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West End News

Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley

Clare Shirley owns and runs Sawbill Canoe Outfitters at the end of the Sawbill Trail in Tofte with her husband Dan. Clare was born in Grand Marais and grew up in Tofte. Clare is a third-generation Outfitter, and third-generation West End News writer. Clare follows in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, Bill and Frank Hansen, long time West End News columnists.

Arts, cultural and history features on WTIP are made possible in part by funding from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Check out other programs and features funded in part with support from the Heritage Fund.


What's On:

West End News July 2

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Once again the Tofte Fourth of July celebration is about to happen. The celebration reminds me of a self-running aquarium; it maintains, year after year. I took a course in management once. The instructor hammered away on the idea that if an organization is well done it will pretty much run itself. The Tofte Fourth of July must be well done, because many parts of it seem to be self-running.

This is not true of the annual Tofte Trek, the 10K wilderness run/walk. This is the 31st running this year. The Tofte Trek is very well-planned and managed following the model set by Jan Horak over his many years of leading the Trek. This is not a wimpy 10K on city streets. The word "wilderness" is accurate. The course is through the woods. In a good year there are swamps and running streams to deal with.

This may be the only 10K around which provides a hose to flush the mud off the runners as they finish the race.

The race is still open for entrants. E-mail April Wahlstrom at for the complete scoop on participating in the race.

The most fun at the Trek is the kids’ races. These races start at 9AM. The kids run their hearts out for the short dashes of the race.

I remember when our granddaughter Ruthie was small. I thought she was a pretty fast runner, so I encouraged her to enter the race. Ruthie wanted to know how far she would have to run. I told her that it would be about the same as running from our store to lunch when she heard the lunch bell on the intercom. She agreed that she could handle that distance.

She won her event at the Trek. Her ribbon and the ribbons that the other grandchildren won at the Trek may still be on display in the log house at Sawbill.

It would be nice to say that this was the start of a long and successful running career; but in truth that was pretty much the high point.

We attended the wedding of two former Sawbill employees on Saturday, June 26. The wedding was at the Tofte Park on a beautiful afternoon. What a great place the Tofte family dedicated to the community almost a century ago. The park is one of the lesser known gems along the North Shore. The West End community agrees that this is exactly the way the park should be, lesser known.

Jessa Wallendal and Eric Frost, now Mr. and Mrs. Frost, local folks, were the bride and groom. Their wedding was celebrated by family, friends, and especially fun for us, former fellow crew members from Sawbill Outfitters. The Sawbill crew members develop a firm relationship with each other. Showing up at each other's weddings is something that is just done. Like the Tofte Fourth of July, it happens.

The discussion of promotion of the Superior National golf course revives some memories of tourist promotion in the county during the era of Bud and Charlet Kratoska. They carried the tourist promotion at the county level on their backs for many years.

Bud and Charlet attended sports shows where they distributed literature and collected names of people at the shows who wanted more information. Then, as now, increased business was the goal. Then, as now, examples were cited of other vacation areas which spent multiples of the dollars spent here. The idea was: Spend more, get more business.

Bud and I were wondering how effective the advertising done really was. We decided to draw a random sample of the folks who had been sent literature at their request. We designed a questionnaire to send to the sample asking questions about what they did after they got the literature. Our basic question for us was "did what we were doing generate reservations.” That was the bottom line, and the answer was that not many reservations resulted from the bulk mailings or the thousands of brochures distributed at sports shows.

What did generate reservations was personal contact, and follow-up to see if the customer was pleased with their vacation experience in Cook County. Follow-up was almost never done. Hard to believe, but true.

In the day of Bud and Charlet individual contacts were expensive and difficult. There had to be a high margin of profit to justify the cost and effort. Today with all of our electronic tools, the cost is down and so is the effort.

Superior National is looking for golfers, not tourists in general, so the promotion should be very specific. It is well worth the time to take a breath and figure out how to identify potential golfing customers. Superior National has been open for a long time. If names and addresses of players are kept that would be a pool to work with. E-mail is a wonderful tool not available to Bud and Charlet.

I agree that we have a magnificent facility at Superior National. It is well worthwhile to invest in promotion for the course; but the promotion needs to move into the 21st century. It can be done, and we have many smart people in our community who can do it. As our 2-year-old great-granddaughter says, "I do it myself".

This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Airdate: July 2, 2010


West End News June 25

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Ed Erikson of Chetek, Wisconsin has been specializing in fishing Alton Lake for more than fifty years.
Alton is a wide, open lake and a strong wind can kick up large waves in just a minute or two. Ed is convinced that this lake is more productive when there are strong winds, but staying on the lake under high wind conditions in a canoe is hazardous.
During his working career, Ed was on the staff of the large Madison Vocational School. He and his fellow instructors designed and built an outrigger for his canoe which allows him to stay on the lake under conditions that would drive a prudent person on to shore.
Ed is a lucky and expert fisherman. He practices catch and release, but does keep a limit to take home.
Years ago, Ed and his wife were fishing on Alton. Ed had the honor of netting a walleye that his wife caught. The official scale at Sawbill Outfitters read fifteen pounds when they brought it in to be weighed.
They took this fish home, had it freeze-dried in a position which simulated a fish striking a lure. Then, they had a Plexiglas box built and had an artist paint an underwater scene on the back wall of the box. The lure used to catch this fish was dangling from the top of the box. The box has interior lighting.
The box is mounted on a wall of their recreation room. When Ed showed me a picture of the installation, I asked him if they had visiting hours and soft music to give proper respect to the fish. A life goal of Ed’s is to catch a walleye in Alton Lake which equal or exceeds his wife’s record fish. So far, no luck.
During his recent visit to Alton, Ed had a totally new experience. A loon attacked the stringer of fish hanging in the water. Ed pulled on the stringer and the loon held on to the stringer. After a brief struggle, Ed was able to get the stringer into the canoe. He wanted to donate that fish to the loon, but his partner objected. There was some statement about teaching loons bad habits.
Luke Opel, a Sawbill Outfitters crew member, was also fishing on Alton Lake. He had another loon experience. A loon swam under his canoe over and over again, for all the world appearing to be planning to strike Luke’s bait. Luke succeeded in avoiding that, but he did get a great underwater photo of the loon emerging from under the canoe. The photo is posted on the Sawbill website.
Le Vong Lo is another Alton specialist. He recently caught a forty-five-inch-long northern pike in Alton. His partner took an amazing picture of this giant fish and then the fish was returned to the lake to continue what must be a long life.
While I was preparing material for a talk at the Cook County Historical Society, I consulted the chapter on Sawbill Lodge in Mary Alice’s book, “Sawbill Tales.” There is a photo in the chapter of the large, wooden sign which greeted guests as they drove into the lodge. I believe that this sign may be the earliest example of texting in history. It read: “U,” capital u, “NO,” capital n and o, that “U,” capital u, “R,” capital r, at “SAWBILL.” How about that.
Busy is upon us. As one resident of Tofte said, “The highway is so busy, I have to look both ways before I run the stop sign.” Only in the West End.
This is Frank Hansen at WTIP with the West End News.

Airdate: June 25, 2010

A beach in Lutsen/photo from picasaweb by PAUL

West End News June 3

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When we were in graduate school we had a friend who could come up with an appropriate saying for any occasion. When life was not going well he would say, "The doctor said that there would be days like this; but he did not say that they would be so close together.”

We have had "days like this" recently, and they have been close together, so once again column deadline came and went with no time to write. Once again improvement is imminent, so there is time for a column.

I cannot remember a Memorial Day weekend that was so favorable weather-wise, fishing-wise, and almost problem-wise. The problem was that many folks did not pay attention to the sun, so some suffered serious sunburns. Sitting in a boat or canoe with the sun shining and the reflection of the ultraviolet light from the water is an invitation for a burn. It amounts to being in a waterborne tanning bed. Not a good thing.

Fishing reports were very favorable. Considering that the temperatures have been very warm, which brought the water temperature up in a hurry, the fishing was excellent. Even inland lake trout were caught in good numbers.

Folks felt pretty good about their lake trout catches until Bear Cihlar of Lutsen reported his witnessed catch of a 35-pound-plus trout. The fish was released and the location is secret, except that the location is "out of the country.”

In just a few days another school year will come to an end. The Birch Grove graduation was followed by the dedication of the beautiful mosaic at Birch Grove School. The themes for the panels were chosen by the students with guidance from adults. The planning and execution of the panels was again done by the students with the help of Kelly Dupre.

There are now three outstanding mosaic installations in the county. One is at the Co-op in Grand Marais, another at the WTIP building in Grand Marais, and now a third one at Birch Grove School.

A few years ago I was contacted by a man who catalogs the locations of very large paintings, both indoor and outdoor. I told him about the walls and trucks with paintings in Grand Marais and also the Birney Quick paintings at the Catholic church and the Grand Marais State Bank. I wonder if there is anyone who does the same thing for mosaics. Most likely there is.

Each year when the photos of the high school graduates are published in the papers I am intrigued by the first names of the graduates, year by year. This year there are many Ambers and Caitlins. How does this flow of first names happen? It is a puzzle.

The message from all parts of the business community is that Memorial Day was busy and profitable. Let's hope that this is a great beginning to an outstanding season.


Frank remembers Clara Sivertson, who worked to preserve the story of Cook County's commercial fishing families

West End News May 20

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A couple of weeks ago my child bride, Mary Alice, took a tumble and ended up with a cracked femur. That was disrupting to our regular routine. Lots of things were put on hold, including this column and broadcast.

I can't say that we are back to normal, but life is continuing with a lot of help from our friends and family. Mary Alice is doing well, so there is enough breathing room to write a column.

Let me tell you to never call 911 unless you mean it. Within five minutes of our call we had a deputy sheriff, first responders, EMTs, and an ambulance on duty here at our house. Everyone in the crew obviously knew what to do and how to do it.

Years ago I was a qualified EMT, so I really appreciated the obvious level of training and concern shown by the folks who helped us. Thanks to them, one and all.

I don't know what would be a proper title for Clara Sivertson, who left us recently. Words like "matriarch" and "commercial fishing royalty" come to mind. Clara and Stanley lived near Schroeder when they were first married. They lived what might be called a nomadic lifestyle, moving to Washington Island to fish as soon as the ice went out in the spring and then returning to the mainland at the last possible moment sometime in November.

Clara and Stanley, along with Ted Tofte, had the dream of a commercial fishing museum that would tell the story of commercial fishing and the fishermen and their families. They and a few others were the folks who got the fishing museum on the road, or maybe on the boat.

I remember the impassioned speech that Stanley gave at the ground breaking for the fishing museum at Tofte. He left no doubt in his audience about the contribution of the fisher families to the area. He also left no doubt about the difficulties that the fisher people had in dealing with the governmental agencies.

Clara and Stanley continued to support the museum. Stanley had passed before the opening of the museum; but Clara attended and was given the respect and attention that she so deserved. I noticed in her obituary that her family requests that her memory be honored by donations to the commercial fishing museum. I am sure that pleases Clara.

It is the custom at the museum to honor fishing pioneers with a net cork with an engraved brass plate on the cork. I am sure that Clara will be so honored. No one is more deserving.

It has been just about a year since Priscilla Revier retired from the position of postmaster at the Tofte post office. Priscilla worked for the post office for 34 years. She followed Joyce Krueger into the position of postmaster. These two ladies got the Tofte community absolutely spoiled with the level of service that they provided. They went way beyond the bare duties of the job. The many big and little favors provided by them were just part of the job in their eyes. Besides that, the post office was a community center and, to use fancy language that is now very popular, provided a networking facility for the community.

Even after a year no permanent replacement has been appointed. The community is hoping that Paul Hansen, who is doing the job now, will get the nod. It would be nice to continue the line of locals filling the postmaster position. Local acquaintance and knowledge is a big plus for the community. Keep your fingers crossed.


The dome at Sawbill Outfitters

West End News April 29

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We have all heard of delayed gratification. Delayed vindication, which is evidence that a decision made long ago turns out to be correct, even commendable, is not often discussed. I experienced delayed vindication recently. This is the story.

In the very early ‘70s Sawbill Outfitters was in dire need of more space. There was no possibility of further remodeling, so the need for a new building was obvious. The question was, what kind of building?

Sawbill is on a Forest Service lease, so we knew that any new building would have to be approved by the Forest Service. Preliminary conversations about what might be approved did not shed any light. The situation was: make a proposal, we will send it up the line, and we will let you know if the proposal flies or not.

I did get nostalgic about the approval that we went through when we built the public shower and laundry building designed by David Quick in 1965. Ed Wood, the Tofte Ranger at the time, drove out to Sawbill, looked at the plans, approved the project on the spot and said that he would write a letter to the Forest Supervisor and would include the plans. About a week later he called and said that everything was OK, but the Duluth office thought that there should be a drain in the laundry room floor. It was clear that the same informality no longer existed in 1975.

We began our research about the kind of building that would suit our purposes, always with one eye on the Forest Service. Eventually we discovered geodesic domes. The dome is quick to build, has loads of interior space, is very strong, comes pre-cut, and is uncomplicated to erect. So we chose a dome, had plans drawn, and approached the Forest Service about approval.

So far as anyone could find out, there was not another geodesic dome on Forest Service property in the nation. So this request really went up the line, all the way to Washington. The response was not enthusiastic. There was concern about appearance. What about resistance to wind loads? How about snow? Etc., etc., etc.

We had a customer who was a very competent structural engineer. He had been good enough to look at the plans before I submitted them and gave an unqualified, but informal OK. When I told him of the concern he wrote a letter stating that the building would withstand sustained winds of 120 miles an hour. Ten feet of snow burden would not cause collapse. He ended by writing that if local conditions ever got close to the limits of the dome everything around the dome would be flattened a long time before. I sent his opinion on to the USFS.

That resulted in a meeting with Forest Service folks at the district and forest level. It was obvious that someone had to make a decision. The conversation boiled down to, "It’s OK with me if everyone else is OK with it". Everyone in the room said that they felt the same way. I told them that I would take that to be a yes, and no one objected. So we built the dome.

Never in the 35 years that the dome has been in use have we ever had conditions anywhere near what caused so much concern. Now comes the vindication. Last week, at the DFL convention Bill Hansen met Denny Johnson, the contractor who built our dome. Denny is still building domes. He had a very current and amazing story to tell.

He has built three domes in Chile over the years. All three of the domes are located in the area devastated by the earthquake. All three of the domes survived the quake with no damage. So, after 35 years, we now know that we were right. Are we pleased? You bet.

We attended a performance of Treasure Island at the Playhouse. We have been to many, many performances at the Playhouse. This presentation has by far the best scenery, the best blocking, the best costumes, and the most consistent performances by the cast of any that we have attended. Just saying "creative" and "excellent" does not cover the performance. Every aspect is superb. We are so fortunate to have this wonderful facility and talented folks in our community. Thanks to the dozens of folks who prepared this treat for all of us.


Snow in August?

West End News April 22

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In the last column I mentioned that someone had said that August was the only month in which it had not snowed in Cook County. I expressed grave doubt that this could be correct. Eleanor Waha, the senior weather observer in years of service in the county, confirmed my opinion. There has been snow in August, lots of it on occasion.

The red flag fire danger has me spooked. Any evidence of careless behavior that might lead to a fire causes increased heart rate. So far all of the warnings that I have heard or read have failed to mention what to my mind is one of the greatest hazards, namely cigarette butts thrown from vehicle windows. This was reinforced when the pile of snow melted along the curb in front of our house. There are dozens of butts on the grass.

I fumed about folks who did not use their ashtrays in their vehicles. Then I realized that our car does not have either an ashtray or a cigarette lighter, but it does have four cup holders. So, if your vehicle does not have an ashtray, put an empty tin can in a cup holder. Please do not throw butts out of the window. Right now I would say that would be criminal behavior.

There are folks who make a lot of noise about doing very little; and than there are folks who do a lot with no noise at all. A good example of the latter is the induction of Jim Hall, of Lutsen, into the National Resource Conservation Hall of Fame. Jim was chosen for this honor because of his commitment to the development of the Laurentian Resource Conservation and Development Council in Duluth.

It is wonderful that Jim's many years of dedication and leadership to this very significant effort have been recognized. Folks like Jim are hard to find.

We had a fascinating e-mail from Art Wright. Art and Helen have many connections to the West End and its vicinity. Art was the engineer who had major responsibility for the design and installation of the telephone systems at the taconite plant and the town of Silver Bay when they were constructed.

Art was a scoutmaster and a youth leader. He brought many scouts and church youth into the BWCAW on canoe trips for a lot of years. His scouts, under the direction of Earl Hansen, the Forest Service ranger at Tofte at the time, built a rustic dam at the upstream end of Baker Lake. This made access to Peterson Lake much easier. This was more than 50 years ago and the dam is still there.

Art and Helen are charter members of the Commercial Fishing Museum at Tofte. At an annual meeting of the museum some years ago Art announced that the sum of their ages exceeded 180. Helen will be 100 on the 18th of May, and Art is not far behind. I am sure that Art is eager to announce that their ages now total more than 200 when that happens.

Art has an even earlier connection to the county. His mother taught at the Maple Hill School in 1904-1905. This was before Art came along. When he was around 12 to 14 years old he spent the summer at Maple Hill. Art learned to swim in the Hedstrom Mill pond, a dammed-up section of the Devil Track River. He was a friend of the entire Hedstrom family, and still stays in touch with Herb Hedstrom.

Another friend of the West End has left us with the passing of Tina Ingram. Tina was another of the one-of-a-kind folks. She never saw a plot of ground that did not need flowers planted. Every organization that she joined enjoyed her enthusiasm and leadership. As she made her way through the community and through life she made a multitude of friends. Tina successfully completed projects that would be daunting for most people. It is impossible to do anything but smile when we remember Tina.

Our heartfelt sympathy to Don and the rest of the family.

We renewed our friendship with Alan Ingram at the service for Tina. Alan was a summer employee for the Forest Service the summer after he graduated from Cook County High, and the next summer as well. He was the employee who took care of the campgrounds for the Tofte district, which included the Sawbill campground, so we got to know him well.

Alan went on to a degree in social work, and then a law degree as well. He has been the CEO of a non-profit for 32 years. It is very hard to know that Alan's tour with the Forest Service was about 40 years ago. Amazing.

As usual the Birch Grove Foundation is zipping along. Due to a new state law prohibiting overlapping boards of directors, two of the foundation board members who also are on the Birch Grove school board left the foundation board. So step forward folks. Two new board members will be welcomed. It could be you. If there ever is a worthy cause the Birch Grove Foundation is it. Jessa at 663 7977 has all the details.


With ice out happening early this year, Bill and Cindy Hansen enjoy a paddle on Sawbill Lake

West End News: April 14

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The current ban on fires of any kind is not the first and not the most severe.

I don't remember the year; but very near the end of the canoeing season, because of the severe fire danger, not only the BWCAW but also access to the forest interior was closed. Even driving into the forest was prohibited.

All of a sudden things got very quiet at Sawbill Outfitters. There were no customers. There were still a few folks out in the BWCAW when the edict went into effect. As they completed their trips they rapidly became uneasy when they became aware that they were the only ones around.

We also had a few late season canoeists with reservations so they had to be contacted and called off. They were understanding but not happy.

The closing continued through the fall and into the winter. A serious proposal was made that the ban should continue into the following spring, but that did not happen.

Most outfitters dream of the day that they could take the day off without guilt and go fishing. Unfortunately we were under the same prohibitions as anyone else, so entering the Boundary Waters to fish was impossible. No fishing for us either.

Even though it was technically illegal, we did need to go to town to get the mail and do the usual errands. We were doing great, but one Sunday we went into Grand Marais to church. On the way home we got as far as the intersection of the Grade and the Sawbill Trail. Wayne Smetanka, the ever-vigilant ranger of the Tofte District at the time, was on patrol at that spot as we approached.

I am sure that he was sure that he had caught flagrant violators. He was disappointed when he saw us. Even though there was some complaining about the ban, most folks agreed that caution was the way to go, so violations just did not happen.

All went well, but it was a very tense time. Weather reports that mention lightning are still sure to make me anxious.

At this time only fires are banned. Let's hope for rain so entry is not banned as well.

Bill Hansen looked at the weather records and ice-out records at Sawbill, which now cover 54 years. The ice went out of Sawbill Lake this year one full week earlier than the next earliest ice out. There have been a couple of years when the lakes were still ice bound when fishing season opened. That is more than a month difference between then and now. That is why answering the question "When will the ice go out?" is so tough to answer.

There is still a possibility of another snowstorm. Not much of a possibility, but maybe. I hear that we have had snow every month except August in Cook County. My reaction to that is - take another look at the August records.


Fishing in the BWCAW

West End News April 7

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The tax helpers will be at Birch Grove just one more Wednesday, April 14, which is just a day before the deadline for turning in your income tax returns. Thanks to all of the volunteers who have helped the folks in the West End with their returns this year. Thanks also to Birch Grove for hosting this program each year.

The official date for submitting your census forms was April 1. I have heard that the census bureau is allowing a grace period until April 15 for mailing in the census forms. After that date the census bureau will start sending out people to make visits to those addresses that have not yet sent in the form by mail.

The census bureau says that it costs less than a dollar to process a form that is mailed in. It costs close to fifty dollars if a census worker has to make a physical visit to get the information. So I encourage folks to mail in the form. If you have misplaced the form, contact the census folks. You can get a duplicate. If you never got a form in the mail by all means contact the census office. This does happen.

By now everyone must know that funding for many government projects depends on census counts, from representation in Congress to road projects. It is in our best interest to get as complete a count as possible. Cook County has been delinquent in returning census forms in previous census counts. Not this time, please.

There is an interesting statistic in the current issue of Range View, the publication of the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission. The statistic is that 90 percent of the businesses in Cook County have four or fewer employees. The number of businesses in our county was not given in the article. What is defined as a business was not given either.

The Minnesota Department of Resources put an embargo on fire permits on Monday, April 5. The US Forest Service adopted the same policy. Until there is significant rain the fire danger needs to be kept in mind all the time. I cannot imagine starting a fire anywhere outdoors as long as these dry conditions persist.

There already has been a wild fire at Isabella which destroyed a residence.

The date of ice out on the inland lakes will be the earliest in recent history. This presents an opportunity for canoeing without bugs, and without crowds. One little glitch is that fishing season is not open, so if you do take advantage of the open lakes, don't be tempted to jump the season.

I remember an incident that happened in our store many years ago. Much the same situation existed, the ice was out a week or so before fishing season started. An out of state customer was purchasing a fishing license. After the license was issued I gave him the book of regulations and mentioned that the season would not be open for another week. He inquired about the number of game wardens in the area. I told him that there was just one. He took a deep breath and then guessed that in the huge BWCAW the odds were very small of ever meeting a game warden.

I agreed with him and then introduced him to Dan Ross, the local warden, who had been standing right next to him the whole time. Dan was not in uniform. He had just come off the lake where he had arrested a beaver poacher. After his conversation with Dan the aspiring fisherman had no doubt that he had met a game warden.

Airdate: April 9, 2010


Frank reminisces about playing lacrosse

West End News April 1

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A notice that an original member of the seasonal Gust Lake community, Dick Brown, had died brought back many memories.

Cap and Billie Peterson of Tait Lake owned most of the shoreline property on Gust Lake. Cap and Billie had set out to buy lake property and then never sell it so that it would be protected. That admirable goal was trumped by reality. They were caught up in the Depression and needed cash, so very reluctantly they decided to sell some of the Gust Lake property.

They had no money to pay for a proper survey. They laid out the lots by each holding one end of a rope, cut to the desired lot width, drove stakes for a starting point, and then walked toward the lakeshore, stretching the rope tightly between them. A county assessor's nightmare, right? All this was of very little purpose. Everyone else was caught by the Depression as well, so no lots were sold.

Then, right after the end of WWII, they tried again and did sell a couple of lots. One couple purchasing a lot was Dick and Phyllis Brown. The lots fronted on the Grade Road. At that time the Grade had not been improved. It was a horrible road full of oil-pan-destroying rocks, and where there were no rocks there were swamps. Years later Ed Thoreson and his crew improved the road, and the road was relocated somewhat. The Browns’ cabin had been built right on the edge of the road; but the relocation gave them an extra hundred feet or so of property in front of their cabin.

The road in front of the present cabins on Gust Lake is a remnant of the original railroad grade.

Dick was a skilled mechanical engineer. At that time, at the intersection of the Grade and the Sawbill Trail, in about the location of the Sawbill CCC Camp, Dick found a treasure trove of junk. It seemed that when the CCC went out of business a lot of two-man cross-cut saws, axes, Pulaskis and brush hooks were dumped there. Dick found an old electric generator. It was heavy, but he got help and hauled it to his cabin on Gust. He took it apart, repaired what needed repair, and got it running. It was a noisy small diesel engine, so Phyllis discouraged use of it when she was present.

Phyllis was a master crafter. Their small cabin was decorated with her production in many different crafts.

The Browns came to Gust Lake for many years. They would drive over to Sawbill Outfitters to use the phone and to visit with us. We also took messages for them and if it was an emergency we would drive over to Gust Lake at the peril of our vehicle to deliver the message. I don't know how she did it, but Phyllis always had a freshly baked treat on hand when we came. Dick and Phyllis were good friends. We extend our sympathy to Dick's family.

I feel like Rip Van Winkle. The current New Yorker magazine has an article about a famous lacrosse coach. Lacrosse was one of my passions when I was a kid. I lived in Baltimore, the lacrosse hotbed of the whole country at that time. The game was pretty much limited to high schools, colleges and club teams along the East coast.

The magazine article said that more than a half million high school students, boys and girls, now played the game on school and club teams. Not only that, it was played all over the country. My immediate reaction was, "When did this happen?" I inquired and found out that there were good teams right here in Minnesota. In fact the player who is recognized as the best of the best is from Eden Prairie where I was the school psychologist for many years, now many years ago.

I used to tell the athletic faculty about the wonders of the game, but never got any interest at all in the sport. Now they are turning out lacrosse players good enough for Division I teams. Imagine!

I am not aware of varsity teams or leagues or a state tournament. There must be, though. I have seen an occasional game on a sports channel, but don't hear the local in-state sports announcers ever mentioning the game. I am delighted to find out that the game is alive and well, but where was I when all of this was going on?

One time, a year or so ago, our senior Golden Moves exercise class met in one of the gyms at the high school. There was a barrel full of lacrosse sticks there. I picked one out of the barrel just for fun and then wondered why on earth lacrosse sticks were at the school. Lacrosse sticks belonged on the East coast. Little did I know!


Sled dogs


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Joan Koski, the longtime campground host at Crescent Lake campground, has retired. Joan's tenure at Crescent Lake as a camper with her family and then as campground host stretches over more than 30 years. The remarkable thing is that this is more than 30 consecutive years, no breaks.

Every campground has its own character with a unique clientele. Crescent is used a lot by local folks who have developed groups of friends who camp together. The major attraction is fishing in the summer and deer and bear hunting in season. Joan has been a friend to what is now a couple of generations of campers.

She has worked with many game wardens, deputy sheriffs, forest service law enforcement, and forest service campground people. She was the eyes and ears on site for all folks who had any official business with the campground.

During her time she had many unique wildlife experiences. She was the person who rescued an exhausted eagle found on the shore of the lake. She put the eagle in the box of her pickup and started for Sawbill Outfitters to get help with it. The eagle was flopping around, so Joan stopped and put the eagle in the cab with her. This was a mature eagle. Fortunately it remained quiet and Joan got to help OK.

The eagle was taken to the rehab center at the U in the Cities. Eventually it was brought back to the spot where it had been found, for release. Joan got to hold the eagle in her arms at the moment of release and throw it into the air, restoring it to freedom. This was a very emotional moment for Joan. The eagle did not soar off into the sky, but instead flew into a small tree close by and sat there looking at the assembled crowd.

Several times Joan saw a cougar standing in the river near the campground. On one occasion she saw two cougars, standing together in the river, and one of the cats had a rabbit in its mouth.

Bill Hansen told a well-known nature photographer about this sighting. The photographer said that if he had taken a photo of the cougars with the rabbit he would have had the most salable photo of his career.

Joan will be missed by all of the regular campers at Crescent Lake. Now a search is on for her successor. Her equal will be hard to find.

There was a really unique wedding on Iron Lake near Ely last Sunday. The bride is Amy Voytilla and the groom is Dave Freeman, both longtime folks around the West End. Amy and Dave are partners in the Wilderness Classroom organization. Amy has done a lot of kayak instruction in the area. They have a home base on the Grade, near the Brule Lake road; but they are rarely there. They may be familiar to you because they are the leaders of really wide-ranging wilderness trips into the far north, South America, and other locations. This spring they will start out on a "honeymoon" three-year trip (in segments) starting on the West coast of the United States and proceeding east across the continent and then down the east coast.

The wedding was outdoors on Iron Lake. The guests traveled to the site via five dog teams, a snowmobile, ice skates, and on foot. The wedding was on land on a picture-perfect point. Now I have to ask your total trust in my veracity.

The bride and groom were dressed, not in rugged wilderness gear, but in real wedding finery. Amy featured a strapless wedding gown. Dave wore wedding attire as well. The ceremony was performed by Eric Frost, newly qualified for the ceremony. All went well. But come on- it was a sunny day, but the temp was in the 40s. Strapless? Only in the West End!

The only wrinkle was when the staked-out dogs decided to get into a dog fight during the ceremony. No problem, there were lots of people who knew about dog fights. Just a blip at worst.

Amy and Dave left the wedding site riding side by side on the back of their dog sled, pulled by their favorite dogs who have been with them for years. Should you wish to see pictures of this event go to and enjoy.