Where are We in October?



where are we - October 2014Cook 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?

Last month’s photo of Highway 61 as it crosses the Onion River—viewed from above at the Ray Berglund State Wayside—was recognized by a number of readers. We did not receive any incorrect guesses this month. Drawn from the correct entries was Mike Nelson of Tofte.

Congratulations to Mike, he wins a one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the October photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer. 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 $30 value). Good luck!

Return answer by mail, e-mail or fax to:

Cook County News-Herald

PO Box 757

Grand Marais MN 55604


Fax: 218-387-9500

Answer to the October WHERE ARE WE? must be received by November 10, 2014.


Long pants and big wigs

School has started so that means Girl Scouts are meeting again. That means things are a little more hectic in Unorganized Territory

Being a Girl Scout leader is very rewarding. It was fun over the summer to see “my” Girl Scouts at various events. And it was delightful to welcome them back to our first meeting, to receive hug after hug from happy young ladies.

But it’s also a challenge getting back in the swing of weekly meetings, monthly leader meetings and planning activities for the various badges the girls need to earn.

At first just remembering the name of our region—Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines (GSMWLP)—was tough. Until the other leaders let me in on the secret mnemonic—Girl Scouts Must Wear Long Pants! It is so silly I’ll never forget it.

I do however, sometimes forget that we are supposed to have an activity for those very energetic young ladies on Thursday afternoons. More than once I’ve ended up frantically googling “Girl Scout activities” just hours before a meeting.

Being a leader forces me to be more organized. There is no one-size-fits-all curriculum for Girl Scouts. There are suggested activities for the assorted awards, but much of it is left to the leaders’ discretion.

For example, our fourth-grade Scouts are working on the Flower badge. The leader handbook gives some basic ideas—meet with a botanist, go on a field trip to identify wild flowers, or learn about how flowers are used in the perfume industry or healing arts.

Our fifth-grade Girl Scouts are working their way through the “Agents of Change” journey. It’s an empowering process that teaches the girls that one person can make a difference in the world and also teaches them the importance of working together. At the end of their journey they must work together on some sort of community service project. My co-leader/daughter-in-law Michele and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

But there are no step-by-step directions for these things. Which is sometimes difficult, especially with the additional challenge of leading both fourth- and fifth-grade girls.

Michele is the leader for the fifth-graders and I’m her co-leader. I’m the leader for the fourth-graders and Michele is my co-leader. With different badges for the different ages, we try to plan ahead because it of course makes meetings go much smoother but sometimes we just can’t. Hence the googling of Girl Scout activities.

At a recent leader meeting, all of us burst out laughing when we heard that the instruction manual for new leaders states that a leader can expect to spend about four hours a month on Girl Scout duties. How do these super leaders get it all done in just four hours? How organized are these women, we wondered?

However, constant time crunch aside, being a Girl Scout leader is an awesome experience. The loose curriculum can be exasperating but it also gives us the flexibility to come up with interesting ways to fulfill badge requirements.

One of the fun things Girl Scout leaders get to do is take part in parades with the girls!

One of the fun things Girl Scout leaders get to do is take part in parades with the girls!

We’ve had some great adventures. While working on our Brownie “Water Journey” badges, we visited the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fisheries building at Devil Track Lake, a field trip the girls loved. We also visited the Grand Marais Public Utilities wastewater treatment plant—something the girls did not enjoy as much.

While working on our Artist badge, we painted, painted and painted on all sorts of surfaces. We had a great afternoon with Hovland artist David Hahn. We created chalk art on the pavement and we hiked to the Grand Marais Art Colony to see the plein air exhibit.

As leaders we get to see “our” girls growing up before our eyes. To earn their Citizenship and Patriotism badges, we talked a lot about the history of our country and our flag. We wrote cards and sent them—along with Girl Scout cookies—to folks in the military with Cook County ties. And when each troop was in third grade, they took on the task of conducting the flag ceremony at Girl Scout events.

We’ve also had some hilarious moments. While preparing for Girl Scout Investiture, the ceremony that rededicates us all to the Girl Scout mission at the beginning of the year, Michele and I lectured the girls a bit about proper behavior at this event. Officials from Girl Scouts Minnesota -Wisconsin Lakes and Pines would be at the meeting, Michele told the girls. She cautioned them that they needed to behave in front of the “bigwigs” from Duluth.

The look on our Girl Scouts’ faces was priceless. Big wigs? We could see the question in their eyes—why do the Duluth women have weird hair? Just how big are these wigs?

It took a little while to explain the odd phrase and get our meeting back on track. And I think perhaps our girls were a little disappointed when the GSMWLP representatives showed up at Investiture with ordinarylooking hair.

It makes me smile every time I think of it. Just one of the many rewards of being a Girl Scout leader.


Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.

Warren Bennis

Old enough to vote*

I am diligent about voting. I am a firm believer in the adage, “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”

I have voted in every election since I was old enough to vote, even when it was inconvenient. For most of the years that I lived away from Minnesota with my soldier husband, I cast my vote by absentee ballot. From Washington State, Germany, Colorado and California, I went through the steps to apply for an absentee ballot and get it returned promptly.

Some of Cook County's hard-working vote counters in the 2010 election.

Some of Cook County’s hard-working vote counters in the 2010 election.

But with every election, I imagined one day being able to go to the polls to cast my vote—the polls back “home” in Minnesota. I remember going with my mom when she voted at a town hall. My memory is sketchy, but I think she voted at what is now a house at the top of Fall River Road (County Road 13). I remember the U.S. flag hanging at the entrance. I remember neighbors visiting as they were coming and going.

I also remember controversy about voting when I was a teenager. It may seem unbelievable to the current generation, but when I was growing up, you had to be 21 years old to vote. There were a lot of changes in the turbulent ’60s and lowering the voting age to 18 was one of them.

I was a bit young to follow all the debate about letting 18-yearolds vote. Apparently the suggestion was first made before I was even born. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to endorse voting rights for 18-year-old citizens in his 1954 State of the Union Address.

It took quite awhile for the idea to take hold and there was a great deal of legal maneuvering as many states questioned the federal government’s right to lower the minimum voting age. States that refused to follow the federal government’s lead faced the need to have separate voting rolls and special ballots for voters between 18 and 20 years old for federal elections.

I don’t remember all this legal wrangling, but I do remember the young men facing the draft into military service—and the possibility of being sent off to fight in the Vietnam War—demanding the right to vote. I remember news stories on our old black and white TV about the horrors of the war. I remember watching footage of anti-war protests and amongst the protest signs there were some that read, “Old enough to fight, old enough to vote.”

In those times of trouble in our nation that message appeared to be something citizens could finally agree on. On March 10, 1971, the U.S. Senate voted 94-0 in favor of an amendment lowering the voting age. On March 23, 1971, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 401-19 in favor of the proposal.

Amazingly states followed suit. To add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, three-fourths of the United States must ratify Congress’s action. I’m proud to note that Minnesota was among the first five states to agree. Ratification was completed on July 1, 1971 when enough states had taken action. On July 5, 1971, with President Richard Nixon as witness, the Twenty-Sixth Amendment became part of the Constitution.

I was 14 years old and more interested in clothes and nail polish and whether or not the Beatles would ever get back together than politics, but I still remember feeling jubilant that I would soon be able to vote.

The first presidential election in which I had a vote was in 1976. I was able to choose between the Jimmy Carter/Walter Mondale or Gerald Ford/Bob Dole tickets. I won’t say who I voted for. But it was with great pride that I was able to vote in my first election. Even though it was an absentee ballot mailed back home to Minnesota.

I know it is unlikely that any 18-year-olds read Unorganized Territory. But if they do, I hope they take a minute to think of the struggle that went into establishing the right for them to vote.

Young women also owe a debt to the women suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote. Without the work of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Jane Addams the 19th Amendment would never have come to pass.

But that’s another column. This week I’d just like to remind everyone in Unorganized Territory that voting is not something to take lightly.

So if you’re 18 and want to vote, take some time to go to the Cook County courthouse before the end of the day on Tuesday, October 14 to pre-register. You don’t have to pre-register, but it makes voting much easier.

When you pre-register your name gets added to the official roll of voters. In most of Cook County, that means you will receive a ballot in the mail. In the City of Grand Marais, it means when you go to the polling place, you’ll be on the list and will be able to enter the voting booth to cast your vote— quickly and easily. And hopefully, proudly.

Voters don’t decide issues, they decide who will decide issues.

George Will

* Apologies to any 18-year-olds for not getting this posted before the Oct. 14 pre-registration deadline. You can still vote! Contact your county’s auditor office for information.

A quality of life narrative

I’ve ended up in a lot of meetings lately, as part of my job and as a citizen.

Right now, the all-important update of the Cook County Comprehensive Land Use Guide is under way. I went to the well-attended meeting at the Cook County Community Center on September 17. I was pleased to see the turnout and even more pleased to see that there was a lot of consensus on issues I care about. I’m looking forward to more discussion about what the county should look like in 15, 20 and 30 years.

There have also been meetings on the Highway 61 corridor as it passes through Grand Marais. Another good-sized crowd turned out at the Grand Marais Public Library recently to share concerns and to talk about possible improvements to the highway to make it safer and more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Because of these and the many other meetings I’ve attended recently, I almost passed on the presentation by the University of Minnesota- Morris at North House Folk School on Tuesday, September 23. I had started my day in a county board meeting and had a couple of interviews, so by 6:30 p.m. I was ready to just head home.

But the invitation from Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux about the UM-Morris Center for Small Towns statisticians was intriguing. Jay said he had had some interesting conversation at his B&B with Kelly Asche of the Center for Small Towns.

Jay was excited enough about it to arrange the presentation, so I decided to head to the talk at North House Folk School. I wanted to hear what the university had to say about Grand Marais.

I’m glad I did. The discussion about the “rural narrative” was enlightening. Asche and his co-presenter Jon Bennett talked about the supposed “brain drain” that is occurring in small towns in Minnesota. There is a huge concern about all the young people leaving our rural communities. Asche shared slides with dire newspaper headlines declaring that small towns were dying.

The duo shared statistics that show that is actually far from the truth. Small towns are changing, but they are not dying. In fact, Asche said, in Minnesota only two towns have dissolved in the last 50 years.

The demographics, not the populations, of towns are changing, said Asche. Young people are moving away— most likely to college and to experience the world. But that population is replaced by an older, more stable demographic.

In opposition to the theory that with young people leaving there is a “brain drain,” Asche said the people moving to rural areas bring education, experience and enthusiasm. He said there is actually a “brain gain.”

People who have had their fill of metro-area living are returning to rural life. People with children are moving to the country to raise their children. People are choosing quality of life over high salaries and the “rat race.”

Asche and Bennett had figures and charts to back up their statements. However, their assertion that people move to rural areas because of the quality of life was confirmed— and amplified—by the environment in which they were speaking.

The windows of the lovely “blue building” on the North House campus look out onto the periwinkle blue waters of Lake Superior. As they talked, the sky darkened and became streaked with soft pastels. Eventually it grew dark—until a brief flashing began—the soothing light of the Grand Marais lighthouse

This David R. Johnson photo is a vivid example of why we love to live in Grand Marais.

This David R. Johnson photo is a vivid example of why we love to live in Grand Marais.

It was distracting. I zoned out a little bit because of the lighthouse. I started thinking about hikes out to The Point and about ships on the lake. As I blinked and cleared my head to refocus on the presentation, I had to smile. That was exactly Asche’s point.

We are here because even though we must attend meetings, we can do so in such scenic spaces.

Perfect proof for his quality of life argument!

To read the papers and to listen to the news… one would think the country is in terrible trouble. You do not get that impression when you travel the back roads and the small towns do care about their country and wish it well.

Charles Kuralt

Hug a tree and holler

Sometimes I take a circuitous route to find the topic of Unorganized Territory. Last week I wrote about the “what if” game our family sometimes plays in which we consider all sorts of doom and disaster scenarios and how to prepare for them. Last week’s column ended up being a plug for National Emergency Preparedness Month, which isn’t a bad thing. We can all use a reminder to update our home and vehicle emergency kits.

But I didn’t start out in that direction. It was to be a cautionary column of a different sort. The idea for last week’s Unorganized Territory, which got lost as my thoughts flowed, came from a comment my six-year-old grandson Carter made while we were on a hike.

At least once a year we take a hike with our grandkids up the “root beer river.” That is what the grandkids call Cascade River because of the bubbling brown-colored water that flows in that magnificent river. It is a wonderful hike because it works for just about any hiking skill level and offers amazing views of many waterfalls.

It is also a bit nerve-wracking for grandparents, as kids love running and peering over the edge of walkways and bridge rails. I spend most of the trek saying, “Slow down!” “Don’t run up to the edge!” “Don’t dangle on the railing!”

It’s that worrywart gene once again. But as my sons keep assuring me, “Kids have been hiking these trails for hundreds of years.”

Behind my adorable grandkids is one of the Cascade River's beautiful--but potentially treacherous--waterfalls. A wonderful hike, despite the worry!

Behind my adorable grandkids is one of the Cascade River’s beautiful–but potentially treacherous–waterfalls. A wonderful hike, despite the worry!

Once the trail wandered inland, I was able to relax a little bit. But then we got spread out along the trail and someone mentioned getting lost. I couldn’t resist reviving the “what if ” game with the grandchildren.

We used to do this all the time when our boys were young. When we lived away from Cook County as a military family, we resided in primarily metro areas. There were a lot of check-in requirements for our kids when they went bike riding or to play at a neighborhood park. If we went to a mall or theme park, we always had a plan to find one another in case we got separated. We had a lot of discussions such as, “What would you do if a guy asked you to help find his lost puppy?”

So, I decided to play the backcountry “what if ” game. I asked the grandkids what they would do if somehow they did get lost in the woods on a hike or while camping. Carter grinned and replied, “Hug a tree!”

I was delighted. Apparently his parents also play the “what if ” game. And instead of making the caution complicated by explaining that people can’t find you if you are constantly wandering through the underbrush, someone told Carter to stay put—by hugging a tree.

I added to the advice though. Hugging a tree to stop aimlessly traveling in circles and frustrating potential rescuers is wise, but it’s also good to try to help those rescuers find you. I told Carter and his cousins to also holler. Yell and holler and scream. Stop and listen. And then scream and holler some more!

I also told the grandkids to remain calm. No matter where they are, we will find them.

This is great advice for any of us. Cook County has a great search and rescue system. There are dozens of volunteers who are ready at a moment’s notice to gear up to head out into our forests to find a missing person or to help someone in distress. If we are lost, someone will find us.

It is better to not get lost at all though. The grandkids and I talked a bit about staying on trail and staying together. We also talked about paying attention. Again, good advice for anyone setting out into our boreal forest.

Paths through the woods can all look the same. It’s hard not to zone out when you’re walking along enjoying the wonders around you—the rooted and rocky trail, the wildflowers or mushrooms along the path, the birds and squirrels, the rivers and creeks. I’m as guilty as anyone. But after hiking farther than I intended a few times, I realized I need to be more attentive.

We all should pay attention. Even when hiking with a group, we shouldn’t assume someone else will remember if we turned left or right at the big cedar tree. We need to think about where we are once in awhile. Where is the Big Lake? Where is the highway? How many miles was it between trail markers?

Noting these things can keep us from going astray. But if by chance you zig when you should have zagged and end up being lost in the woods. Don’t panic. Just hug a tree and holler.

That’s the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn’t matter much whether you get where you’re going or not. You’ll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home.

Edward Abbey

Where are We in September?

Cook 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?

Last month’s flag on the hillside photo elicited a number of interesting answers. We didn’t realize there were so many American flags flying proudly in remote areas of the community. However, the correct location of our August WHERE ARE WE? is at the Atkinson residence on Clearwater Lake.

We had two correct guesses and the winner drawn was Tony Everson of Grand Marais. Tony wins a one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

If you know where I was standing when I took that photo, send in a guess!

If you know where I was standing when I took this photo, send in a guess!

Try your luck! Take a look at the September photo. If you think you know where we were when we took the picture, send us your answer. Bring it in to the News-Herald at 15 First Avenue West; mail it to Cook County News-Herald, PO Box 757, Grand Marais; fax it to 218-387-9500; or email it to starnews@boreal.org. 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 $30 value). Good luck!

Answer to the September WHERE ARE WE? must be received by
October 13, 2014.

The “what if” game

I’ve always had an active— some would say overactive— imagination. I’m one of those people who creates little dramas in my head when someone I care about is overdue. If a friend or family member isn’t where he or she is supposed to be at a certain time, I don’t think that they are stuck in traffic or that they are sitting in a boring meeting that ran longer than expected.

No, my mind goes right to the worst case scenario. A horrid vision of doom and despair plays out in my head. They walked in on a bank robbery and are being held hostage. They swerved for a deer and are now trapped in a vehicle dangling off a steep cliff. They fell down a set of stairs and broke both legs and are lying there calling “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Their car broke down and as they went for help they were picked up by a psychopath and they are tied up in a basement somewhere, calling for help.

It is always an immense relief when he or she calls or walks in the door. Disaster averted!

Because I’m a worrywart, I’m always playing the “what if?” game. On a quiet walk along County Road 7 by my house I think about what I would do if I met a wolf or bear. Would I yell and try to chase it off? Would I ignore it? I consider what I have in my pocket that I could use as a weapon. If I start down this thought path as it gets dark, I end up running home as fast as my legs will take me.

My husband Chuck and I play the “what if ” game sometimes when we’re driving somewhere or on a hike. We consider Armageddon scenarios. What if the entire Midwest lost power? How would we heat our house? Keep our food cold, if disaster struck in the summer? What would we do for fuel? How would we contact friends and relatives to see if they were surviving?

As we walk through the woods in late fall, talk frequently turns to what to do if we encounter a moose. The old adage, “You don’t have to be faster than the moose, just faster than the person you’re with” sometimes comes up. That doesn’t reassure me and I start seeing moose in every tipped over tree root or boulder.

An overactive imagination can be a difficult thing to live with. I think that is why I enjoy the National Geographic program Doomsday Preppers. The people on the program make my imagined crises seem like a day at the park. The post-apocalyptic escape routes, shelters and weapons that the doomsday preppers create are amazing. The elaborate scenarios these folks come up with make my vivid imaginings seem like happy fairy tales. Their “what if ” games involve training that rivals that offered by the U.S. Marine Corps.

If you want to see how prepared you are for a cataclysmic event, take the Doomsday Prepper quiz at:  http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/doomsday-preppers/interactives/how-prepped-are-you1/

If you want to see how prepared you are for a cataclysmic event, take the Doomsday Prepper quiz

I especially liked the episode that featured a woman whose doomsday prepping included storage of food items that would not only allow her to survive a cataclysmic incident, but thrive in it gourmand style. She had a huge, well-stocked pantry—as well as several levels of hidden pantries throughout her house. She hoarded specialty cheeses, spices, coffee and what would be worth more than gold to me in a world gone mad—chocolate!

Of course to protect her amazing food supply from the inevitable foragers who didn’t prepare for doomsday, she and her husband spent a great deal of time practicing their response to home invasion. They had a variety of weapons cached around the house. Showing she had a sense of humor about all of this doomsday stuff, she showed National Geographic a pistol stored amongst her vegetables in the pantry, in a canister of dried peas. “It’s my pea shooter,” she declared.

Although the woman and the other preppers may have the last laugh in the event of a massive earthquake, economic collapse, biohazard attack, major power outage or other disaster, their imagined incidents are a bit too intense for me.

They do, however, offer some down-to-earth tips now and then, similar to those offered by our local emergency management folks. September is National Preparedness Month, and although I’ve written about my disdain for a day or week or month for every cause imaginable, I do think this is a good one.

It’s good to take a few minutes to think about what your family would do in the event of an emergency—a long-term power outage, a house fire or wildfire, flooding, a windstorm, or even something unthinkable like another 9/11-style attack.

It’s not a bad idea to have the necessary survival essentials stockpiled—water, canned goods, flashlights and batteries, a weather radio, a first aid kit, and so on. There are great ideas at websites like ready.gov or redcross.org to help you figure out what you need to have on hand.

It’s not a bad idea to play “what if ” now and then.


There’s no harm in hoping
for the best as long as you’re
prepared for the worst.

Stephen King


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