declare that we should go back to the Pony Express as it might be faster.

All along we’ve been lobbying Congressman Rick Nolan and Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar to see if they can do anything. They’ve done a good job fighting to keep the Duluth Post Office open.

I felt a bit hopeless though when I realized how out-of-touch the federal agency actually is. I was disappointed when a postal service spokesperson issued a statement assuring the approximately 70 employees at the Duluth facility that jobs would be found for all of them within a 50-mile radius. Apparently the Postal Service does not realize the distance between Duluth and other facilities.

We’ve also been asking our local postal representatives what can be done to help get the News-Herald to our North Shore readers. Surely the papers don’t have to take the scenic route to St. Paul to be sorted and then sent back? After the outcry over overdue papers this week, we think we have found a way to speed things up. Following the post office’s advice and changing the way things are sorted and delivered to the post office in Grand Marais, we think we’ll be back on track.

If not, I know we’ll hear from you. Thanks for reading!


What the public
announcements do not
say is that when America’s
mail sneezes, rural mail gets
John Edgecombe Jr.

Where are We in April?

binderWe thought our March WHERE ARE WE? location would be tough, as the building pictured has a historic sign on the back reading “Borderland Lodge.”  However, observant News-Herald readers were not fooled. The March WHERE ARE WE? was Trail Center Lodge, as seen from Poplar Lake.

We had only one incorrect guess of Mink Lake Bible Camp. Drawn from all the other correct guesses was Jolene Beddow of Brownsdale, Minnesota.

Jolene said she has many happy memories of snowmobiling to Trail Center with her late husband. She enjoys keeping in touch with this area through the News-Herald, so she will be happy to learn that she wins a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the April photo. If you think you know where we were when we took this picture, send us your answer.

You don’t have to be the first to reply. The location will be announced next month and a winner will be drawn from all the correct answers.

Whoever is drawn will win a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald (a $32 value). Good luck!

Answer to the March WHERE ARE WE? must be received by May 11, 2015.

Send your entry to:
Cook County News-Herald
PO Box 757
Grand Marais MN 55604

Drop it by our office at:

15 First Avenue West
Fax: 218-387-9500
email: starnews@boreal.org
Questions? 218-387-9100

Roads less traveled

Forest roads serve as important connections to scenic spots throughout the Northland.

Forest roads serve as important connections to scenic spots throughout the Northland.

Last week I hopefully made it clear that I am both a motorhead and a tree hugger. This week, I’m following up on that theme, encouraging my friends of both ilk to pay attention to the current Superior National Forest roads study.

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking input from the forest loving public to “determine a sustainable road system that provides both safe travel for visitors and protects forest resources, such as water quality.”

The primary reason for the roads study is that federal funding for road maintenance has steadily been shrinking. According to the U.S. Forest Service, it has a growing $8.4 billion national maintenance and reconstruction backlog. The Forest Service just doesn’t have the money to replace culverts, grade, and clear brush on all of its roads— across the United States or here in the Superior National Forest.

At this point it doesn’t appear that changes will be too dramatic. In a brief summary, the Superior National Forest states that phase one of the roads study recommends that 16 miles of road are “likely not needed.” The first round of the study identified 85 miles of roads that will likely see a change in road maintenance level. The plan calls for changing four miles of road to be re-designated as trails. Another 10 miles may become “special use permit” roads. And finally the initial recommendations call for a change of jurisdiction for 43 miles.

What does that mean? I’m not sure. I need to take a few hours and delve into the maps on the website. According to the Forest Service, there are 2,500 miles of road within the Superior National Forest.

So the potential changes—158 miles—don’t seem to be too drastic. For instance, the Forest Service states that the 16 miles “likely not needed” are primarily “scattered, short, dead end spur roads.” But if one of those dead end roads goes to your favorite fishing hole or berry patch, you may not be pleased to drive up one day to find it blocked with boulders.

My “tree hugger” side says, “No big deal, I can walk in.” Until I remember how fast our wonderful forest regenerates. A path like that, into a remote spot, gets overgrown really quickly if it never sees vehicle traffic.

If you don’t believe me, take a hike on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Hunter Walking Trails off of the Meridian Road in Grand Marais and The Grade near Two Island Lake. Those trails created by a bulldozer get overgrown and have to occasionally be bulldozed again to keep them open. Foot traffic, especially during grouse season, is enjoyable, but it doesn’t keep the path clear.

A bit more concerning are the 85 miles that may see a change in maintenance level. I need to do some digging to see which roads are being changed and whether they are being downgraded. Because frequently, a reduction in maintenance level is a de facto road closure.

My friends and family have already discovered this in our backcountry travels. There are many favorite drives that are disappearing as tall grass grows up in the road bed and trees and shrubs encroach in the driving path. We’ve seen culverts wash out, never to be replaced, cutting off a nice loop through the woods.

Again, this impacts me whether I’m riding in a pickup, on my all-terrain vehicle or walking. I’m not a mountain biker—I prefer the solid surface of pavement when I’m pedaling— but I don’t imagine that cross country bikers enjoy mowing through shoulder high grass either.

So I encourage you to take some time before the second comment period ends on May 22, 2015 to look at the first phase recommendations. Send in your thoughts.

And then get out and enjoy the forest in whatever manner you like. See you in the woods!


The road that leads to
nowhere for others might
just be the road that leads
to somewhere for you!

Mehmet Murat ildan

Out and about on Earth Day

My niece Kristi and I (cleaned up!) after the 2010 Tofte Trek 10K.

My niece Kristi and I (cleaned up!) after the 2010 Tofte Trek 10K.

I’ll bet that last week’s Unorganized Territory about my love-hate relationship with mud confused a few readers. I wrote about the delight of taking the first four-wheeler ride of the season, splashing through puddles on the trails. And I wrote about the joy of slogging through the mud in the Tofte Trek 10K.

So, am I a motorhead? Or am I a tree hugger? Believe it or not, I’m both. In celebration of Earth Day, which is coming up this week, I’ll try to explain.

I do love riding my ATV. I enjoy splashing through the mud and trekking up and down hills, the rockier and bumpier the better. It is very empowering to be able to maneuver through a rough spot in the road or to bounce along a trail for hours. Believe it or not, it’s not passive, it takes upper body strength to keep the wheeler on the road. Sitting up straight to muscle the heavy machine where you want it to go is a great core workout. You get tired riding an ATV.

But it’s the good tired that comes from being outside, active in the sun or the rain.

So yes, I am a motorhead. But I’m a tree hugger too. There are many stops along the way on a four-wheeler ride to check out wildflowers, to see if there are fish in a nearby stream, or if I’m really lucky, to pick some berries. I love coming up upon wildlife on the trail or watching birds glide through the air overhead.

And then there are times when I want to be afoot, without the vibration of the engine or the rumble of the motor. I love hiking, especially along a river. I love the sound of water cascading over rocks and the rustling of leaves along the path. I love the view from Caribou Rock, from Carlton Peak, from Eagle Mountain and others.

And when I’m standing near the top of one of those vistas, I like the reassurance of a sturdy tree. More than once I’ve found myself at an overlook, peering far below with my arm hooked around a tree trunk. So yes, I am literally a tree hugger.

I think there are more people like me than there are those who are entrenched in one camp or the other. I know there are some people who cringe at the idea of riding an ATV. And I know there are ATVers who hate just walking around the block. But truly, those folks are few and far between. Few people are that one-dimensional. People can like ATVs and snowmobiles and still enjoy biking and cross country skiing.

And all of the users of the beautiful public lands in Cook County have something in common. We may have different methods for getting out into the woods, but we all love this place we call home. Get out and enjoy it!

Happy Earth Day!


I don’t accept the idea there are two sides to any issue. I think the middle ground is to be found within most of us.

Krista Tippett


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