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

Fun in the mud

I have a love-hate relationship with mud. Mud is a sign of spring, of warmer weather and the coming greening of the woods around my house.

When I’m wearing work clothes and mud boots, I love splashing through puddles. I enjoy clearing deadfall out of the creek by our house each spring, sometimes sinking ankle deep in mud. It makes me feel like a little kid again.

I have wonderful memories of being bundled up in warm clothes and a rain jacket, working to get the water flowing in the ditch in front of my parent’s house on County Road 7. My sister and I must have spent hours there, stomping to make a path through the ice, digging trenches with sticks, breaking mini log jams to get the water running again. It was always a blast when we successfully undammed a spot and the rushing water would nearly knock us off our feet.

I love that my grandkids enjoy it too. They like to join my husband Chuck and me when we are clearing the creek. The kids are adorable in their funky little mud boots.

I also enjoy mud when I head out on forest roads and trails on my all-terrain vehicle (ATV) for the first spring ride. The first rides are the muddiest as there are always puddles to go zipping through. Even if you try to go slow—which I’ll admit I don’t—you are going to get muddy. I don’t mind. If I get a little mud in my hair or on my face, it’s like getting a facial at a fancy spa. A big, open-air spa under bright blue skies.

I even have some clothing that declares my enthusiasm for mud. My favorite hoodie is from the Off-Road Vixen company and it declares, “Girls Get Dirty Too.”

The back of my Cook County ATV Club T-shirt declares, “Kids of All Ages Like to Play in the Dirt.”


Fun in the mud? The Tofte Trek 10K is a muddy hike. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve done it, but it’s been at least five times. Chuck did the Tofte Trek 10K with me a couple of years — here we are in 2009. That was a hot, muddy, Tofte Trek.

I like to wear that ATV Club T-shirt when I do the Tofte Trek 10K on the 4th of July. The walkers get to start first and I’m a walker. So as the runners catch up and jog past, they read the sentiment on the back of my shirt. Sloshing through the shoe-stealing mud holes, many of them chuckle. Tofte Trekkers definitely like to play in the dirt.

However, I also despise mud.

For example, I dislike that my driveway gets soft and rutted in the spring. I try driving a different path every time I go up and down the drive to prevent ruts, but it doesn’t help. Every spring I look forward to the day that the driveway finally firms up.

It also annoys me that the muddy driveway turns my lovely silver car a dirty, streaky brown. I like mud on my mud boots or my four-wheeler tires or even on me—but not on my Kia Sorento!

Parking and entering my house is difficult in mud season. Every time I get close to my house, I face a dilemma. Where to park? What looks drier? The slanted ground at west end of the house? Or the flat area by the basement door?

Inevitably I choose wrong and I step out of my now-dirty car only to sink several inches into the mud in my good shoes. If I have to get something out of the car—again, inevitably—I brush up against the car and get mud on my clean pants or shirt.

Luckily this year the mud in my front and side yard is not too bad. The snow seems to be melting at a reasonable rate and we haven’t had too much rain. There are years when I’ve dragged pieces of wood and placed them between the car and the house, making a path to avoid the mud, like an old-fashioned corduroy road.

I haven’t been driven to that extreme this year. But the mud inside my house is driving me to distraction. The same mud that is so enjoyable when I have my mud boots on becomes an irritant and an eyesore when it is brought inside by my two wonderful dogs.

Although it doesn’t seem as muddy in my yard this year, the dogs somehow can find mud in which to wallow. They are good dogs and they are almost trained to sit at the door while I wipe them down. But there is only so much a towel can do for a mud embedded dog’s foot. No matter how well I think I’ve cleaned them up, when they walk across my white linoleum floor, they leave a trail of dog prints.

And as soon as they dry off, they want to go outside again.

It’s all a matter of perspective. For the dogs, every day is a day to enjoy mud season. I’ll try to remember that they are just having fun as I walk through the house wiping up puppy prints. I’ll try not to be jealous!


Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.



Public comments necessary

sw15-pett2-300x231It’s interesting that it was during Sunshine Week—the week intended to promote dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information—that the Cook County Board of Commissioners tackled the question of public participation in county board meetings.

Sunshine Week, a national initiative of journalists, citizens and community groups, was March 15 – 21, 2015. Smack dab in the middle of Sunshine Week was the county board meeting on March 17 and on the agenda was a “mini-orientation” for the board with County Attorney Molly Hicken on how and when the county board should—and shouldn’t—accept public comment.

This has been a topic on just about every local board and commission’s agenda at some point in the past. The City of Grand Marais and School District 166 have their policies regarding public comments printed in their agenda packets.

How these various boards and commissions developed their policies on allowing public comment is not necessarily news, but in most cases, the News-Herald covered the debate because it was interesting to us as journalists.

But somehow, the county’s board discussion on its public comment policy got pushed aside in all of the other news of the week during Sunshine Week.

It happens more frequently than I would like. Every week I sit in a meeting of the county board or school board or township or other meetings, frantically taking notes, starring and underlining the things that must be followed up on; that must be published this week. I leave the meeting with a notepad brimming with stories, my brain buzzing with ideas.

Every agenda item has the potential for a full-blown, in-depth, follow up article. Often it happens. Sometimes it doesn’t. Such is the case with the Sunshine Week discussion about public comment.

That certainly does not mean that I don’t think the discussion is important. I’m glad that the county board is talking about it. And, like some members of the community, I’m concerned at the possibility of public comment being restricted.

As County Attorney Molly Hicken, who led the discussion, told the county board, “You’re basically balancing your ability to conduct county government activities with First Amendment rights.”

Although the county does not have its guidelines for public comment printed on its agenda, there is a written policy, presented to the board by County Attorney Hicken at the March 17 meeting. The policy states:

  • Public may address any matter of county concern.
  • Public asked to state name, address, and topic.
  • Comments limited to five minutes.
  • Comment period limited to 30 minutes.
  • Commissioners may ask/answer questions, but the purpose of the comment period is not to allow for debate.
  • At board’s discretion, a matter addressed during the comment period may be added to current or future agenda.
  • Discussion must be civil, respectful, and directed at the board, not at other members of the public.

The guidelines seem reasonable— until a citizen has something to say that can’t be said in five minutes. Or until a controversial issue has a dozen citizens wanting to speak which pushes the comment period far past its 30-minute time frame. And the guidelines don’t state whether or not commissioners will allow citizens to take part in discussion outside of the pre-meeting comment period.

That is the tricky part. What happens when a citizen speaks in the comment period and then remains in the audience for discussion later—and raises his or her hand to speak? Or when a commissioner realizes that the citizen has a piece of information that could be helpful and calls on them? Or if a citizen comes not for the public comment period, but for the agenda item he or she feels passionate about?

Attorney Hicken said if commissioners take one comment from the audience on an issue, they must take all comments on that issue, literally opening the meeting for another public comment period.

Commissioner Frank Moe asked if this had been a problem and it was agreed that to date it hadn’t been. Board Chair Heidi Doo-Kirk said citizens have done a pretty good job policing themselves and respecting the county’s public comment guidelines.

The board ultimately didn’t make any drastic changes to its policy. It was agreed that a public comment period should be added to county work sessions, but other than that the consensus seemed to be to leave the status quo.

Which is good news for Sunshine Week. Being flexible and open to public comment and trusting citizens to participate in government with cooperation and civility is a win-win for everyone.


We must never forget that the
free flow of information is
essential to a democratic society.
President Bill Clinton

Dog Days of Spring

Fearless in summer 2014

Fearless in summer 2014

I know that it will be awhile before spring officially arrives. I’m guessing there will be a cold snap and a snowstorm or two before it completely warms up, but we were blessed with a wonderful weekend. The first weekend of March was the “Dog Days of Winter” celebration up the Gunflint Trail. Last weekend could well have been the “Dog Days of Spring” at my house.

My husband Chuck and I took advantage of the springlike day on Sunday and took a short walk up County Road 7 to County Road 13 in Grand Marais—known as either Olson Brothers Road, Lamson Farm Road, or Fall River Road—depending on what generation you’re from. It’s a short walk for our “puppy”—almost twoyear old heeler/border collie mix Trouble—but too long for our almost 14-year-old golden retriever Fearless.

So we took the puppy on the walk with us, which usually isn’t a problem. Old dog Fearless doesn’t pay too much attention to what Trouble is doing. He’s hard of hearing and doesn’t see well, so we can normally get the leash on Trouble and get out the door without him noticing. For some reason, that was not the case this day. When he saw us getting her pink leash, Fearless lumbered down the basement stairs and sat stubbornly in front of the door.

He really wanted to go for a walk, but we know that he can barely walk to the end of our driveway, much less the half mile or so to County Road 13, so I gave him a big hug and petted him and said, “Stay.”

I felt terrible making him stay home. He watched sadly out the glass door as we walked down the driveway with the hyper puppy. The walk with her was fun because she’s a bit like Tigger of Winnie-the-Pooh, springing along beside us with a doggy grin; sniffing furiously and chasing pebbles and bits of ice. She could have walked—bounced—for miles.

When we got home, Fearless was still awake and watching, so I decided to take him for a short walk. I headed back down the driveway with both dogs, with Fearless walking slowly, painstakingly placing his old paws, while Trouble bounced and danced and had to be reminded frequently to heel.

As we headed down hill on the driveway, Fearless actually jogged a bit, a happy golden retriever smile on his gray muzzle. When we got to the bottom of the driveway and went to turn around, Fearless resisted. I swear he looked longingly up County Road 7. Was he remembering the hundreds of walks we had taken with him since puppyhood?

Although he was huffing and puffing, I couldn’t refuse. We crossed the road as quickly as I could get him across and walked slowly up the road for a little while. I figured we’d go as far as our neighbor’s driveway and turn around, but then I remembered how Fearless likes to splash in the water by the big culvert at the curve in the road, so we went a little farther.

The culvert was still frozen and snow-covered, but both dogs enjoyed sniffing the spot. Fearless was a bit shaky getting through the ditch’s deep snow as we returned to the road, but his eyes were bright and he still wore a grizzled dog smile. But I figured that was enough of a walk.

We retraced our steps, with the puppy leading the way and the old dog plodding along, slowing the process even more with much sniffing and attempting to eat dried grass.

Although the puppy could have probably gone on a third hike up and down the road, it was good enough. I was glad I didn’t have to carry a 70-pound plus dog home. And Fearless seemed more than happy to get inside to collapse in his favorite sleeping spot in the living room.

It was a good enough adventure for the start of the dog days of spring.


Of course what he most intensely dreams of is being taken out on walks, and the more you are able to indulge him the more will he adore you and the more all the latent beauty of his nature will come out.

Henry James

Where are we in March?


We thought our February WHERE ARE WE? location would be easy as it is located in a busy establishment in downtown Grand Marais. However, we had more incorrect than correct guesses, such as the Cook County Historical Society Museum or the long-defunct Leng’s Fountain. We only had one person who knew the photo of the antique phone booth (circa 1952, according to Jeff Gecas of Gun Flint Tavern) was taken in the Gun Flint Tavern.

Congratulations to Dayna Gallagher who made the correct guess. She wins
a free one-year subscription to the Cook County News-Herald.

Try your luck! Take a look at the March photo. We think this one is really
tricky. 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 April 13, 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


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